2 Sep 2018

Mini Reviews 02/09/2018

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.

BEYONDERS #1
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Art: Wesley St Claire
Aftershock $3.99

Jo S: Aftershock have been popping up more and more on my pull-list recently with some of my favourites of this year, Babyteeth and A Walk Through Hell, riding out from this stable and I find myself open to trying something a little different from them as a result. On top of that, the pitch for new series Beyonders has my name all over it, combining several of my interests in cryptography, maps, treasure hunting and archaeology. Given there’s a cryptogram running throughout the series, which obviously locks in my loyalty to the end, with the addition of robot replicants AND a giant thunderstorm in the first issue, it could have been written from a tick list of ‘Things Jo gets irrationally excited about’. The story is fairly standard monomyth fare so far: the kid who's secretly a genius but doesn't fit in, absent parents, an obsession with conspiracy, an aptitude for technology and cyphers, a mysterious girl with a quest, even a faithful doggy sidekick, and my rating of it reflects that it feels like a story that’s been done ad infinitum before, rather than any direct criticism of what’s here: I do hold out hope that this will diverge into something more inventive in terms of the basic themes, partly because my enthusiasm for it currently is based on my rather niche tastes, and I'd like to be able to recommend it to others who don't necessarily share them! St Claire’s artwork works well for this - having read it twice I'm already starting to notice those little visual clues and themes I was craving, and I will be back for more. 7/10

SCARLET #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
DC/Jinxworld $3.99

Matt C: A welcome return for this incisive, incendiary series, although in some ways it does feel like a missed opportunity. The first issue appeared back in July 2010 (!) and in hindsight it now seems to have been alarmingly prescient considering where the world is right currently, politically speaking. The problem is, this is the eleventh issue in eight years, and where once it was ahead of the curve, now it's playing catch up. That's not to say it's no longer relevant or has nothing left to say - it still possesses an electrical charge that grips with its directness, and is easily one of the best things Bendis has done - but there's an underlying sense that its erratic scheduling has diminished its impact. It will still hold up to repeat readings, and there's no way I'll miss an issue, but with real momentum behind it, it could have perhaps been something more. 7/10

Jo S: The second of Bendis’ creator-owned first issues that I've picked up in a fortnight; following the strong start made by Pearl, Scarlet gives us another strong female lead (and, boy, this one is a real leader, and tough as nails with it). The blurb for this suggested it was a good start for a new reader, from which I assume that they mean those who haven't seen the previous Scarlet series, which includes me, and yes, there was plenty of information in here giving me the groundwork for a story - a short precis on the title page brought me up to speed on the early story, and then much of this first issue fills in the space between the two, in a kind of fourth wall-breaking monologue from the titular character. I found this a bit tricky to get used to initially, but it worked eventually for me: I felt as if we got inside the character really quickly, and built an empathy with her, felt the pressures on her, and understood the reasons why ‘her people’ are loyal to her. Maleev’s art is superb in this - subtle and dry, with excellent use of colour for atmosphere and dramatic emphasis. I find myself on Scarlet’s side of the bridges. 8/10

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