4 Jun 2017

Mini Reviews 04/06/2017

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.

WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #1
Writer: Greg Rucka, Vita Ayala, Michael Moreci, Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
Art: Nicola Scott, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Claire Roe, Jordie Bellaire, Stephanie Hans, David Lafuente & John Rauch.
DC $4.99

Jo S: A colourful dim sum of four Wonder Woman stories packed into one bumper edition, this delighted me with succulent flavour and goodness. The Rucka story tells of our heroine first meeting Superman and Batman, and their consternation at her seeing into their hearts; Scott draws an elegant, classic Diana who clearly leaves the boys somewhat on the backfoot. Claire Roe, artist for the second story, gives us a much more bemuscled Amazon princess; here she is in her role of arbiter of justice and the rule of law, defending King Shark as he is condemned to death. In 'The Curse And The Honour', Moreci writes of the moral dilemma of the sacrifice of one life to save many, and Hans illustrates beautifully; the sparring scenes have a flowing energy and the delicately coloured flashback feels true to the Japanese theme of this tale. The dessert course of this delicious repast is a sweetly pop-art style kaiju story: our hero saves the day with compassion and understanding, with a little help from the Lasso of Truth. 8/10

MOON KNIGHT #14
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Greg Smallwood & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

James R: For me, Moon Knight is comparable with Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's run on The Vision - both were limited series that took second-tier Marvel characters, and both told stories that pushed the limits of the medium, and dealt with philosophical issues. The Vision asked what it meant to be human, whilst Moon Knight has inquired what it is to be mad, or have a fractured self. Runs from the Big Two don't always end with a flourish - the nature of the characters means that the coda is often a transitory issue, but Moon Knight finishes brilliantly. Lemire's script has been a thing of genius; the vast majority of the 'action' for the series has taken place inside Marc Spector's mind, and his triumph here is not portraying a man defeating an archenemy for the last time, but rather a man coming to terms with himself, and his frailties. Greg Smallwood's art has been a revelation to me - his work here has established him as one of my favourite artists, and I can't wait to hear what he does next. A remarkable series, and a suitable bow from Jeff Lemire at Marvel - I think it will be a while before we see a series this good from the House of Ideas. 9/10

KILL OR BE KILLED #9
Writer: Ed Burbaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

Matt C: An incomparably gripping read, Kill Or Be Killed is so enveloping, so magnetic, that it feels as if time stands still when you read it. Dylan Cross is a thoroughly compelling lead, one who engenders sympathy even though his sociopathic behaviour should be a complete turn-off. He makes us complicit in his actions, he makes us find some sort of messed up truth in his justifications, and it’s just masterful writing from Ed Brubaker. The shadowy, shifty artwork from Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser is a revelation; they understand the cinematic aesthetic of film noir without getting lost in it. It’s something I trot out every time these guys put out a new book, but, unbelievably, they seem to up their game each time: this is quite possibly the best thing this creative team have done so far. It’s astonishingly good. 9/10

SECRET EMPIRE #3
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Rod Reis
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I had figured that, following the end of Secret Wars and Jonathan Hickman’s exemplary marshaling of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes into a brilliantly orchestrated storyline, I’d be done with event books from the Big Two as there's been very little evidence that spinning out a great tale from a solid high concept was something that could be achieved with any regularity in these days of so-called ‘event fatigue’. Well, I’m eating my hat because Secret Empire is fantastic. Nick Spencer has wisely introduced a mysterious element of hope early on in the proceedings to counterbalance what would otherwise be an overwhelmingly bleak narrative, one which cleverly illustrates within the confines of a superhero comic book how a climate of fear can shift power to those who know how to manipulate public perception with duplicitous intent. Andrea Sorrentino’s art is dark, broody and exceptionally well designed while Rod Reis’ also excels in the bookend sequences. Epic and expansive but also intimate where necessary, Secret Empire is thoroughly reassuring proof that, when in the right hands, event books are still a worthwhile endeavour. 8/10

HEROINES #1
Writer: Ted Naifeh
Art: Ted Naifeh
Space Goat Publishing $6.99

Jo S: In a week where Wonder Woman was released, with the fuss over women-only viewings of the movie starting to die down, and with the analysis of the movie’s feminist qualities looking set to roll on for some time, this book is an apt counterpoint to the more sugary hype surrounding our new-old icon of girl power. Packed with jibes at sexist tropes throughout the superhero genre, this has humour but is not a totally comfortable read. The book opens as white, blonde, pretty, affluent (and, of course, alliteratively named) Marcy Madison is interrupted in her valedictory speech by a crew of frankly slapdash superheroes attempting to thwart a robbery perpetrated by a remote supervillain controlling a giant robot whilst calmly sipping espresso in the comfort of his own lair. Turns out Marcy has superpowers of her own and, having saved the day, she sets out to try to become part of a team of heroes to make a change for the better, despite persistent casual sexism from the likes of Bolt, who assumes she wants to date him (but doesn't think to check) and claims that they already have a girl in the team so they don't need another. If you're easily offended by women fighting for actual equality, rather than tokenism, or if the repeated skewering of gender-related presumptions (from characters of all genders) makes you wince, you'll probably want to swerve this one, but I'll be jonesing for more Jones (in her sharp suits and dapper shoes) by the time the second episode appears. 7/10

BLACK SCIENCE #30
Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.99

James R: As this book barrels towards what feels like a conclusion, there's one constant that's been present since issue one: speed. The story of Grant McKay and his disastrous trip across the multiverse has never sat on its laurels, or had arcs where the narrative has drifted (even the one which saw Grant try to piece his mind back together still had a great sense of urgency). Reading this issue of Black Science, I was struck by how well Remender keeps up this relentless pace  and how it makes for such a great read. A special salute to the always-thrilling art of Matteo Scalera - there are three huge 'widescreen' sequences in this issue, and he carries them all off with aplomb. Black Science is endlessly fun and inventive - I know Deadly Class has a lot of supporters here, but for me, this is Remender's best current ongoing title. 8/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #24
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Eric Nguyen & Andres Mossa
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A bittersweet finale to Jeff Lemire’s impressive run on this title, one that works because it drills down deep into the emotional turmoil of the titular character and makes his plight feel real and honest. I never much cared for the Mark Millar’s original ‘Old Man Logan’ storyline, so I hadn’t quite expected to connect to this version of the character to such a degree, but Lemire is a master of eliciting strong feelings for old, damaged loners, and he’s excelled himself here with this aged iteration of Wolveine. Some sombre, kinetic artwork from Eric Nguyen compliments the sense of acceptance in the script, and whether or not the incoming creative team can keep the magic coming, up to this point it’s been the finest Wolverine comic to grace the stands in many a year. 8/10

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