28 Dec 2015

Mini Reviews 27/12/2015

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: Rick Loverd
Art: Huang Danlan & Marcio Menyz
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Stewart R: If you're picking up Venus you're likely to be familiar with the sci-fi premise of manned missions to other planets with a mix of civilian and military personnel making for something of an uneasy dynamic. Loverd employs this alongside the mission taking a literal nosedive as it heads to Earth's sister planet, and while there's little unfamiliar ground travelled in this opener, the whole thing is incredibly well polished, swift of pace and leaves you wanting to read more. Through the emergency lights, equipment instabilities and status reports, Commander Pauline Manashe's quick promotion in the field is a tense affair against a ticking clock. Her need to enforce and define her authority allows for some fine, varied dialogue with the rest of the cast and helps to soften their introductions. Danlan and Menyz produce a fine artistic collaboration to capture the chaos amongst the crew onboard and the violent surface of the planet that awaits them. A strong start and an easy recommendation if you're thirsty for a sci-fi read following The Martian's cinematic success this year. 9/10

Writers: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Art: Andy Kubert , Klaus Janson & Brad Anderson
DC $4.99

James R: One of the great things about being a comics fan is the unexpected surprise. When Dark Knight III was announced it is fair to say that the reaction was fairly lukewarm - we highlighted in Ten Forward back in September that the sequel to Miller's masterpiece was an acquired taste, and that the current uneven state of DC comics' output meant that I for one was more curious than excited for this project. Issue #1 was fine, but felt staccato and uneven. This second issue though is superb in every way. Here, the eponymous 'Master Race' are revealed, and it's a great conceit, and it’s also good to see Carrie Kelly remain front and centre - with her acting as Batman, and Lara-El as the other narrative focus, it's brilliant that Miller's sometimes questionable take on women has been focused into a book with two great female leads. With the talent assembled - Kubert, Janson and Anderson - the comic obviously looks great, though my favourite images came courtesy of Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets partner Eduardo Risso in the Wonder Woman insert. However, as well as a highlight, the inserts are also my main source of frustration. After two issues, these mini-books remain a bizarre editorial choice - they would have worked just as well as postscript pages, or preludes to the chapter, and I can't see why having great art shrunk down to less than A5 size serves any purpose at all. This shouldn't take away from the experience of the comic as a whole; suddenly DKIII has become DC’s most exciting read, a final gift in the holiday season. 8/10

Matt C:  Yeah, I was one of those guys that kind of dismissed this book following its announcement. After all, Frank Miller’s lost the plot in recent years, his dodgy politics getting the better of him, and this smacked of pure cash-in, a classic tale that simply didn’t require another sequel after the first lacklustre follow-up.  And yet… and yet, expectations be damned because this is turning out to be a cracking read. A worthy successor to The Dark Knight Returns? It’s too early to say, but there’s no real chance of it having the same kind of cultural impact as that celebrated classic, so it’s best to wipe those thoughts away and take The Master Race (and yes, that title is beginning to make more sense now!) on its own terms. And on its own terms it’s far more impactful than The Dark Knight Strikes Again, with a clear but clever narrative, and twists that have the desired effect of catching you off guard. Kubert’s impressive illustrations are recognisably his own but having Janson embellish them allows a sense of visual continuity, and while we’d probably like to think Azzarello was the driving force behind this, there’s no denying it’s got Miller’s thumbprints all over it, so credit where credit’s due, dodgy politics and all. Sticking what is essentially a back-up story (a very good back-up story at that) as mini-comic in the middle of the book is still a dumb idea, but that aside this is turning out to be a far more thrilling read than I imagine most people were expecting. 8/10

Writer: Kate Leth
Art: Brittney L. Williams & Megan Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: I picked this up on a whim and, though it's a little bit kooky and cute it's actually a fairly entertaining read. Leth essentially takes Charles Soule's work with She-Hulk, pushes the camera a little to the left, adds a lighter filter and focuses on the happy-go-lucky Patsy Walker instead. We get the obligatory introduction for new (and younger?) readers where her history and powers are blitzed through at lightning speed before a demonstration of her talents kicks this plot into an unexpected gear. The lighter tone is not going to be for everyone, but it's almost as if Leth is aiming to bring an everyday Archie-type feel to this book as the heroism fades away to be replaced by new friendships, accommodation issues, reacquaintances and blossoming business plans. It's amusing stuff and with Williams bringing a rounded, manga-tinged style to proceedings, that humour sits well throughout. I'd like to predict that PWAKAH (we'll have to use an acronym at some stage!) could be another hit for Marvel, but I thought She-Hulk's run would have found a bigger audience so I wait to see how the numbers pan out for a fun title with plenty of potential. 8/10

Writer: Chuck Palahniuk
Artists: Cameron Stewart & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: As it builds towards a climax, I'm still loving Fight Club 2, but it certainly keeps wrong-footing me. Issue #7 was perhaps the highlight of the series thus far, but then that's now followed by an issue which sees Palahniuk leaning a little too heavily on the post-modern awareness lever again. Having established that this book is almost a sentient, unstoppable manifestation of the ideas created in the Fight Club novel, the characters do what Pirandello's did in his play Six Characters In Search Of An Author and what Grant Morrison's Animal Man also experienced in comics - turn to the writer for advice. Obviously, this has been tried before, but Palahniuk writes with such aplomb - and it's illustrated so brilliantly by the Cameron and Dave Stewart - that it still feels unique. There are still two issues to go, and having read a lot of Palahniuk's fiction I can say that he knows how to construct searing finales, so I'm hoping this carries over into comics. 7/10

SAGA #32
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
Image $2.99

Matt C: On the one hand, Saga probably doesn’t get enough props from the PCG on a regular basis, even though it’s a firm fixture on most of our pull-lists, but on the other hand, does it really need our constant endorsement, because it’s at this stage in its lifecycle the brilliance of this sci-fi/soap opera mash-up are as reassuringly consistent as the sun setting and rising each day. It’s impossible to see where Vaughan is taking things as his bold diversions from the expected pathways always surprise, and three-time Paradoscar winner Staples’ craft continues to astonish with its emotive, imaginative ingeniousness. Saga is a book that hits such a constant level of quality on such a regular basis that you almost forget how good it is… until that is, you read the latest instalment, and it all comes flooding back . 8/10

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