22 Oct 2017

Mini Reviews 22/10/2017

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.

THOR #700
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Various
Marvel $5.99

Matt C: Renumbering again, and whether or not it’s actually numerically accurate, reaching #700 is a pretty big deal either way, and Jason Aaron certainly rises to the occasion. The longer this tale goes on, the more it looks like this is going to fall into the category of ‘magnum opus’, as Aaron is clearly putting his heart and soul into the characters and storytelling. It shows; the situations may be fantastical but the characters feel real. It’s definitely worth the $5.99 price-tag, the artistic talent brought in to justify the page-count really gives us our money’s worth (and who doesn’t want to see Becky Cloonan do a Thor book now??). You would think after all this time Aaron would be running on empty but by the looks of it he’s got plenty more tricks up his sleeve. 8/10

DEADPOOL VS. OLD MAN LOGAN #1
Writer: Declan Shalvey
Art: Mike Henderson & Lee Loughridge
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Crossover stories seem to abound in Marvel currently (maybe they always have, I’m new to this still, remember), and the success of a story combining two leading characters seems to depend on them having either significant differences, so the dynamic is one of antagonism, or significant similarities, to play on the collaboration of two strengths. Deadpool and Logan, however, have connections which are more like those often forged in family - their similarities are the cause of the friction between them, and their different motivations (money vs a quiet life?) amplify that, coating the grit to form a pearl. An introductory sequence sets us up with an idea that these two scarred monsters might be working together, and is cheekily not explained despite the ‘Two days earlier…’ teaser. Shalvey interplays the arrogance of the titular characters brilliantly throughout with katana-sharp speed and Henderson excels at extracting physical humour from Deadpool (which I admire as it can’t be easy to do that for a guy in a mask) and expertly captures the feeling that Logan’s teeth are constantly gritted. I’ll be coming back for this one. 8/10

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN & THE LEGION OF EVIL #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: David Rubin
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: My most keenly-anticipated title of the week certainly didn't disappoint. The eponymous Sherlock Frankenstein is tantalisingly absent from this first issue, appearing only in flashback or anecdote. We learn that he is a mixture of Lex Luthor and Moriarty, and for all his criminal genius, he's a figure surrounded in mystery. As with the main Black Hammer series, it's a joy to see Jeff Lemire riff on almost a century of mainstream comics history (here he expands the Black Hammer mythos back to World War 2) but it's also great to see the talent of David Rubin let rip - those of you who also enjoyed his work on Ether will be pleased to hear his pages here are the same mix of invention and eye-popping visuals, his double-page rendering of Lucy Weber's journey around Spiral Asylum is worth the price of admission alone. A confident first issue that showcases the rich possibilities of the Black Hammer universe; this is a dastardly good book. 9/10

KILL OR BE KILLED #13
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

Matt C: This series seems to be daring me to find new superlatives and hyperbole to fling at it. I mean, I still haven’t come to grips with how good The Fade Out was and now they give me this?! Perhaps Mister Miracle may give it a run for its money but I genuinely believe there’s no better comic being published right now than Kill Or Be Killed. We’re drawn in by the charismatic, disarming narration of Dylan Cross, given a first hand experience of his sociopathy, even if he does make a somewhat convincing case that he’s doing the right thing. Phillips and Breitweiser bring the intensity of Brubaker’s script to electrifying life without fail, making it easy to get distracted by the moment and not the long game. And Kill Or Be Killed is all about the long game; we don’t know where this tale is headed but there’s no question of us not sticking around to find out. 9/10

James R: It's no unlucky thirteen here - Kill Or Be Killed continues to exude class. In my On The Pull article this week I said that with this book, you know it'll be good before you've even opened the cover, and I stand by this claim. This issue sees Dylan attempting to discover more about the demon who was once illustrated by his father - and is now his tormentor -  and in doing so, Brubaker deftly lets us glimpse the fragile mental state of Dylan's paternal parent. There's a strong case to be made for this being Sean Phillips' best ever work too - his incorporation of the pulp style of Dylan's father is amazing, and it's given this book a distinct and rich identity. Kill Or Be Killed really is a creative team at their peak, and it's a compelling ride. 8/10

MAGNUS #5
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Jorge Fornés & Chris O'Halloran
Dynamite $3.99

Jo S: This series started for me as a bit of a long shot - I’ve been trying to pick up a couple of issues #1 each week to try to broaden my experience of comics and would probably have skipped this one if it hadn’t been for the robot thing (which is one of my fascinations). Starting as what felt like a murder mystery with an Asimovian robots-with-free-will twist, this has expanded in scope to the point where the world of humans and the world of robots is on the brink of all-out war; on the surface a war of protesters in the street, but underneath a different, unseen war, as much of the action takes place in the Cloud World where robots retreat in their down-time. Magnus’ position as the only being who can exist for extended periods of time in either world without corruption has become the singularity on which the future of both depends. Kyle Higgins’ writing in this issue is nothing short of genius: the first half is a confluence of events leading to a crisis, followed by a divergence which wrenches apart loyalties and crystallises intent. That said, the placement of a single apostrophe gave me almost as much pleasure as the rest of the issue put together - but then punctuation is another of my little fascinations. 9/10

James R: The biggest disappointment of the week came from reading a tweet from Kyle Higgins: responding to a question over a second series of Magnus, he said that unless the trade did really well, this issue would represent the final bow for the reimagined robot fighter. So the campaign begins now: if you haven't been getting this series, PICK IT UP IN TRADE! Magnus has definitely been the surprise of the year, and Higgins and Fornés don't disappoint with the denouement to their tale. I think it's a sign of how smart and subversive this series has been that the climax isn't a huge brawl that shakes the city to it's foundations, but rather a conversation and an appeal for reason and sanity. It's possibly related to my recent fanboy infatuation with Blade Runner 2049, but Magnus also uses the concept of AI to pose questions about sacrifice, justice and fairness... all before leaving us with a delicious cliffhanger. Once again, if you like smart and accomplished science fiction, you should really give Magnus a chance - the world deserves a continuation of this innovative series. 8/10

Matt C: And the plug is pulled just as this gets REALLY good. The surprise remix/reboot of the Magnus, Robot Fighter concept hits its final issue, for now, with no guarantee of a continuation (all down to trade sales, it seems). And that’s a damn shame if this is the last we see of it, because it’s been a powerfully engaging take on the idea of AI fully immersed in society, reflecting on aspects of the contemporary world in a thought-provoking manner, latching onto themes that could be explored further. Fornés is a terrific artist, displaying versatility that should carry him far, and if we don’t get anything more with this character, at the very least it provides evidence that Kyle Higgins is a writer to keep both eyes on, whatever he does. 8/10

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