31 Mar 2019

Mini Reviews 31/03/2019

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.

Writer: Various
Art: Various
DC $9.99

James R: Anyone who picked up the excellent salute to Superman when Action Comics reached the 1,000-issue milestone will have a very good idea what to expect here. Once again, DC have assembled a murderer's row of their best talent to bring us a collection of short stories celebrating the Dark Knight. If you're a fan of Batman, or have a love of comics history, this is a must-read which justifies the extra financial outlay. As you'd expect, Scott Snyder and Tom King, as the most celebrated recent custodians of the Bat-signal, bring two sharp tales, beautifully illustrated by Greg Capullo, and the team-up of Tony S. Daniel and Joƫlle Jones respectively. Kevin Smith's contribution was a pleasing surprise - I was not a fan of his now infamous Bat-tale, 'The Widening Gyre', but he's back to his Green Arrow best here (and having Jim Lee on art duty certainly doesn't hurt). The most unexpected entry comes from the legendary Denny O'Neill, who teams with Steve Epting to tell a story that reflects the darker side of Batman. Paul Dini contributes a great story that conveys the essence of his time on the legendary animated series, helped by the work of Dustin Nguyen who perfectly captures the atmosphere of those Warner Bros cartoons. If that's still not enough, there's the small matter of Warren Ellis teaming up with Becky Cloonan and the Alias team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev bringing their A-games to the celebration. As always with an anthology book, there's a couple of contributions that don't quite hit the mark, but the pluses here are so strong, you barely notice the minuses. As with Action Comics #1000, kudos to DC for giving fans free choice in terms of covers, rather than making certain variants ridiculously expensive chase items. Finally, the feeling of reading Detective Comics #1000 is a similar one to Action #1000 - it will remind you of just what you love about Batman, and shows just why he's been in continuous publication for 80 years. I'd be willing to bet we'll get another 80 years of stories; this book shows you that all the greats in comics sense that they have a Batman story inside them. 9/10

Writer: Sam Humphries
Art: Joe Quinones
DC $3.99

Jo S: Humphries and Quinones revive a pre-existing storyline in this new series, as unassuming citizen of Nowheresville USA, Miguel, is finally rewarded in his persistent search for danger with a near-fatal accident and sudden, inexplicable escape from the jaws of death. Echoing the current series of Naomi in some ways, Miguel is a normal-seeming guy, in a dead-end job, in a boring town, but his brush with Superman as a child has left him a thrill-seeker and the as-yet unexplained loss of his parents has left him without trusted guidance. Humphries does a good job of helping us see the hopelessness of Miguel's situation, and Summer, the ‘girl who keeps running away’, has an enigmatic, subversive appeal. Quinones has some smart ideas about page structure and I enjoyed the switch to more retro-style art as the story's McGuffin takes its effect on our hero, with matching cheesy dialogue giving a feel of cheap, classic pocket-money comics for kids. Overall, unfortunately, it didn't grab me. Other than in the central ‘effect’ pages, the artwork is very tidy, with simple backgrounds giving little context and faces feeling almost too perfect. At one point the action seems inexplicably to jump location and a mystery character exhorts Miguel to dial several pages after he's actually done it: the result feels disjointed. Though I can understand that this may be designed to reflect Miguel's own discombobulation, for me, this just didn't land the jump. 6/10

Writer: Gerard Way
Art: Gabriel Ba & Nick Filardi
Dark Horse $3.99

Mike V: This is a lot more fast-paced than the previous issues so far in this miniseries, building quickly towards the epic conclusion of the story. Gerard Way doesn't miss a beat, shifting quickly from character to character to drive the narrative forward using only short dialogues and the art in the panels to give the reader a sense of urgency and chaos, with a 'Lunatics have taken over the asylum' feel. Gabriel Ba's artwork here complements Way's eccentric personality and writing style perfectly and I can't imagine anyone else doing the art for this series. His illustration makes this issue even more exciting and Filardi's colours add a third dimension to Ba's mostly two-dimensional artstyle. This issue brings us one step closer to the series finale, leaves us with so many expectations and questions to be answered. Will they be answered? Will the finale meet expectations? Only one way to find out and that is pick up next month's issue! 9/10

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Marco Checchetto & Sunny Gho
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: One of those issues that grips like a vice from the get-go with a scene that plays out in real time (or as real time as these things get), the intensity rising from panel to panel. Daredevil's been shot, he's down, and an arrest is imminent; the Kingpin watches the scene, gloating. We may have been here before but Zdarsky orchestrates the situation with supreme confidence - it's tense and gripping, the Man Without Fear seemingly on the ropes, with no obvious way out, almost resigned to the inevitability of it all, as though he's always known it would happen sooner or later. Checchetto continues to show he can whip up excitement and energy in the mean streets of New York as well as he can in a galaxy far, far away, while Gho makes good use of red as the predominant colour against the night. If you're missing the Netflix show following its premature cancellation, you need to turn to this series for the same kinds of thrills and ferocity. 9/10

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira & Adriano Lucas
DC $3.99

Mike S: Four issues in and my love of this title continues to grow with the world building of Earth X. Our heroes embark on another audacious mission involving the Nazi Mount Rushmore and the liberation of the spirit of Uncle Sam. While the storyline is a little formulaic (we’ve seen it in the previous issues) the end result is another cracking read. Eddy Barrows’ art on Freedom Fighters continues to be dramatic and epic and, while the Nazis in this comic are cartoonish sadists and hapless incompetents, our heroes continue to rise, especially the aforementioned Sam, whose journey back to reality is my favourite sequence so far. His scenes are probably the series’ best, capturing the mythical nature of the character and introducing the possibility of other beings like him from around the world. If I have any reservation about the title (and don’t get me wrong, I have loved every iteration of the team going right back to their origins in 1973’s JLA/JSA crossover) it is possibly that as I have aged, so have my expectations of the complexity of the comic genre. Building an alternate history America where the Nazis are in control with their own super soldiers is an interesting concept but raises issues for the modern audience. Yes, there would be a Nazi resistance but there should also be collaborators and the next-gen white population would have been raised with ingrained Nazi beliefs, stoking their inherent white supremacy, making the world-building extremely relevant to the modern world. Possibly a little less sugar-coating of the true horrors of the Nazi programme might add a layer of horror and real world satire that is perhaps missing from this otherwise engaging and exciting title. All in all, the art continues to be beautiful and now we're moving forward with our story of the Freedom Fighters with Uncle Sam's return, I can feel my excitement for this series growing. 8/10

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