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30 Jun 2019

Mini Reviews 30/06/2019

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.

CANTO #1
Writer: David M Booher
Art: Drew Zucker and Vittorio Astone
IDW $3.99

Jo S: Booher sets out the makings of a classical mono-myth here, with a tiny, pure-hearted, pot-bellied, armoured hero from a downtrodden people setting out on an honourable quest into unknown lands, seeking truth and a way to save his love from a miserable death and an escape from the slavery imposed by monstrous ruling beasts. Canto, looking very much like he was designed as a Pop-head Sir Lancelot, has, like all his people, a clockwork heart replacing his original and yet he loves, hopes and cares for others, as well as a knack of listening and remembering handy information which keeps him and his love alive. Drew Zucker's art is lovely here: making robot faces or characters with full masks emote clearly is a challenge, as is making leads characters distinguishable when all are wearing matching armour, and he achieves both of these adeptly, making little metal people look almost cuddly. The knee-high perspective of landscapes and domineering slavers adds to the feeling of being a very small entity in a huge confusing world. Booher's use of story within story is not new but works nicely here as inspiration for our hero to strike out, and the promise that Canto and his love will make a new ending together gives me hope that this will twist and turn somewhat away from a standard story path. 7/10

BATMAN: DAMNED #3
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Lee Bermejo
DC $6.99

Mike S: Admittedly, Batman is a character who is usually a bit hit and miss with me, depending on the creative team and (in all honesty) the villains they choose to use, but this is simply stunning! Visually it is without comparison and there simply are not enough superlatives to throw at it. Bermejo is a master in his field, creating a world that is both visceral and simultaneously dream-like in places. His characterisation is outstanding and the sheer depth of detail (and Easter eggs!) that goes into the construction of his work is breathtaking! The art has a cinematic scale that warrants repeated re-reads in order to catch all of the many, many details. Azzarello is certainly no slouch either and while the writing might veer into the obscure at times, I loved it and thought it worked well within the story being told. After all, in a tale about the blurring of the boundaries between reality and illusion, it is obviously going to become a little obscure and thus open to a range of interpretations, especially considering the ambiguous natures of many of the magical characters at play in the title. And herein lies another attraction to me: it’s refreshing to see Batman interact with characters who don’t usually fall into his orbit: Enchantress, Swamp Thing, Constantine and Zatanna – and I do love some of DC’s magical characters. If there is any criticism, it is that some die-hard fans might question the depiction of Batman primarily as a victim, but for me that was a major attraction. I am a little tired of the ‘always in control, all-knowing Batman’ of late. Now I just need to dig out the first two issues and relive the whole epic tale in one sitting to fully immerse myself into this realm. A wonderful, dark and gothic start to the DC Black Label banner: here’s hoping what comes next is equally strong! 10/10

WAR OF THE REALMS #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $5.99

Matt C: It's been loud, it's been brash, it's often been incoherent, and it has frustrated with various plot threads being dealt with in peripheral titles but, somehow, in spite of all these things, it has managed to sustain a level of entertainment that moves it closer to the win column than away. When it pulls focus amongst the stürm und drang, so that the characters get their chance to shine, it works effectively, Aaron's experience and expertise at Asgardian pomposity helping to propel the story forward into a place where the main players are centre stage to facilitate the resolution. But more than that, and probably the key component in keeping this series a cut above stagnant event-by-numbers, is Russell Dauterman's artwork. Energetic and intense, it feels like the pages are alive with thunder and lightning, Matthew Wilson's colours exploding the imagery with flame and fury. It's an accomplished tour de force and while it may not achieve the emotional resonance of the Jane Foster Thor story arc, by the final page it's proven itself just about worthy. 7/10

ASCENDER #3
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dustin Nguyen
Image $3.99

James R: This issue of Ascender is an acme example of storytelling. Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen split the narrative between two desperate escapes: the first is a flashback, showing us Andy and Effie's doomed flight from the sinister forces of Mother, and the second is set in the present, with Andy and his daughter Mila trying to flee the planet Sampson. Lemire's script is beautifully balanced between the two, imbuing the issue with both a sense of urgency and tragedy that had me totally hooked. Incredibly, Dustin Nguyen's exceptional art is getting even better - I love how he's illustrating the more fantastical aspects of this new story (the arrival of a giant early in this issue was a total highlight). He's also great at conveying the human emotion that is the hallmark of every Jeff Lemire story, and the two creators continue to craft something unique and compelling together. Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are making magic, and this is scintillating stuff. 9/10

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