12 Mar 2017

Mini Reviews 12/03/2017

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.

GRASS KINGS #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Jo S: One of Matt Kindt’s titles got me started on comic books in the first place so, not having heard anything about this one before the release, I thought I'd take a chance and, wow, I was totally rewarded for that. This is absolute comic book luxury for me. There are pages of gloriously rich background; I felt I was being told “you need to understand this place, from the earth, the water and the tree roots upwards” and when the tale itself began I found myself ready to be there with the characters, walking on that ground with them. As kind of a map nerd, I loved the double-page pictorial map of the Grass Kingdom - maybe that's just me! The story itself begins by introducing us to the family, mostly the brothers, who live on and run their lakeside land like a tiny kingdom, complete with a violently drunken king, Robert, all seen through the eyes of a then swiftly exiled interloper. The atmosphere of family loyalty is thick in the air and the reasons for the family’s acceptance of Robert’s violence are played out in an exquisite sequence of pages, where we are led wordlessly into Robert’s memory, held captive for a beautiful moment and then brought back to hard reality; again, a wordless page vividly conveying a deep truth. The mystery introduced in the last few pages is the succulent icing on the cake; I can’t wait to see how it plays out. 10/10

James R: This is a remarkable book, straight out the gate. Matt Kindt, of course, has been a favourite of the PCG for a while (and one more time for the record, his series Mind MGMT is one of the greatest comics of the 21st century, in my opinion). The first issue of Grass Kings, written by Kindt and illustrated by Tyler Jenkins, looks and feels like a departure. The Grass Kingdom is an isolated community somewhere in America, where the inhabitants live 'off the grid', away from the government and from society at large, whilst the neighbouring town of Cargill views the rogue community with suspicion. Kindt does a terrific job of introducing us to the Kingdom and the brothers Bruce, Robert and Ashur who the story will pivot around. Tyler Jenkins art is absolutely luscious too - his work with watercolour gives the book a dreamy feel that suits the story; the Grass Kingdom is a place that feels far away, and the narrative shifts through time like a free-flowing river. This opening issue just oozed class and intrigue, and immediately established itself as a new favourite. A regal first issue in every way. 9/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #19
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Filipe Andrade & Jordan Boyd
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: We’re on the home stretch now as it’s recently become apparent that Jeff Lemire is stepping away from Marvel for the forseeable future, meaning his grizzled, emotive take on this older, time-displaced version of Wolverine is almost at an end. That’s sad news indeed, as he’s offered the most compelling look at the ubiquitous character in a long while, but the best thing to do is enjoy it while it lasts, which isn’t hard when you have Logan breaking into prison as a last resort following numerous failed appeals for help. Back up artist Filipe Andrade provides regular illustrator Andrea Sorrentino with a break again but brings the same level of  feral intensity and violent dynamism to the page. I’m confident Lemire will leave this book on a high because this issue proves he’s a long way away from running out of steam with the Ol’ Canucklehead. 8/10

MAN-THING #1
Writer: R.L. Stine
Art: Daniel Warren Johnson, German Peralta & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Regular readers will know that I'm a newbie to comics and I'll confess I'm still at the stage where I'm trying a lot of different stuff to see what fits. Not wishing to disappoint my esteemed colleagues at the PCG, I wanted to check that it was deemed ‘okay’ to go for something which was just for laughs; they said ‘Go for it’ so now this is on them. Yeah, I got me some Man-Thing this week! I'm told this is a change of direction for the monster formerly known as ‘Brilliant Scientist Ted Sallis’, although his origin story is recapped in flashback here for the benefit of beginners like me. Ted/Man-Thing is now living a meta-story: unable to afford the resources to reverse the effects of his own serum (ah, how we all love a science-experiment-gone-wrong!), he is forced to work as a B-movie actor to make ends meet. Unfortunately, even in the role he seems perfect for, he is failing: he is simply too disgusting for the public to bear. Just as Ted begins to face the impossibility of his dream of being man-shaped rather than Man-Thing, a sudden and, for me, jarringly incomprehensible new challenge arises. The lurid B-movie style is used to pleasing effect here, and the humour is fun and will probably bring me back to another issue, but the last part feels oddly paced. The back-up story is a neat little bucket of modern gothic popcorn but it feels like a makeweight for a slightly underdeveloped main story. 6/10

JESSICA JONES #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Gaydos & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $3.99

James R: The first arc of Jessica Jones culminates in a suitably satisfactory way in this issue. Having been placed in a position to betray either Carol Danvers and SHIELD or Alison Greene and Hydra, Jessica finally shows her true colours. Following the extremely confident opening issues of this title, I found that things were wrapped it up nicely here, but there was no real surprise in the outcome. As usual, Gaydos and Hollingsworth's art and colours make Jessica Jones feel like the most grounded and real Marvel book, and it's been a nice slice of nostalgia having the original Alias team back together. Bendis has clearly got more cases in store for Jessica Jones, and I will certainly be back for the next arc - Jessica's life may be an ongoing car crash, but as with all car crashes, we can't help but want to take a long hard look. 7/10

CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #13
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Ro Stein, Ted Brandt & Rachell Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Having followed this title since the start it appears I’ve inadvertently signed up for Secret Empire, the event series that springs directly out of the ‘Steve Rogers is a Hydra Agent’ storyline. I’m actually okay with that as I’ve found the concept of a corrupted Cap quite compelling and I’m keen to see how it’s resolved. Saying that, it’s not been a perfect ride so far, with a fair amount of padding elongating what could have been a far punchier tale, alongside diversions into other storylines running elsewhere in the Marvel Universe. But, when Spencer gets his focus pointed at the main players (Rogers, the Red Skull, Zemo) things take care of themselves, the iconic characters reinforcing their relevancy in the 21st century. Secret Empire may see a further dilution of what makes things interesting here with the obvious requirement of having a wider cast, but I’m kind of excited all the same. 7/10

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