20 Aug 2017

Mini Reviews 20/08/2017

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 NIGHTS: METAL #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion & FCO Plascencia
DC $4.99

James R: Reader, I bought it. After being underwhelmed by the prelude to Dark Nights, the old fanboy in me caved in and decided "Well, one issue won't hurt..." Kudos has to go to Scott Snyder for taking the 'up to 11' approach with DC's summer event - from page one, Snyder goes all-in and full-on. Firstly, in terms of action: like a Bond movie, Metal starts with the Justice League mid-mission against Mongul, featuring DC's icons forming into a Voltron-style mecha to win the day, and it doesn't really let up from there. Secondly, Snyder fully embraces the giant and wholly irrational history of the DCU, incorporating elements from Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, and a final-page appearance from... well, I won't spoil it, but a character from the Vertigo imprint's golden age. It also features Batman riding a dinosaur, which is almost worth the cover price alone. For all this though, I still felt a little underwhelmed. Call it cynicism, call it event fatigue - whatever, - but I still didn't feel the sense of giddy anticipation and excitement that I would expect from a book this epic, and created by a team this good. Like a summer movie blockbuster, it's enjoyable enough, just don't expect it to sweep the (Parad)Oscars at the end of the year. 7/10

Jo S: I'm confident that much will be said about the launch of this new event, by folks with much more experience than I have, so I'll take this from the perspective of a noob who has never been formally introduced to the Justice League as a unit; the upshot being that I know practically nothing about Cyborg and little about the Flash, and zip about previously constructed dynamics within the team. On the flip side, I've fast become crazy fangirl for Scott Snyder, having been rocked back on my heels by AD: After Death, so anything with his writing cred gets my attention. Coming at it from this direction, this first issue was, sadly, a bit of a let down. For me, the pace was lumpy and I struggled to follow action and character connections. It felt as if a huge range of story points were yanked in by the hair with little background and no sense of flow, like a homework essay from a student who knew all the elements that should be included but not how to synergise them. I'm looking forward to a longer conversation about it with my erudite colleagues at the PCG, as I'm sure there are things which, in my naivety, I have missed, but for now I'm not finding the delight and awe in this that I was hoping would be grabbing me with this event. 5/10

Matt C: I really had high hopes for this one. This was the event series that was going to get me back into the DC Universe in a big way, via the big guns, both creatively and with the characters being utilized. It does look impressively polished, but getting into the midst of things reveals a heavy exposition dump that swiftly becomes wearisome, to the point where the ‘revelation’ of a ‘Dark Multiverse’ is a shoulder shrug when it should pop the eyeballs. I guess I have to face up to the fact that ‘Rebirth’ hasn’t really fixed the core issues I had with the New 52, but I’m leaving the door open for DC to convince me I need to come back. It just won’t be for Metal. 5/10

SHEENA: QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE #0
Writers: Marguerite Bennett & Christina Trujillo
Art: Moritat, & Andre Szymanowicz
Dynamite $0.25

Jo S: I was all geared up with a sackload of snark for this little issue #0, ready to deride it as exploitative nonsense and get all up on my sarcastic high horse… but actually, you know what? It’s okay. I mean, it's not novel (the story is a basic Tarzan rip-off with added camera drones), or cerebral (it's ankle-deep at most) and it's certainly not credible (more on that in a second) but I can't deny it's actually a vine-swinging, knife-wielding, temple-raiding jungle-load of FUN! Sure, if I had a daughter I wouldn't be rushing her to read it; this isn't girl power. Sheena is essentially jungle-Barbie but with bigger, um, eyes. Her outfit is wildly impractical and would require half a roll of bikini tape to make it through one issue; the knife holster on her left calf is oddly missing most of the time and when I mentioned in passing to a couple of friends that she has weird toes, the response was “uh… she has toes?” There's no avoiding the notion that this is all about glorying in her comic-book-perfect curves but… truly, it was fun. I might even get another one. 7/10

ASTONISHING X-MEN #2
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Mike Deodato & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

James R: I missed out on this series' debut but having caught up since, I am now very much on board. I have been looking for an X-Men series to add to my pull-list, and whereas this isn't quite up to the giddy heights of Rick Remender's run on Uncanny X-Force, it's certainly heading in that direction. Following the bombshell in the first issue that Charles Xavier lives (I know, nobody is ever really dead in comics) albeit in psychic form on the astral plane, the composite X-team become pawns in deadly game between Xavier and the Shadow King. The beauty of the X-Men is that there's an X-team, or style that fits almost all hero tastes - and this certainly works for me. Soule's script gives us an overview of the tortured history of Marvel's mutants whilst keeping the intrigue, and Deodato and Martin are as dependable as always, portraying both the real world and the astral plane with aplomb. Minor English quibble; a character describes a part of London as the 'Wharf District' - Mr Soule, just to let you know the area around the Shard is known as London Bridge or the South Bank! Pedantry aside, it's great to have an X-title back on my pull. 8/10

MAGNUS #3
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Jorge Fornés & Chris O’Halloran
Dynamite $3.99

Matt C: A smart mix of crime and sci-fi, this is a somewhat revelatory reinvention of a classic property, taking a tired idea that wouldn’t get much traction in the 21st century and injecting it with enough vitality and ingenuity to make it relevant. Expanding on Kerri Magnus’ backstory whilst also progressing the murder mystery plot, Higgins’ storytelling ability is unquestionable here, but perhaps the emerging star of the show is Jorge Fornés, who’s doing some simply amazing things with panel structures along with blending noirish police procedure with futuristic robo-tech. This is a book that will slipping under a lot of people’s radar, but a simple twist of the dial will tune you into the Cloud and beyond. 8/10

TIME & VINE #2
Writer: Thomas F. Zahler
Art: Thomas F. Zahler & Luigi Anderson
IDW $4.99

Jo S: My pull-list this week was all about the independents, and Time & Vine is one of those books that shows what can be done when an interesting new idea is given space to be explored without a rush. Each issue takes it slow; in the last we met Megan, a teacher on her summer holiday, and Jack, the winery owner with access to a magical wine cellar which allows the initiated few to time travel back to their choice of year by sampling a wine of that vintage. This second issue takes us a little further, exploring Megan’s past and uncorking a couple of family mysteries to be savoured slowly in further episodes. This isn't really sci-fi: one of the rules of this case of time travel insists that travellers cannot change the future and this renders them interactive observers rather than giving them a way to affect their own story. For me, it's more like a day-time soap; intrigue and family drama, characters whose background and motivations you want to learn a little more about at each stage, but all delivered gently and serenely, without the bustle of a movie or drama series. It's not gripping, but pleasant. Oaky overtones. Not sure if it will travel, but a nice little drinker. 7/10

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #17
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Jason Latour
Image $3.99

James R: Thank God they're back! Following an entirely understandable hiatus, Southern Bastards returns this week with an issue to remind us of why it's one of the best comics being published today. Things continue to go from bad to disastrous for Coach Boss as his feud with Locus Fork and Colonel Quick McKlusky spills out beyond the football field and threatens to turn fatal. As with every issue of this series, it sees the two Jasons at the top of their game - Aaron's script has an incredible sense of foreboding (and doesn't forget the harbinger of doom in the shape of Roberta Tubb). Latour's art is phenomenal too - I said it when reviewing the first issue, and it remains the case, that Southern Bastards is a book where you can almost taste the Deep South. One of those titles where I think it's impossible to have a sub-par issue, Southern Bastards continues to convert every field goal. 8/10

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