Newburn #1 Review

(W) Chip Zdarsky (A) Jacob Philips

Another case of following creators leads to another quality title.  We talk enough about Chip and Jacob at this point for you to recognise their names, though this is the first time they have worked together.  And they have kicked off with another strong title.

Newburn follows Easton Newburn, a retired cop. He now works as an investigator and problem solver for all of New York’s organized crime families while using their information to hand low-hanging fruit over to the NYPD.  It’s quite the tightrope for any character to walk, but it comes across as second nature to Easton.

In the first issue, Carmine Albano has been murdered in his apartment after stealing ten kilograms of cocaine from his own family. The evidence doesn’t clearly indicate anyone obvious, and a gang war and desperate grab for power may ensue if the murderer is not found. Before that can happen, Newburn is brought in to provide impartial clarity.  He is an investigator in the classic mould.  Sees details other may miss.  Won’t resort to violence quickly but not afraid to indulge when called upon.  He doesn’t have a horse in the game so doesn’t have any personal feelings towards any victims or suspects.

This is a police procedural, played straight and with interesting characters.  As we’d come to expect from the artist and co-creator of That Texas Blood, this is right in Jacob Phillips wheelhouse, and the art fits the store perfectly.

Another great title from Zdarsky as well, and a bit different from his normal work.  Another genre conquered by Chip?  Keep this up for the following issues and it may just be.

 

The Magic Order 2 #1 Review

(W) Mark Millar (A) Stuart Immonen

The Magic Order was a cracking series that lived up to its premise of Goodfellas meets Harry Potter, with some great storytelling, brutal, beautiful art and great world building.  Coming from the team of Mark Millar and Olivier Coipel, I was always hoping for a sequel.  It has now arrived, and although there was a little disappointment that Coipel is no longer on art, the series barely misses a step with Stuart Immonen.

A new threat is rising against Cordelia and her family, the established top family in the world of magic.  It’s almost as if they’ve gotten a little too comfortable, an early scene at a children’s birthday party, and a one night stand establishing that things are all a little too under control in their world.  Or so they think.

Before too long we are introduced to the Korne family, from Bucharest, who are powerful magicians, and they are not afraid to show that power or to wield it in despicable ways.

This is an excellent first issue setting the tone for another great magic romp from the mind of Mr Millar.

Batman: The Long Halloween Special #1 Review

(W) Jeph Loeb (A) Tim Sale

Just as I’d mentioned the pairings of Brubaker/Phillips and Condon/Phillips as being a mark of quality, you can certainly have Loeb/Sale in that list.

The Long Halloween was one of the first Batman maxiseries I ever read, and since that time, has remained firmly in my top 5 Batman stories of all time.  A series that managed to incorporate everyone in Batman’s rogues gallery effortlessly into the story, while exploring the dynamic between Batman, Harvey Dent & Commisioner Gordon, it also manages to focus on the crime families in Gotham as well as introduce a new villain.  It was all absolutely effortless, brilliant writing weaving the tale and career best art from Sale as he presented a noir tinged, stylised version of Gotham.  It’s no surprise that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was so heravily influenced by the book.

So when I see we’re returning to this world, with the original creators, to tell a one shot tale, I approached it with massive excitement but also with a tinge of trepidation.  Could it possibly match up to the original masterpiece?  Would it add anything new?  Was there any point?

I’m glad to say it was a big fat yes on all counts, as this was one of my favourite single issues of 2021.  The set up alone was brilliant.

In The Long Halloween, Batman was chasing a killer who always committed the acts on holidays.  So a murder takes place on Halloween, on Thanksgiving, on Christmas etc.  In Batman lore, the obvious suspect was Calendar Man. However, it was not him, but someone who would take on the moniker of The Holiday Killer.  I won’t reveal who that killer was, as trying to work it out is one of the big pleasures of a first read through.  However, it has always grated on Calendar Man that someone essentially stole his gimmick so to speak, so this special starts out with him essentially trying to reclaim his name, by committing criminal acts in the lead up to Halloween.

Harvey Dent/Two Face has also resurfaced, Robin is kicking around, and the relationship between Gordon and Batman is as strong as ever.

Considering this is only a 48 page special, there is so much great storytelling here.  It feels longer.  Jeph Loeb has slid brilliantly back into this world and it’s like he’s never missed a beat.  There’s a brilliant central mystery and noir sensibility driving the story, but there’s also some levity and humour.  Barbara Gordon wanting to go trick or treating with Robin (who of course is much younger here than Batman), and she dresses up as Batgirl right in front of her father to do so?  Fantastic stuff.

Sale’s art, while not quite as sharp and detailed as the original tale (though to be fair, not many people could reach that standard in their prime let alone 25 years later), still connects to this world, and his character design remains fantastic.  The colours from Brennan Wagner perfectly conveys the film noir feel Loeb and Sale are going for and letterer Richard Starkings shines, using different fonts from when Harvey speaks or Two Face speaks, adds a subtle touch that just adds to the overall atmosphere of the book.

The ending is both definitive but also open ended.  If it all came to an end her then this was a perfect, unexpected send off.  Though a thread or two remains, so if Loeb and Sale ever wanted to revisit this world, they would have my money.  A thoroughly brilliant one shot title.

And if you haven’t read the original The Long Halloween, stop reading this right now and go do yourself a favour and grab it right away.  In fact, talking about it, I may just indulge in a re-read myself over the weekend…