Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Review Minis: Opening Volumes of Comic Series

Earlier in the year, I went through a bit of a binge of requesting books from my local library.  Volumes of comic books are pricey and I still don't feel as though I know enough about what I like and what I don't to be able to buy with confidence.  I'm starting to get a feel for what artistic styles I'm keen on and what I'm not and the types of story that I enjoy reading in comic book form and those I'd rather avoid.  Where £10 is a bit of a gamble, my library's 90 pence reservation fee is nothing of the sort.  My experiments have been a bit of a mixed bag...

The Wicked + The Divine: Volume 1 - The Faust Act by Kieron Gillon

This was...odd.  I can only imagine how confused my expression must have been the entire time that I was reading this.  I don't need things to be completely spelled out for me but I do need them to make at least some kind of sense.  Especially given that this volume is made up of the first five issues of the series.  If I'd been buying them as they were coming out, I would never have made it to volume five.  It's a shame because the concept sounded right up my street - twelve gods become incarnate every ninety years and get to live as human for two years.  What's annoying is that that's pretty much all I still know.  Laura, a sort of fangirl to these gods-turned-modern-celebrities, stumbles into their company and for some reason they let her hang around despite professing to want to be discreet.  There are no hints at all about why exactly the gods might be reborn, why they're only allowed to live for two years, what on earth might happen after their two years is up or...well, just what the whole point of the story is, really.

To be fair, it wasn't all confusion and bafflement.  The colours are incredible, bright and vivid but without seeming childish.  The art is quirky but still clear.  The gods that are featured aren't just your usual Ancient Greek or Egyptian gods but also Shinto deities and Sumerian goddesses.  If you're into ancient civilisations and lesser known gods, there's plenty of diversity and enough to keep you distracted from the fact that nothing else really makes any sense.  And I suppose the other upshot to not having much of a clue to what was going on was that nothing was particularly predictable.  I couldn't have told you what had recently happened, never mind guess at what might be coming up.  I might pick up the next volume to see if there is a point but I'm not too bothered if I don't happen across it.

2.5 stars for some stunning art and perhaps a little too much originality for me

Rat Queens: Volume 1 - Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

The Rat Queens are described in the volume's blurb as "a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire...in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit", which sums them up far more neatly than I ever could. The first volume reminded me a lot of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, if slightly more sweary.  I think because the plot follows a group of misfits, a watch full of mysterious characters and a whole host of quirky races, all set in a world full of unusual creatures.  It has a sarcastic and dry sense of humour that suits me down to the ground.

While I was reading the issues, I really enjoyed them.  They're quite light and the dialogue is witty.  The kind of witty that actually prompted a couple of giggles too, rather than just a bit of a wry smile.  My only real problem is that for all of that, the volume was a little bit forgettable.  It was a series of amusing fights and parties, with only snippets of characters' backgrounds and hints at a bigger story arc.  I'll almost definitely pick up the next volume because it's just so damn readable but if you're looking for something that will really make an impact and have you gripped to the series, I'm not sure that this is that something.

3.5 stars for putting and keeping a smile on my face for a jolly afternoon or two 

Wytches: Volume 1 by Scott Snyder

For every moment in Rat Queens that made me laugh, there was one in this first volume of Wytches that terrified me.  I wasn't really sure what to expect from a comic in the horror genre but I don't think I was expecting it to be as scary as what I got.  Because man alive was this scary!  The art is horrifying; unbelievably dark and easily the stuff of nightmares.  The story (of child-eating wytches that haunt forests and lure 'marked ones' to their doom by twisting the minds of those in their communities) was scary enough by itself but the drawings and the colours made it something else entirely.  I won't pretend to know a lot about art but I really loved the use of colour slashing across the panels to create something truly, truly haunting. 

Aside from the fact that it was completely disturbing, the plot that follows a father trying to save his daughter across the six issues was well-paced and had just the right amount of twists and manages to tackle mental illness along the way. To be honest, if I wasn't such a great big wimp, I'd have rated this volume more highly.  It deserves four stars.  It sets out to scare and who am I to mark it down for doing its job too well?  In the end, rightly or wrongly, I've given it the rating that reflects my personal enjoyment.  If you're a horror fan, I really do recommend this series because it's just so twisted and clever.  Even I might pick up the next issue when it's released (to read during the day, obviously) just because I'm curious about where the story will go next.

3 stars for scaring my socks off and giving me art that made me think

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