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14 Aug 2016

Mini Reviews 14/08/2016

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.

BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Tomm Coker & Michael Garland
Image $4.99

James R: Ah, Jonathan Hickman, how I've missed you. I know he hasn't really gone anywhere - East Of West has continued to excel - but Black Monday Murders represents his first new work since finishing his epic Avengers run. Straight out of the gate, it's absolutely brilliant, featuring all the touches that I have to call 'Trademark Hickman': the intricate world-building, the glyphs, the infographics, and the white pages as dissolves - they're all present and correct here. Hickman is a fine artist himself, but he has hit the jackpot with Tomm Coker - his work is absolutely brilliant on these pages, reminding me of Leinil Francis Yu's style in places, but also giving a sense of realism to a book that is clearly going to tread the line between the supernatural and the everyday. The subject matter could not be more prescient - in increasingly uncertain times, one thing is definite: the rich will continue to get richer. The idea that there is an overlap between magic and money (as Hickman points out in the coda, both are rooted in the ability to influence) is a terrific one, with murder and mystery in for good measure, this book has immediately grabbed me. Phenomenal, and one of the great debut issues of the year. 10/10

THE VISION #10
Writer: Tom King
Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This is a comic where the lead characters are all essentially androids acting out as humans in a domestic setting, so why then is it the most emotionally charged book I’ve read this year? Here we have Vision, his ‘wife’ and his ‘daughter’ attempting to process the loss of their ‘son’, confined to their home by the Avengers following an ominous warning by Agatha Harkness, and it’s like watching a powder keg exploding in slow motion. King’s script is beautifully judged, dropping hints of what’s coming without giving the game away, and Walta’s illustrations portray both the bonds and distance between the lead players with increasing clarity, the additional depth of feeling provided by the ever reliable Bellaire. It seems kind of pointless at this stage to highlight this again, but if you’ve ignored this series so far you’ve made a terrible mistake – The Vision is a masterpiece, the very pinnacle of contemporary superhero comics. 10/10

BRUTAL NATURE #4
Writer: Luciano Saracino
Art: Ariel Olivetti
IDW $3.99

Stewart R: The long-awaited clash between Ich and Sebastian Loup arrives and it certainly makes for a memorable ending. Saracino (and assumedly translator Carlos Guzman may take some credit here too) delivers a poetic conclusion that speaks of the battle between nature and human progress while also nodding at the solemn reality of the Conquistadors' occupation of South America. Through this short series I've enjoyed how Brutal Nature has taken a look at how a wave of religion or perspective can wash through a land and threaten to snuff out those native ideas and beliefs already present, while mankind’s understanding can still not solve all mysteries placed before it. On the art side, Olivetti absolutely nails the dramatic conflict that unfolds with beautifully memorable panels appearing page after page. This has proven to be a fine miniseries from IDW and I'm certainly glad to see that we'll get a follow up in the new year! 8/10

ALL-STAR BATMAN #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: John Romita Jr, Danny Miki, Dean White, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire
DC $4.99

James R: Or, Batman - The Road Trip! Scott Snyder's return to the world of the Dark Knight gave me a strong sense of nostalgia - it reminded me of the DC annuals of yesteryear, (which, for our younger readers, were giant-sized issues that told stand-alone stories) and this is definitely a good thing. There's a sense that this is Snyder with the shackles off - not having to write 'Events' or incorporate DC crossovers into his book, this feels like the writer having a blast with Batman. The plot features a 500-mile trek to take Two-Face from Gotham to...well, that's still a mystery, but with the villain promising a huge bounty to whoever kills Batman, the scene is set for a high-octane chase. It looks as good as you might expect from the legend that is John Romita Jr, and for an extra dollar, I also liked the back-up tale, beautifully illustrated by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. Following price increases in the UK, getting monthly books is increasingly expensive, but at the end of All-Star Batman, I felt that this creative team is certainly worth my cash. 8/10

EMPRESS #5
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger & Ive Svorcina
Marvel/Icon $3.99

Stewart R: I'm in for the long haul now and once you accept that this is essentially a sci-fi pursuit 'movie' chopped down into comic book form then you can simply sit back and let the gorgeous-looking story wash over you. Millar continues the planet-hopping as this talented, rag-tag family bunch attempt to stay safe in the face of overwhelming odds and, now separated, try to find each other before King Morax's net closes in. Now, this book was looking good in the hands of Stuart Immonen before now, but suddenly this issue really showed just what he, Grawbadger and Svorcina are capable of with some brilliantly atmospheric artwork and some action sequences of the very highest quality. It's always felt that Empress is yet another movie-script-in-progress for Millar, but this issue really does highlight how well this could work as an animated project should a studio opt to pick this story up. Regardless, the artwork is SO strong that I'm already contemplating getting it in collected form once the series concludes. 8/10

WONDER WOMAN #4
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Nicola Scott & Romulo Fajardo Jr
DC $2.99

Matt C: Although I’m familiar with Wonder Woman’s origin story, I don’t believe I’ve read a complete telling of it until now as, to be honest, I’ve never fully clicked with the character. That may be down to how well various storytellers have or haven’t conveyed the potency of the character sufficiently enough for my sensibilities in the past or perhaps I’ve just been blind Diana’s obvious charms for far too long. Either way, Rucka and Scott are doing something quite extraordinary here. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, it’s mythic, and it possesses the kind of narrative power that just can’t be faked. We’re switching between two great stories with this series but the ‘Year One’ retelling is pulling ahead right now – it’s epic in both intent and delivery, Scott’s images drawing out the warmth of emotion connecting the character’s together. I’m not going to sit here and suggest this is the best book to come out of the Rebirth initiative as I’m clearly not reading all of the books that sit under that umbrella, but considering the quality on offer here I’m highly doubtful that any others can come close to matching Wonder Woman. 9/10

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