6 Aug 2017

Mini Reviews 06/08/2017

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 Starks
Art: Gabriel Bautista
Oni Press $3.99

Jo S: I admit right off that I picked this one up totally because of the cover - a cute mutt in a super-dog cape calmly licking blood off his paws in front of an encroaching crowd of zombies - well, why not? The story is based on a Plaid Hat table top game, which is meta-cooperative: all players have a common goal but also their own secret mission to complete. This theme is evident in the comic: we are introduced to kids Dick and Don and their dad, who are holed up in a ransacked house as zombie hordes gather outside. They are rescued by Gabe and Ruckus, with much help from Sparky the Super Dog - who has a real knack for dealing with the undead - and are taken back to join a larger collective. The varying motivations of the characters start to play out in a way that seems to echo the board game approach but I didn't find this to be a distraction: although the zombie situation is pretty straightforward and has zero originality, the dog hero does take it to a different place and I enjoyed the touches of Lassie-with-zombies humour. 7/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Takeshi Miyazawa & Triona Farrell
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Jo S: Whilst I was drawn to this series for the giant robots (you're getting that I like robots now, dear reader, yes?), I actually enjoyed issue #1 for the story. This would be a great comic for kids to read, which isn't to say that it's not good enough for grown ups too, because it's a classic tale of the worthy hero achieving greatness in spite of - or possibly because of - his humble start. Imagine Cinderella, retold with Prince Charming as a giant mechanoid, a Sky Corps senior officer and his protégée as wicked stepmother and ugly sister, and the famous Skip Tanaka, first robo mech partner, as fairy godmother. The first issue is beautifully illustrated; Miyazawa finds ways to give sensitivity and expression to giant space bots and, whilst the cast are distinctly monomyth conforming, they are appealing and the story has a sweet innocence which I enjoyed immensely. 8/10

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

James R: I sometimes feel like I'm the only man in the world reading this (I'm sure it's not the case) but I don't see many reviews or articles really singing the praises of Ellis' SF-meets-old-world-magic epic. So I'm going to continue to say how great it is... for as long as it continues to be! I've loved this arc featuring Brigid Roth and the stone circle of Mellion Moor, and this month it's felt like the arc is reaching a climax, only for Ellis to re-introduce the Injection A.I. and really ramp up the stakes. When Ellis is this good, he's almost untouchable, weaving the plots together to make an truly thrilling book. Declan Shalvey deserves yet more praise here for his portrayal of a fight scene so nasty it genuinely made me flinch twice, and as always, Jordie Bellaire's colours beautifully capture the sense of an English winter. With a single issue, Injection jumps from being a consistently great book, to one which will be the first thing I read the next time it appears on my pull-list. Masterful stuff. 8/10

Writer: James Robinson
Art: Aco, Hugo Petrus & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: After a teeny dip with Underwater Nick in the last issue, this series is right back on psychedelic, rainbow-hued, SMASH-KRASH-FUMMPP-SHUNK form, as Nick heads off on what he initially thinks is a vacation in sleepy Maple Grove. This series of one-issue, one-mission hits is pushing all the buttons for me - Fury himself is super-cool, the action is zany and in-your-face colourful (Rosenberg deserves giant credit on this) and the one-shot nature actually genuinely works with Robinson achieving the near impossible in having Fury complete a full mission each time. You'll need to find a pal who has the same issue though: at one point there is SO MUCH ACTION that Aco couldn't even fit it on a double page spread - you need to put two spreads side by side to get the full effect of the panoramic scene – KABOOM! 10/10

Matt C: There’s such a delirious, irresistible energy to the series that it’s sort of caught me off guard – it’s not what I was expecting! If you mention Nick Fury to me I’m thinking of the grizzled superspy who led the Howlin’ Commandos during WWII, not this young pretender (who clearly exists because Samuel L. Jackson is movie Nick Fury), but damn if I’m not infatuated with this mission-per-issue concept! Robinson keeps providing deceptively simple but overwhelmingly effective scripts that allow Aco to knock it straight out of the park, visually, and keep on doing so, page after page. This supposed vacation episode quickly takes a turn for the violent, and it’s so joyously entertaining that it’ll leave a big fat grin on your face. When people moan about a paucity of ideas and invention at the Big Two, I’m fairly convinced they’re not picking up this book. 9/10

Writers: Kyle Higgins & Ale Siegel
Art: Rod Reis & Eduardo Ferigato
Image $3.99

James R: At the the start of this final chapter of Hadrian's Wall, I thought 'Wow, this is amazing' - the crew of Hadrian's Wall are cast adrift in the blackness of space, their one chance for survival failing. As the crew face diminishing oxygen and heat, there is a sense of of darkness and despair that's almost tangible. Without ruining the ending, it felt like such a massive contrast to what had gone before, it almost felt like a misstep to me. Taken as a whole, I've really enjoyed Hadrian's Wall and its '80s SF-inspired aesthetic; I just can't quite escape the notion that there was a bigger story to tell here, and in some ways, it's over before it really hit stride. In the back of the book, Kyle Higgins says that he, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis will work again - but there will be some individual projects first. I can't wait for them to reunite as they're making some of the most striking and memorable titles in mainstream comics. 7/10

Matt C: This galactic whodunit has been a resounding success, confirming the team behind criminally overlooked C.O.W.L. have plenty more to offer the discerning genre fan. As well as providing a scintillating retrofuturist view of the world (and beyond) sixty odd years from now, arguably the not-so-secret ccore of the series has been about how one comes to terms with the break-up of a relationship. The anger, the resentment, the seemingly unstoppable spiral downwards. Yeah, it’s a riveting murder mystery with some pleasing sci-fi trappings, but it’s the emotional dynamics between the key players that helps it get under the skin. 8/10

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

Matt C: At times it’s felt like this Maria Hill-focused storyline has been treading water, dithering when it could have been moving forward at full clip. It’s been especially frustrating when the Secret Wars-related bombshell was dropped in the arc and not really picked up since. There’s some momentum here though, compounded by a great little retro sequence that see Javier Pulido take over art chores for a handful of pages, briefly interrupting Gaydos’ more realistic approach with some Bronze Age flare. It adds more weight to the tale, and while it’s a little late in coming it’s still reassuring to see the Bendis’ bag of tricks isn’t empty yet. 7/10

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