6 Dec 2015

Mini Reviews 06/12/2015

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: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Matt C: With the political madness of the Middle East back in the news again this week (but when is it ever out of the news??) this seems like a timely series, diving deep into the last time we messed around in a foreign country (Iraq) with very little in the way of a lasting positive effect. Politics isn’t the main business of Sheriff Of Babylon – it’s essentially a crime drama at heart – but it seeps through every single panel: the complexities, the insanity, the cycle of violence… it’s all here, intelligently and forcefully brought to the page by Tom King. It’s expertly paced, coming at the narrative from several directions, and following some sterling work on the military-themed The Activity, Mitch Gerads proves to be a perfect fit for the humid carnage on display. Vertigo seem to be on the up again with the number of new series they’re putting out, and this is easily the best one I’ve picked up from them since this resurgence. 9/10

Writer: Paul Tobin
Art: Alberto J. Albuquerque & Marissa Louise
Dark Horse $3.99

Stewart R: Okay, so as I mentioned in On The Pull, the premise and a few preview pages were enough to persuade me to pick up Mystery Girl at the very last minute. Now, as I write this, I'm not convinced I'll be coming back for the second issue. The big hook for me with this feeling is the book being set in London, but that decision seems pretty superfluous thanks to Tobin's script and Albuquerque's illustration work. The dialogue is filled with words that are supposed to be 'British' - 'Luv' and 'supper' appear on the first page alone - and then Americanisms pervade the majority of the speech rendering those near misses even more frustrating. Albuqerque's attempts to capture a modern London setting don't hit the mark either, the typical depiction of a Thames landscape needed to fortify the English setting which is either nondescript or slips towards a US vibe. The niggles certainly got to me, derailing the flow of the read, though it should be said that Tobin's character work with Trine shows some promise as a woman with her own frustrating mystery to solve, while Albuquerque's expression work matches his high quality as found on Letter 44. The plot hints at a fluid, globetrotting affair ahead so my problems with this debut may not be present moving on. But move on from Mystery Girl I might... and if I'm in London I'll be doing it on the bloody 'pavement' not the 'sidewalk'! 4/10

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Ron Garney & Matt Milla
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: There’s clearly been a fair amount of rejigging to the mythos of the Man Without Fear here as it now appears only Foggy Nelson is aware of Matt Murdock’s dual identity. What exactly it is that’s transpired post-Secret Wars is kept off the table in this issue, but we do also learn that Matt has taken up a job as a prosecutor for the DA during the daytime and taken on an apprentice (Blindspot) for his night-time excursions. So things have been shaken up, and there’s some absolutely terrific, evocative art from Garney (embellished by a stripped back colour scheme from Milla) to boost the appeal of this ‘new beginning’. What’s missing though, is a really powerful hook. It’s a diverting Daredevil tale rather than a straight up essential one. But, while it didn’t decidedly grab me from the off, I have enough faith in Soule’s storytelling abilities to be willing to see where this is headed. 7/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta & Frank Martin
Image $3.50

James R: It was a three-way split for book of the week for me this week - Jeff Lemire's Plutona was great again, and Black Science excelled as always. I give the plaudit to East Of West though as it's one of those issues that showcases comics at their very best. Hickman and Dragotta give us a virtually dialogue-free instalment, and it's thrilling - one of the political power players of the American states has ordered a hit on another, and the issue depicts the frantic hour as the assassination attempt plays out. Once again, I'm in awe of Nick Dragotta - somehow he just seems to get better and better, and in these pages he illustrates feature some of this series' most striking images yet. We usually laud Hickman for his huge world-building narrative arcs, but it was wonderful to see him writing an issue that shows his talents as a visual storyteller too. Best of all, it pushes the narrative forward to another precipice point - it seems the long-promised apocalypse is looming ever-larger in this extraordinary book. East Of West continues to surprise and astonish - it's a phenomenal read. 9/10

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

Stewart R: It certainly seems that Extraordinary X-Men has a whirlwind release schedule and in this issue it appears that there's something of a whirlwind pace to the plot - and the art - here to match. I'll deal with the art first which sees Ramos (and possibly his support from Olazaba and Delgado) struggle with having to capture the chaos of Limbo in so many small panels as the mutant refuge comes under attack. It was noticeable at points during his Amazing Spider-Man run that when things get frenetic with fire and energy flooding the page the level of detail falls away and things can occasionally become harder to follow and a touch muddled. That happens again here with a particularly great Iceman moment from Lemire not wowing in the delivery due to an apparent lack of space and everything being squashed into a handful of panels. The quieter moments with Jean and Logan are far more clear, if not a little predictable - promises made between these two characters are staple for the X-Men canon after all - but I'll admit that I got the buzz and the prickles from the late minute call for reinforcements and the banter between Forge and Storm that captured what I've always loved about the X-Men books, and that buzz isn't as prevalent in Marvel comics these days I find, so that has to be applauded. 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Jason Masters & Guy Major
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

James R: I was suitably impressed with the debut issue to give the sophomore instalment of Warren Ellis' take on Bond a go, but this issue is as far as I take it. In the opening chapter, Ellis hit a number of the traditional James Bond story beats so I felt it would be here where we really see what the Bard of Southend had in store, but sadly the answer is 'not much.' It feels like Ellis on autopilot; longtime fans of his writing (like me) won't be amazed to learn that Bond's investigations involve a company using bleeding-edge technology, but in comparison to his usual wild ideas, 'designer drugs and robotic arms' felt a little flat. Bond's interactions with the rest of the cast were mundane rather than cool, and whereas Masters and Major's art does the job, it’s in that halfway space between Hollywood gloss and real-world grit. This isn't a bad comic by any means, it's just not a particularly interesting one, and I forgot it almost immediately after reading. Part of being a great secret agent is disguising one's identity; sadly James Bond hasn't disguised it, it has struggled to establish one. A rare misfire from Ellis - but a forgiveable one given the brilliance of Trees, Injection and Karnak in 2015. 5/10

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