4 Sept 2016

Mini Reviews 04/09/2016

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: Devin Faraci
Art: Vic Malhotra & Jason Millet
IDW $3.99

Matt C: Admitting that I haven’t read Jim Thompson’s famed crime novel may lose me credibility at this stage but I came to this as a fan of the genre rather than the source. Knowing Faraci from his film criticism, I was curious but optimistic about his first comic writing gig and to be fair he does a pretty decent job. The lurid tone is nicely captured and Malhotra brings a kind of neon-noir vibe to the proceedings – a sense of danger seeps through every page promising violence but delivering it sparingly. What stops this debut making a significant impact is the way the flow of the narrative seems to get interrupted, as though chunks have been exorcised, meaning it stutters instead of moving smoothly towards it destination. Additionally, the central character of Lou Ford isn’t quite the presence he should be, his sociopathic nature not carrying the requisite consistency. Possibly Faraci has set his sights too high adapting this as his initial foray into penning comic books, and while there’s undeniably potential here, the price point marks this one as more of a possible trade-wait rather than an essential monthly purchase (although I imagine I should look to the original novel as a first port of call). 6/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
Image $3.99

James R: As sharp as a strike from a katana blade, the final issue of Tokyo Ghost doesn't disappoint. There hasn't been a slack issue of this terrific series, and this conclusion pulls off the remarkable feat of blending the spectacular with the heartfelt, and throwing in a final sting reminiscent of Watchmen. I am absolutely in awe of Sean Murphy's work in this series - dystopic futures have become such a staple of SF that creating a world that's as searing and unique as this is a great accomplishment. As for Remender's script, he manages to fuse his meditation on technology (and our continuing fascination and reliance on it) with a grounded, human story about love and loss. At ten issues, Tokyo Ghost is a comic that never wasted a panel, and it's fair to say that it's a strong contender for miniseries of the year. It may have painted an ugly future, but reading Tokyo Ghost was a beautiful experience. 9/10

Matt C: The denouement to this excellent series offers an entirely satisfying resolution that is in keeping with the way it initially set itself up as a parable of our increasing dependence on absorbing ourselves in social media and cyberspace. As you’d expect from Remender, he tells his tale without pushing the point he’s trying to make too hard, instead relying on high drama, blistering emotion and insane action to draw the reader in, and once they’re in the palm of his hand, he drops his thought bomb so it lingers long after the final page is reached. Murphy remains a consummate talent; his flair for dynamic imagery and poetic splash pages is frequently breathtaking and his creative sensibilities seem to mesh perfectly with Remender’s. Brutal, profound and heartbreaking, Tokyo Ghost has provided an opportunity to watch some of comics’ greatest creative talents at the top of their game. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta & Frank Martin
Image $3.99

James R: I now actively try not to use the phrase 'the long game' when reviewing Jonathan Hickman, but it's hard when the man is the absolute master of grand plot and the long road. If you've been reading East Of West since its debut this issue represents the payoff of one of the first plots and quests Hickman established - and no sooner has he rewarded us with an emotional meeting as good as anything in comics, he then leaves us wanting more with a great postscript. As always, it's beautifully illustrated by Dragotta and Martin - it's a book with such a strong visual identity, mixing the tropes of technology, horror and the Western to incredible effect. This issue represents the end of 'Year two' for East Of West, and on this evidence, its final year will be explosive. 8/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Frank Quitely & Sunny Gho
Image $3.99

Matt C: I think if everyone was being brutally honest then maybe we’d say we wouldn’t be giving this book quite as much attention if it wasn’t for Quitely’s sophisticated, exquisitely detailed artwork. Don’t get me wrong, Millar’s story is solid, but Quitely adds a layer of grandeur that perhaps elevates it higher than it might otherwise find itself. It pushes a good tale towards greatness, and if I was being doubly honest, I’d say that I found more emotional resonance in the pages of Jupiter’s Circle than I do here. None of this preamble is to say that I find Jupiter’s Legacy wanting, as when placed beside a lot of contemporary superhero comics it would easily come off as the winner, but I think there are elements here that make me place it on a higher pedestal than it deserves. It is very good but I get a sense that Millar often flicks on the autopilot switch, and that’s what prevents it from being anything more. 8/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Michael Lark, Tyler Boss & Santi Arcas
Image $3.99

James R: If you're not reading Lazarus by this point, I genuinely feel sorry for you. This has been the series that I have pushed into the hands of friends who are occasional comics readers, and those who are cynical older readers, and to a man and woman, every single one of them has loved it. This month I was struck by just how much Rucka and Lark give us: as the war between the Families continues to rumble on, Forever learns more about her genealogy, and it's a terrific read. I'm also loving how the secondary cast add to this story - the other Lazari of the Families have really stood out for me, and it all helps create a world with an incredible sense of verisimilitude (the fake ads that run in every issue, and the terrific sourcebook released earlier this year, all add to this too.) In a terrific week from Image that reminds us why they've become the most vital publisher in mainstream comics, Lazarus retains its position as the brightest ongoing light in the publisher's stellar firmament. 8/10

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