17 Jun 2018

Mini Reviews 17/06/2018

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.

THE MAGIC ORDER #1
Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Olivier Coipel & Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

Matt C: It’s strange seeing Netflix’s logo displayed so prominently on a comic book but, following the media giant’s purchase of Millarworld, here’s where they get an idea of whether or not they made a wise investment. The worry in this situation is that the comic is just a storyboard for a proposed TV show/movie and not the real deal, but whatever your opinions of Mark Millar’s hucksterism, his love of the medium is always abundantly clear and his impact on it over the last couple of decades can’t be understated. He appears to have hit on another winning idea here (Netflix can breathe easy!) as a shocking murder spins us into a hidden world of magicians protecting the blissfully unaware from the terrifying unknown. It’s a compelling set-up, and the characterization is strong, but the added bonus here is Olivier Coipel’s evocative, vivid artistry which reaffirms his status as one of the best in the business. The Magic Order may ultimately end up in the live action environment as part of the Netflix deal but the fact that this issue is one of the strongest debuts of the year so far should be all the discerning comics fan cares about at this stage. No nefarious sleight of hand here, just genuine comic book thrills. 8/10

James R: I have a certain degree of respect for Mark Millar: even though he's a creator whose misses column far outweighs his hits for me, I have to salute anyone who has manoeuvred himself to such a position of strength in the media. The Magic Order represents the first book published since Netflix acquired Millarworld. I understand the criticism of Millar from those who say he now uses comics as extravagant pitches for potential movie and TV shows, but Millar's response was made clear in an interview with the Guardian this week: "A movie’s like a $100m advert for your work... We sold 1m copies of Kick-Ass on the back of the film.” Once again, I can only salute this nous, but I'm not sure it all leads to amazing comics. The Magic Order feels very, very familiar: A dysfunctional, yet powerful family are at the heart of The Magic Order, and if you replace 'magic' for 'powers' you have a very similar set-up to Jupiter's Legacy. It looks beautiful - as with Legacy, Millar's script is elevated by some brilliant art, and Coipel is majestic here, giving the book real gravitas. I couldn't escape the fact that this felt very generic - I'm coming back for issue #2 to see if it goes up a notch, but issue #1 of The Magic Order reminded me that Millar is now a better businessman than he is a writer. 6/10

THE WEATHERMAN #1
Writer: Jody LeHeup
Art: Nathan Fox & Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

Jo S: I know that other PCG team members have jumped at this because of Nathan Fox’s artwork, and yes, combined with Dave Stewart’s wonderfully dynamic colours, Fox’s work here is marvellous, animated and packed with detail and expression; however, having heard PCG-colleague Andy H rave about Shirtless Bear-Fighter more times than I care to count, it was actually Jody LeHeup’s writing that brought me here. And with good reason: this came with all the ingredients required for a great start to a series. Layabout Nathan is late for work (again) as a Martian weatherman on the day when inhabitants remember the loss of billions of lives in a single catastrophic event on Earth. I loved the way LeHeup shows him as a hapless waster, with no one but his dog for company, but then we see that, irresponsible as he is, he appears to be intriguingly capable in his work, and that perhaps being a weatherman on Mars in 2770 might mean something rather different from the way we understand that job title now. Definitely not taking itself too seriously, this contains appealing character observations, a smattering of unexpected turns and a few dollops of curiosity-inducing oddness - certainly worth an outing, no matter the weather outside. 8/10

James R: I have often said here that I'm a big science fiction fan, and if I'm being honest I'm probably harder on SF comics than I am other genres, but given the nature of comics, science fiction and a visual medium should work together beautifully. I was looking forward to The Weatherman from writer Jody LeHeup, who was responsible for the cult smash (and favourite of our own Andy H) Shirtless Bear-Fighter. The Weatherman takes place on Mars of 2770, with humanity mourning the loss of planet Earth in a (as yet mysterious) tragedy. We're introduced to our eponymous hero Nathan Bright, who is the definition of a maverick, but one who is loved by his Martian viewers. The Weatherman certainly looks nice - this issue is illustrated with a kinetic energy by Nathan Fox - but in terms of plot, I was left feeling a little cold. Having introduced us to the intriguing idea of a lost Earth, LeHeup then spends the rest of the issue with Nathan Bright (who isn't the most fascinating of characters, despite the revelation of the last page.) By no means a wash-out, but The Weatherman isn't a breath of fresh air enough to bring me back for more. 6/10

THOR #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward & Marco D’Alfonso
Marvel $5.99

Matt C: By Odin’s beard, doth Marvel think we need yet another thunderous relaunch? ‘Tis inconceivable that the Odinson should require such a fanfare to gain the attention of mortals, and yet… and yet, I say thee… yay! Because Thor is back, as is Jason Aaron, who has repeatedly proven himself as the most confident steward of the Thunder God’s adventures in recent times, and this is verily a most pleasing manner in which to bring the original Thor back into the firmament. We have the contemporary storyline backed up with a look into the far future, and the end of the universe, and both tales blend mythic imaginings with humour, pathos and, of course, hammers. Neither Del Mundo or Ward really have what we'd think of as a 'traditional' Marvel style, but their painterly approach giving both their work an impressive distinctiveness which lends the visuals a welcome otherworldly vibe that is befitting of the character and his mythos. Aaron’s Jane-Foster-as-Thor arc was a classic and there’s no reason why he won’t keep the momentum going here. A pricey issue but one loaded with promise of greatness. 8/10

A WALK THROUGH HELL #2
Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Goran Sudzuka
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Another series that I almost skipped, due to the blurb giving (quite understandably) very little away, this is the perfect example of the story which takes ‘normal’ and tips it just enough off kilter to make the reader feel discomfort, and pushes it right off the edge of 'OK' with a brutal shocker that knocks you off your feet. The second issue is at least as unnerving as the first, blending flashbacks of the setup for the story, heavy with ordinariness, with a horribly disorienting single main scene so confusingly simple it can’t be described without spoiling. Ennis’ writing is phenomenal here - subtle, observational, thorough whilst giving only exactly what’s needed away at each stage. I’m on tenterhooks for the next instalment. 9/10

MISTER MIRACLE #9
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
DC Comics $3.99

James R: We've been saying since issue #1 that this series is something special, and as the book moves towards the final three issues, it's clear that King and Gerads' series is even more than that. Following the bloody war between New Genesis and Apokolips, Scott Free and Barda find themselves negotiating for peace with Kalibak, a process that leads to a shocking (yet brilliant) ultimatum. Recently, King has unveiled his next project for DC, the Heroes In Crisis series. With Mister Miracle, his work on Batman, and now Crisis, it's clear that one of King's main themes is to examine the cost of violence via DC's icons - what are the emotional and psychological effects of being exposed to such trauma? Undoubtedly, Mister Miracle handles this idea adeptly - in this issue, the shock of a violent death from almost out of nowhere is juxtaposed with Scott's reaction to it later that night, and despite the fantastical nature of Apokolips, it feels real. Once again, Mitch Gerads' art is phenomenal - this series has featured the best use of a nine-panel grid since Watchmen (and that's not an accolade I throw around lightly!) We often say that certain books are essential and it's fair to say that Mister Miracle has become the must-read book of 2018. 9/10

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