22 Sep 2019

Mini Reviews 22/09/2019

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.

BLACK PANTHER AND THE AGENTS OF WAKANDA #1
Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Lan Medina & Marcio Menyz
Marvel $3.99

Mike S: Having given up on the main Avengers title (I’ll return when it’s not mainly MCU Avengers and we get some decent non-movie characters maybe), I was a little nervous of this new series. I like the idea of a secondary team containing some of the more obscure characters from the Marvel canon and I do love me some Janet action (the one true Wasp) so I had to give it a go. My opinion: an interesting start and plenty of potential. Zub sensibly avoids heralding them as the ‘next big thing’ and does what he arguably does best: taking minor characters and throwing them together, allowing us to learn about them as they learn about each other. Creating this team as a coherent unit will be one of his immediate challenges but I think after issue #1 he is on the right track. While the opening action sequence is a little formulaic, it allows us to explore the team dynamic and allows artist Medina to shine with a high speed car chase of cinematic proportions. Whether this title retains its ongoing status or finds itself suddenly rebranded as a miniseries remains to be seen but based on this first issue, I am hopeful that it might stick around and, with the reveal at the end of the issue, I will definitely be back to see how this particular plot plays out. 7/10

STEEPLE #1
Writer: John Allison
Art: John Allison & Sarah Stern
Dark Horse $3.99

Jo S: John Allison's Giants Days will be at least passingly familiar to PCG readers who follow our Andy H's interests - as that series comes to a close, soaked in the tears of at least one local comic book store owner, at least we have something new from the Allison stable to ease the feelings of loss. Steeple is set in darkest Cornwall, in the tiny remote town of Tredregyn, fabled to be the site of a centuries-long battle between good and evil. Billie Baker arrives in town as the new curate, and troubles dog her before she even makes it to the Rectory, almost as if Tredregyn didn't welcome outsiders… Allison's observation of the peculiarities and eccentricities of British life, our weird blend of ferociousness and tenderness towards other people, is lovingly presented here, with little touches of wit and irony to melt the heart. The pace is a little uneven in places, and whilst Allison writes the two female leads, Billie and bad-girl biker chick Maggie, cleverly, there were a few conversational moments which jarred a tad for me, but I can forgive those as this is overall such a treat. The vicar's monstrous housekeeper is a stroke of genius, with her insistence that she will defend the Reverend from Billie's distracting femininity: this is funny, clever and deliciously local. 7/10

BLADE RUNNER 2019 #3
Writers: Michael Green & Mike Johnson
Artists: Andres Guinaldo & Marco Lesko
Titan Comics $3.99

James R: When Titan announced that they were going to publish Blade Runner comics, I was excited as a fan (I absolutely love Blade Runner, and think 2049 is one of the best films of the century so far) but that was also tempered with a degree of caution - in my (increasingly aged) experience, film tie-ins and spin-offs seldom live up to the source material. With issue #1, the creative team certainly grabbed my attention, setting a story that felt a natural fit within the alternative 21st century of Blade Runner. The plot has introduced us not only to Blade Runner Aahna Ashina, but an underworld community of former Tyrell corp engineers, running an underground railroad and helping their creations to escape. Ashina makes for an interesting protagonist herself; using technology to help hide her status as an invalid; she is somewhere between human and android, and Green and Johnson should be applauded for crafting a narrative that builds on the philosophical themes of Blade Runner. I've also enjoyed Guinaldo's art, but he's had a remarkable blueprint to work from - the original movie's visual designer Syd Mead created such a powerful look, it's hard to go far wrong. If I have one criticism it's that this story has been too brief - the next issue is the concluding chapter, and the story told here definitely deserves more time to breathe. That's a minor quibble though; as a Blade Runner fan, I've loved the experience of Blade Runner 2019 - I'm hoping Titan find a way to extend this book's lifespan. 8/10

FLASH FORWARD #1
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Art: Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund & Luis Guerrero
DC $3.99

Mike S: Talk about being handed a poisoned chalice: Lobdell, Booth et al were given an almost impossible task, to redeem a character whom many (including me) would say should never have needed redemption in the first place. Taking the weak, pessimistic Wally West of Heroes In Crisis, this title seeks to return him to some aspects of his former glory. Does it succeed? Well, in my opinion, the book is as successful as it possibly could be given how completely Wally has been emasculated. While we see ‘despairing Wally’ early on, this does not remain our focus as hope and optimism begin to build up in Wally throughout the issue thanks to Lobdell’s writing. Booth, often a ‘marmite’ artist, produces some of his best work here. Depending on your own view, you’ll love it or you’ll hate it: I liked it. As for the central concept of the story - Wally moving through the various worlds of the Dark Universe - I am torn. I genuinely love alternate reality/alternate world stories but I am a little (a lot) over the Dark Multiverse. Seriously, it’s getting as bad as Harley Quinn! Still, the premise has enough potential to lure me back for the next issue, especially if it means a redemption arc for Wally. 7/10

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #12
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: It's the end of the world, and the end of the line for the heroes of Spiral City, as the main Black Hammer title comes to an end. Since its arrival in 2016, this has been one of my favourite series, and it's been great to see the Black Hammer universe continue to expand as more readers got on board with Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's clever reworking of the history of comics with a psychedelic twist. As I read this finale, I was reminded of Stan Lee's apocryphal maxim that comics fans don't want change, but the illusion of change - this series ends virtually coming full circle, but leaving the potential for more stories within the universe (and, right on cue, Skulldigger & Skeleton Boy is due in December). The issue is a perfect example of the humanity and heart that always shines through in Lemire's storytelling - the heroes face a dire situation but are willing to sacrifice if they are together. For me, there has never been a sub-par issue of the series - every chapter has brought a surprise or a sublime moment of storytelling, and Lemire and Ormston made for a dynamite creative team. I'm interested to see where this universe goes next (and if we really have seen the end of Black Hammer farm and Rockwood) but for now, it's an affectionate farewell to one of the finest books on the market. 9/10

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