2 Jul 2017

Mini Reviews 02/07/2017

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.

Writer: Paul Allor
Art: Nelson Daniel
IDW $3.99

Jo S: I've been on the lookout for this title since it featured in my first piece for Ten Forward and, at the time, I'll admit I was something of a skeptic regarding how well a boardgame, especially one as formulaic as Clue(do), might translate into the comic book medium. Well… it's not bad! The setup is in true Agatha Christie style, with a disparate group of (at least initially) apparent strangers gathering at a spooky, and soon isolated, mansion for dinner. I think I can say without spoilers that the first to go is the host - well, he is called Mr Boddy! The story then busies itself with starting to show the secret connections between the guests-turned-suspects. So far, so moderately yawnsome. Allor has applied some smart tweaks to the story though, initially by adding three additional chromatically-titled suspects to boost the game’s traditional six, and then very cleverly with the addition of the sarcastic, all-knowing and fourth-wall-breaking butler Upton, who's aware they are in a comic book and supplies withering asides, putting down the rest of the rainbow crew and giving us hints of what to look out for. Interestingly, we get a clue that he may not actually be fully omniscient: I wonder whether the story might start to take a more twisted path than he expects? 6/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Nicola Scott & Chiara Arena
Image $3.99

Matt C: The extended break while Rucka and Scott did their thing on Wonder Woman is over, and while I'm a hard sell on anything witch-related, I remain somewhat surprised (even with Rucka’s involvement) at how much I’m engaging with the premise. This is a flashback issue highlighting the period of Rowan Black’s youth when she fully committed to witchcraft, and the metaphor for the transition from childhood to young adulthood is well managed, Scott’s beautifully crafted artwork drawing the emotions out of the scenario in a disarming way; it’s intimate, thoughtful and truthful, and when the horror switch gets flicked it’s all the more effective. Another fine series from Greg Rucka, hopefully one that won’t see any further creative detours hamper its scheduling. 8/10

James R: Black Magick makes a welcome return this week, coming hot on the heels of the conclusion to the first arc of Rucka's excellent The Old Guard. This flashback issue sheds light on Rowan Black's mysterious life as a witch by delving into her childhood, and the awakening of her powers. As with the first arc, Black Magick is a visually remarkable book - the monochrome pages from Nicola Scott are great, but the sudden and explosive bursts of colour by Chiara Arena are what give the imagery real character. Greg Rucka's script is as sharp as we have come to expect - his name on the top of a book is a genuine guarantee of a quality read. It's good to have this title back - it's already working its magic on me. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one!) 8/10

Writer: John Layman
Art: Sam Kieth & Ronda Pattison
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Eleanor and Ellis’ story moves ahead in this third chapter, having established a pattern of flashback prologue followed by progression of the tale. Our prologue this time gives us a vignette of Eleanor before the arrival of Ellis, suggesting that perhaps, in this reality, an animal familiar could be a common phenomenon, and shows us a mystery regarding Eleanor’s own artwork, hinting at why she took up the magical egret-powered art theft racket. Kieth’s beautiful wispy artwork is such a treat throughout this book: the delicate eyes, stylish poses, the way characters in the act of effort poke their tongues out of the corner of their mouths are all so delicious, and the way that the pillar-like Detective Belanger, clearly incapable of objective judgement regarding Eleanor, becomes lost in romantic rapture at the sight of her sketched face is heart-melting. 7/10

SAGA #44
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples
Image $2.99

Matt C: A reassuring presence on the pull-list, even if it sometimes veers more towards soap opera than space opera, albeit with a very adult leaning. It does have the knack of pushing things forward without really pushing things forward, enjoying spending time with the characters instead of barrelling towards the next plot point, with the shocker usually left until the final page. I’ve stuck around for 44 issues so obviously I don’t have a problem with that, but I think it’s less about a keenness to see where the tale is headed and more a desire to witness both Vaughan’s skill with characterization and the sheer outlandish ingenuity of Staples’ artistic creations. I may not be as down with this series as some are (people LOVE Saga) but I’m down with it all the same. 7/10

Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Art: Joƫlle Jones, Sandu Florea & Kelly Fitzpatrick
DC $5.99

Jo S: This fourth book brings Tamaki’s Supergirl miniseries to a close and it seems impossible not to talk about the cover price; this is definitely a prestige title, with a giant $5.99 price tag. For your cash, you get a lot of pages and a smart stiff cover but do you get your money’s worth in story? Well… you do get great artwork. Jones draws teenagers beautifully; a full page with a mid-air save screams athleticism and grace, the page structures are inventive (although perhaps less often in this final chapter) and Fitzpatrick’s use of bold colour is rich, as you might expect for a Krypton-born hero. However, I expressed some problems with the pace in the debut chapter though and, although it picked up, the introduction of our main baddies halfway through issue #3 left little time to flesh them out in any real way before the story needed to conclude in the fourth and I would argue that, in fact, this story doesn't actually conclude in any satisfactory way. Much time was spent early on in building Kara’s relationship with other characters, and I would have assumed this would be relevant to a final battle - that's how comic books work, right? The hero is in crisis but then digs deep to use what they've learned to defeat the bad guy against the odds? - but no, other than a perfunctory twist on the damsel-in-distress, there's little tie-in, for me, with the emotional history of the early issues. And then… it just stops. Had this been the first arc of a longer series, it would have made more sense but, to me, finishing the story with Kara on the cusp of asking for outside help to solve the problem set up from the start was a jarring halt before the story had a chance to reach its climax and an undermining of all we thought she had achieved so far. Perhaps I have misunderstood the meaning of ‘#4 (of 4)’? I would like to hope so. 6/10

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