I'll be reviewing a few DC titles over on Comics Bulletin this week - but what else did we have to read through last Wednesday? Review roundup time!
White Devil #1
Matt Evans, Andrew Helinski, Nate Burns
We’ll start off with this comic submitted to me by the writers – and guys, if you make comics yourselves and want me to review your work, I will EVENTUALLY get round to doing it if you contact the email on your right – Matt Evans and Andrew Helinski. This is a homemade effort, with hand-written dialogue and black and white artwork. It works rather nicely, actually, mostly thanks to the pacing and artwork from Nate Burns. There’s a slow-burn effect here, which works because Burns does such a smart job with the page layouts. Towards the end…things get very adult. So you’ve been warned!
The occult side of this is handled well, with a fairly realistic approach which is creepy and awkward and feels naturalistic. The main problem is that while half of the lettering is done by hand, the other half is done via computer, and sticks out. For a story which is focused on nature and the occult, seeing computerised font does tend to break you out the narrative here. The story also requires a jump from the reader in terms of acceptance halfway through, and you have to be open with the switch in style. It’s an decent first issue overall though, well-paced but with a few problems. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.
James Asmus and Clay Mann
I expected a lot from this first issue, and, thank goodness, got everything I’d wanted. Gambit has spent the last few years in a generally mopey state, having been thrown out the X-Men by Peter Milligan and brought back by Mike Carey after Messiah Complex. The Rogue/Gambit relationship was never properly crushed by Marvel, which meant new storylines featuring him with Frenzy and her with Magneto fell flat. With a popular relationship lifted from the cartoon series, the comic characters really needed somebody to push them apart and give them a life of their own. Asmus does this here, giving Gambit back the intelligence he had when he first appeared, as well as the cocky sense of fun which made him popular in the first place.
The artwork is decent, although there appears to be some kind of mix-up between pencils and colours which inker Seth Mann says will be fixed for issue #2. However this is a solid story, which reintroduces Gambit, makes him likeable and independent, then throws him into the deep end. A very promising start, with a good sense of humour.
My first foray into 2000AD since the Free Comic Book Day issue sees every story in the magazine currently 4 parts through. 2000AD is a British anthology magazine, which has a Judge Dredd story kicking off each issue, followed by three or four other stories afterwards, from a variety of writers. Each story is around 8 pages, which sounds like it might be short – but there’s a different ethos here. 2000AD writers tend to compress their stories brilliantly, giving a lot of information in only a few short pages. Every story here tends to share that, with a dark sense of humour included.
This issue has a fun Judge Dredd story with a neat cliffhanger, but the highlight is probably the five-page long Aquila story from Gordon Rennie and Leigh Gallaher. It’s about a gladiator who was put on the cross to die by the Romans, only to be given immortality by the gods in exchange for his becoming an avenger on their behalf. He goes around killing evil people, basically. The story here is short, but sharp, and twists around a few times. The artwork from Gallaher is excellent, with a neat approach to drawing Boudicca, amongst others.
With all the stories partway through already, it’s not an issue to jump on with. But the stories are still fun, with other short strips from Andy Diggle, Jock and Rob Williams amongst the fun here. When we next hit a jumping on issue, I’ll return for a proper look over the magazine.
Ben McCool and Mario Guevarra
An original graphic novel based on the life of Russian warrior Nevsky came out from IDW recently, which if you know me? You’ll know it appeals to me. I do enjoy me some Russians. And this is a nice story, paced smartly from McCool despite a few problems with the supporting cast. It takes a few reads to properly grasp all the subplots at work here, with tiny stories given to each member of the cast. Which is great, it means more read-throughs are necessary, and better value for money. It does mean that Guevarra struggles a little to differentiate all these strong Russian guys, with beards and armour. Despite the slight overcrowding though, the story mixes action with tactics in an entertaining way, and manages to teach even the dumbest of comic book reviewers a little bit about Russian history. Oh no! Comic books are trying to educate us now?!
Batman & Robin #12
Peter Tomasi and Mick Gray
Despite a somewhat boring villain, there are still some neat moments in this 12th-issue wrapup from Tomasi. Batman and Robin are fighting a villain with a countdown clock on his chest, and it’s a fight issue. You’ll see the twist regarding the countdown from a mile away, and the ending is a bit rushed. The highlights actually come from a guest-starring Nightwing, who has been a bit of an unsung star of the New 52 so far. Tomasi gives Nightwing all the best characterisation here, and also Batman climbs into a robot suit halfway through. So, there’s that.