2 Oct 2016

Mini Reviews 02/10/2016

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: Sara Kenny
Art: John Watkiss & James Devlin
Image $3.99

James R: I decided to take a punt on Surgeon X as a new Image series more often than not tends to be a cause for celebration. The central premise is a great one too: a near-future where antibiotics have ceased to be effective and as such illnesses and injuries have become lethal, with mortality rates soaring as a result, leaving society on the verge of anarchy. Sadly, Sara Kenny doesn't produce a first issue that brings these ideas to life. It is her first book, and that's self-evident in the awkward nature of the plot and dialogue. Great comics writers know how to use visual cues to convey the plot along with the text. Kenny relies on dialogue that's too explication heavy - for example, in the middle of a riot, people tend not to say to each other "Why is this riot happening?" There are moments when the book works, mainly when it switches to a historical narrative that is both informative and terrifying, but these are outweighed by the clumsy dialogue and characterisation. The art from John Watkiss is as striking, but it's not enough to make Surgeon X worthy of recommendation. Sadly, this patient was DOA for me. 4/10

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Jason Shawn Alexander & Luis NCT
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Matt C: This isn’t the first comic book to tackle the idea of an Earth beset by a new ice age, probably because it’s a concept that offers up a wealth of storytelling possibilities. Frostbite has potential to build something impressive in its frozen, dystopian landscape but is hampered by characters that lurch from histrionics to overly expositional dialogue that grates very quickly. Even with some fine work from Alexander this debut issue fails to make the scenario engage with a sense of relative realism, resulting in an intriguing premise left frozen in mediocrity. 5/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Wes Craig & Jordan Boyd
Image $3.99

Matt C: After the shocking and surprising events of the last issue, the question that lingered was, where the hell can Remender and Craig take this series from here?? What initially seemed like a possible act of self-destruction for the creative team proves anything but here as a new year sees in new students while the survivors of the previous year’s bloodbath deal with the aftermath in various different ways. It’s difficult to say at this juncture who will reveal themselves to be the main protagonist of the series going forward but it’s remains fascinating watching the characters bounce off each other, the sense of mistrust permeating throughout, and the idea that anyone here is truly untouchable has now been put to bed for good. Craig’s art remains beautifully intense and Remender continues to channel his demons into this wonderfully crafted look at shattered adolescence. Whatever happened to the teenage dream? 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Image $2.99

James R: Another week, another masterclass from Jeff Lemire. Last week it was Black Hammer, this time it's Descender that showcases the Canadian's mastery of characterisation and plot. In this issue we learn the backstory behind Andy's relationship with Queen Between. Between was once Effie, a girl who kept the orphaned Andy alive, was part of his crew... and his significant other. As I said last week, Lemire knows how to work the readers' emotions; in this chapter he manages to encapsulate the intimacy between Andy and Effie whilst also chartering how their relationship became fractured. By now, I have come to expect the artwork by Dustin Nguyen to be a thing of beauty, and this issue is no different - the universe of Descender is wonderfully realised too, with alien worlds, technology and fashion looking incredibly real. Descender is a class act in every way, and my book of the week by a light year. 8/10

Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Javier Pina & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Unlike the previous issue, where the cover hinted at a Civil War II crossover that didn’t actually occur within the pages of the comic, this month’s instalment actually does tie into Marvel’s current event series. Having steered clear of all that so far, some of this issue was a little hard to follow (that last page, for example!) but when it’s not delving into the bickering between various superheroes it’s dealing with extended conversations between Rogers and Selvig that don’t really push the narrative of this series forward by much. The flashbacks are the strongest part of this particular chapter, but even then there’s something lacking. While I still find the central premise of the ‘Cap as Hydra agent’ appealing, the sense of urgency that was present early on isn’t showing itself any more, and the likelihood of me continuing with the series is diminishing. 5/10

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