14 Feb 2016

Mini Reviews 14/02/2016

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.

BLACK SCIENCE #20
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.50

James R: It's been a while since I've given Black Science the regular respect it deserves and it was undoubtedly my book of the week. Even though Rick Remender's breathless script continues to deliver the goods (he is a master at tying relatable, personal struggles into huge, epic plot lines) it's Matteo Scalera's art that made the biggest impression on me this week. From the opening page - a startling close-up of Grant McKay's face - to the alien landscapes of the world his team first visited, this book is an absolute feast for the eyes. As with Sean Murphy on Remender's Tokyo Ghost, it's impossible to think of another artist illustrating this book, and they each elevate the respective narratives to a different level. We often talk about comics being like high-quality TV shows, but in the case of Black Science, it's a title that exists perfectly within its medium. This full-throttle ride shows no intention of slowing down after twenty issues and long may it last. 8/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #2
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Marcelo Maiolo
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Not as strong as the debut issue, but still a series that’s loaded with the promise of a slightly different take on the Ol’ Canucklehead. Here it’s the scenes set in the possible future that make most of the impact as there’s a palpable sense of pain and anguish that runs through them, and in a far more effective manner than Mark Millar ever achieved in his initial tale featuring this iteration of the character. The contemporary sequence, involving Logan’s dust up with the latest Hulk, isn’t quite so successful, mostly because it’s more of an early diversion from his quest and not so much of a step forward. Sorrentino’s art continues to possess a moody composure that serves to amplify the tonality of the script nicely. Not an outstanding sophomore effort but the cliffhanger suggests the next issue will be a doozy. 7/10

BATMAN #49
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Yanick Paquette & Nathan Fairbairn
DC $3.99

James R: I decided to take a punt on Batman again this week as firstly, I had a relatively small pull-list (Only picking up three other books? What's happening to me?!) and also because this issue had been teased as 'The Return of Bruce Wayne as Batman' (again). What can I tell you? I'm a sucker for a dramatic event. I'd stepped away from Batman as, despite being a huge fan of Scott Snyder, I felt 'Jim Gordon as Batman!' was an idea which, while it could be applauded as an attempt to shake up the status quo, seemed to be a stretch too far. Picking this up again, I was struck by two things - firstly, it's an highly enjoyable read and secondly, it's interesting to see Snyder turn in an issue that reminded me of Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman. Both of those esteemed authors have created tales that ask 'What does it mean to be Batman?' Those were almost metaphysical stories, as is this, with a narrative that shifts between the present and a possible future where there are an endless lineage of Bruce Waynes imprinted with Batman's memories to carry on the fight against injustice. It's an inspired idea, and one that gripped me throughout. It almost doesn't feel right without Greg Capullo's pencils, but Yanick Paquette's work is flawless. This will probably get rebooted or forgotten about when DC inflict 'Rebirth' on us, but it was a neat reminder that DC's big titles can still be a wellspring of ideas. 7/10

LOW #11
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Greg Tocchini & Dave McCaig
Image $3.99

Matt C: A welcome return after a short break for what is arguably Rick Remender’s most underrated series at the moment. While depression is recurring theme in his work (born out of his own personal experiences with the disease) Low perhaps tackles it more overtly - in a metaphorical sense - as periods of optimism are tempered by passages of despair, in the submerged world (in more ways than one) of the cast. Focusing on Stel’s (remaining) two children, both of whom carry their mental wounds differently, gives us a different perspective on this apocalyptic future, and Tocchini renders some of his most sublime imagery yet to create a sumptuously convincing world, familiar in some ways but utterly alien in others. While it may often be bleak, the key to Low’s success is the way it punctures the darkness with shots of bright, inspiring hope. 8/10

DESCENDER #10
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Image $2.99

James R: Still a beautiful book, and still impressing me with its world-building, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen's Descender continues to be a quality read. In this issue I was reminded of Lemire's Sweet Tooth in a lot of ways. Both series have the concept of the outsider (or the 'other') as their central conceit; the fear that humanity had towards the hybrids in Sweet Tooth is mirrored in the distrust humanity has towards robots here. What was fascinating this month is the introduction of the cyborg cult - humans who have chosen to be somewhere between machine and man. Last year, I tried a slew of SF-space titles (mainly Image books, unsurprisingly) and every one bar this failed to keep me on board for more than two issues. After #10, Descender is continuing to grow, whilst never straying too far from the emotional core that is Andy and Tim. It's an immensely confident book from Lemire and Nguyen, and I'm looking forward to seeing what further dark surprises this galaxy has in store. 8/10

THE AUTUMLANDS #9
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Benjamin Dewey & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

Matt C: How does that saying go about not meeting your heroes because they’re bound to disappoint? Dusty is learning that the ‘Great Champion’ of legend isn't quite who he was cracked up to be, not motivated by altruism and 'doing the right' thing but by reasons that are his own i.e. complicated and probably a tad selfish. There’s a theme that is becoming more apparent as this series progresses, one which looks at how the beliefs we grow up with often don’t quite hold true when reality shines a light on them, like discovering that those who live in ‘foreign’ parts don’t possess limited intelligence and barely any capacity for emotion, but are just as capable of creating a thriving community built on love and hope. A rewarding fantasy tale that is achieving greatness via some rich characterization and bright, emotive artwork. 8/10

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