17 Oct 2016

Mini Reviews 16/10/2016

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.

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion & FCO Plascencia
Image $3.99

Matt C: As is often the way with Mark Millar, he hits the ground running with a debut issue that’s packed with invention, emotion and another high concept that seems bullet-proof in its delivery. The thing is, many of his series soon begin to wobble towards their conclusion in an unsteady fashion, often finishing in disappointment, a complete contrast to the highs they commenced on (Huck is the most recent example of this). Of course, that’s not always the case so the hope remains that Millar can keep some narrative consistency and not let his brilliant ideas get away from him again. Reborn is promising though. The premise sees an afterlife that resembles fantasy fiction rather than the more accepted vision of Heaven, and it features an affecting look at aging and mortality, themes Millar touched on in Starlight. Capullo, along with the rest of the art team from the pre-Rebirth Batman run, provide some intense, visceral visuals, a double-page splash of an approaching orc army being particularly stunning. So, it’s an excellent start, all told. Fingers crossed it stays this good. 8/10

Stewart R: For all of the 50/50, 'hit then miss' stick that I give Millar and his releases, I have to say that he is at least crazily prolific which increases the number of 'hits' that he can land in the space of a year. Where Empress (which I still continue to enjoy) kicked off at a whirlwind pace, Reborn finds Millar in more reflective mood to start things, albeit it with a bloody opening gambit that leads to a deeper look at the human experience of life and its limits. The elderly Bonnie Black's contemplation and fear of her limited time left is then met with the forced acceptance that everything that has come before is about to be finalised in firm, universally accepted punctuation... before the rules are evidently changed and events take a turn for the fantastical. As the axes and laser guns come into play it's a relief to have Capullo on board who makes the frenetic action feel visceral and brings that premium quality he's known for to the party with a sense of gusto. The ink and colour work from Glapion and Plascencia really helps to sell the shift in tone and location, and there's little to fault visually. The big what if lies with how Millar decides to pace the rest of this series, but providing he can continue to show a measured, thoughtful approach rather than making this feel like another Hollywood pitch then there's definitely potential for greatness with Reborn. 8/10

Writer: Geoffrey Thorne
Art: Khary Randolph & Emilio Lopez
Marvel $4.99

Stewart R: It's Autumn 2016 and it is of course time for a new Marvel NOW! carnival to roll into town, such is the recently arranged tradition. Mosaic #1 offered up the opportunity to see a brand new character get their own title in a crowded Marvel schedule (let alone the wider comic book schedule as a whole). At a hefty $4.99, with focus on an Inhuman character and in the hands of a relatively fresh creative team I'd say the odds are probably stacked against Mosaic to make it a long run, but goodness me, Thorne, Randolph and Lopez make a good go of it in this debut. Morris Sackett is a talented and incredibly self-centred superstar basketball player who has the future all planned out, until Black Bolt's bigger plans really screws that all up. Yes, we get the usual cocoon gestation and emergence shenanigans with a supporting cast who of course don't understand what's going on, but once Thorne starts to scratch the surface of what Morris's new abilities are and hint at the positive power and negative repercussions involved, things really show promise. It's refreshing to start a Marvel book and have no villain in sight, just the protagonist trying to deal with what is happening to them, and in Morris have a character you're not immediately rooting for, yet remain invested in his story and the stories of those he comes into contact with. Yes, it's something of an expensive gamble, but Mosaic #1 is certainly worth a look if you are in the mood for something feeling a little fresh in the Marvel NOW! stakes. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

Matt C: Could lightning strike twice for this creative crew after the tour de force that was The Fade Out? Well, if you’re familiar with their previous work then you’ve probably come to a similar conclusion that I have: these guys have found a way to capture lightning in a bottle and consequently everything they touch has that electric spark of magic. The way Brubaker burrows into protagonist Dylan’s psyche, and the way Phillips and Breitweiser bring the internal conflicts to the surface, is exceptional. There’s something real, tangible and truthful about these characters that ensures the heightened, fantastical situations slide into believability with ease.  Kill Or Be Killed is another effortless winner from Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser, and we’d have it no other way. 9/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Tomm Coker & Michael Garland
Image $4.99

James R: It's a week for me that has highlighted how brilliant comics can be when art and script are in such perfect alignment. Both Sheriff Of Babylon and Kill Or Be Killed are phenomenal books that featured simple conversation at the heart of their plots, and Black Monday Murders makes up the third part of that trifecta. But what this book has that the others don't is Jonathan Hickman's remarkable ability to wrong-foot the reader. There's two separate moments in this issue where the story takes remarkable, yet utterly compelling turns. Once again, Tomm Coker's work is brilliant, conveying those moments of surprise with aplomb. As a $4.99 book it totally justifies the cost - each issue has felt like a substantial chapter of a huge narrative as Hickman simply doesn't do small-scale and very quickly this title has established itself as one of my favourites. If you like a book that is both intelligent and gripping, then you should be picking up Black Monday Murders - there's no other series like it. 9/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
Vertigo $3.99

Stewart R: There are some issues of comic book series that take you by surprise even though you're fully aware of the high quality that may have preceded them. Chapter 11 of The Sheriff of Babylon is one of those examples. As we approach the grand finale this is simply a continuation of the two tense conversations that were taking place just rooms apart in the last issue, but King leaves certain revelations to this point which escalates the tension to crazy levels, sows the seeds of confusion all around and has most of the cast unsure of what might lay ahead. What particularly struck me with the way in which King has built to this moment, is how he's wound up with the Iraqi cast members dealing with their differences, motives and respective lies separate from the American cast who likewise deal with their lies, perspectives and realisations whilst uncertainty sits just a corridor away. It's reflective of that chaos that the conflict in Iraq actually produced with no one individual able to exert control amongst the turmoil where anything could go sideways in the blink of an eye as a hundred other unseen machinations overlap. Gerads is on point once again as he plays with the rhythm of the interactions, reusing elements of panels in succession and, at the glorious climax, infusing the piece with dread thanks to those repeating onamtopoeic panels that are just so darn effective. An easy (and essential) contender for series of the year. 10/10

James R: I have highlighted how good The Sheriff Of Babylon is since it debuted, but this issue was simply phenomenal. I am in absolute awe as to how Tom King and Mitch Gerads manage to generate - and maintain - an electric feeling of tension throughout the narrative. As the series builds to a climax, with Sophia and Nassir involved in a nerve-shredding face-off with the man who may (or may not) be the terrorist Abu Rahim. Both script and art were so superb here, that I consciously stopped my gaze from taking in anything that happened in the bottom right hand panels as I didn't want to break the suspense that King and Gerads created. On top of this, King's script continues to be a startling exploration of the murky morality involved in post-invasion Iraq, and the very human need for events in the world to fit into a narrative and have a meaning. King is now comfortably ensconced as the writer of Batman, but it's my sincere hope that his work there doesn't stop him from another creator-owned book - DC should give him carte blanche as to what he writes next; on the evidence of The Sheriff Of Babylon, it will be spectacular. 9/10

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