22 Jan 2017

Mini Reviews 22/01/2017

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.

THE FEW #1
Writer: Sean Lewis
Art: Hayden Sherman
Image $4.99

James R: I was attracted to this book as I have a love of post-apocalyptic literature. There's often very raw truths about humanity that are exposed through stories about society torn asunder by cataclysm. I approached The Few with a sense of excitement to see how Sean Lewis portrayed a post-apocalyptic world, but that was tempered by a narrative that felt very familiar. Lewis' storytelling exudes confidence - the plot shuttles back and forth over time, giving us an overview of just who everyone is, and how they came to be in the ravished landscape of Montana. But given that the plot spans 52 pages, we're given a lot that we've seen before: tyrants acting as self-elected chiefs, people huddling together for survival, talk of places not touched by disaster - it's all very Mad Max. Lewis throws a plot twist in the final page that certainly got my attention, but I'm not sure it was enough to bring me back for the remainder of the series. Hayden Sherman's art is fantastic though - moody and sparse, it reminded me of Ashley Wood, and that's high praise in my eyes. The Few certainly entertained, and it justified the extra dollar cost, but it didn't quite convince me that this dark future was worth sticking around for. 6/10

Matt C: A post-apocalyptic tale that doesn’t give too much away at this opening stage. We’re given some info about this future America, nowhere near enough to get a full picture of how everything fits together, but certainly enough to want to know more. There’s a sparseness to the art, reflecting the milieu, but there's also detail to give an idea of the scope of the desolation, with linework that is reminiscent of the likes of Sean Murphy and even Frank Miller in places. It’s bloody and bleak but there’s an intensity to it that’s compulsive, the narrative vagueness acting as a positive rather than a detraction. Obviously more exposition will be a requirement over forthcoming instalments but the ending of this issue in particular suggests it’s going to be worth wading into the unknown with The Few. 8/10

BLACK HAMMER GIANT-SIZED ANNUAL
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Various
Dark Horse $5.99

James R: This was the book that I was most looking forward to this week, and it didn't disappoint. The Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual is a showcase for some of the brightest talents in the industry to add their slant on Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's perfectly spun superhero tale. This one-off acts as a stop-gap between arcs of the monthly book, but it's still required reading for us avowed fans of the title. Colonel Weird tracks an unusual creature through the Para-Zone, and in doing so affords us the chance to see each of the story's protagonists before they became banished from Spiral City. Colonel Weird is quickly becoming my favourite character in the series - like a frazzled Doctor Manhattan, aware of the fixed nature of time and the tragedy of not being able to change the events that shape our lives, and it was great that Lemire chose him as the pivot for this tale. Every artist involved brings their A-game, and it's a beautiful book to read. Annuals can sometimes feel like cash-ins, or afterthoughts, but this one is an essential read, adding to the Black Hammer mythos, and it's a joy to see so much talent over 40 pages. 9/10

Matt C: So either this is a chance for Lemire to sow seeds of what lies ahead in the series proper (hints of exactly why the superteam are trapped in the farming community perhaps?) or it’s an opportunity to expand our knowledge of his cast and play around in a few different comic book genres while getting his talented mates to lend a hand with the illustrations. I’m thinking it’s both as there’s a definite mystery here that ties all these characters together and I refuse to believe there’s nothing more to it than we see in this one-shot. It may not initially seem essential to fans of Black Hammer but my feeling is that if you’re already on board for the duration, you need to get hold of this. 8/10

BATMAN #15
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC $2.99

James R: Last year I made the decision to drop the monthly DC books from my pull-list as because of the weakened pound (thanks, Brexit!) and DC's policy of shipping two issues a month - my wallet simply couldn't take it! I was tempted back by the last two instalments of Batman as the creative team of King and Gerads are irresistible. Sheriff Of Babylon was one of my books of the year last year, so a two-issue, self-contained story of Batman and Catwoman (one of my favourite Gotham characters) was a must-read for me. I'm really pleased I did pick this up - beyond exploring the obvious chemistry between Selena Kyle and Bruce Wayne, Tom King plays around with the ever-shifting narrative and origins of DC's characters, with both Batman recalling his first meeting with Catwoman as it occurred in Batman #1 in 1940, whereas Selena recalls it as it happened in the pages of Batman: Year One. It's an issue that bears the intelligence and sophistication that we've already come to expect from a Tom King book, and while Mitch Gerads is a great artist in his own right, he seems to be a perfect foil for King's scripts. I'm still not going back to monthly DC titles, but this was a nice reminder that a great creative team can make any book fly. 8/10

KILL OR BE KILLED #5
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.50

Matt C: Just how far do you take a journey with an unreliable narrator before you start believing what he’s saying is the absolute truth? There’s clearly something very off about what Dylan Cross is telling us here - and what he’s telling us we’re seeing may not be the whole story - but there’s something undeniably compelling about his monologue, the hard truths he picks up on are illuminating but also disconcerting, because we could be sympathising with a murderous maniac who’s imagining a demon is telling him to kill people (and remember who we’re getting our info on their misdeeds from?). I could be way off base with the assumptions I’m making here, or I could be totally on the money, but that’s part of the brilliance of this series, that at this stage it’s possible to interpret what’s going on in different ways. That’s scripting par excellence and with Phillips and Breitwesier matching Brubaker's narrative ingenuity with some phenomenal artwork, it’s pretty much flawless. Which is kind of what you except from these guys, but it still takes your breath away when they do it so often. 10/10

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