3 Sept 2017

Mini Reviews 03/09/2017

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: Nick Spencer
Art: Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Matthew Wilson, Rod Reis, David Marquez, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, Jesus Aburtov, Ron Lim & Andrea Sorrentino
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: As regular readers will know, I'm still pretty new to this comics stuff and Secret Empire is my first real look at a comic book event series. So, was it a good place to start? Well, how it compares with other events, for me, remains to be seen but even without the benefit of more significant experience, I think I can assert with confidence that this is an excellent series and I would recommend it to any starter. Series which depend heavily on comic book history are a risk for a newbie, and this could have been so hard to follow, with its roaring pace and cast of hundreds, but in fact I found it gripping and rarely felt the need to ask for context/background. The gallery of episode personnel at the start was especially useful in this. This final issue is suitably epic, with grand use of full page spreads for massive impact and a stunning double-pager for the moment it all changes. Cap’s expression of grim determination, the resolution to do what must be done in spite of the cost, haunts almost every spread, and the epilogue provides gentleness and hope contrasting the warlike power of the main story. The perfect end to my summer reading. 9/10

Matt C: There are few surprises in this finale – as with all event books there’s a certain predictability to their trajectories – but kudos to Nick Spencer for keeping things lively and entertaining right up to the final page. Not only that, but it still manages to squeeze in some relevant commentary on a fascist takeover of the United States; it’s confined somewhat by the mechanics of a multi-character superhero blockbuster, but the fact that it gets to tackle such a concept – one that has even more of an air of plausibility to it than when the storyline first kicked in – is something to be applauded. It’s a bit overcrowded and the narration can be irritatingly pompous at times but ultimately it’s been enjoyable enough to stick with, and this rousing concluding episode sees Steve McNiven bring a touch of grade-A class to the proceedings. 7/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Nicola Scott & Chiara Arena
Image $3.99

James R: Following the last issue that shed light on Rowan Black's tragic background, this month's instalment focuses on her day job, and her investigation into the mysterious occult deaths that kick-started the series. I have said here before that Greg Rucka is incapable of writing a bad comic, but it bears repeating. Even though this could be seen as a 'transition' issue, seeing characters moved into place ahead of the climax of the arc, it's just a pleasure to read Rucka's prose, and spend time with all the characters in Rowan's world. As always, this is a title that has such a strong and immediate visual identity - Nicola Scott's black & white pencils have an almost dream-like feel to them, and when the panels of colour do appear, it's genuinely affecting. One other thing I love about the world of modern comics is the supplementary material that makes a book educational as well as entertaining. This month Black Magick features a letter from a Donald Frew, a practising witch and police consultant on occult crimes, and it's worth the price of the book alone. A quality title in every way, Black Magick's spell over me remains strong. 7/10

Writer: Garth Ennis, Russ Braun
Art: Russ Braun & John Kalisz
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Imagine if James Bond at his least politically correct had sired hundreds upon hundreds of children who, as adults, banded together to wreak vengeance for his paternal absenteeism… Episode 3 opens with Jimmy Regent and his new partner Nancy McEwan in an elegantly synchronised gun battle at the British Museum with a group of thugs whom McEwan is starting to think look oddly familiar... Jimmy is used to being on the end of numerous plots to kill him by evil not-so-geniuses with designs on world domination but there's something a little different brewing for him this time. This series is brilliantly written and the art is clever and stylish; Ennis and Braun skillfully weave a tale which is multi-layered - is Regent really the utterly sexist self-centred hedonist he appears to be or is it all just a front? Or is *that* just a front to get him into resolutely monogamous McEwan’s well-defended knickers? 8/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Wes Craig & Joran Boyd
Image $3.99

Matt C: Road trip! The freshman classmates decide to hit the tarmac to take a break from all the murderous politics of the Kings Dominion School and putting five strong personalities in a confined space for a period of time inevitably means sparks fly. It often feels like the characters provide mouthpieces for more contemporary topics, complete with a somewhat overly preachy tone, but the dialogue is delivered in an engaging enough manner that it’s generally effective, even enlightening; Remender’s skill with words swiftly absorbs through seductive sentence composition. Craig adeptly captures the angst and emotion with Boyd ensuring the visuals pop off the page. Even in an issue that doesn’t push the narrative forward, this series remains in a class of its own. 8/10

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