31 Dec 2017

Mini Reviews 31/12/2017

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.

PHOENIX RESURRECTION #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Art: Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Rachelle Rosenberg
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: I am absolutely kicking myself with this one - I let my excitement run away with me and read a few tweets extolling its virtues before reading the book itself, which left me in totally the wrong frame of mind for the actual tale told here. Matt Rosenberg writing Jean Grey is THE perfect combination for me and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this. Add a flamey lenticular cover and a set of wowed up reviews and... well, that was a lot to live up to, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, this is good - really, really good - but, um, SPOILER: this comic promises two leading entities, Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force, and… well… they’re not here! Not yet at least. What we do get is a very mysterious introduction involving hovering kids and psychic injury, followed by further intrigue, wherein the X-Men’s investigation splits them between several sites around the globe, fighting mysterious, familiar yet impossible, foes. My excitement has morphed then into near painful anticipation as it looks as if I will yet have to wait for the Rosenberg-Grey team-up I’ve so longed for, and to see whether Yu’s flamey-ness is up to the mark. Bring on issue #2 and quickly, please! 8/10

DOOMSDAY CLOCK #2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
DC $4.99

Matt C: A pissed-off looking Lex Luthor staring out from the front cover indicates we’re heading straight into the DCU for this sophomore issue and that proves to be the case as various familiar faces attach themselves to the plot (Luthor included, of course). Johns is clearly in his wheelhouse here, displaying an impressive grasp of certain icons (Luthor included, again), and that really registers even if the two-worlds-colliding element isn’t quite landing as smoothly as it should. But there’s still a lot to unpack; Johns isn’t relying on this to appeal through the high concept alone. The attention to detail is exceptional, and that goes doubly so for Frank’s phenomenal, career-best artwork. It’s by far one of the most visually arresting books released over the last twelve months, and that alone would be enough to make it a valid endeavour, but while it may not have quite reached the place it wants to be, there’s a lot of great stuff going on here, and hints that there just might be something exceptional waiting in the wings. 7/10

Jo S: Aarghh! So many questions! And a few answers… I left my review of issue #1 hanging on my problem with stitching the Watchmen story into the DC canvas. For me, that felt pasted on to start with, and this issue does indeed show how an area of the DCU could be unpicked and the Doomsday Clock characters patched in. I’m still not totally convinced by this: re-bodging the Owlship to travel between universes, meh, it feels a little weak for me. Veidt’s motivations are even more obscure to me than before - he feels he didn’t fix his own universe so he needs to transfer himself and an odd combination of other characters to a whole ‘nother place to try to fix that? Maybe I’m reading this in too simplistic a way but I’m not totally there with this one. What I am 100% there with is the Marionette and how Johns has made her the big deal in this story. That girl is badass to the bone: Frank draws her and the Mime hilariously, their Punch and Judy make-up accentuating the grins and grimaces, their thoughts so vividly displayed in parody and their ‘performance’ a perfectly choreographed pas de deux. I’m left tormented by their meeting with Manhattan - I HAVE to know what’s going on there, the significance of Manhattan’s pause, the pictures, the heartbeat… This is plenty for me to overlook some perceived flaws in the structure, although part of me hopes that even these are part of a grand plan which will out in the end. 7/10

QUANTUM AND WOODY #1
Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Art: Kano
Valiant $3.99

Jo S: The first line of this book bids me not call it a threeboot - well, you’re in luck, guys! I was clueless to the existence of this misfit duo until seeing this ‘not a threeboot - you’ve always been here’ in Previews a couple of months ago so I’m coming at this fresh, with no prior expectations. I liked the look of the cover - odd couple comedies are a bit of a thing for me and the content didn’t let me down. Kibblesmith turns his hand to comics writing with competence - the story is snappy and Kano’s art is a lot of fun, dynamic and inventive; I love the little focal boxes pulling attention to faces and expressions. A couple of two-column pages where we follow both ‘heroes’ through their day in parallel are really cleverly written and Kibblesmith’s screen comedy experience is adapted very nicely to this medium. The backstory is mostly clear enough for a newbie like me to ‘get’ why these guys work the way they do and introduces enough new mystery for me to want to stick with it. The one thing I just can’t rationalise is how Eric/Quantum goes from tight-bodied muscle boy to sedentary sandwich-munching goat owner in one year. Maybe this is explained later - I hope so as at the moment my inelastic brain is struggling with ‘That’s the guy from the suit? Nah, I must be getting confused’. 7/10

THANOS #14
Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Geoff Shaw & Antonio Fabella
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This is... unexpected. I thought this title might just trundle along purely to generate awareness and exposure of the character on the run up to Avengers: Infinity War; necessary from a business standpoint but creatively forgettable. Oh, how wrong I was on that count! Cates is going big, bold and COSMIC! This is storytelling on an epic, mythic scale, and it’s wonderful. Shaw and Fabella rise to the occasion with imagery which is grand, colourful, dynamic and shot through with a desire to have this book make the biggest impact it can. Which it does, in eminently memorable fashion. Definitely not trundling; it’s soaring. 9/10

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #2
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: John Paul Leon
DC $5.99

James R: I've said a couple of times now that 2017 has been a vintage year for Batman fans; Creature Of The Night is yet more evidence to support the claim. I had missed out on the first issue but, on hearing the glowing recommendations of my PCG colleagues, I quickly rectified this, and saw that they were right. Kurt Busiek's 'real world' Batman (with a wonderful supernatural twist) sees the writer and artist John Paul Leon at the top of their respective games. This second chapter sees Bruce Wainwright growing into his mantle as a businessman, and the driving force behind a manifestation of the Dark Knight - but at what cost? This prestige book is worth every penny - the increased page count give Busiek and Leon the opportunity to tell a rich and detailed story, and one that carries a terrific element of surprise. Along with Tom King's run on Batman, this is the book that aficionados of Gotham's protector should be picking up. 8/10

Matt C: Lightening strikes twice as this series is shaping up to me a more than worthy sort-of sequel to its predecessor, Superman: Secret Identity. Without revealing too much, central here is the idea that while stories of heroics offer escapism, real life is infinitely more complex, and trying to view things in simplistic terms of good and evil will inevitably result in a major wake-up call. Life is hard, life can knock us down, costumed adventurers punching out bad guys offer a visceral thrill and a basic re-emphasis of right and wrong, but unfortunately the real world doesn’t provide easy resolutions or happy endings. Strong, thoughtful, mature work from both Busiek and Leon; a tale that’s surprising and truthful. 8/10

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