23 Oct 2016

Mini Reviews 23/10/2016

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: W. Maxwell Prince
Artists: Martin Morazzo & Mat Lopes
IDW $3.99

James R: The pitch for The Electric Sublime sounded like something from Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol: a mysterious event has caused the Mona Lisa to wink and artists to carry out murders, a situation that calls for Arthur Brut, a man with the ability to step inside artworks but at a cost of his sanity. I loved the concept, and writer W. Maxwell Prince deserves kudos for using a visual medium to tell a story about the power of art, but this first issue didn't land for me. Great first issues are an artform in themselves - you need to grab the reader's attention and yet promise much more to come. In The Electric Sublime, Prince holds nothing back - plot, protagonists and antagonists are all crushed in, and as a result, the book feels like it's doing too much. Martin Morazzo's art is definitely worth the price of admission, (reminding me of Ryan Bodenheim's work) but ultimately, I was hoping The Electric Sublime would be a masterpiece; as it is, it's more a preliminary sketch. 5/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson & Frazer Irving
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Titled ‘The Untold Origin Of Mjolnir’, this issue sees Jason Aaron retcon the secret history of Thor’s hammer, adding a previously unknown sentience to the Thunder God's trusty weapon. This may rankle some, but for me this particular section of the Marvel Universe is built on myth and legend, and there’s a certain malleability inherent in that that allows a variety of shifting versions of the story as time goes on. Aaron makes it work anyway, his command of these characters and their milieu unquestionable at this point, and bringing in Frazer Irving to illustrate the historical sequences is inspired as he introduces an ethereal grit to the proceedings, bookended by the reliable brilliance of Dauterman. Worthy, as always. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: I have already sung the praises of this book and once again Lemire and Ormston's unconventional superhero tale was the best thing I read this week. What Lemire does so well is find a unique blend of plots and tropes. He shifts seamlessly from the family dynamics of the stranded heroes trying to live a normal life in their pocket dimension, to the widescreen recollection of Abraham Slam's past, holding the reader's attention from first page to last. As I read, I was reminded of Watchmen and Powers (when that title was in it's early pomp) and those are fine books to be in the company of. Ormiston's art is the perfect fit, capturing a Golden Age sensibility, pulp sci-fi weirdness, and the mundane domestic world brilliantly. As this series continues, I love how Lemire continues to reveal more of the mystery at the heart of the plot whilst continuing to add new layers and dimensions. A terrific book that's getting better with every issue, Black Hammer continues to hit the sweet spot. 8/10

Writers: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Art: Rod Reis
Image $3.99

Matt C: As we enter the interrogation room for this sophomore instalment it emphasises how well the writers of this miniseries understand hoe character dynamics can propel a narrative forward. The way they layer their cast so that new information forms a constant stream is impeccable and they manage to find new ways to breathe life into the hackneyed whodunnit format and make it utterly compelling. In an issue where talking heads take centre stage at the expense of sci-fi imagery, Reis still brings an intensity and realism to each panel, resulting in an absorbing read that’s proving to be a worthy successor to C.O.W.L. 8/10

James R: Class always tells. Firstly, all the respect has to go to Rod Reis who is proving that he is one of the great talents working in mainstream comics. I loved his work on C.O.W.L. but he's gone up another gear on Hadrian's Wall. Not only does he capture a fantastic 1980s sci-fi aesthetic wonderfully but he conveys the nuance and expression of the characters brilliantly. Reis' work makes this comic an absolute treat for the eyes, and would be reason alone to pick it up. Fortunately, Higgins and Siegel ratchet up the mystery on board the Hadrian's Wall and start to deliver on the promise shown by the first issue. In a way, this reminds me of Matt Kindt's Dept. H, which takes a similar premise (a whodunnit in a sealed, extreme environment) but for me, Hadrian's Wall feels like a more honed book - the feeling of paranoia and distrust felt by Simon Moore is more tangible, and I was totally engrossed in this issue. Before this series started, I was confident that it wouldn't be anything less than great, and after two issues, my prediction feels justified. Stellar stuff in every way. 8/10

Writer: Francis Manapul
Art: Fracis Manapul
DC $2.99

Matt C: I’m really becoming quite taken with this series and I think that’s down to the singularity of vision – this is clearly writer/artist Francis Manapul’s baby, and while he’s obviously working within the confines of current ‘Rebirth’ continuity, there’s a definite sense that this is his own thing, a tale he needs to tell. The idea of family - both biological and the bonds created through friendship – permeates throughout, and while there remains an avoidance of large action sequences, the emotional resonance is perhaps far stronger than any colourful punch-up could be. That’s not to say this isn’t colourful or dynamic, but what’s refreshing (besides the fact that we’re not getting this hurled at us twice as month) is that it feels more creator-driven rather than editor-driven, and that bodes well for future instalments. 8/10

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