15 Mar 2020

Mini Reviews 15/03/2020

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: Alan Brennert
Art: Jerry Ordway & Espen Grundetjean
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: The first in a series of one-shots that employs the concept of Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek's legendary Marvels by giving us a regular person's perspective on an icon, here we focus on one of the House of Ideas' originals, Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Set after the end of World War II, our way into the story is provided by Betty Dean, Namor's sometime girlfriend of the era. Never quite comfortable with his tempestuousness and aloofness, she watches him struggle with the trauma of the conflict he's just experienced, and if you're familiar with this particular Atlantean you'll know his likely method of dealing with things will inevitably involve some sort of violence and carnage. The artwork has a wonderfully retro feel - befitting of the period, but in a sophisticated fashion - and the script delivers some potent insights into a man who straddles two worlds (above and below the ocean's surface). It brought to mind Chip Zdarsky's recent Invaders series, and how that also delved into the emotional damage of war inflicted on someone who likes to present himself as above such things. It's an affecting read with some wonderfully old-fashioned action scenes (the All Winners Squad turn up and get involved, of course) and it sets a high standard which hopefully the rest of the series will meet. 8/10

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Mike Huddleston
Image $4.99

Kenny J: Even with the slew of big budget comic movies that have graced our cinema screens in recent years there are still techniques that only ink and paper can achieve. In this inaugural issue of Decorum we are presented with a huge amount of styles, imagery and information as two creators at the height of their powers fire on all cylinders. If you have been enjoying Hickman’s current world-building on the X-titles over at Marvel then you will love Hickman unchained from decades of continuity (as if that has really shackled him), throwing empires, churches, political groups and tribes in all directions. Don’t worry, though: just when it feels a little overwhelming there is one of his trademark minimalist diagramatic designs, just one of the many illustrative tools on show here as Huddleston switches and swaps styles with ease to denote action with heavy inks in a manner reminiscent of his work on Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker, juxtaposed with a painterly approach for those stoic moments. This is a blistering first issue that sets up a universe where I want to spend much more time, in a way that is a treat to look at. 9/10

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Raffaele Ienco & Neeraj Menon
Marvel $3.99

James R: My repeated criticism of Star Wars comics in the past was often that they didn't feel Star Wars-y enough, but, since Marvel relaunched the line in 2015, its hit rate has been pretty good. The trend that I've noticed (and very much approve of) is that, whereas in the past comics could not touch any of the events of the movie canon, now creative teams have far greater scope. As a a result, the comics (and novels) add in levels of shade and depth that the rollercoaster movies simply don't have time for. Greg Pak's Darth Vader is enjoyable as he's getting the opportunity to sow the seeds of Anakin Skywalker's redemption and, as we see this month, pick up a story told in the novel Queen's Shadow by E. K. Johnson. That novel featured Sabe, Padme's double, introduced in The Phantom Menace, and she returns here, acting as an uneasy reminder to Vader of all that he's lost. Credit too goes to the art team of Ienco and Menon, who use Vader's tilted and angled head, plus a clever use of light and shade to express the emotions trapped beneath that iconic mask - combined with Pak's nicely-paced script, I found that I'm enjoying this book far more than I anticipated I would. I wouldn't suggest this is a title for the casual fan, but for those like me who simply can't get enough Star Wars, this is shaping up to be another definite win from the Lucasfilm publishing arm. 8/10

Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Fernando Pasarin, Oclair Albert, Wade Von Grawbadger & Jeromy Cox
DC $3.99

Mike S: While not a huge seller, Hawkman has been one of my favourite DC ongoing titles since its relaunch thanks to strong writing from Venditti and great art. It has really explored themes of identity and been a revelation and, while I wasn’t overly impressed at the initial idea of a possessed Hawkman spinning out of ‘The Infected’ (really – why??), it has been an entertaining ride as Hawkman struggles for dominance in his own psyche over a previous incarnation: Sky Tyrant. This is a bottle episode, with the action taking place in one location, but it doesn’t suffer because of it. Instead we get great characterisation (the old collector in me loves the combination of Hawkwoman, Atom and Adam Strange as supporting characters) and even more ideas are introduced to the whole reincarnation legend as Shayera experiences a transformation in a beautiful splash page echoing an equally stunning one from way back in issue #1. I have been interested in the overall theme of redemption and responsibility that has run throughout this title’s entire narrative and this issue adds another layer to the fascinating and ever evolving mythology of the Hawks. 9/10

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