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The penultimate Comic Book Review Round-Up of January has a finger in several comic book pies. This week, I review the conclusion to Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s Pearl book one, there’s also Batman and Constantine fighting it out in Tom King’s Batman #63, Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 brings back Cyclops, and Valiant Comics’s latest issue of X-O Manowar is a good jumping on point for new readers.
Finally, I check out a few first issues, including the young adult DC Comics book Naomi, the new Guardians of the Galaxy and Image Comics’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver.
Pearl isn’t the kind of series I would usually pick up. There aren’t any superheroes in sight, but the story has been interesting all the same. Pearl is a cool character, not least because of her tattoo work, but also because the creators have worked hard to subvert the usual tropes female characters fall into in popular media.
The final issue of book one certainly doles out a healthy dose of surprises and it’s actually made me want to stick around and check out the rest of the series. Yes, Pearl #6 is a tad bit light on substance, but it makes up for it with intrigue.
Where will Pearl go next and how does she solve the many mysteries that checker her world? We’ll have to wait and see in the upcoming issues.
Not sure what to say about this issue. Tom King revisits the Bat-Cat romance, and honestly, it’s so great. He really does that relationship justice and it’s equal parts heartening and heartbreaking in this issue. There’s also Constantine thrown in the mix—but is he there to help or hinder?
Mikel Janin returns to Batman and his art is beautifully clean and precise. The character sketches are especially perfect. I love his style and wish he’d stick around for more installments.
The trouble with the Knightmares issues is that they simply don’t work as stand alone issues. They don’t have enough substance to grip the reader, and for the most part, the content is downright confusing. As a volume, though, I think Knightmares is going to be brilliant, but all that depends on how the denouement turns out. For now, though, Batman is trapped in a never-ending cycle of nightmares. How will he get out?
'Uncanny X-Men' Annual #1
Cyclops is back, baby! I love this character, despite all his flaws. Admittedly, there are a lot of recent issues that I’ve missed out on, so him becoming a jerk doesn’t colour my view of him. Having said that, the Annual tries to cover that, and Cyclops does try to confront his terrible actions.
I would have liked this issue to have redeemed Cyclops completely, but instead he makes a very personal decision to save one life rather than that of… everyone else. That ends up working in his favour, though, because had he joined Jean Grey and the other X-Men against Nate Grey, Cyclops would be dead now. Instead, he and his son have the opportunity to save all of mutantkind. I’m hoping that the writers work really hard on making Cyclops the good guy that I’ve always seen him as. He’s the leader of the X-Men, and he deserves it.
'X-O Manowar' #23
This was my first foray into an X-O story. My usual dalliance with Valiant is with titles involving Faith, so this issue was in stark contrast to her effervescent optimism. Aric, the protagonist, is a loner who appears to be very attached to his armour. What the actual story is I am unsure. But people from his home planet, Gorin, have come to Earth to seek vengeance.
This issue has been marketed as a jumping on point for new readers, and that does partly stand true. There is plenty of action to hook the reader, but it was missing a lot of context. I’m glad the writer eschewed exposition, but there’s hardly any text in here at all. The art is impressive because it carries the weight of the plot. The series will probably scratch that space story itch most of us have, but we’ll have to wait and see if it holds my interest.
Comic Book Number Ones
Naomi #1 is the newest title from DC’s new young readers imprint, Wonder Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, the story follows a young girl who missed the biggest moment in her town. How is a mysterious incident from the town’s past connected to her?
I was surprisingly captivated by this first issue. Naomi feels like an outsider with a void she must fill, but she’s got close friends who make her life fulfilling. I like the idea that there’s a mystery involved as well. The art is vibrant, and touches on being diverse. It is inconsistent, however, with Naomi’s face changing every other panel and one of the plus-size characters looking smaller from time to time.
I think the target audience will love this new hero of colour, but I can imagine older audience enjoying the series as well.
Having never read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic before, I decided to tentatively dip my foot in the pool with Donny Cates’s new title. It’s quite an epic tale—Thanos is dead and virtually every cosmic adventurer is dragged into a fight to find his replacement. There are plenty of familiar faces in the crowd, but this isn’t their story.
The titular Guardians of this series are in disarray, which still doesn’t stop them from doing their job. Having wrangled a new crew, they’re ready to set off across the galaxy and save it. But first, they need to figure out who they’re up against. Let’s just say, the Guardians have their work cut out for them, and I’m looking forward to reading about it.
I took a gamble with Oliver #1 from Image Comics. In this alternate version of the Charles Dickens novel of the same name, set in a post-apocalyptic world, Oliver is an orphan born in a segregated area. He’s adopted by a group of former soldiers who battle with the decision of bringing up a child. Oliver doesn’t fit in, but he has a kindly foster father looking after him. There’s something going on with Oliver’s heritage, but readers are kept in the dark about that.
This is quintessentially gritty and edgy; it’s what you would expect from Image Comics. The concept is good, but the execution didn’t feel that fresh or innovative. The go-to for updating any classic seems to be a dystopian story about a chosen one. This issue felt like it was going down the same route. It’s also completely devoid of female characters, barring Oliver’s mother, who appears in two panels before dying in childbirth. Will the series creators rectify these problems in the upcoming issues?
I’m looking forward to next week’s Round-Up. Most of the usual titles I enjoy reading are either on hiatus, have ended, or aren’t as frequent, so I’m going to have to expand my horizons. If you have suggestions for comic books you would like to see reviewed in my Round-Up, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter. Don’t forget to check out my previous Review Round-Ups. Head on over to my profile for more.