12 Dec 2016

Mini Reviews 11/12/2016

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.

NOVA #1
Writers: Jeff Loveness & Ramón Pérez
Art: Ramón Pérez & Ian Herring
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: Okay, so Richard Rider is back, but this feels less about him and more about Sam Alexander who I'm not overly fussed about. Loveness and Pérez go about showing Sam doing both his Nova heroics and high school bumbling to once again introduce him (I guess?) to any new readers who might be flocking to this title and the characters for the first time. The inclusion of Ego feels a touch forced if I'm honest - but with Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 incoming we can expect to see more of the powerful planetoid through Marvel titles I'm sure - and the aforementioned high school bumbling provides nothing particularly new in the slightest. When it comes to Rider himself there's at least some intriguing character work involved as he appears to be severely affected by his time in the Cancerverse. It's a shame though that the odd facial expression from Pérez makes it unclear as to whether we should be seeing the returned Nova as someone sinister, or whether he's just trying to establish Rider as someone who has a general smirk to his smile and the darker elements are happening to and around him. All told it's a mediocre return to action for the Nova Corpsmen that has the air of potential about it, but I'll let others stick with it and maybe reassess when it turns up in collected form. 5/10

PROVIDENCE #11
Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Jacen Burrows & Juan Rodriguez
Avatar Press $3.99


James R: When this title finishes its majestic tale with issue #12 I will be publishing a retrospective of the whole run as it has undoubtedly been Alan Moore at his best, but also the culmination of almost two decades of Lovecraft-inspired tales. For now though, I need only highlight the brilliance of both the creative talents at work here. Moore's script presents us with a four-panel structure which gives us a repeating leitmotiv for the Providence narrative and serves to tie up the sad fate of Robert Black. Incredibly, Moore then pushes beyond the 1920s and weaves together fact and fiction by showing us how Cthulu has continued to live and thrive beyond its pulp roots. It's a hugely impressive technical achievement, and once again Burrows shows himself to be perfectly adept at the task of bringing More's complex script to life, incorporating a level of detail that invites and rewards close scrutiny. In a year of incredibly good limited series, Providence continues to be phenomenal, and all that remains is to see is if the magician of Northampton has one final spell to cast in the coda. 9/10

MOTOR CRUSH #1
Writers: Brendon Fletcher, Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr
Art: Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr
Image $3.99


Matt C: This creative team made a bit of a splash with their Batgirl revamp not so long ago, and while I let that particular book pass me by I felt like it was my duty to see what they could do in the creator-owned sphere. And... it’s good. It’s a tale of a super-talented biker who wins the high profile races but also dabbles in criminality through the illegal, underground competitions that are as dangerous as they are exciting, and while it’s undeniably full of energy and flair, it didn’t quite hit the landing for me. It’ll probably work brilliantly for a younger audience, where teen rebellion still has a lot resonance, but I certainly don’t belong in that demographic anymore, and while I can appreciate the skill and craft involved, it didn’t engage me on a level where I was left craving more. 7/10

Stewart R: As I stated in On The Pull this week, I was honestly only picking this up for a look at the Isola prologue which sadly turns out to be just two solitary pages long and will continue in the next issue. Thankfully I hadn't wasted my money as Motor Crush #1 proved to be a pretty engrossing read as it turns out. Domino Swift's double life as a successful motorcycle grand prix rider and illegal racer by night is well realised and quickly established. The creators do a fine job of depicting news and social media in this world which helps to identify new members of the cast in interesting ways as well as identifying a clear division between the professional circuit and the night time brutality. Stewart and Tarr have their collective hands full when it comes to depicting the two wheeled carnage and they manage to give proceedings a definite sense of speed thanks to skillful storyboarding and a deft use of colour. The violent edge to Motor Crush leads to a neat cliffhanger that quite probably has me coming back for more next month. 8/10

AVENGERS #2
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Mike Del Mundo
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: I'm still enjoying the combination of Waid's script and Del Mundo's artwork to make a Kang storyline which contains a feeling of genuine chaotic threat as well as the odd opportunity for the occasional joke or laugh. In that regard it's very much left for Hercules to carry the torch as he tracks down an old acquaintance from Greek history who has been hidden in 'plain sight'. Waid captures the demigod's lovable, brash arrogance perfectly and Del Mundo accompanies that with a subtle shift between comical panels and those with more power and weight. From a story perspective it does feel as if Vision is acting a touch erratic; the switch from carrying out his initial plan to realising the error of his ways has been immediate and raises the question of how he could not predict events turning out this catastrophically in the first place considering his intellect and powers of reasoning. Waid doesn't tend to overlook things like this so I wouldn't be surprised to find other elements in play as the story progresses. The next issue looks likely to put Nadia Pym in the spotlight which certainly be welcome as her presence has remained fairly subtle to this point and further character development is required as far as she's concerned. Despite tiny blips this is proving to be an enjoyable Avengers read, though one that I could see dividing audience opinion based on the time travel shenanigans in combination with Del Mundo's uniquely trippy (and for me, engrossing) visual style. 8/10

MOON KNIGHT #9
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Greg Smallwood, Wilfredo Torres, Francesco Francavilla, James Stokoe, Jordie Bellaire & Michael Garland
Marvel $3.99


James R: Earlier this week some of the PCG met and, as is our way, talked comics for the evening. One thing we all agreed on was that Jeff Lemire has had enjoyed a remarkable 2016; Old Man Logan, Black Hammer, Plutona, Descender, A.D.: After Death - as either artist or writer, he's had a golden touch. Moon Knight has been another gem in this string of hits, and yet again this issue proves Lemire is a special talent. Since the first chapter, the writer has constantly played with Marc Spector's reality (and kept the reader asking just how 'real' the narrative is). This issue sees Spector attempt to reconcile the fractured nature of his self, and it's a brilliant read. Lemire uses the plethora of artistic talent that has been illustrating Moon Knight's multiple realities over the last few issues to great effect, and amidst this precisely crafted tale he even manages to squeeze in a postmodern dig at the necessity of a fight in superhero comics. The conclusion to 2016 has seen me picking up just two Marvel Universe books; my hope for 2017 is that Marvel continue to let Lemire - and other creators - have a free hand in creating unique books alongside the inevitable multi-title crossovers and relaunches. 8/10    

UNWORTHY THOR #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Olivier Coipel & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99


Stewart R: One of my very first memories of American Marvel comics is reading Starlin and Lim's Silver Surfer around issues #34 to #38 where Thanos was being properly introduced as a true threat and the Marvel Universe felt so rich, so epic, so oppressively vast. There have been times in the years since where comics have come close to that feeling of scale and grandeur, but by the gods of Asgard, Olympus and Limbo, Aaron, Coipel and Wilson have truly managed to transport me back to those nostalgic moments with their work on Unworthy Thor. Through space battles, lucid, tortured Norse god dreams and conversations with Elders of the Universe, this creative team weave their talented magic as the Odinson's prize proves to be more coveted than he had expected. The inclusion of certain characters and plot twists suggests that Marvel want to establish the scope of beings such as The Collector's powers and motivations before their cinematic counterparts come fully into view in the coming years and that sort of 'meddling' has irked me in the past. When Aaron is handling the script though, my doubts melt away and I let Coipel's masterful flair simply wash over me and come away longing for more. We've three more chapters to go and it's hard to see the quality dropping an iota based on what we've been given so far. Outstanding. 10/10

Matt C: There’s no one better at marshaling Asgardian mayhem than Jason Aaron right now. He gets these characters and their mythos and understands how to make them modern, compelling and exciting. Coupling him with an artist who delivers thrilling, dynamic imagery on an epic scale time and time again is the masterstroke, and Coipel brings the grandeur to the page with consummate ease, with Matthew Wilson’s varied, emotive palette providing the icing on the illustrative cake. Inevitably the Odinson won’t remain ‘unworthy’ for too long, but getting him to the point we know he’s going to reach is proving to be an adventure worth having. 8/10

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