24 Jan 2016

Mini Reviews 24/01/2016

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.

AMERICAN MONSTER #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Juan Doe
AfterShock Comics $3.99

James R: I was sold on this by Brian Azzarello's name alone - as the co-creator of the magnificent 100 Bullets and the highly underrated Spaceman, he's a writer that is incapable of producing a sub-par title. He's also given the new Dark Knight series a shot in the arm after some great work on Wonder Woman, and as such I had some high expectations for this new title. The first issue hits the ground running and sees Azzarello right back in the pitch-black groove of 100 Bullets. He takes one of Tolstoy's two story tropes - a stranger comes to town - and uses it to introduce us to the dark underbelly of a nameless small American town. The town is populated by a host of unsavoury characters, and a new arrival in the shape of a hulking, horribly scarred, military veteran. What does he want? What ties does he have to a recent bank job? Knowing Azzarello, the truth, as it unravels, will be hugely entertaining. It's a fine looking book to, with John Doe's distinctive pencils blending nicely with a beautiful use of colour to give things an atmospheric, neo-noir feel. I love it when a book grabs me straight from the first issue, and American Monster has some terribly good potential. 8/10

DEVOLUTION #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Jonathan Wayshak & Jordan Boyd
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

Matt C: A new debut issue from Rick Remender is always an essential purchase, particularly when it comes to creator-owned work, so Devolution easily made it to the top of the pile this week. Remender’s one of the smartest, most innovate writers in the business, as evidenced by the likes of Low, Tokyo Ghost and Deadly Class, but Devolution doesn’t quite match up against those aforementioned books, not yet at least. Although there’s a kind of poetic irony behind the premise (man playing God by genetically eradicating the part of the brain associated with belief) it stretches plausibility a little to close to breaking point. It has the potential to improve, and the art is pretty great, but it feels (and this is purely speculation here) like something from the vaults dusted off for publication, a story written before Remender reached the ‘zone’ of creativity he finds himself in now. 6/10

NOWHERE MEN #7
Writer: Eric Stephenson
Art: Dave Taylor & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

Stewart R: Nowhere Men is back and it's great to have it back. To be clear, this hiatus appears to have been somewhat unplanned based on what occurs in this issue - an assessment of what's happened to all who were on board the fated World Corp space station - and there's no way in heck that this chapter could be regarded as 'a fine jumping on point' for the uninitiated. To be fair, you SHOULD pick up the #1-6 collected trade and then see what a fine job Stephenson does here in settling the ship somewhat after the first arc chaos and suggesting that what we've so far witnessed is just the first step on a gloriously mysterious journey. Issue #7 is all about character as we see various coping mechanisms in effect and a host of varied interactions as confusion remains between everyone and some tense, personal histories come into play. Dave Taylor, the new artist on Nowhere Men, absolutely nails his first issue, recapturing the visual feel established by Nate Bellegarde and putting in a fine, consistent performance on what is, predominantly, something of a 'talking heads' chapter. If the creative team stay on a high quality line such as this there's always the chance that this 2014 Eisner nominee will be receiving nods again in 2016. 8/10

STAR WARS #15
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Mayhew
Marvel $3.99

James R: The Star Wars juggernaut is looking unstoppable - as The Force Awakens triumphantly makes all the money in the world, it was recently revealed that Marvel's Star Wars books represented five of Diamond's top ten best-selling issues of 2015. 2016 has already kicked off with the strong debut of Obi-Wan And Anakin, and whereas Vader Down really didn't do it for me at all, this issue serves as a reminder that when Marvel's Star Wars books do it right, it's hugely satisfying. It's time for another flashback to Obi-Wan's exile on Tatooine, and Jason Aaron moves us forward a few years as Luke takes his first steps towards his destiny. It's nothing revolutionary, but this just feels like Star Wars – here Aaron shows a deft hand at transitioning characters from the Prequels to the Original Trilogy, but the highlight is the art of Mike Mayhew. It's absolutely beautiful stuff and he captures the mood and tone of Tatooine perfectly. Even if you're a Star Wars fan who has for some reason resisted the Star Wars books so far, you should definitely pick this issue up - it's worth the journey to Tosche Station. 8/10

POSTAL #9
Writer: Bryan Hill
Art: Isaac Goodheart & Betsy Gonia
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Stewart R: As this series continues, it feels that the focus on Mark has strayed somewhat in order to make the town of Eden more of a character along with the criminal citizens that make up its populace. Here, where Bryan Hill takes on sole writing duties, it is clear to see that Mark is just one piece of a thrilling, dramatic puzzle as outside influences start prodding and poking at Eden's fa├žade. Mark is still a large part of Postal and his natural ability for deductive reasoning makes for great reading as he fully comprehends facts, details and evidence, yet struggles with the motives and emotions of those around him. The introduction of Molly, a young girl with her own personality issues, is certainly going to make things interesting as she and Mark get to know each other. Hill (and Matt Hawkins before now) has done well to make Laura and Maggie key figures in the plot as their evident antagonism, whilst trying to keep their individual goals on track makes the inevitable fireworks down the road all the more exciting. The blurb in the back of the book states that Postal will be 'Mature Content' from here on in and I think that can only help this crime story climb to higher heights. 8/10

TOKYO GHOST #5
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
Image $3.99

Stewart R: It's fair to say that the blood-soaked craziness of the first issue raises its head once more here, but this time Remender plucks away at the empathy heart-strings of the reader as the community of samurai are besieged by the return of a tech-enhanced and Davey-plagued Led Dent. The fall from peaceful nirvana to flame-engulfed warzone is swift and terrifying as Debbie loses her love once again and is forced to take extreme measures to ensure that the day doesn't end in an utter loss of life. The amusing thing about Tokyo Ghost, especially after these past few issues spent in the forest village of Tokyo, is that as a reader, I cringe when we catch glimpses of the social-media and tech-dependent people of Los Angeles, their minds awash in attention-sapping information with little or no meaning, their feelings suppressed or muted. Yet that is the reflection of our Westernised lives in this 21st Century and that's the somewhat scary thing about Rick Remender - he always, ALWAYS seems to be able to pluck away at those strings of thought that may keep you awake at night every once in a while. Exhilarating, enlightening and ever essential. 9/10

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