14 Apr 2019

Mini Reviews 14/04/2019

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: Brian Schirmer
Art: Claudia Balboni & Marissa Louise
Image $3.99

Jo S: Jenner Faulds and her associate Oanu (a Jessu, like a huge man-cat; just don't call him feline) are certified private investigators in a post tech-war world where relics of a giant battle litter (and sometimes form) the now mostly rural landscape. Schirmer says in the back matter that he wanted to create a gender-swapped Magnum PI, in a format that hobbits might read; I'm not sure that's the result here but this certainly has a couple of similarities with Tolkien, one of which I especially welcome! There's a map! But - oh boy, you won't believe this - the map of the Feld (I guess a bit like the Shire) shows how a town has grown up in and around the crashed body of a gigantic android! Schirmer dodges explanation of how this came to be in this first issue, so I'm hoping it'll be expanded on in future episodes. Talking of future episodes, the promise with this series is that each issue will stand as a single complete story, boosted with additional material, here in the form of a very readable two page prose story. But I digress - what of the main story here? Introducing a new world, a new culture, a set of new characters and a mystery to solve, and wrapping it up tidily in a single issue is a huge challenge but, in 'The Case of the Blue Rock', Schirmer handles it neatly, aided by Balboni’s simple, beautiful art and by use of clever structure and lettering to tell multiple parts of the story at once (think Rorschach’s journals). I'm a mug for a comic book diagram, especially with cutaways, and the creators use clever tricks of design here to give intricate, pleasing detail to the tale. The actual mystery itself doesn't break new ground exactly, but the cleverness of the production and the outstandingly good value for money offered will bring me back next time. 7/10

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Maria Llovet
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Kenny J: The Paul Pope cover of this new five-issue miniseries from Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet tells you a lot about what is contained within the pages of Faithless. However, that is only part of the story: the horror and sex are kept to a minimum as the semi-titular Faith tries to navigate through a city full of realised if fleeting characters. She is an introvert who seeks to make the world a better place through her use of magic, a more modern practice here than the wizarding worlds we are used to in comics. Llovet’s loose pencils and inks render every scene a joy to look at and the small details never overwhelm or distract from the story being told. The more sexually charged pages are explicit but not exploitative and carry with them the same space and air that fills the rest of the book. The latter pages feel earned as there is never any question as to what room this issue will end in - although what we find there was so unexpected that I just have to pick up issue #2. 8/10

Writer: Cavan Scott
Art: Marcelo Ferreira, Maria Keane & Luis Antonio Delgado
IDW $3.99

Mike V: This is the second of four issues to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters and it focuses on the cartoon series, The Real Ghostbusters! I grew up watching that show and it helped cement my love of all things Ghostbusters and the paranormal. The story that Scott has put together would have worked as an episode of the series quite easily, focusing on a new rival for the Ghostbusters and a new threat. There are some nice references to the TV show which definitely brought on a feeling of nostalgic excitement. They also throw in a nice nod to J. Michael Straczynski who was a writer and script editor for the series. Ferreira's artwork does a wonderful job of capturing the likeness and feel of the cartoon across each panel, really showing a love and appreciation for the subject matter. Delgado's colours also help increase the nostalgia by making the comic art look a little dated but fitting in perfectly with that late '80s-early '90s animated art style. I can safely say that after 35 years of Ghostbusters, “Bustin' still makes me feel good!” 8/10

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie & Jeremiah Skipper
DC $3.99

Mike S: So we approach the conclusion of the 'Cataclysm' arc and the end of Bryan Hitch’s run on Hawkman (sob), but we do so in spectacular style. This issue is packed full of action, an amazing fight sequence and a gamut of Hawkmen, both from this run and from the wider DC universe (Gunslinger Hawkman particularly brings back fond memories). At its core has been the exploration of the essence of Hawkman: above everything else he is reborn (a lot!) and now we get the payoff with an army of incarnations of Hawkmen, all of whom bring facets to Carter Hall’s character. And (without getting into spoilers) I loved the revelation about the Deathbringers as the perfect juxtaposition with the army of Hawks. It is another visually stunning issue, although sometimes Hitch’s pencil work seems a little flat to me. Venditti has hit his stride, managing to redefine Hawkman by fully embracing the very thing that most people are put off by: his convoluted history and continuity. We get a Hawkman who is immersed totally in his rich history and that of the DC Universe, embracing everything from Krypton, New Genesis and Earth, to the Microverse, Thanagar and Rann. In doing so, Venditti has created a well-realised and textured character: a whole new and much more interesting Carter Hall/Hawkman than we have seen in at least the last decade or so, if not ever (controversial!). While this is primarily  an action-heavy set-up for the finale, we get a fast paced, packed and important issue: every panel counts and each of the Hawkmen gets their distinctive moment to shine. Hawkman #11 is a great penultimate episode that leaves things for a stellar conclusion. 8/10

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Carlos Magno, Butch Guice & Alex Guimaraes
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: AKA 'The Secret History Of The Sub-Mariner', in which we delve into Namor's past and witness his attempts to move on after the end of WWII. He finds an anchor of sorts in the normality of Randall Peterson's family, with a bout of amnesia leading to a semblance of peace before Charles Xavier sticks his oar in, seeding the problems that perhaps explain the Atlantean's current erratic behaviour. Xavier is painted as a man with an agenda who perhaps doesn't have Namor's best interests at heart; young and inexperienced, Charles attempts to use his gifts to free Namor from the anger he carries around with him but that proves to be an ineffective miscalculation, pushing the Sub-Mariner further along a more specific, dangerous path. As the bulk of the issue is set in the past, Guice gets most of the artistic honours, and he brings a melancholia to his sturdy imagery as Zdarsky gets to weave more threads into Marvel's rich tapestry. Central to it all is how a traumatic experience can dramatically alter a person's perspective, see them lash out without logic or reason as they avoid addressing what they've been through, and how those that have suffered in the same way may be the only ones who can offer salvation. 8/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Amanda Conner, Dan Panosian, John Timms, Mikel Janin, Paul Mounts & Jordie Bellaire
DC $3.99

James R: Earlier in the week, the great Mitch Gerads revealed on Twitter how this issue came about: Tom King asked Amanda Conner to come and draw on his Batman run, to which she replied "Tom, I would have loved to do the Bachelorette party!" And thus it comes to pass - as the sixth part of the 'Knightmares' arc, we're given a great one-shot 'what if?', which is the spiritual sequel to King's 'Date Night' story. We get to see just how Batman and Catwoman could have enjoyed their last night of freedom ahead of their dramatic non-nuptials. As always, Amanda Conner's art is superb - she's been one of my favourite artists since her work on Garth Ennis' The Pro back in 2002, and she brings a unique magic to the DCU. I can understand why some fans have been frustrated with this arc, but I've enjoyed every issue - it's been a great opportunity to see some of the best names in the business add even more depth to King's work, and it's been a welcome change of gear ahead of the 'City of Bane' storyline from #75. Once again, it's an excellent time to be a Batman fan, and this issue is a gem. 8/10

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