1 May 2016

Mini Reviews 01/05/2016

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.

BATMAN #51
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki & FCO Plascencia
DC $3.99

James R: For reasons that I won't bore you with now, last week I was going through my longboxes and I found my issues of Snyder and Capullo's run on Batman. It occurred to me that I hadn't read the initial instalments since their release in - unbelievably - 2011. I decided it was high time to take a look at those early issues and what struck me is how well they stand up. Back when they were first released, I think there was an expectation that the team of Snyder and Capullo would create a great Batman comic, and delivering on those expectations became the norm for the series. Snyder has always had a rich understanding of Batman and Bruce Wayne's world, and with the book shot through with his horror-influenced aesthetic, perfectly captured by Capullo's art, this has been the one New 52 title that's been an unqualified success. Reading this then, their final issue together, it's of course a little bittersweet, but it's a magnificent payoff for those of us who were on board from the start. This final chapter works as a mirror to the first. In the debut issue, the story began with reflections on the Gotham Gazette's 'Gotham Is' feature. Snyder returns to it here, and has Batman cross paths with a character who only appeared for four pages in issue #3, deftly illustrating the influence that Batman has on his city. As it has been for every issue, that art of Greg Capullo has been a perfect fit for Batman and leaving him with great new Batsuit is a nice send-off. It's an issue that can be read on its own but it is also a superb epilogue to a five-year run. Thanks gentlemen - you gave us the Batman we needed, and more than the one we deserved. 9/10

FOUR EYES : HEARTS OF FIRE #4
Writer: Joe Kelly
Art: Max Fiumara
Image $2.99

Stewart R: And just like that another Four Eyes volume has come and gone and, my goodness, Joe Kelly has put us through the wringer once again! Enrico's journey to this point has been an incredibly turbulent one and as time goes on, the wake of his adventures can clearly be seen to be affecting the adults around him. In this finale we at last get to see the titular dragon in a lethal action as Four Eyes and Enrico are put into a perilous position and their bond is put to a brutal test. What really sets this apart from other stories of young protagonists growing up is that Kelly surrounds his lead in the darkest of emotional storms with every glimpse of sunlight and hope swiftly engulfed by further trauma or punishment. As a reader it draws you in deeply as you wait for those rare glimpses to surface and flick pensively from panel to panel to see when it might be snuffed out once more. Compelling and, quite honestly, essential reading. 9/10

DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #4
Writer: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Art: Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson & Brad Anderson
DC $5.99

Matt C: The fourth instalment of this miniseries suffers from a noticeable dip in quality and some questions about the motivations of the characters. It’s becoming a little less clear why certain members of the cast are doing the things they’re doing (or, in some cases, not doing things they should be doing) and it’s almost as if some of them act in a way that suits the narrative rather than their behaviour coming through organically or believably. The art remains of the highest quality but unless there’s more of an effort to recapture some cohesiveness in the plotting then the series is in danger of squandering its early promise. 6/10

INJECTION #9
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
Image $2.99

James R: I shouldn't even be surprised by this point - another week, another great Warren Ellis book. Following on from Karnak last week, we now get the latest chapter of Injection. As with his other current Image series, Trees, this title has slowly tied together seemingly disparate threads, and as the narrative is revealed, it's a fascinating read. The Planetary-esque team from CCCU begin to see the scheme that their artificial intelligence creation is constructing around the globe. As always with Ellis, it's a heady brew of fringe science, acidic put-downs and high intrigue, and it's never anything less than a read that holds my attention fast. I really like Declan Shalvey's work but it's taken to another level by the colours of Jordie Bellaire. From the earthy tones of an abandoned building, to the rich atmospheric background of New York at dusk - Bellaire makes this book look beautiful. I know Ellis can be a little too formulaic for some, but for me he continues to be a creator of equal parts wild ideas and arch humour. As with Trees, I hope this project runs and runs - it's a welcome injection to the synapses. 8/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #7
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo & Various
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Marvel seem to be quite keen to expand this ‘Last Days Of Magic’ storyline out into a number of other titles and if I truly believed they’d be as good as this book I’d probably lap them all up. But I’ve been around a while now, I know how these things work, and I’m confident in my decision to stick solely with Doctor Strange to avoid any peripheral storylines diluting the main narrative. It remains one of Marvel’s premier books thanks to Aaron’s steady hand with the plotting and some delicious illustrations from Bachalo (although it’s never quite clear exactly why he needs so many inkers in tow!). In fact, Bachalo’s probably the star of the show here thanks to his judicious use of colouring, with black and white images being amplified in their power through splashes of minimalist colour. Excellent work all round. 8/10

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