7 Oct 2018

Mini Reviews 07/10/2018

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.

BATMAN #56
Writer: Tom King
Art: Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki & Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

James R: I'm really starting to run out of superlatives on this series, but the truth is this title just gets better and better. Tom King's epic run seems to grow with every arc - in terms of characterisation, plot and sheer ambition, Batman is superb. For the younger readers out there, KGBeast was a late '80s Bat-villain who always felt like an odd fit in Batman's rogue's gallery, but King has worked his magic on him, turning him into both a more three-dimensional character, and a far more chilling antagonist. There's so much to enjoy here - King revels in the sheer relentless drive of a vengeance-fuelled Batman, and if you've ever enjoyed reading the exploits of the Dark Knight Detective, this is very much the stuff. I'm also amazed by Tony Daniel's work on this arc - I think this is the best work I've seen him do. 2018 has definitely been Tom King's year - we can only imagine what he's planning as the grand finale to this run. 9/10

Matt C: A super-shiny cover (for reasons which aren’t abundantly clear) feels like an unnecessary selling tool for a series that has the kind of buzz and acclaim most books can only dream of. The cover’s flashy but the contents are sublime. This moves the action forward from last issue’s cliffhanger (which seems like it will be picked up in a certain character’s own series), not lingering on the event itself but on the aftermath, showing how the protagonist and antagonist respond in turn. It's  a chapter that picks up on the timeless father/son motif, and how love can be expressed in a manner that can unbalance a relationship, leading to resentment and anger. It’s classic Batman in a sense, with a brilliant deception of assured but relentless determination, but it digs deep into themes that elevate it above run-of-the-mill Dark Knight shenanigans, resulting in something that’s at once mythic and personal. Elegantly written, beautifully drawn, it’s the best take on the character in years. 9/10

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #1
Writer: Sam Kieth
Art: Sam Kieth & Ronda Pattison
DC $4.99

Jo S: Every artist who takes on an icon such as the Batman gives him a unique flavour all their own, and never is this more the case than when Sam Kieth picks up his pencils and sketches out the cowl and the scowl. Kieth’s artwork is unmistakable, and the world of the Maxx is such an entirely personalised entity that I imagine there’s a girl who lives down the street from him who looks just like the Jungle Queen, or a man just like his Penguin, and that actual air whales must sail gracefully over his house. As I’d hoped, his work throughout this first issue is weirdly, sweetly, bizarrely beautiful, with Batman’s presence in the Outback, a confused, lost thing, serving totally credibly as proxy for my own questions about this crazy other world. I read it three times and still, I confess, don’t feel I’ve got a full grip on what’s happening - is it too weird to be wonderful? I’m thinking no, currently, and I’ll take the trip again for issue #2. 8/10

DEAD RABBIT #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artists: John McCrea & Mike Spencer
Image $3.99

James R: This was a series I decided to take a look at after seeing it in Previews; in the absence of a Brubaker/Phillips ongoing series, I felt that this tale of a '90s vigilante brought out of retirement in 2018 had a lot of promise. It's a very solid first issue, and one that has overtones of the 2014 Antoine Fuqua remake of The Equalizer. The eponymous Dead Rabbit is a figure of legend in Boston, and one whose reputation has grown since his disappearance in 1997. Gerry Duggan makes it clear that despite his good intentions, his desire for justice still burns strong - and his intervention in a child-smuggling ring, plus a personal crisis means he's driven to put on the mask once again. I really enjoyed it as a fan of noir/crime books, with both Duggan's script and John McCrea's pencils providing fine work. It's not the most original book you'll ever read, but there's a lot of potential in this series, and I'll definitely back for another crime fix in issue #2. 7/10

JOOK JOINT #1
Writer: Tee Franklin
Art: Alitha E Martinez & Shari Chankhamma
Image $3.99

Jo S: This is a by-the-book horror classic: punters at Mahalia’s jazz club bar follow the rules or suffer gruesome retribution, just as the story follows traditional horror lore to the letter. Clientele who play nicely are left untouched but woe betide the man who fails to respect Mahalia’s girls - the punishment more than fits the crime. A gory celebration of what strong women (with strong stomachs) can achieve when they band together to look after each other, this carries a vivid real-life message about domestic violence whilst also managing to include plenty of glamour, lust and natural-haired beauty. The trigger warnings at the start are something of a manifesto: this sets out to encourage those suffering domestic violence to find a way out and there’s a story theme based on this context but I’m not sure the balance is quite right on that; inevitably, an extremely complex issue has to be simplified and I worry that here it becomes almost a caricature. Not something I’d be recommending to those who disapprove the move towards social justice in comics but definitely a gore-fest for those that like a good vengeful-vampire cult-coven tale. 7/10

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