September 26, 2014

The Pull List: 24 September 2014

Another week, another Boom Studios miniseries. They are launching these out with such rapidity at the moment that it's hard to decide which ones to pick up and try. This one is via the Archaia subprint, which means beautiful production values and a cardstock cover - the sorts of things that make a comic book appear high quality even before you've read a single page.

Inside it tells the story of a US spy burned by her masters and on the run from the Russian mafia. Obviously there's a bit more to the plot than that, but why spoil a 20 page comic in a three paragraph review? If you've read an espionage genre comic book in the last five years, then you will probably know exactly what to expect from this comic.

The book is written by Margueritte Bennett based on a story by Arash Amel. To be honest it doesn't tell me a story I haven't already seen many times before, and while Antonio Fuso's artwork is very impressive it all adds up to read like an issue of Edmondson and Noto's Black Widow. Is that a fault of this book? Absolutely not, but it does make me wonder how successfully it will find its niche. It's a reasonably strong book, just an unnecessary one. Hopefully issues two through four will expand the story into fresh directions. (3/5)

Archaia/Boom Studios. Story by Arash Amel. Written by Margueritte Bennett. Art by Antonio Fuso.

Under the cut: reviews of Aliens, Aquaman and the Others, Batman Eternal, The Flash, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Lumberjanes, The Massive, Saga and Umbral.

Aliens: Fire and Stone #1
Dark Horse. Written by Chris Roberson. Art by Patric Reynolds.
One of the things I like the most about this kind of spin-off fiction is where a writer can come in, see a previously unconsidered gap in a narrative, and smoothly shoe-horn in an entirely new story where one never used to exist. Chris Roberson manages that very effectively here by asking 'what if a ship got off the terraforming colony on LV-426 before the marines arrived?' His answer is satisfying without being outrageously inventive, but this is early days and I'm certainly keen to see how the story plays out over the next three issues. The setting also makes it abundantly clear why this is an Aliens book and not an Alien book. It ties in very subtly to Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1, released two weeks ago. Patric Reynolds' artwork is appealing and matches some of the earlier artwork produced for Dark Horse's Aliens books back in the day. (3/5)

Aquaman and the Others: Futures End #1
DC Comics. Written by Dan Jurgens. Art by Sean Chen and Mark Irwin.
Someone needs to remind me: did Dan Jurgens used to be a half-decent comic book writer, or am I just remembering the 1990s too fondly? This is a dreadful comic book, full of sound and fury and all manner of characters you won't care about shouting at each other and having fistfights. Jurgens has taken a lot of elements from the last three years of Aquaman and jumbled them all into some sort of nonsensical greatest hits package. It's tedious, confused and utterly boring. I genuinely regret buying the comic book, and it's pushed me over the edge to not buy Aquaman and the Others #6 next week. I applaud DC for trying a team book with new characters, but to be honest they're not very interesting characters, and in Jurgens they've found a writer who seems to be actively making the book worse. (1/5)

Batman Eternal #25
DC Comics. Written by Snyder, Tynion, Fawkes, Seeley and Higgins. Art by R.M. Guera.
Harper Row continues her superhero training under Red Robin's guidance. Jason Bard convinces the mayor to declare martial law. Batman confronts Hush. Riots break out across the city. This is, Hush notwithstanding, a very strong, dramatic issue that really efficiently demonstrates how Gotham City is sliding off the rails as an evil mastermind's plan is slowly enacted. This issue seems to want us to think it's Hush - given how much longer the series has to go I imagine someone else is actually pulling the strings. With the wavering quality week-on-week I'm still very unsure about this series, but for now it's entertaining me. R.M. Guera's art is slightly odd and uneven, but rather engaging. (3/5)

The Flash: Futures End #1
DC Comics.
I am growing so tired of this "future Flash travels back in time" build-up that has dominated The Flash since Venditti and Jensen took over. It was intriguing at first, but now it's just tiresome in the extreme. It looks as if the next issue may finally allow the plot to reach a read, but I'm so disengaged by it that whatever happens it's a litle too late. My patience only stretches so far. Credit to the writers for tying their issue into Futures End and continuing the regular plot at the same time, but really there's not much here to recommend too heavily. To be honest I've been underwhelmed with Futures End overall, and that was going in with pretty low expectations. It's as if everything got caught between two stools: on the one hand, no one seriously sees this as the genuine future of the DC characters, and on the other hand no writer seemed to take the possibilities with both hands and tell something really imaginative. I really hope DC give their September "special issue" schtick a miss in 2015, otherwise I'll forced to skip it myself. (2/5)

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #17
DC Comics. Written by Dan Abnett. Art by Pop Mahn.
He-Man's dead, which is a pretty bold way to start an issue. Here we focus on a mournful, deeply guilty She-Ra as she races against the clock to atone for her terrible crime. I'm really liking this current story arc, which is giving me exactly what I want from a He-Man comic: plenty of nostalgia, old characters cropping up, and a fairly imaginative and bold new backstory to tie it all together. It's not high art, and it's not the best comic you're ever going to read in a particular week, but if - like me - you obsessively played with the toys and watched the cartoon when you were a 1980s child, then this book's probably going to entertain you. (3/5)

Lumberjanes #6
Boom Studios. Written by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson. Art by Brooke Allen.
How long is it going to be before this fabulous all-ages comic is turned into a TV cartoon? It feels like a brilliant comic book spin-off of one already: it has the fast pace, the colourful art, likeable characters and an overwhelming sense of whimsy. This issue sees a game of Capture the Flag turn supernatural, because- well, because it's Lumberjanes and weird things happen to these girls all the time. This is one of those magical crossover books: it may be aimed primarily at kids, but adults will have a field day. I also love the cut-out-and-keep mix CD covers included at the end of every issue. (4/5)

The Massive #27
Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Garry Brown.
So after more than two years and over 500 pages of story, The Massive finally encounters the titular long-missing ship. It's an astounding moment, because the length of the build-up has allowed Brian Wood to really earn it. What Callum Israel's crew find inside genuinely threw me - it's nice to be blindsided by a comic book like this, and what's more the answer to the comic's biggest, longest-running question immediately led to the asking of several others. I have no idea how this comic is going to end, and that is absolutely thrilling. Garry Brown's art is great - he's moving over to Catwoman soon, and that's going to be a great selling point for that title as far as I'm concerned. (5/5)

Umbral #9
Image. Written by Antony Johnston. Art by Christopher Mitten.
Rascal's escape from the Umbral takes an interesting turn this issue, because she keeps meeting them in her dreams - and what they're telling her is either an uncomfortable truth or a very convincing lie. Either way it's getting complicated. This comic is bolstered every month by Christopher Mitten's distinctive artwork, which really add to the grim, creepy atmosphere. My only real criticism is that the plot feels as if it has really slowed down in this second arc. I keep hoping the pace will pick up a little, because despite it's numerous strengths it is beginning to lose momentum. (4/5)

Winner of the Week: The Massive; better than all the others.
Loser of the Week: Aquaman and the Others; not massive.

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