Mini Reviews November 2021

Nov 29, 2021
Human Target #1

Tom King, Greg Smallwood
DC $4.99 (02/11/2021)

Jo: Tom King's formula of picking a lesser-known or peripheral name and exploring their character in searching depth comes into play again with his take on Christopher Chance, the Human Target, introduced in 1972 by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino. Chance is a gifted mimic and professional doppelganger, protecting the wealthy by disguising himself as the rich man in question. And who, in the DC universe, is richer or more at risk of assassination than Lex Luthor?

This time, King sets the story as a brilliant modern noir, with Chase investigating a murder by poisoning, with a deadly time limit on the contract. I'll admit I wasn't aware of the character before reading this issue the first time, but the set-up is so cleverly put together that I needed no background to catch on - though I won't deny a second read did elicit a couple of "oh, I SEE" moments.

Smallwood's art is exactly, precisely right for this story: his 1950s crisp styling is packed with class and dignity. Funky colours give pizzazz (yes, I said pizzazz) to a page which races us through the timeline one assumes we'll be walked through in detail later; a double page where Chase and Luthor are in conversation, rich in ochre tones, has a single panel where the background is removed, but the speech bubbles instead take on that ochre colour; a whiskey glass and decanter are shown by the removal of colour rather than its addition - the whole thing is an absolute masterclass.

...and of course, it's Tom King riffing on a universe we kind of know but in a corner we haven't really explored. I loved this cover to cover, can't wait to read more.

Dark Knights Of Steel #1

Tom Taylor, Yasmine Putri
DC $3.99 (02/11/2021)

Matt: Way back when, a series like this - where familiar characters are placed in different eras and/or settings - would have been released under the 'Elseworlds' imprint, which has effectively been retired now as we haven't seen anything new officially issued under that banner for years. Fortunately the concept isn't off the table completely as evidenced by the ridiculously entertaining opening chapter for this twelve-part series. The Els - Jor, Lara, baby Kal - escape Krypton to arrive on Medieval Earth where they establish themselves - thanks to their 'magical' powers - as monarchistic rulering class. As is the way of these things, there are others who are not overly pleased with the new lords of the land, and covet power themselves.

Describing this as DC's Game Of Thrones is far too reductive, as there's a lot of ingenuity and inspiration beyond that comparison on display here, but it's a good place to start to give a sense of how the story's structured. Tom Taylor offers some neat twists on the established icons of the DCU (the positioning of Bruce Wayne within the hierarchy will likely lead the tale in unexpected directions) and then things are taken up several notches from there through the gorgeously composed visuals from Yasmine Putri. Regal, dynamic and brought to vivid life via a rich, vibrant colour palette, it's exactly the style required for this kind of yarn.

Swords and sorcery and superheroes. A pulp-infused treat.

What's The Furthest Place From Here #1

Tyler Boss, Matthew Rosenberg, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Image $4.99 (10/11/2021)

Jo: Anyone who's ever read anything I've written on here probably experiences zero surprise that I've picked the latest Matt Rosenberg book to review; yes, I couldn't resist! Rosenberg has been talking this up on the socials for many moons and the story of the trials and tribulations the creative and publishing teams went through to even get this to press is a whole drama in itself. But here it is, finally, and yes, it is absolutely worth the wait and the anguish.

Rosenberg teams with artist Tyler Boss, a pairing which was more than the sum of its parts on 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, and it's interesting to me that the book's title page lists Boss first, with both being credited with 'storytelling'. This departure from convention is apt - the writing and art are clearly symbiotic here - as is the strengthening of the credit for Otsmane-Elhaou's superbly creative lettering. Lettering a comic such as this, featuring many characters, is challenging, especially as Boss braids parallel stories on the same page, and here inventive lettering allows us to understand multiple characters talking at once, including those off panel, without the page feeling crowded or detracting from the stylish action.

...but what's it about? A cast list on the title page tells us this is a team book, and we are introduced immediately to Prufrock (who is not well) and Sid, who appears to be pregnant (though this maybe not be as simple as it looks), part of a gang of kids who have barricaded themselves into an abandoned record store, apparently under siege from multiple gangs, and some mysterious 'strangers'. Their dystopian environment has some comparisons with Never Never Land (the JM Barry one, not MJ, as far as I can tell) - the kids fear 'growing up' as this brings on some kind of as-yet-undetermined transition and rival gangs of kids uphold rules defined between them to keep a delicate peace in this adult-free post-disaster world.

If value for money is a big deal for you, I can assert that this is well worth its cover price: a mammoth issue #1 which sets up story and mystery in equal measures and gave enough character depth to have me fully engaged. Even without the special vinyl single which lucky readers might just about be able to lay hands on, there's a playlist in my head associated with this: it's very punk, very classy, and very, very moreish.


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