12 Nov 2017

Mini Reviews 12/11/2017

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.

MOON KNIGHT #188
Writer: Max Bemis
Art: Jacen Burrows & Mat Lopes
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: After Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s excellent exploration into the cracked mind of Marc Spector in the previous volume of Moon Knight, I didn’t need too much convincing to take a look at this new, renumbered launch, and it was Avatar’s illustrative mainstay Jacen Burrows venturing into the Marvel Universe that proved to be the persuading factor. From Crossed to Providence, Burrows has made an indelible mark on some of Avatar’s finest comics, and his slick, detailed style, that so elegantly mixes the mundane with horror, is a great fit for this opening chapter that sees the gestation of a new nemesis for Spector. Bemis tackles the themes of obsession and perception convincingly, the only stumble perhaps being the somewhat forced transition the antagonist experiences, but it’s certainly a promising opener that embraces the crazy of Moon Knight’s world with gusto. 8/10

COYOTES #1
Writer: Sean Lewis
Art: Caitlin Yarsky
Image $3.99

Jo S: Sean Lewis’ work on The Few series has been influential on me as a fledgling comic book reader: the series was the first I read which totally altered my understanding of the medium, by turns confusing me and gripping me with its intensity. Coyotes draws on a number of similar themes; post-apocalyptic future, isolated communities, the rules they enforce on themselves and their rulers, like royalty in a way, who take the responsibility of enforcing those rules to keep their community of subjects safe and loyal. This book also employs a fractured timeline to interesting effect, and fiddles with the distinction between reality and magic in a way which is obscure initially but then almost forcefully divisive; no spoilers, but if you do read this, don't skip what appears to be a backup story! Of course I can't deny that Lewis’ writing of strong female leads is a potent draw to this story, and he doesn't disappoint in this first hit. 8/10

PORT OF EARTH #1
Writer: Zack Kaplan
Art: Andrea Mutti & Vladimir Popov
Image/Top Cow $3.99

James R: As a big science fiction fan, I loved the pitch for Port Of Earth - a future where we have become a stop-off for interstellar craft who show little interest in humanity, but see Earth more as a motorway service station. However, occasionally the ET's are wandering from the dock and wreaking havoc. The book follows two cops who are part of the Earth Security Agency, charged with keeping any unscrupulous visitors from criminal behaviour. This first issue is very exposition-heavy - rather than letting us fill in the blanks, Kaplan gives us an in-depth world-building issue, and whereas that might work for some, I found that it made it a little unweildy. I would have preferred more time with the book's protagonists, Macintyre and Rice, who seem to be generic cop tropes rather than fleshed-out characters in this chapter. Andrea Mutti does a nice job giving the book a very District 9-feel, but whereas that movie felt fresh and unique, this felt pretty familiar. Port Of Earth may blossom in later issues, but for me, the journey ends here. 5/10

Matt C: It’s a fine concept – first contact is a business deal rather than the usual invasion or ‘we come in peace' – but the delivery is lacking, resulting in a flat, uninspiring and largely forgettable read. It runs through the set up adequately enough, but there are stretches were plausibility seems to be a lesser concern and some dialoguing that comes off as unintentionally comical. There's some nice, bleak creativity presented in the artwork but it drifts from the memory so quickly that a return docking doesn’t seem likely, for me at least. 5/10

Jo S: I've been looking forward to this new series for a while and, whilst I couldn't say I'm disappointed exactly, I do have something of a feeling of ongoing anticipation as the first in the series hasn't quite paid off the excitement quite as I'd hoped. The setup is fairly expected: aliens have made contact with Earth, they have built an offshore spaceport which is really a refuelling point on the way to other planets and the story quickly busies itself with the ways in which this can go wrong. I liked the storytelling device of having two key protagonists followed by news channel drones, so that the whole planet is aware of what they are seeing and how they view this, and I'm enjoying Mutti’s detailed art and Popov’s muted, near-monochrome palette, but so far I don't have a feeling of this being anything I haven't seen before - it's Earth: Final Conflict without the Roddenberry influence or Men In Black without the giggles. I know there was a lot to get out there in establishing the background though, and hope that future issues might twist into something a bit different. Bonus mark awarded for having a Fact File though. I LOVE a fact file. 7/10

ROYAL CITY #7
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $3.99

James R: Sorry to be so repetitive, but I just love this book. Every month Jeff Lemire just captures lightning in a bottle, and it's always a joy to read. This month, we're still in 1992, and we see Peter Pike starting his obsession with radio, and take a look inside the head of Tommy Pike in more ways than one. Lemire's craft here is immaculate - shifting the narrative from the Pike home into the pages of Tommy's diary is the particular masterstroke in this issue. I also love how Lemire capture's the subtlest of emotional responses in his art; Tommy in particular feels almost alive in these pages. I'm also loving how the book really revels in mystery - for every revelation, there seems to be a new conundrum. It's also the book with a terrific musical pedigree - it's great to have the monthly playlists on Spotify. Lemire rounds off the issue by flagging up his new title Gideon Falls, and I can only begin to wonder how good his output is going to be in 2018. In 2017, Royal City continues to be phenomenal. 9/10

MISTER MIRACLE #4
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC $3.99

Matt C: Five characters in exuberantly garish costumes conducting a life or death trial in the confines of an apartment front room. Sounds like a particularly embarrassing cosplay scenario, right? Wrong. It’s one of the most gripping, intelligent, brilliantly constructed reads of the year. There’s still so much mystery at the core of this tale that has yet to be unravelled but even though we barely seem any further forward in that respect, watching King and Gerads skirt around it, teasing us with little details, is an exceptional experience. As he did with The Vision, Tom King has taken a secondary character and put them under such a searing spotlight that when your attention is focused on the unfolding tale, the universe on the periphery doesn’t seem to matter. This is as good as mainstream comics get, and it’s one of those series where you can feel smug for being there from the beginning. 10/10

James R: Last month, I dialled down the Mister Miracle praise a little as I felt it was hitting some similar notes to fairly recent books, but this month Tom King and Mitch Gerads renew my faith with a remarkable issue. Scott Free stands accused of treason by Orion, leading to a trial in Free's home. By this chapter, the rhythms and leitmotifs of the book are well-established - the escapes, the TV interludes, the unfocused panels - it all makes for unique read. It's also funny - there are a couple of moments this month which I chuckled at, and that's rare for a comic in my experience. The thing that struck me most about this issue is King's meditation that everything is a trap - as Orion says "We're all bound to something." Rather than Scott Free's sanity, I love this as the central conceit of the book, and I hope King develops it further. Gerads is phenomenal yet again here - he deploys the nine-panel grid to extraordinary effect; the face-off between Mister miracle and Orion is illustrated with palpable tension. Brilliant in all departments and deserving of all the plaudits being dished out, this is one that DC have certainly got very right. 9/10

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