3 Nov 2019

Mini Reviews 03/11/2019

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: Tini Howard
Art: Marcus To & Erick Arciniega
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: The Brit-centric X-book is relaunched under the 'Dawn of X' banner and, as you'd expect from the huge shake-up of the franchise, this is a long way from the original incarnation of the team. It wouldn't be Excalibur without a Braddock front and centre, and while Brian Braddock aka Captain Britain is enjoying marital bliss with Meggan - and fatherhood! (When did that happen?!) - Betsy Braddock aka Psylocke is taking the lead (now back in her original body to boot - how long have I been away from the X-Men for?!). Krakoa has changed things dramatically for the mutant population of Earth, which means Apocalypse (now referring to himself as something unpronounceable in Krakoan language) finds himself on the same side as previous mortal enemies, and he's the one who first gets wind of something amiss in Otherworld, the fabled realm of Camelot and the Captain Britain Corps and - importantly - magic. Magic seems like it will be a heavy focus of this series, which distinguishes it from the other books under the 'Dawn Of X' umbrella, and the strong characterization that's always been a trademark of the best X-stories is firmly present in Howard's sharp script. To's excellent art combined with Arciniega's blooming colours fit nicely with the visual template set by House Of X/Powers Of X and, after originally expecting to follow the Hickman books only, I found myself enjoying both Marauders #1 and Excalibur #1 more than X-Men #1. And that's hugely promising for the future of the franchise. 8/10

Writer: Joe Hill
Art: Leomacs & Dave Stewart
DC $3.99

Jo S: As Vertigo sleeps the everlasting sleep, DC's Black Label is now the home of horror and, within its auspices, Joe Hill's Hill House Comics imprint leaps screaming out of the darkened wardrobe door wielding an axe, just as you thought there was something tapping at your bedroom window. The first issue of A Basketful of Heads, with Hill himself writing, is playfully structured: the prologue sets up a horror vibe (as if the title, cover and provenance weren't enough) but the story immediately swerves with a 'Before' sequence, which is sweet and summery and tells of a girl in Daisy Dukes and her best boy, who's finishing up a placement as cop on an island community in Maine. Hill spins a pretty tale of a happy little town where everyone seems to get along and even the escape of a group of prisoners (from Shawshank no less) seems to leave the local force unruffled. I kept expecting that axe murderer to appear any second, kept expecting the gruesome discovery of the first victim, or for the report of the missing dog or child or… but this did not go the way I expected it to go and you can colour me intrigued and ready to read more. Leomacs' artwork gives the perfect Archie-type feel to the setup and Dave Stewart's contrasting light and shade readily aids the atmosphere Hill builds. I'll be back to see where he leads us next. 7/10

Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Art: Leonard Kirk & Guru-eFX
Marvel $4.99

Mike S: Since their introduction in the genuinely chilling Ultimate Fantastic Four #21, the Marvel Zombies have been milked dry in increasingly gory, almost pastiche versions of their original former selves and so, with some trepidation, I approached this title expecting more of the same but hopeful of something a little bit different. I certainly was not disappointed as Johnson and Kirk produce something that is a little bit familiar but also a whole lot more. The key to this fresh approach is a real sense of mystery: it isn’t just an all you can eat buffet of Marvel heroes’ innards! Johnson creates a cosmic horror mystery that also allows some authentic characterisation of familiar characters. Artistically, Krik and Guru-eFX portray the heroes and the eventual undead with near visceral excitement but what is even more interesting is the growing sense of dread and lurking terror, as the assembled twelve heroes explore the corpse. A real sense of foreboding moves the franchise beyond the action-movie style of previous titles and into a far more satisfying Ridley Scott, Alien-esque tone, with all of the implied horror and terror this embodies, before finally embracing the chaos and evisceration of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. This issue is a slow burn, with some genuine nerve-shredding build up before it explodes into deadly carnage and savagery. Well worth a look! 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Andrea Sorrentino & Jordie Bellaire
DC $5.99

Kenny J: The Joker isn't a subtle character, demonstrated here by two spectacular but grisly set pieces where Sorrentino allows the Clown Prince to carry out crimes in flamboyant style in scenes completely at odds with the almost reflective mood Lemire gives us as the Joker recalls these heinous acts. It's not these moments where the true danger happens but in those quiet conversations where the Joker is always working, always scheming. Sorrentino gives us a sense of the antagonist's history with his constant reinvention referenced and a Batman that could be iconic if his appearance wasn't fleeting. Elsewhere this team are creating mind-bending imagery and, although there isn't any psychedelia on show here, Sorrentino is still a horror artist at the top of his game, working with the one of, if not the best, colourist working in comics today. I know it's something I say a lot but the rate and quality of Jordie Bellaire's work is incredible. The hues used to differentiate Joker's reminiscing are bold, with his trademark greens and purples, whereas the clinical corridors of Arkham are barren and white. The focus on the Joker's manipulation and inevitable ruin of those that come in contact with him is set up perfectly. With the series set for only three issues the intensity can only increase from here. 8/10

Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Art: Riccardo Federici, Sunny Gho & Dean White
DC $4.99

Matt C: Fantasy is rarely my genre of choice but thanks to the Game Of Thrones effect there's a lot of it about in comics these days, and even with increased quantity there's always something that's going to stand out from the pack. DC's Black Label venturing into the fantasy genre is obviously going to attract attention, and this is a handsome, lovingly crafted package that immerses itself so deeply in its world that it pulls the reader in with it; it's a fictional universe that feels lived in and has a real sense of history, with characters that have authenticity as well as dirt under their fingernails, creating an absorbing and enthralling read. It's set three decades following the defeat of malevolent god by a band of warriors from different tribes, and while their victory is celebrated across the land as it passes into legend, the reality of what happened may be dramatically different to the official account. There are of course elements of the genre touchstones like Lord Of The Rings, Conan and, unsurprisingly, Game Of Thrones, but this is such an impressive feat of world-building right out of the gate that it becomes entirely its own thing very quickly. The art is sumptuous, the colour scheme beautifully evocative and in all honesty this is one of the strongest comic book entries into the genre that I've read since Dark Horse relaunched Conan back in 2003. 9/10

No comments: