7 Aug 2016

Mini Reviews 07/08/2016

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.

KILL OR BE KILLED #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

James R: A new series from the A-team of Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser will always be a cause for celebration, and Kill Or Be Killed is certainly no exception. Following the classic noir of The Fade Out, this new series certainly has a noir feel, but as with Fatale, there may be a hint of the supernatural. In this bumper-sized first chapter, we're introduced to Dylan, and the intense opening offers us a signpost as to where he’s headed. The bulk of the issue though showcases what Ed Brubaker does best by building up a very real, and distinctly believable central figure - there won't be many readers who can't relate to Dylan's feelings of failure, impotence and rage. It's beautifully illustrated by Phillips and Breitweiser as always, but any fan of quality comics shouldn't be surprised by that. Regardless of the story specifics, this creative team always produce the goods, and Kill Or Be Killed is another knockout book from these three greats. 8/10

Matt C: There’s a special kind of creative alchemy that occurs when Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips team up on a project, and having both their names on the front of a book – as they have been on the likes of Sleeper, Criminal and The Fade Out – is pretty much a guarantee of quality comics at their finest. You can now add Elizabeth Brietweiser into that mix as since Fatale she’s become an essential component to this collaborative partnership, and the three of them have once again struck comics gold with Kill Or Be Killed. There are a lot themes working through the narrative that have appeared in their previous work together, and the premise of a guy pulled into a violent situation against his will suggests this heading straight into noir territory again (no bad thing) until an unexpected element appears to explain why our young protagonist is out killing bad guys. In lesser hands this reveal could fall flat but the confidence in the concept on display sells it brilliantly. This is what we like to call an essential purchase, but I suspect you knew that already. 8/10

AQUAMAN #4
Writer: Dan Abnett
Art: Philippe Briones & Gabe Eltaeb
DC $2.99

Stewart R: I'll admit I never expected to enjoy an Aquaman book as much as I am. Abnett has thrown the King of Atlantis into a Washington D.C. political thriller and made it a must-read book in just four issues. While elements of his nation conspire to broker war between the civilizations of sea and land, Arthur attempts to maintain his stance of peace and compliance with the US government as things grow increasingly futile. It's here where Mera really comes into her own as her dedication to her lover's dream is tempered by the realisation that action must be taken to prevent things from spiralling out of control. The dialogue is compelling and humour-tinged, the art from Briones here shows why he's been picked to compliment Brad Walker's style as the two's work is incredibly compatible, and subtler story threads continue to be sewn by Abnett in the background. Never thought I'd say this, but Aquaman is proving to be awesome. 9/10

SHERIFF OF BABYLON #9
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC/Vertigo $3.99

James R: As some of Sheriff of Babylon's early mysteries are solved, Tom King and Mitch Gerads do a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension. After seemingly drawing out the mysterious Abu Rahim, this chapter presents the waiting game as our protagonists anticipate his arrival. As usual, Sheriff Of Babylon works so well as it has the feel of verisimilitude (King's well-publicised former role within the CIA guarantees that) and because King and Gerads understand the medium so well. This issue is ultimately two conversations, but is presented so well, and handled with such skill, that it holds the reader from first page until the last. The Vision has rightfully won Tom King a lot of plaudits this year, but for me Sheriff of Babylon is still his best book - it's a one that respects the intelligence of its audience but in turn demands attention. Explosive in every way. 8/10

LOW #15
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Greg Tocchini & Dave McCaig
Image $3.99

Matt C: Low is a comic that has been propelled forward by the hope and belief of one of its central characters, so when we get an issue like this, one where hopelessness seems to come to the forefront, it calls into question the expectations of where this tale is ultimately headed. If you’ve read enough of Rick Remender’s work of the last few years you’ll know that he doesn’t really do ‘predictable’, so what happens next is anyone’s guess (although if I were to hazard a guess I’d say redemption is going to be a key theme as the series moves towards its conclusion). It continues to look and feel operatic, the emotional core of the book always clear and tangible, and while it’s likely to have further shocks on the horizon, it remains a compelling, absorbing and colourful trip into a post-apocalyptic future where a glimmer of optimism still remains. 8/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #10
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo, Time Townsend, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Wayne Faucher & Rain Beredo
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: This is the last act of the ‘Last Days Of Magic’ storyline and while the build-up was tense, captivating and brought with it a new look at the damaging legacy the titular Sorcerer Supreme was leaving in his heroic wake, the last moments of the battle have been a touch underwhelming. Aaron brings it all together for a last ditch confrontation, and while it remains exciting I can't help but feel that the Empirikul have been left a touch under-defined for a threat so large, and perhaps the five-issue arc restriction has stolen some of the potential that a longer look at this conflict could have brought in this main book. Bachalo's usually stellar artwork has not been hitting the expected high notes for me either, which is a shame. The continuous army of inkers pitching in is not helping matters artistically, and when it comes to small panels requiring a semi-distant view then things start to look very hurried and sparse. Despite the criticisms it's still a competently delivered book and the wider look at those people touched by the good Doctor's work has been a refreshing perspective to see things from. 7/10

TREES #14
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Howard
Image $2.99

James R: After a hiatus, Trees returned this week with an issue that reminded me just how good it is, and amongst a slew of excellent releases, it is my book of the week. The reason it works so well is that it is one of those occasions where both artist and writer are in perfect harmony and at their best. Firstly, Jason Howard is magnificent here - in these pages he does everything: from the jaw-dropping action of the opening pages, to the small touches and flashes of human emotion, it's beautiful to look at. The fact that he also colours the pages is great too - the tonal shifts throughout the run have been have been remarkable. It's also great to see Ellis on such fine form - for all the criticism that his books are too similar, populated with characters who all talk the same way, Trees is a great antidote; keeping the tale a global one and shifting the narrative between five locations has kept things fresh, and it's still anyone's guess as to where Ellis is taking this. When Ellis does SF right, there's nobody like him, and in concert with Jason Howard, Trees is truly unique. 9/10

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