5 Nov 2017

Mini Reviews 05/11/2017

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.

This week we welcome Mike V onto the reviewing team...

CAPTAIN AMERICA #695
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: And so here we go again. Cap punching Nazis. Again. Same old, same old, right? Well, yes, on a surface level maybe, but wait… Has anyone else had it up to here with 2017? Does turning on the news or scrolling through social media leaving you feeling utterly deflated, wondering what the hell’s going on out there? There are a lot of things that can grind you down these days, and I do apologise for putting so much weight on the perhaps unrealistic purity of purpose of a fictional character (not really), but there is something vitally necessary right now about seeing someone stand up for what’s right, selflessly, whether it’s in the real world or imaginary. And that’s Captain America. Mark Waid gets it. He gets why this character is so important, so enduring, so essential, just as much now as he’s ever been. Waid and Samnee deliver a Cap tale in the classic mould but there’s something deeper going on, something that taps into the very core of why certain characters have lasted so long, because there are times when we desperately need to be reminded that if we know what’s right then we should stand up for it, no matter what. That may be corny, but it matters. And Captain America still matters. 8/10

Jo S: How do you start again after an event like Secret Empire, where a ruthless Hydra Cap takes over the world and almost entirely destroys the reputation of America’s Good Guy? Well, if you’re smart, like Waid and Samnee, you start small and you go back to the basics of what makes Captain America. This story brings out a characteristic of the USA which I think we sometimes forget over here in Britain - it’s a really BIG place, but it’s made up of really small places, often isolated, often with a personality reflecting a history mostly independent of outside influence. Take Burlington, Nebraska: a tiny town which came close to being a victim of Bad Guys but survived and became something Good with Cap’s inspiration. Wilson’s fantastically respectful retro artwork is smashing; the kids are cute, the hot-dog stand guy is dweeby, the baddies are a faceless mass and Steve Rogers is hella handsome. THAT’s how you do it. 8/10

James R: I was largely underwhelmed by Marvel's recent Legacy one-shot, but one part that did stand out for me was the interlude featuring Steve Rogers in an anonymous diner, reflecting on his role as Captain America. I certainly wanted more of that, so I happily picked up the latest fresh start for the Sentinel of Liberty, brought to us by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. This certainly isn't the first time Captain America has questioned his place as the representative of the united States (his time spent as Nomad being the prime example) but now seems a particularly apposite moment. Following the events of Secret Empire, and the real world domestic issues that swirl around America, Mark Waid's script is a deft one. It's a restatement of who Captain America is, and why he's an important character. Steve finds himself back in a small town where he once made a dramatic impact on the population, and returns coincidentally for their annual Captain America day. Chris Samnee's pencils are striking, and totally complimented by Matthew Wilson's colours. There were moments where my cynical old soul had cause to roll my eyes, but I can't deny this was a heartfelt paean for Cap, and I will be interested to see where this goes next. 7/10

THE GRAVEDIGGERS UNION #1
Writer: Wes Craig
Art: Wes Craig, Toby Cypress & Niko Guardia
Image $3.99

Jo S : What if, throughout history, we have been protected from the encroaching ranks of the undead by a skilled team of enforcers, acting as a kind of pest control for the nether world? And what if that team was to find itself gradually overrun, by an increase in attacks and by a crushing weight of bureaucracy? The art in this first issue is split between creator Wes Craig for the first few pages, wherein we’re given a flavour of an Earth ancient history where apes have always been subjugated to a mysterious giant being, and a modern day main strand, illustrated by Toby Cypress, where we meet veterans Cole and Ortiz and their team. Lots of setup is handled pretty deftly in this first book: although these characters have appeared before (in a Blackhand issue), this is their first solo story, and Craig handles meeting the group efficiently, and quickly builds their characters, pushing us to feel the conflicts which define their outlook on life (and undeath). Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Cypress’ and Guardia’s art style - I find it a little murky - but it does give a certain grimy atmosphere to the story which I guess is appropriate. I warmed to Craig’s characterisations right away though, and will come back for this next time. 7/10

NO.1 WITH A BULLET #1
Writer: Jacob Semahn
Art: Jorge Corona & Jen Hickman
Image $3.99

Mike V: My first thought when I saw this on the pull-list this week was of the Fall Out Boy single 'Sugar, We're Goin' Down' because of the line “I'll be your Number 1 with a bullet”. My hopes were that this was a new comic from Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy (his Fall Out Toy Works was amazing) only to discover that it wasn't. I still decided to check it out because what I had read online made it seem interesting. The story centre's around Nash Huang, showing her daily job and life, her strong social media presence, and also the release of a new technology product. Semahn's writing is fast paced and gives you only brief details of Nash's life and the supporting characters in the book, yet it captures glimpses into a world that is totally absorbed in social media, the internet and the trolls that come with both, although it doesn't quite manage to make you really care for the characters (just yet). What really makes this book stand out is the way that Jorge Corona's art adds a quirkiness and creepiness to the world, helped further by the colours of Jen Hickman. The artistic team make an excellent partnership and draw the reader in more strongly than the writing alone in this issue. I like the fact the story uses modern day social media fears as a theme and can see this developing its tone and feel in future issues. 6/10

BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #2
Writer: Sean Murphy
Art: Sean Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth
DC $3.99

Matt C: There was no question that a Batman comic illustrated by Sean Murphy was going to be something to witness – after all, we’ve vocally marvelled here at his work in the likes of American Jesus and Tokyo Ghost – and his brooding, detailed take on Gotham is frequently exceptional, the milieu proving to be the perfect fit for his style. The high concept is solid, but the telling is a bit clumsy, the exposition weighing the narrative down, and if anyone knows what the hell was going on with Harley(s), perhaps they can enlighten me? I can’t deny I’m enjoying watching Murphy play in this sandbox though, and hopefully it will settle into a groove soon. 7/10

ASTONISHING X-MEN #5
Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Roman Rosanas & Nolan Woodard
Marvel $3.99

James R: I'm still really enjoying Charles Soule's blockbuster take on the X-Men. This chapter sees Charles Xavier explain just what he's been up to in his time trapped on the Astral Plane, and it's suitably inventive. Xavier's battle with the Shadow King is shown to be evolving and elaborate , not between armies as much as conflicting stories and narratives. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and if anything, I wanted Soule to slow down the action and expand on this more. The pace of the book is relentless though, and we're soon pulled back into the real world to see that the battle in London is taking a perilous new twist. I'm still not entirely sold on there being a new artist every issue - I like it when an artist and writer develop a vision for a book - but Roman Rosanas does a fine job with this instalment. Still the best X-book being published for my money, and still safely on my pull-list. 7/10

BATMAN #34
Writer: Tom King
Art: Joelle Jones & Jordie Bellaire
DC $2.99

James R: This week, a lot of the Batman-focus in the world of comics will still be on Sean Murphy's White Knight, but any fans of the Dark Knight would be foolish to overlook Tom King's current run on Batman. Bruce and Selina face off against Talia's assassins, but this is an issue which is all about character - King shows us that he's got a great understanding not only of Batman but (deep breath) Selina Kyle, Talia Al Guhl, Damian Wayne and Dick Grayson too. I particularly enjoyed the scenes featuring Dick & Damian - as someone who loved Grant Morrison's run featuring these two as Batman and Robin, it was great to see King bringing them back together and acknowledging their bond. Joelle Jones' art is absolutely first rate too - handling both the action and the quieter moments of conversation and emotion with aplomb. 8/10

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