27 Nov 2016

Mini Reviews 27/11/2016

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.

A.D.: AFTER DEATH BOOK ONE
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $5.99


Matt C: The level of love that’s gone into this book is readily apparent as soon as you pick up a physical copy. From the oversized format, the paper stock utilized, through to the heart and soul poured into the words and pictures, this is an astonishing example of comic book art. Synder and Lemire have joined forces, mixing up prose with more conventional sequential art storytelling to produce a tale that is profoundly affecting on a deeply emotional level.  It’s a meditation on the nature of mortality that works because it has two of comicdom’s premiere talents at the top of their game behind it, and truthfully, if you’ve ever been taken with their work in whatever genre, or indeed you feel this medium has the ability to convey truth in a way that other mediums cannot replicate, you owe it to yourself to pick yourself up a copy of After Death. A modern masterpiece in the making. 10/10

James R: It's a rare feeling when a finished product in any form of media lives up to the hype. With After Death, the dream team of Snyder and Lemire have come up with the goods, producing something that's both unique and totally involving. The plot centres around Jonah Cooke, a man living 825 years 'after death' in a future in which mortality has become a thing of the past. But how? And what's happened to Earth? As well as creating a world which reminded me of the works of J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick (and there is certainly no higher praise from me than that) Snyder spends much of the book introducing us to Cooke's youth; his reflections on his upbringing and the death of his mother. The book itself is an oversized, beautifully produced marvel - the fact that it’s is just two dollars more than the standard cover price of the Big Two should make those companies hang their heads in shame. Snyder and Lemire take full advantage of the page size and length to really immerse us in the story, and it is worth every penny. Lemire's art is brilliant as ever, his use of watercolours working to excellent effect. I have often said that I love any book that stretches the medium, and After Death's combination of text and illustration may not be pioneering but it is done magnificently. Certainly one of the high points of the year for me, After Death sees two masters at the top of their game. 10/10

EMPRESS #7
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger & Ive Svorcina
Icon $5.99

Stewart R: I took a bit of a swipe at Mark Millar last week in my Reborn #2 review and it's hard not to have a little dig here at the end of Empress, a series which I will freely admit I've enjoyed despite it's lumps and bumps. Rather than just give us an eight issue comic book series, we get this elongated climax for the seventh chapter - at close to the cover price for two issues - which feels slightly off the pace compared to the frenzy of the chase that has preceded it as this morphs into a protracted confrontation. The speed of the flight is replaced with power, pounding brutality and, because this is Millar, a twist which does work well within the confines of the story... to a point. It's unfortunate that for the reveals and reasonable character work that has been delivered involving this strange family, the antagonistic and despotic Morax has proven to be so utterly throwaway and underdeveloped. For the hook to work, Morax needs to be arrogant, ruthless, unflinching, and sure, he rains hell upon a million nameless innocents in pursuit of his quarry, but it feels as if Millar holds back and never allows true, lethal threat to come within an inch of Emporia's group. Thankfully that group has been unique and quirky enough to allow fun to surface and a sense of cinematic adventure to shine out amongst the cracks. And when Empress has shone it has been with a near blinding radiance. Immonen, Grawbadger and Svorcina for their part have produced an incredibly attractive, high grade book that may well be irresistible in collected form and I'm sure may help Millar woo courtiers from the Hollywood production elite down the line. Empress certainly has its flaws and this finale summarizes them starkly, yet it remains one of those guilty pleasures with surprising quirks still capable of putting a smile on your face. 7/10

THE GODDAMNED #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guéra & Giulia Brusco
Image $3.99


James R: The Goddamned finishes its first arc with an issue that hits harder than a sledgehammer. Cain attempts to free the prisoners of Noah in a mission that is unflinching in both barbarity and horror. However, this is a book that I can't get enough of; Aaron is a brilliant writer who knows how to sucker-punch his readers, and make us ask for more. I am always keen to avoid spoiling books in any way, but the finale to this issue left me open-mouthed in shock, and full of admiration for Aaron's script. Guéra's art is the perfect fit for this story of a fallen and ugly world, and Brusco's colours brilliantly darken as the plot moves toward the bleak climax. This book certainly isn't for everybody, but it's a remarkable and unflinching read. I cannot wait to see where Aaron takes Cain in the next arc - I'm sure it won't be pretty, but I'm also sure it will be essential reading. 9/10

Matt C:  Delays cannot diminish the fearsome power of the title. It’s Biblical in every sense of the word, the Old Testament level of violence on display as Cain and Noah come to blows is as thrilling as it is visceral, the detail that Guéra brings to each blow is extraordinary, a world that literally feels like it needs to be washed clean.  It’s not always a comfortable read but it it’s never anything other than compelling, and Aaron’s versatility as a multi-genre writer continues to astound. 8/10

HAN SOLO #5
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Art: Mark Brooks & Sonia Oback
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: Having gushed over the debut to this miniseries I felt that things fell off in subsequent issues as Liu's plot struggled a touch to balance the Rebel mission that Solo is undertaking with a breakneck race through a dangerous sector of the galaxy. The stop-start nature, coupled with Liu slightly losing Han's 'voice' from time to time, threatened to derail things. Yet here, at the checkered flag, she pulls out what can be regarded as a win. With the TIE Fighters closing in on the racers and underhanded shenanigans threatening murder upon the Millennium Falcon, Liu finds the Solo voice we know, throws in his typical brand of confident-statement-followed-by-uncertain-look-into-the-middle-distance as the stakes get butt-clenchingly dangerous and adds to the Star Wars universe with some insight into Loo Re Anno and her people. It feels fresh in some regards and yet remains very Star Wars at the same time. Brooks and Oback really have nailed the required aesthetic without fault, offering a consistent, premium sheen and capturing the recognisable characters, races and ships with care and masterful precision.  With the fate of Han and Chewbacca never being in doubt, the key was to keep the ending of both race and mission compelling and the former has a more satisfying sense of closure than the latter. Thankfully things are capped off with a soft, subtle coda that nods to what would come in The Empire Strikes Back and solidifies Han Solo as a worthy illustrated bridge betwixt cinematic chapters. 8/10

BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #3
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Tom Coker & Michael Garland
Image Comics $4.99


James R: Black Monday Murders stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Alan Moore's Providence as my favourite currently ongoing title, but with that due to end immanently, BMM will soon have that accolade to itself. This is another hugely assured issue, with Hickman showing us the machinations and motivations behind the Rothschild twins, giving us more telling glimpses as to where the series might be going. A special mention to the art team of Tom Coker and Michael Garland - I have been amazed by Coker's work on this series, and he continues to impress, making a dark and strange world seem chillingly real. Garland's colours are amazing here too, perfectly capturing the tone of the clandestine narrative. Each issue and every page of this series has been first-rate - I absolutely expect Black Monday Murders to be grabbing my attention for all of 2017. 8/10

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