12 Jan 2020

Mini Reviews 12/01/2020

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: Kelly Thompson
Art: Javier Pina, Filipe Andrade & Jesus Aburtov
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Anyone thinking "oh, new female Marvel superhero, she's called Star, that'll be cute, girly, inspiring, aimed at kids etc" has a whole new think coming with this opening issue, a spin-off from Thompson's Captain Marvel series. Ripley Ryan is the most damaged of damaged supers, deeply traumatised following her kidnapping by Nuclear Man, she is the repository of a Reality Stone and, before the start of this, her first solo story, has already used it, almost destroying the whole of New York - helluva debut! Captain Marvel stopped her (by punching a hole in her chest) but, as we begin this story, Ryan/Star is somewhere between powered dropout and evil supervillain; pretty much everyone has an axe to grind with her, and every time she is pushed to use her powers the result just makes the situation worse. Thompson's wisecracking monologues balance the utter desperation of Ripley's situation: getting to write Loki (loved his li'l horned baseball cap, very low-key Loki) must have been a treat and she 'gets' Jessica Jones' black sarcasm perfectly (using mind control on Ms Jones proves exactly as ill-advised as you might suspect knowing her history). As her pile of poor decisions grows, things are looking bleak for any possibility of Star's redemption, and it seems as if the slippery slope towards villainy is becoming yet further greased. Of course, hope appears at the final moment, in the form of a character who knows more than a little about redemption from villainy. A fascinating first issue for a genuinely new leading character, with lots of potential to break the mould: I'm truly excited to see where Thompson takes this. 8/10

Writers: Alex Ross & Jim Krueger
Art: Well-Bee
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: Alex Ross and Jim Krueger return to the world of Earth X, over 20 years since the first series debuted, to explore what happened beforehand in this particular alt. version of the Marvel Universe, where the entire populace of the planet develop superpowers. For starters, as it's set in the 'past' it doesn't require any foreknowledge of Earth X or its sequels so you can essentially come in cold and get a solid understanding on what's happening. Focusing on one character unconnected to any major MU player also increases its accessibility; their POV is a lot more grounded and relatable than you'd get from certain heavy-hitters. Because of this, we get a suitably disorientating and disturbing look at the Earth as it becomes increasingly less recognisable, with the fantastic becoming commonplace and routine. Well-Bee's art goes for earthy realism but with a bright palette that suggests an imagined future full of intensity. It's a decent opening that has enough reactive emotional resonance to make this feel like its own thing rather than a retread of what we've seen before. 7/10

Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Colleen Dorian & Bryan Valenza
Image/Top Cow $3.99

Jo S: Matt Hawkins' new series unfolds a classic disaster movie premise, ticking through the checklist of required elements without missing a single beat: our hero is a scientist, a widowed single parent of an adorable kid, ringing the alarm bell regarding a viral cancer sweeping the globe and which killed his wife, receiving an incredulous response from the powers that be, confounded by the complications of civil war and human selfishness… all the signatures moves are there, often signalled in slightly unnatural expository conversation. This sounds like a critical statement but in fact I thoroughly enjoyed this first issue. Hawkins has really done his homework, as explained in detailed and fascinating backmatter, and the resulting story, though not particularly novel, is gripping, filled with compassion and engagingly told, and delves deep into questions about population growth and its effect on the Earth and its inhabitants. Doran's art is very effective, with some nice detailed panoramic views, nice face work and intriguing 'here's the science bit' set pieces, coloured by stages with subtlety and intensity by Valenza. No major surprises sprang from this first go, but with plenty of intrigue and a sound basis in research setting this on a securely credible footing, I will definitely be returning for issue #2. 7/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Andrea Sorrentino, & Dave Stewart
Image $3.99

James R: Pacing in comics is a difficult skill to get right - in a medium where the reader decides the speed of the events unfolding on the page, establishing a narrative that has tangible pace is a rare gift, however Lemire and Sorrentino make it look easy. This issue of Gideon Falls is as spectacular as the previous nineteen, but now there's a real sense of urgency to the plot that makes it even more irresistible. Father Fred and Doctor Xu find themselves pursued by the tribes of darkness in the other space, whilst Danny and the Ploughmen decide on a course of action that will destroy the Black Barn once and for all. There's a feeling that we're building up to a grand finale here, but as we've seen repeatedly with this series, the reader has to expect the unexpected - Lemire and Sorrentino could pull the rug out from under us with a single page. I'm a huge fan of any series that defies my cynical and world-weary attitude; I genuinely don't know where this book is heading, and I love it. 9/10

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