2 Jun 2019

Mini Reviews 02/06/2019

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.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – X-TINCTION #1
Writer: Ed Piskor
Art:  Ed Piskor
Marvel $5.99

Mike S: Grand Design - X-Tinction is the most streamlined exploration of the mid-80s X-books, in all their convoluted glory, and this in itself is a huge achievement. As such, as an X-fan of long standing, I approached this title with a somewhat cynical eye, wary of how it might tarnish my memories - I needn’t have worried! Piskor has a distinctive, pop-art style that I find refreshing as he retells the 'Mutant Massacre', 'Fall Of The Mutants' and 'Inferno' story lines. Artistically, he perfectly evokes the feel of an '80s book, complete with outlandish outfits and stylistic choices. While the title takes minor liberties in the timeline and some aspects of continuity, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment derived from this nostalgic trip down Mutant Memory Lane. Sensibly, Piskor opts to retell this era through two revisited strands: baby Cable and the Madelyne Prior mystery, drawing in other events and characters along the way to pad things out, creating a real sense of how cluttered the X-universe had become with countless spin-off teams and multiple cross-overs flooding the market but never allowing them to overwhelm his central narrative. We have the Siege Perilous, Roma, the Outback years (one of my favourite eras, even with the ridiculous Orphan Maker and Nanny), and the Goblin Queen. While the pace is fast and covers a lot of ground, this is not at the expense of some nice character work which acknowledges the relationships which made the title so popular among its readership. With only one more issue to go, I am interested to see where we end up. I have thoroughly enjoyed this re-examination of the X-Men’s history and, with Hickman’s proposed revamp of the team, find it fitting in the timing of its scheduling. If you’re not reading it, and want a potted guide to all things X, this is a great place to start! 8/10

BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo & FCO Plascencia
DC $5.99

James R: Of late, the inside of Bruce Wayne's head has been the destination of choice for DC's most high-calibre writers; over on the main title, Tom King has taken a sophisticated and hugely impressive dive into the psyche of Batman (though sadly, it seems not everyone sees it that way - that's an article for later in the year, I feel). This week sees Scott Snyder reteaming with the great Greg Capullo to take a very different look under the cowl, with this wild, apocalyptic Batman tale. Firstly, it's interesting to see that this book is part of the DC Black Label imprint. Following the notorious debut of Batman: Damned, it's refreshing to see how Snyder responds to being able to bring an 'adult' sensibility to the book - there's little here that's different in tone from his original run on Batman. There are a couple of darker moments for sure, but I was impressed that there was nothing gratuitous in these pages. I will freely admit to being a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories and I really enjoyed seeing Snyder and Capullo pull the narrative rug out from under us twice in the issue, leaving us with a Batman on one last adventure in a fallen world. I've always said that Snyder and Capullo are the 'blockbuster' Batman team: their stories embrace the broad heroic strokes brilliantly, and here I really appreciated Snyder's commentary on why things went so bad; "People chose doom...We were picked off by the people we were supposed to be saving." One quick squint at the world around us right now gives those words an extra force, and certainly chill the blood. As to how 'real' this tale is remains to be seen but, undoubtedly, it's fantastic to see Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo work their magic on Batman; DC's Black Label gets it right at the second attempt, and this miniseries has grabbed me from the get-go. 8/10

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER #1
Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC $9.99

Jo S: Summer holiday anthology editions are, by nature and by definition, a bit of a mixed bag but I'm cheerful to report that DC's beach-read this year is a pretty consistent crowd pleaser - there wasn't a story in this batch of eight which didn't grab my interest or raise a smile or both. The tales are all loosely summer holiday themed, but more specifically based on the animals of the DC Universe (or in one case, the DC Multiverse). Krypto the superdog kicks off the octet with a heartwarming vignette of superbuddies teaming up - Cully Hamner's multiple splash pages are carefully laid out to tell stages of the story from Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. Killer Croc faces up to his responsibilities in the second, with Kyle Hotz ably rendering the fetid sweatiness of the Tampa swamp. G Willow Wilson helps Ferdinand (the kith-o-taur) work through the ethical dilemma he faces when cheffing for the Justice League - is it really ok for a half man, half bull to serve cheeseburgers? - and Beast Boy gets put through his paces in a contest with a life guard - although surely it's cheating if you can take the form of any creature you choose? I have to have a grumble at DC again about representation: these collections are surely an opportunity to showcase talent from a wide spectrum of creators, and still in a pantheon of no fewer than thirty named creators, just two women, Wilson and Mariko Tamaki, are listed. Grumbles to one side though, I have a couple of favourites: Dan DiDio's 'Panic at the Midnight Rodeo', features the only female lead in the book, as the stoic Batcow faces down Laffa, the nastiest bull in the pen, leaving those she saved in awe with her parting 'Moo'. My Best In Show rosette is awarded to Andrew Marino and James Harren for their 'Crisis on Earth-26'. As you may know, my affinity for anthropomorphic animals has grown, with Spider-Ham at the pinnacle of my list. Captain Carrot, however, may just have dropped through a cartoon-style slidable hole right into my heart; this story had me giggling out loud - and That's all Folks! 8/10

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