15 Nov 2015

Mini Reviews 15/11/2015

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.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guéra & Giulia Brusco
Image $3.99

Matt C: The creators behind what was arguably one of the very best comic books series of the 21st century so far (although ‘unarguably’ is probably more accurate), Scalped, now turn their attention to the early  Biblical period before the Flood, where mankind has given themselves over completely to sin in the most degenerate and barbaric fashion. The magnificently intense creative synergy between Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra is still present and correct and together they establish a profane, enthralling take on a society heading towards an apocalypse. To go into more detail would likely spoil the surprises in store but suffice to say this is not only another win for Image but also another example of why Aaron is in the midst of an unstoppably brilliant creative momentum right now. 9/10

James R: Regardless of your personal faith, you have to concede that, culturally, the tales of the Old Testament still resonate. In comics, Douglas Rushkoff drew parallels between the stories of the Torah and a possible near future in Testament, and in cinema, last year saw both Noah and Exodus hit the big screen. Given how faith is one of the definite hues in Jason Aaron's phenomenal Southern Bastards, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that this new series picks up the Old Testament stories and explodes them. The book is compellingly brutal, and R.M. Guéra excels in bringing the dirt and the violence alive. It felt like a Conan the Barbarian story on acid, and I mean that as a compliment! At the moment, it seems Jason Aaron can do no wrong, and alongside Southern Bastards and Doctor Strange, The Goddamned is another triumph - the man has a talent for making the bad very, very good. 8/10

Writer: Max Landis
Art: Nick Dragotta & Alex Guimaraes
DC $3.99

Billy P: We all know the story. Intimately, some might say. Despite complaints from those who may criticise revisiting Superman’s past yet again (and again, and again), origin stories remain the heartbeat of superhero comics. Superman may have had his origins told and retold more than any other character over the past thirty years or so (think of Byrne’s Man Of Steel, Geoff Johns’ Secret Origin, Mark Waid’s Birthright, and Grant Morrison’s Action Comics, not to mention audio-visual material such as TV’s Smallville and, of course, Zack Snyder’s awful Man Of Steel) but what Superman: American Alien demonstrates is that there is something quintessentially mythic about the ‘Last Son of Krypton,’ and that if done well – or, dare I say, ‘done right’ – the archetypal superhero shows no signs of spandex fatigue. After all, it is not for nothing that the character has been in continuous print for over seventy-five years, a monumental achievement in any media. Rather than starting from scratch on Krypton with - well, you all know the tale, well-worn as it is - Landis offers a snapshot of Clark’s formative years as he struggles to deal with his growing powers, a metaphor for the growing pains of puberty perhaps as Clark deals with profound physical and emotional changes (although during my pubescent years, the power of flight evaded me much to my chagrin). To be sure, focusing on Superman’s childhood hardly constitutes new ground either, but Landis deftly illustrates the sheer vulnerability of Clark Kent during this period, a portrait that is charming, engaging and emotionally resonant. Juxtaposed with Dragotta’s pencils and Guimares’ colours, Landis has crafted a wonderfully moving Superman story, one of the best since the New 52 relaunch. Simply put, this is an essential purchase for superhero comic readers and should be on your pull-list for the next seven months. 9/10

James R: Whilst considering this review, I realised it was getting perilously close to being a 'Cover To Cover' job, as once again, I felt I've got a lot to say about the most iconic of superheroes. As it is, I'll see how this series proceeds, and stick to the basics for this week. DC are definitely trying their damnedest to inject some life into Superman - with both Action and Superman titles playing with the status quo, this miniseries’ retelling the early years of the Man of Steel looks rich with promise. I like Max Landis' take on Clark Kent's realisation that he's just not like the others (in this issue Clark sees parallels between himself and E.T.) but it still felt a little lightweight. The other main thrust of the narrative sees Clark learning to fly, which was stretched out too far to really carry my interest. In terms of art, it looks brilliant - and I wouldn't expect anything else from the pen of East Of West maestro Nick Dragotta. Given that this mini is designed as series of vignettes from Superman's life, I'm definitely coming back to see what Landis highlights next, but as an individual issue, this was a nice distraction rather than an essential read. 7/10

Matt C: My first proper dip back into the waters of the DC Universe for a good long while turns out to be, thankfully, a pretty damn fine revisit to the Superman mythos, with screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra) taking us through those formative steps for Clark Kent as he discovers he can go up, up and away. In many respects it’s raking over old ground, but such is the resilient brilliance of the Man of Steel legend that it can sustain multiple interpretations and reinterpretations when placed in capable hands that understand not only the mythic nature of the character but also the relatable, human elements that make him so enduring. Seeing Nick Dragotta get a crack at the Last Son of Krypton is obviously a huge draw for this issue, and he does some superb work with not only the wide-eyed emotion but also the palpable exuberance of discovering you can fly. A very decent start to what will be the first DC book in several years to obtain a secure place on my pull-list. 8/10

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Andy Kubert &Sonia Oback
Marvel $4.99

Billy P: Who in their right mind would want to follow Jonathan Hickman’s epic Avengers run? Mark Waid, that’s who! To be frank, Waid is one of those writers that I simply trust. I’m not claiming that everything he does is of equal quality – I can take or leave his S.H.I.E.L.D, for example. But Daredevil? Kingdom Come? JLA: Year One? Waid’s pedigree is such that I would usually pick up a #1 of anything he writes regardless of property or publisher. And one look at Alex Ross’s cover for All-New All-Different Avengers #1 and I was excited. Iron Man, Hispanic Spider-Man, Pakistani Ms. Marvel, the Mighty Female Thor, Black Captain America, The Vision and, erm, Nova (?!). This is arguably the most diverse superhero team-up ever and it’s about time! Despite many complaints that superhero comics are inherently sexist and racist, people often exclude the good work that is being done, especially by Marvel. Not that there isn’t a long way to go, of course, but there have been significant improvements in the right direction in recent months. The issue itself is a decent beginning, but given my anticipation, I was expecting, well, more. Kubert is on top form in the main story, no doubt, and Waid brings his usual brand of optimism and fun; but for a #1, I wanted to be thrust into the ‘All-New’ and the ‘All-Different’ that the title promised. There’s some great repartee between Stark and Morales, a sure sign that we’re in good hands. I am certain that this run is going to be one to look forward to on a monthly basis, but this issue is really a first step towards a larger tale, and it may need three of four issues to begin building something worthwhile. It’s definitely on my pull-list, at least for now, and I imagine this will improve in leaps and bounds once the arc gets off the ground. But Nova? Really? 6/10

Writer: Mike Costa
Art: David Baldeon, Scott Hanna & Jason Keith
Marvel $4.99

Billy P: I know I may be in the minority, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘Spider-Verse' event series. Then again, I love chaotic romps through the multiverse and joining a fleet of alternate Spider-Men, Spider-Women, Spider-Girls - and, yes, Spider-Pigs (I couldn’t forget you Spider-Ham!) - across multiple books is one sure way that Marvel can command the contents of my wallet (let’s not talk about DC’s Convergence though). Of course, Secret Wars, Marvel’s other multiversal calamity, really should be complete by now considering we are entering the post-event continuity (shoddy, Marvel), but Web Warriors reads like a direct sequel to Spider-Verse as if Secret Wars matters not a jot (you read comics, right? Nothing will ever be the same, worlds will live and die, yadda, yadda, blah, blah). Not that this is a bad thing. I almost didn’t pick this up given the morass of Spider books on the release schedule, but I’m sure glad I did. Mike Costa nails the tone of Spider-Man despite the fact that the Earth-616 version is not featured here. Instead, Web Warriors focuses on a troop of Spider-Totems patrolling the multiverse to protect those realities affected by the events of Spider-Verse. The opening sequence on Earth-3015, the home of the classic animated series, is simply brilliant: ‘This place is awesome!’ shouts Spider-Ham. ‘Dude, I just shot you with my webline and it turned into a butterfly net.’ I had so much fun with this book, I actually read it twice off-the- bat. And while many have expressed disappointment with Dan Slott’s relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man, Web Warriors may just scratch that arachnid itch. For those of you who enjoy adventures across the multiverse, this is the brand of quantum pornography you’re looking for. Check it out, web-heads! 8/10

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Greg Hinkle
Image $2.99

James R: What an absolute gem Airboy turned out to be. Rightfully nominated for miniseries of the year in our 2015 Paradoscars (get voting!), Robinson and Hinkle's out-there ride comes to a close in grand fashion this week. Our two creators and protagonists find themselves in the middle of Airboy's battle with the Third Reich, whilst Robinson begins to put his life into perspective. We've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating - I can't recall a book where the author has eviscerated himself so utterly and effectively. Robinson berates his own career choices (the movie Comic Book Villains - which I had forgotten about entirely - and his work on the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen film) before coming to a wise conclusion about work and achievement. All whilst working with a hero who flies a plane with flapping wings. It's truly a remarkable read, and Robinson's meta-script is rendered magnificently by Hinkle. His colour choices alone have been a thing of beauty, and his representation of the 'Two Worlds' of the book has been brilliant. A tip of the hat too for Airboy's length too. It's often said in fiction that writing a short story is a difficult skill to master, and I think the same can be said in comics - the decision to make this book a miniseries means it's been a sharp piece of storytelling, and if you missed out on this series in individual issues, I implore you to look out for a collected edition. This truly has been one of the highs of 2015 in more ways than one. 9/10

Writer: James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder
Art: Tony S Daniel, Sandu Florea, Mark Morales & Tomeu Morey
DC $2.99

Billy P: Now this is the Batman book you should be picking up! Batman Eternal certainly had its moments but, with more troughs than peaks, may be described as a grand experiment in weekly publishing rather wholly successful. On the other hand, Batman And Robin Eternal is fantastic, made all the more so by its focus on a team of ex-Robins rather than solely on the Dark Knight himself. This certainly ties in with the continuity of the main Bat titles, especially Snyder and Capullo’s Batman, but the rich cast of former Robins - Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown, alongside ex-Batgirl Cassandra Cain and relative newcomer, Harley Row - reminds me of Batman, Inc (without the quirks and peculiarities of Morrison’s run). Batman And Robin Eternal #6 actually has more Bat for our buck as the story manoeuvres between past and present filtered through the memories of Dick Grayson who, in many ways, is the beating heart of the title. Each week when I collect my pull, I read all the issues from #1 and thoroughly enjoy the craft on display here, especially in terms of story. This is truly a detective tale as Grayson tries to unravel the mystery of ‘Mother’ by piecing together fragments of memory and following the trail set down by Batman prior to the events of ‘Endgame’ and Bruce’s resulting amnesia. Indeed, memory is a recurring concept of the book. And while I am usually frustrated by a shifting roster of artists, especially within the covers of a single issue, I find that this matters less here (although Daniels stands out from the pack). Another great issue and, surprisingly, the best Bat-book at present. Let’s hope that the series continues with such aplomb. 8/10

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