Mini Reviews July 2021

Jul 31, 2021
MOM MOTHER OF MADNESS #1

M.O.M. MOTHER OF MADNESS #1
Emilia Clarke, Marguerite Bennett, Leila Leiz, Isobel Richardson, Triona Farrell
Image $5.99 (21/07/2021)

Jo: Emilia Clarke absolutely storms out of the gate with her first foray into comics writing. She and co-writer  Marguerite Bennett have held back absolutely nothing in producing not just a searing indictment on the everyday sexism which holds back half the world's population, but a comedy, a superhero story, a tale of an orphaned single mother and a thesis on the disasters that befall pretty much every teenage girl as she crashes rudderless into womanhood. This is not fuzzy bunnies, and it's definitely not for the faint of heart, but it's delivered with warm humour, even if there's a spiked iron fist inside the velvet glove.

Leila Leiz's artwork, with Triona Farrell's colours, is superb - Maya's fourth wall breaks, where she eyes the 'camera' knowingly, are a giggle, and Leiz uses page structure adeptly to convey the manic confusion of Maya's transformations, whilst Farrell's glossy colours reflect the tone of the phases of Maya's life eloquently. 

This first issue is bumper-sized and excellent quality, and absolutely worth every penny of its cover price, including as it does some future world building (spoiler: things are definitely no better on the #MeToo front in 2049), plus an origin story (sweetly told but with barbs galore), AND a teen coming-of-age-and-getting-mad-powers story AND a possible recruitment to a secret organisation... Issue #1 feels like three issues smashed together, in a good way, and I will absolutely be shelling out for the next two and encouraging others to do the same. 

THAT TEXAS BLOOD #7

THAT TEXAS BLOOD #7
Chris Condon, Jacob Phillips
Image $3.99 (30/06/2021)

Matt: A welcome return after a brief hiatus for one of the very best crime comics of recent times with a new story arc and a slight change in direction. Whereas the first arc was a sizzling blast of neo noir, and more conventional in terms of its set up, this one goes for a period setting with a dash of occult weirdness to mix things up. Sheriff Joe Bob Coates, reflecting on the recent violence in Ambrose County, casts his mind back to 1981 when he was a little more wet behind the ears and perhaps not ready to deal with cult-inspired sacrificial killings and the arrival of a mysterious private eye, the wonderfully named Harlan Eversaul.

Chris Condon continues to explore the fictional county with the characters as the guides, cracking open its history as he goes, the judicious use of backmatter adding new layers on the way. Jacob Phillips excels at capturing shifts in expression, his use of certain colour schemes to set the tone for each scene resulting in a tangible atmosphere charged with a variety of emotions.

With Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips currently doing the original graphic novel thing with Reckless, That Texas Blood is now arguably the best monthly crime comic book currently being published. It would be criminal to miss out on it.

RORSCHACH #10

RORSCHACH #10

Tom King, Jorge Fornés, Dave Stewart
DC Black Label $4.99 (14/07/2021)


James: I never imagined it would be this good; let's face it, every attempt thus far by DC to replicate the magic of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal Watchmen has been a damp squib (the late, great, and much-missed Darwyn Cooke came closest with his Minutemen series, but still - not the same). When Tom King announced he was going to write a Rorschach book, I was conflicted - on one hand, I'm very cynical about the aforementioned attempts to keep going back to Watchmen, but on the other, well, Tom King has absolutely earned the right to tell a story set in that universe, with a string of essential titles over the last five years.

Since issue #1, I've been absolutely enthralled by this book, which I plan to write a much longer deep dive in to once it's reached a conclusion - but for now, and for this issue, it sees King and artist Jorge Fornés at the peak of their powers as they tell a story which - like the original Watchmen did - is about comics and their creators, order and chaos, conspiracy and murder. Reading it, I'm always reminded of Alan J. Pakula's 'conspiracy' trilogy of the 70s - Klute, All The President's Men and The Parallax View - even though Rorschach is set in an almost-present day, there's a distinct feel of the seventies to it which works brilliantly. 

As the investigation at the heart of the book has unfolded, King and Fornés have found a perfect balance between using the themes of the original whilst telling an utterly compelling new story. One of the absolute essential titles being published today, even if you were understandably cynical about this book - you have to give it a chance.

COMPASS THE CAULDRON OF ETERNAL LIFE #2

COMPASS: THE CAULDRON OF ETERNAL LIFE #2
Robert Mackenzie, Dave Walker, Justin Greenwood, Daniela Miwa
Image $3.99 (21/07/2021)

Jo: The producer-style 'Greg Rucka presents' tag is recommendation enough for me to pick up pretty much any first issue and Compass #1 intrigued me sufficiently to bring me back for issue #2. As I've perhaps come to expect for the Rucka stable, the story features a strong female lead, and writers Mackenzie and Walker have clearly delved deep into the history and lore of the Crusades-era setting they have opted to explore. 

Our hero is Shahidah, a scholarly Muslim who is a mapmaker and mystery-seeker, currently on a mission to locate and study the eponymous Cauldron. Her search brought her to druidic Wales in the first instalment where her garb and gender brought immediate trouble. A repeating theme of defying the norm, and defying expectations runs throughout: Shahidah seems perpetually to be saying "...yes, but I'm not trying to fight you", "...no, your immediate assumption is not right", "Please don't kill that guy/destroy that object before I have a chance to learn from him/it". 

Conscious or unconscious nods to modern culture struck me: Shahidah is light on her feet and skilled in hand-to-hand combat but is brought down (briefly) by a combatant who stands on her cloak ("No capes!") and then reinforces his status as the baddie of the piece by paraphrasing Michael Gove; "Oh, I know scholars, I weary of scholars". 

As a different window on a period of history, seen through the eyes of a witness whose view is not usually available to us, this is fascinating - throw in some maps and a mystery or three and there's enough to have me hooked. 

SUPERGIRL WOMAN OF TOMORROW #2

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #2
Tom King, Bilquis Evely, Matheus Lopes
DC $4.99 (20/07/2021)

Matt: Tom King continues to display impressive versatility as a writer by bouncing from one genre to another without missing a beat, and sometimes smashing genres together, seemingly incongruously, for startling results. Here he's plonked Supergirl in the middle of a fantasy realm, blending sci-fi with sword and sorcery tropes, as Kara Zor-El's 21st birthday celebrations get derailed when she becomes embroiled in a quest for vengeance, with the young Ruthye seeking the man who killed her father.

King utilises an ornate style of prose for Ruthye's narration reflecting the youngster's stoicism and determination but through her depiction of Kara her admiration is abundantly clear, and in doing so it paints a picture of who Supergirl really is underneath the costume. Talking of pictures, Bilquis Evely's art is rich, meticulous and otherworldly, and brings the humanity of the characters to the surface against the backdrop of fantastical environments. 

Even with King's impressive roster of current titles (Batman/Catwoman, Strange Adventures, Rorschach) this series is already proving to be a real highlight.

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