18 Sep 2016

Mini Reviews 18/09/2016

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.

HADRIAN’S WALL #1
Writers: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Art: Rod Reis
Image $3.99

James R: They're back! They're back! Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis were responsible for one of my favourite series this decade, the too-short lived C.O.W.L. (which, if you haven't read, I implore you to do so immediately) and so their return with a new series - and an SF tale to boot - is a huge cause for celebration for me. I'm doubly pleased as I've longed for a space-based book to really get on board with over the last few years (I've tried - and failed - with Copperhead, Faster Than Light, Southern Cross, Invisible Republic and Drifter). Hadrian's Wall was an immediate 'yes' for me as not only is the premise a great one - a murder-mystery aboard a spaceship - but the aesthetic of the book is based on visions of the future as seen through the prism of ‘80s science fiction. As an ageing geek, the ‘80s was the time I was first exposed to tales of space and the endless universe, so opening this book felt like coming home. The brilliant Rod Reis channels two iconic visual futurists here: Blade Runner's Syd Mead and legendary artist Chris Foss. The result is a strangely familiar yet unique look that I immediately warmed to. Higgins and Siegel’s script wastes no time in setting up the world of Hardian's Wall, while smartly grounding it in very human and relatable themes of heartbreak and loss. Higgins, Siegel & Reis are an excellent team, and it's a joy to have them back - I'm hoping this book fulfils its stellar promise. 8/10

Matt C: An alternate future where a brief nuclear altercation between the US and the Soviet Union ushered in an era of peace provides the backdrop to this intergalactic murder mystery, but, as they did in C.O.W.L., Higgins and Siegel inject their tale with a genuine sense of humanity, albeit an honest take where relationships sometimes devolve into ugliness and bitterness. World-building is all well and good but without an emotional grounding it leads to distant appreciation rather than full investment in the characters and situations, which is something Hadrian’s Wall achieves with consummate ease. The art from Reis is fantastic, still evoking Sienkiewicz but with a little more solidity, and this is a tremendous start to a miniseries by a creative team who are really shaping up to be a force to be reckoned with. 8/10

WONDER WOMAN #6
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Nicola Scott & Romulo Fajardo Jr
DC $2.99

Matt C: The cover may suggest a Disney riff on Wonder Woman, with Diana looking like she’s about to burst into song with the assembled wildlife, but of course anyone who’s seen what Rucka’s been doing on this title since the ‘Rebirth’, particularly in the ‘Year One’ storyline, will know there’s nothing childish about this interpretation of William Moulton Marston’s creation. This continues to be a mythic retelling of the origin of Wonder Woman, able to balance the epic nature of Diana’s journey to the ‘man’s world’ with more intimate moments that emphasise what makes these characters work and why the titular heroine has achieved such longevity. Scott’s art is gorgeous; the expression work alone helps the images burst from the page with a sense of honesty; heroism through thought as well as in deed. The sense of wonder has returned to one of the most enduring comic book characters, perhaps exactly when it was needed. 8/10

BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #2
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Tomm Coker & Michael Garland
Image $4.99

James R: Even after just two issues, this is turning into something really special. The first chapter spun a magnificent web of murder, history and the dark arts, and this month Hickman really hits his stride. He adds in a philosophical dimension to the plot (which is exactly what I love to see in comics) as Detective Dumas begins to uncover the ancient forces at play, and the eternal Platonic nature of number and money. As usual, Hickman's scope is always breathtaking - he is unparalleled as a world-builder in comics, shifting the narrative to 1980s East Berlin, and introducing us to new dramatis personae who add to the intrigue. In the debut instalment, I was struck by Tomm Coker's art, and he produces another beautiful issue here - I am reminded at times of Tommy Lee Edwards' work, but Coker's work has a real feel of being grounded in reality, all of which makes the magical aspects of this book all the more convincing. It's also gives you extremely good value for money - another 53-page issue certainly justifies the price tag, and should make the Big Two hang their heads in shame. There's certainly not another title like Black Monday Murders out there at the moment, and I certainly have a new favourite series. 9/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #11
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Marcelo Maiolo
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: You could argue that Jeff Lemire is taking a formulaic approach to Wolverine here, presenting him as a man fuelled by honour and vengeance, and while you may be right, it’s the way the writer brings an honest intensity to the proceedings that makes it rise far above any hackneyed iterations we've seen in the past. He digs deep into what makes Logan tick and even if you’ve read hundreds of Wolverine comics before he still manages to shed new light on the Ol’ Canucklehead. That’s all well and good, but without an artist to bring the aforementioned intensity to the page the whole production could fall flat on its face. It’s fortunate then that Lemire is partnered up with Andrea Sorrentino, whose work in this series is nothing short of incredible. The layouts and compositions are frequently breathtaking; inventive and invigorating, they’re set aflame by Marcelo Maiolo’s crimson-infused palettes. A sombre but searingly brilliant series. 9/10

ALL-STAR BATMAN #2
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: John Romita Jr, Danny Miki, Dean White,Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
DC $4.99

James R: I have made no secret over the course of the year that I'm moving away from the iconic characters of the Big Two - I really feel like I've seen it all by this point! However, I don't think I can ever fully turn my back and All-Star Batman is a perfect example as to why. It's clearly Scott Snyder having a lot of fun with the Dark Knight, opting to throw in everybody imaginable into the plot of Batman and Two-Face's cross-country scramble. I am aware that nostalgia is often used as criticism when it comes to comics (and I fully understand why) but dammit, I got a huge kick out of Snyder using the KGBeast (though following the breakup of the KGB in 1991, he's now just 'The Beast' which isn't anywhere near as much fun)! It's certainly not breaking any new ground - and I was reminded of Loeb and Lee's 'Hush', which also used the sprawling supporting cast technique - but I cannot deny that it was a fun read. The art from Romita, Miki and White is exactly what you'd expect from such an accomplished team. It's a comic that also manages to get a sly wink towards 1960s TV Batman with an ingenious use of shark repellent. This is a great romp, and sometimes that's just what comics should be. 7/10

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