9 Jun 2019

Mini Reviews 09/06/2019

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.

Writer: Sean Lewis
Art: Hayden Sherman
Image $4.99

Jo S: At a high risk of sounding like a broken record, it was the reuniting of the creative team who produced The Few which brought me to this. The Few was one of the first series that pushed my understanding of modern comics into areas previously unimagined and my hopes for this new series were dangerously high, courting deep disappointment should it not pass muster. The risk was worth taking though: Lewis' dystopian future in both these books has a unique character, enough to give something different in this otherwise well-worked genre, and Sherman's artwork, outrageously underused in another series recently, is once again given space, and distance, and a responsibility in adding to the storytelling that allows for his simplicity and subtlety to really shine. 'Shine' may be the wrong word here: Lewis has created a story of children of the future, nannied by a holographic Mom in the absence of their perennially working parents and recruited to a mysterious scholarship programme due to their skills in video war games, and Sherman's palette for this is almost unremittingly grey, with a few punctuations of shocking pink, sometimes in the lettering, sometimes a bangle or a small detail like a trailer park gas tank, or the looming, rather amorphous Mom figure. The story doesn't initially tread particularly new ground but then I do remember it taking until issue #3 for The Few to take my breath away, and the big splash pages, where writer and artist conspire together to emphasise the story twists with striking visuals, are alone enough to bring me back for more. 7/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Jacob Phillips
Image $3.99

James R: June is a great month for fans of Ed Brubaker - not only is his long-awaited TV series, Too Old To Die Young, due to be released on Amazon Prime on June 14th, but this week sees the start of what he claims "...will probably be the longest Criminal story ever." True to form, 'Cruel Summer' is great from this opening chapter. Criminal has always focused on those on the wrong side of the law but this issue introduces us to Brubaker and Sean Phillips' take on one of the classic tropes of noir crime fiction, the private eye. Dan Farraday is the classic PI; good at his job but dealing with a troubled past and a life teetering on the brink. Charged with tracking down a master grifter in the shape of Marina Kelly, it's only a matter of time before Farraday is in over his head. We've said here many times that Brubaker and Phillips are the masters of this genre, and Criminal remains one of those books which you know will be good before you even turn the cover. The extra goodness this month cones in the shape of Brubaker in conversation with Jason Starr, Alex Segura and Sara Gran on series characters in a number of media, and it's almost worth the cover price alone. If you're a fan of crime books, or noir as a genre, there's really no reason why you shouldn't be getting Criminal: it's one of the essential monthly reads. 9/10

Writer: Robbie Thompson
Art: Niko Henrichon & Laurent Grossat
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This is one of those miniseries that burns so brightly during its brief publishing schedule that you find yourself wishing it'll never end. With characters that really dig deep under the skin, Meet The Skrulls has been a revelation from first issue till last. Sure, it loosely riffs on The Americans, but that wasn't an entirely original concept, and obviously setting things in the Marvel Universe gives it a fresh angle; the dynamics between the family of Skrulls hiding out on Earth generate plenty of powerful drama. The conclusion has a certain inevitability but there are enough twists to keep readers on their toes and the emotional undercurrent of the storytelling is incredibly strong and affecting - these characters live, breathe, love and die, and are completely vital on the page. Henrichon's artwork is exceptional, mundane family life blending with alien weirdness, the melancholia of the cast coming through at just the right moments. I realise it's a niche series, and the likelihood of a sequel isn't particularly high, but damn if I don't want to revisit these characters again. There's definite mileage for more great tales to be had with them. 8/10

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Charlie Adlard
Image $3.99

Mike S: Yet again The Walking Dead defies convention: big deaths and ‘earth-shattering’ events are usually reserved for the big numbers (#50, #100 or the imminent #200) but not this one! Kirkman and Adlard deliver a gut punch-and-a-half in what is sure to be a divisive issue. Some will hate it and see it as a perfect jumping off point; others will love it and see it as an exciting new beginning for the title. Me? I choose to see it as the latter. After 15 years, the inevitable happened and not in the way I was expecting - and I loved it. No heroic death, no blaze of glory but a tragic reminder that death can strike anyone at any point. After a decade and a half, the long hinted at death has happened and, strangely, it was somewhat beautiful. Instead of a raging reaction, we get a sense of tranquillity, with some beautifully rendered work from Adlard to mark the passage of time in the most subtle of ways. He excels with some fantastic emotional expression and a real sense of the devastating loss, not just for the immediate ‘family’ but for the wider community, all of whom have been touched in some way by the legacy of the fallen. We have some haunting double-page spreads, especially the final one, evoking memories of the old Wild West as the mammoth funeral procession rides into the sunset. With the loss of this major character, we realise that he leaves a vacuum in this universe: the hope once embodied is battered but not extinguished and it will be interesting to see how Kirkman builds on this moving forward. The story now lies in the legacy left behind: Justice, Civility, Positivity and Hope in the desolation of a zombie apocalypse. For the last 191 issues, we have grown to know and love these characters and now we have to say goodbye to possibly one of the great comic creations. We get to see how the characters reel and recover and react and then we ourselves are left to deal with our own jumbled emotions. Issue #192 absolutely nails it in the depiction of a devastating goodbye and as an audience, we find ourselves immersed in the grief and poignancy of its delivery. But I’ll be okay friends, no need to worry: it’s only a comic book, right? 9/10

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