16 Jul 2017

Mini Reviews 16/07/2017

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.

DARK DAYS: THE CASTING #1
Writer: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Art: Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr, Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper
DC $4.99

Matt C: We got a prelude to DC’s summer event, Metal, last month in the form of Dark Days: The Forge, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and now we have another prelude to Metal, which almost feels like one prelude too many, because while I appreciated the cryptic nature of The Forge, The Casting appears to be stringing things out a bit too much. I’m all for not laying every card on the table straight away, but another over-sized issue where it’s not entirely clear what the hell is going on is somewhat unnecessary. I mean, it looks great – you get this kind of artistic line-up it’s kind of a given – and it has shiny cover (shiny!) but the mystery at the heart of the tale becomes so mysterious it leaves the reader confused. I’m still down for Metal, and I’m not saying this doesn’t offer value for money (there’s a heck of lot packed inside the pages!) but I’m not really any closer to figuring what the event series is about than I was at the end of The Forge. 6/10

GODSHAPER #4
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Jonas Goonface
BOOM! Studios: $3.99

Jo S: All four issues so far of this beautiful quirky jazz-riff of a series have been superb, and issue #4 here keeps the ever upward gradient rolling. We open with Ennay trapped in a church on the cusp of betrayal by one of his former allies, having just met the mysterious and threatening ‘teevee lady’. This issue makes more use of the concept of Cantik, the publically visible manner by which Ennay supports himself and his companions (whilst ‘shaping’ on the side and stealing headgear to support the little worshipper-free god Bud’s curious hat habit). Ennay’s performance backdrops the first few pages of this issue; he's talking to a clearly enraptured crowd about his love for his companions and all is glorious… until he gets carried away and things start to sour, betrayal once again blackening the mood. This series is such a treat; for the eyes, for the heart and even, I suspect, for my godless soul; I'm very much looking forward to the next meeting. 9/10

THE AMERICAN WAY: THOSE ABOVE AND THOSE BELOW #1
Writer: John Ridley
Art: Georges Jeanty, Danny Miki & Nick Filardi
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Matt C: The original American Way series came out about a decade ago and looked at an alt-universe where during the 1960s government-staged superhero battles provided a way to distract the public from the Civil Rights movement and other political hot potatoes. It was clever, relevant and worthy of the praise heaped upon it. Writer John Ridley has been focusing on his day jobs since then (writing an Oscar-winning film, spearheading acclaimed TV dramas) but he’s revisiting this world again probably because the central themes are proving to be as relevant as they were before, perhaps more so. We catch up with the survivors of the first series, and they’re all wrapped up in the political upheavals of the early ‘70s, whether directly or actively (and unsuccessfully) trying to avoid getting involved. The allegorical nature of the concept is still potent, the way it’s being presented is evocative of the era, and if it’s anywhere near as good as the original it’ll be another powerful and memorable piece of work. 8/10

KILL OR BE KILLED #10
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

James R: There's so much to enjoy about Kill Or Be Killed; a creative team at the top of their game, a plot that constantly surprises, and a cast of characters that grows more interesting with each issue. This month, the truth behind Dylan's demonic taskmaster becomes ever-clearer, and the pursuing police investigation may not quite be closing in, but Detective Lily Sharpe is beginning to put the pieces together. We have often said that a number of today's best books feel like prestige TV rendered into the medium of comics, and Kill Or Be Killed is the perfect example of this. Terrific scripting from Brubaker, consistently great art from Phillips and Breitweiser, this book oozes class. 9/10

Matt C: Do I need to keep banging on about how great this series is here? I guess until it’s one of the industry's top-selling titles there are plenty of people still not reading it, so this is for them, not you guys who’ve been on board since the beginning! So, other people: this comic is the business. It’s thrilling, intelligent, daring and surprising, doing things that couldn’t be done so effectively in any other medium, cleverly bringing us in the thrall of an unreliable narrator who may very well have significant mental health issues, and doing so in a way that it’s impossible to second guess. Evocative art, insightful writing. This is what we all want from comics, right? It’s all here. Kill Or Be Killed is the real deal. 8/10

SECRET WARRIORS #4
Writer: Matt Rosenberg
Art: Javier GarrĂ³n & Israel Silva
Marvel: $3.99

Jo S: Rosenberg continues to pull out all the stops in this super-fun strand of the Secret Empire event with the band of Inhuman rebels, led by Daisy Johnson, struggling from one battle almost directly into the next. This issue focuses more on Moon Girl, showing how she and her adored Devil Dinosaur came to escape the Darkforce Dome and meet be part of the resistance to Hydra’s domination. Once again the book zaps through the action, layering on charm and wit without ever slipping into silliness; the youthful high spirits of the majority of the book making oncoming tragedy bite so much harder. Rosenberg even manages to write a great scene for Deadpool where the merc doesn't get the best lines - no mean feat. 8/10

GRASS KINGS #5
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

James R: This month, Grass Kings delivers an action-packed issue that's almost as psychedelic as it is explosive. As the police from Cargill begin their siege of the Grass Kingdom, Robert starts to see himself as a knight from myth, involved in an eternal struggle. Tyler Jenkins' work is brilliant, and his use of colours, which swirl and almost bleed from the page, is a thing of beauty. Given how epic Kindt's stories normally are, it's nice to see him tell a story that's so focused. There's nothing groundbreaking about Grass Kings, but there's a distinct pleasure in reading a good story expertly told. Certainly the best thing that BOOM! are publishing at the moment - I hope that they continues to invest in books like this, and keep Image on their toes in the process. 8/10

HULK #8
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Art: Georges Duarte & Matt Milla
Marvel: $3.99

Jo S: An issue of Hulk featuring a Big Green Guy? Have we gone back in time? Nah, never fear, our Big Grey Gal is still the lead, we just have a big gooey green cake-driven monster to contend with and, we learn, there's a possibility there may be more to follow. I still haven't quite clicked with this arc of the series - I think this might be due to a lack of emotional incentive in the story. The ‘bad guys’ are just trying to get famous and they have little in the way of panache or even any realistic feeling of malicious intent; they're just a bit dopey. We're shown a pretty nifty method for Jen to force her transformation into her giant monochrome form; it's cool, but she wouldn't have to force it if the problem felt serious enough or emotionally close enough to her. I'm interested to see where the story takes Marla, the sound technician who has stumbled on the monster juice used to trigger Oliver’s transformation from internet cake diva to giant raging snot blob; she didn't ingest the drug so will she simply have one giant angry monster hand? 6/10

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