23 Nov 2015

Mini Reviews 22/11/2015

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Rafael Albuquerque
Image $3.50

Matt C: Mark Millar is the master of the high concept in comics. This often serves him well and he produces series that resonate long after their release date, justifying his current position in the upper echelons of comics creators. Other times he fails to stick the landing, and promising beginnings lead to disappointing endings. Then there are the times where a great idea veers so far off course that it starts to resemble a terrible idea. Which one of those categories does Huck fit into? It’s far too early to say at this point, but taken as debut issue only, it’s really rather good. The superheroic simpleton who does a good deed every day while his hometown keeps his secret schtum is a neat starting point – it’s plausibility doesn’t really hold up under close scrutiny but Millar’s good-natured script, alongside some endearing, wistful artwork from Albuquerque compensate for that, and while there’s no certainty that this level of quality will be maintained, it’s certainly good enough to ensure I’ll stick with it until the end. 8/10

SIX #1
Writer: Andi Ewington
Art: Mack Chater & Dee Cunniffe
451 $4.99

Matt C: It was George Pelecanos’ name (the critically acclaimed novelist who’s written for The Wire and Treme) that piqued my interest, even though I figured it’d be one of those cases where input was minimal after the initial idea was formulated. For the looks of it, I figured right, as Pelecanos gets a ‘Created By’ credit while Andi Ewington sits in the writer’s chair. It’s a solid if unspectacular take on the army-unit-stealing-enemy-treasure trope, with decent characterization and effective artwork, but it lacks the spark that would makes it stick out from the pack. It feels more ‘genre’ in a way that Pelecanos’ other work usually doesn’t. Not bad, but in a crowded marketplace it’s unlikely to make any substantial impact. 6/10

James R: One of the best things about being a comics fan is that every now and then you'll take a gamble on a book that isn't a mainstream title, and it pays off brilliantly. Unfortunately, I have a large chunk of a longbox dedicated to comics where the gamble didn't pay off. That, sadly, is the destination of Six #1. I was attracted to this book because of the involvement of George Pelecanos - as a writer and producer of The Wire, and the author of the very enjoyable Spero Lucas crime novels (well worth a look if you're after some holiday reading by the way), I felt a comic from this creative force had to be worth investing in. Unfortunately, it's incredibly derivative. A group of marines in Iraq, on the trail of WMDs, find a huge deposit of gold, leading them to fake their deaths to smuggle the gold out. Years later, they're drawn back together to help the wife of one of their fallen comrades. Sound familiar? It should. Three Kings, The Losers, even The A-Team - this ground has been covered very well in a lot of different media before. If there was something fresh here, I'd understand, but it's unbelievably generic. I wasn't sold on either Ewington's script (Pelecanos has only 'Created' the book, and his dialogue would have helped here) or Mack Chater's art. At almost five dollars, I wanted a lot more innovation than Six offered me. You win some, you lose some. 4/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba & Edgar Delgado
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: With everything that has gone on, and is going on at Marvel currently in regards to their mutant canon, I did wonder if I would be done with the X-Men for now. Even after a reasonable debut from Lemire with his Extraordinary X-Men I wasn't sure I'd be sticking around. Then, part way through this second issue, something clicked and I realised I felt that I might be reading a book from the Carey/Brubaker age of the X-Men, when I embraced Uncanny and its adjectiveless sister title wholeheartedly. Having Ramos on board is an obvious nod to that time - and what a fine job he does too, bringing a darker, grimmer feel to his characteristic pencils compared to the lighter hijinks of his Amazing Spider-Man run - but I think it's also thanks to Lemire's pacing and delivery of the team dynamic. We bounce around the globe with ease, Magick and Colossus' jaunt being the most exciting, and things only get bogged down in the wider universe bile when we spend time with young Jean and the words 'mutie' and 'Inhuman' appear on the same page. While I'm not thrilled that we have time-displaced characters involved, Lemire is making the most of it and I predict further eXciting times ahead! 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mike Deodato & Frank Martin Jr
Marvel $4.99

James R: Great conflict I sense within myself for this one. On one hand, this is a book by the great Jason Aaron, who can do no wrong at the moment (and certainly is a front-runner for 'Best Writer' in the Paradoscars) and of course, I ruddy love Star Wars -and am currently at fever pitch ahead of Episode VII – but there's part of me that feels like I've been Shanghaied into getting this. The crossover will run in the main Star Wars book for issues #13 and #14, and three issues of Darth Vader, which I dropped a way back, as for me, Gillen doesn't get the tone of the SWU the way Aaron does. Gah! I was hoping that this first issue would win me over or entirely dissuade me, but it left me in limbo. It's a fast-paced opening salvo that sees Vader run into a large chunk of the Rebellion whilst looking for Luke, before leaving him to stand his ground alone against an army. There's always going to be something cool in seeing Vader unleashing the Dark Side of the Force, but I'm not sure if there's enough here to sustain a six-part storyline. The art from Mike Deodato works best in the space sequences, where he really captures the feel of the original Star Wars head-on shots of the Rebellion pilots. I enjoyed it, but I didn't think "I MUST find out where this is going!" I may have to use the Force (or take a sneaky look at the next issue of Darth Vader when I'm in Paradox) to see if I stick with it. 7/10

Matt C: It’s a cool title - evoking the idea of the Lord of the Sith outnumbered in hostile territory – and while it has the reliable hand of Jason Aaron fashioning the script, it’s clearly more of an extension of Kieron Gillen’s work on Darth Vader than Aaron’s own outstanding efforts on the main Star Wars title. Obviously there’s been overlap between the two books before, but having Vader front and centre here makes it feel more essential to those following the villain’s own title. There are clearly a lot of people picking up both the two monthly titles – the impressive sales figures confirm this – but as someone who bailed out on Darth Vader (for various reasons I won’t get into again here) it didn’t strike me as essential. It’s well written, Deaodato is reliably excellent, but while it ends on a pretty great cliffhanger, I don’t feel compelled to pick up the issues of Darth Vader that continue the storyline, even for completist purposes. I may be proven wrong, but it strikes me as a functional crossover rather than revelatory one. 7/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: Aaron's handling of the introduction of Marvel's female Thor through the publisher's ‘All-New Marvel NOW!’ gimmick was one of the few, true successes of that endeavour. He made the mystery of her identity a terrific hook that never grew tired, and once the curtain had been raised, the emotional truth offered huge potential. Now, with yet ANOTHER new start (damn you Marvel...) Aaron at least gets to pick things up right where he left off before Secret Wars derailed everything. This issue is never stronger than when it's dealing with Jane's physical condition; Aaron's sombre handling of the realities of cancer and chemotherapy are a sobering reminder of why his Image titles are held in such high regard. The terrific contradiction in Mjolnir purging Jane of the poisonous chemicals that would save her, yet not the cancer that will doom her, adds a terrible ticking clock to the whole affair which certainly grows louder when we see the malevolent forces working and scheming in the background. The only steps that grated were the realignment of Heimdall's appearance to match the live-action universe and the slight fourth-wall break at the cliff-hanger reveal which felt unnecessary and made one character too damn self-aware for my liking. The art from Dauterman remains a true, glorious sight to behold and I can't wait to see what he gets to deliver as this series unfolds. 8/10

Matt C: I skipped the previous volume of the Thor comic having felt that the one before had been running out of steam. I justified it in my head at the time, and I’m not going to bore you with the reasons, but I realised too late (for monthly purchasing, at least) that I made a mistake. I didn’t pay enough attention to the praise (Dauterman is rapidly on the rise, no question) and it’s pretty stupid to disregard anything from the pen of Jason Aaron these days. And, as if to prove that point, Aaron writes some of the strongest opening pages of any comic I’ve read this year… and then doesn’t really move down a gear from there. Dauterman’s powerful, grandiose imagery – interspersed with genuine human emotion – is quite striking, and Wilson’s colouring is bright, beautiful but never garish. I made a mistake before but I’m damn well not making it again – the God (or should that be Goddess) of Thunder is making a return to my pull-list with this assured, arresting issue. 8/10

Writers: Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal
Art: Geoff Shaw & Lauren Affe
Dark Horse $3.99

Stewart R: I failed to get reviews out for the first two issues of this series, but now I find myself in a position to gush with the tremendous praise that I have for this comic book and these creators. From the same, madcap superhero universe that Buzzkill came from, Cates and Rashal have taken the net and cast it far wider into a team book that both works on its own merit and also mimics and mocks the wider superhero genre. For those not aware, this is a book about the debts that heroes rack up in order to finance their heroics, and the debt-collectors who, when they come knocking, force them to join the crew or face an unpleasant end. The characters are superbly varied, kooky and scarred, the interactions and dialogue snappy, highly amusing and, when necessary, bring a palpable sense of tension. The artwork is hyper consistent and delivers the visual comedy beats perfectly each and every time, and those comedy beats will have a chuckle escaping your lips I'm quite sure. Honestly, this is one book I recommend you at least take a look at while your local comic book dealer may still have copies! 9/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
Image $3.99

Stewart R: Rick Remender has certainly cornered the market when it comes to writing about negative personality traits. Low portrays the battle with and against depression oh so very well, Black Science has a handle of dysfunctional family, adultery and the legacy of guilt, and Deadly Class fills itself with jealousy and self-doubt. Tokyo Ghost is this talented writer taking time to look at addiction and comparing it to the seemingly positive trait of loyalty. Led's rehabilitation from the drugs and tech that fed his body and the attention-sapping media that pushed away his pains, yet kept him from seeing the real world, is narrated from Debbie's perspective. That perspective is one of hope, yet it hints at her loyalty, her love, her dependence for this man as something of an addiction; something she can't bear to let go of whilst the man in front of her is forced to detoxify himself from his vices. I may be bringing a vaguely cynical eye to this story and I will admit that the two young lovers finding their joy again was beautifully handled, especially transposed upon the neo-feudal landscape of this Japanese setting. Murphy handles crazy, grand action pieces well, but here he also shows his touch with the quiet, the patient and the sedate, and it's quite beautiful. 9/10

James R: This is one of those 'Said it before, but it bears repeating' things - how incredible is Sean Murphy?? The last time some of the PCG got together, we marvelled over his work in Tokyo Ghost, and yet again, his art takes this book to another level. In this issue, Debora and Teddy arrive in the commune to continue Teddy's detox and begin a new life. Remender is true to his word in stating that every issue of this title would feel different - it's certainly a million miles from the jacked-up neon intensity of the debut instalment. As usual, Remender does a great job of making you care for his protagonists, and deftly sets the plot for what's to come. Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth's art that shines: whether illustrating the complexities of the commune, or the tranquillity of a riverbank at night, there's not a page in this book which isn't beautiful to behold. I even love Murphy's little touches - punctuating his action lines with 'Swing' and 'Miss!' just adds another layer of personality to an already rich title. Another thing I've often said here is that comics are truly outstanding when art and script combine to create something greater than the sum of their parts - and that's certainly the case with Tokyo Ghost. 9/10

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: When it comes to the Marvel Universe and the use of time travel these days, I'm very much against it being used as a plot device - thank you very much Bendis! - unless... There's one character and situation that I fully get my enthusiasm behind when it comes to chronological exploits and that's Kang the Conqueror. And now Charles Soule is getting to play with this nefarious master of time in the Inhuman sandbox and doing a fine job he is too at this early stage. Here he interweaves the machinations of Kang with Ahura, the son of Black Bolt and Medusa, as they currently go through a rocky coming together following their separation and Medusa's developing relationship with Johnny Storm. When the nature of Kang's plan is suddenly realised it had me looking back a few panels to check what had happened and it's the subtle touches from writer and artist that make this hackneyed premise highly readable and oozing with menace. Rather importantly for a team book, not a single member of this bolstered cast feels superfluous. Since we're still in the early stages of the Inhuman's push to the fore, and Soule has proven that he's quite willing to wield the axe for the greater good of the plot in previous storylines, I'm also enjoying the fact that no-one seems fully safe from a terrible fate. 8/10

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