8 Mar 2020

Mini Reviews 08/03/2020

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: Skottie Young
Art: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
Marvel $4.99

Mike S: Skottie Young and Humberto Ramos present a not-quite original but nevertheless wholly enjoyable first issue set in Marvel Comics’ very own Hogwarts. Throw in a dash of Wolverine And The X-Men and you have Strange Academy, in which the next generation of magic wielders are gathered in New Orleans to learn the art of spell-casting from such faculty members as Doctor Voodoo, Magik and the Scarlet Witch (which might be an interesting mix if current X-Men continuity applies). The first issue introduces a diverse cast, an interesting premise and some stunningly rendered artwork. Young has a knack of writing young characters here while Ramos revels in the fantastical elements of the setting, with wondrous artwork juxtaposed with some creepy moments to provide a visually stunning book. Offering something a little different to the run of the mill Marvel Teen books, Strange Academy #1 is a promising debut with a huge amount of potential as we explore the magical mythos of Marvel, and is guaranteed to bring me back for #2. 9/10

Writer: Margaret Stohl
Art: Juan Ferreyra
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Although, when it comes to alt-Spideys, my heart obviously belongs to Peter Porker, the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse movie also piqued my interest in the glowering, cliché-peppered, trenchcoat-and-revolver toting Spider-Man Noir, so this new outset, only the third solo miniseries for the character since his first appearance, was something of a must. Talking of cliché, Stohl plays it canny here, dancing lightly along the knife-edge between homage and cornball, in both the detective noir and Spider-Man oeuvres, and Ferreyra renders her story gorgeously, with a classic monochrome theme broken up with hints of colour; MJ's hair and uniform, the lights of a cop car and the yolk of, wait, what kind of egg is our hero eating here? Cute… This version of Spidey is perhaps by nature less gravity-defying than his original incarnation - perhaps because of the need to keep his fedora firmly in place - but Ferreyra still keeps him dynamic, the tails of his coat flying cape-like around him as he leaps, the perched pose on top of the Brooklyn bridge a classic. Stohl captures the unease of America as the war in Europe approaches, and effectively introduces the series cast, building relationships between our darker Parker and his Aunt May and Mary Jane, whilst also maintaining the noir traditions: the dame who looks like trouble, the case our hero takes reluctantly, the mysterious artifact in the beautiful murder victim's hands. Pardon the misquote, but with Stohl's brains and Ferreyra's looks, this could really go places. 7/10

Writer: Alex Ross, Steve Darnall, Frank Espinosa, Sajan Saini & Kurt Busiek
Art: Alex Ross, Frank Espinosa, Steve Rude & Steven Legge
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: Inspired by the 25th anniversary of Marvels last year, Alex Ross is on a roll now with a project that aims to give creators an opportunity to tell stories with famous characters on their own terms. In other words, an anthology title (that looks like it will have a framing device featuring Doctor Strange villain Nightmare judging by this debut) that features a dash of retroism, a splash of indulgence and a whole lotta love. As with most anthology books the quality will vary from story to story, but this opener (with short tales starring Spider-Man and the Avengers) indicates Marvel will deliver on the high expectations it set out for itself. Perhaps not for everyone, but a certain type of fan with an adoration of Marvel lore and history will doubtless find much to enjoy within these pages. 7/10

Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads & Evan 'Doc' Shaner
DC Comics $4.99

James R: Following on from the (deserved) universal acclaim for their work on Mister Miracle, Tom King and Mitch Gerads are back working their magic on another DC second-tier character. This time, they're joined by the brilliant Evan Shaner to bring us a story of war, truth and lies. Strange Adventures feels like a continuation of a number of the themes in Mister Miracle: a husband-and-wife relationship is front and centre (this time it's Adam Strange and his wife Alanna) and we see how a hero is perceived through the lens of the media, but as King says in his interview at the end of the book, this one is "about something larger, deeper, and darker". The book is focusing on the exploits of Adam Strange in a war between his adopted home of Rann and the Pykkts. However, as the narrative unfolds, it seems that Strange is perhaps not the hero the public have been sold, and his potential involvement in the death of an accuser muddies the waters even further. This isn't the first time King has examined the complex nature of truth in war (he did so in Omega Men) and the murder aspect immediately reminded me of Heroes In Crisis, but still, there's plenty here to suggest this will be something special. I really enjoyed the two distinct and equally brilliant art styles of Gerads and Shaner giving each of two narratives a unique feel, and creating a fascinating contrast. I was confident that I'd like Strange Adventures before I'd even read a page, and I'm pleased that my instincts were right; we'll have to wait and see if this ambitious title can match Mister Miracle, but for now this is a bravura first chapter in every way. 8/10

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Marco Checchetto & Mattia Iacono
Marvel $3.99

Matt C: War erupts on the streets of Hell's Kitchen as what the opening spiel refers to as 'a platoon of violent super villains' (a description I love!) arrives to wreak havoc through Dardevil's stomping ground. The tautness of this series seems to increase exponentially with each successive issue; just when you think things can't get any worse for DD & friends, here comes Bullseye, Crossbones et al to take things up several levels. It has reached a point where even the Kingpin can only observe the carnage, seemingly helpless. Zdarsky has done a magnificent job refocusing on what makes Daredevil (and Matt Murdock) such a compelling creation; consistently racked with guilt but always drawn into the fray out of an innate desire to do the right thing. The developing dynamic between him and Cole North has been one of the highlights of the run so far, as the two characters begrudgingly acknowledge their common ground. Marco Cecchettos' artwork is particularly incendiary here, and Mattia Iacono's colours frequently give the impression that the heat is rising from the page. Another superb chapter in an exemplary run, complete with a fist-pumping final page. 9/10

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