19 Feb 2017

Mini Reviews 19/02/2017

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.

This week we welcome Jo S to the PCG gang...

Writers: Marguerite Bennet & James Tynion IV
Art: Steve Epting & Jeromy Cox
DC $2.99

Matt C: When Batwoman was reintroduced to the DC Universe, writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III had such a personal take on the character, and were so instrumental in establishing her new identity, that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else bringing the same kind of depth and intensity to the table. Whether Bennet, Tynion IV and Epting are the team to take the baton based on this issue alone remains unclear, but it’s certainly a promising opening. It’s hard to get a bead on things due to there being lot of hopping back and forth between time periods, meaning there isn’t a chance to dive completely in and get a sense of whether they’ve got the right take on the character, but what is here suggests an understanding of what makes Kate Kane unique, and that bodes well for things to come. Epting obviously brings a touch of class to the proceedings along with a sense of atmosphere and adventure and while I’m slightly dubious about how the ending positions things, there’s plenty here to convince me to stick around to see where this all goes. 7/10

Writer: Joe Haldeman
Art: Marvano
Titan Comics $3.99

Jo S: This series is a long-awaited treat for fans of Haldeman’s 1974 awarding-winning novel and for them, and for fans of classic sci-fi (with an emphasis on the ‘sci’), this felt like a great start. The story is introduced with a first-page shock which beautifully sets the feel for the rest of the book. We meet the protagonist, William Mandella, a conscript to an army who are recruited to fight a war with an unknown enemy in a system so distant that it will take years to reach them, as he undertakes his training for a battle with an enemy whose physical form is only assumed. The central concept of this story, the idea that troops are being sent to fight a war so far from them that they were unaware of the first attack until years after the fact, immediately sets up questions which beg to be answered. The atmosphere of this book is superb; capturing on the same page the feeling of the vast coldness of space and the relative insignificance of the lives within it, almost directly next to panels which almost stink of the stuffy, claustrophobic crampedness of long-occupied traveling quarters. Human deaths are sudden and barely mourned, survival is qualification enough for the task ahead. The artistic style is appropriately retro for a book written in the '70s; a panel showing a demonstration march clearly echoes those surrounding the Vietnam War but there is an unnerving echo of more recent modern America too. I'll be looking out for the next of these - the question is, can I wait to finish the series before wading into the novel? 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Jon Davis-Hunt & Ivan Plascencia
DC $3.99

Matt C: Warren Ellis returns to the character base that really made his name, the Wildstorm Universe, and attempts to repeat the trick by reinventing and reinterpreting for an audience that will be a mix of newbies and those who watched the New 52’s misguided absorption of the distinctive set of characters with a mix of apathy and horror. So can Ellis strike gold here again? Well, there’s no doubt this is all from the writer’s pen; the sardonic leads, the bleeding edge tech, the conspiracies and mysteries at the heart of the narrative… it’s all present and correct. Davis-Hunt’s linework is assured and sincere, and providing Ellis can stick it out for the proposed 24-issue run (a bit of an ask considering his recent history) then it should be worth joining him on this journey, and hopefully it’ll allow the Wildstorm Universe to start flourishing once again. 7/10

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

James R: This month, Kill Or Be Killed benefits from a sudden shift in narrative focus. Thus far, the story has centered on Dylan, the protagonist of the tale, and we have benefited from his first-person narration as he attempts to make sense of his vigilante spree. In this issue, Dylan remains our narrator, but he introduces us to Lily Sharpe, the detective beginning to piece together the seemingly random murders. It's an interesting device - Dylan admits "And yes, obviously I didn't know that this was all happening at the time... But sometimes it's important for you to know stuff that I wasn't there for... So let's call it artistic licence." This makes Dylan an unreliable narrator, and in a story where his perception of reality (and his sanity) are at the heart of the tale, it adds to the plot, whilst encouraging us to pay even closer attention. Once again, the art team of Phillips and Brietweiser are superb - Phillips' pencils and Brietweiser's colours perfectly fit this morally shady and grimy tale, and Kill Or Be Killed is the apotheosis of what this creative team can do. The title of this book offers us a savage choice, but there should be no doubt over picking this up - this is essential reading. 9/10

Matt C: One of those comics where you just know it’s going to be great before you crack open the first page, such is the insanely brilliant alchemy Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser conjure up when they get together. After the intensity of the last chapter things settle down, relatively speaking, and we shift our attention onto a new character as the story begins to expand outwards. There's a cop beginning to piece things together, even though her colleagues aren’t paying any attention, and our unreliable narrator is giving us a heads up on this, even as he offers clues as to where things are going, clues that may turn out to be clever distractions from the truth. Sharp, fiery and daring, Kill Or Be Killed is a force to be reckoned with right now. 8/10

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: David Rubin
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: As with Kill Or Be Killed, this issue of Ether offers a shift in narrative focus, changing pace to explain the link between Boone Dias' wife Hazel. Rather than the wild invention that's characterised the book thus far, this issue served to reinforce a number of conclusions that have been evident from the previous installments. The main thing that struck me reading this is that for all its effervescence, there's a dark heart at the centre of Ether (and arguably, that can be said for many fairy tales). I can't think of many other books that have the torture of a child as a plot point, and Kindt uses this disconcerting idea to powerful effect, with Hazel noting "The Ether is beautiful... But the Ether is dangerous." Kindt took to Twitter this week to express his admiration for David Rubin's art, and I can only echo that statement. In every issue thus far there's been an image or a sequence that's been breathtaking - this month, it's Glum the Gatekeeper's desperate attempt to rescue Hazel that cracked with energy and invention. A change of pace then, put not a change in quality; Ether remains a gem. 8/10

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