24 Jun 2018

Mini Reviews 24/06/2018

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.

GIDEON FALLS #4
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

James R: After a wonderfully atmospheric introduction to the world of Gideon Falls in the first three issues, this month's instalment begins to reveal some of the mysteries of the Black Barn. The links between Norton Sinclair and Gideon Falls are revealed skilfully by Lemire, and in Andrea Sorrentino he has found a collaborator whose visuals take this comic to another level. It's a perfect amalgamation for me: a writer who is at the top of his game, and an artist who is producing astonishing work every month - Lemire's scripts captivate, and Sorrentino's art astounds. There's something to marvel at on every page, and this book is one of those rare gems that feels like it's pushing the medium to another level. Brilliant in every sense of the word, this is the book you should reach for if anyone asks why comics continue to be relevant in the 21st century. 10/10

Jo S: This week is proving to be the battle of the Image Titans for me, with Gideon Falls and Days Of Hate both holding strong in the contest for book of the year (taking Lockjaw out of the running, obviously, as otherwise it wouldn’t be a fair fight). Lemire’s writing with Sorrentino’s art comes as close to the perfect partnership as I can imagine is possible: Lemire’s work here is shrewd, giving us just a little story progress at a time whilst growing the characters, and Sorrentino’s art is phenomenal, taking page structures so far beyond the norm it’s hard to find a parallel (no pun intended). Lemire allows Sorrentino to show us the headspace of the characters; sometimes crowded and complicated, sometimes flowing unstoppably, sometimes faulted and fractured. At one point, Sorrentino takes the action of a couple of moments, breaks it into instants and builds them into a stunning, kaleidoscopically unfolding, geometric structure delivering a figurative and literal blow to the head. If you’re not already reading this, you MUST correct that. 9/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #2
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Jesús Saiz
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: A surprising but wonderful journey into the galactic unknown with the good doctor, the trend for hurling generally ‘Earthbound’ heroes into the cosmos proving to be entirely successful in this particular case. Searching to reconnect with magic sees him imprisoned on an alien world with no foreseeable means of escape, but is all hope really lost? Waid’s narration is a key element to why this take on Stephen Strange works so well, its serious tone juxtaposing nicely with the more bubbly dialogue. The other winning ingredient is the clean, detailed, imaginative artistry from Saiz; there’s a warmth to the characters that works brilliantly when the thrilling action sequences get under way. We’ve watched Doctor Strange take a more central role in the Marvel Universe over the last few years, with him finally getting his own comic on the stands again after a long period of absence, and this new run is showing early signs of being the best yet. 8/10

JUSTICE LEAGUE #2
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jorge Jimenez & Alejandro Sanchez
DC $3.99

James R: It's big, it's brash, and - man alive! - it is fun. Following a fantastic debut, Snyder's second issue of Justice League fully embraces the 'blockbuster' ideal of the team and runs with it. Following the arrival on Earth of an energy source 'containing all the power of the Source Wall' the JL have to find a way in, a task far trickier than it sounds. The energy source - the Totality - immediately made me think of one my favourite movies this year (Alex Garland's astonishing Annihilation) but this blended with the iconic DC cast just worked for me. I was initially disappointed that Jim Cheung wasn't the artist for this issue, but this feeling dissipated as I saw Jorge Jimenez's brilliant work. Different comics fulfil different needs for me, and Justice League scratches the itch for the big, bombastic comic experiences of my youth. I think the last time I enjoyed Justice League, Grant Morrison was writing it but, make no mistake, I'm loving what Scott Snyder's doing here. 8/10

SHANGHAI RED #1
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Art: Joshua Hixson
Image $3.99

Matt C: A journey to the Pacific of the 1800s that encompasses kidnapping, mutiny and skulduggery, Shanghai Red offers a tale that is somewhat engaging but lacks the required strong, standout characterization to reel me in. There’s a nice textural quality to the artwork, splashes of red denoting danger and violence, but the derivative nature of the narrative (the revenge arc) doesn’t allow for the requisite quota of intensity and emotion. It’s an okay debut but perhaps not a series you’d want to voyage with for any significant length of time. 6/10

DAYS OF HATE #6
Writer: Aleš Kot
Art: Daniel Žeželj & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

Jo S: The choice for my book of the week was the hardest ever this week, with Image producing two mind-blowing issues in parallel, Days Of Hate #6 and Gideon Falls #4, both with stunning art partnering completely immersive storytelling. Days Of Hate, if possible, took it up a notch further this week, with a blend of sun-lit history expanding on the background of the two female protagonists, and the now-familiar split page routine showing the current action for each of the main players. Kot toys with us, drawing us along, showing us brightness and hope contrasted with dark bleakness, cementing our understanding of the motives of the people we are becoming close to, assuring our alliance with their missions even when they seem, in the light of day, at odds with our own ethics. The final page delivers a sucker punch but I could not help but go back and re-read, and even this becomes completely explicable under Kot’s spell. A masterpiece. 9/10

Matt C: Watching the newsfeeds each passing week, Days Of Hate seems to become a less outlandish piece of speculative fiction and more plausible by the minute. The stark imagery Žeželj conjures up is extraordinary, its melancholic beauty complimented by the drained, striking colour palette Bellaire utilizes. The script is full of regret, resilience and tumbling expressions of love and connection in a time where those in power are stripping away the acceptable definition of humanity and morality in favour of something darker and more oppressive. Halfway through the series and it’s easily one of the most important comics of 2018, certainly the one with its finger most firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist. 9/10

BATMAN #49
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janin & June Chung
DC $2.99

James R: I've been saying it since 'The War of Jokes and Riddles', but Tom King is doing something very special with this book. The second part of 'The Best Man' sees Joker and Catwoman both bleeding out, and simply discussing their respective pasts and relationships with Batman. It might not sound like much, but it's one of the most captivating things I've read this year. King's understanding of the characters gives Batman a depth you don't often get from the Big Two, and it's remarkable that a hero designed almost eighty years ago can still be mined for new insight. Here King reflects on what it means to be a nemesis: he gives callbacks to some of the grand moments of Bat-history - Death In The Family, The Killing Joke - and does something fresh with it. Mikel Janin's art is as sharp as ever, and he's become one of the regular artists that's made this book one of the must-reads of the year. The stage is now set for the wedding issue - I'd best get the confetti ready... 9/10

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #2
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Javier Garrón & Israel Silva
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: I picked up this series as a primer of sorts for the Ant-Man And The Wasp movie due out here in the UK in a few weeks. Its release here has been delayed for a month by some minor international sporting event, infuriatingly for those of us with zero interest in football and maximum interest in avoiding movie spoilers - I shall simply have to stay out of Twitter for a couple of weeks, I guess. This second issue is gorgeous: Garrón has pulled out all the stops to create fantastic creatures of the Microverse to challenge tiny Nadia and still-tinier Scott: he and colourist Silva must have worked day and night to produce the luridly detailed micro-scapes packed with intricately appendaged, multi-fanged beasties. Mark Waid packs a lot into a tiny story here, using the need to get Lang out of Van Dyne’s head (literally) as a very clever vehicle for giving us some additional history of the characters - just what I needed! 8/10

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