24 Mar 2019

Mini Reviews 24/03/2019

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.

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Christian Ward
Dark Horse $3.99

Jo S: I was fully expecting to go wildly overboard about the art in this comic and was prepared to work hard to appreciate the story along with it as Christian Ward is such a favourite of mine but I find myself totally effusive about both elements, and the spellbinding result they blend into. Wilson has built a detailed universe with its own intricate theology and Ward has taken the magic of her work and amplified it in kaleidoscopic colour and stunning architecture. Invisible Kingdom is a story of two people from impossibly different backgrounds; Grix, a hardened freighter pilot, operating deliveries for a kind of interplanetary, penny-pinching, staff-exploiting Amazon, and Vess, initiate of the Siblings of Severity, born on a planet of poets, now seeking the life of a ‘None’ in the Church of the Renunciation. Their stories are told in parallel initially, and as the thread of one weaves in and out of the other, symmetries and comparisons arise, in spite of the diametrically opposing lifestyles of the two. Ward's work is, in my opinion, peerless: at times he gives a feeling of swimming in a tropical aquarium of lurid colour, then a nebula pricked through with stars, then suddenly  seeing a vista of towering impossible yet somehow credible architecture, and page structure literally built out of a city's walls and barriers. This is a superb start. 9/10

LAZARUS: RISEN #1
Writer: Greg Rucka & Lilah Sturges
Art: Michael Lark, Santi Arcas & Tyler Boss
Image $7.99

Matt C: It feels so damn good to see this title back on the shelves again. The schedule has changed - it's now coming out quarterly - but what it lacks in frequency it more than makes up for in sheer quality, not just in terms of storytelling but also in value for money. The page count has increased to 64, 44 of which are focused on the main story; there's an excellent prose tale from Lilah Sturges, some RPG rules for those who want to dive even further into the world of Lazarus, along with letters and writer Greg Rucka's related musings on the state of the world, all wrapped up in a handsome prestige package. More pages devoted to the main narrative means more breathing space for the characters, more opportunities for subtler dynamics to reveal themselves and more room for Michael Lark to pace his perfectly composed panels featuring his gorgeously kinetic, emotive artwork. There are many books that have gone all in on world-building, creating universes that have history and places beyond what we see, but none can quite match the sheer verisimilitude of Lazarus, where you can almost feel feet crunching in snow and blades being buried into flesh. It's epic in scope but the strength of the characterization means it has an intimacy, the cast featuring such strong personalities that even breaks from the story don't result in difficulties re-establishing bearings when it moves forward again. It's back, and it instantly reconfirms its status as one of the most potent, and important, comics of the last decade. 10/10

AQUAMAN #46
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques & Sunny Gho
DC $3.99

Mike S: Despite my initial reservations about the hackneyed amnesiac plot being rolled out yet again, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha’s Aquaman has been a breath of fresh air. Seeing Arthur/Andy explored in a context far removed from Atlantis and her political conflicts and machinations has immersed him in a new realm of myth. In the latest issue, Aquaman stands as the only resistance to Namma, Mother Salt, in a battle of mammoth proportions on a par with the Ragnarok so often referenced or replayed in Marvel’s Thor. It’s 'The Twilight Of The Gods' and Arthur/Thor fights the giant serpentine Namma/J√∂rmungandr. As might be expected for such a grandiose plot, the art team really step up and deliver some stunning work. Rocha (channelling Ivan Reis: in my opinion never a bad thing), Henriques and Gho move assuredly from village meetings to epic battle scenes with ease, with Namma’s depiction being a particular highlight. A special mention to Gho: the colours of the storms, creatures and especially the use of salt are outstanding, adding to the tone of the book. While the action comes thick and fast, it is balanced well with character moments. Namma is an excellent antagonist (and why has her salt-based power never been thought of before??). However, at its core, the book never forgets its title: he might be Andy and an amnesiac but he’s still selfless, quick-thinking and, most importantly, a man with one oft-maligned and mocked defining power: to ask for help, a power that the book fully embraces, presenting it as a symbol of nobility and strength. In a revelation to me, this mythic and elemental run of Aquaman has been both refreshing and utterly engaging (although, you know – I still miss Mera!) 9/10

SPIDER-MAN: CITY AT WAR #1
Writer: Dennis Hallum
Art: Michele Bandini & David Curiel
Marvel $3.99

Mike V: Love Comics? Check, Love Video Games? Check, Love Spider-Man? Check! Loved the Spider-Man game on the PlayStation 4? Hell yes! That, sadly, is where the excitement for this issue ends. This comic (which is part of the Marvel Gamer-Verse) is basically just a recap of half of the first act in the Spider-Man PS4 game. The panels and script are pulled directly from the game itself (though the game script was overseen by Christos Gage and Dan Slott), the real winner here being the artwork which is fantastic and does offer up a few different elements that may have been missed in the game. The story itself is still enjoyable, though it would be more so for those who haven’t perhaps played the game! 6/10

BATMAN #67
Writer: Tom King
Art: Lee Weeks, Jorge Fornes & Lovern Kindzierski
DC $3.99

James R: Okay, I'll level with you - I wasn't planning on reviewing Batman again. Honestly, I thought that I'd sung its praises for long enough now, and that I'd said everything I'd wanted to say about Tom King's sublime run on the title. And then...well, he does it again; producing an issue that's so good, I feel the need to share my enthusiasm for it. The 'Knightmares' arc has been a series of intriguing and beguiling insights in to Batman's mind while he is "strapped to some machine" and under the influence of Scarecrow gas (according to John Constantine, anyway.) This issue sees the return of one of my favourite Batman artists, Lee Weeks. Seeing him back on Batman is an immediate cause for celebration, and he's on incredible form here, his work blending seamlessly with Fornes'. The story is, according to Tom King, the 'sequel to the Batman/Elmer Fudd crossover' - and this is because it's a tale reminiscent of Chuck Jones' legendary Road Runner cartoons. It's a virtually wordless issue, with Batman pursuing a mysterious quarry through Gotham, demonstrating the power of comics as a visual medium, with artwork brilliantly capturing the kinetic energy of the chase and its various twists and turns. This issue could be a standalone one-shot and, if you don't normally read Batman, it's worth the investment just to see the talent of King, Weeks and Forbes in such synchronicity. I'd say that I'm definitely not going to review Batman again for a while, but given the strength of this current run, don't be surprised if I'm rhapsodising over issue #68... 9/10

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