Mini Reviews August 2021

Aug 31, 2021

Superman: Son of Kal-El #2

Tom Taylor, John Timms, Gabe Eltaeb
DC $3.99 (24/08/2021)

Matt: It's surely an incredibly difficult task to create tales for the son of the most iconic of superheroes because you're always battling the overwhelming legacy of 80 years of adventures and global recognition, with an origin story that's recognised by even those with only a passing familiarity to the character. You don't want produce a carbon copy of the original but then again you don't want to stray too far away from the template and lose elements that are essential to anyone who puts on a costume with that particular logo on it.

As he's done with his outstanding current run on Nightwing, Tom Taylor has an immensely confident and engaging approach to this other second generation hero, allowing the title star to both acknowledge and grapple with his legacy, fashioning into something that's his own. Jon Kent isn't his father, but he's been raised by the best, and in the same way that Jonathan and Martha Kent shaped Clark's worldview, Clark and Lois have provided the moral springboard for Jon to launch along his own path. The notion that he's not afraid to get involved in situations his father would have traditionally steered clear of is very promising, resulting in a more politicised Superman.

John Timms' art is a mix of energy, poignancy and inspiration, while Gabe Eltaeb's colours aren't too flashy, capturing a tone that's serious but not without a sense of fun. Two issues in, it feels like this title is poised to soar.

Lazarus Risen #6

Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santi Arcas
Image Comics $7.99 (18/08/2021)

I'm very proud to say that this juggernaut is one that the PCG backed from the very start in 2013, and it's a joy to see the story threads that Greg Rucka has weaved since then begin to come together. In the back pages for this issue, Rucka makes an unnecessary apology for the delay in shipping, but I like the wait and the anticipation for this book; firstly it really gives it the feel of a prestige TV show, where a wait between seasons is the norm, and secondly, the bumper-sized issues really give the story space to deliver.
This time, there is a chance of a ceasefire in the war between Carlyle and Hock - but it's clear that Jakob Hock has more than the war on his mind. Meanwhile, Forever learns more about who she truly is, while trying to engineer a future for Eight, her next iteration. Sometimes Lazarus delivers brilliant action, whilst other issues like this are quieter, but both modes are utterly riveting, and this remains one of the best realised worlds in comics. Michael Lark's art is a marvel as always, beautifully complimented by Santi Arcas' moody colours.
We've always said that this series feels eerily prescient, and after the last two years, that feeling is stronger than ever, but more importantly, it is still brilliant entertainment, and one of the most sophisticated mainstream books you can buy. If that's not enough, there's even a recipe for Carlyle standard issue bread in the back - what more can you ask for?!

Fantastic Four: Life Story #3

Mark Russell, Sean Izaakse, Nolan Woodard
Marvel $4.99 (11/08/2021)

Matt: I was initially a little of unsure this series having expected it, perhaps naïvely, to follow the same pattern as Chip Zdarsky's excellent Spider-Man: Life Story series. Instead it fairly swiftly started taking bigger swings at established continuity, progressing the Fantastic Four's story across the decades in 'real time', and it's now firmly clicked into place for me following this third instalment.

It's now 1984 and Reed is still trying to convince everyone that the most urgent threat to humanity is not Russia's nuclear arsenal but the coming arrival of Galactus. The FF are no longer a thing now that Sue is shacked up with Namor, Johnny acting as messenger between them, and Doom is building an alliance with a sinister new player. Writer Mark Russell deftly weaves real world history into the narrative while Sean Izaakse's art helps keep things grounded in a more recognisable environment, but allows the 'fantastic' to flourish when required.

With this and the Spidey book it feels like this concept still has a lot of potential opportunities for other members of Marvel's vast pantheon.

Echolands #1

J H Williams III, W Haden Blackman, Dave Stewart
Image Comics $4.99 (25/08/2021)

Jo: Whenever a new comic book pops in a non-standard format, it's met with a resigned roll of the eye by some ('It'll sit weirdly in the box', 'it won't fit in bags', 'it'll get damaged' etc) but I admit to having a little soft spot for those books where the artist clearly has enough confidence and heft to require that their vision be seen in a format that works for that content, and so it is with the vision of landscape-format loveliness that is Echolands #1. 

It's the format that grabs you first: not just landscape, but double landscape - the staples are in the short edge, giving a banner-style double frontage to really show off Williams' design - but then, oh boy, the artwork is an absolute knock-out! My mathematician's limited skills of expression struggle to do justice to the novelty, the scale, the detail and the dynamism that Williams has brought to bear here, and Stewart's colours, always vivid, are put through their paces to the max, as if Williams were almost daring Stewart to go one better in every panel. 

Blackman and Williams' story hacks along at a terrific pace - quite literally, in the first eight pages, as protagonist Hope Redhood, hood and scarlet cape flowing magnificently, dashes through streets, markets and magical alleyways in an attempt to evade the 'Wizard's coppers'. There's magic and demons, robots (YES!!) and lucky cats, oracles and hieroglyphs and plenty of salty language... this feels like the start of something hugely exciting and I am really looking forward to the next instalment. 

Superman: Red and Blue #6

Sophie Campbell, Matt Magner, Tom King, Paolo Rivera, Rex Ogle, Mike Norton, Darcie Little Badger, Steve Pugh
DC $5.99 (17/08/2021)

Matt: There's been an uptick in the number of colour-themed anthology titles from the Big Two recently, focusing on their most popular/lucrative characters, and as always with these things they're very much a hit or miss affair The hits generally outweigh the misses though, and the final instalment of this particular series features some of the best short stories to have appeared across the six issues.

The finest Superman tales tend to lean heavily into his mythos and his unique perspective on the world, informed by his Krypton heritage but nurtured on a a farm in Smallville. In this issue Sophie Campell's warm and witty tale of temperamental super kitty is wordless but charming, Darcie Little Badger and Steve Pugh's eight-pager is an effective distillation of the character application of smalltown life lessons in the modern world, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, the highlight is Tom King's moving collaboration with Paolo Rivera. With this and his Up In The Sky miniseries a couple of years back, there's a very strong argument that King should be given a lot more time with the Man of Steel in the future as he quite clearly has a firm grasp of the character's emotional core.

Perhaps not as consistent overall as the recent Batman: Black And White mini but certainly a worthy investment for fans of the Last Son of Krypton.


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