2 Apr 2017

Mini Reviews 02/04/2017

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.

Writers: Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pak & Cullen Bunn
Art: Various
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: And here we go again. It's the umpteenth relaunch/realignment/re-whatever for the X-franchise as Marvel attempts to get more focus back on the comics and characters that used to be at the very centre of their universe but have become sort of detached from the core of late. There are no fireworks to be found in this, erm, ‘primer’ though as it’s really setting the stage for three incoming titles - X-Men Gold #1, X-Men Blue #1 and Weapon X #1 – so  it’s, um, primarily about reestablishing the dynamics between certain characters who are obviously destined to be at the forefront going forward. It’s nicely done, at times feeling like classic X-Men storytelling (the Chris Claremont era, in other words), and while it’s by no means an unequivocal indication that any of the aforementioned books are going to be additions to my pull-list, I’ll certainly check out the debut issues of each at the very least. 7/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark, Tyler Boss & Santi Arcas
Image $3.99

James R: This issue of Lazarus is a double-punch: firstly, it's a blockbuster as Rucka and Lark tease us with a five Lazari showdown in the opening pages, and then flashback to build up to the event in the closing pages. And it's one hell of an event too as we see the fearsome Zmey unleashed - a character who wouldn't be out of place in a Conan The Barbarian story - and there's a heartbreaking double cross that points to yet further Machiavellian scheming amongst the Families. I was still reeling from this breathless issue when I got hit by the second punch; Lazarus is going on hiatus for a year while Michael Lark recharges his batteries. This is entirely understandable, as the book has been a juggernaut for 26 issues, and the man has earned a break. There will be a miniseries to keep us ticking over until then, but... leaving the main story on a cliffhanger for a year is a sweet agony. I'll look forward to the X+66 mini but I'll  be looking forward to this remarkable title returning even more; there really isn't another book like Lazarus. 9/10

Matt C: No matter how long it’s away from the comic book stands, as soon as it returns it instantly re-establishes itself as one of the most important, most compelling comics being published today. While there’s essentially only a relatively small cast of recurring characters, the scope of the narrative is breathtaking, operating on a global scale where actions have world-altering consequences. This issue ups the ante with an astonishingly brutal sequence that is as exhilarating as it is horrifying, showing explicitly how Lazari aren’t indestructible. There’s a lot of apologising in the back pages from the creators about delays that have occurred, and delays that are yet come, but in all honesty if the quality remains at this level then it’s worth the wait, every time. 9/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Wes Craig & Jordan Boyd
Image $3.99

Matt C: After last month’s shocker we go back to more familiar territory, relatively speaking of course, because this is a title that never really takes the expected route anywhere. It's essentially the ‘Saya flashback’ issue as we get an insight into her family dynamic, the baggage she carries around with her, and why she finds herself in her current predicament. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather sprang to mind here, although that connection is only cursory and doesn’t really indicate just how brilliant the world-building that goes on in this title really is. It’s intense, violent, exciting and, as always, surprising, not only in the way the narrative unfolds but also how much Remender and Craig pack into each issue. Consistently deadly and never anything less than a compulsive read. 9/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Leandro Fernández & Daniela Miwa
Image $3.99

Jo S: The first issue of The Old Guard was one of my favourites so far in my fledgling comic book reading career and I have been hugely looking forward to the second outing. Whilst the debut busied itself with introducing the cast with a focus on Andy, the embittered group leader, giving atmosphere and background to mechanics of this team of ancient undead and then setting them a problem to solve, here we begin with a little more history for the characters and some further guidance on how their ‘power’ works and how they are linked when apart by obscure, shared dreams. By collaborating to defragment their dreams the group locate a fifth member, thought long lost, and Andy seeks her out and attempts to rebuild her apparently lost memory of who and what she is. Whilst I was entranced by the fearless page structure and design in the first issue, I found less in this instalment to grab me, but the progression of the story will bring me back to the next one, as will Andy (although it feels disrespectful to refer to her as Andy once you know her full name: Andronika of Scythia!). 7/10

James R: If Lazarus wasn't enough, we're treated to another slab of Rucka greatness this week with the release of the second chapter of The Old Guard. This 'fairy tale of blood and bullets' expands its mythos in this issue as we learn that the immortals aren't quite that - their lives can end suddenly when whatever mysterious force that keeps them alive deserts them. We also see that the immortals can sense each other in dreams, and that brings them together with a new recruit, Nile Freeman. This should come as no surprise to longtime readers of the PCG, but I think Greg Rucka is incapable of creating a sub-par issue - the pages fly by, with just the right blend of world-building and plot advancement, and this was a joy to read. A special mention to the colours of Daniela Miwa - her work is great whatever book she's on, but here it's one of the things that really gives the title an outstanding identity. An adventure that doesn't let up, The Old Guard is as sharp as Andronika's axe. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Filipe Andrade & Jordan Boyd
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: It’s a grand shame that Jeff Lemire is stepping away from the Marvel Universe. Of course it’s understandable, considering how much time his (excellent) creator-owned output is taking out of his schedule, but it means some of the great work he’s been responsible for at the House of Ideas, particularly this title, is coming to an end. And yes, Old Man Logan is probably the highlight of his tenure, a book that shows understanding of the elements that make this character such an enduring figure but also how to present him in a different light, avoiding easy cliché for something deeper. That it involves magic, time travel and Miles Morales only adds to the appeal. And that cliffhanger? Perfect. 8/10

Writer: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel
Art: Rod Reis
Image $3.99

James R: Twists and turns aplenty in deep space; after a two month break, Hadrian's Wall returns with an issue thick with intrigue and revelations. With the arrival of the Thetan colonists (my dislike of Scientology is stopping me from calling them Thetans!) we learn that many more of the crew of Hardian's Wall have an interest in the death of Edward Madigan. As always from Higgins and Siegel, the script is sharp and smart, but for me the real joy in this issue came from the remarkable art of Rod Reis. I was totally won over by his work on C.O.W.L., but this series has seen him go up to another level. His rendering of a future seen the through the prism of '80s SF is simply beautiful. Along with Dustin Nguyen's work on Descender, the cosmos in comics looks brilliant at the moment. At the end of this issue, I found that I had no idea where the story is going, and in the too-often predictable world of comics, that's hugely refreshing. Hadrian's Wall continues to be a stellar trip. 8/10

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