30 Jul 2017

Mini Reviews 30/07/2017

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.

SECRET EMPIRE #7
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Andrea Sorrentino, Rod Reis, Joshua Cassara & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A masterfully orchestrated blockbuster, it works so well because it plays right into the strengths of the ‘event series’ format, subtly acknowledging what we as readers all know – everything will go back to ‘normal’ for the finale – but having fun working within the defined parameters to generate some often thought-provoking thrills. Rod Reis handles the ‘other’ scenes once again, but Andrea Sorrentino is the star of the show (marvel at THAT two-page spread depicting Black Widow versus the Punisher), even though it appears scheduling requirements mean he needs illustrative assistance in some places. At this stage of the game, the narrative necessitates moving various players into position in readiness for the conclusion (and getting others out of the way), so while it’s not the strongest entry in the series, it’s enjoyable all the same. 7/10

PLASTIC #4
Writer: Doug Wagner
Art: Daniel Hillyard & Laura Martin
Image $3.99

Jo S: Okay yes, I admit it, I'm pretty much obsessed with this series and would happily spend my last few coppers picking up this treat if it was the only one I could afford in the week. Edwyn, now fired with vengeance, is ready to do whatever it takes to rescue his beloved Virginia and sets out to eliminate Belliveau’s henchmen and carry out a kidnap of his own, with the silently supportive La Croix and new sidekick Gwen tagging along. Wagner writes this with such class: Edwyn is terrifyingly ordinary; he barely raises his voice (except when one of the hoods uses the d-word in respect of Virginia), and his calling cards - the naked plastic soldier girl, the oh-so-subtle, carefully labelled, severed head in a freezer bag - are delivered with such sniper-like accuracy, you can actually see the instant at which the bad guy realises he's in for a (very short-lived) world of agony on the tines of a plastic fork. I can hardly bear to think that there is just one more of these to go and so glad I took a chance on this series. 9/10

WEAPON X #6
Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Marc Borstel, Ibraim Roberson & Frank D’Armata
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: This series has kept me happily entertained to date, and I've been enjoying the neatly episodic nature: each issue has added one or more mutants to the team, with Amadeus Cho added at the end of issue #4. This issue sees the gang attack the Weapon X Headquarters in an effort to destroy the facility and its research into mutant-DNA imbued cyborgs (in a Honda). Cracks in the team’s structure appear pretty quickly as genius Amadeus Cho takes the role of attack strategist, making clear his feelings about how the humans remaining in the facility should be dealt with: Logan and Sabretooth, both hardened old fighters, are less sympathetic and more utilitarian in their approach. I'm not familiar with the Totally Awesome Hulk yet (I guess that's one for my research list): perhaps it's just that I need a little re-education to allay my suspicions regarding a Hulk who goes big-green on command and appears to retain all his extensive mental capacities AND a perfect hairstyle, but he seems like kind of a square. More of the grouchy old guys, please! 7/10

BLACK HAMMER #11
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: I was thrilled to see that Black Hammer was honoured at the Eisner awards last weekend, rightfully winning Best New Series. I've been singing the praises of this book since issue #1, and there's something really satisfying in seeing the creative team of Lemire and Ormston rewarded for this outstanding book. This month, Lemire breaks my heart with the relationship between Barbalien and Gail in the spotlight. The sense of isolation that both of these characters feels is acute, as both are alone in the eerie world of Rockwood in more ways than one. For my money this is the best superhero book being published by any company - the balance that Lemire and Ormston have found is just magical; the development of the characters, the mystery of Rockwood, and the knowing critique of comics history. I just can't get enough of this series - long may it continue. 9/10  

Matt C: A gay alien disguised as a police officer. A middle-aged woman trapped in the body of a child. Try and explain this to someone unfamiliar with the genre and it may sound a little ridiculous when you say it out loud, but if you’ve been reading comics for long enough then you’re probably somewhat immune to the dismissiveness and lack of understanding of the medium in some quarters. So, while it may sound peculiar to the layman, it’s anything but, and that’s largely due to the strength of emotion that the creative team bring to these pages. There are plenty of clever riffs on well-worn tropes that add freshness and sparkle, but the empathy generated through the art and writing is the key to the Black Hammer’s success, and it is indeed an unquestionable success. 8/10

DAMNED #3
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Brian Hurtt, Bill Crabtree
Oni Press $3.99

Jo S: Gamblers and demons and creepy little girls - oh my! This tale of gangsters versus demons versus gangster demons is stuffed with class and drooling style. In this episode,  Eddie and Pauly are aiming to get the best price they can for the much sought-after key that Pauly has come by, so that he can keep his promise to his cursed former girlfriend, Deidra. This requires a trip into the territory of the ancient Verlochin, where even gangster demons fear to tread. I wasn't expecting to get as drawn in to this series as I have; there's something about Eddie, and even foolish, misguided Pauly, that appeals to me, and there's plenty of intrigue to keep me guessing. Hurtt’s artwork is clean and tidy and shows the humans’ emotions in a way that draws sympathy. If I had to criticise, I'd say that the monsters are not super-scary - the head of the Verlochin ‘family’ looks a little too much like a giant red-eyed Yoda - but then I remember that demon snacking from a jar of… definitely not pickled onions. 7/10

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