10 Jun 2018

Mini Reviews 10/06/2018

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.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Jim Cheung, Mark Morales & Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

James R: I should start by saying that I normally avoid the big team books from Marvel and DC - it takes a special talent to keep the plots balanced whilst coming up with interesting threats for an overpowered group. I had to take a look at Justice League #1 though - I really love Jim Cheung's art, and the opportunity to see him illustrating DC's icons was irresistible. As you might imagine, the book looks stellar - Cheung's pencils give the pages a suitably epic feel. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Snyder's plot too: obviously, the League faces a seemingly apocalyptic threat but Snyder provides plenty of intrigue whilst moving the narrative along at a pace. Snyder has been DC's 'Top Gun' for a while now but with this book it really feels like he's accepting the mantle. I thought the Dark Nights: Metal event was a misfire, but this feels far better judged; it's just a more enjoyable read. So, despite my reservations, I got sold on Justice League - I shall definitely back for issue #2, and I hope this is the start of a run that continues to confound and exceed expectations. 8/10

IMMORTAL HULK #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Art: Joe Bennett, Ruy José & Paul Mounts
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: Pitched as the Hulk moving into the horror genre, this story opens with a gas station hold-up going horribly wrong and the brutal and pointless loss of three lives. Ewing has gone back to solo-Hulk territory here, with themes of justice - or is it vengeance? - and deliberate echoes of the very first issue of Incredible Hulk. The story is deft: kill Bruce Banner in the day time and he appears indeed to be dead, but when night falls, the monster inside is freed. There's something about this first issue that isn't quite right for me, and I can't quite put my finger on it. I like the artwork and love Mounts’ colours; the sweating terror of the gas station robber as he realises the situation is getting out of his control, a double-page of horrified reactions as a child falls, stricken. I think my issue may be with the Hulk himself - this is a rational Hulk, with a score to settle, reasoning with a killer about what that moment feels like. He is sophisticated, not the grunting beast version of himself but more a blend of Hulk and Banner, and yet, his visage is rendered relatively simply, with smooth teal skin and teeth like rows of Mentos. Perhaps I just didn't find him scary enough? Nonetheless, I will be back for further issues - Horror Hulk remains on my list. 7/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Jesus Saiz
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Space is the place. A couple of weeks ago Black Panther relaunched with an amnesiac T’Challa in the far flung reaches of the galaxy, now it’s the turn of Stephen Strange to journey into the cosmos, primarily on a mission to reclaim his mojo. It happens to most superfolk, that point where they – for whatever reason – lose their powers, and here Doc Strange finds he’s lost his magic, literally. Waid presents this as spin on the stages of grief, but obviously the final stage - acceptance - isn’t something that these larger-than-life ever really consider: there’s always another option. Saiz’ linework is solid, slick and powerful, the retro-sci-fi tinge to some of the later illustrations appearing in the issue being particularly welcome. Taking the good doctor well outside of his comfort zone appears to be, on the evidence of this debut chapter, a move that will generate some potentially great comic book alchemy. 8/10

DEADPOOL #1
Writer: Skottie Young
Art: Nic Klein, Scott Hepburn & Irn Herring
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: This isn't exactly 'My First Deadpool' - I've dallied with the Old Man Logan team-up previously - but it is the first genuine solo Deadpool book I've picked up and, yes, it's a tasty and satisfying experience! Skottie Young at the writing helm has the requisite snark, drama and ear for DP’s unique blend of action and comedy, hitting a streak of comic timing which only comes with extensive experience. In the primary story, Nic Klein’s art manages to give Wade a spectacular blend of gross-out and physical awesomeness: his scarred face, visible as he lifts his mask to scoff popcorn, is repulsive in a way that other representations have shied away from, and his grenade-destroyed physique is at the same time both wrecked and really, really confusingly hot. ‘Pool is currently working as a merc again, taking private contracts with the help of his ‘PA’, a very welcome Negasonic Teenage Warhead: her comprehensive disinterest in anything he has to say and her effortless, one-liner crushings of his assertions are absolute perfection. She appears to be the only person who can put him off his stride - the dynamic here is superb. We're not just sticking with the day job though - Young takes an aside to introduce a Big Bad on his way to Earth on a massive space bike - and it looks like the Guardians are going to need Deadpool’s help to save us all… On top of all of this bounty, there's also a backup story where our hero and his PA (a very loosely warranted title) discuss rebooting his origin story in classic fourth-wall bustin’ style: it’s all the Wade Wilson you could want with bells on. Or stuffed pink unicorn pants on. Your choice. 9/10

DOCTOR STAR & THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #4
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Max Fiumara & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: Nothing I'm about to say should come as a surprise to regular readers: a Jeff Lemire comic I love? Obviously. Another successful spin-off of Black Hammer? Definitely. A book of intelligence and heart? Naturally. So what's new to highlight in this last issue of Doctor Star? It's undoubtedly one of the most heartbreaking books I've read this year, and Lemire holds nothing back as Jimmy Robinson reflects on a life of regret before one last heroic act. Even given the sophistication of the Black Hammer Universe, the end of this miniseries still packed a punch that's simply missing from most mainstream comics. It's strange recommending a book that will make most readers feel a dreadful sense of loss, but that's the power of Lemire and Fiurama's work here. This series has been the first I've read featuring the Argentinian's art but he's established himself as a name to watch. Finally, a salute to Dave Stewart's colours - it was masterful to see how the light drains from Jimmy's world as the plot concluded; this added a remarkable veneer to this book. Another hit from the world of Black Hammer - I can't wait for The Quantum Age. 8/10

BATMAN #48
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mikel Janin & June Chung
DC $2.99

Matt C: The big day gets closer for the Cat and the Bat, and of course the Joker wants in on the act. As we saw in the brilliant opening short in DC Nation #0 last month, the Clown Prince of Crime is determined to get his invite and will use all his murderous tricks to ensure that comes to pass. Tom King’s slightly off-kilter approach to the Dark Knight (did we ever imagine we’d see a Batman marriage issue?!) is really gathering momentum on its way to issue #50, and the Joker’s appearance here results in an exceptionally compelling, unhinged read. The character’s ubiquity counts against him, as he regularly runs the risk of descending into self-parody, but it’s all about the angle the writer approaches him from, and King’s manic presentation of the Joker’s homicidal psychopathy is as unnerving as it is invigorating. It’s a stellar scripting performance that’s matched and enhanced by superbly dynamic imagery that exquisitely captures the unfolding mania. You may well have read a lot of Joker stories over the years but you’re unlikely to have read many as deliciously deranged as this one. 9/10

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