15 Apr 2018

Mini Reviews 15/04/2018

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 DEAD HAND #1
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Stephen Mooney & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

Matt C: With the world seemingly on the brink of plunging into a second Cold War, what better time to revisit the first, or at least the tail end of it. Carter Carlson, black ops agent supreme, discovers something sinister during the last days of the Soviet Union, but seemingly it didn’t make that much of a significant impact – as we move into the present day, he’s a small town sheriff, the local teens think he’s harmless, and everything appears to be idyllic. But of course, there’s more to all this than meets the eye. The inventive twists and turns that occur through this debut issue are revealed at just the right moments to ensure the shifts in expectations occur organically. There’s a moody dynamism to Mooney’s art, delicately coloured by Bellaire, that hits the write tonal notes, and Higgins seems to have struck genre gold again by not applying the formula in a predictable fashion. 8/10

James R: Oooh, Kyle Higgins, you got me! I was really looking forward to The Dead Hand as I'm a big fan of Higgins' work, especially the criminally under-rated C.O.W.L. As a child of the '80s, I'm also drawn to any Cold War-espionage tales, but as I read this first issue, I felt that something wasn't quite connecting for me. At this point, I have to consider my audience, as the issue then pivots beautifully into a  great, didn't-see-that-coming twist that immediately made me want to read more. I don't even want to hint at it as I think people should read it for themselves, but damn - I genuinely went 'Oooh!' out loud at that reveal! The other thing that didn't quite work for me was Stephen Mooney's art, but given that this book is clearly going to have a unique feel to it, I'm happy to see if it suits the script in subsequent issues. I'm definitely coming back for issue #2, and it's worth the price of admission for one of the great sleight-of-hand moments of recent years. 7/10

EXILES #1
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Art: Javier Rodríguez, Ålvaro López, Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Saladin Ahmed’s work on the recently completed Black Bolt series cemented his place as one of my favourite writers of the year and I was excited to see him take on not just one but a whole team of less-famous heroes in the new Exiles series. I had concerns that without Christian Ward on art, I would be underwhelmed, but Rodríguez and his team do a fine job of producing dynamic, detailed depictions of the action - although the contrast with the cover art is peculiar. It looks as though the cover shows the complete team, not all of whom have been recruited by the end of this first issue, whereas the title page shows the same art with all but Blink blanked out - the opportunity for mystery appears to have been lost in the choosing of the cover for this first issue? There are also some… er… details regarding Khan which are inconsistent between cover and content. But enough of my nitpicking, is it a good read? One the whole, yes. Introductory issues to team-based stories can be cluttered but this presents the problem to be solved well and uses a neat device to explain the derivation of the group. The characters so far seem fun and relatable - I'll at least be back to see the rest of the group introduced. 7/10

DRY COUNTY #2
Writer: Rich Tommaso
Art: Rich Tommaso
Image $3.99

James R: Issue #1 of Dry County certainly intrigued me, issue #2 has totally won me over. I'm a big fan of noir storytelling in all its forms, from the classics of the genre by Chandler and Hammett to its wild and disparate interpretations in movies like The Big Lebowski and Blade Runner. Tommaso's Dry County hits that sweet spot of following noir conventions but placing a fresh spin on them. As Lou Rossi begins to search for his lost (potential) love Janet, it soon becomes clear that she is more than meets the eye - and just who are those mysterious men in a van trying to run Lou off the road? I really didn't know what to expect from this book having never read anything of Tommaso's before, but I've enjoyed these two issues so much, I'm now going to check out Clover Honey when it's re-released this month. If you like a sharply-told but offbeat detective tale, you should be picking up Dry County - this is a heady brew. 8/10

MINKY WOODCOCK: THE GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI #4
Writer: Cynthia Von Buhler
Art: Cynthia Von Buhler
Titan/Hard Case Crime $3.99

Jo S: Real life crime is rarely tied up in a neat bow like it is in the stories of the great detectives and Cynthia Von Buhler stays true to this as Minky’s investigations of Houdini’s adversaries is brought to what must feel like an unsatisfactory, if historically appropriate, close. Houdini has passed away (if this is a spoiler for you, my apologies, but, you know he died, right?) but the cause is not clear and the small matter of a double indemnity clause in his life insurance is muddying the chances of finding a precise answer. Devastated Minky is starting to take heat as evidence of her not-entirely-traditional relationship with the deceased is located by the police and Minky finds herself in terrible danger… This whole series has been delightfully different for me - Von Buhler has adapted to the medium like a lovely assistant adapts to a new stage effect and her mastery of richly gloomy art and well-paced storytelling blended with her own contribution of saucy burlesque style has made this a real treat throughout. If anyone fancies a trip to Broadway in October to see the immersive theatre performance version, count me in! 8/10

GIDEON FALLS #2
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino
Image $3.99

James R: I'm horribly aware that people may be getting sick of me saying what a genius Jeff Lemire is, so I will try and keep this even shorter than usual: you should be reading Gideon Falls. It's just a joy to see a writer and an artist blessed with such talents working together to produce such a great book. This enthralling tale is equal parts horror, mystery and conspiracy but yet manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. Lemire is a fellow Twin Peaks fan, and I think it's fair to make a comparison between that landmark TV show and this comic - it is that good. Andrea Sorrentino is one of the best artists working in comics today, and this book is simply perfection. Gideon Falls now means there are three Lemire books that I can't choose between when asked to pick a favourite - Black Hammer, Royal City and now this; it's a brilliant dilemma. 10/10

Matt C: As powerful as the debut issue, Gideon Falls is confirmed as a keeper here (as if we ever thought otherwise). The mystery remains compelling; the specifics are just out of reach, but the Black Barn is enough of a hook, and the fact that Lemire can construct this compelling narrative around a barn, of all things, just goes to show his consummate skill as a writer. The raw humanity he brings to his characters helps, obviously; they all seem credible and real, lent additional personality through Sorrentino’s scratchy, detailed artwork. It’s a sight to behold, and one page in particular, where he flips a scene on its side as a character steps out of an elevator is particularly astonishing, conveying a burst of confusion followed by panic within a single, beautiful image. For that alone, this issue would be highly recommended but that’s just one part of a magnificent whole; Gideon Falls is one of the highlights of the medium so far in 2018. 9/10

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