17 Sept 2017

Mini Reviews 17/09/2017

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: Matt Nixon
Artist: Toby Cypress
Image $3.99

James R: A book that describes itself as "what would happen if David Lynch made a funny book with Steve Ditko and Jim Steranko" is setting the bar extremely high, and it doesn't quite reach those heights (especially considering David Lynch has just raised the bar again with Twin Peaks: The Return) but it's certainly a promising first issue. The central conceit is that the characters in Retcon are aware that their lives are stuck in a loop - they are, as the title suggests, being continually retconned. We don't really get much hint of this in the first issue beyond the interview with the creators in the back of the book, but I love the idea so much that Nixon and Cypress have me sold. The opener feels like a psychedelic BPRD, with a shadowy government agent hunting down one of their own who has gone rogue, and suffering from a little lycanthropy. It barrels along at a blistering pace, and Toby Cypress' impressionistic art is hugely refreshing. I will hold off on more effusive praise until the retcon itself becomes a part of the plot, but this was a confident first chapter. 8/10

Writer: John Lees
Art: Alex Cormack
Comix Tribe $3.99

Jo S: Very much hoping there are no comic book fans on Glasgow’s board of tourism currently; I should imagine the image of their city portrayed in this new series will not be drawing many visitors to the sights. When your trusted local comic book seller looks at you with concern and says “You know it’s quite… violent, don't you?” you know that this one might be best avoided late at night, especially after eating cheese, and certainly Cormack must have put in a double order for red paint after this first issue. The story of the darkest of dark sides of town begins with a young man, dangerously blasé about the dangers of Glasgow at night, taking a walk home and crossing the path of some feral local wildlife. The artwork is grimy and murky, shot through with bright reds and patches of brilliant fluorescent lighting; smart use is made of twisted fox-hunting references and Lees braids in Glasgow urban legends to excellent effect. Those with the heebie-jeebies for Killer Clowns will definitely want to steer clear. 7/10

Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Andrea Sorrentino, Joe Bennet, Joe Pimentel, Scott Hanna & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: These days, Marvel events need their epilogues. A chance to assess the damage once the dust has settled. This is probably a better finale than the official finale as it focuses on ideas rather than action, and although superhero action is a fine thing to behold, sometimes it’s more rewarding to dig into the central themes of a story. Here we have the villain telling the hero that the complacency and arrogance of the good guys allowed the bad guys to waltz into power. There are clear parallels being made with the real world, the kind that made the whole concept behind Secret Empire so compelling in the first place but maybe got lost in the mix as the series neared its conclusion. Sorrentino takes the bulk of the illustrative duties for this issue (the other sections are surplus to requirements) and it’s frequently astonishing; his inventive usage of the page is a veritable marvel. As a whole, Secret Empire didn’t always achieve its potential, but this is fine closing statement. 8/10

Writer: Si Spurrier & Dan Watters
Art: Daniel HDR
Dynamite $3.99

Jo S: Having enjoyed the first issue of this new Shadow series so much, I had some concerns for issue #2 which revolved around the use of a very clever storytelling device which seemed to have served its purpose by the end of the first book. I need not have worried; Spurrier and Watters’ imaginative structuring allows for a blend of present-day and flashback threads, all held together by themes which are explored at just exactly the right pace to keep me fascinated without losing me. The mystery of the badly burned man in the hospital bed grows: has he really forgotten his own identity? Is Mary (what a great character!) right about him and can she help him to rediscover his own history? And is he connected to the President himself? This series is shaping up to be a classy mystery tale, twisty and noir-ish, with a style and identity I wasn't expecting. Well worth investigating. 8/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC $3.99

James R: By now the hype train for Mister Miracle is up and rolling; the fact that GQ provide the pull quote for the cover is both a salute to how good this title is, and an indication of just how mainstream comics have become - I can't imagine they would have given much credence to the medium a decade ago. The book itself is one of those fine examples of a writer and an artist who know each other really well, and have become a well-oiled machine. Gerads' nine-panel grids here manage to cover everything from the epic, through the hallucinatory to the shockingly violent, all the while keeping the focus tight on Scott Free. King's script serves up a terrific double-cross (which may be a triple-cross!) and left me wanting the next issue immediately. That's always one of my gold standards for a book, and Mister Miracle achieves it with style. There's an awful lot of (granny) goodness in these pages. 8/10

Matt C: War rages between New Genesis and Apokolips and Scott Free finds himself battling relentlessly on the frontlines, never able to absorb what’s really happening amongst the constant fighting. And what is really happening? The steady rhythm of the nine-panel grid structure ensures the pace never lets up, but there are cracks in the narrative that indicate not everything is what it seems, and perhaps the superheroic escape artist needs to find his way back to both sanity and reality. King’s dextrous scripting along with the sometimes disconcerting sophistication of Gerads' artwork creates an experience that magnetises intensely even when you want to step back and get a handle on what’s really going on. Following on from last year’s The Vision, King is once again taking a second-tier character and doing something quite extraordinary; surprising, emotive, and – yes – in a genre that often shows signs of exhaustion, damn near miraculous. 9/10

Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Jo S: We're moving into a new chapter with the exquisitely beautiful Grass Kings and the pace has changed a little. The high tension of the first arc has eased and we're now into a mystery, with brothers Bruce and Robert, the Grass Kingdom’s law enforcement and bereaved patriarch respectively, investigating the possibility that murders in and around their tiny community may have been committed by one of their own. Kindt’s stylish storytelling is there from the first page, dripping symbolism as the boys lift a rock and disturb a rattlesnake beneath it, and Jenkins’ tear-jerking watercolour art drags the reader unresisting into the emotion of the characters; his representation of Bruce and Shelly gazing up at the Milky Way made me want to climb on a roof and get myself lost in starlight. 9/10

James R: I enjoy Grass Kings so much, it's already moved into the mental bracket of 'reassuringly good'. This beautiful comic continues to impress in every way. Jenkins' watercolour-infused art truly fills every page, and spills to the edges of each panel, giving the reader an immersive experience. Kindt's script is a treat too - following the battle for Grass Kingdom, the focus now switches to the intriguing prospect of the Thin-Air killer being hidden in plain sight amongst the rebels and outsiders that make up the community. Some books can be an awkward read, others can be a challenging read, others still can make no impression at all, but Grass Kings is a great tale told with aplomb; it's certainly yet to put a foot wrong. 8/10

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