12 May 2019

Mini Reviews 12/05/2019

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.

FLASH #70
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Howard Porter & Hi-Fi

Mike S: Flash #70 is the first issue of a 'Year One' story, and to be honest, I am tired of the constant reinvention of the wheel. However, in this case it really works! At the end of #69, Barry was sent back to relive his first year in order to remember something vital to saving the multiverse (what is it with Flash and multiversal catastrophe?), providing a reason for the origin arc that makes sense. Having finished it, it was a great jumping on point for new readers, as well as an entertaining read for those of us who are a little more ‘mature’. The issue embraces its time travel roots by opening and closing with Barry seeing a future version of himself - and yet time travel isn’t the main concept: that would seem to be hope and optimism (most welcome after the horrific destruction of said hope in Heroes In Crisis – yes I am still bitter!) Williamson has been on the title since #1 and so takes the opportunity here to re-establish characters, add to their relationships and even name drop a Rogue or two before they were ever established as such and, on top of this, perfectly captures the shifting tone of Barry’s life: initially we have a child full of optimism, hope and righteousness (and my favourite bit: still a lover of the Jay Garrick Flash comic books!) before we jump forward fifteen years and see a much changed Barry. He is now a crime scene investigator for the Central City police, working on his father’s case at night. Williamson’s depiction of Barry is possibly the best I have read in a long time, as is the treatment of Iris West, who is definitely an alpha go-getter and not the love interest of old. I especially liked the reawakening of Barry’s hope as he began testing and developing his powers. Porter’s art is perfect for this story: it is dynamic and oozes character and emotion, especially in scenes between Barry and his mother. Ultimately, the issue succeeds because Williamson stays true to what makes Barry Allen an interesting character. We see just how much of a good-natured person he is, whether that is helping to stop a classmate being bullied or reaffirming his unwavering view of right and wrong, which is hugely refreshing after countless DC books in which everything is villain-centric or dark and gritty. 9/10

EVE STRANGER #1
Writer: David Barnett & Eva de la Cruz
Art: Philip Bond
IDW $3.99

Kenny J: The premise for the first part of this book intrigued me. A woman forced to kill by the highest bidder that controls the nano bombs in her bloodstream: a simple concept that was set out in the solicitations for this comic from IDW's Black Crown imprint. When it comes to the execution things are a little messier. This debut issue is an exercise in world building, setting out its players and mechanics with little more to hook the reader in beyond that initial conceit. On the quieter, static pages Philip Bond's art looks great but this is an action heavy book and some of the more physical altercations seem awkward. Barnett uses real world events that immediately date the book and are thematically jarring but in keeping with the jumble of ideas, something continued in a backup story that has Eve seemingly aware of her comicbook existence. Although this made me laugh in places, it made the main feature all the more confusing. Eve Stranger is an ambitious book but there are similar characters in comics that do it so much better - a fact that means I'll be saving my money for them. 4/10

INVADERS #5
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Carlos Magno, Butch Guice & Alex Guimaraes
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Namor seems to invade the 'surface world' every few years or so, and he's at it again in this series, although his planning has more intelligence to it than on some occasions, so it's not just a case of the Sub-Mariner leaping out of the ocean yelling "Imperious Rex!" followed by legions of armour-clad Atlanteans this time around. Namor's tortured past is central to his current behaviour, with the Invaders desperately trying to get to the bottom of things while the Avengers think he's gone too far this time and he needs to be taken down. It's a highly entertaining spin on the idea of brotherhood born on the battlefield, and the different art styles of Magno and Guice nicely complement each other, mixing a more naturalistic approach to the past with a suitably colourful present. Zdarsky gets these characters and brings new layers to the ongoing mythology. 8/10

ICE CREAM MAN #12
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Art: Martín Morazzo & Chris O'Halloran
Image $3.99

Jo S: At Portsmouth Comic Con last week, one of the points made in the Image Comics panel was how Image enables creators to present a comic in exactly the format they designed, uninterrupted by ads, on the paper stock they choose (if they wish) and allows them almost completely free reign on how their stories are told and how their characters are developed. Ice Cream Man is the epitome of what can be achieved with this balance of control. This issue marks the end of the third volume, each part of which has been a distinct story, connected by the still-mysterious and distinctly malicious Ice Cream Man character, and I think this is my favourite so far, as it follows intrepid astronaut Noah Smith, far from his destroyed home, on a search for a suitable place to set down his Archival Recivilization Capsule and restart Earth's ecosystem. Morazzo's art is perfect for this, with just enough eccentricity to feel as if there's continually something a bit off-kilter, an unease you can't put your finger on, and Prince's storytelling, in this issue mostly delivered via a sort of cross between a diary and a thought bubble, expertly lettered by Good Old Neon, is clever, wry and funny, tending into downright distressing as the story progresses. Of course this pushes my sci-fi buttons, but it is even more than that. Absolute quality oozes off the pages here, and long may Image continue to give this team of creators, and many others, the freedom to bring us such delight. 8/10

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #10
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Arts: Dean Stewart & Dean Ormston
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: Well, there won't be anything new or surprising in what I'm about to say - Black Hammer is my favourite ongoing series, and once again, Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston deliver an issue that exudes class, and once again, it was the best thing I've read. What struck me this week though was that despite this being a very straightforward issue in terms of plot - it's the classic 'getting the band back together' trope - I enjoyed it so much because of the simple interaction of the characters; Lemire has created such a great cast of heroes, it's a joy to see them interact, whether it's on Spiral City or on Mars. It's also great to see Dean Ormston's work: his shift between the grim urban cityscapes, and the extraterrestrial moments on Mars is terrific. A majestic book in every way, Black Hammer still hits the spot for me. 8/10

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