21 Aug 2016

Mini Reviews 21/08/2016

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.

BRIGGS LAND #1
Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Mack Chater & Lee Loughbridge
Dark Horse $3.99

Matt C: In tandem to this is being published in the comic book format, writer Brian Wood is also developing it as a possible TV series for AMC, and while I don’t have a problem with that in theory – it’s an increasingly common trend to see comics optioned before they hit the stands – I’m not overly confident of the potential in either medium for this story based on the debut issue. There’s something undeniably prescient about the secessionist white supremacist premise but the delivery here feels a bit pedestrian and familiar, not really drilling down into the concept enough to avoid rural American crime family cliché. There’s clearly a high standard of creativity on display but it does read like a pilot for a TV show and one that would only turn heads if it had a calibre of acting talent to bring the nuance of the set-up bubbling to the surface. As it stands, it’s a readable but unspectacular introduction, one that doesn’t particularly dig in enough to lure me back for a second helping. 6/10

BLACK WIDOW #6
Writer: Chris Samnee Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Stewart R: The level at which the 'big' characters of the Marvel Universe crossover into each other’s titles has never been (eye-rollingly) higher thanks to the greater influence of the wider shared world and, arguably, the success of the live-action movies. And so here, Samnee and Waid bring Tony Stark into the fold and wrap Natasha up directly in Iron Man’s origin as her long-kept secrets are cast out into the world. In other hands I might have thrown in the towel here, but my goodness, the writers make this a highly captivating turn of events as things take a subtler, unexpected meander. The interaction between Natasha and Tony drips with tension and familiarity despite ever-changing twists of fate that always threaten to make them strangers. Before long the 'guest star' takes a back seat to the greater arc of this Black Widow title and thanks to the groundwork laid previously, every moment of strength exhibited by Natasha comes with the delicious prospect of uncertainty as to whether she's being played or overestimating her opponent once again. A great cat-and-mouse title that's playing with comic book history with the greatest of care. 9/10

BATMAN #5
Writer: Tom King
Art: David Finch, Sandra Hope, Matt Banning, Scott Hanna & Jordie Bellaire
DC $2.99

Matt C: I really wanted to get behind this as I think Tom King’s work on Sheriff Of Babylon and The Vision has been nothing short of phenomenal, but five issues in and I’m not finding this particular iteration of the Dark Knight especially electrifying. It’s not a bad Batman comic, but it’s a Batman comic that doesn’t really do anything new with the character; the writing and art are fine but there’s nothing here that makes a strong case for it being an essential purchase. I do want a Batman book on my pull-list again but I’m going to have to pin all my hopes on All-Star Batman as this comic isn’t really cutting it. 5/10

SUPERMAN #5
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Art: Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza & Wil Quintana
DC $2.99

Stewart R: You'll maybe have noted that the Superman reviews from me are coming thick and fast and that is of course down to the twice-monthly scheduling of DC, but also because Tomasi, Gleason, Mahnke and Co are delivering a fine, action-packed family tale of the Man of Steel that contains real consequences at its heart. Bringing tension to a book where the protagonist has a near invulnerable nature is a tough ask and thankfully the writers are taking care to not have the threat to Clark's loved ones dip too far into irritable cliché, forcing the heroes hands and making them nothing but 'weak' pawns in a familiar one-on-one fight. In surprising contrast things get flipped on their head as the Kent family retreat to the Moon in order to lure the Eradicator - a persistent, yet intriguing threat - away from populated areas. Things really turn into an unexpected tag-match as everyone fights to save John's humanity from literally being ripped from him and I bore witness to yet another Tomasi/Gleason book where I uttered 'Yes!' out loud thanks to some terrific moments, powerfully depicted by Mahnke's hand this time around. This 'Rebirth of Superman' is hard to resist! 9/10

BLACK HAMMER #2
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

Matt C: Proving the debut issue wasn’t a fluke, Jeff Lemire expands on the premise of the superteam trapped in the nondescript farming town, focusing this time on Gail Gibbons aka Golden Gail, a fifty-plus woman trapped in a nine year-old’s body. As always with Lemire it’s the raw humanity he brings to his characters that makes his storytelling so affecting and so effective. Ormston moves smoothly from scenes of superhero action to melancholically-tinged drama without skipping a beat, manifesting the powerful emotions at the heart of Lemire’s script in a colourful and lively fashion. You might be thinking something along the lines of, ‘Oh no, not another Justice League analogue!’ but Lemire proves that the concept can still thrive and illuminate in the right hands. 8/10

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