3 Jun 2018

Mini Reviews 03/06/2018

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.

MAN OF STEEL #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Ivan Reis, Jay Fabok, Joe Prado & Alex Sinclair
DC $3.99

James R: After a lot of pre-publicity and hype, the official debut of Bendis in the DCU is, to damn it with faint praise, fine. It probably didn't help that I spent some time this week re-reading the peerless All-Star Superman, but the first issue of Man Of Steel ticks a lot of the boxes that you'd expect from a Superman book without ever electrifying. We're introduced to a new Big Bad in the shape of Rogol Zaar, scenes of Superman being super, and then Superman meets 'real hero' - Deputy Fire Chief Melody Moore. Bendis shows that he's got Kal-El's voice right, and the art from Reis and Fabok has a blockbuster feel to it, but at $3.99 a week, I didn't feel that this is going to be an exciting new take on the character, or a compelling narrative. I said it at the time, but this bears repeating: Action Comics #1000 showed that there are still myriad possibilities when it comes to great Superman stories - on this evidence, I'm not sure that Man Of Steel hits the mark. 6/10

DOOMSDAY CLOCK #5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
DC $4.99

Matt C: There’s a heck of a lot going on in Doomsday Clock and the density of the narrative means it takes a moment to orientate yourself, especially now the book has settled into a bimonthly schedule. At some point we’ll be able to step back and marvel at the ‘big picture’ of this ambitious series but thus far there’s such uncertainty over where the story is heading it’s easier to get lost in the moments rather the wider themes at times. This isn’t really a criticism as it remains a fascinating and absorbing read, one which requires revisiting to explore the various levels of the plot and the meticulous details stuffed into every panel (Gary Frank is at the height of his powers here). The high concept pitch is still ‘Ozymandias comes to Earth One to search for Doctor Manhattan’ but that barely scratches the surface of what Geoff Johns is doing. It’s a sometimes overwhelming read but it is also a consistently impressive one that is confounding expectations. 8/10

GRASS KINGS #15
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tyler Jenkins & Hilary Jenkins
BOOM! Studios $4.99

James R: Grass Kings bows out this week with a conclusion as strong as its first issue. Finally the identity of the Thin-Air Killer is revealed, and the majority of the issue focuses on the killer's modus operandi before giving us a grisly - but yet very satisfying - conclusion. If there's one criticism of this finale, is that it's wrapped up a little too quickly - after the killer is dealt with, the coda outlining what happens to the rest of the Grass Kingdom feels too brief. Given the rich cast of characters Kindt and Jenkins created, it would have been good to spend a little more time with them, but all told, this is a terrific last issue. Grass Kings has been an enthralling read, with the depth and plotting you'd expect from a novel. The sadness at this series ending is tempered by the news that Kindt and Jenkins are reuniting for a new comic, Black Badge - I hope this is the next step in a long and fruitful partnership, as Grass Kings has been a regal triumph. 9/10

Jo S: I have a soft spot for this series, as it was, I think, the first book I found myself raving about to the PCG; the first to show me the essence of comic books as a medium, how they can convey so much more by their combination of text and art than either can convey alone, and the first to cause me to catch my breath with a sequence of wordless images portraying an idea so powerfully as to leave a lasting impression. This final issue is a triumph: the denouement of the Thin-Air Killer’s story, a tantalising blend of closure and lack thereof for the inhabitants of this tightly connected community, gift-wrapped like Tiffany jewellery in Tyler and Hilary Jenkins’ absolutely beautiful artwork. The conclusion is superb: a fully satisfying end to the story, and everything I had hoped for. If this was a movie, I'd be looking to view the Extra Features now - the 'Making Of' would be fascinating! Perhaps Kindt could be persuaded to add a Director’s Commentary to the collected version? Either way, I will be right there with my fistful of cash if, hopefully when, this appears in hard cover - absolutely one for the collection. 9/10

LAZARUS #28
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark, Tyler Boss & Santi Arcas
Image $3.99

James R: It's not as if we'd forgotten about how great Lazarus is, but if we needed reminding, the second part of the 'Fracture' prelude is one of the most concise and hard-hitting books of the year. The premise is simple - as the Conclave War escalates, Jonah Carlyle gets dragged into the conflict as part of a factory ship. What follows is a masterclass from Rucka and Lark in visual storytelling. The dialogue becomes sparse but Rucka's script allows the reader to mentally 'join the dots' and and anticipate the horrific conclusion to the story long before the final page. By the end of the issue I felt both devastated and immediately keen to see where this title goes next. Many series start to lose momentum around issue #30 - remarkably, Lazarus is somehow getting better. Still an essential comic in every way. 9/10

Matt C: A haunting, sombre end to the two-part interlude that has caught us up with where Jonah Carlyle found himself following his dip in the North Sea, underscoring the wreckage – both physical and emotional - that war brings to those who are least invested in its outcome. Again, it's a testament to how well Greg Rucka has built up this world that he can jump into places outside of the core narrative and still convince with complete believability and depth of characterization. Michael Lark brings it all to vibrant life, capturing the pain etched across the faces of those who are victims of forces beyond their control, but also the tenacity and resilience of the certain few who will only bear so much before they retaliate. It’s one of the central themes of Lazarus, fighting back against oppression, and it’s beautifully conveyed here with a resigned sadness that still sparks with hope. 9/10

LOCKJAW #4
Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Art: Carlos Villa, Roberto Poggi & Chris O’Halloran
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: All too soon, this meteor of a series comes to a close - it burned hot and fast, but as it winks out of existence, I'm left with a latent image of a comic impossibly packed with fun and creativity. Compared with Kindt’s Grass Kings, my other final review this week, it won't be considered high art: a crying shame as Villa’s work, giving lively personality to each of Lockjaw and his siblings, is wonderful - cartoony, yes, but in the best way. It probably won't garner attention for the smart writing, though Kibblesmith’s maiden Marvel voyage is meticulously planned, timed to perfection, blending humour and pathos so eloquently that I was barking with genuine laughter in places. It might not even get much credit as a series for kids - though it genuinely is a lovely story I would recommend for kids of all ages, there were so many smart references which a kid would miss, so it seems a pity to peg it as a kids’ series. Lockjaw’s dimension-hopping teleportation skill takes the reader on an accelerating tour of many of Marvel’s other creations, and yet it doesn't feel rushed, just fun; a twirling Viennese waltz of a tale, with plenty of chuckles on the way. Marvellous! 8/10

ROYAL CITY #11
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Image $3.99

James R: My pull-list this week really had a feeling of finality to it - Kill Or Be Killed reached its penultimate issue, Grass Kings finished, as did Barrier, but the biggest surprise came on the last page of Royal City, as Jeff Lemire announced that issue #14 will be the final issue. I was genuinely shocked! I love this book, and it has had such a strong identity since the first issue that I anticipated it would be a run of Sweet Tooth proportions. But re-reading this issue ahead of writing the review, it struck me that Lemire is right in saying that the ending of the story is coming into focus. There are two magnificent twists here that pivot the whole focus of book, and suddenly the secrets of the Pike family become clear. I know I spend a huge amount of time lauding his work here, but there's something about Lemire's work that draws me in and captivates me. Under normal conditions, I might be sad that Royal City's days are numbered - but given his extraordinary output, I'm just excited to see what Lemire cooks up next. 9/10

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