7 Feb 2016

Mini Reviews 07/02/2016

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.

A-FORCE #2
Writers: Kelly Thompson & G. Willow Wilson
Art: Jorge Molina & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: There's something about Singularity's insistence on getting the A-Force band back together which is brilliantly exciting and allows Thompson and Wilson to get the most out of their confident, headstrong cast. The clashes between Medusa and Jennifer, then the pair with the younger Nico, are great fun, their voices all ringing true and their eventual agreement and coming together having a genuine sense of fluidity and spontaneity. The trouble I found was the eventual spinning of the spotlight to Dazzler as her involvement really feels forced and her character redesign feels similarly forced in its punkish, counter-culture-but-it's-pop-culture mould. Molina's art is once again a sight to behold, here delivering terrific scenes of a gigantic Antimatter causing trouble in New York before the action switches to Japan and a superb four-panel page which shows his arrival at a wedding and the menace therein. Strangely, there appear to be two pages - when Captain Marvel gets a look in - which I initially swore to be illustrated by Paul Davidson, as they look different to the rest of the book and remind me of his style, but with no mention of him maybe I'm just looking at these things too hard. In any case, I know now that I won't need to be looking too hard for a premium feel, huge fun, high action book from Marvel month on month as I seem to have found it with A-Force! 9/10

PROVIDENCE #7
Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Jacen Burrows &
Avatar Press $4.99

Matt C: Robert Black’s disturbing journey through New England in the early 20th century has always been a masterclass in sustained creepiness but this proves to be the most unnerving issue yet. You know you’re in the safe hands of a writer of Alan Moore’s calibre because there are sequences here that flit between the mundane and the terrifying with such absorbing ease that they could only come from the mind of someone intuitively familiar with the medium of comics. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Burrows’ astonishing illustrations, with their blend of the realistic and the perverse, really get under your skin in a way that’s hard shake. The copious backmatter, which prints excerpts from Black’s increasingly fevered journal, brilliantly emphasis the madness witnessed in the comic proper through his determined refusal to accept what’s happening and his desperate attempts to rationalize it all. A future horror classic from one of comics' greats. 9/10

James R: I've never really got on with horror as a genre - I suppose I've always found it a little too obvious, and to be honest, seldom scary. (My natural scepticism towards anything supernatural also doesn't help!) But if there's one writer that could make me reconsider my opinion, it's Alan Moore. Ever since Moore started writing his H. P. Lovecraft-inspired tales from Avatar, he's crafted books which - if not scary - are certainly unnerving to read. As Providence has developed, the inevitably doomed protagonist Robert Black has been the prism with which we've looked at a series of disconcerting episodes. The moments that have worked best for me though are when Moore ties these fictions into real historical events to show that not far beneath the surface, humanity is as dark and nefarious as any Elder God. He does it again in this issue, using the events of the Boston police strike of 1919 to serve as a backdrop to Black's latest meeting, this time with an artist with unnerving subterranean inspirations. As it has been throughout, Jacen Burrow's artwork fits the mood of Moore's scripts perfectly, and whilst I wouldn't say Providence is a scary book , I certainly wouldn't want to read this before bedtime - it captures the very essence of a nightmare. 8/10

UNFOLLOW #4
Writer: Rob Williams
Art: Mike Dowling & Quinton Winter
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Stewart R: The setup complete, it now feels as if we're truly getting to see where Williams might be leading us as the 140 'lucky' individuals process the concept that, as one character calls it, they are now involved in a 'murder-cash-grab-free-for-all'. As the general debauchery of celebration gets underway, we follow David as his quick realisation of the wider picture has him scuttling for the exit, his smarts unfortunately bringing him into contact with the more unhinged elements of guests. Williams is doing a fine job of spreading his focus and making the larger than life characters actually believable with the terminal Ferrel, masked Rubinstein and enigmatic Akira all engaging in interactions that buzz and fix your gaze upon the page. As the 140 slowly start to dwindle in number and the stakes mount further I can only imagine what beautiful craziness we might witness and I am here, encouraging you to get onboard with Unfollow, as it's promising to be glorious. 9/10

THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON #3
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
DC/Vertigo Comics $3.99

James R: With its first two issues, Sheriff Of Babylon established itself as a book worthy of your attention, but with this issue it all but grabs you by the lapels and insists on it. It's an explosive instalment that reminded me of the finale of Southern Bastards' first act, one that utterly surprised me, and made me realise that I was reading something really special. Tom King shows us that nobody is safe amidst the murky morality of post-invasion Iraq, and that the motivations behind the death of Ali Al Fahar might be far more complex than a simple act of revenge. Once again, Mitch Gerads captures the feel of Baghdad beautifully, grounding this story in very real visuals which give the moments of violence their impact. Tom King is fast establishing himself as one of the names to watch in comics, and trust me, if you like an intelligent, challenging read, Sheriff Of Babylon should be on your pull-list right now. 9/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba & Jaime Mendoza
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The switch has very much been flipped and we've gone from brooding menace to terrifying carnage in an instant as the Empirikul arrive at Earth and go about besieging and draining the various nexus of magic associated with this world. Aaron's story shines through as we realise that Stephen has been duped by one of his closest allies in order to keep him alive and Earth's defences very much intact through years of spell-casting and sacrifice. Strange's tunnel vision regarding his abilities shows an arrogance that's hard to dislike - he fights the unseen battles that must be fought, regardless of 'apparent' personal cost - but from our readers’ perspective we can see great weakness in a man so confident. Much like Kaare Andrews raking Danny Rand over the coals in his recent Iron Fist series, I can see Aaron setting Stephen up for the trial of his life as this threat grows ever larger and his strategy falls short. Rather like the monks depicted in this issue, it's fair to say that the retinue of inkers on Bachalo's pencils find various fortune in their mission; some of the pages are an illustrated delight while others, unfortunately, could be called murky in comparison and while the overall quality remains high, it's a shame that this has become the niggling standard for books with Bachalo's name upon them. The greater shame being that he's possibly putting out some of his best work in the past 10 years and it deserves a consistent, Townsend-esque inking throughout. 9/10

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