28 Apr 2019

Mini Reviews 28/04/2019

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.

THANOS #1
Writer: Tini Howard
Art: Ariel Olivetti & Antonio Fabela
Marvel $4.99

Jo S: Picking a Thanos comic in the aftermath of seeing Avengers: Endgame this week was possibly not the best choice: Comics Thanos and MCU Thanos being motivated strikingly differently. The latter is compelled to ‘save’ the universe, motivated by a love of peace, and sees wiping out 50% of all living things as an act of love for those remaining. Comics Thanos is instead an outright killing machine, infected with insatiable bloodlust, wiping out 100% of those living on each unfortunate planet he descends on, motivated only to impress the manifestation of Death, with whom he has an obsessive infatuation. Tini Howard here presents the story not just of the start of Thanos’ reign of terror, but also of Gamora’s hold on him, the relationship which is destined to make him, and also then to be the end of him: this issue is bookended with Gamora, adult and child, but the majority establishes a monstrous, ruthless, years-long massacre, Thanos at one point saying “When I walk away from a fight it is only because it bores me”. Howard's Thanos is petulant, stubborn, dismissive of authority and religion - it's hard at first to see why he inspires any loyalty in his crew of generals but it's to be hoped that there will be more on this. Olivetti’s art works well where he is able to stretch out on a full splash page, giving Thanos appropriate density and gravitas; I like that he is armed with a huge golden sickle, echoing the iconic scythe of an embodiment of death. I'll admit the Lady Death herself appeared a little underwhelming so far but I'm terribly biased by Mike Deodato’s vision of gothic, leather-clad curves. Olivetti creates magical effects using panels floating in a star speckled black background for the scenes in space, and plays with the concept of Thanos’ shadow, metaphorically and actually, falling over a world he has doomed with his presence. A promising start - this Thanos is very hard to empathise with but exploring the influences on him should help with that. 7/10

GHOST TREE #1
Writer: Bobby Curnow
Art: Simon Gane, Ian Herring & Becka Kinzie
IDW $3.99

Kenny J: Ghost Tree is a book about transitions: from childhood to adulthood, from home to the wider world, between life and death. By following Brandt, a man who seems to have everything going for him but longs for what has passed, writer Bobby Curnow gives the feeling of characters left in stasis, tethered to one place in space and time no matter how far they travel, in this case the forest invoked by the book’s title. A sad, nostalgic place rendered in bold detail by Simon Gane - this feeling is enhanced by Herring and Kinzie’s green and sepia colours. Although Gane’s work lies on the more cartoony end of the artistic spectrum there is great attention given to the smallest expressions: a smile here or a scowl there, warming or breaking the heart in equal measures. A single panel tells you everything about Brandt’s mindset and his regret for missed opportunities, a feeling brought home by Curnow’s naturalistic dialogue and interactions. Fans of the more slice of life anime, like Flavours Of Youth or Your Name will no doubt enjoy this supernatural tinged story - I know I do. 8/10

ASCENDER #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Image $3.99

James R: As we comics fans know, 'the end' very seldom means the end. The very nature of the medium (and the business) means that many stories' final chapters turn a full stop into an ellipsis. Often, this isn't a good thing - stories are dragged out, or mined for a cash-grab - but every now and then, the restart is inspired. Ascender definitely falls into this category, with the creative team of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen continuing the story of Descender with a brilliant zeal. The reason this works so well is that the universe of Descender has fundamentally altered - in the wake of the cataclysmic events of the final arc of that series, the galaxy is now one again dominated by magic rather than science, and thus Ascender now carries the hallmark of fantasy rather than science-fiction (for now, anyway...) This was a particular revelation for me as I'm a huge science-fiction fan, but not so convinced by the world of fantasy. It's a testament to the talents of Lemire and Nguyen that the transition feels so seamless. Nguyen's work on Descender was always brilliant; his watercolours captured the grand galactic sweep of planets, aliens and spaceships to perfection, and here he repeats the same trick; expanding to illustrate the enchanted world of Knossos. As always, Lemire's script works so well as it's built around very human foundations - a number of his great works have featured relationships between parents and children, and Ascender is no different, introducing us to Mila, the daughter of Andy and Effie from Descender, with Andy struggling to raise the headstrong Mila as a lone parent. I was gripped by this book from the first page - an astounding new start. 9/10

HEROES IN CRISIS #8
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads & Travis Moore
DC $3.99

Mike S: I had every intention of maintaining an objective viewpoint until the conclusion of this story with next issue, but having read issue #8 I can’t. True, the art by Mitch Gerads and Travis Moore is fantastic and Tom King has long been a favourite writer and innovator of mine, covering everything from Grayson and The Vision to Omega Men and Mister Miracle. Not to mention a pretty impressive (largely) run on Batman. But this? This might just be a step too far for me. I have no problem with the corruption-redemption arc in comics: I’ve seen it play out countless times and on the whole it can be a satisfying experience, but for it to work there has to be an element of believability at its core and, I think, that’s my problem with this revelation - I simply don’t believe in it. I can believe it of Hal Jordan or Bruce Wayne but this? The most optimistic hero, the one brought back to herald a new era of hope in DC publishing has gone beyond any former darkness. King presents a character broken by his experiences and ‘explores’ nominally PTSD (the stated aim of this story) but in reality there is no such exploration. Sure, we get explorations of the relationships between Harley and Batgirl, Booster and Beetle, but the one we really need to get into the head of? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Instead we dip into the worst kind of timey-wimey sci-fi tropes and the actual psychological meat of the tale is largely ignored. If that was my only problem, I could live with it, but as I said before, I simply don’t believe it: the breakdown possibly but the subsequent actions? Never. Unless there is some kind of redemption in the remaining issue, I will ultimately be absolutely disappointed by this title. No death threats from me, but for the absolute annihilation and emasculation of a key symbol of optimism: a simmering anger. I simply cannot believe that he would take the subsequent actions he did take. And therein is the core of my problem with this: the choice of murderer and the cold manner in which he covers his actions just doesn’t ring true and seems designed to throw everything long loyal fans have craved from DC back in our faces with a quick middle finger for good measure. All I can do is hope that in the final issue some kind of twist is coming to make sense of it all, otherwise this will easily be the most controversial superhero comic of the year. 5/10

GHOSTBUSTERS 35TH ANNIVERSARY: EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS
Writers: Jim Beard & Keith Dallas
Art: Tim Lattie & Luis Antonio Delgado
IDW $3.99

Mike V: As we come to the end of IDW's month of Ghostbusters comics celebrating the 35th anniversary of the franchise, we focus on the Extreme Ghostbusters from the '90s cartoon of the same name (I swear almost everything had 'extreme in front of it during the '90s!). For those unfamiliar with it; Extreme Ghostbusters follows a new team of recruits with upgraded tools and technology, created by their mentor, Egon Spengler. Writers Beard and Dallas take a different angle on possession: the animals of New York Zoo have all been possessed by a spiritual entity and it's up to the team to save them. The banter between the team is captured well as is the fight-flirting dynamic that Kylie and Eduardo had going on during original the series. The story itself though is lacking in action and that thing that makes Ghostbusters what it is. Lattie's appealing art captures the likeness of the characters from the cartoon series really well, except Kylie, who looks oddly out of place. Series regular Delgado does a good job with the colours, changing out the normal style to go with a colour pallete that is more reminiscent of the cartoon, bringing some welcome nostalgia for its fans. 6/10

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