14 May 2017

Mini Reviews 14/05/2017

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.

A.D.: AFTER DEATH BOOK 3
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $5.99

James R: Our feeling when this project was announced was that it was going to be something special, and man alive, how right we were! After Death concludes with a simply beautiful final book, and it's easily one of the best things you'll read this year. Over the last two installments, Scott Snyder has shrouded the tale of Jonah, living in a time where death has been eradicated, in mystery. With this denouement, Snyder pays off our investment with a sumptuous ending that is surprising, heartfelt, haunting and utterly apposite. As I reached the final pages, I became aware that Snyder and Lemire had totally swept me up in this story, and as the mystery of the Retreat was revealed, I didn't want it to stop. Jeff Lemire's art has been better than ever over the last year - in this book and Royal City, he's been amazing, and what struck me here was his use of colour; the watercolours that gave the pages a fitting dream-like quality were a joy to behold. It may have been called After Death, but this was a book about life; identity, loss and memory. A stunning example of just how good comics can be, this title is peerless. 10/10

Matt C: The delay in publication can’t diminish the profound impact this concluding installment has. The brilliantly alluring structure, and the surprises it reveals, is nothing short of breathtaking. Both Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are at the very top of their game, inspiring each other to even greater heights as they’ve gone along, so that by the final page it’s impossible not to be affected on a deep and significant level. Thematically, it’s as much about memory as it is about death, and the importance our recollections play on the directions our lives take, but ultimately it does come down to our mortality, and how we’re never truly prepared to face the great beyond, no matter how much we try and convince ourselves otherwise. A masterpiece, and it’s unlikely 2017 will see anything better than this in the medium. 10/10

REGRESSION #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Danny Luckert & Marie Enger
Image $3.99

Jo S: The cover of this debut issue drew me to it; it's pretty gross and I liked the contradiction of soft rose pink colours with the bug-in-the-ear horror. The art inside is, pleasingly, just as appealing (though not pink), with nausea-inducing initial pages which are definitely not for the squeamish or the entomophobic. The lead character, Adrian, suffers from hideous waking nightmares and is convinced by a friend to visit a stage hypnotist to undergo regression therapy. Telling you more would give spoilers - you know what? Don't even read the official blurb as it gives too much away! What snagged my interest most about this book was the little details. The art is mostly clean and neat, and tiny details jump out at you: in the barbecue scene near the start there are tiny refinements, a ‘Mom’ tattoo, a daisy in a girl’s hair, a guy in flip-flops miming an affectedly gracious bow as a girl walks by. It's almost as if I was being primed to look for these details so that, when Bunn and Luckert were ready, I'd notice something crucial... and I love that! Lead on, sirs, I'll follow your clues! 8/10

James R: I decided to take a look at Regression as I was hooked in by the premise of a story wherein a dark past life starts to bleed into the current existence of a protagonist, in this case the poor soul being Adrian Sutter. Cullen Bunn makes a great pitch for the idea in the backmatter of this first issue, but sadly that was probably the highlight for me. The tale is horror by the numbers, and as I've said before, horror comics are rarely scary (of late, only Moore and Burrows' Providence has unsettled me) and I've seen the insect-ridden bodies and explosive gore many times before. I wasn't grabbed by Adrian as a lead character, and there wasn't anything that intrigued me enough to come back for more. There's nothing wrong with this book - Cullen's script sets up the premise quickly and efficiently, and Luckert's art is unfussy, so if you are a big horror fan, you might reasonably love it. But for me, this regression goes no further forward. 5/10

SECRET WARRIORS #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Art: Javier GarrĂ³n & Israel Silva
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: I'm trying not to get too deep with Secret Empire tie-in books but this one made my pull-list this week because I loved Matthew Rosenberg’s writing on the recent Rocket Raccoon series. Rosenberg showed impeccable comic timing there and the same precision is evident here. Set shortly after the takeover of Earth by Hydra, with many heroes trapped helplessly inside the New York Dome or outside the planetary shield, this series is set to follow a small band of what one might ungraciously call B-team (or maybe something later in the alphabet) heroes left on Earth. Daisy Johnson a.k.a. Quake, rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, is needled by an agent who has been Hydra-brainwashed into pulling together a small team in the attempt to start to try to fight back. Along with Ms Marvel, Moongirl and, yes, Devil Dinosaur (can't stop grinning at that one), Daisy frees further heroes from captivity and they attempt together to locate more powerful support. This is what a superhero comic should look like for me. Bright, fast, funny and full of all the characteristics you want in a hero team, this feels like it was written and drawn by people who truly adore the genre and it's a delight to find something which is such total fun as part of an event which has set some pretty dark tones in other strands. 8/10

GREEN VALLEY #8
Writer: Max Landis
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn & Jeab-Francois Beaulieu
Image $2.99

Matt C: As this series hits its penultimate issue I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s never quite achieved its full potential. That’s not to suggest it’s not well done, and its twists – while not nearly as fresh and original as Landis perhaps thinks they are – work nicely to disrupt the narrative so it’s never entirely predictable, but there’s a sense that it’s a little too pleased with itself at times, and if the plot was as clever as it wants to be, then maybe it would be a little more enveloping. The stars of the show are the art team, led by Camuncoli, and the illustrations are slick, firm and dynamic, easily picking up any slack from the script, which is decent, but not amazing. Entertaining, but after Superman: American Alien I’d expected something a little more… profound from Landis. 7/10

WEAPON X #3
Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Greg Land, Ibraim Roberson, Jay Leisten & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: I enjoyed the first couple of issues of this series, as Logan and Sabretooth formed an alliance against a team of adamantium cyborgs, imbued with their own DNA, rendering them invisible to the heroes’ super-sniffing skills, and worked (in an endearingly tetchy way) together to try to resist the capture of further mutants by the cyborgs’ mysterious creators. Those already aware of my interest in all things droid-cyborg-tinman-related might have guessed that the robo-bad guys in this are a distinct win with me (Shiny metal muscles! Shiny bald skulls!) but this issue ups the Jo-love ante by adding Domino, my new favourite hero, to the mix. She literally makes her own luck but will she escape the clutches of her Weapon X stalkers? Fantastically snappy action and a creative variety of environments elevate this story, which could have been repetitive as the pursuers work their way through a list of targets, and witty timing and elegant fight sequences keep it tight and engrossing. Plus the sound effects attached to Logan using a computer (which, frankly, looks as incongruous as my dad trying to come to grips with a mobile phone) made me giggle disproportionately. 8/10

GRASS KINGS #3
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

James R: The last issue of Grass Kings was a fine chapter, but felt a little low-key after the bravura opening. Issue #3 sees the drama really kick in, and it's a great read as a result. Robert's mysterious guest is revealed to be the most dangerous visitor possible for the fragile existence of the Grass Kingdom, and the sinister figure of Big Dan looms large. I can't help be drawn to crime tales, and crime tales with a little dirt under the fingernails are almost irresistible. I also have a fascination for the lost and hidden pockets of America too - a country so vast, the idea that there are parts of it which could operate off the grid is a great conceit, and one carried off with aplomb by Kindt and Jenkins. I'm really loving Tyler Jenkins art, which gives a rich sense of place, expanding out beyond the pages and onto the covers. A solid win in every department, Grass Kings remains a regal read. 8/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #23
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Eric Nguten & Andres Mossa
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Overall, it’s been a great, great series so far, with Jeff Lemire really drilling down into what makes this out-of-time iteration of Wolverine tick, and it’s been a thrilling and emotional ride, so surely the sign-off story arc would see the writer going out on a high? I think the intention was to take us on a journey through some of the most pivotal moments in Logan’s long life, but it hasn’t really been hitting the right emotional beats for me, jumping from place to place (and time to time) without really allowing the reader to settle in comfortably into each scene. That may change with the final part of the story next month, but as it stands its been the weakest (relatively speaking) arc in the series so far. 7/10

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