15 Sep 2019

Mini Reviews 15/09/2019

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.

TREES: THREE FATES #1
Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Jason Howard
Image $3.99

Jo S: The excitement that has been brewing since a sequel to Trees was announced has been impossible to contain (you already know I don't try that hard to contain it!) - Ellis and Howard's 2014-2016 series formed some of my first deep dives into the heady combination that is comics and science fiction; it got its roots deep into me, adjusting my understanding of what comics, especially Image comics, could be. The first issue of third volume Three Fates absolutely doesn't disappoint. Set in a remote scattering of Russian homesteads, the feeling of enigmatic unworldliness returns, the looming tree legs serving to emphasise the rolling emptiness of the landscape over which they silently tower. Klara, the local police sergeant who has her own tree-related back story, is called to the site of the brutal killing of an out-of-towner, at the base of their local alien invader. Ellis writes the near future so brilliantly: he predicts little adjustments in available tech, like the police quadruped robot collecting evidence, but combined with very real, very familiar impediment, such as the limited supply of electricity in the remote town being exacerbated by a goat sleeping on a solar panel. Ellis' wit crackles through in the cold stillness, and he and Howard define their characters and the motivations of their players with understated efficiency, to the point where I reached the last page with grimace - don't stop there! A totally sure-footed new start, I absolutely cannot wait for the next instalment. 10/10

KING THOR #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Esad Ribic & Ive Svorcina
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Jason Aaron's epic run on Thor comes full circle as the same creative team that kicked things off seven years ago are back, setting the scene in Omnipotence City to allow some characters we've not seen in a while to return. In a sense it's something of a victory lap - especially bringing King Thor and his granddaughters to the fore - but inevitably it's like a 'Greatest Hits' package; entertaining, with a dash of nostalgia, but not taking anything forward. That's pretty much in line with expectations though, and calling Ribic's art majestic would be an understatement, so if you've been on board with this run since the beginning - or from an any point since, for that matter - there's plenty of reasons in this first of four issues to make a strong case that it's essential to see how things are wrapped up. 7/10

GOTHAM CITY MONSTERS #1
Writer: Steve Orlando
Art: Amancay Nahuelpan & Trish Mulvihill
DC $3.99

Mike S: Welcome to Gotham City. Again. It seems there is no end to the plumbing of the depths of DC’s biggest cash-cow (short of the ubiquitous H.Q.). Surely there can’t be a corner of Gotham still unexplored in its myriad of titles? Well, actually yes: Monstertown beckons and what follows is a gruesome, bloody and (strangely) beautiful opening issue. While Bane controls Gotham, our assembled cast (a vampire, a crocodile, a killer whale, a shapeshifter, and a dead man made from the parts of other dead men) unite to fight off impending doom. It’s a great opening issue, with a little bit of everything: redemption arcs, hidden agendas and machismo all mixed together with some breakneck writing from Orlando and some truly memorable artwork from Nahuelpan. He switches with ease from big action and gory violence to the internal tragedy on the faces of our disfigured anti-heroes. Gotham City Monsters #1 is a great introduction to a band of creepy outcast characters. Loving the current JL Dark run as I do, this is the perfect tonal accompaniment. It’s grotesque, it’s grimy and it positively revels in its brutality: what else would you expect from a book with the word ‘Monsters’ in the title? A fun, exciting, full-throttle romp through the darkest horror-infested corners of the DC Universe that is well worth a look. 9/10

BATMAN #78
Writer: Tom King
Art: Clay Mann & Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

Matt C: It's been a consistently entertaining run but it hasn't felt as vital as this in a long while. The Bat and The Cat. When they get together, sparks fly, the emotional substance of the narrative becomes more pronounced, and this is the most strikingly resonant issue since #50. The dialogue is beautifully romantic and truthful, cutting through the mythic nature of the two characters to uncover their raw, unvarnished humanity, but it does so in a way that makes them even more larger than life, as though this is a love story for the ages. This level of emotion needs substantial art to deliver its payload, and Mann's work here is simply extraordinary, utterly worthy of what is - in these hands - an iconic romance, hinted at over the years, but was perhaps waiting for someone who implicitly understands the fundamental nature of the relationship and can elevate it into something that feels timeless. Maybe not the kind of thing you'd expect from a Batman comic but there's so many dimensions to these eternal characters that finding something unexpected can be a delightful pleasure. Sumptuous, moving and extraordinary. 10/10

BATMAN UNIVERSE #3
Writer: Brian MIchael Bendis
Artists: Nick Derington & Dave Stewart
DC $4.99

James R: A few years ago, one of the common criticisms of DC was that the line was too dark and brooding - what they needed to get back to was some of the brighter adventures that were the hallmark of the Silver Age. With the advent of Superman: Up In The Sky and Batman Universe, it's clear that the message has got through: they are different in many ways but they both share an obvious love for what these iconic characters represent, and both are just a blast to read. Bendis and Derrington's book may have Batman in the title, but this is a love letter to the DCU, as Batman's quest to track down a mysterious and powerful egg has taken him on a breakneck tour through exotic locations, ranging from Gorilla City to Thanagar (before reaching Dinosaur Island this month) with the assistance of the Justice League. Beyond the breathless pace, I'm absolutely won over by Nick Derington's phenomenal art. I was a fan of his covers for the already-iconic King/Gerads Mister Miracle series, but he's established himself as a superstar in my eyes with his work on this title. DC have had their mojo back for a while now, and both Batman Universe and Superman: Up In The Sky are perfect examples of mainstream comics done right - an absolute treat for fanboys and girls of all ages. 8/10

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