20 May 2018

Mini Reviews 20/05/2018

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.

A WALK THROUGH HELL #1
Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Goran Sudzuka & Ive Svorcina
Aftershock $3.99

Matt C: A welcome return to the horror genre for Garth Ennis. Following on from a (very) shocking opening sequence, the writer eases us into a seemingly banal environment, with a group of federal agents going about their business, yakking about ongoing cases punctuated with chit-chat on the dangers of Twitter. The routine nature of their actions and interactions can’t quite disguise a developing sense of dread, a sense that there’s something on the horizon, obfuscated by lack of expectation, but it’s there all the same. Ennis captures the banter and repetitiveness of the workday brilliantly, so when it’s disrupted by jolts of something far more sinister it really resonates. Sudzuka grounds the story with art that exudes humanity and doesn’t warrant flashiness; it helps add to the unnerving vibe that gets more pronounced as the issue progresses. I was reminded of Alan Moore’s Providence here, as this debut chapter also deals with the notion that something horrific lies just outside our peripheral vision, something with the power to corrupt irrevocably. It’s early days, but this book is showing signs it will live up to its title. 8/10

FLAVOR #1
Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Art: Wook Jin Clark & Tamra Bonvillain
Image $3.99

Jo S: Fantastic world building starts right from the first page in this new series, a story of a rebellious teenage unlicensed chef, living in a walled city full of intrigue and strange laws, where cooking appears to be almost a state-controlled religion. Our hero Xoo and her extremely talented dog, Buster, are flouting the law for good reason; she has responsibilities which she cannot maintain within legal constraints. The art in this story is fantastically dynamic and detailed - the opening chase scene is a great way to introduce elements of this world’s construction, the characters are appealing in a gentle way and added spoonfuls of intrigue make me want to sample more. This feels like the start of a magnificent story and I will certainly be back for the second course after this delicious entrĂ©e. 7/10

GIDEON FALLS #3
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Andrea Sorrentino & Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

James R: For a long time, my rule of thumb for comics greatness has been the re-read test - on getting to the final page of an issue, do I immediately want to go back to the start and devour it again? Gideon Falls is a book that passes this test with aplomb. The third chapter is a triumph of both storytelling from Lemire and breathtaking art from Sorrentino. I share Jeff Lemire's love of Twin Peaks, and the influence of that show can be seen in both the intriguing mystery and the unsettling atmosphere of the plot. Truth be told, that would probably be enough for me to love the book, but Sorrentino's art is amazing - the detail he brings to two rooms, far apart but both infused with a complex world of conspiracy and connections, is a joy to behold. Gideon Falls really does feel like a book where both creators are absolutely at the top of their game - this is a series that doesn't just require a re-read, it demands one. 9/10

AVENGERS #2
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, Jay Lesisten & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Following a solid opener, we rush a bit too swiftly into fighting mode, which isn’t an unexpected direction for a superhero comic to take but I was looking for a bit more in the way of establishing the characters. That may sound like a faintly ridiculous statement for a comic featuring iconic creations that have been around for numerous decades, but things ramp up a little too quickly for Aaron’s take on this new team of Avengers to bed in. Sometimes emotional engagement between the players on the board is more effective than physical engagement. McGuinness’ art is as robust and efficient as you’d expect, and a certain character’s appearance (which won’t be a surprise for anyone who’s seen advance solicitations for the series) is perhaps signposted a little too heavily before the reveal. That said, even though this issue experiences the sophomore drop, there are too many enticing elements in play for me to not to come back for another look. 6/10

BARRIER #3
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artists: Marcos Martin & Muntsa Vicente
Image $3.99

James R: Vaughan and Martin's interstellar oddyssey takes another giant leap this week with a 'silent' issue. Older readers out there may remember Marvel tried a whole month of silent issues in their 'Nuff Said' event of 2001 (with decidedly mixed results) but that showed that writing a dialogue-free issue - even in a visual medium - is an onerous task. In the backmatter, Vaughan's note to the artist states "This one... is entirely on you Marcos." So all credit to the brilliance of Marcos Martin here - as Liddy and Oscar try to stay alive in the belly of the huge alien ship, it's impossible not to be swept along by the energy in these pages. Barrier felt like something special from the first issue, and each week is providing me with more evidence that my hunch was right - an innovative and remarkable book that's a must-read in every way. 8/10

THE DEAD HAND #2
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Stephen Mooney & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

Jo S: I skipped the first issue of The Dead Hand initially due to my pull-list being rather on the extensive side but was convinced (as often happens) to give it a second chance and was very pleased I did. The first issue did not end in any predictable way, veering off suddenly into completely unexpected territory, and this second issue followed an interestingly similar pattern. We’re given a little more background on remote Mountain View’s Sheriff Carter and introduced to the mysterious Renae, covergirl for both issues but mostly absent in the first. Frederick, ostensibly a writer who stumbled on this remote town by accident in issue# 1, is given an opportunity to explain more about himself. So far, so, well, standard. And then we meet Roger, a little boy with curious aptitude for technology - and things get really weird. Mooney’s art is perfect for this story, by stages murky and gloomy or light and crisp, and Bellaire’s colours complement his work adeptly, especially in a gorgeous centre page montage. This book has really come out of left field for me, and it’s a shoo-in for my favourite this week. 8/10

DRY COUNTY #3
Writer: Rich Tommaso
Art: Rich Tommaso
Image $3.99

James R: As a recent convert to the talents of Rich Tomasso, I'm still really enjoying Dry County - it's one of those books where you get a lot for your money. Tomasso has a great understanding of noir and crime, and he twists the tropes of those genres expertly in these pages. As Lou Rossi tries increasingly desperate means to track down the missing Janet, the plot thickens as the cast of shady characters seem to be linked... or are they? I love stuff like this, and while I can see how if you're not a crime and mystery fan this might not be to your taste, I'm finding Dry Country to be a refreshing read. One of the many great things I love about comics is finding out about a creator whose work you'd previously missed - discovering Tommaso's work is one of the high points of 2018 for me. 8/10

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