24 Sep 2017

Mini Reviews 24/09/2017

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.

ANGELIC #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Art: Caspar Wijngaard
Image $3.99

Jo S: This one jumped out at me when it popped up in Previews, not because of the flying monkeys (although that helps), nor the post-human Earth story (which also is not a bad thing), but because of Simon Spurrier’s name on the cover. You may have noticed that I’m going nuts this year for Spurrier’s Godshaper: its inventiveness is top notch and I hoped that Angelic would carry the same DNA. Well, it seems so far to be hitting the right tone. I was a little concerned that flying monkeys meant magic, which I’m not totally resistant to but don’t get excited about; I needn’t have worried. The ‘monks’, ‘gibs’ and ‘dolts’ of the story, (monkey-, gibbon- and dolphin-derivatives respectively) are cybergenetic mutations, it seems, left over from Man’s experimentations before departing Earth (heading where, we don’t yet know). The jet-powered flying dolphins (yeah, I know) are predators of the peace loving, deeply religious monkeys. The story centres on Qora, a ‘girlmonk’ on the cusp of maturity, with a dangerously enquiring mind and a growing lack of respect for the practising of the required rituals of their faith. Will curiosity kill the macaque? Spurrier has me wanting to know. 7/10

GASOLINA #1
Writer: Sean Mackiewicz
Art: Niko Walter & Mat Lopes
Image £3.99

Matt C: Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to pick this up straight after watching an episode of Narcos’ excellent third season but this debut issue didn’t make a connection with me. The charaterization is nicely done, it comes at the Mexican drug trade from an angle that doesn’t feel overly excessive, and the art assists greatly in creating an evocative atmosphere of south-of-the-border danger. The slightly nebulous set-up isn’t an issue but what threw me out was the introduction of a horror element that is obviously going to be far more central to the narrative going forward. I can see the appeal of applying the genre to this milieu, allowing an exploration of certain themes and how they affect/infect those trying to remain apart from it, but if I’m honest I’d probably have stuck around if it was a straight up crime drama without the mixing in of additional genres. 6/10

BATMAN #31
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mikel Janín & June Chung
DC $2.99

James R: At the moment, Tom King's Mister Miracle is earning all the praise, (and rightfully so) but his work here with the Dark Knight is just what I want from a 21st century Batman comic. I've now caught up on 'The War Of Jokes And Riddles', and if you are a fan of Christopher Nolan's take on Batman, and wondered what it would have been like if he had an unlimited budget and several more movies then you should look this way. King's Batman has got action, plots and double-crosses galore, and of course, Kite Man. I've come to really like the art of Mikel Janín too, portraying a Gotham that's real enough whilst still finding room for Killer Croc. I've seen Tom King respond to a tweet that mentions 'negativity' over this arc; I don't spend too much time trawling the internet for fan opinion, but if this is the case, it's sad that more fans haven't embraced this. With a character that's been in continuous publication for over 70 years, it's tough to do something distinctive, but King is doing just that. If you haven't given this run a shot, you should - Tom King's name is now a guarantee of a quality book. 8/10

GENERATION GONE #3
Writer: Aleš Kot
Art: André Lima Araújo & Chris O’Halloran
Image $3.99

Matt C: Kot isn’t messing around for his return to comics following a lengthy absence; the ball is well and truly rolling on this one. In places it reminds me of the movie Chronicle, but Kot likes to politically charge his stories so there’s plenty to give this tale of kids developing sudden superpowers its own unique flavour. There’s also an uncomfortable realism to the characters that draws you in, helps you engage on a certain level, even if some members of the cast are the kind you’d turn your back on, whatever the situation. There’s an honesty and plausibility to Generation Gone - which Araújo eloquently portrays – that makes it a compelling and ruminative read. 8/10

BLACK HAMMER #13
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: The cover to this majestic title now proudly sports the a banner highlighting the Eisner win for Best New Series, and reading this issue, it's so easy to see why Black Hammer earned this plaudit. The first two pages use the medium beautifully, showing Abraham Slam's isolation and sense of redundancy. We're finally given the reason why the ageing heroes were recruited to stop the Anti-God, before the arc climaxes with a terrific reveal. I know I have sung the praises of the creative team with every issue of this run, but once more, Lemire, Ormston and Stewart have crafted a comic that just feels classy - it's a joy to immerse myself in these pages and see creators at their peak. There's now a break before the next arc, and this would sometimes mean a loss of momentum, but with the spin-off Sherlock Frankenstein due next month, the world of Black Hammer remains strikingly good. 9/10

JEAN GREY #7
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: This series has crackled with fiery energy throughout and it seems almost impossible that Hopeless and Alburquerque could ramp it up any further and yet, for me, this issue surpasses the others. The source of Jean’s mysterious warning voice has been revealed to be, uh, herself - or rather, ‘older Jean’, who she would have been if she hadn’t been dragged forward in t... yeah. I lost track a bit. ‘Our’ Jean is now being haunted by an older, tetchier, more scarred version of herself and their companionship is not a comfortable one. The non-ghost Jean has grown in assertiveness since the first hints of Phoenix attention and is resistant to her alter’s attempts to help her (and perhaps a little suspicious of her motives?) and when Scarlet Witch swoops in to get stuck in with Jean’s training as well, three becomes a fractious crowd. Hopeless writes this trio of strong women brilliantly, capturing the tensions as the experienced heroes vie to support the younger, and Alburquerque’s delicious rendering of the two Jeans, alike as twins but so different at the same time, with Ramos’ vibrant colours, makes this scintillating and irresistible. 9/10

MAGNUS #4
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Jorge Fornēs & Chris O’Halloran
Dynamite $3.99

Matt C: A title that requires repeated highlighting because it’s one of the true surprises of 2017. This is what reinventions should be all about, taking a concept and applying the approach of a remixer: extracting the best elements, adding in new ones, and creating what seems simultaneously both fresh and familiar. Because, let’s be honest, there’s got to be a very small audience waiting on a reverent reboot of Magnus, Robot Fighter with few tweaks, right? This feels far more relevant and provocative, and this issue offers a deeper understanding of how Kerri Magnus was shaped into the woman she’s become, and it’s fascinating and enlightening. Fornēs provides polished visuals for the Cloud World but adds a rougher edge to the real world scenes, and many of his compositions are genuinely striking in the way they portray the near future with such crisp clarity. 8/10

James R: Definitely the most under-the-radar series of the year, Magnus continues to surprise. Certainly the best cyberspace series I can remember reading in any medium since Neal Stephenson's sublime Snow Crash, Higgins' script finds the sweet spot between a murder mystery and A.I. dystopia (and that's no easy task). Higgins' re-invention of Magnus as a former robot hunter turned therapist called back into service has been a masterstroke, and I'm hoping that this series can run beyond this arc. I'm also loving the work of Jorge Fornēs here - his pencils remind me of David Mazzucchelli's work on Batman: Year One, (and that's high praise indeed) but with a lush pop-art sensibility too. A comic of guile and intelligence, Kyle Higgins deserves a huge amount of kudos for exceeding all expectations here. 8/10

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