December 20, 2018

The Pull List: 12 September 2018

One of the absolute best new comic books of 2017 was Scales & Scoundrels. It was a fantasy adventure book that started as a loose Dungeons & Dragons pastiche and then expanded and developed along with its characters as they split apart and found ways to face their own problems and challenges. Superficially it was very much like Image stable-mate Rat Queens, whereas that book is dominated by a scabrous attitude and a transgressive sense of humour, Scales & Scoundrels felt more sweet. The humour was there, but the stories had something more serious and even noble about them. It was simply a charming confection.

Then it spontaneously ended, with this 12th and final issue published on 12 September. No real explanation was given - perhaps sales, perhaps personal issues for the creative time - but it simply felt too soon. With the trade paperbacks running to five issues each, these last two issues haven't even made it into a book - so readers may want to track down copies sooner rather than later, since they may potentially never get reprinted or collected.

This final issue picks up on Dorma, returned home but trapped by a rockfall among the tunnels. It's an emotional but fairly truncated conclusion, leading her to come to terms with leaving home many years earlier as well with the death of her brother. Galaad's artwork is wonderful as ever, with a deceptive simplicity. Sebastian Girner's handle on character is superb. We have lost this book for now, and hopefully it will come back, but if this is it then it goes out on a typically strong note. (5/5)

Scales & Scoundrels #12. Image. Written by Sebastian Girner. Art by Galaad.

Under the cut: reviews of Catwoman, Daredevil, Detective Comics, Hawkman, Invader Zim, Mech Cadet Yu, Moth & Whisper, Ms Marvel, Oblivion Song, Rat Queens, Sleepless, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Superman, and The Wicked + the Divine.

Catwoman #3
DC Comics. Written by Joelle Jones. Art by Joelle Jones and Fernando Blanco. Colours by Laura Allred and John Kalisz.
Selina Kyle meets with the one behind the scenes that has been copying her work, and made her a target as a cop-killer in the process. Joelle Jones is really standing out in this series - not just for her distinctive art, which is great at expressing the energy and emotion of the action scenes, but for her clever and intriguing scripts. There's a good blend on show here: the fights, the conversations, the moments of reflection - and a kicker of a revelation by the end. Catwoman hasn't been this good since Genevieve Valentine left. (4/5)

Daredevil #608
Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art and colours by Phil Noto. 
Matt Murdock's troubles with his imaginary twin brother Mike begin to grow, as Mike wises up to his own situation and takes matters into hand to keep himself alive. After bemoaning with the last issue that this weird storyline seems to be pulling away from the Mayor Fisk crisis, this issue it whips around and dives right back into it. Phil Noto's artwork really lifts this one. I'm still not that interested in the whole Mike Murdock thing, but at least it is now progressing more interesting story elements and looks great while it does. (3/5)

Detective Comics #988
DC Comics. Written by James Robinson. Art by Stephen Segovia. Colours by Ivan Plascencia.
Still emotionally bruised from his recent affairs, Batman investigates a seemingly ordinary murder. Naturally it unfolds into something more complicated, with multiple killers, the return of Firefly - and a female sidekick - and a secret room in an apartment that should have one. While the dialogue hits the odd awkward note, the plot seems razor-sharp and provides an excellent set-up for this fresh storyline. Stephen Segovia's artwork is truly sensational, and gives the story a nicely dark and realistic look. (4/5)

Hawkman #4
DC Comics. Written by Robert Venditti. Art by Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie and Paul Neary. Colours by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Shipper.
Hawkman's journey through intergalactic history brings him to the planet Thanagar, and his former incarnation Katar Hol. Much as it's rather charming to see all the various takes on Hawkman take their victory laps, I would probably be happiest if DC conclude this story arc with all them magically wrapped up in just the one definitive back story and identity going forwards.In the meantime this is a fun storyline with fantastic artwork, so it's certainly giving the readers value for money. (3/5)

Invader Zim #34
Oni Press. Written by Eric Trueheart. Art by Kate Sherron. Colours by Fred C. Stresing.
On an alien prison station without any remaining credit, Zim not only loses his valued imprisoned enemies but also finds himself imprisoned by the right angle-obsessed Gellaxis. His only hope? Gir remembering to add more credit to his account. In a series whose quality varies an awful lot from issue to issue, this new Zim story is one of the better ones. The jokes work, the characters reflect their TV counterpart, and the Dib-free space setting feels fresh and engaging. You're still going to want to be a fan of the TV cartoon to fully enjoy this book, but if you are a fan this is definitely an entertaining read. Kate Sherron's art reflects nicely the style of creator Jhonen Vasquez. (3/5)

Mech Cadet Yu #12
Boom Studios. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Takeshi 
This final issue of Mech Cadet Yu feels rather rushed and abrupt, making me wonder just how many issues' notice the creative team got that the series was ending. That's how it feels anyway: one of the chief assets of the series at its beginning was the growing relationships between the characters. There simply isn't enough of that here, and the series would benefit from a longer and more substantial epilogue that what it gets. Still, this is a firm enough finale to satisfy readers, and leaves this 12-issue epic as a pleasing and well-crafted read for those following behind on the trade paperbacks. (3/5)

Moth & Whisper #1
Aftershock. Written by Ted Anderson. Art and colours by Jen Hickman.
Original superhero books are a tough sell: anybody keen to read a book of that genre is most likely satisfied reading one of the long-established corporate books like The Amazing Spider-Man or Batman. To its credit, Anderson and Hickman's new miniseries Moth & Whisper positions itself at the fringe of the genre. It takes up several superhero genre tropes, but does blend them with healthy doses of science fiction, espionage, and crime. The deliberately stark colours and artwork give it a striking look, but things are pulled down somewhat by this first issue acting as a bit of an infodump rather than a proper story. Future issues should be able to avoid that, so it may be worth giving this book a chance for at least two months to see how it develops. (3/5)

Ms Marvel #34
Marvel. Written by G. Willow Wilson. Art by Nico Leon. Colours by Ian Herring.
Ms Marvel fights the Shocker while Bruno finally unlocks the secret to Kamala's powers. While the fights are always entertaining, it's really Bruno's discovery that's the winner here. It's an explanation I would never have thought of or expected, and further extends Ms Marvel one of the Marvel Universe's most interesting characters. Kamala's fight gets particularly odd by the end, and there's foreshadowing galore - that's all a bit weird given that G. Willow Wilson only has a few more months left on this book before leaving for Wonder Woman. (4/5)

Oblivion Song #7
Image. Written by Robert Kirkman. Art by Lorenzo De Felici. Colours by Annalisa Leoni.
Nathan may have found his brother, but now he's in US military custody - and has a terrible confession to make. This is a hugely satisfying issue to read, because it really finishes up establishing the comic's first act and finally allowing things to fully make sense. There's a strong sense of tragedy, as well as a great pushing-off of the book into its second phase. Sure it's playing with some familiar tropes (the armed forces want to use Nathan's machine as a weapon, for example), but it's playing with them really well. Lorenzo De Felici's artwork has really grown on me, and along with Annalisa Leoni's colours gives the book a strong identity. (4/5)

Rat Queens #11
Image. Written by Kurtis J. Weibe. Art by Owen Gieni.
Finally back together, the Queens resolve to move on from Dee's shattering of reality - when suddenly a forgotten member of the team arrives on their doorstep. It's a fresh start for Rat Queens after what felt to me like a pretty long and confusing story arc. With everything getting somewhat complicated and confusing - I admired the ambition, less so the execution - it is nice to have a sort of a loose reset happen here so things can become a little more focused. Owen Gieni's charming art continues to support the characters, who are - as always - well characterised and amusing thanks to Kurtis J. Weibe's script. (3/5)

Sleepless #7
Image. Written by Sarah Vaughn. Art by Leila Del Duca. Colours by Alissa Sallah.
Sarah Vaughn and Leila Del Duca's thoughtful, slowly paced fantasy series returns for its second arc. The series is absolutely a slow burn, taking its time in developing the characters and the world around them. I'm finding that pace weirdly delightful. Leila Del Duca's artwork has a wonderful eye for detail; if you're enticed by the idea of beautiful dresses and courtly clothing, a medieval architecture, this is absolutely a book for you. There's also a jump forward in the story of about a year, which was quite a surprise. (4/5)

Star Wars: Darth Vader #21
Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Guisepe Camuncoli and Daniele Orlandini. Colours by David Curiel.
Given the choice of planet for his own personal residence, Vader chooses Mustafar: the volcanic world where he lost his wife, and was horribly scarred in a lost duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is essentially trivia-as-narrative like most prequels, giving the backstory to why Vader has a castle on the planet during Rogue One (another pretty solid example of the trivia phenomenon). This is the final arc for this volume before it wraps up; I kind of wish Charles Soule would have taken the book somewhere more interesting rather than revisiting old elements so extensively, but for what it is it is entertaining enough. (3/5)

Superman #3
DC Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Oclair Albert. Colours by Alex Sinclair.
The Earth has been pulled into the Phantom Zone, the very place that Superman had just banished the alien criminal Rogol Zar - who was the actual reason Krypton exploded and who holds a murderous grudge against all Kryptonians. This is a wild story concept, and should be a momentous dramatic adventure. Instead its decompressed pace is crippling the suspense, and the regular comedic beats are ruining the drama. Ivan Reis pencils only get you so far in making an entertaining comic book. (3/5)

The Wicked + the Divine #39
Image. Written by Kieron Gillen. Art by Jamie McKelvie. Colours by Matt Wilson.
The penultimate story arc comes to a conclusion with an issue that is unexpectedly sedate, but at the same time packed with positively cataclysmic revelations for The Wicked + the Divine's ultimate climax. The series has primarily followed Laura through her transformation to the goddess Persephone. Now she is just Laura again, and the how and why of that change forms the bulk of this issue. It's not action-packed, but it's well characterised, and smart. The end is near; I'm not sure I'm ready. (4/5)

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