3 Dec 2017

Mini Reviews 03/12/2017

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: Kurt Busiek
Art: John Paul Leon
DC $5.99

Matt C: A sequel of sorts to Superman: Secret Identity, a four-issue prestige mini that appeared nearly 14 years ago which, personally speaking, is one of the best Superman tales I’ve ever read (even though it isn’t directly about the Man of Steel as such). This series takes the same approach with the Dark Knight, investing in the myth via a young boy named Bruce Wainwright, whose familiarity with his fictional almost-namesake becomes more pronounced as a specific chain of events is set in motion. The story recognises the enduring power of the Batman mythos but while it draws from it heavily, it also digs into childhood trauma in an affecting, relatable manner, and the potency behind the idea of the a broken child piecing himself back together is powerfully relayed. Busiek and Leon deliver a story that possesses both maturity and reverence, evidencing not only how entertaining the adventures of the Caped Crusader can be, but also how cathartic and inspiring the journey of Bruce Wayne when viewed from a certain angle. A very special beginning to this four-parter. 9/10

Jo S: Hands up, I skipped this from my pull-list week (having assumed it was just another of the Dark Nights: Metal one-shots) and had to be nudged to give it a go by not one but two of the PCG team. As ever, they steer me well: this is just superb. Busiek has created a parallel tale of a Boston dwelling youngster, whose need for a heroic character is his life is initially that of a child looking for a role model but soon becomes a desperate need for guidance, attention, closeness and, eventually, justice and retribution. The story studies how a child’s grief, blended with the absence of a caring adult, can grow and twist into something huge, dark and transformative. It’s difficult to describe this fully without breaking the spell but, suffice to say, the gradual blurring of the real and the imaginary, the sorcery of the bat motif, and the emotional pull of the writing from different characters’ perspectives come together to make something really very special here. Hat-tip also to Todd Klein, whose lettering is crucial in making the different voices of the story heard. 9/10

Writers: Jai Nitz & Hayley Nitz
Art: Jethro Morales & Marie Enger
Red 5 Comics $3.99

Matt C: On paper at least, this sounded like an awesome idea: the Fuhrer faking his own death and fleeing to South America, two Allied agents in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, the excellent Greg Smallwood cover aside, the entire enterprise comes across as disjointed and flat, with scant evidence that any derring-do will be forthcoming. The main problem comes with the two protagonists who are given very slender characterization and absolutely no explanation as to why they’ve been given their particular mission. It feels like a sketched idea that is in desperate need of embellishment; when you’re edging towards ‘Hitler parody mode’, supposedly unintentionally, something is really wrong. The art is serviceable, some expressions shining through, but on the whole this really story that required a lot more fine-tuning before getting to this stage. 4/10

Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Victor Ibánez & Jay David Ramos
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Hopeless has championed strong female heroes throughout this series, using the device of young Jean’s search for guidance and mentorship in dealing with the impending arrival of her version of the Phoenix Force, and this issue extends the roster of totally awesome gals yet further. Ghost Jean Grey (who we’re variously referring to as ‘old Jean’, ‘original Jean’, ‘dead Jean’) has enlisted the help of the astonishingly kick-ass-even-in-heels Emma Frost, but in allowing young/time-jumped Jean to search through Frost’s mind, has accidentally unleashed on her the power of the sliver of Phoenix Force which Emma has hidden there. This triggers YJ’s collapse and this issue opens with an ambulance dash to a hospital completely unprepared for the care of a mutant possessed by a flaming entity, whilst Ghost-Jean and Emma Frost thrash out their differences in tensely intelligent dialogue, crackling with history and bitterness, taut with anxiety, guilt and resignation to their task of trying not to allow mistakes of the past to be repeated. Hopeless writes these characters with uncompromising strength - there’s no airbrushing of their flaws, no patronising: and it makes this a compelling read. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $3.99

James R: Having been there every step of the way for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' travels through noir and crime tales, I have to say that I think Kill Or Be Killed is turning out to be the blackest, bleakest journey yet, and it's a fantastic experience. Dylan's journey to full-on vigilante is virtually complete, and in this issue we see the moment where, by his own admission, he could claim to be done, but it's clear that he simply cannot walk away from this life of violence. Beyond the tragedy of his acquiescence to his fate, Brubaker makes it clear that every part of Dylan's life will be touched and tainted by what he's become. Kill Or Be Killed is one of those books that stays with you after you've read it - whether that's down to Brubaker's script, the terrific art team of Phillips and Breitweiser, or if it's down to the secret ingredient of crime, this book remains one of the must-read titles. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Mike Deodato & Laura Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The preceeding Hulk/Maestro arc (the first from Brisson/Deodato) was pretty decent; dynamic and visceral, it was just what you want from an (aged) Wolverine book, Deodato in particular firing on all cylinders. This new arc doesn’t quite find a quick groove as successfully, hampered by some rather hackneyed dialoguing and a reliance on Wolverine clichés to see it through. There’s also that cover, which appears to be giving away a whopping spoiler based on the contents of the issue. Deodato and Martin deliver the goods once more but when we finding ourselves watching Logan slicing and dicing ninjas again, with little to indicate variety, the appeal begins to wane. 6/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Lee Weeks, Michael Lark, Elizabeth Brietweiser & June Chung
DC $4.99

James R: Back when I was kid, and comics were hard to come by, I remember that I somehow got hold of a book that scrambled my mind. It was a Batman comic, and I now know it to be Roy Thomas, Mashall Rogers and Terry Austin's 'Secret Origins Starring The Golden Age Batman'. In this tale, I learned of a Batman who retired, got married - to Catwoman no less! - and had a daughter. The notion of the ageless Dark Knight's story reaching a final chapter has always struck a chord with me - both Frank Miller's legendary Dark Knight Returns, and more recently, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy have shown that this iconic character's story can have a successful final act if done correctly. In this week's Batman annual Tom King does just that. An aside to the current relationship between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle in the monthly book, King gives us the couple's alpha and omega - their early days together juxtaposed with their last. I don't want to ruin this book, as it's a beautiful piece of work, but if you've ever loved Batman as a character, you should really track it down. A great meditation on life, death, loss and what two people may see in each other, this is another feather in the rapidly expanding cap of Tom King. It also looks fantastic too, with art from Lee Weeks, and Michael Lark (who will always hold a special place in my affections for his work on Gotham Central). A giant-sized festive treat for Bat-fans - Christmas has come early. 9/10

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