8 Dec 2019

Mini Reviews 08/12/2019

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: Tom King
Art: Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope & Brad Anderson
DC $4.99

Matt C: There's been a lot of chatter across social media during the last couple of weeks following the appearance of an article that suggested DC Films were struggling to find a way to make Superman relevant in the modern world. Plenty of people quickly came out with their own thoughts and ideas, enough to prove that the Man of Steel is as relevant as he's ever been, but if only there was a way to encapsulate all those positive ideas in one single, easily digestible package? Well, luckily for DC Films, Superman: Up In The Sky is a prime example of exactly why the original superhero is still the best. Over the course of six issues (originally published in the Walmart-exclusive Superman Giant) writer Tom King has coalesced all the traits that make Clark Kent and his alter-ego so inspiring, so uplifting and so necessary.  In what is ostensibly a mission across the universe to free a kidnapped girl, King has explored various aspects of Clark's personality, from both external and internal perspectives, highlighting his resilience, his tenacity and his implicit need to do the right thing, no matter the cost. Andy Kubert and co provide images that not only soar when required but also focus on the 'humanity' of Clark and those around him. It's one of the best Superman tales in years (ever?) and if DC Films took a look at this and still couldn't figure out how to make the character relevant again, perhaps they should pass on creative control to those who do, because fortunately, some people get it in such a way that they can build a unifying belief in an audience that a man can still fly. 10/10

20XX #1
Writer: Lauren Keely
Art: Jonathan Luna
Image $3.99

Kenny J: I picked this new title up based entirely on Jonathan Luna. His previous work has dealt mostly in a genre I love, that type of science fiction that is just kicked off to the left. He has a knack for rendering a character's thoughts and motifs in a way that makes an otherwise familiar setting both emotionally engaging and horrifying in its differences. The main difference from other Luna books is that here Lauren Keely is providing the story. Within one issue she has built up a world that is deep with lore and sets up many more questions than it answers in its 26 pages of glorious black and white art. To be honest, there is a little bit of everything here: bleak wilderness, corporations, social tension, massive disease epidemics, telekinesis-wielding gangs and cats - with our protagonist in the centre and as clueless as we are. That's exhilarating as I cannot tell you where Luna and Keely will take the plot but I'm excited to find out. 20XX is a melting pot of dystopian scifi. If you are a fan of shows like Black Mirror or stark parables then I'm sure 20XX will not disappoint. 8/10

Writer: Tini Howard
Art: Marcus To
Marvel $3.99

Mike S: In Excalibur this week we are fully immersed in the magical realm of Otherworld and, for me, the issue is all the better for it, making it a breath of fresh air. Bookended by sequences involving Apocalypse and new arrival Rictor, we continue the rise of Captain Britain, the mystery of the location and status of Brian Braddock, and the machinations of Morgan Le Fay in a character-driven, fantasy-soaked tale that really engages. Tini Howard’s writing fully explores the cast, with appealing dynamics being developed and some interesting dragon-related themes, while To’s artwork is detailed and enhanced by the vibrant use of colour to provide an other-realm sensibility. The originality of this title, the mythic elements, which I have long loved since way back in the early Marvel UK issues of Captain Britain, and some of my favourite X-characters all combine together to make for an interesting read and another promising issue. 8/10

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Mike Perkins & Gabe Eltaeb
DC $3.99

Jo S: In the halfway issue of this twelve-part miniseries, Greg Rucka steps out of the ongoing story to bring us a poignant, painful requiem, as Lois mourns her father, killed during the finale of Event Leviathan. The story is dignified in pace, drawing us frequently back to a rain-soaked military funeral, tidy and ordered, with Lois struggling to maintain her composure as her sister breaks down, Clark unfalteringly supportive by her side. Perkins gives us scenes of the rain pouring down, ignored as the funeral proceeds with clockwork finality, and Rucka draws us into Lois' memories of her father, his death, yes, but also the key moments in their lives together, as teenage Lois rebels against her father's authority, as they struggle to understand each other's interpretation of loyalty, and of patriotism, and, finally, as they try to deal with the fallout of Lois' necessary, extensive lies about her husband's identity. Rucka writes daughters and fathers with such subtlety and such strength; here deep love and mutual respect radiates off the page and it's impossible not to find myself in that same place, wondering how I will cope when that same moment arrives in my life. This is a beautiful, honest, wrenching reminder that death stops everything: that we must make sure that we say what we need to say to those who are precious to us, as the opportunity will soon vanish, never to return. 8/10

Writer: Tom King
Artists: Jorge Fornes & Jordie Bellaire
DC $3.99

James R: Tom King started 2019 as the most exciting writer in mainstream comics, and he's ending the year cementing that position. This week sees the final chapter of Superman: Up In The Sky (which is utterly magnificent) and the latest instalment in his Bat-epic. I've enjoyed his entire run, but these issues which stand almost self-contained have been my particular favourite, showcasing King's economy as a storyteller. This issue finally fills in the blanks and tells us exactly how Flashpoint's Thomas Wayne came to become the twisted Batman who is the nemesis to his son, Bruce. Yet again, Jorge Fornes' art is first-rate; I'm a big fan of his work, and I feel that he captures a certain noir-feel that all the best Batman artists have brought to the character and, as always, Jordie Bellaire's colour palette adds to this tone-perfect atmosphere. One of the yardsticks I judge comics by is the degree to which I find myself lost in the experience as I read - and this issue of Batman had me hooked from first page to last. A brilliant payoff issue for everyone who has invested in this run, King and company keep delivering the goods right up to the last. 9/10

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