19 Jan 2020

Mini Reviews 19/01/2019

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.

IRON MAN 2020 #1
Writers: Dan Slott & Christos Gage
Art: Pete Woods
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: A pure nostalgia purchase for me. I remember fondly the reprinted Barry Windsor-Smith Machine Man miniseries (appearing as a back-up in the UK Transformers comic in the 1980s), set in 2020, when 2020 was a not-too-distant sci-fi future rather than the comparatively humdrum present day. The links to that series and this one turn out to be pretty tenuous at best; Machine Man is involved and the Iron Man of 2020 - Arno Stark - is the lead character, but beyond that it's got nothing to do with his original appearance, instead spinning out of events in the current Tony Stark: Iron Man title. Having not followed that series there was some catching up required: current Tony Stark is an A.I. apparently, while Arno Stark is attempting to quell a robot rebellion. This isn't a new concept of course - the sci-fi genre is packed with tales of artificial lifeforms attempting to prove themselves sentient beings and free themselves from slave labour (a strong recent example was the short-lived Magnus reboot by Kyle Higgins and Jorge Fornes from Dynamite). There's not much going on here beyond the expected beats, and pretty much all the characters are unlikeable to some degree, so unless you're already invested in the current Iron Man status quo then this can be easily skipped. 5/10

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira & Adriano Lucas
DC $3.99

Mike S: DC concludes this maxi series with a battle royale between Uncle Sam, and the freedom he represents, and Overman and his Nazi totalitarianism in the only way it could have done. While the conclusion is therefore inevitable, this issue does not suffer for it; instead Venditti manages to balance blazing action, spectacular struggles and sacrifice with some interesting new concepts and even a few new heroes. The art throughout this series has been glorious and this issue is no exception, with some truly stellar visuals which perfectly fit the grim reality of the Freedom Fighters in blockbuster action. Although Venditti explores the theme of Freedom vs Nationalism in this title, he does so in a way that avoids being preachy and moralising, allowing the situations and characters to demonstrate his concepts perfectly, especially in the creation of the Avatars of Freedom: something I would like to see again, should these characters be revisited. This has been a fantastic, action packed, rip-roaring title and I have thoroughly enjoyed every issue of it. Hopefully this is not the last outing for the Freedom Fighters; based on this maxi series, they deserve to be seen again! 9/10

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

Jo S: Marvel's medics assemble! Going into this issue, the Death of Death had appeared, hanging over ailing Lady Death's castle like, well, exactly as you'd normally expect the manifestation of death to be, rather than Marvel's hot goth chick version. Still, Lady Death is very poorly and Jane and her team are sallying into the fight, each bringing their own specific talents to the problem. This issue brings this superb arc to a close, and you should definitely read this, so I won't spoil too hard here, but can say that Ewing and Aaron pace things perfectly, setting Valkyrie and her fellow medics a challenge which strains their commitment to their task, and their own hearts, to breaking point, and the resolution is every bit as satisfying as I'd hoped. As well as Al Ewing departing the project at this point, Pere Pérez also moves on to other things from here, having produced spectacular work which will be sorely missed. Aburtov's colours are gorgeous and rich, but it's Pérez's page structures which really make this book stand out for me: there is not one single 'ordinary' page in this entire issue, and each is styled to enrich the part of the story being told. With Joe Sabino's exquisite lettering skills, this book is a feast for the eyes of Valhallan proportions. 9/10

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Tonci Zonjic & Steve Wands
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: I continue to be full of admiration for Jeff Lemire's Black Hammer universe - we've now moved a long way from the otherworldly events of the original series, but Lemire's meta take on mainstream comics continues to produce the goods. With Skulldigger & Skeleton Boy, he's created a mixture of Batman and the Punisher, and free from the restraints of continuity or expectation, gives us a fascinating story of revenge. Rather than a benevolent billionaire philanthropist recruiting a fellow orphan of crime as his ward, Skulldigger's methods are highly questionable - but then again, so is being a vigilante operating outside the law. As usual, Lemire has an excellent artist to help bring Spiral City to life. I first became aware of Tonci Zonjic's work on the great Who Is Jake Ellis? and his cinematic style works perfectly here. Credit too to Steve Wands' colours, which add a 'real world' feel, but also give a comics pop at crucial moments in the plot. To be fair, I'm yet to read a Black Hammer book that I've not enjoyed, but Skulldigger & Skeleton Boy has quickly established itself as one of the best spin-offs - this one is definitely worth your time and money if you're looking to read beyond the adventures on Hammer Farm. 8/10

No comments: