28 Jan 2018

Mini Reviews 28/01/2018

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: Peter Milligan
Art: Wilfredo Torres & Dan Brown
Marvel $3.99

James R: It's a turbulent time in the House of Ideas: following the loss of some very high-profile talent and some questionable editorial choices, there's definitely the sense that Marvel are going through a relatively fallow period right now. I'm only picking up one title from them currently but I always hope there's going to be a magical new series to bring me back. I decided to give Legion a shot as I'm a massive fan of the remarkable TV series from showrunner extraordinaire Noah Hawley, and my hope was that Peter Milligan would continue to mine the mind-bending and philosophical aspects that became the hallmark of that show. The plot sees the son of Charles Xavier on another quest, this time, seeking out the help of celebrity psychologist Dr Hannah Jones to help him with the latest psychic chaos tearing through his fractured mind. Wilfredo Torres is an interesting choice for the art on this series - his style is immediately distinctive from a standard Marvel house style, but I'm not sure it's the best fit here. I wanted to see something as quirky and idiosyncratic as David Haller, but Legion felt very standard-issue. 6/10

Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Art: Sami Kivelä & Jason Wordie
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Jo S: Detroit, 1972, where whites are rushing to move out to the suburbs leaving increasingly concentrated black ghetto areas and worsening friction between a mainly white, resistant-to-change police force and the strengthening black community. Elena Abbott, a news reporter who has already developed a rep for agitative copy, a widow following her husband’s bizarre death, gains access to the scene of a horrifying crime, where she sees more than the authorities are able to observe. Ahmed writes this with such authority, it’s almost a historical document. Characters are credible and Abbott’s chain-smoking, confident, weary-but-persistent style immediately sealed her as my new hero of choice. 8/10

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
DC $4.99

Matt C: The best issue yet, and although the mystery of Manhattan has yet to be revealed, we’re getting a few more peeks into the quantum-tampering machinations at the centre of the plot. In the interim there’s the task of merging the two universes together in a way that doesn’t feel like a square peg being hammered into a round hole, and Johns is doing an increasingly impressive job of mixing familiar elements with some new creations. The Mime and the Marionette are the best of these, a magnetically villainous double-act, as damaged as they are dangerous. The ingenuity displayed in their scenes indicates they could be keepers in the DC Universe (and will likely prove to be far more successful additions than some of the derivative, uninspiring characters that have popped up in the recent years). Frank’s artwork continues to be phenomenal; the emotion and dynamism contained in each panel is often breathtaking. Ultimately the success of Doomsday Clock will come down to whether it has something to say beyond “Would it be cool to see these characters together...” and signs still point towards it being far, far more than just a necessary continuation of the brand. This isn’t ‘Watchmen 2’, it’s going in a direction that's unanticipated and more than a little bit exciting; some may not like that but as the recent ludicrously inflated negative reactions to The Last Jedi showed, you’re never going to please everyone when it comes to life-changing pop culture properties and fear of fan reaction should never dictate storytelling. There was no way to play this safe because there was never a safe option; instead Johns and Frank are crafting a tale on their own terms in what could end up being a genuine career highlight for both of them. 8/10

Writer: Damon Gentry & Troy Nixey
Art: Troy Nixey & Guy Major
Dark Horse $3.99

Jo S: This first issue has to take a spot on the same ‘odd but appealing’ shelf as my adored Eleanor And The Egret. There are some comparisons in the art style, with constructive use made of varied lettering styles, and interestingly distorted faces. This is one of those books where you must suspend belief, at least at the outset: a gruesome interdimensional traveller, complete with tentacles and gelatinous body, accidentally aids in the foiling of a weapons-smuggling plot and is consequently made an honorary police officer. His reluctant partner Arthur Buckle is charged with looking after the new recruit; to his disgust, and they must try to find a way to work together. A most unusual odd couple comedy, this one was a deft enough combination of Nixey’s cleverly detailed art blended with an imaginatively peculiar story to bring me back for a second issue. 7/10

Writer: John Lees
Art: Alex Cormack & Lisa Moore
Comix Tribe $3.99

Jo S: Lees’ linked tales of the very darkest edges of Glasgow dark edges ooze quality like a fresh corpse oozing body fluids. Never a comfortable read, this issue takes it possibly a notch further on the discomfort scale with ‘Young Team’; this time it’s the turn of a gang of kids to face the demons that lurk in the dark. Sarah, Hardeep, Jake and Craig all have their own motivations for bunking off school and going to hunt the killer clowns that they believe have taken classmate Martin, and what they find is gruesome in the extreme. Lees is a superb storyteller: the way he weaves each new set of characters into the theme of the tale is masterful and smartly done in each new issue without ever feeling rushed. The styling of Mr Dig, with his trademark spade and his - is it a mask? - serves as a firebrand to light the connections in the stories; we’re both terrified of and pleased to see him in confusing equal measures. The gore score here is up to eleven but it's appropriate - not for the fainthearted, this one. 9/10

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Latour
Image $3.99

James R: After a hiatus, the new issue of Southern Bastards wastes no time in showing us just what we've been missing. Scores start to get settled, and as usual, a game of football hangs in the balance. This series has never been anything less than spectacular, and with this chapter, I was in awe of Jason Latour's artwork and colours - this is a book with such a distinct identity and character, and Latour just seems to be getting better and better, making the world of Craw County seem sickeningly real. Naturally, Jason Aaron's script reels us in before giving us yet another sucker-punch on the final page - but damn, it's a sweet hit. A phenomenal comic, it's great to have Southern Bastards back, and Aaron's promise on the letters page that the next issue is 'a big deal' means I'll be counting the days before I can see how this arc plays out. 9/10

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Jim Cheung, John Dell, Walden Wong & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The art’s gorgeous, that goes without saying: every page is a wonder, reaffirming that Cheung is one of the best in the business. However, incredible artwork can only take you so far and without a script to match all you’re left with a sequence of pretty pictures. Fortunately Zdarsky absolutely nails these characters and the enduring relationship between them (and I’m including Doom in that statement). Sure, Reed and Sue are missing from the fabled foursome (although their presence is felt throughout) but the characterisation sparkles with warmth, humour and affection. When the FF are inevitably reunited, Zdarsky needs to be handed the keys to the franchise – these past two issues are all the proof that’s needed that he’s the man for the job. 8/10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $4.99

James R: In the hands of most other writers, this issue of Black Science would be the series finale - it certainly feels it, with an apocalyptic climax for Grant McKay and co. before finishing on a reflective coda. But in the wild imagination of Rick Remender, this is just an opportunity to take a breath before the next chapter of science-fiction insanity kicks in. It's an extra-sized issue, and the creative team certainly give us our money's worth - Matteo Scalera illustrates an issue with more bang than five 'Event' books from the Big Two combined. Armies clash, cities fall, souls are consumed... it's blockbuster stuff, but what really makes it work is that it remains a book with a lot of heart - as we've travelled deeper into the multiverse, we've gone deeper into the mind and motivation of Grant McKay, who is both a genius, and yet a disaster of a man. I felt drained after reading this issue, and there's very few books I can say that about - still essential reading. 8/10

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