17 Feb 2019

Mini Reviews 17/02/2019

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.

Writer Mark Russell
Art: Stephen Byrne
DC $3.99

Jo S: The next new start from the current crop of Bendis Wonder Comics is light-hearted teenage fun, packed with jabs at the oldsters of the Justice League and jammed with about as much social awkwardness as I can bear in a few pages. Jayna and her twin brother Zan have been rescued by Superman from an unexplained family embarrassment on their home planet, and effectively fostered by a less than enthusiastic superteam on Earth. Settling into a new school and new jobs as Hall of Justice junior heroes sets the twins multiple challenges - not least how to choose your catchphrase and get the best nickname - and Russell works familiar angles here: apparently whether you're superheroic or super ordinary, starting a new school is all about making your place in the social pecking order, because that's where you'll stay for the rest of your school career. Byrne's art is lively and nicely captures the chagrin of characters cringing in awkward self-consciousness. One small complaint: the big three heroes all behave slightly out of character on occasion: Supes is a little inconsiderate, Wondy veers into sarcasm and Bats volunteers a story about an embarrassment in his past - nothing serious and all adding to the sense of fun however. An entertaining breath of fresh air. 7/10

Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Chris Bachalo & Jim Campbell
Marvel $3.99

Mike V: There is a lot going on in this story but it is written with skill, and none of it feels like filler. Spencer crafts the characters' stories here in a heartfelt way: the Connors' family situation, Aunt May's determination to get back on her feet and make a difference in the world despite another setback, and Peter with his indecisiveness yet willingness as Spidey to keep going until he has nothing left to give. The interplay between these characters almost perfectly mirrors each other, with Connors and Peter and then with Spidey and Aunt May. To emphasise this, there is a even a couple of pages where Peter lovingly talks about how Aunt May is the reason he is the way he is and how he couldn't bear to think of what he would be like if it wasn't for her. This section is perfectly handled with some simple panels that help get this narrative and feeling across and also fit in with the current situation at hand. Bachalo's artwork is unique: even when occasionally it seems incongruous, there is still something about it that stands out. In a section when Peter is reunited with an old friend, original artwork from Steve Ditko, Ross Andru and Alan Kupperberg is used - this was a nice touch not only for the characters but the artists who drew some key moments in their stories. This creative team really do seem to care about the characters and want to show respect to those that came before and how they have shaped the mythos that Spencer, Bachalo and Campbell want to continue and add to. 9/10

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

Matt C: Shifting focus completely away from the more familiar faces seen in issue #1, the second instalment of this latest run of the peerless Criminal appears to confirm Brubaker's claim that this series will be unpredictable. An old-timer comics artist - bitter and resentful, natch - calls on an ex-assistant to chaperone him to a convention, an ulterior motive possibly having something to do with various accumulated gambling debts. It loosely mixes fiction with the real world (Julie Schwartz and Gerry Conway each get namechecked) but we're unmistakably back in the pulpy milieu of Criminal, the weary and the desperate finding themselves in situations that quickly spiral out of control, unable to remove themselves from the oncoming dangers through a mix of stupidity, curiosity and an addiction to the wilder side of life. Brubaker and Phillips are so far into a groove there's no possibility of a misstep, so competent and confident are they in their craft. Jacob Phillips's colours are excellent in drawing out the moral murkiness of the characters, the surroundings featuring the griminess you'd expect to see on the fringes of the underworld. The overarching plan for the two separate narratives that have commenced isn't clear at this stage but with such compelling storytelling on display you find yourself eager to follow wherever these guys lead. 9/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart
Image Comics $3.99

James R: Another issue of Gideon Falls, and another triumph - every time I think this can't get any better, and every time Sorrentino and Lemire surpass my expectations. Lemire has absolutely perfected the pacing and reveals in all his work - mysteries are never dragged out, and with every reveal, there's a new layer of intrigue added. This month, we meet the real - or the original - Norton Sinclair and, in doing so learn more about the origin of the Black Barn. Andrea Sorrentino's art is simply astonishing: as well as stretching the medium in ever-more astonishing ways, he also illustrates some truly creepy moments; I always think horror is one of the most difficult genres to pull off effectively in comics but Sorrentino does it perfectly. Both this and Criminal were excellent this week, but this is book of the week for me due to the power of the images conjured up by these two masters at work. 9/10

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Jordi Tarragona, Rafa Sandoval, Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

Kenny J: Within the pages of Flash #64, and its preceding part over in Batman, Joshua Williamson has shown a mutual respect between the two detectives that I haven’t seen before. Through captions we get a real feeling of a friendship based on admiration but one that stops when it comes to the recent events of their personal lives. The reveals in this book seamlessly weave 'The Price' crossover into the larger stories that DC is telling at this point in time as well as furthering the exploration of heroes that the Heroes In Crisis event has been tackling. Sandoval’s art is brilliant. There is one particular page in here I would love to own as it depicts two of my favourite characters tackling a mystery surrounded by images of the greater DC Universe. His subtle use of shadows adding another layer of difference between the titular hero and the Dark Knight is then expertly enhanced by the inking of Tarragona. Morey in turn uses a palette made up of the representative colours of the characters; grey, reds and greenish blues. I usually stay away from small crossovers like this but we are now halfway through and the quality has been high. 8/10

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