19 Aug 2018

Mini Reviews 19/08/2018

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.

PEARL #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Michael Gaydos
DC/Jinxworld $3.99

Jo S: Arachnophobes beware! The first page of this book features detailed spider art and the fact that it’s a drawing of a drawing doesn't mean it gives you less of a jump! The Bendis-Gaydos collaboration which produced the groundbreaking Jessica Jones series Alias now sets out into DC territory and this first issue of the tattoo artist with a very special set of skills does bear out the promise that this creative combination holds. Gaydos employs a variety of styles here, with his trademark near-photorealistic faces (and tattoos) introducing us to the characters and a murky, claustrophobic close-up structure adding an atmosphere of mystery and unease. Bendis gives us another complex female lead: parallels with Jessica Jones are impossible to ignore as Pearl’s unusual skill set, difficult background, complicated loyalties and alarming connections to the San Francisco underworld begin to come to light. An intriguing start - I look forward to seeing where this goes. 8/10

Matt C: ‘From the creators of Jessica Jones’ the cover proudly proclaims, and it's a good indication of the kind of vibe you can expect from Brian Michael Bendis' first DC creator-owned project. It’s street level crime, it features a protagonist drawn into events where she quickly finds herself out of her depth, and the dialogue ricochets with a believable rhythm. We’re not dealing with an ex-superhero private eye here though, instead it’s a tattoo artist getting mixed up in a Yakuza gang war, and it’s the gritty verisimilitude of the Bendis/Gaydos combo that makes this resonate, the grounded perspective being both engaging and enveloping. These two creators clearly have an easy synergy, and the instant appeal of Pearl is testament to that. 8/10

BATMAN #53
Writer: Tom King
Art: Lee Weeks & Elizabeth Breitweiser
DC $3.99

Matt C: A tale that began as a riff on 12 Angry Men morphs into a theological meditation on the concept of superheroism, the only unpowered individual in the Justice League forced to underscore how his alter ego is just a man, not a god. It’s a curveball denouement to the story, featuring an expected structure to the resolution, but with details that are surprising, striking and ingenious. It’s the level of understanding King has for Batman, both as the mythic icon but also as the dark vigilante, that elevates his approach to the character, and giving Bruce Wayne the self-awareness to see how his other identity is perceived provides an extra punch of honesty, along with some metatextual ripples that don’t get in the way of the narrative. Weeks and Breitweiser bring striking imagery to every emotional beat, of which there many; the fallout from Batman #50 is still very much in evidence, and it's at its most palpable here. Unbelievably, after nearly 80 years of publication, the Dark Knight is towering above his peers again; fearless and untouchable. 10/10

James R: There was no danger that the finale to the 'Cold Days' arc would be underwhelming, but this issue somehow raised the bar further still. Bruce Wayne makes his final appeal to the jury in the Mister Freeze case with a monologue that is almost a confessional - he talks of his belief in Batman, and the need to see the world's greatest detective as fallible and human. It's a tour de force, and it's also one of the most beautiful books I've seen from the Big Two in a while - Lee Weeks provides page after page of breathtaking images, juxtaposed with exquisite detail, that makes the story feel real, and Elizabeth Breitweiser provides a masterclass in colours here, and her use of black on these pages is exceptional. A golden story in an increasingly remarkable run - the only question is where can Tom King take this character next? I can't wait to find out. 10/10

ICE CREAM MAN #6
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Art: Martín Morazzo & Chris O’Halloran
Image $3.99

Jo S: Prince and Morazzo have used the idea of themed stories, featuring but not focusing on the Ice Cream Man character, to good effect in this series, but this sixth issue took it up a notch for me: titled ‘Strange Neapolitan’, the story takes three distinct threads, each page divided into colour-themed bands (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate, for those unfamiliar with titular trio-style dessert). On top of the flavour themes, Prince also goes Sliding Doors on us (as an example of a trope, that movie gets far more credit than it deserves, in my opinion - someone needs to make a movie that's a good example of the concept that Sliding Doors is a bad example of - but I digress): the story splits into three possible futures for the ice cream van customer. As with each of the tales in this collection, there is an underlying horror theme, spelled out clearly as ‘There is something awful inside you’, and each tale unnerves in a different way. If you like your horror subtle, and in multiple colourful flavours, I recommend a scoop or three of this. 8/10

GIDEON FALLS #6
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Andrea Sorrentino & Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

James R: This issue marks the end of the first arc of Gideon Falls, and it does a great job of answering some of the early mysteries, whilst promising many more dark secrets to come. Andrea Sorrentino pencils another visually astonishing issue, presenting the surreal world of the Black Barn with aplomb. Lemire's script is - as always - a joy, and I'm loving how he's slowly drawing the two central plots together. Like me, Lemire is a Twin Peaks fan, and this book shares many of the themes and much of the tone of David Lynch's TV masterpiece. On top of this there's isolation, loss, sacrifice - some of the big themes of human nature, and Lemire turns them into a comic that's a required read. 9/10

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