18 Mar 2018

Mini Reviews 18/03/2018

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.

NEW MUTANTS: DEAD SOULS #1
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Art: Adam Gorham & Michael Garland
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: At the risk of repeating myself, Matt Rosenberg is second to none when writing teams of heroes, and this new venture shows just how canny Marvel were to have spotted this talent and set Rosenberg to writing for the likes of Secret Warriors, Phoenix Resurrection and now the scrappy team of New Mutants. The Hatchi Corporation are financing groups of heroes to undertake rescue missions in times of crisis, and Karma has brought together five young mutants whose directive is to check out and resolve ‘weird and uncanny phenomena’, in this case a wave of zombies overrunning Alabama following a hurricane. Introducing a team of five efficiently without quickly being bogged down in tendrils of exposition is a tough call but Rosenberg does this adeptly, giving us staged opportunities to be introduced to quake-generator Rictor, Scots Wolfsbane, Boom-Boom (she ‘blows &$#& up and looks good doing it’) and Strong Guy (does what it says on the tin), along with my favourite incarnation of Magik so far, a grumpy goth who feels no need to explain her methods to anyone but whose intelligent, efficient problem-solving makes her an excellent lead. Rosenberg’s now signature wisecracks had me snorting audibly whilst reading and I suspect this will jump straight to the top of my looked-forward-to list. 9/10

DRY COUNTY #1
Writer: Rich Tommaso
Art: Rich Tommaso
Image $3.99

James R: I decided to pick up Dry County after spotting it in the pages of Previews, as it looked remarkably different from the usual things I get, and the art of Rich Tommaso reminded me of the genius that is Daniel Clowes. Tommaso's work is more conventional than Clowes, but there was a lot to enjoy in this first issue. Billed as 'the everyman crime series' this first chapter plays with the classic noir staple of the woman on the run from the troubled relationship, leading to more sinister revelations for the story's protagonist. Here, the hero is unconventional: Lou Rossi, enduring a stint as a cartoonist for the Miami Herald. This debut is heavy on set-up, but I enjoyed being pulled into Rossi's Miami of the 1980s. An unconventional book, but definitely one that's convinced me to come back for more. 7/10

MISTER MIRACLE #7
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC $3.99

Matt C: I’ve read a lot of superhero comics over the years but I don’t recall ever reading one where the central focus was a character giving birth! Maybe it’s what the genre’s been missing though, because this is exceptional. Anyone who's been through the experience knows that the surrounding world blurs into the background when the waters break, even in the midst of an intergalactic war, and that’s captured so brilliantly here with a mix of pain, exhaustion, and bantering over potential child names. King humanizes these characters in ways that shouldn’t be possible given their outlandish (new) genesis and Gerads brings further normalcy with detailed, expressive linework that makes a handful of Furies loitering in the Waiting Room feel not entirely out of place. Classic status is now assured. 10/10

James R: This remarkable book continues to surprise. This chapter moves the action forward nine months to show us the birth of Big Barda and Scott's first child - the first New God born on Earth. This issue is one of the more light-hearted instalments as Scott has to cope with both the delivery and the arrival of the female Furies in the waiting room. This unique mix between the everyday and the extraordinary is what makes Mister Miracle stand out - once again Mitch Gerads' art bridges these two worlds with breathtaking skill. It's still incredible that after seven issues, I still have no idea where this series is heading, but frankly I don't care - it's an incredible ride, and an ongoing treat every month to have a title this good to look forward to. 9/10

Jo S: Over the short span of my life as a comic fan, a few books have made notable adjustments to my understanding of what a comic book is, either with astonishing art, or rebellious black humour, or by telling a story so unexpected that it altered my path through this medium. I'll openly admit that I didn't ‘get’ the first couple of issues of this Mister Miracle series - knowing nothing of the characters or their background made it a steep climb to start with, and I'm grateful to my PCG colleagues for continuing to rave about it so that I stuck with it. Now that I've tuned into the story, every issue is blowing me away and this most recent one is sheer beauty. For anyone who has done the maternity hospital thing, this is a remarkable observation on the unique blend of boredom, impatience, overwhelming joy and utter despairing fear that comes with the arrival of a child. King captures the terror of feeling as if everyone around you knows more than you do about this huge task you are about to undertake, the ridiculous advice of relatives (which in that moment of searching fright, you think might actually be useful) and the hilarious minutiae of the hospital system as applied to a god and a Fury. He plays merrily on the father’s feeling of near total uselessness when the love of his life is undertaking the most overwhelming task she will ever complete. I can’t score higher than a 10 but please imagine me rising to my feet to take off my hat and give this issue a standing ovation. 10/10

MARVEL 2-IN-ONE #4
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Valerio Schiti & Frank Martin
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: If you ever want to journey across to alternate dimensions then you’d find few better travelling companions than the Fantastic Four. Even if there are only two of them. Ben and Johnny’s ‘search’ for Reed and Sue through the multiverse commences, and their first stop is an absolute treat, a very specific event providing an entirely different version of history that Zdarsky relays with humour and invention. Jim Cheung may have disappeared for a few issues but Valerio Schiti easily steps up to the plate, nailing the infinitely appealing mix of cosmic awesomeness and emotional warmth with panache. The final few pages should bring a big fat grin to any Marvel fanboy or fangirl’s face, and bodes well for not only the next issue but the future of this delightful title as well. 8/10

VS #2
Writer: Ivan Brandon
Art: Esad Ribić & Nic Klein
Image $3.99

James R: After a promising first issue, VS didn't quite hit the heights in the second chapter. A large part of that was due to the repetition; Flynn finds himself back on the battlefield with a new team, and it's another fight to the death battle. This may seem like an odd criticism seeing that it's a book pitched as 'Space Gladiators', but Ivan Brandon has created a world that's so interesting here, I want to spend more time seeing how it works. The glimpses we see are so intriguing - "With Prayerboost, all your pleas get top priority" - so to spend the majority of the book in another big action sequence felt like a missed opportunity. It's a worthwhile purchase just to see the beautiful work of Esad Ribić and Nic Klein, but the next chapter needs to be a shift in gear if it's going to keep me on board. 7/10

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #301
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera & Jordan Gibson
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Grrrrrrr. This book has me mad. Infuriated. Testy, even. So far this series has been a mixed bag for me: I've loved the snap and crackle of the (often inner) dialogue, and the action has been fun, playing with the idea of J. Jonah Jameson finally coming around to being on Spidey’s side. The whole Tinkerer story left me a bit cold as it felt contrived in places. But then this issue... aaaargh! The writing is the best I've seen in this series: Zdarsky’s pace, characterisation and wit are ruthlessly deployed and, added to a blending of Spidey histories which is a delight, this would be near perfect if it were not based on my absolute bête noir, 'Time Travel Used to Solve Plot'. Zdarsky, you charlatan! Curse you for making me love this! 8/10

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