6 Jun 2016

Mini Reviews 05/06/2016

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: REBIRTH #1
Writer: Scott Snyder & Tom King
Art: Mikel Janin & June Chung
DC $2.99

James R: After what seems like an age of waiting, Tom King has arrived in Gotham! The breakout talent of 2016 takes over the reins from Scott Snyder in an issue co-written by the two men, and it's...okay. I think it is safe to say that King's influence will be felt more keenly when he's the sole writer as this is a by-the-numbers Batman tale. It's very much a 'state of play' issue, as Batman seeks to take down a rapidly-regenerating Calendar Man with the help of a new sidekick. It looks very nice, with Janin and Chung giving the book a very cinematic feel. I can't see that this book would entice any readers back to the Bat-books, but at the same time, there's certainly great promise in these pages  for both King's Batman and Snyder's All-Star Batman. Not the most memorable rebirth of the year, but it does enough to keep me on board for the aforementioned titles. 7/10

Matt C: It’s been a few years since I picked up a Bat-book but Tom King’s name has lured me back in the hope that the Dark Knight can take a place on my pull-list again (as he did for many years).  This is a prologue-of sorts for both King’s Batman and Snyder’s All-Star Batman and although it doesn’t exactly set the world on fire it does a reasonable job of establishing the new status quo and puts enough elements in place to make both titles worth pursuing.  The polished art from Janin and Chung is probably the most persuasive part of this issue and while a stronger opener would have been preferable, it’ll do for now. 7/10

SUPERMAN: REBIRTH #1
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Art: Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza & Wil Quintana
DC $2.99

Stewart R: So I've bought a Superman comic for the first time since Scott Snyder failed to hook me in with Superman Unchained back in 2013 and that was after the New 52 relaunch fizzled with me as far as the reinvented Last Son of Krypton was concerned. To be honest, without the change up that Rebirth promises, the creative duo of Tomasi and Gleason would have brought me here anyway. As it stands, this is an easily recognisable tale of two Supermen separated by dimensional differences and fates, conjuring one solid picture of the Man of Steel that we all know and love. Even having missed the recent Tomasi run on the Superman book it was easy enough to understand what had transpired here as we're given a loose overview and then revisit THE most famous Superman story as a reminder of what makes this alien individual so special, his fears when they surface and his capacity to make the ultimate sacrifice when lives are on the line. Where things will go from here is pretty clear to see and I'll say that this talented writing team have done such a good job with their depiction of the secretive 'displaced' Clark that I'm incredibly excited to see what they bring to the table when the new Superman series starts in twice-monthly earnest in a few weeks time. A recommended purchase. 8/10

PROVIDENCE #9
Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Jacen Burrows & Juan Rodriguez
Avatar $4.99

James R: This week I watched a YouTube video of the author John Higgs interviewing Alan Moore. Moore is always a terrific interview subject anyway, but I sat up and took notice when their discussion turned to Providence. Moore says of H. P. Lovecraft: "His stories represent the landscape of fear... for the 20th century as a whole." This idea has been evident throughout Providence, but it is front and centre in this chapter, 'Outsiders'. The American fear of the outsider - the other (how times change, eh?) - is the metaphor that runs through the latest leg of Robert Black's strange journey, and yet again, this is comics at their best. Moore's investigation into Lovecraft prior to this series has created a perfect vehicle to look at some of his favourite topics anew - the 'third world' of the imagination and magic - whilst also examining at first the twentieth century, and then the patterns and fears of humanity as a whole. It's always such a deeply satisfying read too - beyond the illustrated pages, Black's diary fleshes out and adds new layers to the tale and makes this a book that defies skim reading. As usual, Jacen Burrows work is precise and unsettling, and his work excels month after month. This series just grows in stature for me with each passing issue - disturbing, inventive, thought-provoking; truly a work of dark art. 10/10

4001AD #2
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Clayton Crain
Valiant $3.99

Stewart R: There's something of a strange clash of scopes and scales here in this event book that yes, provides an exciting, action-packed read, but also leaves this reader with something of a disconnect with the grander consequences in play. Rai, Gilad and Lemur find themselves battling Father for the very fate of New Japan's population in orbit above the Earth and it's a fine excuse for giant, mechanical behemoth mayhem which Crain does a great job of depicting in his usual, murky painted style. The problem lies in the constant culling of New Japan's population as sections of the floating city are jettisoned in order for Father to consolidate his energies in fighting his former protector of Japan. Numbers in the hundreds of thousands are bandied about as the bodies plummet to Earth, but this dwindling population count simply replaces the clichéd tick of a bomb's narrative clock and it feels that not enough time is spent amongst this terrified population, gaining a sense of their fear and confusion as the war is waged. When Kindt does dip into Lula Lee's perspective in the chaos, her view is skewed by hatred and vengeance initially and her high speed trip, whilst ending in an emotional beat, doesn't strike the chord perhaps it should as Crain delivers it in one of his lower-detailed and less impactful moments. The big, intriguing hook arrives surprisingly in the shape of Rai's companion, Lemur, who it seems may play a bigger role in the chapters to come and providing you can embrace the flashy, if slightly flawed battle of wills between Rai and Father then there's still fun to be had here. 6/10

THE GODDAMNED #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guéra & Giulia Brusco
Image $3.99

Matt C: This is a frequently jaw-dropping series, with the kind of take on Old Testament violence and destruction that you may perhaps have hoped Darren Aronofsky’s Noah might have offered if he could have raised the necessary budget without any worries about what kind of pre-history squalor and decadence he could have put on the screen. But then again, Jason Aaron is perhaps the only writer out there at the moment with the skill and versatility to pull something like this off. It’s often shocking, but in a way that’s mischievously addictive, and Aaron clearly isn’t holding anything back. That goes for Guéra too: his art here is magnificently textured and detailed, but regularly makes you feel like you need a bath after pondering it’s grimy brilliance for any period of time. Simply put, there’s nothing quite like The Goddamned on the stands at the moment, and that’s worth being thankful to the Almighty for, be He vengeful or otherwise. 9/10

DEADLY CLASS #21
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Wes Craig & Jordan Boyd
Image $3.99

Stewart R: We here at the PCG tend to wax lyrical on the works of Rick Remender on a fairly regular basis these days and that is for no other valid reason than this prolific scribe is on something of a golden run across multiple titles. This issue of Deadly Class is a pure example of what makes his writing so compulsive, so damn unmissable. He builds characters up at the forefront, the protagonists through whom we see these comic book worlds, and throws them through the wringer. Then, there in the periphery, he places the supporting cast members who strengthen the greater narrative as a whole; the arseholes, the snitches, the underdogs, the psychotic, gun-totting barrels of testosterone it'd take three SWAT teams to bring down, the scheming weasels you hope will get their comeuppance eventually, but not quite yet. It's that character work that he employs so masterfully through every page of this issue, harking back to the start of the series in some moments whilst delving into the darker pasts and motivations of newer players for the first time, delivering twists in the process that not only genuinely surprise, but also poke at your brain minutes, hours, days after you've read them and will continue to do so for weeks to come. When a story lingers with you, as this one continues to with me, you know you've been reading something truly special. 10/10

MOON KNIGHT #3
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Greg Smallwood & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel Comics $3.99

James R: Still one of the very pleasant surprises of 2016 for me, this month's issue of Moon Knight is all about the brilliant work of Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire. This book has looked exceptional from the first issue, but Smallwood is on incredible form here, fluctuating between the two 'realities' of Marc Spector. Bellaire's colours add an extra dimension, genuinely providing a startling reading experience as Spector's world shifts from dark subterranean tones to almost-neon backgrounds. All the environments portrayed look great up against the stark white panel backgrounds, and I couldn't help but wonder how good Marvel's Karnak would look with an art team as talented as this. Lemire's script keeps us guessing again, pulling off a delicate balancing act between the suspension of disbelief and the awareness that everything we're seeing could be suspect. The book reminds me of Alan Moore's Promethea in places as it plays with the idea of reality and ancient gods, and from me, there can be no higher praise. 9/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #7
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Marcelo Maiolo
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Old Man Logan is  real surprise for 2016 as I never figured I’d enjoy it quite as much as this – I’ve read a few Wolverine comics in my time and there is a point where you wonder if there are any new variations on the old slicing‘n’dicing routine. Jeff Lemire has found a way to make the character as compelling as he’s ever been though  by showing him as a man out of step with his reality, trying to engage with it positively but finding death and horror continue to follow him wherever he goes. It’s another strong entry for Lemire but what makes it soar is the frankly astonishing visuals from Sorrentino. His panel compositions and layouts are inventive and exciting, and the double-page splash he unleashes early on is flat-out amazing. Don’t let the character’s ubiquity over the years affect your judgement – if you like these creators you will certainly like what they’re doing here. 8/10

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