20 Jan 2019

Mini Reviews 20/01/2019

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.

Writer: Aleš Kot
Art: Danijel Žeželj & Jordie Bellaire
Image $3.99

Jo S: The final issue of this masterpiece is a triumph of subtlety, a song to hope, and an expression of devastation all in one quiet, perfect package. Arvid, alone again following the destruction, physical and metaphorical, of the other three cornerstones of this story, travels ‘home’ - the meaning of this simple word now heavy with altered interpretation. Kot, Žeželj and Bellaire have together created something at once spectacular and frighteningly real: the crumpling of Arvid's face as the content of his neighbour's cellar is revealed, the knowing stare of a lone coyote in the dark, the images of normality masking recent agonising memories of horror; all are rendered with such sensitivity that it's hard to understand how individual people could be so in sync, so connected, as to communicate their intent to each other. Kot's writing is bold - he doesn't shy away from digging at current political influence and this has given the story an edgy feel throughout, disconcerting and destabilising. Žeželj’s page structure astonishes - where he wants to show the mundane, necessary explicative conversations, he uses a nine panel grid; in other places, jagged vertical sections intensify the claustrophobia and fear; in another full page, a peaceful scene of birds rising from tree branches is punctured by a tight focus on faces at a critical point of decision. This is a masterpiece of storytelling and creativity. 10/10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jock & David Baron
DC $4.99

James R: Talk about playing the long game. The second issue of The Batman Who Laughs pays off a plot that Scott Snyder instigated eight years ago and it's a particular joy for old-school (who am I kidding? Just old!) Bat-fans like myself. Even though I wasn't convinced by the Metal event, and there are elements to this book which strain the storytelling to the limit, once again, I can't help but enjoy it. As mentioned before, there's something irresistible about seeing Snyder and Jock team up in Gotham again, and I particularly like the idea that 'our' Batman is the one who is permanently broken, unable to come to terms with his parents' murder, or channel his trauma into something more altruistic like his alternate-Earth counterparts. Then there's that payoff - this had been an entertaining enough read before Snyder culminates the issue with a magnificent reveal that made me go 'woah!' out loud. I always think audible declarations caused by a story in any medium is one of my gold standards, and The Batman Who Laughs certainly ticked that box. It's a wilder ride than Tom King's current masterful run on Batman, but it's part of the enduring strength of the character that both are a delight for the long-term fan. This isn't just a laugh, it's a riot. 8/10

Writers: Jen & Sylvia Soska
Art: Flaviano & Veronica Gandini
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: I wanted to like this new outset for Ms Romanova so much: I enjoyed her appearance in the recent Tales Of Suspense series and was interested to see how the Soskas handled Natasha's working relationship with Captain America, what with him having killed her in a climactic moment of the Secret Empire series(!), plus the horror background of the writing duo promised a twist on the character but… sadly, there's little in here for me to love. The story feels a little bundled together: the first half pairs the Widow with Cap in a pretty lightweight New Year's Eve caper where even multiple versions of Steve Rogers and a massive tentacled robot couldn't win me over. The second half has Nat heading to Madripoor, apparently to let off some steam, and thence falling into a plot to solve, but her motivation, driven by a frustrated need to kill, is so crudely written I found I had to go and check that I hadn't missed some aspect of her character in my previous experience of her. I find it hard even to say “but the artwork was nice” - Natasha's appearance is inconsistent and there were multiple places where I struggled to tell what I was looking at. Something of a misfire for me. 4/10

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