14 Jul 2019

Mini Reviews 14/07/2019

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.

REAVER #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Rebekah Isaacs
Image $3.99

Kenny J: A fantasy Suicide Squad wasn’t something I realised I wanted but Justin Jordan and Rebekah Isaacs’ inaugral issue of Reaver has me sold on the idea. With solid world creation and character building that maybe sometimes lapses into too much exposition, there is just enough plot twisting, politicking and gore to keep me intrigued. There is a large cast of misfits with their own secrets and backstories - the book rushes through their introduction so that we can move forward into the story with future issues. This does leave the person who is presumably going to be our main protagonist needing a little fleshing out but I’m hoping for a rich and full world, the same type that has made many of Jordan’s other books such a success. Isaacs’ art is wonderfully expressive with each one of the misfits completely different to the other and somehow entirely representative of their temperament and hidden backstory. Where Reaver will go and how long it will take to get there I cannot say but the first issue promises the perfect mix of magic, adventure and horror. 7/10

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Michael Walsh
Dark Horse/DC $3.99

James R: Undoubtedly my most anticipated book of the year so far, the Black Hamme/Justice League crossover from Jeff Lemire and Michael Walsh delivers a great blend: part introduction (for those new to the world of Hammer Farm), part event book, and part Elseworlds tale. Set some point around around the first Black Hammer arc, the exiled heroes of Spiral City find themselves exchanging places with the icons of the Justice League. Lemire wastes no time in setting up the central conceit of the book - how would the Justice League fare if forced to live the mundane existence of the Black Hammer characters, and how in turn would the latter cope with taking up the mantle of heroes on a parallel Earth? Michael Walsh does a great job of giving both worlds a distinct look and feel (the Earth of the DCU is filled with warmer, sunnier tones, Hammer Farm is colder and darker) and his style works really well, giving this a more suitable low-key feel, rather than the big, splashy panels that crossovers normally come with. Lemire's script is intelligent and insightful as always, and I'm immediately intrigued to see where this one goes next. Crossovers are frequently far better in conception than execution but this one is definitely the exception to the rule. An essential read for fans of either of these two teams, and a book that lives up to its promise. 8/10

INVISIBLE WOMAN #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Mattia de Lulis
Marvel $3.99

Mike S: As a long standing fan of the Fantastic Four and especially Susan Storm-Richards, I have been chomping at the bit for this title. Throw in writer Mark Waid, whom I usually enjoy, and a beautiful cover by Adam Hughes and I needed no more persuasion. Sue’s role within Marvel’s First Family has, more often than not, been defined through her relationships with others (sister, wife, mother) so it is great to see her given the chance to shine in her own right. But is it any good? In a word: yes. It’s not superb but as an opening issue, it has a lot to praise. The concept of Sue having operated as a spy for Shield is not a new one (see 2014’s S.H.I.E.L.D. #4) but it is an engaging and fitting development given her particular power-set. We have some wonderful exposition at the opening, although in places the plot becomes a little hackneyed – one too many Bondesque clich├ęs possibly. Add to this one of my other favourite Marvel Heroines (of the non-mutant variety) to act as an amoral foil to the highly moral Sue and it’s definitely worth checking out the rest of this mini. A major strength of this title is some stunning artwork from Mattia De Iulis, who does great work here. I particularly loved how he chose to depict invisibility: never an easy task! Do you go with the old-school dotted outline, or do you draw nothing at all? Here we get a depiction of Susan as see through, something that is rendered beautifully, with some stunning images complemented by his use of shade and colour. Based on this opening issue, I will definitely be back for more. Susan is presented with respect, as the intelligent, powerful and authoritative woman that she ought to be: long gone is the weak, fading victim of yester-year (and thank God for that!) Well worth a look: pick it up before it vanishes from the shelves (sorry, couldn’t resist one pun!) 8/10

BATMAN UNIVERSE #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Nick Derington & Dave Stewart
DC $4.99

Matt C: After last week's Superman: Up In The Sky we now have another opportunity to see some material DC deemed as worthy of a 'Walmart exclusive' initially, and whereas the Man of the Steel tale seemed to require some comics literacy to follow it, this opener for the Dark Knight is more straightforward but equally effective on its own terms. Brian Michael Bendis is let loose on the Caped Crusader and it's a supremely confident piece of storytelling, as Batman shifts from superhero mode to detective mode on the trail of the Riddler... or at least that's who he believes is his quarry but things, of course, aren't entirely what they seem. Nick Derrington's art is reminiscent of some of the greats of the last couple of decades with its solid linework and kinetic choreography, distinguishing itself with bold imagery and expressive characterisations. It's not doing anything distinctly original with the Bat, but it's comforting in its level of quality - 80 years on and Batman retains his narrative potency. I'm not sure what the remit was for these Walmart books (surely to pull in new readers?) but so far I'm really impressed by the content and obviously glad those of us way outside the retailer's delivery radius can finally get to see what possible future comics fans may have put in their baskets alongside their weekly groceries. 8/10

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #25
Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Ryan Ottley, Humberto Ramos, Patrick Gleason & Kev Walker
Marvel $7.99

Mike V: This double-sized issue crams a lot into its 60 pages, starting off right where issue #24 left off with a plot twist and a new villain. He who wishes to be called Kindred has been appearing throughout Spencer’s run on the series; pulling strings, setting up his pieces and just biding his time before ultimately coming face to face with our favourite web head. Mary Jane takes forefront in the story, meeting up with an old rival and finding herself reeled back in to a life she thought she had left behind. Spider-Man provides action and some light-hearted moments in what is mostly a very slow-paced issue with a wealth of exposition, tying up the loose ends of the recent 'Hunted' storyline, MJ being reminded of her past and Kindred again toying with Mysterio. All of these separate plots come to a head about 45 pages in: to me this felt like a natural endpoint but it's followed by two further plotlines and a different feel for the ending. Four different artists contribute to strong visuals, giving a distinct look to each character's plot. A little overlong and hence at a high price, this nevertheless moves the villain's stories along and will bring me back for the next issue. 7/10

NAOMI #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis & David F Walker
Art: Jamal Campbell
DC $3.99

Jo S: Issue #6 rounds up the first arc of this absolute delight of a comic book, with the cover and the closing tagline both pleasingly seating this superb new character smack in the middle of the DCU. The series as a whole has been Naomi's origin story, and this final episode (for now) ties up a couple of loose ends before starting a whole bundle of new ones. Bendis and Walker manage here to create a really new, fresh character, yet one fully rooted in DC comic book lore. Naomi's powers blazed into life at the end of issue #5 and here she deals with the attention that this event drew, whilst friend Annabelle handles explaining to her family and protectors the when, who and why of how she has vanished. Jamal Campbell's art is magnificent - from huge world-building splash pages, through an arc-lightning strewn battle, to the unbearable anxiety vivid on the tear-streaked face of a mother whose child is missing from this Earth - he captures both complex emotions and panoramic detail adeptly. Admittedly, I needed a couple of read-throughs to fully grasp the story; a lot is packed in to this final episode and I wondered whether it might have benefited from the space of a further issue to expand a little more but the result is action-packed and engagingly structured and, I would argue, an unmissable start to what could turn out to be one of the best additions to the DC universe in years. 8/10

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