1 Apr 2018

Mini Reviews 01/04/2018

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

Matt C: It’s now on a bimonthly schedule but the quality of the finished product is such that its ‘lateness’ becomes an irrelevancy. And while there was some initial trepidation with awarding the first few issues full praise due to the monumental legacy it was tackling, this chapter is exceptional, honouring that legacy but not being afraid to take risks with the material, ensuring predictability isn’t a problem. It’s this volume's ‘Rorschach’ issue, moving backwards from his current stay in Arkham to the new iteration of the character’s origin which, although markedly different to Walter Kovacs’ genesis, is still inextricably linked to the first wearer of the iconic mask. Another familiar character injects pathos into the flashbacks, and other emotions swirl around to form a mix of anger, sadness, alienation and a thirst for vengeance. Johns is taking a measured, intelligent approach to the material, and this may well turn out to be his finest work, while Frank’s art is rich with metaphor and heavy with emotion. Many comics only require one read through to absorb the required detail but one pass is never enough with Doomsday Clock; several revisits continue to reveal new things, new surprises. It’s still too early to say how the whole thing will fit together but, taken on its own terms, this issue was extraordinary. 10/10

Jo S: There are occasions when writing a 'mini review' is a test, where accurately describing a story involves may break a huge spoiler, or there are multiple threads to a story, all of which deserve coverage, and emphasising one over another produces a bias. This Doomsday Clock issue involves both these constraints, and my only recourse is to keep it short and hope that you trust my rating! Johns and Frank have written story within story within story here; this issue blends multiple timelines together, not just seamlessly but eloquently, using echoes and parallels to connect together each element of this version of Rorschach's  journey towards his masked persona. Aptly for the weekend on which I write this, this issue is a brimming basketful of Easter eggs with clues to be hunted and tracked on multiple rereads. I know I shall be coming back to this story again and again, following things I'd missed on the first 20 goes. An absolute joy. 9/10

Writer: Shannon Lee, Jeff Kline & Nicole Dubuc
Art: Brandon McKinney & Zac Atkinson
Darby Pop $3.99

Jo S: I’ve had to explain this slightly uncharacteristic item on my pull-list a couple of times this week and perhaps the shortcut to explaining the choice is to say that my son’s middle name is Bruce, after Lee, and that although I did agree to my husband’s suggestion in the maternity hospital, I was entirely painkiller-free at the time! It must have been the hormones. Anyway, Bruce and I have history: I chose this partly because the man and his story fascinate me, partly because of his daughter Shannon in the creator list, partly to have a comic I can genuinely share with my husband and partly because the blurb is so mightily “WTF??!” I had to see if this was actually as zany in the flesh, as it were. Bruce has been frozen, unageing for 45 years since his apparent death and, now rescued, he is trying to adapt to living in the new millennium, with no memory of his past life. Aside from the bizarre premise, the story is a fun, fish-out-of-water romp with some appealing characters and amusing confusions. Unfortunately, it’s hard to love as a fan as, despite the fantastic cover art, the representation of Lee through the story is so Westernised he is unrecognisable: with the chiselled features and bulging pecs of an American football hero, and with his signature moves lacking any feeling of his unmatched speed and flexibility, this feels like a series written more for laughs than as a showcase for the legendary martial artist, and as such, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what the point is. 6/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Ivan Reis, Kose Luis, Vicente Cifuentes, Jordi Tarragona & Marcelo Maiolo
DC $2.99

Matt C: I wasn’t convinced by the debut issue but felt I should give it another chance due to the talent involved. Unfortunately the same problems present themselves in this sophomore outing: there’s really nothing particularly memorable going on. Tom Strong’s presence in the story provides a hook but he’s only a background element at this stage, and in the foreground is an attempt to capture the magic of the Fantastic Four with a quartet of individuals that don’t provide a particularly interesting or exciting dynamic. A plot contrivance brings them together but there’s nothing to really make you want to see them stay together. When artist Reis gets to strut his stuff, it's impressive enough (particularly the splash pages), but again without any genuine sparks between the cast it's difficult to get excited. Perhaps that will change over the course of time but there’s been nothing so far to convince me to go any further with this fledgling super-team. 5/10

James R: The second chapter of The Terrifics continues to give us the how and why of DC's newest super-team. Narrowly escaping the dark multiverse, Jeff Lemire focuses on the dysfunction of the team, showing that Mister Terrific does not live up to his name when it comes to empathy. As with issue #1, this feels like a book finding its feet rather than one that's hit the ground running, but Ivan Reis' art and Lemire's script are crisp enough to keep me interested. Not quite living up to the title yet but The Terrifics still strikes an interesting team dynamic and hints at some great stuff to come. 7/10

Writer: Hubertus Rufledt & Helge Vogt
Art: Helge Vogt
Statix Press $5.99

Jo S: I was a little concerned when reviewing the first of this two-part story that there was a lack of originality in the writing - the idea of a group of undead souls gathered near their own graves waiting for the resolution of some outstanding business in their lives before they can pass over feels heavily done already. I'm hugely relieved to say that the direction of the second issue was much more original as our hero Alisik meets a boy and begins to fall in love, goes clothes shopping at a local mall, hears more of the lives and turmoils of her likewise unearthly friends and begins to get an inkling of further trouble in their future. The art throughout this book is delicious; rich colours, dreamy, wispy textures and adorable attention to tiny details - this is visibly a labour of love for Vogt and well deserving of its long format. The sudden ending - or perhaps, more appropriately, lack of ending - threw me for a loop though. I can find no information suggesting further issues will be forthcoming and yet every thread of the story has been left poised on a brink: please, someone tell me there will be more! 8/10

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

Jo S: A bittersweet close to this set of linked tales of the nasty dark side of a Glaswegian estate and the beauty that can still be found within the horror. Writer John Lees notes in the back matter that the response to this series was a big surprise and that circulation has grown rather than trailed away as expected and this makes total sense to me. One of the books I picked up on a whim, this has hooked me and fished me in, in a most unexpected way, and I'm thrilled to read that, as a result of its success, there will be more from this team in the future. This final episode (for now) explores ideas of what true strength and power are, what someone can be capable of with the right impetus; once again Lees toys with us, using an apparent innocent, searching for her adorable lost dog, drawing her down into the worst underbelly of the city and forcing her to face the most gruesome of truths. I particularly enjoyed seeing Florence reappearing and hope that this signals her likely part in following series. Cormack turns the gore and horror of Lees’ writing into terrifying, stomach-jolting realism - and I can’t help imagining colourist Moore at her art suppliers; “I'm going to need more red. Yes. Much, much more red”. 9/10

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