4 Aug 2019

Mini Reviews 04/08/2019

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: Jonathan Hickman
Art: R.B. Silva, Adriano Di Bendetto & Marte Gracia
Marvel $5.99

Matt C: If you were impressed by the scope of Jonathan Hickman's ambition for revitalising the X-franchise in House Of X #1, prepare to be wowed again as he expands the milieu even wider in Powers Of X; where House reasserted the X-Men's influence on a global scale, Powers does the same on a historical scale, taking us from the past, way into the future. It feels important, it feels mythic, it feels impossible to absorb all it one go. Like the debut issue of its sister series, Powers Of X #1 is packed with so much information that a single read is simply not enough to thoroughly digest all the details; a second, and even third read is essential here. That's not to say it's necessary because it doesn't make sense the first time round; each additional read uncovers further layers of the narrative, deepening the significance of the actions and interactions. R.B. Silva's art is masterful at conveying the epic nature of the story as it traverses the timeline, never losing sight of the colourful, distinctive characters that make up the cast. Two issues in, it looks like Hickman has everything on the right track to take the X-Men back to the top again. 9/10

Mike S: So now we see that the title is 'Powers of 10' and not 'X(avier)'! Where House Of X explores the wider, expanding geographical world of the X-Men, Powers Of X expands that world-building chronologically, spanning a thousand years to explore the impact of mutants and, more importantly, humanity upon said mutants. While humanity never really manifests visually, it lies at the core of the narrative, referenced with disgust, fear and loathing across the eras. The narrative directly connects humanity and the text’s blatant destructions, echoing a myriad of historical events ranging from WW2 to a vast number of humanitarian disasters. With each era, we see an increasingly severe mutant existence that hints at atrocities and abominations, done in the name of ‘humanity' which Hickman uses to force the audience to question to what degree this reflects the ‘humanity’ of our own ‘tolerant’ world. I also have to give huge credit to Tom Muller’s design for the pages which summarise the key events: they are enthralling, full of detail but leaving just enough to make us question further or desire to know more of the intervening years. Philosophy aside, the title is also a fun read: dynamic characters (Rasputin), mystery and foreshadowing (Moira – good to have her back in whatever capacity) and even Nimrod, who I have always loathed, but who makes for an entertainingly gleeful executioner. 9/10

James R: If last week's House Of X was a brilliant prelude for what Hickman has in store for the X-Men, then this week's Powers Of X is the full-blown sonata. He quickly establishes four distinct eras for the plot - 'Year One' (the birth of Xavier's school), 'Year 10' (the present day), 'Year 100' and 'Year 1000'. He uses these to paint a bleak but fascinating picture of mutantkind's (and humanity's) future. As with his epic Image series East Of West, Hickman introduces questions of faith and ties them to the idea of a huge war that spans the solar system. It's epic stuff, and I really enjoyed R.B. Silva's art - the last time I saw his work was on Fred Van Lente's under-appreciated Brain Boy for Dark Horse, and he's a terrific choice, bringing a beautiful sheen to all four eras of the plot.
What's remarkable is that both this first issue and House Of X #1 have made the byzantine continuity of the X-Men immediately accessible. With just two books Hickman has successfully reset Marvel's mutants and made them essential reading. If these two series keep to this schedule and standard, the next three months are going to extraordinary. 8/10

Kenny J: Epic. That is what the history of the X-Men and their various sprawling namesakes and family trees are. What Jonathan Hickman has done in Powers Of X #1 is to distil that down to its essence and create a completely new story, worthy of that legacy. For a long-time X-fan looking for a way to reconnect with the titles that started me in this hobby, this issue is perfect and as the book hits the ground running, with none of the baggage that can weigh the X-Books down, and as long as you are willing to keep up with the big ideas on display here, then this is also a good jumping on point for new readers. Silva's art is a joy to look at: combining this with his previous work on X-Men, I think he'll be known as a quintessential X-artist. The detail he brings to differentiating familiar characters and the sleekness of their designs reminds me of some of my favourite artists. Hickman's trademark philosophy and political thought, combined with the infographics, are here in abundance - the same tools that made his Avengers scripts a cut above, in my opinion. I'm hoping that this marks the start of a similar treatment for the X-Men. Powers Of X #1 is a great start. 9/10

Writer: W Maxwell Prince
Art: Martín Morazzo & Chris O'Halloran
Image $3.99

Jo S: Prince's inventiveness in this series continues to amaze me: the themed stories are so varied in topic and yet carry a now learned familiarity which keeps bringing me back. This new volume (I hesitate to call it an arc, as that implies a greater connection between issues than I think is intended) kicks off with the first issue, 'Palindromes'; this is, as the name suggests, a palindromic comic (I'm a poet!), a novelty approach which is hard to pull off successfully but which works here as part of the weird, off-kilter universe that Prince and O'Halloran have created. The same story appears in two directions, with a nexus at the staples in the middle, and hence can be read, panel by panel, starting at the front or the back. Added to this, Prince has sprinkled palindromic sentences throughout: some are heavily crowbarred in, some much more subtle - again, it works because we already expect this world to be creepy and off-balance. I can't imagine the additional time it must have taken to construct all of this in a way that works, and works almost coherently: the effect is novel and interesting and leaves me wondering how the following episodes of this ever-changing, ever peculiar series will follow from this. 7/10

Writers: James Tynion IV & Ram V
Art: Guillem March & Arif Prianto
DC $4.99

Mike S: Following the fast-paced adventures in the ongoing title, the annual takes a dive into the character arc of one of the characters more often overlooked: Swamp Thing. Accompanied by Constantine, we embark on a journey in which Swamp Thing explores who and what he is in the face of the changing landscape of magic within the DC Universe, encountering both the Floronic Man and King of Petals along the way. In places, the narrative veers into quite chilling horror; this is when it works best. In other sections we’re in the realms of domestic drama and the cancerous effects of grief, providing a human anchor in the supernatural mumbo-jumbo. We finally see why Swamp Thing has been acting a little 'off’ in recent issues and it adds much needed depth to this often aloof and underdeveloped character that is most welcome. While the annual is not my favourite issue of Justice League Dark so far, it provides a good springboard into the exploration of Swamp Thing and his ongoing place among the mystics of the JLD. 7/10

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