9 Sep 2018

Mini Reviews 09/09/2018

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.

COVER #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: David Mack & Zu Orzu
DC/Jinxworld $3.99

Matt C: The Bendis creator-owned juggernaut keeps rolling over at DC, giving hope that it might be a consistent thing and the various titles won’t quickly drop off the radar. Cover sees the writer reunited with David Mack, with the plot trundling into wish fulfilment territory, imagining a comics artist being courted for tradecraft shenanigans by the CIA. It’s better than that pitch sounds: Bendis’ ear for naturalistic dialogue works nicely alongside Mack’s blending of styles which sees realism mixed up with a more minimalist art technique which injects a weird (and probably apt) sense of fantasizing into the narrative. The unlikeness of the premise may prevent it from fully convincing at this point, but the skill and craftsmanship are persuasive enough to stick around for. 7/10

WAR BEARS #1
Writer: Margaret Attwood
Art: Ken Steacy
Dark Horse $4.99

Jo S: War Bears is sneaky. A glance at the cover without noticing the detail would leave you thinking this was some sort of tame anthropomorphic animals story, but look closer! Yup, that bear-lady - sorry were-bear - is punching Hitler’s tooth out! And who’s that guy in the corner dipping his paintbrush in his coffee? What Attwood and Steacy have created here is an homage to a yesteryear of Canadian comics - something I admittedly know very little about - and tells the story of a story. The hero with a lowly start is a fledgling comic book artist, and this first issue is his origin story, as he overcomes adversity to use his powers for good and creates a hero of his own, Oursonette, the Nazi-fighting were-bear. Attwood is a supreme storyteller and it's fascinating to read what comics meant to her growing up in Canada; her character Alain Zurakowski’s world is credibly deep and detailed and Steacy’s art has exactly the right retro richness to work perfectly for both the main storyline and the black and white line art of the Oursonette book-within-a-book. This one snuck up on me, and turned out to be a pleasant surprise. 7/10

JUSTICE LEAGUE #7
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jim Cheung, MArk Morales & Tomeu Morey
DC Comics $3.99

James R: Justice League continues to surprise. 2018 has really been their year for me - after years of misfires and underwhelming books, things have finally clicked, and there's a lot of great stuff coming from DC. Justice League is the perfect example - I've not felt enthusiastic about a JL book since Grant Morrison was at the helm, but now Scott Snyder has reinvigorated the title. Snyder is pushing hard on the 'Epic' button, and I've been happily swept along by this first arc. This issue sees the very welcome return of Jim Cheung's pencils, and his art is worth the price of admission alone. Snyder smartly weaves the next arc into the concluding pages here, and it's clear that he's got a great grasp of the iconic characters but, more importantly, a big picture for this title. With Justice League Dark also going great guns, this is easily the strongest the DC team books have been for two decades. 8/10

BATMAN #54
Writer: Tom King
Art: Matt Wagner & Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

Matt C: The reverberations from being jilted at the altar continue with this issue viewing the aftermath through the prism of Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Dick Grayson. Flashing back and forth between the present and the early days of their association, it looks at how the dynamic has shifted, Bruce moving from surrogate father figure to something more akin to a brother; they both know who hides beneath the masks. It’s a touching one-off, perhaps less overtly dramatic than recent issues but equally affecting. King provides Matt Wagner with a great opportunity to return to the Bat-universe and captures the emotion of the characters; it’s paean to having faith in those we love, and a reminder of the importance of cucumber sandwiches. 8/10

James R: After being a vocal cheerleader for Tom King's Batman run for a while now, I feel that the geek hordes have also been won over by this masterful take on the Dark Knight. After the perfection of the last arc, this one-shot acts almost as a sorbet to clear the palate, with the focus on the relationship between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. Once again, King's script is rich with insight into these two characters, and how they both refuse to ever give up on the other. Matt Wagner provides the art for this issue, and I'm one of the few people who isn't a huge fan of the artist, but he does a solid job here. The next issue sees the tempo rise with the KGBeast story, but this is a another fine chapter in what's becoming a remarkable run. 8/10

THE DEAD HAND #6
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Stephen Mooney, Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

Jo S: This series was something of a surprise from the outset. I think I skipped issue #1 from my pull-list and had to be redirected to pick it up - a close, intense story, twisty and surprising, brutal but engaging throughout. This final episode is a proper wrapping-up, with flashbacks explaining the initial trigger events and a denouement worthy of a movie screenplay. The crisis in Mountain View has reached its apex, and the future of not just the town and its inhabitants but potentially the world at large will turn on its outcome. Higgins’ writing has been rich throughout, eking out information at just the perfect pace for intrigue, and Mooney’s art is the perfect reflection of that: a sudden opening out of the vista for the final page made me realise quite how cleverly the team had created a cramped, claustrophobic atmosphere throughout the story. If I had to be picky, I can't deny that this final episode was perhaps a little trite - I'm not sure my ‘Ah, that's nice!’ reaction at the end was quite what Higgins was looking for! It has been an excellent series though, and my delight at how the story rounded up was genuine - it's so good to find a miniseries like this which does something different, surprising and intriguing. 8/10

BLACK SCIENCE #38
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio
Image $3.99

James R: Last time, I said that Black Science had lost its edge a little - I still stand by that view, but this latest issue certainly revitalises the book as it heads into the final stretch. We learn that Grant McKay - in every dimensional iteration - acts as a destructive force in creating the Pillar, an invention that leads to the destruction of the multiverse. It's a great idea, and a timely reminder of the fun that this title can be. It also reiterated what a diversion the last arc was. On the letters page, editor Sebastian Girner states that the goal is "To deliver a series finale that people will be talking about for years to come." This creative team certainly have the potential to deliver that - here's hoping the pay-off lives up to the hype. 7/10

COSMIC GHOST RIDER #3
Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Dylan Burnett & Antonio Fabela
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: If you were looking for a phrase to describe this miniseries, ‘batshit crazy’ would be particularly apt. On paper, the idea of a future Frank Castle imbued with the Power Cosmic and equipped with a flaming skull sounds like the kind of thing well-lubricated creators might spitball at the late night bar of a comics convention, but it would never go any further than that. In practice though, it’s a riot, the insanity of the premise - Frank Castle time-travelling to snatch a baby Thanos in an attempt to make him 'good' – while not especially original, is delivered in such a gleefully madcap manner that it’s hard not to get swept up by it all. Frivolous to a certain extent, and not as cosmically invigorating as Donny Cates' stint on Thanos that spawned the character, but devilishly entertaining all the same. 7/10

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