5 Aug 2018

Mini Reviews 05/08/2018

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.

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Art: David Aja
Dark Horse $3.99

Jo S: Like a seed containing all the code, all the information, all the materials required to build a living entity, this first issue of Aja and Nocenti’s dystopian tale of a divided world is absolutely packed with the DNA of a stunning science fiction story. The design choices - a starkly limited palette of black, white and military green, old fashioned gas masks, the recurring bee-related theme in hexagonal chain-link fences and 8-bit-style graffiti - are electrifying, the art punctuated throughout with hints and clues and nudges towards understanding. Aja and Nocenti have created a state of division; a literal wall, though semi-finished, splits citizens into the tech-dependent and the luddite, with the latter occupying a protected state where no tech is permitted. On the old-school, technology-addicted side, a single journalist fights the prevalent thirst for clickbait stories to be able to be able to tell truths about the restricted zone. The apian theme runs throughout the dialogue too, in ways both subtle and obvious, with Nocenti and Aja’s creativity working as a single entity to produce something so much more than the sum of its parts. 9/10

Matt C: A striking debut, and alongside She Could Fly it seems that the Berger Books imprint is the new place to look for vibrant, exciting creator-owned work, Karen Berger proving that she’s not lost her talent for seeking out stories that demand to be read. Ann Nocenti hasn’t had the highest of profiles of late but here she reminds us how well she can draw out the most compelling facets of alienated and damaged individuals, engaging fully with their perspectives. It’s dystopic fiction that encompasses fear of others, of technology, of being alone, of the future – in other words, it reflects both where we are now and postulates where we may be heading. And then there’s the art. David Aja is a confirmed master of the comic panel (his work on Hawkeye was sublime) and here he goes monochrome to evoke urban decay and isolation, capturing exquisite beauty in a world of gas masks, disrepair and danger. A book you do not want to miss out on. 9/10

James R: I'm often most disappointed by science fiction in comics - as a SF fan, I love it when there's a new comics series that uses the genre, but then, more often then not, I feel deflated when the book doesn't do anything new. The Seeds, from Ann Nocenti and David Aja, exceeded my expectations though: this first issue entranced me with a winning blend of mystery, interesting character, and an irresistibly dark future. The Seeds presents us with a dying Earth, but one that's been bisected - on one side there is a world recognisable as ours taken to a dilapidated end (a collapsed ecology, a reliance on technology) and on the other, a mysterious (as yet unseen) world where dwell those who have turned their back on technology. Add in to this, a group of strangers charged with collecting samples of the dying Earth, and The Seeds delivers a rich and rewarding read. It's worth the cover price for the work of David Aja alone - he makes the pages feel alive, and there's a real feeling of dirt and decay that enhances Nocenti's ambitious script. With two creators as talented as this, I'd hoped The Seeds would be a win - this first issue sees the series already in full bloom. 8/10

Writer: John Layman
Art: Nick Pitarra & Michael Garland
Image $3.99

Jo S: Leviathan is what happens when a writer with a fully unhinged imagination is teamed up with an artist whose expertise has been honed drawing mutant ninja turtles and creating alternative science histories, and both are given excessive quantities of coffee and Jelly Tots before being set to work. We meet Ryan, who has only popped out from his party briefly on a beer-run but in his absence, the unpleasant ‘Goth Jimmy’ has invited an additional guest who’s getting WAY out of hand. The span of this first issue covers just a few minutes in ‘real’ time but is absolutely crammed with details - so many that I've returned and pored over each page trying to spot absolutely every little I-see-what-you-did-there joke and reference, though I suspect I've still missed many. The action is so fast in this outset that I didn't really have a chance to form a bond with anyone - perhaps that will come later - for now I'm happy to revel in the multiple distractions offered by the background of this majestically detailed kaiju-sized monster of a first issue. 8/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC $3.99

James R: A few issues back, I marvelled at Mister Miracle's sophistication - it was fantastic to read a book that had the confidence to make a discussion about Descartes as one of the central themes of an issue. This week, Tom King and Mitch Gerads have done it again - this time the ethical framework of utilitarianism provides the driving force for the narrative. Having given Scott Free an impossible decision in the last issue - have the war between New Genesis and Apokolips rage on, or hand over his son to Darkseid - this issue sees Mister Miracle and Big Barda debate the decision. Is it always right to do what produces the greatest good for the greatest number? It's a book that's supremely refined; King's script weaves in some the most human of concepts - freedom, death, choice - whilst also making two of the New Gods the most relatable and empathetic of characters. It's also great to see Mitch Gerads topping his work with every chapter - when issue one rightfully won Best Single Issue at the Paradoscars, I wrote that he'd re-invented the nine-panel grid, and since then he's gone on to make it a layout rich with nuance. There's yet to be a a dud moment in this series - this book sees two creators absolutely at their peak. 10/10

Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art: Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: The man out of time is now the man out of step, internalizing the loss of trust the public have in him, wondering if he’s always been the problem and not the solution. There’s a theme of emasculation running through the narrative that is quite surprising and effective; the notion that you fulfil the role defined for you but then find yourself rejected for it is strongly conveyed. Coates gets that there needs to be more to this character than simply waving a flag and punching fascists, there has to be meaning to his actions, along with an understanding of what he represents, for better or worse. Captain America is most potent when he’s portrayed as both a reflection of and a reaction to what’s going on outside our windows, and this fledgling run appears to be in tune with this, which bodes incredibly well for its immediate future. 8/10

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

Jo S: Tom King sits atop the writers' throne for me currently, ruling via the twin forces of Mister Miracle and Batman. The comparisons between Bats' current predicament and 12 Angry Men were made extensively following issue #51 so I won't labour that, except to note that the pressure is mounting on Bruce as his fellow jurors become more restless - they have places to be, just as in the movie, and, for them, Bruce’s dissent is an incomprehensible inconvenience. King and Weeks do a marvellous job of giving Bruce an outward appearance of calm, of restraint, whilst at the same time showing us what actually happened, not as supporting evidence exactly but more as a way to bring us into Bruce’s mindspace: to help us understand the staggering weight of the challenge he is facing, to champion justice without compromising the system and yet without compromising his own dark secret, all whilst fighting down the devastation he must be harbouring over lost love. King sees the heart of Batman and helps us see it too, in intricate, controlled complexity. 8/10

Matt C: This title is on fire now; King is perfectly in sync with his characters and displays complete control over his canvas (Gotham City). Flipping the 12 Angry Men template on its head, as Bruce Wayne tries to convince 11 other jurors that Batman was wrong, is an ingenious move, with Wayne fully aware that his alter ego – spiked with grief and anger - went a step too far, and is attempting to make things right without blowing his secret identity. Generally we’d expect the ‘money shot’ to adorn the cover, but while issue #52 may have a great cover, Weeks saves the best for the interior, several splash-page images startling with their evocative dynamism, Breitweiser layering the Gothic textures of brutal violence with expertise. This is as good as it gets, the Dark Knight gloriously returned to the summit of the genre. 10/10

James R: To be honest, I don't have much more to add to the superlatives that I gave to the first part of 'Cold Days' - this is as good as I've ever seen the Batman title, and the 'Gotham's 12 Angry Men' plot continues to be a joy. All I wanted to do here was flag up just how good King's understanding of the Batman/Bruce Wayne dynamic is. This issue climaxes with Bruce addressing the jury as he talks about the crime that's come to define his life. It's a story that's been told an endless times, but King's script shows an insight into loss and pain that's striking. Lee Weeks' work is brilliant again here - it's a Gotham that's grounded but shot through with nods to Batman's history (it was great to see Mr Freeze's 1966 TV series look represented too). If you've ever loved Batman, but have been reticent about picking the title up again, you should absolutely buy 'Cold Days'. DC seem to have got their mojo back - and it's about time. 9/10

Writers: Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Art: Javier Fernandez & John Kalisz
DC $3.99

Mike V: Having become a Green Arrow fan because of the TV series Arrow I’ve been reading Green Arrow since New 52 and continued into the DC 'Rebirth' phase. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read for the most part and since Rebirth I feel Benjamin Percy had the strongest run so far but this issue brings about a new creative team and with that something intriguing: two writers writing one story. The idea of two people telling a story in comic form is something that seems odd to me but if anyone can do it then a sister team of Julie and Shawna Benson (The 100, Birds Of Prey) can, right? The issue starts in a somewhat staple Green Arrow way (or at least, heading that way) with the hero rescuing some citizens followed with an introduction to a corrupt businessman. The story progresses and we see Ollie go about his normal day-to-day life. The interesting details here are the colours of John Kalisz who uses a brighter palette for Ollie’s side of the story and then darker, more gritty tones when GA appears. The villain for the arc is introduced later on, giving way to a predictable end to the issue. It’s an okay start to the Benson’s run but doesn’t make me feel like I need to rush out to buy the next issue (other than being a Green Arrow fan). I know it’s too early to judge this creative team just yet but I hope for better things to come. 6/10

1 comment:

Derek said...

Out of all the comics reviewed on this page, only Captain America is currently on my pull-list. I think this Cap run is off to a great start as well. Its going to be interesting to see how the creative team has him deal with the bad PR and the stress of being a man without a mission.

Keep up the great reviews, based off of what I'm reading I may be looking to add some more to my pull-list!