8 May 2016

Mini Reviews 08/05/2016

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.

Writer: Becky Cloonan
Art: Steve Dillon & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

James R: I really want to be able to like the Punisher. There is something inherently enjoyable about a vigilante who is willing to do absolutely anything in his pursuit of criminals, and to be both judge, jury and executioner. Despite this, the character has never quite clicked for me, until his onscreen iteration in the latest series of Daredevil turned out to be the highlight of the show. As a result, I thought I should give this new series a go, especially as it's now under the stewardship of Becky Cloonan. Sadly, I didn't see anything that made me want to come back for issue #2. It's almost Punisher-by-the-numbers - drug gang, the Feds one step behind, and Frank Castle killing hordes in some inventive ways. I'm also not a huge fan of Steve Dillon. I know this will be tantamount to blasphemy for some (especially fans of Preacher; my apologies) but in a medium that's all about aesthetic appreciation there's something about his style that just doesn't do it for me. If you're a fan of Frank Castle, this will be a treat, but for someone on the fence over Marvel's one-man death machine, there's nothing here that will make you change your opinion. 5/10

Matt C: Thanks to his searing appearance in the latest season of Netflix’s Daredevil, the Punisher is most definitely back in the spotlight again, so of course Marvel are going to relaunch a Punisher book for the umpteenth time. Putting Steve Dillon back on artistic duties is a smart movie, as through his work on the character on and off over the last decade and a half (most notably with Garth Ennis) he’s arguably become the quintessential Punisher illustrator of the modern age, and he certainly lives up to that tag here. Cloonan didn’t immediately seem like an obvious fit for Frank Castle’s ultraviolent antics, but she does a really great job of crafting a fine tale of the vigilante in action. Trouble is, if you’ve read enough Punisher comics (and enough in this case probably doesn’t need to be that many) then this doesn't offer much in the way that’s fresh and surprising (and why it’s isn’t a MAX book – if that’s still a thing – due to the number of asterisked out swear words is mystery). It’s a decent Punisher book, and will satiate many, but it’ll need to shift up a gear to really make its own mark. 7/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC/Vertigo $3.99

James R: Tension is something that's difficult to establish in comics. Because of the way that people engage with the medium, there's no set tempo, and as such setting up a scene of escalating peril is really tough. However, Tom King and Mitch Gerads manage it with consummate ease this week, delivering a scene which is easily one of the most horrifying and memorable of the year. A mysterious agent known only as 'Bob' arrives to take away Nassir following his murderous actions in the first issue. King's script is taught but Gerads' work is exceptional here - his art and panel construction pull the reader in, culminating in an event which we don't see, but one that resonates through the rest of the issue (and inevitably the rest of this masterful series). I'd be loving this book just as a modern noir set in a novel and fascinating location, but with every issue King and and Gerads are turning this into something truly remarkable. Sheriff Of Babylon is proof positive that we're living in age of superb crime comics - if you're a fan of Brubaker and Phillips, or Brian Azzarello, there's no excuse why you shouldn't have this great title on your pull-list. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Marvel/Icon $3.95

Matt C: Three years is just about the right amount time to kill momentum stone dead. The last issue of Scarlet appeared in 2013, and even before then it had started hitting delays. But it was still the best thing Bendis had put his name to in a long time. By far. And Maleev was knocking it out of the park too. Three years is a long time though, so does it still hold the same kind of power as before? Well, not quite, and that’s unavoidable considering the gap between issues, but it does make a noticeable impact because the premise of a burgeoning modern revolution is still strong, and it remains an engrossing read even while your memory tries to piece together what happened before. Hopefully this won’t drop off the radar again because, for Bendis at least, this is infinitely superior to everything else he’s currently churning out. 7/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Greg Smallwood & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

James R: I like to think that I can admit when I'm wrong - and in the case of Moon Knight, I was shockingly wrong! I was reticent to give this book a try, not because of the creative team (my love for Jeff Lemire's work has often been manifest here in the past) but it was more based on the fact that I have never, ever liked Moon Knight. Even as a naive lad, I thought he was a Batman knock-off, and as such I couldn't really see the appeal in new adventures of Marc Spector. The glowing reviews from Matt C and Stewart R made me reconsider though, and I'm very pleased that I did, as this is good comics. As Spector conspires to escape from the nightmarish asylum, we begin to see the larger plot outline - the Egyptian gods are revealed to be extra-dimensional entities who humans perceive as deities. Seth has managed to cross back into our dimension, and it's now Spector's job to stop him. Or is it? Lemire keeps us guessing with deft skill, establishing that this might be real, but yet this could all be part of Spector's fractured mind. The art from Greg Smallwood is utterly beautiful, conveying the physical world of the asylum and the dream-like transdimensional state with equal panache. It's always nice when a comic series provides an unexpected surprise, and in the case of Moon Knight, it's a dazzling one. 8/10

Matt C: When a writer, artist and colourist are working in tandem to an extent where it seems like they’re so in tune that they elevate each other’s work… that’s the feeling I get from this current volume of Moon Knight. The previous iteration, in the hands of Warren Ellis and Brian Wood, was excellent, but Lemire appears to be onto something even better here. The idea of establishing whether Marc Spector is a raving lunatic locked up in an asylum or whether he’s being stitched up via an elaborate plot by other-dimensional gods is immensely fun, and even though we know what’s going to turn out to be the actual scenario, Lemire dies a fantastic job of keeping the reader on their toes. Smallwood seems to get better and better as he goes along, and consequently this could be his best work so far, ably coloured by the redoubtable Bellaire. Marvel are onto another winner here. 9/10

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