26 Aug 2018

Mini Reviews 26/08/2018

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.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Stefano Caselli & Triona Farrell
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: Kelly Thompson continuing to write Hawkeye (and Other Hawkeye) is a no-brainer as far as my pull-list is concerned, and this first outing of the regenerated West Coast Avengers team is very much still The Kate Bishop Show, with Thompson continuing to bring all the wit, intelligence and warmth to the character she really made her own in the recent Hawkeye series. A steep rise in super-villain-flavoured drama west-side means that Kate-Hawkeye is struggling to hero it all by herself and, inspired no doubt by Clint-Hawkeye’s camaraderie with the geographically original Avengers, she's putting together a team to try to keep her adopted home region safe. Thompson’s first issue is packed to the land shark’s gills with action, comedy and big arrow-pierced heart too; it was everything I'd hoped for and a quiverful more. Stefano Caselli’s art is a total treat too, tackling dynamic Hawkeye fighting action and a brilliant range of Kate’s facial expressions, from disgust to ecstasy and all points between, with equal confidence. Between them, they've pulled off that most elusive of achievements: introducing a new team, keeping the action lively and keeping a smile on my face, all the while engaging me in the emotional challenges that beset the story’s hero - I absolutely can't wait for the next episode. 10/10

Matt C: Following on from a stellar run on Hawkeye, Kelly Thompson bolsters her cast, turning a tale of archers into a delightfully witty team book with the kind of energy and attitude that puts some of the stuffier supergroups to shame. The writer does the ‘audition sequence’ thing – hilariously – to build a roster of mismatched heroes who can take up the crimefighting slack on the West Coast, with superfolks still showing an overwhelming preference for New York City. Watching the likes of Quentin Quire and Gwenpool verbally bouncing off each other proves to be enormously entertaining; Kate Bishop attempts to hold things together while Clint Barton seems to want to sit back and enjoy the ride. The action sequences are slick and vibrant, Stefano Caselli infusing them with dynamism while Triona Farrel blasts out the colour. If you loved Thompson’s Hawkeye, you’re going to love this, but if you missed out on that, it’s not too late to start here. 8/10

COLD SPOTS #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Mark Torres
Image $3.99

James R: Cold Spots was my gamble of the week - Cullen Bunn hasn't ever really grabbed me with with either his creator-owned or Marvel work, and artist Mark Torres was an unknown quantity to me. There was something about the pitch and the look of Cold Spots that appealed though, and I'm pleased I gave it a chance. I love the classic detective set-up of a character being given an assignment by a mysterious figure, and Bunn plays this one to perfection We're introduced to Kerr, employed by the wealthy Mr Warren to track down his missing daughter and granddaughter, and the trail leads to an island whose ingabitants have cut themselves off from visitors from the mainland. Horror is always tough to do in comics, but by leaning more on the mystery side of the plot, Bunn reels the reader in very well. Torres' art is moody and atmospheric, suiting the eerie plot perfectly. I found myself happily caught up in Cold Spots - I will return for issue #2 to see if the freeze continues. 7/10

Jo S: Cullen Bunn continues his campaign to dominate the world of fear, at least in comic book form, with his newest offering taking on a chilly netherworld mystery theme. Spare in explanation, this first episode plays a clever trick in introducing story concepts from just out of one’s field of vision - strange entities heralded by a sudden drop in temperature, lost people trying to find a connection, others searching without knowing truly what they are seeking. Bunn does a neat job of getting me intrigued - it's a good sign when I reach the final page and it seems too soon and I want to dive straight into the next. Torres’ art is a welcome addition to the mysterious air: although I admit I didn't engage immediately with his slightly indistinct faces, his obscure rendering of the entities in question gave me tingles. The way he visualised the sudden frostiness of breath right before a ‘sighting’ was neat and gave credibility to the temperature drop phenomenon, something quite hard to render in visual form without being heavy-handed; his misty, atmospheric colours working perfectly with the story, forcing the reader to peer through haze to try to discern the details. A most intriguing start and definitely one for my future list. 8/10

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #4
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: There's something delicious about a well-executed reveal in any medium, the moment that the reader or viewer is given a payoff for their investment in a tale and Black Hammer gives us a beautiful one this week, with the whole issue acting as build-up to the reveal of the mystery behind Rockwood. Obviously I don't want to spoil anything, so I shall forego saying anything else concerning the plot, but suffice to say Jeff Lemire's script employs a classic SF trope, whilst leaving us with still more questions to be answered. As always, Dean Ormston's art is brilliant - in this issue, there's a close focus on the emotional reactions of the protagonists, and he captures those feelings perfectly. This book is being pushed pretty hard by Mister Miracle to be my favourite current book, but there's so much to enjoy about Black Hammer - it's still the champion in my eyes. 9/10

ROYAL CITY #14
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $3.99

Matt C: Finishing earlier than Lemire originally planned, the finale of Royal City still packs a significant emotional wallop as the Pike family unite to face those feelings they’ve let fester for too long. Past traumas shape your future, but without addressing and acknowledging their long term affects, moving forward in a meaningful way becomes an impossibility. We all know this deep down but the obviousness doesn’t make it unavoidable when it becomes our reality, and it's a theme that has been very powerfully conveyed in this series. There has been an otherworldly tinge running through the narrative but at its core it’s been about real emotional truth, the connections we make with each other, our fallibilities and failures, our overwhelming capacity for love, and our ability to survive the worst life can throw at us and still carry on in some fashion or another. A brief but beautiful visit to a place where we can see the reflection of our own humanity and come away with perhaps a little more understanding of what makes us tick. 9/10

James R: Sooner than first expected, the saga of the Pike Family and Royal City draws to a close this week. In the back of this issue, Jeff Lemire writes an honest and insightful letter explaining why he's finishing the series now, and naturally it's a decision I wholly support (any creator has the right to end a story on their own terms) but at the same time, I can't help but feel sad. Given how deftly Lemire established the Pike family dynamics, a couple of the plots felt that they were resolved before they'd had time to blossom, and the supernatural forces at work in Royal City will remain mysterious. In some ways, that's good - not every plot needs to be explained, and some things are best left mysterious, but for me , I would have liked to see another ten issues. As it is, I'm excited about all the projects Lemire currently has underway, and those due to arrive in 2019. It's a bittersweet farewell - thanks for a great run, Mr Lemire. 8/10

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