21 Oct 2018

Mini Reviews 21/10/2018

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.

Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Art: Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: It takes something of a chip off my heart to rate this a 6. I wanted to love it - Shuri is kind of a personal hero for me: she’s a fearless wisecracking science genius whose ‘superpowers’ are intelligence and resilience, along with a spicy blend of rebelliousness and ethical integrity - but unfortunately this didn’t completely land for me as a first issue. I don’t think Okorafor’s writing is at fault - given the basis she was working from (T’Challa has ventured off into space but has been gone longer than expected, Wakanda cannot continue indefinitely without a regent), she builds a credible reason for Shuri’s position as reluctant ruler of her nation and gives her believable motivation as well as teasing a mystery to solve. For me, Romero’s art was the disappointment. It has a certain vintage Marvel charm to it but, in my head, I see a Shuri whose cat-like grace and strength is, if not a match for her brother’s, at least a believable temporary replacement, a worthy wearer of the tech she has designed. Romero’s style is too old-school for my taste in this context - Shuri IS ultra-futuristic technology, Okorafor’s field is afrofuturism; I can’t shake a feeling of anachronism in this representation of their work. 6/10

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

Matt C: I liked the debut issue a lot, but with reservations; the second instalment shoos those reservations away with style and confidence. The wish-fulfilment-fantasy element is still there (comics creator as international spy!) but if we can buy into, say, Quentin Tarantino’s notion of a video store clerk getting involved with gangsters, beating them and getting the girl in True Romance, Cover is actually much more plausible. A major reason for that is Bendis’ great ear for dialogue, and the humanity that reveals itself through the conversations. And then there’s the extraordinary art from Mack, a mix of styles that evolve to reflect the tone and mood, moving from something near to photorealism to a more impressionistic approach (particularly effective is the ‘comic within a comic’ sequence). It’s evocative, mesmerising and frequently breathtaking, and it’s probably the best thing to come out under the Jinxworld imprint since the move to DC. 9/10

Jo S: I wouldn’t have imagined last week that today I would be talking about a better example of the perfect symbiosis of artist and writer than Image’s Gideon Falls and yet… Having taken a slightly faltering start, leaving me thinking ‘Well, it’s good, and it’s pretty, but I’m not sure yet…’, this week’s Cover just blew the lid off my expectations. Bendis provides braids of story, wending back and forth in time, expanding on the premise that a comic book artist travelling to comic cons across the world makes the perfect international secret agent, and Mack then takes all these threads and renders them in perfect, spare elegance, each part of the story themed in different media. This book is like a pas de deux - both partners strong and supple, with Bendis’ unbending core allowing Mack’s prima donna to reach impossible heights of grace and beauty. The section in the centre shows Mack to be a peerless artist: he paints the ninja story for which the lead is famous, and each panel, using just a couple of colours and the most minimal of brush strokes, is a frameable piece in its own right. Quite astonishing. 9/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Rich Tommaso
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: My favourite ongoing comics series takes another terrific turn with the start of a new arc that focuses on the brilliant Colonel Randall Weird (whose shared nominative status with me just makes me like him more). Weird finds himself separated from the rest of the Spiral City heroes and on an world that reminded me of Alan Moore and Jose Villarrubia's short story 'In Pictopia!' - a place where characters whose series and plots have been cancelled before completion. Given Black Hammer's clever commentary on the history of comics, this arc feels like a natural progression; what happens to the stories that never reached a conclusion? The art is an extra treat - so far, all the artists who have illustrated the Black Hammer universe have brought something fresh and interesting to Lemire's scripts, and here Rich Tommaso is no different. I really enjoyed his last miniseries, Dry County, and it was great to see him let loose on a script full of wild ideas. Black Hammer continues to go from strength to strength - it's consistently the most innovative and entertaining book on the shelves. 9/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Tony S. Daniel, Mark Buckingham, Andrew Pepoy & Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

Jo S: Tom King concludes the 'Beasts Of Burden' arc with a sucker punch that near laid me out cold. Maybe I didn’t give issue #56 sufficient attention? Maybe other things distracted me last time? Certainly I took my eye off the ball with this series, probably because I find it impossible still to believe that anything this good could last any longer, and yet… Issue #57 sees Batman striding out of deep snow, a 300 click stomp (really? Nearly 190 miles?) from transport other than his own black booted feet, seeking out the Beast in the remotest of wilds. This is the kind of story I find really hard to explain to non-comic fans: “So what happens?” “Well, he’s looking for this guy who did something really bad, and he finds him, and then they fight.” “What, that’s it?” “Well, no, there’s also this folk story about talking animals going on at the same time.” “Riiiiiight. And this is one of the best things you ever read?” “Erm… yup.” Tom King has made me a Bat-fan: I just need to stop losing faith and trust him - this series is going to continue to be amazing. 9/10

Matt C: Half of this issue comprises of two lonely men beating the crap out of each other, with dialogue ranging from “Gnnn!” to “Ungg!”, beautifully and violently illustrated by Daniel, capturing the strength and resilience of both combatants. Juxtaposed against this is a ‘folklore tale’ lovingly rendered by Buckingham and heavy with metaphor, where a group of animals fall into a deep pit and make bloody decisions to survive. The parallels are clear but not overstated, the Dark Knight’s relentless, stubborn determination to do what he needs to do alone, pushing away those closest to him, being perhaps his greatest weakness. At this point, Tom King’s status as one of the great writers of Batman is surely beyond doubt. 8/10

James R: By now I'm sure you've all got the message: Tom King is on fire, and Batman is the best it's been for years. It's the same again with this conclusion to the KGBeast arc, which gives the fans exactly what they want, whilst still managing to subvert expectations. The majority of the book is taken up with Batman's clash with the Beast, which gives Tony Daniel another showcase for his talents - it's a dynamic and rewarding scene, and a particularly pleasing Bat-finale. However, the action is broken up by a Russian folktale, illustrated by Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy that serves to give a brilliant insight into...Well, that would be telling, but suffice to say, it's another great finale from Tom King. I'm quickly running out of superlatives to describe King's work this year - one thing is for sure, you should be picking this up if you're a comics fan. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

Jo S: Gideon Falls is back! After a thankfully short gap, the second arc kicks off with an issue that shifts the story forward in an number of strands. We learn more about Clara and her lost brother Danny, while Norton and Angie set about planning to rebuild the Black Barn. It’s funny - initially, I wanted to grumble that there are no big splash pages of psychedelic Sorrentino art, but actually, I think my expectations have raised so much that I didn’t immediately notice that every. single. page. of this book has distinctive, absorbing, atmospheric artwork: Sorrentino gets first billing on the cover, completely deservedly for me; it’s his work that takes this to another level. That said, Lemire is no slouch either, quickly generating new leads for the story, and producing a final stab of utter creepiness that I’m still seeing when I close my eyes. A great issue to take us into Halloween. 8/10

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