26 Jan 2020

Mini Reviews 26/01/2020

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.

BIRDS OF PREY GIANT #1
Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC $4.99

Jo S: I've developed something of a soft spot for DC's compendium format books, they seem somehow to have captured the near impossible skill of drawing together a collection of mini-stories in a way that allows each the space to shine in its own right whilst also hanging together nicely on a theme. The six stories here are a neatly tessellated fit: there's variety between big name writers like Gail Simone and Robert Venditti and those perhaps less well-known, such as the Benson sisters, whose story 'Gotham City Limits' is a perfect blend of wholesomeness, heroing, heritage and campfire horror stories, and the artists for each story are clearly carefully chosen - Isaac Goodhart's facial expressions in 'Disguises' are exquisite, for example; Harley's cringing smile as she tries to deal with her old friend's humble-bragging made my toes curl. The upcoming Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) looks set to ensure that the aforementioned two-tone trickster will be absolutely everywhere again, having been one of the few good things about the Suicide Squad movie, but here she (and Poison Ivy too) demonstrates the complex attitude to good and evil that makes her appealing. In Simone's 'Fight or Flight', she talks about how everyone's a little bit grey, not fully in the light or fully in the dark (although her 'Mistah Jay' she accepts is "like, dark dark") and her behaviour throughout is complicated, caught between wanting to do right and her perpetual taste for mayhem. Huntress, Batgirl and Black Canary get to take leading roles in their own stories too - Layman gives a nice twist to Huntress' duel with Deathstroke - and I was especially pleased to see stories from my two favourite writers side by side, with Matt Rosenberg moonlighting on a Black Canary story which must surely draw on his music business experience, and Joëlle Jones helping Harley mastermind a breakout from Arkham - as she says: "Safe is boring. I'd rather have an ADVENTURE!" 7/10

WONDER WOMAN #750
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
DC $9.99

Mike S: Wonder Woman #750 is 96-pages of Amazon Princess goodness, with tales from Diana’s past and present. We get nine stories, with some huge contributors from the history of the title. Whether your Diana is the empathetic Wonder Woman, or the fierce and feisty Amazon warrior, #750 has something for you. It would take too long to go through each tale individually: suffice it to say that we have the conclusion of the current arc involving Cheetah, followed by eight other tales exploring the different facets of one of DC’s most complex heroes. There are plenty of twists, lots of insights into her motivation and how she keeps going both as a warrior and in her compassion, and we get the return of some old familiar faces too, just to keep the older fans happy. Hippolyta, Cheetah, Circe, Themyscira and even Vanessa Kapatelis all feature in individual stories and, as a result, we get a book that takes time to celebrate how diverse, how powerful and indeed how influential Wonder Woman can be (and has been). If you’re a fan of Wonder Woman, this is a must have and you also get a choice of covers: I opted for the king of Wonder Woman artists, the mighty George Perez, but other artists are available. 9/10

THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #2
Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Leandro Fernandez & Daniela Miwa
Image $3.99

James R: The Old Guard is going to become a very high-profile title in 2020; the on-demand juggernaut that is Netflix are turning Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez' immortal action series into a show due for release later this year. As with much of Rucka's work, I'd argue that it was a no-brainer to adapt this; the book itself reads like the coolest action film you've never seen. In this second series, Rucka has introduced a new antagonist for the immortal elite force - an as-yet unnamed fellow immortal who claims to be nothing like our protagonists, but yet clearly wants them dead. The issue has some great character development alongside the action (as you'd expect from Rucka) showing how the group's new addition Nile is adapting to her new life as an immortal and as part of the team. As with the first series, Leandro Fernandez' art feels a great fit for Rucka's script, and a special note for Daniela Miwa's vibrant colours,which give The Old Guard such a distinctive look. I heartily recommend that you get on board with this series now, so you can look extra-cool when everyone's excited about it when it debuts on Netflix. The Old Guard remains an essential read for anyone who loves an action book with brains. 8/10

BATMAN #87
Writer: James Tynion IV
Art: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
DC $3.99

Matt C: Following on from Tom King's epic run, James Tynion IV switches gears with a tale that moves at a rapid clip, with various parties involved in a criminal enterprise that finds Batman seemingly one step behind. The Dark Knight is never fully left in the dust in any situation though, catching up on the fly as the conspiracy becomes a little less foggy. There's a lot of action to keep the momentum going, but it's the interactions between the cast that are indelible - whether it's Batman and Commissioner Bullock, Batman and Catwoman, or Bullock and Slade, the dialogue and motivations remain true to each character. March's illustrations are suitably dynamic and certain villains are portrayed more grotesquely than the norm, bringing to mind some of Chester Gould's most outlandish hoodlum creations. I had wondered whether I'd be leaving this title alongside King but Tynion has hit the ground running and it feels like he can keep this kind of pace up until issue #100 and beyond. 8/10

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