27 Jan 2019

Min Reviews 27/01/2019

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 not so good, and those that lie somewhere in between.

This week we welcome Mike S back onto the reviewing team.

NAOMI #1
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & David F. Walker
Art: Jamal Campbell
DC $3.99

Matt C: No, it's not the beginning of a line of forename-monikered titles (no Matthew #1 on the horizon, unfortunately) but a book under the umbrella of Bendis' 'Wonder Comics', which is aiming more squarely at a younger demographic. And - no surprises - I don't fit into the category (not by a long shot) but something about the impressively choreographed, dynamic artwork from Jamal Campbell in some previews pages grabbed my attention. The entire issue is a visual mix of style, confidence and emotion (the Superman scenes are superbly framed). This guy's got the chops. Bendis and Walker share scripting duties but there's a definite sense of this being in the former's wheelhouse, the rhythm of the patter flowing believably, revealing character traits along the way. It's positioning itself as a big DC Universe mystery, and that's certainly a major hook, but there's nothing mysterious about the quality of the debut: in every panel it's blatantly obvious that this is start of something special. 8/10

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #1
Writer: Jordie Bellaire
Art: Dan Mora & Raul Angulo
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Kenny J: It's an all new Buffy The Vampire Slayer but it seems, at least from the outset, everything is the same - which is not a bad thing when Jordie Bellaire manages to channel the wit and characterisation of the original TV series. The very nature of a reboot means a lot gets chucked out but Buffy The Vampire Slayer #1 does well to not ostracise its original audience while being easily accessible to new readers. The plot whips along, touring the various locales and familiar faces that will make up this version of Sunnydale. Dan Mora's art is cartoony and accessible with Angelo's colours keeping everything light even in those darker moments. It seems a shame to not have taken the opportunity to redesign the characters rather than take the likenesses of actors who haven't played these parts for over fifteen years but Mora does a good job of making them recognisable nonetheless; only at one point was I confused with one returning character looking very similar to another. With a feel reminiscent of the original but devoid of twenty years of both good and bad continuity, Buffy The Vampire Slayer feels like a fresh start for a fan favourite franchise. 8/10

Mike V: Welcome back to the Hellmouth and to a new publisher in BOOM! Studios who have set about starting the series from scratch. I've been a Buffy fan since I saw the first episode on BBC2 back in the late' 90s and it's something close to my heart. The comic is set in the very early stages of what would be Season 1 of the TV show with some differences; not least the time setting - it appears to be set in modern day era and not 1997, which may have an effect on the story in later issues. Dan Mora's artwork is fantastic and captures the essence of the show nicely. He also gets the likenesses well throughout, except Xander who occasionally looks like his face has been pressed up against glass. The debut issue also brings some changes to the personality or appearance of beloved characters, notably Willow, who has gone from being a shy, awkward nerdie girl,  dressed by her mum, to dressing in mostly black, ripped jean shorts and fishnet tights, but still maintaining a slight degree of awkwardness which feels too early in her character development (based on what she became in the TV series). Information appearing before release suggested that a loved character would be altered to become a version of another character: avoiding spoilers here, but this seemed very out of place and just a way for the writer/creative team to make their mark on the Buffyverse. The story is enjoyable enough, and plants a few seeds of what is to come in this new series, but just doesn't do enough to make me want to come back next issue. 5/10

UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #1
Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Carlos Gomez & Guru-eFX
Marvel $4.99

Mike S: As an X-Men fan of long standing, I am beyond thrilled that we finally return to something that promises to be the start of what I wanted from this series in the first place, and it feels good! Scott Summers has been many things: leader, hero, love interest and an extremist as Marvel’s ongoing issues with promoting the X-Men line impacted their publications, but in Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 we finally get back the Scott Summers that has long been missing and is much needed in pushing the franchise forward. Ed Brisson and Carlos E. Gomez bring him back to life in style! While the means of his return require a huge suspension of disbelief, Brisson accomplishes it in a quick but fantastic read: there is heart and a real moral dilemma that defines who this Cyclops will be moving forward. The story is solid, travelling through multiple time periods (as you’d expect from both the X-Men and Kid Cable) but it perfectly connects the dots from a variety of previous X-Men arcs, from IvX, AvX and Phoenix Resurrection. Particular credit has to go to Gomez, who captures the mood and styles of each of the time periods visited perfectly. Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 feels like the true beginning of the return of my heroes. There’s a memory of Scott and Jean (hurrah) and none of Scott and Emma (hurrah again!) and we see the return of heroic Cyclops not reviled Cyclops: at long last! Indeed, my favourite section of this annual has to be the comments and actions of Kid Cable, representing both myself and every other frustrated fan boy in seeking to restore Scott Summers to the man he was meant to be before editorial and ridiculous storylines took over. If the treatment of Cyclops can be echoed in the depiction of the other X-Men once they return from the Age of X-Man, then my faith in the X-Universe might finally be restored and the X-Men of my memories might once more resurface! 9/10

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Geoff Shaw & Marte Garcia
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: Donny Cates, the busiest man in comics right now (well, at Marvel at least,) launches a new outset under the Guardians Of The Galaxy title, but how can this be? No Rocket, Gamora, Drax… and Thanos, to misquote Dickens, “was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” Yes, the Mad Titan is present as an enormous headless corpse, location of cranium unknown, Eros has a disturbing message for all those who would celebrate his brother’s demise, and Groot has gone all punk, developed a vicious level of backchat and a refusal to pass on messages he deems ‘lame’. Cates pulls off the ‘initial episode of a new team book’, just about; I enjoyed the comedy pairings of Norrin Radd set next to Cosmic Ghost Rider and Quill vs Groot though, as is often the case, there wasn’t space in the first issue to get to know all of the new team fully - Moondragon, anyone? There’s enough here to bring me back for a second issue, if only so I can meet the rest of the team properly. 7/10

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #4
Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Kevin O'Neil & Ben Dimagmaliw
Top Shelf/Knockabout Comics $4.99

James R: As Alan Moore's swansong heads towards the conclusion, he and Kevin O'Neil produce an issue that's a joy to behold, replicating the style and form of the heyday of British comics. This issue particularly evokes the classic children's staple Whizzer & Chips, right down to pages rendered in a monochrome green. This isn't a new occurrence in LEOG - Moore and O'Neill created a mixed comics medium for 2008's Black Dossier - but it's amazing to see how seamlessly these two masters of the medium leap from tone to tone whilst keeping the narrative firmly in focus. Kevin O'Neil's work here is excellent - given that some comics artists lose their edge over the decades, incredibly, O'Neil just seems to get better and better. The Tempest has a unique tone too - it simultaneously salutes the history of comics whilst highlighting the poor treatment of the creators that helped build the industry. This gives it an almost bittersweet feel - part elegy, part celebration but for me, it was (as always) a delight from first page to last. Still extraordinary, right to the last. 9/10

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