29 Jan 2017

Mini Reviews 29/01/2017

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.

KAMANDI CHALLENGE #1
Writers: Dan DiDio & Dan Abnett
Art: Keith Giffen, Scott Koblish, Dale Eaglesham & Hi-Fi
DC $4.99

Matt C: Although Kamandi is one Jack Kirby creation I’ve never really got around to investigating properly he’s clearly a popular character in the creative community (and rightly so, I think) which makes a project like this entirely apposite. It’s a great idea, offering a ‘round robin’ approach to a variety of writers and artists to each take their turn in continuing a narrative featuring the titular character. The first half of this issue – written by Dan DiDio himself, of all people – is surprisingly effective, with Giffen and Koblish channelling the King’s style to great effect, offering a thrilling opening as Kamandi sees his reality come crashing down around him. The second chapter from Abnett and Eaglesham is far more polished but strangely less involving, likeable but formulaic. I guess what that highlights is that there’s unlikely to be any consistency in terms of quality; I’ve no doubt the people involved will give it their all but at $4.99 a pop it’s a big outlay for what will more than likely be a hit and miss affair. 7/10

LOOSE ENDS #1
Writer: Jason Latour
Art: Chris Brunner & Rico Renzi
Image $3.99

James R: I missed out on Loose Ends the last time it was published, so I was greatly pleased to hear that Image was republishing the series, and that the creative team of Latour, Brunner and Renzi were now going to complete the story that I'd heard so many people enthuse over. Crime comics have been well serviced by some terrific creative teams this century - Brubaker & Phillips, Azzarello & Risso, and of course Latour himself with Jason Aaron. Loose Ends can stand proudly alongside the best books from these teams - this opening chapter reels the reader in, and simply doesn't let go. Latour sets up three separate narratives which are fated to collide in violence, and united by the ghosts of the past. Chris Brunner's art catches the clammy feel of the Deep South in the same way that Latour does in Southern Bastards, and by the end of this first issue I was totally hooked. Desperate times are said to call for desperate measures, and in the case of Loose Ends, they also make for a great comic. 8/10

HULK #2
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Art: Nico Leon, Dalibor Talajic & Matt Milla
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: Congratulations to Tamaki here for building on the promising debut, delving further into the mental health issues of Jennifer Walters and holding back on the superheroics. Through two issues there have been conversations, interactions, musings and anxious mental wobblings, but barely a punching or pummelling in sight. The relative instability of depression is summed up perfectly here as Jen accomplishes much and enjoys her day to day life until the most unexpected of situations thrusts her into a PTSD episode and causes peripheral trouble for her as a result. Tamaki and Leon are really selling Jen's fear of 'hulking out' as she attempts to pacify the anger that is trying to escape her and the anticipation on seeing just what type of personality She-Hulk might manifest when the transformation eventually happens is building all the time. Two issues in and Hulk is an essential current Marvel title. 9/10

Matt C: A genuine surprise. As someone who came to the series primarily as a fan of the more classic rendition of the character (as originally defined by John Byrne) I had minimal expectations for this, wondering whether pushing Jennifer Walters towards the original ‘rage monster’ Hulk template was the best way to go. If the first two issues of this new title are an indication, then this approach was exactly what this character needed to stay fresh and pull in new readers. It’s a slow-burn, but it’s beautifully handled, Jennifer’s suppression of the monster within providing much in the way of delightfully offbeat but revealing character moments. The art is adept at capturing the anger bubbling under the surface and the writing is insightful and emotional. Not the She-Hulk book I was expecting but perhaps the She-Hulk book I needed. 8/10

ETHER #3
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: David Rubin
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: This week also saw the release of Matt Kindt's Dept. H (and that's a fine book) but for me Ether best represents Kindt's wild talents. I am usually allergic to any plot that has fantasy elements, but in Ether Kindt and David Rubin have crafted a book that brilliantly defies convention. Kindt is clearly having a blast creating the world of Ether, this month introducing us to a steam-powered assassin Golem, run on a program of organic tattoo runes - it's a fine example of the wild invention and humour that permeates the book. There's also the intriguing backstory of how Boone came to be the science-detective and as usual with Kindt's books, it's paced to perfection. David Rubin's art deftly matches the invention of the script, this issue featuring one of the most memorable opening pages I've seen in a while, following the trajectory of a literal screaming bullet toward it's unfortunate target. Ether is a joy to read, and a perfect antidote a to a long and gloomy January. 8/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #16
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo, Cory Smith, Al Vey, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, Tim Townsend, Antonio Fabela & Java Tartaglia
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: It's a fair thing to say that this recent arc has been a huge nod in the direction of the Doctor Strange movie involving heavily as it does, the good Doctor, Karl Mordo and Dormammu. In this chapter we even get flashbacks to Stephen's first run in with the flame headed demon when under the tutelage of the Ancient One. Thankfully comic canon isn't being rewritten to fall in line with the live-action universe and Aaron maintains the terrible influence of the Empirikul's rampage against magic here as Dormammu reveals a drastic secret in a tense confrontation. I'm still of the opinion that perhaps the Empirikul's attack on magic was over too swiftly - assuming that it won't be revisited any time soon - but the work to develop Misery and expose the hidden machinations of Wong have been the great payoffs, and with the tip of the hat to the movie now likely dealt with it should be an exciting few months for this title as Aaron pushes on in his plans. 8/10

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