19 Mar 2017

Mini Reviews 19/03/2017

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.

BATWOMAN #1
Writers: Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV
Art: Steve Epting & Jeromy Cox
DC $2.99

Matt C: Last month's Rebirth issue was pretty impressive but also difficult to get a bead on as it jumped around a lot through different points in Kate Kane’s past, giving plenty of decent material to digest but not really offering a solid sense of what was to come. This issue gives us a linear narrative so we get a clearer idea of where the series is headed, and at this stage it’s spinning directly out of recent events in other Bat-books, which makes sense but also prevents it from establishing its own identity straight off the bat (no pun intended!). The banter between Kate and Julia Pennyworth is a bit strained, not having the desired effect of ingratiating us into their dynamic, but the saving grace of the whole enterprise so far is the beautifully composed artistry of Steve Epting. He’s making a book that’s skewing towards average feel more important, to the point where I’m more likely to come back for the second issue proper. 6/10

THE WILD STORM #2
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Jon Davis-Hunt & Steve Buccellato
DC $3.99

James R: I got seriously back into comics around the turn of the century,  at which point Warren Ellis had just started up his unsurpassed run on Planetary, and as such I missed his first go-round with the Stormwatch characters, and then The Authority. As a result, I'm pretty neutral about The Wild Storm - I'm certainly not precious about the characters, and I've nothing really to compare them to. Taken at face value though, I'm enjoying this as I'm one of those people that just likes what Ellis does anyway - the bleeding edge technology, the snarky dialogue, the futurism; I always enjoy it, regardless if it's here, in Injection or in Trees. If you're a new reader, Ellis certainly makes this new take on the Wildstorm characters accessible and readable; it's a whole issue of discussions for all intents and purpose, but Ellis kept me entertained as always. I'm really enjoying Davis-Hunt's clean pencil work too, and he's a great fit for this series. My only reservation is the one I have with every Ellis book - is this going to come out on schedule? I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, as this is a quality book. You won't be surprised by The Wild Storm, but you won't be disappointed either. 8/10

THE FOREVER WAR #2
Writer: Joe Halderman
Art: Marvano
Titan Comics $3.99

Jo S: The second episode of this adaptation of Haldeman’s 1974 sci-fi classic continues to extend parallels with the Vietnam War in first disturbing and then ruthlessly wrenching style. Having completed their inevitably inadequate and almost entirely irrelevant training for an enemy they know nothing about, on a planet whose terrain they know barely more than the basics of, the recruits we learned about in issue #1 are finally touching down on Aleph and preparing as best they can to engage with the Tauran enemy. Platoon 1 are a blend of recruits, commanded by patriotic military veteran Cortez, with a variety of backgrounds and skills, including xenobiologists, telepaths and even an acrobat. We learn that Aleph is much like a hotter Earth, with a boiling sea and dry grassland; soon the group find the first large life forms and make a gruesome discovery on killing one of these clearly peaceful herbivores. When they finally observe a Tauran and then discover what appears to be a Tauran base, a ‘weapon’ is unleashed whose impact is devastating, both on those whom it was directed and those who called for its use. ‘Gut-wrenching’ is overused as a descriptor but in this case I can say with sincerity that my reaction to this scene was a physical one - I came away from it feeling scarred and horrified. The art throughout this book continues in a simple, clean, retro style which totally befits the source material with the simplicity of the representation having the effect of amplifying the brutal shocks the story deals out. As with all the best fiction, it's the depiction of real human weakness which makes the story resonate. 8/10

KILL OR BE KILLED #7
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

James R: Another month, another exceptional issue of Kill Or Be Killed. I usually laud this title as being a perfect example of a creative team working beautifully in sync, but this month special praise has to go to the brilliant Sean Phillips. The narrative takes another twist, as we spend the issue learning about Kira, Dylan's now ex-girlfriend, and seeing the secrets and traumas that make up her life. The series has been remarkable thus far for Sean Phillips' pages where he's moved from standard comics panels and presented us with grander one-page tableaus, but this issue he goes one step further and largely illustrates Kira's life through photographs from her and her family's past. It gives the whole chapter a feeling of verisimilitude that then gives Brubaker's script an extra punch. This title continues to surprise and surpass expectations - I think it's a little early to say it's the best thing they've ever done, but if it carries on like this, Kill Or Be Killed will be a crowning achievement for Brubaker, Phillips and Brietweiser. 9/10

Matt C: And here Brubaker flicks the focus straight onto someone that could have been perceived as a transitory character until now, which is clearly not the case any more. This is a deep dive into Kira’s world - one that touches on the idea that no matter how often we try to differentiate ourselves from our parents the similarities always win out – and it's both fascinating and affecting, the emotional truths it uncovers being undeniable. It’s notable that this is the first issue we’ve been without Dylan Cross’ narration, and it provides further evidence that Brubaker is expanding the narrative ever outwards, which gives it longevity, and valid longevity at that, as the characters are proving to be just as engaging as the series’ ‘protagonist’. The art team of Phillips and Breitweiser give it their all, employing the ‘photo album’ device to thrilling effect, and again this entire package (insightful essay included) is the comic book medium at its very best. 9/10

ETHER #5
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: David Rubin
Dark Horse Comics  $3.99

James R: This issue is the final part of Ether... but it's not the end of the story. Originally listed as a five-issue series, I was delighted to get to reach the conclusion and to discover that this is just the end of volume one. In this opening run, Kindt and Rubin have clearly had a lot of fun bringing the world of Ether to life, and as I've said all the way along, it's been a blast to read. This issue is a great showcase for the talents of both men, with one page in particular showing how Boone became estranged from his wife and children both heartbreaking in impact but breathtaking in execution and observation. There are so many ideas thrown at the reader in Ether, and the narrative has run at such a breakneck pace it would have been a great shame if there wasn't more to come. Ether was billed as a comic about a man of science in a world of magic, but it's far more than that: it's also a story about the power - and dangers - of the imagination, and the medium of comics is a perfect fit for such a tale. Here's hoping we'll be back in the Ether very soon. 8/10

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