23 Feb 2020

Mini Reviews 23/02/2020

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: Benjamin Percy
Art: Adam Kubert, Frank Martin, Viktor Bogdanovic & Matthew Wilson
Marvel $7.99

Jo S: In these days of big Marvel events and multiple high quality Hickman-led X-books, a $7.99 cover price on a late-joining 'Dawn of X' title is going to make your local comic book store owner wince - especially when it's on a big standard like Wolverine - so is it worth the doubled price and should you fork over the cash to hop on this new addition to the Krakoa project? Let me try to convince you... Ben Percy has Wolverine chops: having penned the Wolverine: The Long Night and The Lost Trail podcasts, he followed up the former with a comic book version, and it's clear in this new outset already that he 'gets' our cross-Patch protagonist, opening with a scene of devastation in the Alaskan snow, where Logan is agonising over slaying his own friends and yet is still compelled to chase after the last survivor. A giant side effect of the 'Dawn of X' stories is that Krakoa's regeneration protocols have altered the concept of death for mutant-kind: we know as comics readers that death is rarely final but now it's explicit that 'they will come back' - and yet Percy still manages to give us the full sense of Logan's despair, something of an achievement in this new world. The (first) story is a 'here's the penultimate scene, let's look at how we got here' approach, and each additional piece of backstory we see twists the knife in Logan's heart a little further: Krakoan 'product' is going missing, diverted to feed a growing drugs trade managed by the Flower Cartel, and multiple parties are getting involved, for nefarious reasons or otherwise, in the growing spread of mutie drug Pollen. If that wasn't complex enough a storyline, add a cult of vampiric mutant-worshippers and you have yourself a festival of flower-related infamy. Kubert's art is magnificent - well, I would say that, the Alaskan snow scenes alone are worth it for me, but his fabulous page structure has me hooked throughout as well... But that's just the first story! This is a true double issue, with the staples neatly marking the delineation between 'The Flower Cartel' and 'Catacombs'. Both are issue #1, both penned by Percy, but Bogdanovic now picks up the pencils, as Omega Red, covered in blood which may or may not be his own, storms through a Krakoan portal requesting amnesty - having escaped a nightmarish Paris overrun with the aforementioned vampire cult - to a very mixed reception. Vampire stories are a bit so-so for me generally but Percy pitches this one perfectly, with vampire hunter of the 'nightguard' Louise making a welcome debut, and Bogdanovic and Wilson creating the ideal underground gloom with gory bat-fest atmosphere. So, yes, all in all, this is more than a double issue, the fat cover price may be a little gasp-inducing but the content is much more so, and for all the right reasons. 9/10

BANG! #1
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Wifredo Torres & Nayoung Kim
Dark Horse $3.99

James R: When no lesser personage than Keanu Reeves is providing the pull-quote for the cover of the first issue, you know you're in for a good time. Suffice to say, Keanu knows what he's talking about - Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres' BANG! comes out with all guns blazing. I've been a big fan of Matt Kindt since his reality-warping epic MIND MGMT, and BANG! feels like a spiritual sequel to that book. It's clear, however, that Kindt's ambitions are even grander here; in his introduction to the series at the back of the issue he says "That's what BANG! is. They're familiar types turned on their heads. The Spy, the Sleuth, the Hero, the Playboy and the Sci-Fi author." Here, we're introduced to the Spy and the Sci-Fi author, with Thomas Cord (who could easily be confused with a certain 00 agent) on the trail of author Philip Verve (who shares more than a forename with a celebrated and influential science fiction maverick). I could write hundreds more words on how the issue folds in on itself, and wrong-foots the reader at every turn, but I think it's just easier for me to say that this issue exceeded my expectations. Having been introduced to Torres' art in Black Hammer spin-off The Quantum Age, it's great to see him at work on series with the scope and scale of BANG! and I'm looking forward to seeing what he produces here. This sensational first issue immediately establishes itself as a favourite and I'm already eagerly counting down to issue #2. 9/10

Writer: Joe Hill
Art: Stuart Immonen
DC $3.99

Mike S: It might just be me, but I have always felt that the best setting for a horror is the ocean, with its myriad mysteries and monstrosities, so this title was a must. In this debut issue, Hill sticks to the formula of traditional horror as perfectly demonstrated by his legendary father: introduce an eclectic cast of characters, make them likeable, and then set them up for the horrors which await them. While, in that sense, this issue could feel formulaic and predictable, Hill sidesteps this stumbling block with an intrighing group of characters: a brilliant marine biologist, a snarky salvage captain with a line in ‘interesting’ cargo, his crew consisting of two brothers straight out of a teen comedy and the inevitable middleman from the shipping company with claims of ‘noble motives’. The dynamics between them are great and Hill delivers humour and depth to make sure we like them before the inevitable horror begins. Immonen provides some stylish and beautifully rendered art, especially in the scenes when we see the reaction of Nature to the horrors of the returned vessel. While this issue is definitely a slow burn, the characterisation, humour and cliffhanger ending make it worth a look and will definitely be bringing me back for the sophomore instalment. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Rod Reis
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: One of the most arresting books of the 'Dawn Of X' relaunch, all told. The back and forth between creative teams isn't ideal, but at least it focuses on different characters rather than carrying on the same story, although there can be noticeable tonal shifts from one issue to the next. That's not a problem when you get a chapter like this though as it delivers brilliantly on various threads from preceding instalments. Anyone who thinks Jonathan Hickman can't successfully do 'fun' just needs to read the way he handles Robert da Costa here, particularly in the insanely entertaining fourth-wall breaking opening pages. That vibe carries on through the rest of the issue, and it brings to mind how well Hickman developed both da Costa and Sam Guthrie during his epic Avengers run. It's also kind of refreshing to be this far away from Krakoa - in Shi'ar space instead - as there's obviously a lot overlap with so many other books operating in the same sphere. Rod Reis brings a vibrancy and enthusiasm to the art that captures the energy and sense of the absurd that resides within the script. If Hickman wants to give us the continuing adventures of Sunspot and Cannonball in outer space then I just need to know where I sign up! 8/10

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