Mini Reviews October 2021

Oct 31, 2021
Batman: The Imposter #1

BATMAN: THE IMPOSTER #1
Mattson Tomlin, Andrea Sorrentino, Jordie Bellaire
DC $5.99 (12/10/2021)

Matt: Even though he's a guy dressed in a bat costume, of all the iconic superheroes from the Big Two's pantheons, Batman is consistently the most adaptable and is the character that most ably lends himself to inhabiting something approximating the real world. This is due not only to his lack of super powers and (aside from his colourful rogues' gallery) that his territory is the crime-infested mean streets of Gotham, but also because his motivation is something very specific, and perhaps more relatable, in a fashion: vengeance on the criminal underworld that took his parents from him. We've all seen the recent trailer for Matt Reeve's The Batman, which appears to be taking an even more grounded approach to the character than we saw in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, but first is the opening chapter of this miniseries which attempts to apply further plausibility to the notion of an ├╝ber-rich orphan donning a fancy costume at night to beat up bad guys.

Andrea Sorrentino's outlandishly creative and inventive page layouts and detailed illustrations are the obvious draw (pun intended!), his ability to open up visual ideas in unique ways regularly producing startling results, and he's as good as he's ever been here. But it's Tomlin's script that provides the dramatic weight, presenting a Batman with only a few years under his belt, who's been accepted then shunned by the Gotham PD, and has now become a significant enough pest to the Gotham elite that they decide to take drastic measures.
 
Bruce Wayne is depicted as damaged and obsessed, his mission paramount above all other concerns, the nightly punishment inflicted on his body and mind taking its toll. The way Sorrentino shapes the presentation of Tomlin's tale elicits a mix of eye pops and jaw drops, and while you may feel the 'dark & gritty' take on the Caped Crusader has been done to death, this is unquestionably a cut above: a delightfully melancholic and menacing spin on the most durable of characters.

ET-ER one-shot

ET-ER ONE-SHOT
Jeff McComsey, Javier Pulido, Dan Panosian, Sean Crystal, Jean-Francois Beaulieu
AWA Upshot $3.99 (13/10/2021)

Jo: This snagged a spot on my pull-list on the basis of several positive attributes: a zero-commitment one-shot, giant-sized at standard cover price, two stories in one, contains medics and aliens AND it's from AWA Upshot, an imprint which has yet to significantly disappoint. These may seem fairly prosaic reasons for picking a book - that's a fair cop - but the gamble paid off in this case, with an intelligently funny, well-paced couple of stories with inventive writing and possible promise for more.

In the first of the two stories, Jeff McComsey introduces Drs Chen (the newbie) and Mobray (the old hand) and a literally colourful cast of aliens of very much ALL shapes and sizes. Pulido's art is brilliantly bonkers, with solid flats of lurid colour giving a really striking atmosphere to the book. Loud mention is also needed for letterer Dezi Sienty: representing alien languages graphically presents challenges, and the solution here is quirky and cute. 'Hard Pill', the second story, is a kind of Ant-Man/Innerspace deal, only more 'ewwww gross'. 

Having spent a couple of days this month as a guest of our wonderful NHS, and seeing what miracles are being achieved by the every day superheroes of hospital staff, I read this with added recognition of weary faces, frustration at lack of resources and challenges beyond what normal humans should have to endure. It brought a big smile to my face though, and I'm encouraged by the words 'debut special' on the cover - here's hoping there will be more episodes to come. 

Strange Adventures #12

STRANGE ADVENTURES #12
Tom King, Mitch Gerads, Evan Shaner
DC $4.99 (12/10/2021)

Matt: Tom King's latest foray into the realms of second tier characters is one of his best yet. Free of continuity, the story has covered (via flashbacks) Adam Strange battling an invasion on his second home planet, Rann, before being called to defend Earth from the same invaders in the present. Accusations of war crimes abound and Mister Terrific is sent to uncover the truth of the matter.

It straddles the line between the nature of heroism and the reality of combat, and how victors can paint themselves in a certain light no matter what it took to get them to that point. Indeed, it digs into the very concept of superheroism itself, and the idea that we treat these larger than life characters as infallible when, in reality, given the nature of their 'profession', there's no way they could be.

Evan Shaner illustrates the past sequences, Mitch Gerads focuses on the present, their differing styles complementing each other with thrilling action/adventure juxtaposed against a world where the blood isn't easily washed off the hands, the excitement of battle making way for scars both physical and mental. An outstanding twelve-parter that highlights how the Black Label imprint has quickly become the home of some of the finest superhero storytelling of the 21st century.

Nubia and the Amazons #1

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #1
Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala, Alitha Martinez, Mark Morales, Emilio Lopez
DC $3.99 (05/10/2021)


Jo: DC have widened the range of books surrounding the home of the most famous of the Amazons and her sisters in recent months and I welcome this with open arms, especially when the cover is as striking as that for Nubia And The Amazons. I was smitten on sight of Nubia with her swirling fur cape, huge cloud of natural Black hair and sapphire and gold armour, snarling a battle cry as she leaps into action, spear poised - it's just stunning. But if the cover is the draw, do the contents live up to the promise?
 
Storytellers Williams and Ayala open with a helpful 'Brief History of Nubia' - a reminder that she arrived on Themiscyra via the Well of Souls, a portal from the River Styx via which souls of women who died violently in Man's World are reborn as Amazons, and that the Well was sealed just after her arrival - possibility coincidentally with Diana's birth. Fast forward, and Nubia has been chosen to be Queen and has stepped away from her duties as guardian of Doom's Doorway, and the Well has suddenly reopened, sending forth an influx of new Amazons to be greeted by the mysterious and reclusive Magala.

It's a fantastic first issue, absolutely jam-packed with story, intrigue and characterisation. Martinez' artwork is ravishing: she captures the individuality of the Amazons with astonishing efficiency, the uniqueness of each woman shining out. Lopez' colours slide effortlessly between the sepia gentleness of Magala's story to the majesty of Nubia on her throne and the horrors of Penelope's prophetic dreams. Williams' script is subtle, dignified and clever, exactly the right voice for these mighty and soon-to-be-mighty women, and is full of promise for the story to come. 

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