7 Jul 2019

Mini Reviews 07/07/2019

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: Robert Kirkman
Art: Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn
Image $3.99

Mike S: Only last month I was looking forward with excitement to the ongoing tales of a Rick Grimes-free world of The Walking Dead and then BAM – be careful what you wish for! I get the vision of the Rick-less world I wanted and then... nothing, as Kirkman finishes his tale on his own terms, completely out of the blue. Kind of fitting for a title that has pulled no punches in the surprising twists and turns it has taken over the last 15 years. But is it any good? Well, in my humble opinion, not only is it good but it is wonderful! Without giving too much away, we jump forward some considerable time and we truly get to see the legacy of Rick Grimes in creating a new world order. We drop in on all of the major characters (and a few surprises) of this mammoth run and see how they fit into the complex patchwork world that has been created in the image of the old wild west. In a narrative that is framed by an adult Carl telling a story, we encounter many of our favourites in their new roles and positions, and the issue leaves us with a warm feeling as we see the new future ahead for mankind. Obviously there are walkers – but their presence acts only as a reminder of what the true focus of this title has always been: humanity. Thus, while walkers feature and are dispatched, they serve as a catalyst for further character development and world building in an issue that is beautifully crafted, tightly structured and written with great poignancy without mawkish sentiment. Added to this, Adlard turns in some of his finest art to date, adding some beautifully emotive work to complement Kirkman’s tone and intention. The Walking Dead has never been the story of a zombie apocalypse: it has always been a tale of humanity, the triumph of the human spirit and how high mankind could aspire to be in the face of overwhelming adversity and, as such, this issue serves as the perfect conclusion to such an ambitious and sweeping tale. A truly memorable and epic saga with a surprising but perfect ending. Now to go back and re-read the whole run all over again! 10/10

Writer: Tom King
Art: Andy Kubert, Sandra Hop & Brad Anderson
DC $4.99

Matt C: We've seen Tom King's take on Superman via cameo appearances in his Batman run and a starring role in Heroes In Crisis and, while all that gave an indication of what he could do with the character, anyone outside of driving distance of a Walmart last year (where the five-issue Superman Giant was exclusively available) hasn't had the opportunity to see the writer let the Man of Steel fly into the spotlight. Inevitably, we're now getting the chance (DC aren't going to leave money on the table) and - perhaps also inevitably - it's rather brilliant. It tackles a subject that's been broached many times before, namely Superman's inability to be everywhere at once, but it does so in a  deeply affecting manner due to the way King paces the emotional beats and how Kubert gives substantial feeling and energy to the imagery. It efficiently gets to the core of the character, both the superheroic persona and the man who puts on the glasses to be with Lois. It's a hugely confident slice of storytelling, and if King wants to move onto another icon for a long stretch when he's done with the Dark Knight, then I can see him be entirely capable of taking Kal-El to new heights. 9/10

Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Matteo Scalera & Marcelo Maiolo
Image $3.99

Mike V: When I saw this amongst the weekly new releases with Mark Millar's name attached, it was more than enough reason for me to give this issue a go. The first page of this issue was a surprise: it’s a story based in the future, millions of light years away from Earth, but it includes a huge '80s reference to a famous singer. As the story unfolds this becomes the norm, with '80s references and fashion for most of the population of this 'world' where, initially, we follow the separate paths of two criminals and their crew/accomplices, until those paths eventually cross. It screams classic Millar, drawing your sympathy for the two main characters and connecting you to the world he is creating. Scalera’s artwork mostly complements Millar's craft very well. The action scenes look excellent and there is definitely an influence from Japanese anime fights present here. Overall I really like what the creative team have set out to do with this six issue miniseries and the debut did enough for me to pick up the remaining issues. 8/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Mike Perkins & Paul Mounts
DC $3.99

Jo S: As Matt mentioned in his On The Pull piece last week, Greg Rucka writes strong women like no one else, and I picked this up on Wednesday hoping that his skills would be fully brought to bear on a character who has previously been so much in her male counterpart's shadow that, even when she had her own solo book, it was always pre-titled 'Superman's Girlfriend'… In more recent days, of course, dear reader, she married him (Clark Kent, not Greg Rucka) and this book opens partly in a bang-up-to-date political horror show but also in an atmosphere of pious judgement, directed almost solely at Lois Lane, following a public kiss with Superman. Rucka achieves everything I'd hoped for in this and more: Lane is, of course, smart, sassy, dogged and oblivious to unnecessary social graces, and she's flawed, as so many of Rucka's characters are, she's impetuous and stubborn and brilliantly dismissive, and she's keeping secrets too, whilst also trying with all the skills she possesses to root out the secrets of the powerful and corrupt. Rucka's satire on the current White House incumbents is far from funny and pulls no punches, tackling the separation of immigrant children from their parents and Russian connections: all issues into which Lane throws herself completely and without hesitation. Clark Kent is written perfectly as a supporting character here, a gently concerned husband - protector, yes, but with balance, cautioning without holding her back. Mike Perkins' artwork works hard, darkly gritty as appropriate, bold and elegant at times, nicely awkward when needed too. His incarnation of Clark is excellent, the way this giant man stoops slightly to listen to his wife, it's quite beautiful - and, wow, the shower scene… This new series is Greg Rucka doing his thing, with consummate skill, writing a powerful female lead and an intriguing story - exactly what I'd hoped for. 8/10

Writer: Gerard Way & Jeremy Lambert
Art: James Harvey
DC $3.99

Kenny J: Doom Patrol returns after Gerard Way's initial twelve issue run and it's as weird and wonderful as it has ever been. This is both a blessing and a curse for this new volume. Its characters are unlike anything you'll read elsewhere but the fact that this is a first issue means there is an over-reliance on recap boxes: fine when you're referencing events in another issue but much less effective when discussing vast metaphysical ideas. Once the introductions are out of the way it's back to the superheroing as the team travel to another world to tackle a rather literal take on the book's title, an amusing idea though not one that has quite enough depth to sustain the second half of the story, mainly being used as a MacGuffin to introduce a new power set to one of the characters. James Harvey's art excels when the script calls for a high level of design, the very first page being perfect example of this; it is worth pausing and taking pages like this in as they often reveal more on repeat viewings. However, where characters have few identifying traits his line is a little under-detailed from panel to panel. As a first issue of a new era this book does a great job in setting out its direction but as a long term fan of both the characters and the creative team I found it a little underwhelming. 6/10

Writers: Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum
Art: Stephen Green & Rico Renzi
Image $3.99

James R: As a self-confessed science fiction fan, I'll always look at a new SF series, and I was especially keen to see what Jason Aaron would bring to the table, given his track record on Thor. Here he shares writing duties with Dennis Hallum to bring us a story that (so far) uses space as a backdrop rather than as the driving force behind the narrative. The story features father and son Gil and Kadyn Starx trekking across the boundless void on a delivery mission which is beset by disaster, leading to the two becoming separated. Kadyn is whisked away by two curious aliens, displaying some remarkable new skills after the disaster, and Gil begins his desperate pursuit, desperate not to lose his son. This is a tale that could have been set at any time and place - the high seas of the 18th century, or the vast open highways of America in the 20th century - the story feels timeless. It will be interesting to see where it goes next; will there be unexpected turns, or will it follow a classic chase and rescue story? The art from Stephen Green feels vibrant and fresh, and gives the book an immediate character. I can't help but compare this to Image's top science fiction titles in the shape of Saga and Descender/Ascender - whereas those books grabbed me immediately, I still have some reservations about Sea Of Stars. However, it did what all good first chapters should do - make me want to come back for issue #2. Hopefully space is definitely the place for an epic adventure. 7/10

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