10 Nov 2019

Mini Reviews 10/11/2019

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: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Ryan Sook & Jordie Bellaire
DC $3.99

Mike S: Welcome to the 31st century! After many revamps and relaunches, Bendis and Sook certainly have their work cut out for them. And, by and large, this title doesn’t disappoint. Is it perfect? No. However, does it have enough potential to bring the reader back? It certainly does. Unlike previous incarnations, Bendis has rooted the initial mystery in the established DC Universe with the inclusion of Aquaman’s trident. Sook’s artwork is stunning, with some highly imaginative designs and some much needed updating of classic characters which, as a long standing fan, I didn’t find jarring at all. The sci-fi concepts are beautifully presented, with some interesting new developments - including New Gotham - that are destined to expand the Legion’s world. Bendis, to me, has long underwhelmed with his dialogue and lack of distinctive voices for his large cast books and, while this is a concern here due to the number of characters, so far it is not jarring enough to prevent me returning to the book. Not being a follower of the Superman titles, the inclusion of Jon Kent is interesting, with echoes of the early Legion tales but with a more modern, diverse sensibility that is refreshing. There’s a real sense of teen wonder as the assembled Legion release their inner fanboy over Superboy’s inclusion. The various costumes are familiar, based on the classic outfits but with modern twists and the designs, especially of characters such as Princess Projectra, Dream Girl and Element Lad which really emphasise their alien nature. Added to this we have several new Legionnaires, including Dr Fate and a Gold Lantern, neither of whom have been on a Legion team in the past. While it is a little light on narrative beyond the introduction of both the huge ensemble cast and new worlds, tt's a well-structured, well written and beautifully presented debut issue. 7/10

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Art: Joshua Cassara & Dean White
Marvel $4.99

Kenny J: This has always been the darkest of the X-books both in tone and content. As other 'Dawn Of X' titles carve their own paths, Percy brings us a book that is both familiar and builds on the world set out by other writers and then, without warning, pulls it all down again. This is helped in no small part by Joshua Cassara's art and Dean White on colours. The inks give every character weight, physically and figuratively in their expressions and mannerisms, while the colouring makes it as if the events depicted take place bathed in blacklight. The fact White worked on other iconic versions of the team gives this iteration a very welcome familiar feeling. The new setting of Krakoa and the elements that have been introduced have led to some wonderfully inventive ideas - a personal favourite being Percy's repurposing of Black Tom Cassidy. Even the overarching theme of new predators being born of their new surroundings is a very interesting notion and that's not the only narrative strain introduced here. The purpose is set out early with a declarative data page from Professor X and then delivered in an action-packed and assured debut issue full of tantalising story threads. 8/10

Writers: Jonathan Hickman & Ed Brisson
Art: Rod Reis
Marvel $4.99

Mike S: With the resurgence of the X-Universe under Hickman’s direction, New Mutants might well be one of the most anticipated books, due to his co-writing as well as the long standing nostalgic affection many, including me, hold for these characters. Unlike the other Earth-bound X books, we venture into space with much loved characters and the Starjammers, who are always a welcome addition to a title. What was especially gratifying for me was the emphasis on character: Hickman and Brisson have a real sense of who these individuals are and clearly hold them in esteem. No longer are they the cannon fodder of the X-books. Even better, considering my disgust at the way she was unceremoniously killed off in the last run of Uncanny, the extended focus on Wolfsbane and her newly resurrected status-quo was fantastic. In the usual gloom and doom angst of comic books, it was refreshing to read a book in which the heroes embrace their roles and are believable as long standing, close friends: a real throwback to how they were originally presented before characterisation gave way to shoulder-pads and multiple pouches. Rod Reis produces some lovely artwork, capturing the emotion and dynamism between the cast. Added to this, we also have a potential mystery concerning Mondo, Krakoa and Ch’od’s plants that might, or might not, have much wider reaching implications for the status quo across the 'Dawn of X' titles. All in all, this is a strong debut for a great team book that revels in its joy and the optimism of its central cast. 8/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr & Frank Martin
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: Four issues doesn't feel like enough. No sooner had we grown to love the Mongrel King and his unlikely friend Joe Cobb, than it's time to bid them farewell. Despite the brevity of the series, Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato Jr. pack a lot into this finale - a battle between the Mongrel King and his nemesis the Demon King, a touching rumination on loss, and an ending that hints at more adventures to come. Once again, Deodato's art is simply stunning and a treat for the eyes, while Lemire, as always, weaves a tightly-packed narrative with all the feels. This has been a short but beautifully crafted series by two creators at the peak of their powers - I hope it's not an age before they team up again. 9/10

Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Art: Salvador Larroca & Guru-eFX
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Terrorist atrocities committed under a Latverian flag and Doom is held accountable, even though he's as clueless to the identity of the real culprit as anyone else. Surrendering rather than fighting back (the man understands honour), events take an unexpected course that puts Victor in a dire situation by the end of the issue. As with the debut, the characterization is so strong - particularly the titular character - that it renders the outlandish as believable, incongruity never interfering with the thrust of the narrative. Kang makes a helpful reappearance, there's a telling exchange between Doom and Doctor Strange for those familiar with both characters' shared history, and Morgan Le Fay and Vic have an enlightening heart to heart (ever wonder who Doom's favourite Beatle is? Wonder no more!). With Le Fay is the antagonist in the recently relaunched Excalibur, there is a noticeable disparity between her appearance there and her presentation here, but you can easily argue that the view of her as an individual is heavily influenced by the protagonist(s) in each series (straight-up villain versus peer/confidant). This series is hugely effective at illuminating the complexities of the man behind the mask, and its given a regal sheen by the handsome illustrations on offer. An essential spotlight on one of Lee and Kirby's greatest creations. 8/10

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