Mini Reviews December 2021

Dec 31, 2021
Maniac of New York: Bronx is Burning #1

Elliott Kalan, Andrea Mutti
Aftershock $4.99 (01/12/2021)

Jo: Kalan and Mutti embark on a second arc of their near-future horror, where the titular maniac's activities have become so normalised that attacks are warned and reported just like the local weather news. The original draw to this series for me was Mutti's artwork, his rain and snow are second to none (I know, I have some niche obsessions, comic book precipitation is one of the them) but the dark humour and life observation here has kept me coming back, and if you haven't sampled this yet, I strongly recommend splurging some of your Christmas vouchers on the first volume. Following the subway train massacre which wrapped the first arc, Detective Pettibone and assistant Greene are stuck exploring every false lead and crank call in an effort to find some way of stopping Maniac Harry's seemingly random attacks, and now his field of operations seems to be expanding, as he approaches a school which thought it was safe... 

The framing of the school as part of a chain of institutions taken over by a faceless corporate entity, which controls every element of the curriculum and pastoral care was cringeingly amusing to me, and Kalan has set plenty of hooks in place to generate the intrigue required to pull me right into issue #2. I love the grittiness of the investigating team's obsessive persistence in spite of the loss of all support, the creepy menace and unfathomable incentives of the monster and the weary resignation of the kids. The crowning glory for me is the bonus material at the back, presenting the SmartsCorp approach to managing school safety in times of maniac: hilarious, glossy and chilling in equal measure, it's worth reading every little detail. 

Nightwing #87

Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, Adriano Lucas
DC $3.99 (21/12/2021)

Matt: Just in before the final whistle comes one of the best single issues of the year. One continuous image running across 22 pages, it's a tour de force of panel design and visual dynamism. A $10 million dollar hit has been put out on Dick Grayson:  not his alter ego as would generally be expected but his civilian identity following his recent benevolent offering. Cue gangsters taking potshots at him as Dick hurtles back to his apartment to save his beloved puppy, Bitewing, from harm.

The beautifully choreographed action flows from left to right as Dick traverses the neighbourhoods of Blüdhaven, rendered with balletic fluidity and dexterity that gives the imagery a thrilling momentum that never lets up. Tom Taylor has provided the narrative framework for Bruno Redondo to truly let rip, and he makes it all look so effortless and graceful even though it's quite clearly an enormously complicated project to undertake so successfully.

Like some sort of Bayeux Tapestry for comics, it's a work of art, and  does things that would only possible in this medium. The praise for this run on Nightwing is completely justified and then some with this wonderfully exciting chapter.

Buckhead #1

Shobo, George Kambadais
BOOM!Box $3.99 (08/12/2021)

Jo: BOOM!Box may be the BOOM! Studios imprint aimed at a younger audience, but I try not to turn my nose up at that - a comic doesn't have to load up with adult content to be worthy of adult readership, and Buckhead #1 is a great example of creators taking care and attention to build something that has intrigue, adventure and novelty without having to rely on violence or cussin' to get attention. 

Writer Shobo Coker has strong roots in afro-futurism and science fiction and and these themes run strong through Buckhead, along with a kind of Scooby-Gang-in-a-video-game kind of vibe and a soupçon of African archaeology - it sounds like a weird mixture on paper but it definitely works. Following the mysterious disappearance of his father, Toba and his mother have transplanted their lives to American backwater Buckhead, and as Toba navigates the trials of starting a new school, he comes to realise that this little one-horse town is very much more than meets the eye. 

Kambadais' artwork is dynamic and neat, but gives focus to the expressions of the characters more than the action, enabling the reader to get to know the essence of the cast of players swiftly, which is a necessity as the first issue fairly canters through the set up, leaving me almost breathless at the end, but very much keen to see where the next issue will take us. 

Batman #118

Joshua Williamson, Jorge Molina, Tomeu Morey
DC $4.99 (7/12/2021)

Kenny: With every page turn of this issue, Joshua Williamson and Jorge Molina remind me why I love Batman, from the ‘89 style intro tinged with Schumacher neon to the more obscure branches of the Bat-Family tree. Even the majority of the Dark Knight’s rogues' gallery gets a cameo, albeit by way of a billionaires’ masked ball presented on a double splash page that will have you poring over every costume. Molina expertly uses the baked-in character redesign that comes with every change of artist to keep us guessing as to the authenticity of these fancy dress foes.

Transitioning from the epic 'Fear State 'story, there is a far smaller main cast of characters here to keep track of - in fact, the majority of the book is Batman and Oracle talking over comms. Where Molino draws the cowled hero as statuesque and stoic, as he struggles with the jubilation surrounding him, every other character emotes with joy and shock in a way that keeps the story moving forward at a clip.

As has often been said, Batman stories work best when they centre around Bruce Wayne using his detective skills as well as his fists. This issue is exactly that, resetting the status quo with an ending that will propel the title into an exciting immediate future.


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