11 Jun 2017

Mini Reviews 11/06/2017

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.

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Jorge Forn├ęs & Chris O’Halloran
Dynamite $3.99

Matt C: To be honest, if I’d known this was another reinvention of Magnus, Robot Fighter I probably would have avoided it as rebooting old characters that are ‘of their time’ doesn’t often work for me. As it turns out, I’m glad I wasn’t aware of the origins, as this is really rather good. Kyle Higgins’ name attached to the project alongside a brief knowledge of the concept was the key to me picking it up, as I’ve been thoroughly impressed with his input in both the recent Hadrian’s Wall and the criminally underrated C.O.W.L. As it goes, only a mention of Sovereigns #1 and the Turok backup led me to look further into the title's genesis because this isn’t anything like my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the original character. The book quickly establishes its own identity with a tale of humanity co-existing with artificial intelligence and a homicide investigation that highlights the fragility of the uneasy societal relationship. It’s smart, compelling material and if you had reservations, set them aside and give this hugely promising debut a look. 8/10

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Guiseppe Camuncoli & David Curiel
Marvel $4.99

James R: As a huge Star Wars fan, I decided that this would be my last gamble for a while on a Force-inspired book. I've stepped off the main Star Wars title following the interminable Yoda arc, and saw no interest in yet another crossover event. I liked the pitch behind this though - early years of Darth Vader? Sold! It certainly starts well enough, with Charles Soule reframing the 'birth' of Vader from Episode III with panache, before giving us an idea of the post-Revenge Of The Sith universe. Sadly, it then descends into a very basic hunt-and-kill comic, wherein Vader could have been replaced by any number of characters - there was nothing unique here. Camuncoli's art is nice enough, but it can't justify the frankly obscene price - virtually $5 dollars for 20 pages of  main story! Comics have always been a luxury hobby on this side of the Atlantic, but given the current dollar-pound exchange rate, 20 pages of story for the price of a novel is almost laughable. Marvel and Disney really need to rethink their business strategy. Properties may attract readers to a book, but cost will definitely drive them away. 5/10

Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Garry Brown & Mark Englert
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: The ads for this new series captured my interest for reasons I can't quite put my finger on; certainly the title played a part - I'll bet whichever of Cates and Brown first suggested that, he was pretty pleased with himself! The book opens with Sadie Ritter, hunched in the gloom, apparently homeless, beginning a video diary for her baby. This first episode is short: there is a backup story plus some page processes filling space in the book, so what's here is tantalising! As well as Sadie, we meet her elder sister, a character so hard she scares off Sadie’s high school bullies simply by smoking at them, and her father, clearly a military officer of high rank, and each new character raises questions: why does her father seem unperturbed by the arrival of his grandson when he was apparently unaware that his daughter was pregnant? How does Heather have the strength to carry her heavily pregnant sister into the hospital? Where is Sadie whilst she's recording this video and why is she not with her child (the gloom lifts a little towards the end of the book and reveals a quite different location to what I’d first assumed)? But, of course, who is the male contributor responsible for Sadie’s earthquake-inducing labour? As well as being drawn in to the story, the art grabbed me here too: Brown’s panels switched from gloom to sunshine, serene dream sequence to terrifying earthquake, and his depiction of the moment Sadie is handed her newborn and gives him his name, tears streaming down her face, is eloquently moving. 8/10

Writer: Raule
Art: Roger
Lion Forge $3.99

Matt C: It’s an English-language translation of a French comic book that originally appeared in 2007, but while a decade may seem like a long time, I didn’t spend any of it learning the language so this saves me the trouble! Joking aside, I’m immensely grateful to any publisher who makes some of the wealth of material available in the European market available to those of us too lazy/arrogant to bother learning another language, because there’s some incredible stuff produced in the Continent. There’s nothing especially original about this crime book – the protagonist's ‘thing’ is that he’s a pretty mean trumpet player as well as being able to handle himself in a fight – but it’s slick and brimming with a cool energy that makes it hugely appealing. Perhaps it would be preferable to read it in its original format, but for those of who didn’t pay attention in French lessons at school, this is a more than welcome alternative. 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

James R: In a pretty patchy week for my pull-list, Injection was the standout book. Warren Ellis' usual brand of futurism and technology is blended wonderfully with ancient folklore and traditions in this title. There seems to be a growing interest again in tales infused with 'folk horror', Kill List and Wake Wood in the cinema being the best examples. Injection is certainly a unique book in bringing elements of folk horror to comics, and with Ellis' individual stamp, I find this a compelling read. This month, Brigid Roth's investigation into the Mellion Moor stone circle becomes more sinister and lethal, whilst Dr Morel's investigation at the Breaker's Yard reminds us that there is a big dark mystery at the heart of the series. As always, Declan Shalvey's art is great, and Jordie Bellaire brilliantly captures the feel of an English winter. One of those titles that never seems to put a foot wrong, Injection continues to cast a spell over me. 8/10

Writers: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Art: Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson & Brad Anderson
DC $5.99

Matt C: I initially felt obliged to look at this series as it’s a follow-up to one of the seminal works in the medium, and even though the first sequel didn’t hold a candle to its predecessor, The Dark Knight Returns still holds such a level of importance in popular culture that it’s nearly impossible to ignore a continuation of the story. Nearly impossible. Because while it did start getting interesting in the early stages, DKIII quickly became weighed down by its own self importance in a way that couldn’t distract from what was ultimately a variation on a plotline seen a number of times already, one that took in befuddling detours to encompass other characters that ultimately seemed unnecessary additions to the overall narrative. There are various character exchanges that work in and of themselves, but they don’t add much in the context, and can’t prevent the series from being a dud. The Dark Knight Returns remains a classic but it does appear as though it will always work best as a standalone piece. 5/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Gaydos & Matt Hollingsworth
Marvel $3.99

James R: I loved the first arc of Jessica Jones; I'm struggling badly with the second. I complained last time that Bendis was backsliding into his old 'decompressed storytelling' habits, and whereas that's (fortunately) nowhere to be seen this month, Bendis does commit another sin in this issue - he fails to make it interesting. In TV terms, this would be a 'character development' episode - we spend the most time with Jessica and Luke Cage as they try to patch up their fractured relationship. The problem is that Bendis fails to make their time together insightful or compelling. As someone whose favourite ever TV show is Mad Men, I am incredibly sympathetic towards character study, but having one character recap everything we've been reading about over the last three issues does not make for a great use of the medium. Gaydos' art is such a good fit, it's impossible to think of anyone else bringing the right level of grit to this book, but sadly it's not enough to keep me on board - at $3.99, it's slim entertainment for the eye, or for the mind. 5/10

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