31 Jan 2016

Mini Reviews 31/01/2016

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.

CRY HAVOC #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Ryan Kelly, Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge, Matt Wilson, Emma Price
Image $3.99

Stewart R: There'd been quite a bit of buzz about this book before its arrival - following Spurrier on Twitter will have helped my exposure, but a fair few people and sites were offering up praise outside of the retweets I was seeing. As I sit here to write this review I'm realising just how well Spurrier has woven a narrative around Louise which flows freely, swirling around her far past, her recent past and her troubled present in captivity. From aspiring London street-musician to black ops grunt in a clandestine squad; it all holds together very well indeed thanks to Spurrier's fine grip of characterisation and a slightly more measured approach to his dialogue than we've seen in previous works. Series such as The Spire and X-Men Legacy saw his hand for brain-fart psycho-babble (a compliment, I assure you!) come to the fore, but here there's a more minimal approach to the interactions which still shine with heart. Kelly needs to be applauded on this effort too as the reader clearly gets to see Louise's girlfriend show frustration and doubt in regards to their relationship through her facial expressions, while Louise remains oblivious to the fact. Once things push onto the militaristic aspect of the book, Kelly busts out a fine depiction of cool-headed confidence in the team that Louise finds herself embedded within. Things are left in a precarious and intriguing spot which absolutely guarantees a second chapter lock in to my pull-list. We do drum on about this all the time but Image really is the place to go for consistently good first issues. 9/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Marcel Miolo
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: I never much cared for Mark Millar’s original ‘Old Man Logan’ storyline, and Bendis’ involvement in the ‘Battleworld’ miniseries had me steering clear of that one (although admittedly I’ve heard some positive things about it). With this in mind, why am I now picking up the latest series featuring an older version of the Ol’ Canucklehead? Two words: Jeff Lemire. While his Extraordinary X-Men plays a little too closely to formula for my liking, with Old Man Logan I had hoped for something a little more unconventional, and while it’s clearly a Wolverine comic, it was, I’m happy to report, surprising and thrilling in equal measure. This is Logan in full-on, grizzled Eastwood mode, as we flash-forward back and forth from the present day to the apocalyptic future where he originated, and things get complicated as his ‘mission’ becomes more established. The stark illustrations and emphatic colour schemes are highly effective and Lemire has found a great way to utilize this character. Possibly not what you’d expect and as such definitely worthy of investigation. 8/10

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #13
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Image $3.50

James R: If it wasn't already, then this series has now achieved the status of a modern classic. I was genuinely excited and thrilled to get this issue home and read it. Having built up to the homecoming clash between the the Rebs and Wetumpka County, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour hold absolutely nothing back here. Firstly, it's another perfect display from Jason Latour - he's a superb artist, but I'm always enthralled by his use of colour. This month, the gritty, dirty reds that have given the book its tone are slowly taken over by the colder blues as Coach Boss struggles to hold together both his team and his place in Craw County. Once again Aaron shows that he is absolutely at the top of his game - from the electric dialogue that peppers this chapter, to the deftly woven plot… it’s just flawless. And if all this wasn't enough, the next issue promises a homecoming that readers of the book have anticipated since the end of the first arc. It's a tough call for me to say what is the singular outstanding series in comics at the moment - I see-saw between this and the equally magnificent Lazarus - but one thing is certain, there's no comic finer than this out there. 10/10

STRAYER #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Juan Gedeon & Tamra Bonvillain
AfterShock Comics $3.99

Matt C: This hadn’t really been a planned purchase but I decided to give it a shot because writer Justin Jordan has proven he’s got some serious creative chops and I also felt the need to check out something from AfterShock Comics sooner rather than later. I’d expected a bit more of a straight-up fantasy tale, and while there’s plenty of genre tropes in evidence, this book feels more closely aligned to the likes of Birthright and The Autumnlands in that it mixes up classic fantasy staples with elements that initially seem incongruous but work brilliantly to establish a unique identity. So, we have an effective monster-killer who gets roped in to saving a town from a rampaging behemoth, but – yes! – things aren’t quite what they seem. The artwork is sturdy, colourful and fun, and Jordan is obviously relishing placing larger-than-life characters in a tale that isn’t quite as predictable as it initially seems. As my first taste of AfterShock, I’m very impressed. 8/10

BLACK MAGICK #4
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott & Chiara Arena
Image $3.99

James R: Black Magick seems to get stronger with every passing issue. It started from a position of strength, but as Greg Rucka has added more levels of intrigue to the world of Rowan Black, this story has become even more compelling. Not only does Rucka employ his skill in crafting crime books to great effect, I love how he's portraying his magical practitioners as everyday people within the Portsmouth community, making the supernatural something that lurches just beneath the ordinary and everyday. This is also accentuated by the lush art of Nicola Scott and Chiara Arena, who are finding a nice balance between the realistic and the extraordinary. With this opening arc concluding next issue, it's clear that there's plenty more to come from Black Magick, and that's a very good thing. With DC's Vertigo imprint struggling to find an identity at the moment, Black Magick shows us just how a book with a supernatural-horror basis (formerly Vertigo's trademark) should be done. 8/10

TWILIGHT CHILDREN #4
Writer: Gilbert Hernandez
Art: Darwyn Cook & Dave Stewart
DC/Vertigo $4.99

Matt C: After such an auspicious opening and an intriguing middle act, the finale of Twilight Children is something of curious disappointment. I didn’t expect a clear and unambiguous resolution to the story but the way things wrap up here is a little too vague and opaque to really satisfy. Cooke’s artwork has all the expected lush vibrancy – he simply never disappoints – but even so, he can’t quite convey in a readily digestible manner exactly what the heck is going on in this issue. Hey, maybe I’m missing something blindly obvious and I just need to someone to enlighten me, but while it was incredibly beautiful to look, its ultimate purpose seems to be elusive. 6/10

SUPERMAN #48
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artists: Howard Porter & Adrian Syaf
DC $3.99

James R: Why am I still getting this title? God knows! I feel honour-bound to hold on until the inevitable reset with issue #50, but if that wasn't on the horizon, I'd be jumping off. There was a period when both this and Action Comics threatened to do something interesting using the 'de-powered' Superman. Action dealt with police brutality and corruption (great!) before having Superman get involved in a fistfight with Frankenstein (entertainingly nuts). However, this title - which started off with an interesting reflection on the idea that information equalled true power - ended up with Superman involved in a WWE-style wrestling contest. Gene Luen Lang at least kept that a relatively short interlude, but this instalment didn't win me back. It continues to look nice enough, with fine work from Porter and Syaf, but the plot feels generic. The story could easily be a Batman or Green Arrow tale - there's nothing until the final few pages that distinguishes it as a Superman story. The Hordr Root arc has now rumbled on for eight issues, and it's certainly time for change of direction. The news that DC plans to reset its books yet again fills me with dismay - as it is, I'm only getting this and Action from DC at the moment. As Secret Wars provided me with stepping off point from Marvel, 'Rebirth' might be my cue to move away from DC. 4/10

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