10 Dec 2017

Mini Reviews 10/12/2017

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.

PARADISO #1
Writer: Ram V
Artists: Devmalya Pramanik & Dearbhla Kelly
Image $3.99

James R: I've said it before, and it bears repeating: first issues are tough. It's a delicate balancing act between enticing an audience and establishing a story (and with SF, sometimes a world), leaving the readership wanting more at the end of the issue. I tried out Paradiso; as a big science fiction fan, I'm always on the lookout for a new title to take to my heart. Paradiso holds absolutely nothing back in the first issue - Ram V's script is busy from the first page, showing us a distant future where a seemingly sentient city has developed, leaving mankind impoverished and living on its fringes. As much as I like the invention of this title, it didn't really connect for me - there's so much going on here, there's no real sense as to what the heart of this tale will be. The art from Devmalya Pramanik is good, and he definitely looks like a talent to watch. Paradiso may settle into a fine title, but this opening chapter fell short of heavenly for me. 5/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #382
Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Two issues in and I’m really quite taken with Donny Cates’ approach to the Sorcerer Supreme. Where Loki got most of the page count last month, here we finally get to see where Stephen Strange currently finds himself, although we are still awaiting a full explanation of how he got there, and why he’s gone all Doctor Doolittle on us. Oh, and I’m not really a dog person, but that scene got me in the feels. This has the same vibe that the previous creative team put into place, albeit with less hyperactivity on display and, as he did on The Vision, Walta makes the otherworldly feel less out of reach and more relatable, Bellaire’s mastery of her colour scheme reinforcing this feeling. And then there’s that last scene leading to that final page. It seals the deal. I’m hooked. 8/10

BLACK BOLT #8
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Art: Christian Ward
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Ahmed and Ward continue to reward my loyalty to this title long after I had thought it might have lost its power over me and, as this most recent issue arcs gracefully down to an Earth-based story, I'm once again in awe of both these talented creators. Boltagon and Blinky, the not-yet-adult telepath he has adopted following their escape from the prison designed for Black Bolt’s nefarious brother, are returning to Earth in the wake of the Secret Empire takeover by Hydra, and wounds are still fresh, making their arrival hazardous in more ways than one. Ahmed’s story holds together nicely: Blinky is now Bolt’s interpreter in Medusa’s absence, and the growing closeness of their adoptive relationship is starkly contrasted with Bolt’s apparently shirked commitments elsewhere. Ward’s artwork is what really keeps me coming back though: his colours are so enveloping, the vividity of his use of blues and pinks - like a swirl of petrol in a puddle - and the liveliness he gives to Lockjaw and Blinky, whilst encapsulating strength and stillness in Black Bolt himself, are all captivating. 7/10

BATMAN #36
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Clay Mann, Seth Mann & Jordie Bellaire
DC $2.99

James R: Another week, another book where Tom King shows he truly understands DC's iconic characters. I've already seen this book getting a lot of love from fans online this week, and rightfully so - it's another beautiful chapter that could be read independently as a done-in-one, and is yet more evidence that King has really found his groove with Batman. The book sees Batman and Superman berated by their better halves for not reaching out to their friend. The story unfolds with a beautiful symmetry, culminating in two pages where Bruce and Clark say just why they respect each other - and it's one of my favourite fanboy moments of the year. It's a joy that there's still new things to say about characters that have been in continuous publication for almost 80 years, and King does it with aplomb. The issue looks beautiful too, with amazing work from Clay and Seth Mann. After the Batman Annual, this is turning into a golden end-of-year for the Dark Knight - I'm hoping King is on this book for a long time to come. 9/10

HAWKEYE #13
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Leonardo Romero & Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: I’ve not sure if I’ve ever described a comic as delightful here before (I’ve written a lot of reviews over the last 10 years, so it’s possible I have) but if it’s not been claimed elsewhere then this comic is going to get that honour. It’s delightful! Kate Bishop is such an engaging, likeable character already, but bringing Clint Barton into the mix just amplifies the appeal; the two sharpshooters have such a snarky but loving relationship that you find yourself helpless against their charms. Romero’s artwork is buoyant and dynamic and Bellaire brings additional beauty to every image (where does she find the time??). Kelly Thompson has taken Bishop from supporting player to fully-fledged headliner, and it’s a role that fits her like a glove. 8/10

ASTONISHING X-MEN #6
Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Mike Del Mundo & Marco D'Alfonso
Marvel $3.99

James R: The 'all-star' X-Men title finishes its first arc with an issue where Mike Del Mundo produces fireworks. I'm still unsure about the rotating art team method (call me old fashioned, but I love it when an artist and writer develop a book or a run together) but Del Mundo's art here is great - part-dream, part-psychedelic, it's the perfect fit for the final act in the psychic battle between Charles Xavier and the Shadow King. Soule manages to squeeze in one final twist to set up the next arc, and even though I can't say I adore this book - it's missing something for me somewhere - there have been enough great moments and surprises in this opening storyline to keep me well on board. On to Act Two then: let's see where Soule's meditation on the X-Men goes next. 7/10

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