22 Jul 2018

Mini Reviews 22/07/2018

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.

BATMAN #51
Writer: Tom King
Art: Lee Weeks & Elizabeth Breitweiser
DC $3.99

James R: When I saw this issue listed in Previews, it immediately grabbed my attention: Bruce Wayne summoned for jury duty on a case featuring Mr Freeze and... Batman. What follows is a terrific 12 Angry Men scenario, with Dick Grayson once again donning the Batsuit as the trial unfolds. I can't remember the last time I read a book from the Big Two that is this perfectly balanced - the narrative thrust of the trial is beautifully matched by the vignettes of the supporting cast; the exchange between Dick Grayson and Jim Gordon being particularly delicious: "You're not him. You're that other him." It also looks extraordinary - Lee Weeks' art is amazing here, and gave me a sense of the Gotham that David Mazzucchelli portrayed in Year One. Elizabeth Breitweiser brings the same beautiful colour palette that has helped make the Brubaker/Phillips books look so remarkable, and it all adds up to a flawless package. I've re-read this issue four times since Wednesday, and I have to say that it's perfection. Best of all, there's another two parts of this story to come... 10/10

Matt C: Batman does 12 Angry Men. Bruce Wayne gets roped into jury duty when he really wants to be punching away his post-issue-#50 blues, but he has to sit in on the trial of none other than Mr Freeze. Who assisted in the arrest of the super-villain? A certain Dark Knight. And who thinks he’s not guilty? Well, that would be telling, but if you like a bit of courtroom drama, this will have all you’re looking for and more. Weeks' art is tremendous, potent with rage, urgency and a smattering of impotence, with Breitweiser’s washed out colours adding to the sense of powerlessness. And King is on an absolute roll with this title now – arguably it didn’t hit the ground running but at this point, it’s unstoppable. 9/10

Jo S: I was tempted to start picking up my first Batman story following the fabulous wedding issue - ah, that DRESS! The ROMANCE! - and I can't deny I was a little concerned that, coming into this from that start, I would find ol’ Bats a bit too dark, a bit too macho. Instead, I'm reliving the thrall of the utterly brilliant 12 Angry Men, and totally gripped by a delicately constructed, superbly subtle, intelligently twisty courtroom drama. Bruce has been called for jury service for a headline-grabbing murder trial, and while he’s sequestered, ‘that other him’ is holding the fort, bat-vigilante-style. With this utterly unputdownable kick-off, Tom King has pushed all other contenders out of the way for my current favourite writer spot; clever, intriguing and question-provoking, this has brought me right back to the Bat. 8/10

AVENGERS #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Paco Medina, Ed McGuiness, Juan Vlasco, Mark Morales, Karl Story & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: An exposition-heavy opening leads into the usual high octane action sequences, and while the secret history of the Celestials' first excursions to the Planet Earth is kind of neat, there’s a general lack of jeopardy on display. Sure, we know this isn’t going to end in a bloodbath, but the trick is to get the reader to buy into possibility of things going sideways, even if everyone knows the good guys will win in the end. It’s all very well done – with creators like these, you wouldn’t expect anything less – but it pushes the button marked ‘Blockbuster’ too hard, forgetting to tap the ‘Risk’ button at the same time. This might be what we think we want from an Avengers book, but it also might not necessarily be what we need. 6/10

IMMORTAL HULK #3
Writer: Al Ewing
Art: Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Leonardo Romero, Paul Hornschemeier, Marguerite Sauvage, Garry Brown & Paul Mounts
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Al Ewing assembles a starry cast of artists for this third episode of a string of themed stories of the Big Green Guy; this time a neat showcase of art styles representing the POV of a number of different witnesses to the same incident. Each point of view has its own style, from the fun and lively newsprint style of Romero’s cop to the darkly horror-gore style of Brown, instantly recognisable to me from his work on Babyteeth. I particularly enjoyed the Sauvage section, from the observations of the gentle old lady, who sees the guy everyone else thinks is a dangerous lunatic as a handsome James Dean-alike, standing up for love against those who don’t understand. The conclusion of the story left me with some questions, just, I suspect, as it would be in real life when trying to piece together events from unreliable sources, though I did find the differing styles just a tiny bit too confusing on the first read. It’s an interesting sampler of this storytelling device and I wonder whether Ewing intends to continue to use this series in that way - I'm certainly along for the ride either way. 7/10

DARTH VADER ANNUAL #2
Writer: Chuck Wendig
Artists: Leonard Kirk, Walden Wong, Scott Hanna & Nolan Woodard.
Marvel $4.99

James R: I stopped picking up the main Star Wars title with the departure of Jason Aaron as it seemed to have run its course, and more importantly lost that 'Star Wars feel'. Of late though, I've heard a lot of good things about Charles Soule's tenure on the Darth Vader title, but I decided that this would be a good time to renew my acquaintance with the Dark Lord of the Sith. Why? This annual has been targeted for boycott by elements of Star Wars 'fandom' who are angry at the writer, Chuck Wendig, for rightfully calling out their toxic hatred of The Last Jedi, and I wanted to take a stand against that. I'm really pleased I did, as Wendig brings the same love and knowledge of the Star Wars universe that made his Aftermath novels a success - he writes stories with pace and insight. This annual deftly mixes in elements from Rogue One, Attack Of The Clones and A New Hope to deliver a tale of Vader tracking down a Death Star construction saboteur. The art from Leonard Kirk is unfussy and Nolan Woodard's colours give book a rich feel. A treat for all us Star Wars fans: naysayers are missing out - in more ways than one.  8/10

GIDEON FALLS #5
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

Jo S: Jeff Lemire has been a good reason to find Gideon Falls but, for me, the reason to stay has been Andrea Sorrentino’s work. Absolutely at the top of his game, in this series he has repeatedly torn up all the standards as far as page structure and composition are concerned, and taught me lesson after lesson in the unique capability of the comic book medium to deliver a story. Sorrentino’s techniques of selecting a moment of the story and amplifying it, sending visual echoes reverberating around the page, is stunning. In this issue, the creative duo use wallpaper-style background to flesh out the history of what is being discussed in the foreground; a movie would be forced to do this in tacky flashback, but here a subtle two-channel approach puts the needed information into the brain so cleverly you don't even realise it's happening. As if this were not enough, Lemire’s story is throwing loops of intrigue around me and pulling me inexorably closer to the truth too - this is one of the best comic books I have read. 9/10

No comments: