27 Aug 2017

Mini Reviews 27/08/2017

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.

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Trevor McCarthy & Dean White
DC $3.99

James R: This one was a very pleasant gamble. I decided to take a look at this due to the recent great work of Kyle Higgins, and the fact that I do enjoy an 'Elseworlds' tale - in this case, a possible future where Dick Grayson fronts up the Crusaders, a police unit enforcing the law which now forbids super-powers. If you were wise enough to pick up Higgins' brilliant C.O.W.L., you'd know that police procedural fused with heroes is a speciality, and he delivers a first issue which is immediately compelling. We're given glimpses as to why Dick Grayson decided that a world without super-powers was a necessity, but we're not given the whole story. There's also the question as to who is still out there... At a time when my pull-list from the Big Two is two titles, it's a joy to read something like this. McCarthy's art is unfussy but effective, and it all makes for a fine book. I have always remembered the maxim 'There's no such thing as a bad character, just a bad story' and The New Order is a perfect example - regardless of what you think about the DCU, this is a great story, brilliantly told. 8/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mahmud Asrar & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: My first taste of this ‘Generations’ thing. Not sure I get it yet. Is this an essential read for fans of Jason Aaron’s work with the Thunder God(s)? Well, not really; it’s a kind of throwaway time-travel adventure that never really explains how the time-travelling hero manages to reappear in the past. Is it worth the $4.99 price-tag? More pages maybe, but nothing that makes a particularly strong case for someone already buying one Thor book a month to pick up another. Nothing except perhaps the hints at what’s to come with the Avengers of 1,000,000 BC in Marvel Legacy #1 (man, I never knew I needed a comic with Ghost Rider on a mammoth, but it turns out I do!). Fun while it lasts but forgettable overall. 6/10

Writer: Doug Wagner
Art: Daniel Hillyard & Laura Martin
Image $3.99

Jo S: ‘Twas a quiet week in April when the lovely Virginia and her adoring partner Victor/Edwyn came into my life - I was so close to not picking this series up but I'm so very glad I did. Every issue has been an absolute luxury; the perfect concoction of macabre yet sweet romance, gruesome yet passion-driven violence, very bad good guys and not even slightly nice bad guys. The triumphant final episode opens with our hero finally reunited with the star around which his life orbits; Virginia falls into his arms and, in my head, I hear the music start to swell and tears of relief spring to my eyes... but of course this couldn't be as simple as a stroll into the sunset for our fated lovers, could it? Wagner brings this darkly witty, gleefully gruesome tale to a perfect close in this final episode, Hillyard’s graphics bring deep emotion to even the most immobile of faces and Martin’s indulgent colours - the sticky pinks and swampy greens, flame-lit faces and grey haunted last remains - render the whole confection as irresistible as one of those pink-glazed, sprinkle-covered, Holes ‘n’ More donuts. They're her favourites, you know. 10/10

LETTER 44 #35
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque & Dan Jackson
Oni Press $3.99

Matt C: 35 issues later, Letter 44 arrives at its destination. It commenced with a barrel full of incredible ideas, smartly plausible, but along the way it dragged when it could have moved swiftly, the closer it got to an explanation of the central plotline, the more uneven it became. It also does that annoying thing of not giving narrative closure by jumping ahead into the future; it’s a trope that’s always infuriated me, as the journey we’ve spent with certain characters skips the ending we’re perhaps looking for (or needing). I’ve stuck with it because it’s been delivered with intelligence but overall it’s been a second class package rather than something in need of first class urgency. 6/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: David Rubin
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: Black Hammer is currently tied with Jeff Lemire's Royal City as my favourite ongoing title, so it should come as no surprise that I loved the latest chapter in the saga of the heroes of Spiral City. The focus here is on Black Hammer's daughter Lucy Weber, and how her desire to find out what happened to her father has shaped her life. It's also a curtain-raiser for the upcoming spin-off title, Sherlock Frankenstein And The Legion Of Evil. There's a sly nod to another comics creator, as we're introduced to James Robinson, the retired hero Doctor Star, who shares a name and a strong resemblance to Starman creator... James Robinson! I really enjoy Black Hammer's love and incorporation of comics history, and it's testament to Lemire's skill that it all feels so seamless within the narrative. It's also great to see David Rubin's art again - following his run on Ether, I'm starting to see more and more reviewers noticing his distinctive and striking art and I can't wait to see Rubin working with Lemire on Sherlock Frankenstein. Superior stuff all round, and still my favourite. 9/10

Writer: Aleš Kot
Art: André Lima Araújo & Chris O’Halloran
Image $3.99

Jo S: The first issue of this series appealed to me because it managed to make a story about hackers, whose standard activity is innately pretty boring visually, into a gripping premise. In this second issue, Kot pulls off a similar trick by shrewdly leaving out sections of the story which we can assume because they're standard new-superhero tropes - figuring out you can fly, for example. He also makes really effective use of parallel dialogue - a slightly dull but important conversation is braided into a section where one of the newly created superhumans tries out the limits of their powers. The effect is to keep the storytelling clean and fresh rather than laboured and allows us to move along briskly through the necessary expositional parts. I'm struggling a bit to find anyone very likeable, other than put-upon martyr Ellie; adding tragic backstory to the meddling disobedient scientist and the gruff military stereotype didn't make me any more sympathetic to them and I think I would have smacked miserable ingrate Nick with a plank some time earlier than his co-conspirator Baldwin (although bonus marks for the evident relish with which this was carried out) but perhaps I will warm to them in future issues. 8/10

LAZARUS: X +66 #2
Writer: Greg Rucka & Aaron Duran
Art: Mack Chater
Image $3.99

Matt C: While the main series is on hiatus, this offshoot mini is proving to be every bit as vital as the central narrative, further embellishing a milieu that already feels tangibly real thanks to the meticulous brilliance of the world-building. The Carlyle family aren’t the focus in this six-parter, but their presence is felt everywhere, and viewing things from another perspective adds further layers of understanding as well as providing insight into why other families view them as a serious threat. Chater’s artwork follows on from the visual aesthetic laid down by Michael Lark, which is a smart move for keeping us locked into this world, our focus not distracted by jolting tonal amendments. If you’re on board with Lazarus, don’t think of this as an optional purchase; it’s required reading. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Ryan Bodenheim & Michael Garland
Image $3.99

James R: The Dying And The Dead is one of those books that comes out so sporadically, it falls foul of geek amnesia - as I opened it, I thought 'So, why is all this happening again? Something to do with a spear?' Delays aside, this issue shows us a Hickman staple - one dialogue-free sequence taking up the entire issue, with a narrative providing us with food for thought. He did this back in East of West #22, and I loved that issue too. They work because they have great artists - Bodenheim's work here is suitably cinematic, and makes the book a great read. The back matter give us some pages from issues #6, #7 and #8 - almost as a promise that the series will be back before too long. I hope so, as I've enjoyed every issue so far - but the delays mean it loses the impetus of a great series. 8/10

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