27 May 2018

Mini Reviews 27/05/2018

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.

BLACK PANTHER #1
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art: Daniel Acuna
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: These days it seems that every Earthbound superhero has to have an extended sojourn into space and now it’s the turn of T’Challa to be launched into the cosmos so he can add intergalactic crimefighting to his CV. It’s not quite as simple as that here as the titular hero doesn’t remember who he is and so finds himself in the same boat as the reader, wondering what the heck is going on. It appears as though, a couple of centuries ago, some Wakandans departed Earth to set up a galactic empire, but the hows and whys are hard to come by at this stage. There are a handful of sci-fi staples utilized to set up what is, ostensibly, a formulaic plot, but having a familiar character front and centre leaves it open to the unexpected. It’s well done, even if the predictable nature of the narrative is distracting, and Acuña enlivens the proceedings with his brand of moody, muscular dynamism, but it’s questionable whether this is the iteration of T’Challa that people will really want to engage with at the moment. It may flip things on their heads in subsequent instalments but the debut hits the well-worn groove of sci-fi prison break shenanigans without offering a particularly fresh hook. Space T’Challa may prove to be your thing but I think I’ll need to wait until he returns home before I catch up with him again. 6/10

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #2
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art:Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: Jeff Lemire's meta-journey through the history of comics reaches the Vertigo-Dark Horse years as Lucy Weber finds herself in Hell while, back in Rockwood, Gail and Barb continue to probe the secrets of the mysterious town. As Black Hammer has evolved and grown as a series, I've loved how the comic eras have been appropriated without feeling forced or awkward. As always, Dean Ormston's art is terrific, and it's clear that he's relishing the challenge of bringing Hell to life. As with every issue of Black Hammer, it's just a joy to read, and even if you're not a dyed-in-the-wool comics geek, there's plenty to enjoy here - it remains a book infused with quality on every page. 8/10

THE FOREVER WAR: FOREVER FREE #2
Writer: Joe Haldeman & Gay Haldeman
Art: Marvano
Titan Comics $5.99

Jo S: The scene-setting first issue of this new series was a bit of a jumble for me and, in a busy week, I'll admit I probably didn't give it the time and attention it needed to fully absorb the detail of the setup. I found this second issue much easier to dive into though and was richly rewarded for my small extra input of concentration. For those who haven't followed the first series of The Forever War, veteran intergalactic soldiers William and Marygay have finally managed to retire after many centuries of time-stretching due to near-lightspeed travel, but the universe they have settled in is unrecognisable from the war-torn place where they met: human beings have evolved into a single hive-mind, MAN, and have not only made peace with their old adversaries, the Taurans, but have combined their two societies into one. The Mandellas are now entirely out of step with their own kind and have escaped to the zoo-prison-haven of Middle Finger, the refuge of those who refuse to be connected to the hive. The refugees' ongoing need to protect their individuality, and their right to reproduce traditionally rather than by cloning, becomes the central storyline in this new series and much of the story is now told from Marygay’s point of view now, possibly reflecting Gay Haldeman’s greater input into her husband’s later work. The art throughout these books is delicate and sensitive - Marvano really is a perfect match for this - and the story is one of those in which you can lose yourself for long stretches,  perhaps a parallel with the protagonists’ millennium-spanning lifetimes. A truly beautiful rendering of a sci-fi classic, with the exploration of what humanity is being brought right up to date and then flung far into the future. 8/10

DAYS OF HATE #5
Writer: Aleš Kot
Art: Danijel Žeželj & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

Matt C: We’re not quite halfway but this series has already made its case for being one of the best of 2018, a stark look at a possible near-future, where an increasingly oppressive government has escalated urban terrorism to a new level. By narrowing the focus on a handful of characters, we learn about this new world through their perspectives, allowing a more intense connection to the unfolding drama. This issue breaks down three plot threads onto each page, brilliantly building momentum to a riveting climax, the lack of of dialogue in many panels giving Žeželj the opportunity to convey the emotional isolation of the characters with bleak but seductive imagery, while the narrative underscores how increasingly intertwined their lives are becoming. Another particularly strong issue of an exceptional series. 9/10

S.H.I.E.L.D. #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Dustin Weaver & Sonia Oback
Marvel $3.99

James R: I'm not even going to try and offer a brief recap on this one. There's been a hiatus of seven (!) years, and it features this magnificent sentence on the recap page: "As with most things involving the polymathic members of the Shield, this conflict bends common understanding." Bah! Suffice to say, this issue did remind me of why I loved this book all those years ago - Hickman's high-concept script, playing out over three alternative timelines, is illustrated magnificently by Dustin Weaver. It's just a shame we have had to wait so long - as with every long-delayed book, the hiatus takes the edge off the experience, but it's still great to see Hickman and Weaver going all-out like this. A fine reminder of Marvel's better days this century, and I can't wait to see just how far out there this title goes with its concluding issue. 8/10

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK WILSON #5
Writer: Eddie Gorodetsky & Marc Andreyko
Art: Stephen Sadowski & Hi-Fi Colour Design
Image $3.99

Jo S: This wry and sweetly written series closes with a grand opening: former mortal enemy of the hero Nick Wilson, Clive Morganfield, now a businessman, is set to throw the doors open at the glitzy ‘Nick Wilson Experience’ but where is the star guest? At risk of repeating myself, this series has been such a gentle surprise; on the face of it, the story of a washed-up celebrity hiding from his responsibilities in drug-numbed obscurity but, underneath, a sensitively-told story of growing older, about learning to accept one's adult self with its limitations as well as its strengths and about how heroism is founded not in superpowers but in treating people with respect and understanding. I'm making this sound twee - it's really not; the story is told so well, with a relaxed approach which sneaks up on you with an emotional strength it's hard to describe: for those of us reaching that era of our lives when you start to wonder what you are and where you place is, now that the things which were important in your youth have moved on, this rings so familiar - I urge you to catch up with this if you have the chance. 9/10

THE TERRIFICS #4
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Doc Shaner & Nathan Fairbairn
DC $2.99

James R: Last month, I decided to give The Terrifics one more issue - after an encouraging debut, I didn't feel the team worked, and the three-part opening arc felt a little rushed. It's a very pleasant surprise to report in that issue #4 is like a different comic entirely. Kudos goes to Doc Shaner, whose pencils feel like the right fit for this book. Lemire's script also feels, well, like a Lemire book too, with more time spent on the relationships in the team, and providing a trademark heart-render in the final pages. The book continues to dangle the Tom Strong plot in front of me like the ravenous fanboy I am, so I'll stay with it until that's resolved at least, but this is more a step in the right direction. 7/10

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