15 Jul 2018

Mini Reviews 15/07/2018

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.

SHE COULD FLY #1
Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Art: Martín Morazzo & Miroslav Mrva
Dark Horse $4.99

Jo S: Cantwell’s essay at the end of this issue sheds much light on the content of the story and is well worth a read. The protagonist, Luna, is fascinated by a mysterious flying woman who has been spotted over her home city, and dreams of flying with her, escaping the horrifying obsessions which plague her daily. The story threads together real and illusory images from Luna’s mind with at first obscure introductions to further characters. Cantwell tells it grippingly, and Morazzo’s slightly off-beat art, used to such effect in Ice Cream Man recently, perfectly captures the blend of horror and mundanity in Luna’s life. It's tricky to express fully why this story is so affecting without spoiling some key features, but for anyone who has stood atop a cliff and felt the terrifying compulsion to take one step too many at the edge, there will be notes in this story which feel frightening and familiar. 9/10

Matt C: A striking, moving debut issue, which uses a mysterious manifestation of superpowers as a backdrop to explore mental health issues in an honest and believable way. There’s a sense of isolation that feeds through this opener, with people either afraid or unable to connect fully with others, the way their fears exhibit themselves – particularly the lead character - are rendered in an unnerving but effective manner from Morazzo, the eyes and expressions reacting in horror to the real and the imagined. Cantwell’s personal experience informs the narrative in a manner that brings the anxieties to the surface, generating empathy amongst the unease, capturing little moments of human truth that resonate long after the final page is closed. There’s more going on here of course – shady government operatives, suggestions of unauthorized experiments – but it’s the emotional core that makes She Could Fly soar. 8/10

FARMHAND #1
Writer: Rob Guillory
Art: Rob Guillory & Taylor Wells
Image $3.99

Jo S: Creepy, entertaining, mysterious and intriguing, this is a great kick-off for a fun new series. Zeke Jenkins and his family are finally making the trip back to the family farm after many years of estrangement but in his absence, the farm has grown into a burgeoning international biotechnology business, growing replacement parts for human recipients. Guillory writes and illustrates this with light-hearted tooniness, capturing both the in-humour of a close family and the bizarre weirdness of transplant organs literally grown as a crop. The detail-fan in me loved the signs and warnings throughout, the gore-fan enjoyed the gruesome plants and horrifying grafting process and the comics-fan loved the clever structure and pace of the story: it's always gratifying to finish an episode with a deepening mystery and Guillory layers intrigue on top of further intrigue here, making a second issue a must for me. 8/10

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Ryan Ottley & Cliff Rathburn
Marvel $5.99

Mike V: Here we are again, a fresh start for Amazing Spider-Man and with it a new creative team after Dan Slott handed over the reins following ten years of writing the series. Spider-Man has always been a character closer to my heart than many in comics and I really enjoyed the work Dan Slott did with the character (Superior Spider-Man was incredible piece of story telling. Disagree? Let me go put my web shooters on!). Spencer uses this issue to reflect on the past, noting events from Slott's run and even further back to Spidey's origins (there is even a quote from a Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie thrown in) and then uses them to great effect to help shape his vision of Spider-Man; a more classic, loveable loser type with normal everyday problems we've all faced at times. This also makes for a great jumping on point for new or returning readers as it gets you back up to speed nicely without weighing you down too much with unnecessary information. Spencer gets across the feelings of Parker perfectly in this issue and this is helped by the art of Ryan Ottley (reminiscent at times of Ramos' artwork on the series ) with the exception of some panels which feel a little out of place. The fight scene dynamics are done to great effect. The comic also features cameo appearances from heroes and Spidey villains before revealing the true villain of the issue (one of my all-time favourites). Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley have started well, building the story in a good way and I'll be sure to pick up the next issue when it swings around in two weeks! 8/10

BLACK SCIENCE #37
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.99

James R: There was a time where I gladly pronounced this title to be one of the best ongoing series being published - Remender's script was packed with twists and turns, barrelling forward at breakneck speed, and illustrated beautifully by Matteo Scalera. I continued to enjoy Black Science, and as it hit the issue #30 mark, I felt that the book was coming to a natural conclusion - Remender weaved the early plot threads together and it built to a suitably grand finale. Except... it wasn't. From issue #35 onward, Black Science has focused on Grant McKay's and Sara's relationship, and the shift in gears has made it feel like a very different book. I'll stick with it until the end, but the news that there is still one more arc to go made me feel weary rather than excited. A book that once crackled with energy, Black Science is now ambling to a conclusion. 6/10

DIE!DIE!DIE! #1
Writers: Robert Kirkman & Scott M.Gimple
Art: Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn
Image $3.99

Matt C: A surprise release from Image. Without any advance warning, the latest series from Robert Kirkman debuted last Wednesday, doing what Beyonce and Jay-Z did a couple of weeks ago in the music world (or, for older readers, what Radiohead way back when). Free of any hyped up expectations, we get to read a new series from some top tier creators without any idea of what's in store for us. Co-plotted by the showrunner of the TV version of The Walking Dead, Scott M. Gimple, this is Kirkman’s take on the ‘secret cabal who run the world’ plotline, and it’s a cleverly positioned set-up, suggesting that serving the greater good requires sacrifice, as long as it’s someone else making that sacrifice. Burnham brings well-orchestrated violence to the action sequences and Kirkman runs with the idea of multiple-choice options for achieving certain objectives, and the consequences of the different choices. I’m not 100% sold on the concept based on this debut issue – it’s well done but not overly original – but in an era where significant plot twists get spoiled in advance of a comic’s release date, it’s rather pleasing to go in blind, so to speak. 7/10

X-23 #1
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Art: Juann Cabal & Nolan Woodward
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: X-23 is admittedly not a title I would usually take the time to pick up, but following Matt C’s advice to ‘follow the creators’, I picked this one up because I had enjoyed Mariko Tamaki’s work on the Jennifer Walters Hulk last year. Tamaki is adept at portraying a character weighed down with responsibility: Hulk struggling with the legacy of Banner’s death and exerting every scrap of self-control she could muster to keep the grey reined in, and here, Laura Kinney shouldering the responsibility of raising her ‘sister’ clone, Gabby, as they hero their way through teenage years as All-New Wolverine and Honey Badger. Opening with an attention-grabbing action sequence, packed with Wolverine-typical through-gritted-teeth wit, the story then switches to more of a creepy clone conspiracy. Cabal’s art sets off Tamaki’s writing a treat, the action is dynamic and quieter scenes are peppered with fun details. Characters’ hands are particularly pleasing in this issue - Laura pointing at a plate of food, flicking off a light switch, Gabby fist bumping the Cuckoo sisters or miming monster claws. I'll be looking forward to getting my hands on issue #2. 8/10

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