16 Sep 2018

Mini Reviews 16/09/2018

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.

CEMETERY BEACH #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Jason Howard
Image $3.99

Jo S: Warren Ellis’ Trees was one of my early introductions to comic book sci fi and so the minimal information available about this book prior to release, combined with dire warnings about its likelihood of completion, didn't quite override my enthusiasm for picking it up. It's certainly an action-packed outset, with explosions, fights, gunfire and a hi-tech ‘car chase’ all delivered with dynamism via Howard’s bordering-on-manic art style, but Ellis doesn't give a whole lot away about the story set up. A second read-through gave me a little more to work with but I still didn't find a cemetery or a beach, or a reason for the upside-down map on the cover (you know how I love a map!) but it did have the very positive effect of raising my awareness further of Ellis’ wickedly sarcastic writing. When the book is not descending into a series of wordless pages of firepower, explosives and nearly falling off stuff, the dialogue is thickly laden with Ellis’ very British snark, and for this, Cemetery Beach is an immediate hit for me. 8/10

James R: Have you ever been to see a band or musical artist, and they refuse to play their big hits? Either they're desperate to play their new album, or they're tired of playing the songs, but either way, there's always a sense of disappointment. That's exactly how I felt reading Cemetery Beach. It's great to see the talented team behind Trees produce new work, but this is not a patch on that unique (and unfinished) series. Cemetery Beach is almost Ellis-by-the-numbers - alien location, smart-mouthed protagonists, wild science fiction; it's all here. Jason Howards' art is exceptional, but I felt distinctly underwhelmed reading this. It's the kind of series that reads like Ellis in second gear, and by the final page I couldn't think of a reason why I'd come back for issue #2. I understand why these two wanted to create something new together, but with Trees left unfinished, Cemetery Beach is like a gig without an encore. 6/10

DARTH VADER #21
Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Guiseppi Camuncoli, Danielle Orlandini & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

James R: I really did think I was done with Marvel's Star Wars books after Jason Aaron bowed out, but I started hearing a lot of good things about Charles Soule's run on Darth Vader, and having taken the plunge, I'm really enjoying his take on the dark lord of the Sith. Filling in the years post-Revenge Of The Sith, Soule is deftly weaving in strands from across the Star Wars spectrum, and in this arc we learn the origin of Vader's castle on Mustafar. For some, this might be a pointless exercise in explication where none is needed, but as a true, die-hard Star Wars fan, I absolutely loved this issue. There's nothing innovative or unique, but it's a blast to read if you're a strong believer in the Force. 7/10

CATWOMAN #3
Writer: Joëlle Jones
Art: Joëlle Jones, Fernando Blanco, Laura Allred & John Kalisz
DC $3.99

Jo S: I'm happy to admit, I get more than a little excited about each new episode of Catwoman, and it's all about Joëlle Jones and her love of the character, so I had an anxious moment noting that art duties were shared this issue. I needn't have worried: Blanco and Kalisz are responsible for a flashback sequence giving us some of the shady history of Raina Creel, and their work is perfectly complementary to Jones’ solo sections. I can't get enough of how Jones expresses Selina’s languid self-confidence and control - this series is a love letter in pictoral form - but Jones doesn't just settle for beautiful visuals; the story is full of intrigue and emotional pull, old pain and new agony mixing to form a combustible combination. Wonderful work. 10/10

James R: The new series of Catwoman continues to be pure class. After an opening two issues full of intrigue and mystery, this chapter divulges the secrets of Selina's new nemesis, Raina Creel, a classic femme fatale. It's confident and assured storytelling from Jones (and using Fernando Blanco as the artist for the flashback sequence adds to the issue, rather than acting as a distraction). I feel that the best DC runs are those where a creator finds a corner of the huge DCU and makes it their own - you don't need to have read 20 years of Catwoman to appreciate this book; it stands entirely on its own merits, and it's bringing a unique voice to the DC stable. Yet again, this book was one that demanded my attention, and left me wanting more immediately. If you're a fan of crime books, you need to be picking up Catwoman. 8/10

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