3 Feb 2019

Mini Reviews 03/02/2019

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.

AGE OF X-MAN: ALPHA #1
Writers: Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler
Art: Ramon Rosanas & Triona Farrell
Marvel $4.99

Mike S: Following a mixed 'X-Men Disassembled', and a cracking Uncanny X-Men Annual #11, we arrive at the much publicised Age of X-Man which, in homage to the classic Age Of Apocalypse, sees our heroes recast in a remodelled world created by Nate Grey. Far from being the overt nightmare world of the AoA, here we see a much more subtle inversion: an idyllic utopia where just underneath the surface there lurks something insidious and sinister. I’m a lover of an insidious dystopia and this primer really appealed to me! It is written with pace and manages to not only introduce a whole world picture where everyone is a mutant (in a beautifully presented pastiche that reminded me of Pleasantville) but in doing so establishes a new status quo of seeming perfection with subtle hints that this is only ever skin deep. References to ‘hatchdays’ and the too-perfect Summers Institute, along with a prohibition of relationships and mind-wiping, inject an Orwellian sensibility that raises this above the usual crossover fodder I have become used to from Marvel. While it is clearly an introduction to the subsequent miniseries set in this world and you are left to figure out for yourself what is going on and how these once familiar characters have been changed, it never feels particularly like a collection of primers: instead the issue flows and meshes well due to Thompson and Nadler’s expert craftsmanship. The art by Ramon Rosanas with colours by Triona Farrell perfectly captures this utopian society. The brightness and cinematic layout suggest a perfect, idyllic world. This mutant version of Huxley’s Brave New World is one I can definitely recommend! 9/10

FIGHT CLUB 3 #1
Writer: Chuck Palahniuk
Artists: Cameron Stewart & Dave McCaig
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: I was a very vocal fan of Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk used the shift in medium from novel to comic to make some interesting observations about the power of art, and what it means when an artist creates something which takes on a life of its own, with the series doubling as his meditation on how Tyler Durden had become a cultural touchstone since his creation in 1996. At the end of the series though I felt that there was a definite culmination and that Fight Club was finished. Even though Palahniuk (very much to his credit) spoke out in defence and praise of comics, and said that he planned to carry on creating comics, I was still surprised that Fight Club 3 has come along. This first issue has one thing that's worth the cover price; the extraordinary art of Cameron Stewart. After producing some career-best work in Fight Club 2, he picks up where he left off, opening the story with some stunning pages which really stretch the medium, and I always love that. In terms of plot, it seems to be more of the same - the power of art again seems to be a touchstone, and once again Tyler Durden lives, bringing immediate chaos to the Narrator (now going by Balthazar). Things could yet spark into life but, Cameron Stewart aside, this opening chapter felt flat. I'll take a look at the next instalment, but Fight Club 3 feels like a tussle too far. 6/10

PETER CANNON: THUNDERBOLT #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Caspar Wijngaard & Mary Safro
Dynamite Entertainment $3.99

Jo S: The need for something fresh and new in comic book heroing sometimes requires that a Z-list character is pulled from relative obscurity and nudged forward in the jostle of other spandex-clad stars to try to remake a name for themselves. So it is with Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, whose superpower is being able to utilise nine times as much of his brain as a normal person, and who has been endowed with the scrolls of knowledge of an ancient, now plague-erased civilisation (he's also pretty buff in his suit; perhaps that will be explained later). Wijngaard was the draw to this series for me - I loved his work in Angelic - and in the first few pages of this issue he gets to show off his talents to great effect as a ship full of tentacled mini-Cthulhus destroy an entire city, while a deputation of - what's below Z-list? - lesser heroes try to convince a disinterested Cannon that he should make this his problem. After that he's not given much of a chance to shine, sadly, with much of the rest of the (relatively short) story taken up with admittedly necessary explicative conversation. Cannon is distinctly unappealing as a hero, which I enjoy enormously; he barely tolerates the world he inhabits and is only convinced to save it when his giant intellect deduces what he considers a fascinating motivation for the attack. Whether having someone so unlikable in the lead (without even making the effort to be wryly funny) will work in further episodes remains to be seen: the crew of supporting minor heroes have yet to really register with me (except the guy with apparent Gatling guns in place of hands - how does he eat?) but hopefully Gillen and Wijngaard will give us something to connect with more closely in the next. 6/10

DOCTOR STRANGE #10
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Jesus Saiz, Kevin Nowlan, Jim Campbell, Butch Guice, Carlos Lopez, Tom Palmer & Daniel Acuna
Marvel $5.99

Matt C: It's issue #10 of the latest series but with the legacy numbering we're up to the 400th issue of Doctor Strange apparently and, of course, Marvel is never going to miss an opportunity to put out a bumper issue to celebrate such a milestone (or any milestone, really). What that means is we get the start of the latest arc with some back-up tales to pad things out and increase the page count. The main story is solid, with an old nemesis returning in unexpected fashion, and it features the welcome return of artist Saiz who elevates the already-strong scripting from Mark Waid, his confident linework feeling both modern and archetypal, flitting between economical and energetic when required. The additional tales, also written by Waid, are fine if somewhat throwaway; they all have their merits and Waid does manage to shine a light on different aspects of the character and his mythos successfully. The fact that Waid is still managing to conjure up compelling scenarios for these characters after so many years in the business, never once coming across as jaded or resentful like some of his peers have, is as impressive a feat as the Master of Mystic Arts still appealing decades after his first appearance. It's maybe not a classic run but it's one of Marvel's more reliably engaging books of the moment. 7/10

DETECTIVE COMICS #997
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Doug Mahnke, Jamie Mendoza, Mark Irwin & David Baron
DC $3.99

Mike V: So here we are at the midway point in the Countdown to #1000 and the story leading up to this issue has been very enjoyable with fantastic artwork. Peter J. Tomasi continues the theme of previous issues, where mentors and people Bruce cares about are being attacked or killed, but this month the pace is slowed down, with less action, but still manages to carry the story forward and make you want to come back for the next issue. We're reminded of how great Bruce's escape artist skills really are, in what would be a very tense setting even for the great Houdini, and we see Batman briefly square off against the protagonist that has been hunting him the past few chapters. We're still none the wiser however to who really is behind all of the things that have happened so far and are left to come up with our own theories and expectations as to who it might be. Perhaps all is set to be unveiled in issue #1000 (that's one hell of a milestone to reach) or just before in #999! Overall the creative team of Tomasi and Mahnke is strong and I hope they continue to work on this series for many more issues to come. 8/10

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