3 Apr 2016

Mini Reviews 03/04/2016

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.

Writers: Nick Spencer, Joss Whedon, Tim Sale & Greg Rucka
Art: Daniel Acuna, Angel Unzueta, Matt Yackey, John Cassaday, Laura Martin, Tim Sale, Dave Stewart, Mike Perkins, Andy Troy & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $5.99

Matt C: Marvel are never ones to shy away from fleecing their audience with often tenuous ‘anniversary’ issues, but if any character deserves the ‘bumper issue’ treatment, it’s Captain America, celebrating 75 years since his first appearance in Captain America Comics #1 in March 1941. The bulk of this issue sees spins out of the ‘Standoff’ event - which appears to be a pretty derivative storyline to tie in a bunch of comics under the same banner (using a sentient cosmic cube to make criminals happy, or something) - with Sam Wilson carrying the shield and old Steve Rogers battling Baron Zemo again, leading up to a reveal that’s pretty obvious if you throw a cosmic cube into the mix (or if you’ve seen any recent advance solicitations). Although Daniel Acuna’s artwork livens things up a little, it’s a bit dull and feels rather dated in its writing style, and it certainly doesn’t make me anywhere near interested to see how ‘Standoff’ unfolds. The good stuff is, off course, the back-up tales with creative heavyweights like Joss Whedon, Tim Sale, Greg Rucka and John Cassaday all getting involved to mark the Sentinel of Liberty hitting three quarters of a century. All three tales are strong, with arguably the sumptuous Whedon/Cassaday collaboration being the most on point, but they all seem to prove that perhaps a one-shot celebratory compendium book would have been preferable to what we get here (it would have been nice to see Ed Brubaker return, for example). This issue is unlikely to convert anyone not already signed up to the current ongoing adventures of Cap and co, but the additional content makes it just about worth the hefty price tag for fans of the character. 7/10

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

James R: When this project was first announced, I said here that I thought it was a smart move by Chuck Palahniuk as, by switching mediums, he could explore the concept of a sequel to his most famous creation, whilst keeping the original prose novel 'pure'. Only now do I realise that it wasn't just a smart move - it was a genius move. As this story has unfolded, the next chapter in the lives of 'Sebastian'/Tyler and Marla has almost become secondary to a more fascinating idea - Palahniuk reflecting on what it means to create something so big it takes on a life of its own, far beyond its creator's control. I was initially sceptical about some of the more meta elements of the plot - early on, Palahniuk arriving in the story (in a way that was highly reminiscent of Grant Morrison in his Animal Man run) felt a little clunky - but by this final issue, he presents a conclusion that is sublime: Palahniuk deals with an angry mob, unhappy with the ending he has constructed, and his reply is "It's not enough to transform your character - a good story should also surprise and transform the author and the reader." I'm fully aware that this will be far too arch or indulgent for some tastes, but I loved it. It's great to see that Palahniuk used his comics debut to reflect on what it means to be an author and a creator and, by stepping beyond prose, it's given his ideas a - forgive the pun - powerful punch. Yet again Cameron Stewart is flawless in his work illustrating these grand themes, and he's handled every wild concept Palahniuk has thrown his way with aplomb. For me, comics are at their best when they do something unique, or something that wouldn't work in any other medium, and that's exactly what Palahniuk and Stewart have done here. A magnificent achievement. 10/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.99

James R: When we get together and talk comics, the PCG often offer up respect for the considerable talent of Rick Remender, and one idea that gets voiced time and again is that for all his mind-expanding SF ideas, what makes them work is the relatable, and very real human emotions that serve as an anchor for his ambitious tales. He does it once again in this issue of Black Science, which sees a conclusion to the ‘Godworld’ arc. Grant McKay begins his quest to right the wrongs that his parallel universe-jumping hubris has wrought, and his first stop is to track down Rebecca, now living in a parallel Earth where her brother never died. It's a masterclass in storytelling as Remender balances McKay's pursuit of Rebecca with the flashback to their first meeting. Black Science is a book that never disappoints - each time I read an issue, I feel fully immersed by the constantly innovative plot, and by Matteo Scalara's unmistakable visuals. On the letters page, Remender warns us "I can't imagine anyone can possibly anticipate the turns we are taking" in regards to the next arcs of the books - it's fair to say I can't wait to find out. 9/10

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