23 Jul 2017

Mini Reviews 23/07/2017

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.

Writer: Aleš Kot
Art: André Lima Araújo
Image $4.99

Matt C: Aleš Kot has been off the radar for a couple of years but before he went quiet he was making quite a name for himself as someone who could produce smart, provocative comics whilst rustling lots of feathers on social media, his arguable high point being the aborted Material. Now he’s back with this new project, and he definitely seems to be firing on all cylinders again. This is intelligent, insightful material featuring fully fleshed out, believable characters; it’s not an everyday tale of young hackers getting caught up in an unauthorized project to recode the human genome, that’s for sure! It’s a very talky debut, with the ideas more prevalent than action, but the storytelling is bold and the art makes inventive, emotive use of predominately talking head imagery in a startlingly effective manner, especially as it paves the way for an inevitable upgrade in intensity. Working in a similar slipstream to Warren Ellis, Aleš Kot remains a creative force to be reckoned with. 9/10

Writers: Kurt Sutter & Courtney Alameda
Art: Hyeonjin Kim & Jean-Paul Csuka
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Jo S: Kurt Sutter’s screenwriting background feels close to the surface in this first issue of a story of the vengeful women of a refuge for victims of domestic violence. We meet Dominique, Sarah, Misha, Greta and Ally as they deal with an intruder at the shelter. As the story unfolds, there are hints that all have lost someone very close to them to violent deaths, suggesting all have a drive for revenge of some kind. This first book has a slightly lumpy pace and could perhaps have spent a little more time on growing the characters rather than racing ahead with a ‘source’ event, resulting police investigation, training montage and first ‘mission’ all in one go. What’s here has some promise but I'm not sure what's new about it yet - perhaps it will find a groove in the second issue. 6/10

Writer: Thomas F. Zahler
Art: Thomas F. Zahler & Luigi Anderson
IDW $4.99

James R: This was a book that I took a gamble on as it looked to be relevant to a number of interests: a protagonist who is a teacher (I'm a teacher!), there's a lot of wine drinking involved (I love wine!), and the central conceit is time travel (as a SF fan, I always enjoy time travel plots) so I felt I had to take a look. Zahler's tale is a little too playful for my tastes, in both his art and plot, but that's not to say there's nothing to admire here. This first issue highlights that changing the past is impossible, and one of the most bittersweet experiences of our lives is realising that we can't change our mistakes, or the people we once were. For me, a first issue really needs to grab me - it either has to knock me out with invention, or reel me in with promise and intrigue. Sadly Time & Vine didn't have either - I can't really see how Zahler can spin this tale out, or add something new to a well-mined trope. Also the book at $4.99 is certainly value for money at 40 pages, but those 40 pages didn't leave me wanting to recharge my glass. It's a nice book which deserves an audience; it's just not for me. 6/10

LAZARUS: X +66 #1
Writers: Greg Rucka & Eric Trautmann
Art:Steve Lieber
Image $3.99

Matt C: While the main series takes a roughly year-long break, Lazarus mastermind Greg Rucka is using the opportunity to expand the outlook and take a closer look at other sections of this world, shifting focus away from the core Carlyle family. Essentially this issue is standard boot camp stuff, with a soldier hand-picked by Forever and plonked into the training for an elite squad alongside recruits who’ve suffered hardships to get there but, while we may have seen this kind of thing before, it’s the context – alongside the quality the creative team bring – that makes it resonate. Lazarus is such an impressive feat of world-building that even zeroing in on characters that don’t impact in any significant way on the overall narrative still manages to add further understanding into how this world operates. 8/10

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Adam Kubert & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel: $3.99

Jo S: First, I'll set up my excuses… I still don't quite feel qualified to review on the Big Stuff and, being just a smidgen over six months into this comics lark, I'm learning how much I don't know. Having made the disastrous ‘Spiderman’ gaffe early on, I'm wary of reviewing something with such extensive comics pedigree (and so meticulously punctuated) but for this one I'm sticking my neck out - be gentle with my naïve errors! So, the end of issue #1 was very much ‘on that bombshell’ with the arrival of a girl claiming to be our hero’s sister. WHAT?! I know I have catching up to do but… huh?! This episode gives us some answers on that mystery but not before we meet Ironheart - Spidey needs Riri’s help with that hacked Stark phone (man, I love that suit - all the shiny, glowy, techy stuff of the Iron Man get-up but juuuust subtly girl-shaped). As with the debut issue, Chip Zdarsky layers the humour on thick and fast - there’s a cute reference to R2-D2 and a request for the the Human Torch to heat up snack food - and a single Spider-Man enables the story to stay relatively light, without the guilt of responsibility weighing heavy on the hero. The result is that this story is bubbling, scampering, web-zinging fun. Wait, 'Iron Man' is two words? But 'Ironheart' is one? I'm never going to get the hang of this! 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $3.99

James R: Jeff Lemire's magnum opus continues to be absolutely flawless. In this issue, the Pike family patriarch Peter hovers between life and death with his son Tommy as his spectral guide. As they move over Royal City, some secrets are revealed, whilst other new strands to the plot are weaved into the narrative. I've been captivated by Lemire's art since I first saw the pages of Sweet Tooth, and with both Royal City and epic After Death, it's been great to see his style develop and become richer. His use of colours in both of those books perfectly captures the atmosphere and give a real sense of verisimilitude - I could almost feel the rain and wind in the pages here. At the end of the issue, Lemire tells us that the next arc will take us back to the '90s. I'm not normally one for nostalgia, but as is the case for everything relating to this book - I cannot wait. A true work of art in every way. 9/10

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Jorge Fornés & Chris O’Halloran
Dynamite $3.99

Matt C: Focusing on a murder investigation that straddles the real world and the digital ‘Cloud-World’, Magnus has flipped the Magnus, Robot Fighter concept on its head. Kerri Magnus, the titular bounty-hunter-cum-therapist (really!), uses knowledge and understanding rather than fists to try and prevent a bad situation from escalating into something worse. Higgins brings the humanity and astute characterization he excels at (see Hadrian’s Wall as a recent example) to this series and Fornés injects a weary reality into the panels that mixes nicely with the more futuristic touches. As with the debut, assuming this to be an unnecessary updating of a hoary old concept would be a huge mistake. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Image $3.99

James R: The 'Rise of the Robots' arc kicks off in spectacular fashion this month as Lemire and Nguyen pay off the last twenty-odd issues of anticipation with all-out-war. I absolutely sped through these pages, the pace of the story incessant and hugely satisfying. Having kept Tim-21 and Andy apart for so long, they're brought tantalisingly close together - only for a seismic battle to keep them apart. In a world where space epics will usually be compared (and rightfully so) to Star Wars, so many come up short. Descender works though, as Lemire knows that, along with the grand adventure and vast galaxy, you also need a human story to care about, which Descender has in spades. I love Nguyen's art - in some of the big sequences here he takes almost a minimalist approach, but it works brilliantly. Definitely still out-of-this world. 8/10

Writer: Joe Haldeman
Art: Marvano
Titan Comics: $3.99

Jo S: The sixth and final issue in this adaptation of Joe Haldeman’s 1974 synonymous novel opens as Mandella, now many generations older than his fighting comrades, appears to have completely given over his life to the war with the still-mysterious Taurans, now over a thousand years old. Mandella has achieved high rank by dint of his huge military experience but is isolated by his archaic language and heterosexuality in a world which has moved so far ahead of him. Devastated by the loss of his love, Marygay, he throws himself into what becomes the final battle, the Earth troops resorting eventually to fighting with swords and clubs. This series has stuck closely to Haldeman’s original, clearly an allegory for his own life as a veteran of the Vietnam War, and the completion of the tale echoes loudly on the pointlessness of war and of continuing a campaign which neither side wanted in the first place. Marvano’s simple, delicate artwork and retro style have been the perfect expression of this story throughout, rendering tragedy and futility, horror and resistance, hope and despair, with almost clinical precision. To say I've enjoyed this series seems incorrect: more accurately, it has had a huge impact. 8/10

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