Mini Reviews September 2021

Sept 30, 2021

Marc Guggenheim, Eduardo Ferigato, Marcelo Costa, Diego Sanches
Dark Horse $3.99 (08/09/2021)

Matt: Marc Guggenheim has worked in various media and knows how to tailor his writing accordingly, so while Last Flight Out could easily work as prestige TV series, Guggenheim effectively utilises the comic book format, meaning there's a lot of storytelling choices in this debut issue that wouldn't work nearly as well elsewhere, from panel composition to the interspersion of text-centric narrative delivery. Which is really just a fancy way of saying, no, this is not an adaptation of an unsold screenplay, this is, first and foremost, a comic book.

And what a comic book it is! One of the strongest opening chapters of 2021, it tackles the familiar and timely notion of the Earth's days being numbered due to humanity's careless approach to looking after the environment. The head of the Exodus Project has been absorbed by his work for years, but on the eve of the final flight into the cosmos, he's rattled by something more personal and sets off on an excursion with the clock ticking.

It mixes the human drama alongside the political drama (would you believe there's a strong contingent of people who believe the whole 'Planet Death' thing is a hoax??) and some strong artwork from Ferigato gives the premise a sense of scale, both global and emotional. It's paced brilliantly, contains some thrilling sequences, and, as you may have picked up already, there are some knowing parallels with what we've experienced in the real world these past 18 months.

Last Flight Out proves that, in the right hands, comics can easily hold their own even in the most cinematic of genres.


Jeff Lemire
Dark Horse $5.99 (08/09/2021)

Jo: In recent months, I've found that the pandemic and the ensuing repetitiveness of day to day life has left me to some extent a bit numb, as if my emotions are flattened out (other than when something triggers acute stress, when I'm flying off the handle in an instant). The swell of feelings that washed over me as a result of this first issue was a shock to my system then. 

Jeff Lemire writes and draws and, essentially, his book stunned and overwhelmed me - a study of a man dealing with the worst kind of loss, it is on the surface deceptively sparse, showing the blandness of the daily routine for protagonist Will but with a continuous subtle background music of his grief, his memories and how they have become both unreliable but also necessary, interjected with the efforts of the world to regain contact with this lost father, the centre of whose life has been torn out. 

I picked this up because I love puzzles, sceptical, admittedly, as to whether I would enjoy it having had mixed reactions to Lemire's artwork previously but I am absolutely smitten: this is a flawless first issue that left me gasping for breath - absolutely nothing but Lemire's art would or could be this effective here. It's a masterpiece. 


James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire
DC Black Label $3.99 (07/09/2021)

James: I have the rest of the PCG to thank for this one; when I read about this title in Previews, I decided not to go for it initially as it seemed to be a horror comic, and I'm not really a horror fan. It was only when my PCG colleagues told me how great it was that I decided that I'd dismissed it too soon. I can say happily that they were right and I was wrong - this is a remarkable book, and one that you should be reading (though good luck finding the back issues - it's already generated a really strong word-of-mouth buzz).

As this story has unfolded, it has become more fascinating with every twist. In this issue, the friends trapped in the eponymous house learn that it's not just their captor Walter who is an enigma - both how they got there, and how they're being sustained hold further mysteries. There's still at least another six issues of this series to go and, brilliantly, I have no idea where this is going - as a jaded comics fan, this uncertainty is a marvel. James Tynion IV has absolutely established himself as one of the must-read writers in comics, and Bueno's art here is equal parts beautiful and expressive of a stygian horror. This is one of the books I leave until last to read when it appears on my pull-list; it's the shadowy treat that continues to satisfy.

Primordial #1

Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart
Image $3.99 (15/09/2021)

Jo: Lemire steals my heart for the second time in a month with Primordial, but this time it's my swift-beating sci-fi heart he's managed to whisk away on a rocket ship to the stars. This is exactly my kind of mystery - a bit of factual history blended with some conspiracy theory and seasoned with fedora-hat-wearing intrigue. 

The introduction is a story of Donald Pembrook, a scientist who stumbles (or was he pushed?) onto knowledge which NASA has tried to cover up - the monkeys who were sent into space in 1959 did not die immediately as reported but may have survived - and the first issue sloshes on the intrigue: the shadowy stalker figure who may or may not be on Pembrook's side, the secretive boss who clams up as Pembrook locates discomforting information. These elements might seem trope-y in the wrong hands but Lemire is a master storyteller and this first issue is tight. 

...but it's the Sorrentino-Lemire collaboration which really elevates this. I remember the impact of the first few issues of Gideon Falls and how Sorrentino's astounding designs took Lemire's story to entirely new places which I can't imagine being achieved with any other collaborating artist. Here, Sorrentino forces page structure to broaden the narrative - we hear the static, feel the juddering vibrations, smell the distress of the capsule's tiny pilots. A Sorrentino-Lemire collaboration is a 4-D comics experience. 

Punderworld TP Vol 01

Linda Sejic
Image £16.99 (25/08/2021)

Reb: Isn’t everyone a little familiar with the Greek Gods? There’s one named after a delivery company, there’s the one that came out of the sea half naked years before Ursula Andress did it, and then there’s the one who absolutely could not keep it in his toga. Oh wait, did I say ‘the one’ there? Because that statement could apply to [checks notes] ALL OF THEM. The closest thing you could come to Holy matrimony in the Greek Mythos would be Hades and Persephone, where aside from a little bit of light kidnapping, they mostly behaved themselves and upheld the sanctity of wedlock. So, if you were going to tout any Hellenic heart-throbs as 'love’s young dream', it would be the God of the Underworld and his eventual bride.

But how did we get here? Linda Sejic’s Punderworld sees fit to turn 'and then he kidnapped her, but it’s totes fine' into a courtly love story, and I would say it’s akin to other YA-style spins on myth and legend, but that would be damning it with faint praise. 

For one, Punderworld is funny and heartfelt. Hades and Persephone do fall in love, but when you have a family that meddles as much as theirs do, there is going to be trouble. There’s always gaps for interpretation in mythology, so Sejic turns the tale from abduction to adoration.

Don’t be put off if you don’t know your Pantheon. Each God/dess is designed so they at least resemble what they stand for: a quick skim of an Olympic banquet scene gives us plenty of divinely inspired designs. There are artistic character quirks here and there, such as an angry Demeter sprouting red hot chillies from her hair, or Zeus’s halo of lightning. There is some great use of border art where Demeter and Persephone are concerned: during their heated argument the borders overgrow and throb as their discussion turns into a full-grown mother-daughter row. Resembling the protagonists, Ancient Greece is lush and verdant, and the Underworld dark and mysterious. Oh, and there’s no shortage of drama, which you can expect from a big family where nearly everyone is someone else’s cousin. By the Gods, a must-read!


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