26 Nov 2017

Mini Reviews 26/11/2017

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.

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
DC $5.99

James R: Cards on the table, I certainly didn't want to pick this up. As a fan of both of the creators of Watchmen, their lack of involvement on Doomsday Clock meant that I'm not that interested in what's a pretty obvious cash-grab from DC, but I also thought it would be unfair to dismiss it out of hand if I didn't at least take a look at what Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have put together. I agree with Matt C's opinion that a sequel to this project was an inevitability; that's how capitalism and market forces work. A series, book or film is popular, people naturally want more of it, and it's only a matter of time before that demand is satisfied. This year we've seen two rightfully lauded sequels that have taken a long time to gestate; Blade Runner 2049 and Twin Peaks: The Return. Both of these were successful as they gave the original creators the opportunity to revisit and expand on their ideas. Doomsday Clock fails as DC haven't done this. It looks lovely - Gary Frank is an exceptional artist, but it's horribly predictable. Geoff Johns creates an issue that's such a rehash of the style and narrative of Watchmen that this is like watching a covers band rather than the original act. At times Johns is just trying too hard - the allusions to our currently unstable world as an update of the nuclear tensions of the 1980s feels crude rather than adroit. The one moment that feels like an authentic expansion of Watchmen is the introduction (and update of the Charlton characters Punch and Jewlee) of the Mime and the Marionette, but that's simply not enough. Alan Moore has said that the original Watchmen began to evolve and become something more than a regular comics series around issue #3 - I am sure there's a chance that Doomsday Clock could be the same, but I very much doubt it. Doomsday Clock is exactly what I feared it would be - a pale imitation rather than something new. Famously, Watchmen ends with the words "I leave it entirely in your hands." Johns and DC have decided that their grips are better, but without Moore and Gibbons, this is a project that should have been left well alone. 2/10

Jo S: Is it ever possible to separate a new piece of work from the source of its inspiration? I wanted to be able to review this from the perspective of someone new to the genre, ideally minimising the bias of experience of what has gone before, but I have read Watchmen, and it holds inescapable gravitational pull on this new series, not least because there seems to be much greater effort in binding this new tale tightly to what has gone before than in creating something free-flying in its own space. Whilst I'm in a negative mode, I think it's clear that on top of the shackles of Watchmen legacy is the need to bring this into the DCU; my immediate reaction to seeing the Superman logo pasted onto the classic black and yellow clock was that it looked tacky, and that's a good metaphor for the introduction of the DC element of the first issue - it feels tacked on, currently. But let's shake loose of the negative and take the content under its own merit. This book is gorgeously, respectfully, classically drawn; I love Frank’s Rorschach and the way his expressions are clear though his face is obscured, the physicality of the characters: Veidt’s cat-like blend of glossy strength and stillness, the Marionette’s gritted teeth, the toss of a screwdriver from husband to wife with such ease that you know they operate as a unit. Johns’ writing really is stupendous under the circumstances: the pressure on him to get this right must have been near to unbearable and criticisms that he's merely channeling what’s gone before rather than creating something new must cut to the bone, but he does add touches which are novel: Rorschach is chattier, perhaps a little less assured, the Mime and the Marionette are the perfect double act, the ticking clock this time explicitly obvious from the start. I have mixed feelings about the nods to modern events: whilst I appreciate the use of alternative histories allows some liberties as to when echoed events occur in parallel timelines, the shift of what are clearly references to present day global politics by a quarter century felt forced to me, although they did present a depressingly credible precursor for the following events. Whatever has gone before, this issue #1 is exactly that; it's a start. And I will certainly be picking up further issues to see where it goes from here. 7/10

Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Geoff Shaw & Antonio Fabela
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I’d expected to be done with this book once Jeff Lemire departed, because he was the only reason I elected to follow the ongoing adventures of the Mad Titan… or so I thought. A glimpse at some of the sumptuous artwork from Geoff Shaw in an advanced preview was enough to give me a reason to give this look, and that turned out to be the right decision. There’s an inherent cheekiness to narration that is enormously appealing, and alongside the way incoming writer Donny Cates revels in the pure evilness of Thanos, it becomes a deliciously mischievous proposition. Shaw delivers the goods too, capturing the imposing nature of the title character and the weird and wonderful alien landscapes he inhabits. Antonio Fabela then utilizes an appealingly cosmic palette to take things up a notch, and the whole thing ends up being as thrilling as it is surprising, an example of a bad guy winning, in the entertainment stakes at least. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: David Rubin
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: Jeff Lemire knows how to break your heart. Going back to one of his earliest (and bleakest) works, Lost Dogs, the Canadian maestro has shown the ability to craft stories that deliver a gut-punch. He does it this month with another great issue of Sherlock Frankenstein. Lucy Weber's quest for the eponymous Sherlock Frankenstein leads her to the doorstep of the excellent Cthu-lou - a blue-collar plumber fused with a Lovecraftian Elder God. What's so good about this issue is that the real monster is revealed not to be the long-suffering Lou, but his heartless wife, and her imprisonment of their daughter. Louise. Lucy and Louise's brief interaction was one of the saddest things I've read in comics this year, and just makes me love the book more. David Rubin's art is a joy again, making the monstrous Lou a sympathetic and broken figure. The world of Black Hammer continues to be one of the most interesting and striking creations in comics, and one I cannot get enough of. 8/10

Writer: John Layman
Art: Sam Kieth, Ronda Pattison
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Throughout this year, my first as a comic book reader proper, I've tried to pick up something new each week or so, with the aim of trying a little bit of everything. Often, I've gone for something that the PCG team have spotted in Previews, but once in a while I've picked up something that probably wouldn't otherwise get a second look. I've found a few duds as a result but, oh my, every dodgy pull I've made this year is cancelled out by this single series. I know I've raved before about the art: Sam Kieth draws exquisitely, to the point where I wish I'd used the word ‘exquisitely’ more sparingly so it maintained every scrap of impact for this moment. John Layman writes with tenderness and heart and wit; a story so magical, wistful and romantic that I found my heart in my mouth and tears in my eyes at the conclusion. Both are credited as co-creator of this book and their close collaboration is evident throughout - the art IS the story and the story is the art - with Layman’s perfectly customised lettering and Ronda Pattison’s delicate, textured, mixed-media colouring all complementing each other. Well worth a step out of one’s comics comfort zone. 10/10

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