25 Feb 2018

Mini Reviews 25/02/2018

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: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Image $3.99

James R: In the same way that Lemire's Royal City stopped the narrative for an arc set in the past, Descender follows suit. Whereas Royal City's jump was a mere 25 years, this sci-fi epic takes a suitably grander step back - four thousand years, to be precise, focusing on the first meeting between the humanoids and the robots known as the Harvesters. The book gave me my purest comics hit of the week - it's just a joy to experience Lemire's storytelling (as always, grounded in a very relatable humanity) and Nguyen's beautiful art. I've often said that, as a science fiction fan, I'm regularly disappointed by SF comics - Descender continues to be the exception to the rule; epic in every way, and continuing to hold my attention every month. 8/10

Writer: Declan Shalvey
Art: Mike Henderson & Lee Loughridge
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Issue #5 rounds off the series and brings this odd-couple tragi-comedy to both an end and what feels like a beginning. Constantly squabbling over who gets to save the girl and be the hero of the piece, both Wade and Logan have fallen into traps of their own making, failing to either work together or accurately assess the problem they are trying to resolve, and now they find themselves in a literal hole, with a building - including foundations - tenuously suspended above them in the control of the not-even-slightly helpless young mutant they have been attempting to rescue. I've thoroughly enjoyed Henderson’s work on this series: backgrounds are kept clean and spare, often just sky and clouds and maybe some foliage, making the characters, two or three at most, really stand out. This is a book about the relationship between the title characters and everything else feels pretty much incidental. What would have been a slightly muted ending is transformed with the addition of a coda, which leaves story hanging on a delicious question mark. 8/10

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Riley Rossmo & Ivan Plascencia
DC/Vertigo $3.99

James R: I was looking forward to Death Bed, as it's seemed like an eternity since I last picked up a Vertigo book - the line once at the vanguard of the comics industry, which has of late started to look moribund. This new series from Joshua Williamson and Riley Rossmo has got the potential to give Vertigo a shot in the arm and first issue shows a lot of promise. Struggling writer Valentine Richards is commissioned to be the ghost writer of the memoirs of Antonio Luna, a mysterious figure who claims to be a wealthy adventurer, yet no record exists of him anywhere. The opening chapter suggests the book will play with the notion of line between fantasy and reality, fiction and truth (always a fertile subject) while Williamson's script also promises that this will be rich in adventure. I wasn't familiar with Riley Rossmo's art but he does a fine job in this issue, leaping from the atmospheric to the all-out action scenes with aplomb. My one reservation is that tonally the book hasn't quite settled yet, but I'm certainly willing to come back for issue #2 - this is a debut with plenty of potential. 7/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Sunny Gho
Image $3.99

Jo S: Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass have never really grazed my comics radar until now but I was tempted by the Hit-Girl concept, in a similar way to Tank Girl (the contradiction of a sweet little girl with a steely determination refusing to let anything stand in the way of achieving her aim), so I've skipped the new Kick-Ass series and just gone with this one, and it's a good start. Ortiz’s artwork is dynamic and comedic, with more Tank Girl hints evident, and Millar’s storyline, opening with the daring escape (or is it a kidnap?) of a notoriously ruthless hitman, in parallel with Hit-Girl’s frustration at the poor quality of sidekicks available in the modern day, is packed with entertainment. Colourful, gory, loud and violent, this first issue thunks into the woodwork with resounding force. To quote Big Daddy, “Keep it fun, Honey-Bun!” 8/10

Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin & June Chung
DC $2.99
James R: Tom King's phenomenal run on Batman just keeps going. After a side-step into the realms of fantasy tropes in the last arc, this first part of 'Everybody Loves Ivy' is yet another shift in gear, and still a compelling read. As the title suggests, Pamela Isley has returned to Gotham, now apparently more powerful than ever - seemingly controlling everyone in the world, thanks to her new mastery of the Green (which suggests that Swamp Thing is somehow incapacitated). As much as I enjoyed King's script this month, this book is worth the cover price for the beautiful art of Mikel Janin - there's so much to enjoy in these pages (and still at $2.99 - bravo DC!) I know King's run on Batman isn't to everyone's tastes, but I love the fact that he's continuing to take risks and try new things - every month, this title feels fresh, and that's a remarkable achievement for a character who is 79 this year. 7/10

Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Art: Martín Morazzo & Chris O’Halloran
Image $3.99

Jo S: Not a story to raise your spirits this time, this episode of a series of linked tales of a supernatural purveyor of frozen yumminess, fixing wrongs by wreaking appropriate yet awful vengeance, is a sorry litany of life and love betrayed by addiction. Prince shows a real knack for here for completing a complex tale in a single issue, and employs the layering of a backstory for ill-fated Karen and Jimbo over present-day events to good effect, giving you just enough sympathy for these wasted characters to leave some pathos at the end. He writes two long-term relationships in this episode, each showing the result of familiarity over many years, and somehow finding parallels in the risk of complacency. O’Halloran’s art has a simplicity which works nicely in the context: although I wasn't as grabbed by this as the first issue, I like the overall theme and will return optimistic for future episodes. 7/10

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