27 Mar 2016

Mini Reviews 27/03/2016

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.

STAR WARS #17
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

James R: While running the risk of endlessly repeating myself, once again I have to say that the reason this title works so well is that it feels like Star Wars. Over the last few weeks I dug out Brian Wood's Dark Horse issues (the last time prior to Marvel's reclamation that I read a Star Wars title) and whereas it had a lot to commend it, it never quite captured the dynamic of the Original Trilogy. Jason Aaron does this with aplomb though - splitting the core characters up for two separate missions, and giving both a sense of danger and fun, this is what Star Wars is all about. Marvel's other masterstroke has been to use A-grade artists on every issue of the run, and whilst Yu is an acquired taste for some, I think he fits this story arc (and specifically the Leia/Rebel prison stuff) to perfection. When this title was first announced, I hoped it would be good, but I remained sceptical given past efforts - after 17 issues, that scepticism has entirely dissipated, and this book is firmly established as a highlight of my pull-list. 8/10

Matt C: I’m sticking with this because I love the franchise but I’m getting the feeling that the series has lost its spark. There’s nothing demonstrably wrong with it but that freewheeling vibe that existed earlier on seems to have disappeared. Perhaps there’s only so far you can go with these characters before you start getting boxed in with what you can and cannot do as everything that happens afterwards has always been set in stone? Whatever the reason, I haven’t abandoned hope as I continue to have absolute faith in Aaron, but Star Wars feels like it’s gone from ‘essential’ to ‘diverting’. 6/10

BATMAN #50
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo, Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn & Fco Plascencia
DC  $5.99

James R: Rather than a review of Snyder and Capullo's epic last issue of Batman, this is more a salute to their run. Whilst DC's New 52 largely became a misfire, a quick squint at the sales chart every month always confirmed that this was one book where DC certainly got it right. Part of that comes down to the popularity of the character, but it's fair to say that a good character in a bad book simply won't sell. Snyder and Capullo have always shown a great understanding of what it means to be Batman and infused the series with a horror aesthetic that suits the Dark Knight. The announcement of the new All-Star Batman title from Snyder and John Romita Jr is certainly great news - it feels like Snyder’s got lots more Gotham tales to tell. As for Capullo, it will be interesting to see what his next project with Mark Millar is like, but I'll also be looking forward to him renewing his partnership with Snyder. In a comics marketplace where the only constant is change, they've been both the dependable and the dynamic duo for DC. 8/10

BIRTHRIGHT #15
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Andrei Bressan & Adriano Lucas
Image $2.99

Matt C: A mainstay on my pull-list for over a year now and showing no signs of letting up on its unique blending of sword and sorcery staples with contemporary family dysfunction. The cards are pretty much all on the table at this stage – we’ve got a good gauge on the secret motivations of some of the main players – but that doesn’t mean that Williamson hasn’t got a few more surprises tucked up his sleeve. Which is not to say this series is all about wrongfooting its reader because, at its heart, it remains a tale about the resilience of family bonds in the face of adversity. Bressen is still a huge factor in selling the incongruity of the premise, bringing a full emotional range to the characters through the action and high fantasy that the story requires. A reliable and affecting tale of love, magic and violence. 8/10

SUPERMAN: LOIS & CLARK #6
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Lee Weeks, Scott Hanna & Jeromy Cox
DC $3.99

James R: It was thanks to my PCG colleagues Billy P and Ann L that I was persuaded to give Lois & Clark a try, and I'm damned pleased that I did. I love the notion of the pre-New 52 (a clunky phrase if ever there was one) Lois and Clark having to get by on a new Earth, and Superman having to be clandestine so as not to interfere with the life of this world's Kal-El is a great idea, one that feels rich with storytelling possibility. How does Superman, who has lived his life as a beacon of hope and virtue, get by when he can no longer do so? And how does Lois continue to write when her counterpart is also a successful journalist? The extra gravy here is that Lois and Clark are also struggling to be parents to young Jon Kent. It's interesting that the trope of 'Superman as father' is growing in prominence in comics - it's also one of the central plots in Azzarello and Miller's Dark Knight III. This issue isn't the strongest in the run, but Jurgens script moves the action along at pace, and Weeks, Hanna and Cox's art is always tidy. As with Batman, the DC Rebirth news has revealed a promising future for this iteration of the Kents - any old-school DC fanboys like me who have felt a little disconnected with the DCU of late could do far worse than pick this title up. Beyond reboots and resets, it remembers exactly what the 'S' stands for. 7/10

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