28 Aug 2016

Mini Reviews 28/08/2016

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.

LAKE OF FIRE #1
Writer: Nathan Fairbairn
Art: Matt Smith & Nathan Fairbairn
Image $3.99


Stewart R: It was only last year that I was reading a tale of sword-wielding warriors taking on beastly invaders from beyond our atmosphere in Dark Horse's Dark Ages so I was a touch wary about reading another comic that shares an incredibly similar premise. Thankfully Lake Of Fire builds in a different way and feels like a different enough medieval monster. Fairbairn instils his dialogue with that familiar sense of historical honour and battle-worn arrogance as young knight Theobald and his companions Hugh and Michel find themselves on a crusade against heresy which turns out to be something far more dangerous. There's a delightfully measured pace to this bumper sized issue - you get 44 pages of story for your $3.99! - and the switch between dutiful Crusader interactions to sequences of unseen terror in the forests really works well to slowly stack the tension. The art from Smith and Fairbairn is incredibly well polished, filling the world with expressive characters and when you combine it all together this is one fine debut from Image once again. 9/10

CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #4
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Javier Pina, Miguel Sepulveda & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $4.99


Matt C: That cover is massively misleading as there’s not a single scene that even remotely resembles it in the pages of the comic; it touches on the events of Civil War II but it’s a tie-in in the very loosest sense.  Essentially this continues the ongoing narrative were Steve Rogers has seen his past adjusted by a sentient cosmic cube, making him a supporter of Hydra, but perhaps not as ideologically attuned to the Red Skull’s vision as many assume. It’s not too shabby, the change in artists doesn’t really harm the visual consistency, but its edginess is waning and there are too many indications that a reset is inevitable at the end of all this. I’ll stick with this arc but unless it ups its game I may leave it at that. 6/10

DEPT. H #5
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Matt Kindt & Sharlene Kindt
Dark Horse $3.99


James R: In conversation with my comrades from the PCG, I confessed that Dept. H wasn't quite hitting the high notes for me - admittedly, it's always going to be tough following a magnum opus like Mind MGMT, but I felt that Matt Kindt's underwater whodunnit was a little too straightforward. That changed this week though, as Mia's quest to uncover her father's killer took some mysterious twists and turns. In attempting to rescue her brother, Mia sees that the ocean floor is as alien and unnerving as any far-off world, and the base saboteur strikes again. Beyond the plot kicking up a notch, it's great to witness Kindt's mastery of the medium. With Sharlene Kindt's colours, he uses a flashback effectively, providing more backstory for Mia and a vital plot point. I also love the slowly rising water levels at the margins of each page, growing higher with each issue, and subtly suggesting the increasing danger and pressure. I've been saying for a while now that Matt Kindt is one of the brightest stars and creative minds in mainstream comics, and this issue of Dept. H is proof positive that both his stock - and the drama here - is definitely still on the rise. 8/10

MECHANISM #2
Writer: Raffaele Ienco
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Top Cow $3.99


Stewart R: Okay, so my previous review for issue #1 criticized the lack of focus on the danger and to be fair that is addressed here as a conspiracy involving the manifestation of the alien 'Gecko' threat surfaces, pointing the finger of suspicious blame at elements of mankind, rather than the perceived travellers from beyond the stars. It's an interesting political slant to this murky apocalyptic story which is still leaving the titular 'protagonist' as an enigmatic
presence - it literally does nothing once again here - and trying to define the wider picture via the gruff cop's consistent walk into danger and Doctor Burg's enlightening conversation about the status quo. The artwork remains eye-pleasing and completing two chapters has helped to form this into a more compelling read than I initially felt it to be, but I'm still not fully convinced I'll be picking this up in a few months time. 6/10

WONDER WOMAN #5
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Liam Sharp & Laura Martin
DC $2.99


Matt C: The ‘Year One’ storyline being told in the even-numbered issues of this series is pipping it for me at the moment, but that being said, this contemporary tale comes a close second. As always, it’s Rucka’s characterization that really comes to the fore throughout, grounding the fantastical in an environment that’s as believable and truthful as you can get with this sort of thing.  Sharp draws out the emotion from these larger-than-life individuals in the outlandish situations they find themselves in, the expression work conveying the depth of feeling between the cast. That’s all filtered through an exciting, dynamic superhero tale that hits all the right buttons for action and intrigue, reaffirming this title’s position as arguably the best of DC’s Rebirth initiative. 8/10

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