18 Feb 2018

Mini Reviews 18/02/2018

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.

Writer: Christopher Sebela
Art: Hayden Sherman
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Future warriors being awoken from some kind of suspended animation and having to take up arms in an unfamiliar world seems to be a bit of a theme currently - The Forever War returns soon, Altered Carbon on Netflix has connected themes and even Captain America's story this week featured Ice-Cap - so I was hoping that this Aftershock offering might have something a bit different to say, having been drawn to it by the promise of Sherman’s art, which had such impact on me in The Few last year. Sadly, his talent is underused in this and there wasn’t anything new in the story to really grab me. The spareness utilised so effectively in The Few was missing here, and the visuals felt a little cramped as a result, although I can see how an air of claustrophobia might be part of the desired effect. There were some interesting ideas on brutally inventive future weaponry and a candle flame of curiosity lit regarding the different motivations of Rook, the lead character, and his fellow draftees, but disappointingly little to come back for otherwise. 5/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

Matt C: Twists and turns, as they say in the storytelling business. Kill Or Be Killed continues to take some unexpected narrative swerves as it zips along to whatever destination it’s headed for; it’s impossible to foresee its trajectory because there’s a restless spirit of invention that sustains its high level of unpredictability. Dylan’s drugged up in a mental hospital while someone else runs about in his mask, picking off the ‘wrong’ targets, and somewhere a demon is fiendishly laughing, if he even exists. Phillips and Breitweiser bring an intense realism to the page, mundane scenarios infused with danger and bristling emotion. A brilliant monthly burst of violence and madness, seductively told. 8/10

Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Art: Tomm Coker & Michael Garland
Image $3.99

James R: Immortal beings speaking cryptic languages? A byzantine conspiracy? Not really knowing what the hell is going on but enjoying it anyway? Yep - it's a Jonathan Hickman book! The delay between issues seven and eight meant that reading this came with healthy dose of what I call fanboy amnesia - as you dive back into the narrative, you find yourself asking 'What is happening here? Why are they doing that again?' Despite this, Black Monday Murders was still my pick of the week. For the most part, it's due to the artwork of Tomm Coker - his work on this series is phenomenal, and borders on the cinematic, with Michael Garland's colours adding a richness to the striking pages. This is a typically Hickmanesque issue: a mystical and deadly face-off between the Caina and Kankrin houses, while Detective Dumas finds himself on the threshold of the warring clans. With Hickman's work, there's always a delicate balancing act between the epic architecture of the plot and the danger of the story simply falling apart under the weight of the numerous strands, but for the time being, he's pulling it off with Black Monday Murders - still one of the most unique books being published. 8/10

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Caspar Wijngaard
Image $3.99

Jo S: The last in the first series of this story of bio-engineered beasts, serving an absent god-ruler in a post-apocalyptic world, this mad adventure raises two questions for me: what has Si Spurrier been drinking? And, can I have some? I've talked before about Spurrier’s world-building in Godshaper and one of the elements of design in both books is the use of language, corrupted by time and usage, and yet intelligible for the reader. I find his blending of religion, science, folklore and plain ignorance, to make words which appear initially to be nonsense but resolve to have significance, fascinating. I particularly enjoy his writing of the Fazecats - driven mad by the contradictory desires in their heads, bred for aggression yet desperate for affection. Wijngaard’s art has been interesting as well; he has themed the colours in each issue, with this final episode in rich bubblegum pinks, soft greens and purples. Flying armoured humpback whales are not something one expects to see sailing over the rooftops - but perhaps that's quite normal in Si Spurrier’s head! 7/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Cap’s a man out of time again in a fascistic future that has those who fight for truth and justice on the backfoot and running for whatever cover they can find. Can the Sentinel of Liberty bring freedom to the oppressed? Of course he can, but knowing the outcome shouldn’t hamper the enjoyment of reading these kinds of tales. The fact that we’ve been here before reinforces the predictability, and there’s definitely room to press the political points a bit more heavily (although apparently Marvel aren’t doing that any more). It’s entertaining enough but feels a lot safer than it could have been. 7/10

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Tyler Jenkins & Hilary Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

James R: This week, I'm singing the praises of Grass Kings again as for me, it's a book that's still criminally under the radar. This cross-generational tale of murder and deception has the nuance of a novel, and the aesthetics of high-end TV show. Matt Kindt makes every character fully fleshed-out; everyone is flawed, and everyone is motivated - or influenced by - a past that continues to bleed through into the present. Here, the Grass Kingdom seeks to repel another invasion - this time from the Feds rather than the neighbouring P.D. - whilst the identity of the Thin-Air killer remains elusive. As with so many great series, both artist and writer are working together in perfect sync to create something more than the sum of its parts. When Grass Kings started, I was hoping for a sharply-told murder mystery, but it has grown into something way more than that - this is a book that continues to exceed expectations. 8/10

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