23 Feb 2017

Cover To Cover: ROYAL CITY #1 (Advance Review)

ROYAL CITY #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $4.99

James R:  I have said it before but it bears repeating: following the ascent of Jeff Lemire over the last decade has been one of the absolute joys of reading comics. Anyone who picked up Sweet Tooth #1 as I did back in 2009 would have been struck by Lemire's singular talent and worldview - he is a master of taking an extraordinary situation and imbuing it with almost tangible human emotion. His characters are always fully formed, often haunted individuals who seek to come to terms with - or make amends for - lives touched by trauma and loss. The settings for his comics may be far-fetched, but the feelings expressed within are always familiar.

The idea of the lost soul is one that permeates through much of his output. In aforementioned Sweet Tooth, Essex County, The Underwater Welder, Descender, Black Hammer, and even his early work, the bruising Lost Dogs, the sense of loss is evident. Reading the first issue of Royal City it's clear that the theme has returned again, but this time it's richer and more involving than before. I have no doubt that this is going to be another masterpiece from Lemire, and without spoiling anything, allow me to tell you why.

The plot of Royal City revolves around one family, the Pikes. It begins with the patriarch, Peter, suffering a near-fatal heart attack, which serves to draw all the disparate stands of the family together. A lot of the promotional text for Royal City has focused on Patrick Pike, the now-fading literary star drawn back to his home town following the news of his ailing father. It's clear that Patrick will be front and centre in the book (and this is interesting, seeing as Lemire has described him as an alternative analogue of himself - one who made poorer decisions) but the whole Pike family share the spotlight in this issue, and each member is entwined with the fortunes of the city that acts as the book's backdrop. The potential for this story is huge, and after a single chapter it's totally beguiling.

The other revelation from the book relates to the youngest Pike sibling, Tommy. I don't want to give away a thing here, but suffice to say Lemire uses Tommy to incredible effect in these pages, showing that he is fulcrum around which the plot will turn. It's a move of such confidence and intelligence that I immediately found myself re-reading the issue - and long-time readers of the PCG will know that's always been my gold standard of a great comic.

Once again, Lemire has put together a first issue that simply demands that you read on. Sweet Tooth, Black Hammer and Descender all did this too; we are given an hugely effective introduction to this world and then left with a cliffhanger which promises much (which is something Lemire always delivers on). Reading this, I felt I was looking at the work of a man at the very top of his game. His art just seems to get better and better; as A.D.: After Death recently showed, his images fall wonderfully between reality and dream. The themes, the perfectly-paced plot, and the distinctive art are in perfect sync here; if you read and enjoyed Essex County, Sweet Tooth or The Underwater Welder, you'll be instantly drawn into Royal City, and be excited to see where this story is going to go and just what secrets the town has buried beneath it.

The other reason why I think this debut issue is a must-read is that there's nothing else like it out there. There are indie books which deal with people's day-to-day lives, Harvey Pekar-style, but there are none which have the compelling air of the supernatural about them. Reading Royal City feels like you're experiencing an entirely new genre, and in the post-modern 21st century (and the constantly revisionist world of comics) it's a mighty feat and deserves to succeed. I was in no doubt that I'd enjoy Royal City being a Jeff Lemire fan, but after one issue, I had no idea just how much I'd love it. It sets the bar incredibly high for new series in 2017 - I will be amazed if anything surpasses it. A masterful debut issue, Royal City should be a permanent fixture on your pull-lists from March. 10/10

21 Feb 2017

On The Pull 22/02/2017

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week.

Matt C: If you been following us for long enough then no doubt you'll know that Greg Rucka's Lazarus is a series we consider to be amongst the best the comics medium can offer, ergo anything Rucka turns his hand to is an absolute must-buy. And so we come to The Old Guard, Rucka's new series for Image that looks at a group of immortal soldiers who now have to deal with the 21st century where secrets are much harder to keep. I'm still awaiting the return of Rucka's other Image series, Black Magick, but in the meantime I'm pretty confident The Old Guard will deliver the goods. The writer also has Wonder Woman #17 on the shelves this Wednesday, but as is often the case it's a combination of Image and Marvel taking up the majority of my pull-list, with the consistently excellent Descender and a sophomore issue of The Fix that hopefully delivers on the promise of the first arriving from Image, while Marvel has another chapter of the surprisingly great Captain America: Steve Rogers arriving alongside Jeff Lemire (also writer of Descender, of course) moving things forward in Thanos #4 with Mike Deodato providing some reliably stellar visuals once again.

19 Feb 2017

Mini Reviews 19/02/2017

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.

This week we welcome Jo S to the PCG gang...

BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1
Writers: Marguerite Bennet & James Tynion IV
Art: Steve Epting & Jeromy Cox
DC $2.99

Matt C: When Batwoman was reintroduced to the DC Universe, writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III had such a personal take on the character, and were so instrumental in establishing her new identity, that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else bringing the same kind of depth and intensity to the table. Whether Bennet, Tynion IV and Epting are the team to take the baton based on this issue alone remains unclear, but it’s certainly a promising opening. It’s hard to get a bead on things due to there being lot of hopping back and forth between time periods, meaning there isn’t a chance to dive completely in and get a sense of whether they’ve got the right take on the character, but what is here suggests an understanding of what makes Kate Kane unique, and that bodes well for things to come. Epting obviously brings a touch of class to the proceedings along with a sense of atmosphere and adventure and while I’m slightly dubious about how the ending positions things, there’s plenty here to convince me to stick around to see where this all goes. 7/10

14 Feb 2017

On The Pull 15/02/2017

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week.

Matt C: There's one release that overshadows all the others this week, and it's kind of a big deal. After DC's misguided decision to absorb the Wildstorm Universe into the main DC Universe when they launched the New 52 was met with minimal interest, they appear to have realised that these characters work far better in their own, separate environment. Enter Warren Ellis then man who, with titles like The Authority and Planetary, reshaped the Wildstorm Universe at the turn of the century into something progressive, inventive and incredibly influential on pretty much any and all superhero comics that followed. Ellis can still pull it out of the bag when he needs to but my worry about his appointment as writer on The Wild Storm largely stems from his involvement in Marvel's newuniversal relaunch which sputtered out and was never completed. I have no illusions about Ellis being around for the long term, so long as he leaves the property in a good place for someone else to carry forward when he departs. DC has another new title of interest this Wednesday in the shape of Batwoman: Rebirth #1. Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III produced some marvellously creative comics with this character several years ago and there investment in the project helped it become essential. I'm not yet convinced that the team of James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett and Steve Epting can reach the same heights, but I'm more prepared to approach this new series with an open mind. If these books disappoint then I know I can turn to Image and Marvel for, amongst other titles, new instalments for both Kill Or Be Killed and Old Man Logan, two of the best series currently being published.

12 Feb 2017

Mini Reviews 12/02/2017

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.

KINGPIN #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Art: Ben Torres & Jordan Boyd
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, is an endlessly fascinating character, a crime lord with depth and complexity, and over the years, as various writers have fleshed him out and added layers to his backstory, he’s become increasingly more compelling. There’s certainly potential to give Fisk his turn in the spotlight, and Rosenberg provides a fairly nuanced approach, bolstered by some dynamic, imposing artwork that establishes the edgy tone nicely. The problem with the way the narrative unfolds is that it seems to veer a little too closely to Fisk’s arc in the first season of the Daredevil TV series. It’s not a carbon copy by any stretch of the imagination, but there are certain story beats that feel familiar, and the absence of a definable spark of originality lessens its impact. Superior to last week’s debut chapter of Bullseye, but it will still have its work cut out to establish its own identity. 7/10

11 Feb 2017

Screen Time: LEGION: Episode 1, Season 1: 'Chapter 1'

Screen Time: LEGION: Episode 1, Season 1: 'Chapter 1'
Cast: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubery Plaza, Bill Irwin, Jean Smart
Directors: Noah Hawley

Matt C: On paper, this seemed like an unlikely project. A minor X-Men character introduced during Chris Claremont's initial run on the New Mutants comic book series, one that was eventually revealed to be the illegitimate son of Charles Xavier, becomes the star of his own television show on FX, home of Sons Of Anarchy, The Americans and Fargo. Fargo is the key series to note here because at the helm of this new show is the brains behind what many initially dismissed as a pointless spin-off from an acclaimed movie only for it to turn out to be arguably the most ingenious and compelling new series in the last few years. With Legion, Fargo maestro Noah Hawley has taken a vastly familiar concept and spun it into something that becomes immediately compulsive and disarming viewing, a show that has its roots in superhero drama but feels quite unlike any visual interpretation of one of Marvel's premier cashcows that we've seen before.

10 Feb 2017

Ten Forward: April 2017

Every month we spend an evening scouring the pages of the latest issue of Previews and pick the ten titles we are looking forward to the most. This month it's the February issue which includes comics scheduled to ship in April 2017.

ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT #1
Writer: James Stokoe
Art: James Stokoe
Dark Horse $3.99

Stewart R: If James Stokoe draws it, I am pretty much guaranteed to buy it. There are many artists out there today who get my attention when a new release arrives on the shelves with their stunning illustration lighting up the inside, but Stokoe sits at the very top of the list thanks to his unique, detailed style and the fact that he also tends to write the stories which he is depicting upon the page. Now he's getting his hands on an Aliens project. In fan-space, everyone hear me scream!! Aliens: Dead Orbit will follow the fraught situation of an engineering officer stuck on a crippled space station, being hunted by one of the most dangerous beings in the galaxy. I'm expecting high tension and a claustrophobic feel to what I'm sure will be an essential xenomorph read.

7 Feb 2017

On The Pull 08/02/2017

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week.

Andy H: One of those quieter pull-lists this week but still plenty of good stuff to keep me happy. All-Star Batman #7 brings another great artistic talent to its pages as Tula Lotay illustrates a Poison Ivy tale. Quite liking the idea of a different artist per character as Scott Snyder steers us through Batman's 'rogues gallery'. 'Rebirth' has been up and running at DC a while now and it hasn't finished knocking out new titles yet. This week we add Justice League Of America: Rebirth #1 to the list. Carrying on from the recent six-part Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad miniseries, Batman assembles a new team made up of Black Canary, Killer Frost, the Ray, Vixen, the Atom, and Lobo. Some great characters (used to love the Ray!) that probably wouldn't make it in solo books but together they could be a great team. So glad DC got rid of the awful New 52 version of Lobo and have gone back to a much more familiar 'Main Man'. 'Rebirth' has been hard work with it's twice-a-month shipping schedule but one of the things I have liked is it's pretty easy to find jumping on points. Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps #14 is one of those points. Good to see Kyle Rayner still active in the GL universe, even if he is the White Lantern now, as he teams up with Hal in part one of 'Quest for the Blue Lantern'. I will pick up the first issue of Kingpin from Marvel, in part due to the art of Ben Torres. It has a noirish quality similar in style to Eduardo Risso. Not sure if it has the chops to be an ongoing series but I'll see the first arc through. It's the penultimate issue of Unworthy Thor and I'm still being blown away by the awesome work of Jason Aaron and Olivier Coipel on this title. It's been said many times but Aaron is producing some of the best, most diverse work in comics at this moment in time.

5 Feb 2017

Mini Reviews 05/02/2017

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.

BULLSEYE #1
Writers: Ed Brisson & Marv Wolfman
Art: Guillermo Sanna, Miroslav Mrva, Alec Morgan & Frank Martin
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: A disappointingly generic stab at bringing one of Daredevil’s premier villains to centre stage that squanders any potential for fleshing him out in a tale that relies on hackneyed gangster tropes and an utterly ludicrous bodycount to carry it along. It seems to be positioning itself as some sort of black comedy but it never quite gets the balance right in the way that, say, Garth Ennis’ Punisher did. It’s a shame but the level of violence without consequence is numbing rather than ‘funny’ and while the Marv Wolfman back-up tale is slightly better it doesn’t justify the inflated price-tag or the possibility of four more issues of the same. 4/10

31 Jan 2017

On The Pull 01/02/2017

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week.

Matt C: We enter the second month of the year and looking at my pull-list for this Wednesday I feel I can say 'Make Mine Marvel' again as the House of Ideas take up the bulk of it. Jeff Lemire is, in my humble opinion, the best writer working at the publisher right now, which means both Old Man Logan #17 and Moon Knight #11 will be on the top of my reading pile this week. Both completely different but bother utterly compelling, proving that Lemire is equally at home weaving stories of high profile characters as he is working on his own creations over at Image and Dark Horse. Marvel also have the opening chapter of a new miniseries that looks promising, with Bullseye #1 giving one of the Man Without Fear's most persistent enemies a chance to take the spotlight. Writer Ed Brisson is another indie guy I'm hoping has the chops to succeed in the mainstream. Rounding things off is Hawkeye #3, with Kate Bishop as the lead, and it's a title that's proving to be every bit as good as the recent volumes. Over at Image the ever-excellent Deadly Class leads the pack with its 26th issue, a title that continues to surprise by never playing into expectations.