17 Jul 2016

Mini Reviews 17/07/2016

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.

CONAN THE SLAYER #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Sergio Davilla & Michael Atiyeh
Dark Horse $3.99

Matt C: I went through my Conan phase about a decade or so ago, getting heavily onboard with the Dark Horse relaunch, picking up loads of Thomas/Buscema Marvel back issues and even investing in a tome collecting all Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian stories. I drifted away from the character after a few years and haven’t really been excited by any new material for a while. Hiring Cullen Bunn as the incoming writer piqued my interested, and while I enjoy a lot of his work I’ll pick Helheim as the series that suggested he had barbarian-writing chops, and this debut issue seems to back that up. Essentially he’s not doing anything groundbreaking with Conan here, pretty much following in the footsteps of what’s come before, but with a character this iconic, it’s understandable, and the fact is it quickly becomes apparent he has a great grasp on this fictional setting. Davilla’s art is muscular enough to give a sense of a world where only the strongest survive, and the only thing that’s preventing me giving this a ringing endorsement is the feeling that this isn’t doing anything particularly new. But while that may be the case, what it does do is undoubtedly entertaining. 7/10

THE VISION #9
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

James R: With The Vision, I have to hold up my hands and say I made an error - comics can be an expensive hobby (and as we've seen this week, it's getting more expensive for us trapped in close-minded Brexit Britain) so when The Vision was announced, I decided to give it a miss as a) I had never had a big love for Marvel's synthezoid, and b) the premise of him attempting to settling down in suburbia didn't quite grab me. Big mistake! The enthusiastic praise from my PCG colleagues made me realise that King and Walta were making something special, and now having caught up with the series, I have to concur - it is one of the books of the year. What I love is the way that King is telling a standalone story, whilst managing to weave in Marvel's byzantine history to fantastic effect. As the story unfolds in this issue, there's the tragedy of a self-fulfilling prophecy - as Agatha Harkness has warned, the Vision is capable of razing the Earth, and through the Avengers’ intervention, they provide him with reason to do just that. Walta and Bellaire combine beautifully to make this an incredibly distinctive book, and by the end of the issue I found that I genuinely could not wait to find out what happens next. Along with Doctor Strange and Moon Knight, The Vision makes up Marvel's current holy trinity for me - this is mainstream comics not just done right, but standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best work in any medium. 9/10

WONDER WOMAN #2
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Nicola Scott & Romulo Fajarado Jr
DC $2.99

Matt C: It feels almost like a bit of con here as we’re essentially getting two different books being published under the same title, alternating on a fortnightly basis between a contemporary story and a ‘Year One’ origin retelling. If you were only interested in one narrative then it could get a little annoying trying to figure out which issue to pick up and which to skip each month but fortunately, at this stage at least, both are proving to be really strong. The ‘Year One’ arc commences here in issue #2 and if you’re asking why Diana needs another look at how she became Wonder Woman then that’s a fair question, but I’d counter it by mentioning two names: Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott. Rucka really gets this character and makes her grounded and relatable at the same time as being godlike and untouchable. Scott’s art meanwhile is, to put it plainly, utterly beautiful, the polished linework is flat out sumptuous and beguiling. I’m concerned that Rucka and Scott’s focus on this title will mean that their Black Magick for Image will slip behind in the schedules but I can’t be entirely unhappy as Wonder Woman remains the frontrunner in DC’s Rebirth initiative. 8/10

THE DARK & BLOODY #6
Writer: Shawn Aldridge
Art: Scott Godlewski & Patricia Mulvihill
DC/Vertigo $3.99

Stewart R: Grand finale time here with Aldridge, Godlewski and Mulvihill seeing things through in the same, intimate, claustrophobic and brooding fashion in which they've guided us along the path of the previous five chapters. While Iris and the possessed Ayah battle it out it becomes very apparent that this book isn't just another horror story, it's an autopsy on the aftermath of war. Both Ayah and Iris are victims of larger schemes that fed hatred down to street level, leaving individual arrogance, ignorance and fear running rampant, and putting both of them in a shared situation that neither were truly able to exert any control over. From there, Iris's family have become further victims of what he's inadvertently brought home with him from the blood-stained sands of overseas lands. Aldridge does an incredibly good job of wrapping it all up within a mysterious haze of the supernatural which blurs the lines between modern horror tale and a metaphor for repressed guilt. Highly engrossing from beginning to end, The Dark & Bloody should be on everyone's lips when miniseries of 2016 awards start being discussed in the months to come. 9/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #8
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Marcelo Maiolo
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I never got on with Mark Millar’s original future-Wolverine tale when it first appeared as it featured a lot of the same lazy manipulation of characterization and continuity to fit the story that marred a lot of his main Marvel Universe work (don’t get me started on the Anti-Galactus Suit!). Much as I’ve loved this series, when it veers back to the origins of this iteration of the character it struggles to escape the shadow of some of the more stupid elements of Millar’s plotting. That works against this particular issue, which acts as a breather between story arcs, but luckily Lemire’s take on this damaged, weary version of Logan is strong enough to pull things through in a way that almost makes the stuff that doesn’t sit well for me seem more palatable, plus Sorrentino’s art continues to soar with a kind of undercurrent of bittersweet sadness that suits the story well. Probably a necessary diversion and undoubtedly the next arc will hit the high levels once again. 7/10

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