2 Feb 2020

Mini Reviews 02/02/2019

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: Ed Brisson
Art: Jonas Scharf
Marvel $3.99

Mike S: I was little sceptical approaching this title: I am not a fan of the over-saturation of a market but after enjoying both Old Man Logan and Old Man Hawkeye (but swerving Old Man Quill because – well, it’s Quill!) I was both looking forward to and, perhaps, a little wary. However, Ed Brisson provides a debut issue that introduces our key players well, albeit with some necessary exposition to fully establish the world we’re inhabiting. We have a new Thor, a thoughtful young Hulk, a new Ant-Man and a Doctor Doom to provide the necessary menace, along with a final page that promises even more shocking developments. The art from Jonas Scharf is expressive when focusing on characterisation and suitably epic when we’re immersed in the action scenes. It has a kind of raw grittiness in places, which is apt considering the title’s location. Particularly noteworthy, as a fan of Jane Foster’s tenure as Thor, is the treatment of Dani Cage as the new Thor, especially in the way Brisson seems to be clearly establishing the fundamental division between Dani’s opinions on the Doom situation and that of her Asgardian alter-ego: an interesting divide that might (or might not) foreshadow later development and conflict. An enjoyable read that certainly promises much moving forward. 8/10

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips, Jacob Phillips
Image $3.99

Jo S: In mathematical knot theory, a knot is formed by taking a line segment, wrapping it around itself in some combination of ways, and then fusing the two ends together to form a single continuous loop. Mathematicians have devoted uncountable time to distinguishing between different knots, trying to reduce each down to a set of simplified structures, the most basic of which is the circle, or 'unknot'. As in mathematics, so sometimes in storytelling, and so - very much - with the Criminal: Cruel Summer arc wrapping this week with issue #12. Brubaker's work has looped back to the start, having shown us all the strands, the twists, the turns, frequently allowing us to see multiple parts of the story timeline in a single issue, and now fuses the end to the beginning in a way that finally enables us to unpick the complexity and see the whole circle at once. At the end of issue #11, Teeg's meticulously planned heist, so close to perfection, had resulted in him taking a shotgun blast to the chest and now Jane is being dragged away by the detective who has been hunting her down for so long. There is so little I can say about this issue which won't spoil huge chunks of it, but suffice to say that every ending is executed to perfection; Brubaker is a masterful storyteller and the Phillipses, both father and son, allow the expression of the story to sock you in the stomach, even on a third reading for me. A splash page of money fluttering down against an ink black sky and a red stop light, like silent rain on a scene of devastation, a bottle of bourbon lying by a pool of blood, a curl of cigarette smoke rising before a haggard face lit into shadows by matchlight, all touches which complete the perfect circle of this story. 10/10

X-MEN #5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: R.B. Silva & Marte Gracia
Marvel $3.99

James R: After quite an uneven start, Jonathan Hickman's X-Men is now hitting stride. Last month's issue was superb, and the lastest instalment gives us a classic 'X-Men on a mission', but with Hickman's trademark intelligence and invention. Serafina, one of the children of The Vault freed in the first issue, makes her way to Ecuador, and looks to rejoin her siblings. Once inside, we learn that it is an experimental evolutionary lab where time is accelerated to develop super-powered individuals. Xavier assembling a team to withstand the atemporal environment is entertaining enough, but what I loved about this issue is Hickman beginning to unpack one of the myriad highlights from House Of X. In that series, we discovered that, on Krakoa, the mutants have learned how to cheat death: their consciousnesses are copied and stored at regular intervals, and can be downloaded into grown replicas of their bodies should they be destroyed. Here we find out that this immortality is not without cost and Hickman begins to sow the seeds of what could be some stellar plots down the line. The art from R.B. Silva is suitably luscious; this definitely feels like a blockbuster Marvel book, and Marte Gracia's colours are beautiful and in the pages depicting inside The Vault, they give Silva's work a whole other dimension. House and Powers Of X really rejuvenated my love for the X-Men (as I'm sure it did for many comics fans,) and yet again, I find myself totally swept up by Hickman's brilliant ideas. I know many people love Daredevil and Immortal Hulk but, for me, Marvel's best comics are starring the X-Men once again. 9/10

Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Nic Klein & Matt Wilson
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: This is my kind of Thor: impending cosmic disaster spiced with portentous dialogue and epic action. Galactus has warned that the Black Winter is coming, the plague that wiped out his universe, and the Odinson has taken the role of herald in an effort to assist the world-devourer's attempt to prevent the fate that befell the reality he once knew. Donny Cates brings the same kind of galactic frisson that made his stint on Thanos such a delight, with two characters burdened with beguiling pomposity attempting to find a compromised solution to approaching armageddon; Galactus needing to feed and Thor needing to ensure the resulting body count remains at a minimum. Some sharp characterisation sits nicely beside some epic visuals from Klein and Wilson, full of the kind of dynamism and intensity that truly befits the thunderous nature of this title. 9/10

Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Will Robson & Erick Arciniega
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: When it comes to the DNA of one's sense of humour, I know for sure that my doctorate in sarcasm comes from my dad but that my love of the simple joy of a good clean pun comes right down the female line from my mum, and she would be in her element with Zeb Wells' new Spider-Ham series. In the fine tradition of Marvel wordplay, the first two issues have been peppered throughout with witty manglings; not even the editor's notes escape the porky treatment, as Danny Khazem is supplanted by Danny Khaz-ham. Wells piles on the action, with -Ham and -Man vying for the attentions of both the gorgeous Mary Jane and the reader generally, and the art and design is really marvellous throughout. Cute little picture-in-picture cameos allow the piggier of the two to play narrator, rather in the style of Deadpool, and the alternate Earth-8311 pages are sepia tinted to really emphasise the 'differentness' of the world where Iron Mouse, Sub-Marsupial and Croctor Strange battle to stop evil forces from draining all the colour from Earth's heroes. Wells rolls the story on relentlessly, but still keeps the jokes coming: the Earth-8311 city battle is paused while Black Colt scribbles a taunt on a placard for Raven the Hunter to read, Mary Jane feeds apple sauce to little talking baby pig Spider-Ham and I'm pretty sure there's a poke at a certain all-time classic DC franchise, with magic squids taking a dissing. It's not high art, it's not high brow - but it's an absolute romp and worthy of at least two read-throughs for all the punny goodness. 7/10

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