13 Mar 2016

Mini Reviews 13/03/2016

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.

Writer: Roger Langridge
Art: Andy Hirsch & Fred Stresing
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Matt C: I’ve got a lot of time for Roger Langridge’s irreverent brand of humour - his whimsical adventures are frequently very funny and often wildly entertaining. Whilst Langridge doesn’t get involved in the art side of things this time, Andy Hirsch’s lively illustrations are much in synch with the writer's own style. This debut features the titular gang forming to halt a rampaging stone lion before encountering the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes… at least, that’s who they think it is. It’s moderately entertaining but feels a little lightweight in comparison with some of Langridge’s other work, and perhaps it could have been swifter in setting up the main plotline here. Fine, but not especially memorable. 6/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Anyone saying the post-Secret Wars ‘All New, All Different’ Marvel hasn’t got anything to offer to the more discerning reader should obviously be admonished if they’re not picking up Doctor Strange or Mighty Thor, but if The Vision isn’t on their pull-list either then there’s definitely a strong case to be made for their taste being legitimately questioned. It’s quite possibly the most remarkable series the House of Ideas is currently publishing; it’s certainly their most unique and daring. This is a classic peak behind the white picket fence, where family life is a ticking time bomb, the difference here being that the main cast members are androids, and only one of them has had substantial time to acclimatise himself to the human world, leading to disastrous, tragic results. Walta made a substantial impact on the recent Magneto series and his contribution here is essential, beautifully portraying the individuals who are supposedly beyond simple emotion coming undone by feelings they can’t quite get a handle on. And Tom King? We’ve been saying he’s the name to watch for in 2016 a few weeks now and if you’re not watching yet, you’ll be kicking yourself sooner rather than later. 9/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Wayne Faucher, Victor Olazaba & Jaime Mendoza
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: You have to give credit to Marvel for constantly bringing writers to their table who can deal with swift, concise, world/universe/dimension spanning conceits in such effective and isolated ways. Jonathan Hickman ruled that roost effectively through his time on Fantastic Four, and then Avengers, and now Jason Aaron is casting wide-angled nets through his Asgardian-wranglings in Mighty Thor and here with the web of magic in Doctor Strange. This is a harrowing chapter which just bombards you with bullet point catastrophe after bullet point catastrophe as the Empirikul besiege the realms of magic that circle and make-up the mystical shell of Earth, while the everyday folk go about their everyday business unaware of the chaos swirling around them. We often speak of great world-builders in terms of comic book writers, but Aaron tears down worlds so damn effectively, wounding (well, a mere scratch here and there) the reader in the process, which compels them to read further. Strange's fight to the bitter end is the hook here that you throw your will behind, the one light on the darkest day, but Aaron comes at this conflict in such a way that suggests that not only is the hero here fighting a losing battle, but through his techniques he may be highlighting that the cause he's fighting for may not necessarily be innocent and unworthy of attack in the first place. Where things go from here is anyone's guess, and you'll find yourselves eager to find out I'm sure! 9/10

James R: With Karnak looking like an increasingly precarious title, I think it's safe to say that Doctor Strange now stands alone as the only Marvel book I'm picking up. What's strange is that I'm really not missing picking up a slew of books from the House of Ideas - which just re-affirms my belief that its creators rather than characters I'm drawn to. I know for a fact that Doctor Strange scribe Jason Aaron has graduated to the pantheon of writers whose work I'll pick up regardless of the title. In Doctor Strange, Aaron kicks off the new 'Last Days of Magic' arc in spectacular style. Since the relaunch of this title, I've loved how Aaron has redefined how Strange uses magic, and the vast cost that is incurred as a result. He keeps that motif going here, and sets up a nice balance between Strange's mystic worldview and that of Empirikul, the malevolent science-based force who are seeking to destroy all magic. Once more, Chris Bachalo shows why he's a perfect foil for Aaron's more wild ideas - I loved them working together on Wolverine And The X-Men and they're wonderfully in synch here. The book may have jumped a dollar in cost, but the extra material at the back showing the implications of Strange's actions were worth the extra buck - and this book continues to be Marvel's most essential. 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Simply sublime. Jane Foster Thor’s confrontation with All-Father Odin begins with the kind of explosive impact expected, especially with Dauterman’s incredible visuals bringing the smackdown to life, but Aaron has enough tricks up his sleeve to ensure this is anything but predictable. Even when you feel like you could say, “Well, I could see that coming!”, things are anything but clear-cut, with certain elements of the plot playfully and skilfully subverting expectations. This is just another marvellous example of the medium of comics, where words and pictures come together to create something greater than the sum of their parts. Aaron’s been in the superhero game for a while now but this could quite possibly be his high point so far. Outstanding. 9/10

Writers: Greg Pak & Aaron Kuder
Artists: Aaron Kuder, David Messina, Javi Fernandez, Bruno Rendundo, Vicente Cifuentes, Tomeu Morey, Arif Prianto & Wil Quintana
DC Comics $4.99

James R: I have had a turbulent time with the Superman books of late - having been won back to them by some intriguing plots and ideas, I've wavered as, for every smart reflection on what Superman represents, there's been a 'Superman as a Wrestler'. With the title hitting fifty issues (before, inevitably, reverting back to its original numbering) and the small matter of Batman V Superman in the cinema very soon, it was obvious that this issue would see Superman 're-powered' - but what else do we get in the bumper-sized issue? In keeping with Pak and Kuder's run it's a mixed bag. There are moments and scenes which are suitably blockbuster and epic, but there's also some clunky storytelling - Superman is restored to full power in a heartbeat, before Vandal Savage declares "I knew you'd find a way to come back." - which immediately poses the question: 'Why bother?' The other jarring thing is the veritable football team of artists this issue required - comics where there's a slew of different artists rather than one seldom gel together well, and here there are numerous moments of disconnect. Superman's appearance shifts wildly - from a t-shirt that's pristine, to in tatters, then magically back again - and his Kyrptonite veins shift from engulfing his body to barely visible. It's like seeing a continuity error in a film - once you've spotted it, it jars your suspension of disbelief. Like the utter fanboy I am, I have decided to stick around to see how 'Super League' plays out, but right now I'm hoping from some consistency from Action Comics. 6/10

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