7 Jan 2018

Mini Reviews 07/01/2018

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: Tom King 
Artist: Travis Moore 
DC $2.99 

James R: Another week, another great book from Tom King. Once again, he delivers the goods with Batman, and once again, it's another fine 'done in one' issue. This one will really hit the spot if you're a fan of Batman being the 'World's Greatest Detective' - we find him tracking down the murderer in a crime that has echoes of the tragedy that made Bruce Wayne Batman. What's so good here is King's economy - he does an awful lot in a very short period of time. Not only do we get a rattling good detective story, but we get another take on the unique psychological state of Bruce Wayne. Travis Moore has the unenviable task of following Clay Mann, but he does a nice job with this issue. 2018 starts just how 2017 left off; with Tom King bringing us some exceptional comics. 8/10

Writer: Matthew Rosenberg 
Art: Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz & Rachelle Rosenberg 
Marvel $3.99 

Jo S: No grumbling from me this week about no Phoenix and no Jean Grey - I’ve had a bit more of a chance to mull it over and, boy! This is so good! Taking a similar theme to last week, this hot-on-the-heels second issue again takes us on parallel adventures, with teams of X-Men chasing what appear to be phantom mutants in Cerebro-located hotspots around the globe, whilst mysterious Erik (c’mon, even I know that’s Magneto now) vanishes and then reappears moments later in the too-perfect world where waitress Jean lives a quiet life. A game of ‘spot the character’ runs throughout this book, which is great fun, and Matt Rosenberg’s evident passion for the X-Men and dedication to rendering them with respect for their history shines out. Hat-tip also to the art team - different from last week’s first issue -  and I loved the first page especially, with the Phoenix-glow reflecting on an astronaut’s helmet visor; beautiful. For me, this works as a primer for students of the modern X-Men team, and I respectfully accept that, having taken a deep breath and calmed down a bit, I should have known better last week than to expect what appeared on the cover to be what’s inside! 8/10

Writer: Ed Piskor
Art: Ed Piskor 
Marvel  $5.99 

James R: There's not much to add to my thoughts on Ed Piskor's excellent first issue of Grand Design, as this is very much the next chapter of a huge work. It's a very obvious labour of love, which is as much fun to read as I'm sure it was for Piskor to create it. This issue takes in much of the X-Men's convoluted history, taking us into the 1970s, and the start of the next era of Marvel's mutants heralded by Giant-Size X-Men #1. Wild, funny, and totally engaging for old-skool geeks like me, Grand Design is definitely the best X-title Marvel are putting out at the moment - it's just a shame that we have to wait until later in 2018 for the third chapter of this epic chronicle of Marvel's halcyon days. 8/10

Writer: Kelly Thompson 
Art: Pere Pérez & Frank D’Armata 
Marvel $3.99 

Jo S: Kelly Thompson is one of my favourite writers in my short comic-reading career so far and Rogue and Gambit are characters I know very little about, hence this first issue was pinging the Jo excite-o-meter in the upper ranges this week. It didn’t disappoint for a moment either - Thompson does a nifty job of getting us up to speed on the eponymous duo’s backstory and her partnership with Pere Pérez works eloquently: I loved the first couple of pages, spare on words but quickly giving the sense of the storms and cycles of this troubled pairing. For me, my only previous knowledge of Rogue was as a young orphan, in Wolverine’s care (woo, that turned complicated fast) and so seeing her here as a wearied adult, hard experience clearly weighing on her judgement of Remy/Gambit involved me absorbing a good few years-worth of experience pretty fast; Thompson did that totally credibly for me. If I had to criticise, it would be to say that Gambit is a bit one-dimensional at the moment; he feels a little whiny and self-centred and it feels a little easy to take a pop at him as the less-than-amazing half of the team-up, but this issue caught me up so far, so fast, and so effectively, that I’m happy to overlook that and look forward to him broadening out in future issues. 8/10

Writer: Cynthia Von Buhler 
Art: Cynthia Von Buhler 
Titan Comics: Hard Case Crime $3.99 

Jo S: Von Buhler continues to braid the titular amateur gumshoe into the history of the last part of Houdini’s life as she becomes a key part of his stage act in this gripping second issue, and the plot, as it were, thickens as we begin to learn quite how much trouble Houdini’s crusade against the charlatans who purvey their ‘psychic’ services to a vulnerable and easily fleeced audience is drawing him into. Von Buhler’s art and writing complement each other perfectly: her depictions of darkly curtained 1920s rooms and theatre stages are rendered with thick black lines filled with rich colour, Houdini’s face, and later Minky’s, under water in the escape tank, are mysterious and murky and Minky’s voluptuous curves and sultry pout shown with lush exhibitionism. Knowing how the real story ends takes nothing away from the anticipation of further mystery in this - I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Mistress Von B takes us next. 8/10

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