21 Jan 2018

Mini Reviews 21/01/2018

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.

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK WILSON #1
Writer: Eddie Gorodetsky & Marc Andreyko
Art: Stephen Sadowski & Hi-Fi Colour Design
Image $3.99

James R: What does a hero do when he loses his powers? The high-concept pitch behind Nick Wilson is an intriguing one. We meet the eponymous hero of this title in just such a situation - once the flavour of the month as a real-world hero, now reduced to appearances at children's parties. This first issue didn't quite hit the high notes I was hoping for - Gorodetsky and Andreyko's script is a little too explication-heavy in places, and even though I love the idea of a superhero as a washed-up celebrity, it seems odd that in a world where Nick Wilson was the only person to have ever had powers, he'd be reduced to a punchline so quickly. There's plenty to like here: there's the tantalizing mystery as to just why he's become de-powered, and Nick Wilson himself is a likable enough loser, but I personally would have enjoyed a little more introspection to this tale. As shown by Sadowski's art, this is a more light-hearted story - a fresh take on superheroics - but this didn't take flight for me. 6/10

Jo S: Nick Wilson, washed up superhero who has lost his powers, now wallowing in a life of drug-induced forgetfulness, barely funded by pretending to be his own lookalike at kids’ parties. Gorodetsky and Andreyko neatly skewer the pompousness of the teen all-star, sliding into middle-age and realising that what made them popular, confident, famous and needed in their youth is worth little as the world grows out of them. The writing is generous to loser Nick though - a glimmer of optimism appears in the form of an old flame rekindled. Nick and Jane’s first date (for many years at least) is sweetly written, self-deprecating and funny: for me the book was worth it for this section alone. With the introductions made and the ground set, the final page teases what looks to be the action part of the story, and I’ll be tuning in next time to see where this goes. 7/10

Matt C: Superhero stories often deal with the ascent – the discovery of powers and first steps into heroism and beyond – but what about the other side of the coin: the way down? This is the tale of the guy who had it all and lost it, his fame now an embarrassment due to what he was and what he’s become. From saving the world to impersonating his former persona at children’s parties and dragging from a bong in his downtime, Nick Wilson is a failure, but an endearing one, aware of what he’s lost but trying (and mostly failing) to find a place in the world. That his journey along this path is sweet and often hilarious is part of the charm of this excellent book; it has a real emotional resonance and Sadowski’s art (reminiscent of Tony Harris at his best) conveys the human moments between the cast with warmth and believability. An auspicious opener. 8/10

ICE CREAM MAN #1
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Art: Martín Morazzo & Chris O’Halloran
Image $3.99

Jo S: A sample scoop from the fairly gentle end of the horror comic genre, this first issue introduces us to some of the inhabitants of tiny backwater town St Generous. Prince weaves a number of strands together here, introducing Rick the Ice Cream Man himself, 5V, the cop with an apparent ability to hear things other people miss (or perhaps only hear subliminally) and the McAllister family, whose rather odd son appears only to be known as ‘Kid’ until near the end of the story. This was an enticing start - I do like that type of scary story which plays out in broad daylight, in candy colours and with soda fizziness, but I’m hoping it gets just a sprinkling more gruesome in future issues. This first serving was perhaps just a bit vanilla for me. 6/10

DAYS OF HATE #1
Writer: Aleš Kot
Art: Danijel Žeželj & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

Jo S: The striking red cover of this issue, combined with an introductory quote from Steve Bannon, of all people, sets this up as a story which is not going to shy away from difficult political ideas - there’s no sense that this is going to be a comfortable ride. We’re introduced in this first issue to two women, Amanda (a.k.a. Shelly) and Huian, and their linked history becomes clearer as their current stories unfold. Although set a couple of years in the future, Kot has clearly extrapolated the narrative from very current events, making the actions of the characters disturbingly credible. I loved Žeželj’s artwork here: combined with Belliare’s peerless colours, the graphics create a too-close-for-comfort world of glowering, embittered women, dingy abandoned warehouses, neon lights and hate-filled graffiti. A stunning double page spread shows a night-time cityscape, colours glowing out of blackness, serving to mark a key incident in the story. This team looks set to produce something really spectacular. 9/10

Matt C: Starting things off with a predictably offensive quote from Steve Bannon provides a pretty clear indication of where Kot’s mind is at for this new series (although his previous work hinted that something like Days Of Hate would appear from his pen sooner or later). There’s obviously polemic here – that goes without saying – but it’s never at the expense of the characters. Four years into the future and history has taken one of the darker speculative paths with an America facing increasingly dangerous political divisions accompanied by a rise in urban terrorism. Kot wisely keeps his focus tight on a handful of characters to take us through a world that is rendered with an exceptional mix of danger and desperation by Žeželj. Occasionally a heavier form of exposition creeps in from the edges but generally Kot is on track and if he keeps heading in this direction then this twelve-parter could become something very special indeed. 8/10

KILL OR BE KILLED #15
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

James R: Kill Or Be Killed continues to amaze: in the past, I've been impressed with Brubaker and Phillips' unflinching portrayal of the darker tropes of human nature (and there's certainly plenty of that on display still) but this month I loved two narrative switches from Brubaker. Firstly, we're given a jolt as we find Dylan far from New York, in an attempt to ward off the demon who plagues his mind, then the issue climaxes with twist that changes the complexion of the narrative yet again. This is masterful and assured storytelling, illustrated beautifully as ever by Sean Phillips, perfectly complimented by Elizabeth Breitweiser's colours, with the palette switching from the vibrant neon of the city to the washed-out surroundings of Dylan's new home. This series shows no signs of flagging or slowing up - if anything, it's just getting better. Essential reading. 9/10

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