6 Jan 2019

Mini Reviews 06/01/2019

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.

MAN WITHOUT FEAR #1
Writer: Jed Mackay
Art: Danilo S. Beyruth & Andres Mossa
Marvel $3.99

Kenny J: Foggy Nelson has always been Matt Murdock's anchor to the real world and with the first issue of Man Without Fear he plays Daredevil's angel once again. With a mixture of humour and home truths, Jed Mackay nails the voice of the humble Franklin Nelson as he takes the nightwatch by Murdock's comatose body, sleeping but not dormant. I didn't read the last volume of Daredevil but this issue provides a perfect initiation into the Daredevil character and his current status as he is deconstructed, stripped of era-defining costumes by his own pain and fear. A nightmarish fight plays out against grotesque personifications in Murdock's mind and is one that Danilo S. Beyruth obviously relished drawing. After all, it is a greatest hits of a book, albeit one with a solid metaphysical conceit, touching on all parts of Murdock's decades-long struggle. It looks as if this won't be the status quo for long which is a shame as an extended look at Daredevil's psyche with a revolving ward door of his supporting players could have been a wonderful plot for a book with this title, however, I was impressed with Mackay's writing, his handling of characters, and the ideas in this initial issue. I'm excited to find out where he'll be taking DD next. 8/10

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: The Cimmerian returns to Marvel Comics, nearly 50 years after he made his first appearance in the medium under their banner, with a creative team that feels particularly well suited to the material. I’m no expert on the works of Robert E. Howard but it appears this is a new tale rather than an adaptation, which is the right path to take given the number of times the original stories have been retold in the comic book format. Writer Jason Aaron uses a similar framing device he’s employed on Thor, looking at both the early days of a roving barbarian and the kingship of later life, the narrative linking the two periods together. Mahmud Asrar’s artwork is sinewy and dynamic, splashed with lurid colours by Matthew Wilson, the combined effect feeling grizzled, operatic and authentic. In other words, it has all the elements you’d expect to find in a Conan comic, but your mileage may depend on either familiarity or devotion to the character. For me personally it didn’t seem like a fresh enough take or offer a new entry point into the world; it will no doubt appeal to many but I felt like I’d seen it all enough times before that I’d prefer to revisit old Conan comics than pursue something new. 6/10

SCARLET #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
DC/ Jinxworld $3.99

Jo S: I spent a little time over the festive break getting up to date on a few collected editions, one of which was Scarlet Vol 1. I had wondered whether I would be hit by a series of ‘Oh, that’s why…’ in relation to the current series but, actually, I think I can give full credit to Bendis here in saying that, although I really enjoyed that first series, I could certainly have completed this current one without it: there is just enough backstory to enable full understanding (I’ll definitely be looking to get my hands on Vol 2 very soon though). Bendis writes tough, damaged-but-undefeated women, often thrust into positions of responsibility, with enormous skill - my respect for his talent here is huge - and his ability to express what’s in the mind of his characters, using just enough fourth wall-breaks to avoid overexploiting the method, is tremendous. In this final issue, Scarlet is finally escaping Fortress Portland, due to an apparent sudden change of loyalty on the part of a the military guarding the fallen bridges. The switch from the isolated environment she has inhabited for so many months and the sudden change from her position of control to being ‘looked after’ are disorienting for her and for the reader, and is she now out of danger? Will the world outside, lost to contact for so long, offer safe haven for her? Alex Maleev’s art has reflected and enhanced BMB’s characterisation throughout this series; we felt all the weight of Scarlet’s responsibility, saw the stress and exhaustion, determination and resignation and, finally, a tiny ray of hope. This team have created something really vibrant here: if this is the end, then I’ll be looking out for the next opportunity to see them demonstrate what can be achieved when brilliant people collaborate. 8/10

HEROES IN CRISIS #4
Writer: Tom King
Art: Clay Mann & Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

James R: Over the festive period, we at the PCG were talking about Heroes In Crisis and Brad Meltzer's 2004 series Identity Crisis came up (DC love a crisis!). Even though there's a raft of differences between the two series, there are two key similarities; both have a whodunnit as the narrative drive, and both succeed in treating the consequences of heroism as a serious business. As the series moves past the halfway mark, it will be interesting to see if Heroes In Crisis can deliver a more satisfying denouement than Identity Crisis, but if Tom King's past work is any indicator, the answer will be a definite 'yes'. In this issue, what really stands out is the work of Clay Mann. In earlier instalments his style gave the series a cinematic feel, and he is on incredible form here: there are some brilliant widescreen moments, and some equally affecting intimate touches - Batman's accusatory finger jabbed into Superman's chest in one panel being the perfect example. I make no secret in my dislike in the vast majority of 'event books', but Heroes In Crisis is one of the spectacular exceptions - a book written with verve, and obvious love for the universe where it takes place, and illustrated beautifully. This is a brilliantly assured issue. 8/10

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