18 Jun 2017

Mini Reviews 18/06/2017

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.

DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1
Writer: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Art: Jim Lee, Andy Kubert. John Romita Jr, Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper
DC $4.99

Matt C: DC’s big event for 2017 is Metal, and this is the precursor, so naturally the big guns are rolled out to help Snyder and Tynion IV deliver their story, and you don’t really get any bigger than Lee, Kubert and Romita Jr. Unsurprisingly the artwork is grade-A quality, but what about the story itself? Does it indicate this is something worthy of investing in, even for those who haven’t really connected with 'Rebirth', or indeed DC as a whole since the New 52 was a thing? Well… hell yes, it is! It’s blockbuster level comic book storytelling, but where that phrase may be a turn-off for some, this is a thrilling example of how to craft a superhero ‘event’ book which feels organic but is also its own thing, something you can engage with whether or not you’ve been paying attention to recent goings on in the DCU. Snyder and Tynion IV are keeping their cards close to their chests, and so what we get is both cryptic and teasing, but in a way that is ridiculously tantalizing; I’m not sure what’s going on, but damn if I don’t want to find out more! Bring on Metal, then. And fast. 8/10

James R: To be fair to the The Forge, the book describes itself as 'The prelude to the epic event Metal' so perhaps I shouldn't have expected much more, but this blockbuster book really reads like the longest teaser trailer you'll ever see. Things are alluded to, hints are dropped, but there's still scant shape as to what this series will actually be about. Batman has discovered a parallel dimension via artefacts that have popped up around the DCU. And that's pretty much it! I was hoping that this issue would convince me that the forthcoming event series is going to be an essential purchase, but sadly it felt very much by-the-numbers. It looks as nice as you'd expect, with DC putting all their top names behind it, but a book of this price and hype should leave me feeling a more than just ambivalent. Rather than stoking my interest in Metal, The Forge has seen the flames die down. 6/10

GRASS KINGS #4
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

James R: I have been loving Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins' atmospheric and brooding tale of the Grass Kingdom - a community living off the grid somewhere deep in the heart of rural America - and this month sees the creators adding a real sense of urgency to this assured storyline. We see the standoff between Sheriff Humbert of neighbouring Cargill and Robert reach a crisis point, whilst a masterful flashback furthers our understanding of their feud, and reminds us that there may be a serial killer lurking in this tale. Tyler Jenkins' work here is beautiful - his use of watercolours gives the world of Grass Kings a real sense of verisimilitude, and by extension, his washed-out pages brilliantly represent the past. I think Matt Kindt is pacing this one beautifully, his script finding the right balance between mood and plot. A fantastic read, and a quality book from cover to cover. 8/10

GREEN VALLEY #9
Writer: Max Landis
Art: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn & Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Image $3.99

Matt C: A decent series rather than a great one, it's been undeniably entertaining but didn’t quite live up to expectations. A tale of brave knights, impossible odds, dinosaurs and – yes – time travel, it moved at a clip with some effective character dynamics and clever twists, but perhaps it was never quite as clever as it thought it was. Landis is clearly a writer to watch (Superman: American Alien proved that beyond any doubt) but whether he’ll pursue a comics career when movies and TV are calling on his services is debatable. Green Valley is good though, maybe I’m being harsher than I need to be, but what isn’t in question is the beautiful, thrilling, emotive quality of the artwork, which arguably does give things a little bit more of a wallop than they might have had in inferior illustrative hands. Not quite inspiring, but solid and rewarding all the same. 7/10

HULK #7
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Art: Georges Duarte & Matt Milla
Marvel: $3.99

Jo S: It looks like it's a new arc, new artist for Hulk this time around: Georges Duarte picks up the pencils from Nico Leon and, sadly, I'm a bit underwhelmed by the new style. The debut instalment of the series was one of my first issue #1s this year, and I revelled in the little details in the art and the interesting page structures - this issue has almost none of that and many of the panels feel, to me, a little empty, sometimes with one character drawn in detail and others a little sketchily. Duarte does appear to have a fondness for Hellcat, who stands out a mile in each of her panels; I did like the clever title page, mocked up to look like the YouTube channel of a Hulk superfan. Unfortunately, the new storyline doesn't feel especially new or distinct either - the camera team for an internet baking show appear to be trying to add a little extra something to the recipe in order to up their ratings - but I did still enjoy Tamaki’s ongoing exploration of how Jen deals with her grief: her trauma and her inability to accept the help offered is sensitively wrought and I'll return to the series for that element alone. 6/10

GODSHAPER #3
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Jonas Goonface
BOOM! Studios: $3.99

Jo S: I came close to missing this title when it started and, boy, am I glad I didn't! Spurrier and Goonface have created a fascinatingly consistent future world where fossil fuel powered machines have vanished and all ‘good’ people have their own individual god, bound to them in effective slavery, and each specialised to perform a function useful to their worshipper. This third issue explains more of the backstory of how people come by their gods, and explores possible reasons why some, the outcast godshapers, have no god of their own. Our gender-fluid hero, Ennay, and his companion, Bud, have taken Sal, a godless child, under their wing and apprenticed her to the godshaping trade. It's a brutal life: condemned as outcasts, they make their living by customising other folks’ gods, and by taking a little five-finger discount here and there too. As the story develops, it becomes evident that Bud’s inexplicable existence as a god without worshippers has drawn the attention of some heavyweight players: but who are the mystery pursuers and what can Sal see in his mind’s eye? Goonface’s bubblegum colours and jazz style make this a vivid read and the detail of the characterisations is beautifully unique. A real favourite of mine this year. 9/10

OLD MAN LOGAN #25
Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Mike Deodato Jr & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Big shoes to fill and all that now that Jeff Lemire’s gone, but this issue’s got me feeling confident that the new creative team are a good fit. Brisson sticks with the mythos of the character but weaves in some new elements that work nicely with what’s already been established about this iteration of Wolverine’s history, and he appears to have a good handle on the fiery, grizzled old Ol’ Canucklehead. What’s especially striking about this issue though is Deodato’s artwork. He’s a top level talent, and his recent stint on Thanos attests to that, but this is something else entirely; intense, sinewy, and possessing a raw kineticism that is jaw-dropping in places, all given a darkly potent sheen by Martin’s colours. Constantly defying expectations (another Wolverine series?? etc), this book remains a lock on my pull-list. 8/10

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