15 Dec 2019

Mini Reviews 15/12/2019

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: Jeremy Haun
Art: Danny Luckert
BOOM! Studios $3.99

Mike S: While I usually stick to what I know, the one thing that can sometimes lure me away is the ever-growing horror genre. I have flirted with sci-fi comics, dabbled in the occasional steampunk along the way, but horror always provides me with my favourite non-mainstream/non-mutant titles. So it was with anticipation that I looked forward to BOOM! Studios’ new series, The Red Mother, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint! From the opening scene of the floating corpse to the genuinely spine chilling final page, this was a masterful first issue. Despite my aversion of anything in or near my eyes (you’d think I would have given this a wide berth then but no – far from it!) I loved the concept, found the character interactions to be both real and believable, and fully felt for Daisy in her trauma. There was a growing sense of dread that is so often missing from modern horror titles, as tension is allowed to simmer and build without explosions of movie-style gore littering the pages. Equally powerful is Luckert’s art, with lifelike characters contrasted with the more supernatural elements. The gradually increasing use of red in the latter half of the issue combined with the excellently paced script to crank up the tension and dread for the shocking and creepy ending. Like all good horror tales, the debut issue raises far more questions than it answers but that is what I loved about The Red Mother #1: a thrilling, chilling opener to what I hope will my newest horror comic hit! 9/10

Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Jacen Burrows, Guillermo Ortego & Nolan Woodard
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: Garth Ennis just can't keep away from Frank Castle. He's been drawn back to the character multiple times over the last couple of decades and there's a strong case to be made that he's the definitive Punisher writer. He's given Castle - who's pretty much a glorified serial killer - a depth that's often lacking, and is arguably required to generate even a smidgen of empathy for someone whose sole reason to exist is to kill those he deems to be evil. There have been plenty of highlights during his time writing the Punisher's adventures - the initial blast of mayhem with Steve Dillon, the darker than dark MAX stuff, Born - and perhaps it could be said he's not bringing anything particularly new to the table any more, but there are still some dark pleasures to be found in this latest miniseries. It's pretty much an issue of 'bonding on the battlefield' as a new player whose multiple kills have been credited to Castle explains what he's been doing and why. Ennis has always been good at this sort of thing - offering insights into those responsible for monstrous actions - and having his old Crossed/Chronicles Of Wormwood collaborator Jacen Burrows on board provides a sheen of grim emotion, reminiscent of Dillon's finest work. More insight into Castle and the supporting players and less mindless violence could ultimately make this mini a worthwhile reunion for Ennis and Castle. 7/10

Writer: Al Ewing & Jason Aaron
Art: Pere Pérez & Jesus Aburtov
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Having met both Bullseye and the Grim Reaper in battle, Jane is now turning her attention to trying to hold down her day job, a growing challenge as her role as Valkyrie makes daytime-Jane increasingly erratic and prone to sudden departures. Working in the morgue proves not to be as uneventful as hoped though, as one of the recently deceased brings her news that Death herself is ailing and may die soon. Ewing and Aaron make a good team here in more ways than one, as Jane enlists the help first of Doctor Strange and then of a team of 'magical medics' who set out to try to ensure that Death remains match-fit. Marvel mythology, with its mixture of gods, supers, mutants and aliens has always been tricky to apply scientific analysis to, and Ewing and Aaron employ a perplexing range of entities and abilities here - zombie antibodies! Strange learning card tricks! Who does Death's make-up? - but the lead character is so consistently likeable, so open in her admission of inexperience and yet so resourceful and capable, that it's easy to be drawn along with the story. Guest artist Pere Pérez has a knack for page structure which nicely echoes the relevant environment: clean and tidy for the morgue, smartly formal for Bleecker St, and disorientingly complex for Death's nightmare-riddled realm. This series continues to surprise and has turned out to be one of my favourites of this year. 8/10

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Howard & Dee Cunniffe
Image $3.99

James R: When the first issue of Three Fates was released, I admit I was somewhat surprised; Ellis and Howard's original Trees series had left several plots in the balance, and opening that initial issue felt like an unexpected left turn, introducing us to a new plot, seemingly unrelated to the original series beyond the the presence of the ubiquitous alien 'trees'. The surprise gave way to a sense of pure enjoyment as, once again, Ellis showed why he's still one of the most revered names in mainstream comics. The clandestine murder plot in Toska, Russia has been compelling enough, but Ellis has started to reveal more about the Trees as he shuttles the story back and forth in time. I've always enjoyed Jason Howard's work on Trees, and I love his mixture of a gritty, real world interspersed with touches of the alien. A while back, when Image were really going full-out with new and exciting releases, we'd often make the comparison that the publisher was like the HBO of mainstream comics. Trees: Three Fates absolutely fits that mould; it's a sophisticated and involving book that feels like prestige TV - Trees continues to stand tall like a Redwood. 8/10

No comments: