10 Jul 2016

Mini Reviews 10/07/2016

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.

SHERIFF OF BABYLON #8
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC/Vertigo $3.99

James R: With each passing month, it's becoming clear that 2016 is Tom King's year. His work on The Vision has been brilliant, and his tenure on Batman has got off to a solid start, showing that he's as comfortable with the huge blockbuster books as he is the smaller, personal stories. His work on The Sheriff Of Babylon is still my favourite though – along with Mitch Gerads, he's put together a unique and utterly compelling tale. This month we learn that the relationship between Sofia and Nassir has a longer, more complicated history than it first appeared, and the elusive Abu Rahim finally draws near. It's the entrapment of Rahim that's exceptional here, as it's done via a phone call - over four pages and 36 panels our view remains constant as Gerads conveys the subtle nuances and gestures of Sofia's conversation. It takes verve and skill to make what could be mundane seem compelling, but that's just what King and Gerads do. Personally I think Sheriff Of Babylon is right up there with Lazarus and Southern Bastards as the very best in mainstream comics - every issue this book reminds me that the darkest facets of mankind can also be the most irresistible to observe. 9/10

Matt C: In a week that saw the deadliest explosion to hit Baghdad since the Iraq War and the publication of the Chilcot Report which basically made it clear that conflict wasn’t the most viable option, Sheriff Of Babylon seems more timely than ever. The after effects of what occurred over a decade ago are frightening present today, and this series digs deep into both the political and the emotional toll taken on those involved, indicating – by extension – how that permeated through everything that followed. There are a multitude of overlapping agendas here, and the way they blend and clash is what makes the narrative compelling. The character work is incredibly strong and the artistry is sharp and in possession a genuine poignancy that truly hits home. A smart and powerful comic that’s proving to be as relevant as it is compulsive reading. 8/10

BLACK SCIENCE #22
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.99

James R: This week we were blessed with two great Rick Remender books; Tokyo Ghost was superb again, but I think I've showered that with enough effusive praise over the last couple of issues. Respect this week goes to Black Science instead due to the sheer unpredictability of Remender's plot. Having spent the majority of the last arc in a virtually psychedelic journey through the inside of Grant McKay's head (and his past) things now take an unexpected turn into a plot that's reminiscent of Game Of Thrones. McKay tracks down his daughter, Pia, in a dimension where far from struggling to survive she has become a hugely important figure. One part princess, one part peace envoy, McKay finds that she doesn't need or want to be saved... and things (as always) get out of hand from there. The shift of genre from Remender is handled with aplomb, and as ever it really works due to the human core to the narrative that always connects. Beyond the gonzo SF, there's the story of a man trying to right the wrongs of his past, and regardless of what dimension it's in, that's a tale that is a joy to read. The art from Scalera and Dinisio remains superb, and is a perfect fit for Remender's wild ideas. This comic has been flat-out since issue #1, and, incredibly, it shows no signs of slowing down. 8 /10

SYMMETRY #5
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Matt C: Often I find that a sudden jump forward in time during a storyline is jarring enough that I never quite get back into the rhythm of what’s come before, no matter how much I was enjoying it. Luckily the ’20 Years Later’ caption doesn’t have that effect in Symmetry, and maybe that's because the ideas in the preceding four issues took precedence over the characters. That’s not a criticism, as the characters felt like they were more a function of the plot than an element to get attached to. From the looks of things, character may be more important component to this second arc, although the ideas remain as integral as ever, which is unsurprising as Hawkins has a brilliant knack of engagingly weaving futurist concepts into his plots. Great ideas can only get you so far though, so fortunately Hawkins has Ienco to mould his story into something that’s visually impactful and full of realistic, dynamic imagery that lends the tale real weight and potency. 8/10

SUPERMAN #2
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Art: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray & John Kalisz
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Following an incredibly strong opener, Tomasi, Gleason and the gang return with an almost equally strong second helping of Superman action that, this time, thankfully, shifts the focus a little more in Clark's direction as he sets about the task of training his young son, John, on how to use his powers and the motivations and responsibilities behind those actions. As something of an antithesis to the conflicted Superman we saw on screen in this year's Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Tomasi and Gleason clearly show that this comic book Clark knows without hesitation what it means to do the right thing and that there should never be a question mark lingering over making that choice. We of course have heard similar speeches made previously, but here, as part of Rebirth yes, but also as part of a father starting the slow process of handing over his terrific duty to his son, it rings out amazingly well. The Eradicator certainly makes for an intriguing antagonist at this juncture, his true purpose left a mystery for the moment, but surely to be revealed in just a few week’s time! 8/10

James R: Cards on the table: I like this idea. I think the concept of the big DC characters as parents has got a huge amount of storytelling potential (look how well Damian ended up working in the Batman books) and the notion of 'Superman as father' succeeds not only here, but over in Frank Miller's Dark Knight III series as well. Following a first issue which was more of a catch-up for those who hadn't been reading the Lois And Clark series, this second chapter sees the book really starting to take shape, with Kal-El showing his son Jonathan what it means to be a hero, and the responsibility that comes with wearing the 'S'. There's nothing radically new here, but it's told really well by Tomasi and Gleason, who build on their Batman And Robin work and show that they've got the knack for family dynamics. A fine take-off for this Man of Steel (and son). 7/10

HAN SOLO #2
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Art: Mark Brooks, Dexter Vines & Sonia Oback
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Nobody should be looking for some sort of deep delve into Solo’s psyche from this series – arguably his conscience started getting the better of the him in The Empire Strikes Back, so attempting anything along those lines prior to that would undermine what happened there – but if you’re seeking a fun adventure outing with everyone’s favourite scoundrel then this easily fits the bill. The art is pretty swanky and Liu nails Solo’s swagger, so while overall this is more about reaffirming what we do know about him rather than expanding on what we don’t, it’s far too entertaining to dismiss as irrelevant. 8/10

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