13 Jan 2019

Mini Reviews 13/01/2018

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

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Jacob Phillips
Image $3.99

James R: At the halfway point of this issue, I found myself saying to myself; 'this is so, so good': it should come as no surprise, seeing that Brubaker and Phillips have consistently produced some of the best comics of the last twenty years, establishing themselves as the masters of the crime comic, but still, the quality here is outstanding. Following the appetiser that was My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies last year, 2019 marks the return of Criminal as a monthly book as we're plunged back into the dark world of the Lawless family and a desperate situation for Teeg and Ricky Lawless. As always, Brubaker's storytelling is masterful, re-establishing the world of Criminal, and setting up the new plot in 34 (gloriously ad-free) pages. Sean Phillips is, of course, the perfect foil for Brubaker and his son Jacob's colours add both a dreamy feel to some pages and a sense of filtered neon, making the pages feel even more alive. An absolute treat from beginning to end, the year has started off in fine fashion thanks to Criminal. 9/10

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Carmen Carnero & Tamra Bonvillain
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: I’ve never paid an awful lot of attention to Carol Danvers’ solo adventures until now. Growing up, Monica Rambeau was my Captain Marvel, so she’s always sprung to mind when the name is mentioned (did someone say Shazam!?). The incoming movie has obviously put Danvers more firmly on my radar but the real reason I decided to take the plunge with Earth’s Mightiest Hero’s new book is Kelly Thompson. In the last couple of years she’s streaked to the top of Marvel’s writer’s pool with a blend of humour, attitude and perceptive drama. She brings that to the table immediately here, grounding her characters by making them relatable through colloquial banter and believable relationship dynamics, even as they battle tentacled seabeasts or D-list supervillains with corny monikers. Carmen Carnero injects  fresh dynamism into the pages, neatly complimenting the emotional tone of Thompson’s script, with Tamra Bonvillain adding a bright, vibrant lustre to the panels. Carol Danvers herself is thoroughly likeable and engaging here, and where Thompson takes her by the end of the issue suggests that Danvers may well end up being my Captain Marvel going forward. 8/10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Patrick Gleason & Alejandro Sanchez
DC $4.99

Jo S: Bendis was the extra spoonful of sugar that tempted me to pick this up this week as so much of his work recently has been on the top of my list whenever it has appeared. This is a very different proposition though from the splendours of his Jinxworld offerings: as a team book starring young ‘uns it feels much more like the kind of thing that Matt Rosenberg has been excelling at recently and less like BMB’s deeply character driven, sensitive portrayals. It struggles with the usual issues for the introductory offering of a team book - there are (at least) five heroes for us to get to know, and Bendis pits them against a team of villains to boot, so this first issue feels frenetic; near constant action throughout was confusing enough for me to need a second read immediately to put all the pieces together plus the print copy is punctuated with that particular kind of advert that is enough like the story itself to momentarily throw you. That said, there are also plenty of nice touches - Wonder Girl is clearly nursing an issue which makes her reluctant to engage with the action, Jinny Hex has secrets stashed in the flatbed of her truck and there are enough little quips and hints in the dialogue to get me engaged with the characters. Impulse (or Kid Flash) with his evident ADHD and determined effort to rescue every granny, baby and kitty from danger is particularly appealing. Gleason uses creative page structure to great effect throughout and although it took me a couple of goes to resolve everything that was happening in frantic action, I did find myself very much enjoying it on the second read through and I’ll be back to see how this develops in the next issue. 7/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads
DC $3.99

Kenny J: Turn the lights down and mute all devices. Tom King has a story to tell. A black and red visceral tale set in Professor Pyg's abattoir where we find Batman tied up and deep in his own thoughts. The dark grey of his stoic inner monologue in complete juxtaposition to the violent bloodshed of Mitch Gerads’ art. A peaceful centre to the unfurling nightmare as Batman calmly assesses his situation. King's words a thread by which the reader can maybe, just maybe, find their way out of this chaos. That is until both the thread and Batman snap and we are left to pull ourselves out of the nightmare that Gerads is painting. At times it looks like the page is on fire, alight with lurid reds and greens with Batman cut out in his iconic charcoal colours. I'm only half joking with the instructions at the top this review. It is rare that a comic can conjure up such an atmosphere in a room and then suck it out again. Tom King just gets Batman, the methodical detective, the passionate vigilante. This issue is not only a perfect representation of that but also a masterclass in the superhero comic form. 10/10

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