15 Oct 2017

Mini Reviews 15/10/2017

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.

FAMILY TRADE #1
Writer: Justin Jordan & Nikki Ryan
Art: Morgan Beem
Image $3.99

Jo S: I’ve been struck by a tingle of guilt reading this issue #1 - James R asked about it last week, enquiring as to whether it was worth getting and I responded ‘Nah, steampunk, not for you’, having covered it for Previews. Steampunk is indeed for me, but this is not at all what I would consider steampunk and, I think, the better for it. Yes, it’s set in an alternative history, in the world of a huge floating city, built in the Atlantic, which forms a neutral political centre where global issues are resolved, and yes, it’s the sort of Victorian-Georgian-pirate-y which is an offshoot of steampunk, and includes assassins and talking cats… but, actually, I think to dismiss it as a ‘steampunk thing’ was to do it an injustice. Morgan Beem’s watercolour art is delectable - I especially enjoyed the switch to sepia tone for the flashback section - and the storyline is intriguing, if a little contorted for me to follow fully in this first book. Sorry James - this might be worth a look! 7/10

ROYAL CITY #6
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $3.99

James R: After a short break, Jeff Lemire's peerless Royal City returns with an issue that takes us back to the 1990s. I've always said that I wouldn't fall for nostalgia, but what can I say? In these pages, Lemire does a terrific job conjuring up the feel of 1993 (if only via the great Spotify playlist that accompanies every issue). I particularly loved the pages with Patrick Pike - Lemire conveys in two pages what would take a novelist an entire chapter, and once more it's just a pleasure to see an artist absolutely on top of his craft. In spending more time with Peter, we're offered a teasing glimpse not only as to his fate, but perhaps just what his role is in the Royal City of 2017. This mystery lies at the heart of the book, and I'm fascinated to see where it goes. Effortlessly brilliant, and along with Black Hammer, this is the best series being published today. 9/10

MISTER MIRACLE #3
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC $3.99

Matt C: Stupendous. The percussive nature of the nine-panel grid format adds a real sense of urgency to this tale of war and reality, the titular escape artist seemingly unable to free himself from his warped perception of his surroundings as his world becomes increasingly desperate and violent. It’s all rendered with glorious maturity by Gerads, an artist continuously on an upward trajectory, able to astound with the simplest of images and reveal great depths of emotion with more complex visuals. That complexity feeds back and forth with the script, symbiotically, King expertly trapping us into a psyche that’s both untethered and damaged, reminding us on every page of Jack Kirby’s unique gift at creating alluring and enduring characters. 9/10

James R: Home from the war against Darkseid, Scott Free earns some respite from the relentless battles of issue #2 - only to find himself embroiled in conspiracy. Every synopsis of this series can have the suffix '...or does he?' attached, as it becomes increasingly clear that Mister Miracle's grasp on reality is tenuous at best. It's a joy to read, and almost a 10 for me, echoing as it does the notion of the protagonist grappling with sanity and reality, as done with aplomb by Lemire and Smallwood on the recent Moon Knight series, and the notion that 'reality is a trap' as Grant Morrison explored with his Mister Miracle miniseries back in the Seven Soldiers Of Victory event. I've no doubt that King and Gerads will evolve this title into something unique by the 11th/12th issue and I'm reserving a maximum mark for then. 9/10

SACRED CREATURES #4
Writer: Pablo Raimondi & Klaus Janson
Art: Klaus Janson, Pablo Raimondi, Dean White, Chris Chuckry & Brian Reber
Image $4.99

Jo S: This series has been the epitome of quality so far but the fourth issue raises the stakes a further level to downright sumptuous. It takes a whole second art team to properly reflect the parallel stories required to simultaneously show us the history of recently deceased angel Naviel and the continuing impact of her murder in contemporary days, and writers Raimondi and Janson don’t hold back in setting huge ambitions for the tale and then fulfilling them to the max. My pull-list has been curiously weighted this week towards crowds of folks getting naked together, and since Deadly Sin Lust carries a large portion (fnarr) of the storyline, it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that there are sections here which are definitely NSFW, but there are also gorgeous sections of biblical ‘history’ alongside the orgies. Perhaps not one to share with your mum, but a rich story with beautiful artwork - this is definitely a keeper rather than a throwaway story. 8/10

HULK #11
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Art: Bachan & Federico Blee
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A bit of a change of pace in the last issue before the series experiences the line-wide renumbering (and retitling in this case), harking back to the fourth-wall breakage of John Byrne’s run in the early '90s. If this approach had come out of nowhere it would have been a bit of a jolt following on from the PTSD-centric focus of the opening arcs, but the history of this character’s direct connection with the reader means it’s only a slight bump that is quickly forgotten about thanks to the sassy, snappy entertainment provided by Jennifer Walters going out on a date with unexpected consequences. It’s a fun digression, but the series probably wouldn’t tolerate a complete change in direction, so I expect ‘normal’ service to resume next time around. 8/10

GRASS KINGS #8
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $3.99

James R: For a series about the darkest urges of humanity, Grass Kings sure is beautiful. I've mentioned before how good Tyler Jenkins' watercoloured pages are, and in this issue they're superb again - a page depicting the character of Pike cast out on a stormy ocean counts as one of my images of the year. The issue is focused on the aforementioned Pike, and we learn how this outsider amongst the outsiders came to be a resident of the Grass Kingdom. It's a masterful script from Matt Kindt too, never flinching from the ugly side of Pike's life, whilst showing us that his time spent with man is more barbaric than that in the wild. Grass Kings has really mastered the art of the final page twist and reveal too - as Bruce and Robert continue to search for the serial killer in their midst, we see that the truth could be more elusive than previously thought. I'm still impressed and entranced with this book, and it looks as if the greatest issues are still to come. 8/10

JIMMY’S BASTARDS #4
Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Russ Braun, John Kalisz
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Round 2 of crowds of folks getting nekked in my pull-list this week… Well, this one just gets whackier and whackier. Nancy is finally beginning to cotton on to the reason why so many classical evil plots are being directed at Jimmy and why he appears to have clones popping up in the most unexpected of places, and now the mysterious phrase ‘gender fluid’, which has been cropping up in chatter for weeks, is finally starting to crystallise into reality. It’s possible I’m still getting this book out of disbelief that the team can continue to balance on the knife edge of offensiveness-excused-as-parody; this issue sharpens that edge to diamond fineness, going through a Benny Hill phase and then diving head first into something approaching a Caligula-style orgy that no-one’s going to be proud of in the morning. I find it very hard to imagine how they’ll follow that. 7/10

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