Okay, so look....
The holidays happened and we were travelling a bunch. Then we got sick. Like the BIG sick, the *NINETEEN* sick, y'know. SO, we've missed some reading, but here are some things that have hit shelves recently that we think you should read. Here's to getting back on schedule moving forward.
Children of the Black Sun #1 (w: Dario Sicchio, a: Letizia Cadoniei)
Publisher: ABLAZE Publishing
This book is full of wonderful bait-and-switch moments. Taking place in a world where on two separate occasions the normal sun was replaced by a dark, ominous Black Sun. During the first of these events, millions lost their lives to despair. On the second, billions lost their lives to one another. We enter into a world trying it's hardest to feel hope. Ten years have past since the second event, and a collective paranoia has set over society. People want so hard to feel hope for a future free of more Black Sun events, but every slight negative emotion or chilly breeze is read as a sign of the end of days. People are angry, nervous, tired, and generally trying their hardest to keep it together.
Amidst this rising tension live the Children of the Black Sun, kids who were conceived during one of the two events. Though they sport grey skin, red eyes and white hair, science has found that they are genetically identical to normal human beings. Despite this knowledge, they are targeted by the increasing paranoia of their community resulting in discrimination and anger from their neighbors, classmates and even family members. We follow Matthew as he tries his hardest to earn the compassion and respect of his community: speaking in a soft, friendly way, constantly sporting a calm smile, and generally just being a good dude in the face of oppression. It is only when Matthew and his friend Clementine meet two older Children of the Black Sun from the first event that the kids realize what their true potential might be.
"Vampires, right?" But like, no. It doesn't seem to be vampires.
"So, the kids of the Black Sun are malicious, yeah?" I don't think so, no. Maybe? But it seems more like the world around them is malicious.
"Another Black Sun is coming, though, right?" Hard to say. After living through a pandemic, paranoia and societal infighting is scary enough without a big eldritch ball in the sky.
This is a nifty book. It's dark, dreary and oddly relatable. It hits on discrimination, specifically how painful it is being a child dealing with discrimination and having little control over it. Is it fantasy, is it horror, is it sci-fi: I honestly don't know. Super unique and fascinating, definitely gonna be a fun one to keep up with.
Black Cloak #1 (w: Kelly Thompson, a: Meredith McClaren)
Publisher: Image Comics
Good gracious, what an insanely cool book.
Black Cloak is a procedural crime drama set in a cyberpunk fantasy world full of corrupt elite, class conflicts and discrimination. This thick first issue drips with delightful world building as Thompson and McClaren carefully define the laws and layers of this beautifully dangerous world. We follow detective Phaedra Essex, a member of the law-enforcement agency known as the Black Cloaks, as she investigates the murder of her childhood friend and former lover. The murders pile up as Essex and her partner Pax dig deeper into the case. Eventually, Phaedra's own history is thrown into the mix as she has to meet with the victim's mother, the Elf Queen. We slowly learn about Phaedra's complicated history with her elven kin, namely that for some reason she's been exiled and they don't take very kindly to her presence.
This is just such a fantastic book. The story itself feels compelling and mysterious. The pacing through this first issue is spot on, providing enough additional detail to grasp your attention while leaving a strong air of mystery to keep you wanting more. McClaren's art is wonderfully adorable and fun, conflicting with the tone of the narrative in a way that provides a very interesting vibe to the book; one that challenges your initial preconceptions of the style at every twist and turn. Somehow magically, the art style fills the requirement for griminess and darkness expected by crime dramas or cyberpunk stories without dragging the whole tone down with it. It's a wonderfully playful art style and I'm glad I got to experience McClaren's work in such a fun setting.
It's a fun book, page after page, an absolute winner.
Gangster Ass Bartender #1 (w: Pat Shand, a: Renzo Rodriguez)
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Our pal Pat Shand continues making fun stories with fun characters.
Spinning out of one of our absolute favorite titles, Destiny NY, comes a story following Trinity, the foul-mouthed, Irish thug who is trying to turn over a new, less violent leaf as a barista. The first issue features illicitly earned money, the struggles of customer service, an annoying coworker, lady bikers, rotisserie chickens and more! It's a stellar, ultra-fun first issue for anyone looking for a character driven story grounded in a completely realistic and relatable world (give or take some details).
What I love so much about the Destiny, NY world and more expansively about Pat Shand's writing as a whole is how incredibly detailed all the characters get in just a few panels. It's admittedly been a while since I've read anything Destiny related, but diving in I instantly knew Trinity's motivations, her hopes and dreams, the subtle things that pull her forward, all of it. Destiny, NY, and by extension Gangster Ass Barista, should be taught in creative writing classes as examples of developing fleshed out, real characters quickly and efficiently. It makes these stories so much more endearing and compelling than a lot of the books I've read. 10 out of 10.
Moseley #1 (w: Rob Guillory, a: Sam Lotfi)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
I'll admit that I'm getting a little burned out on the techno-dystopian theme in comics. It seems that everywhere you turn, you're hit with a book about a dreary future where people are slaves to technology and our main character is somehow more enlightened than others but that just means the people they care about treat them like a luddite but then they turn out to be right and blah blah technology bad, put down your phones millennials and zoomers.
This book was in that category for me and I spent most of the first bits just eye-rolling and "here we go again"-ing. Then the last like 8 pages happen and suddenly I'm enthralled. Possible mysticism or some sort of human spirit, I don't truly know WHAT I'm looking at, but the "I'm enlightened that's why I do everything the hard way and discriminate against the status quo" character is suddenly a lot more neato. It felt reminiscent of the way I felt about "Do A Powerbomb" which went from fun character piece to whacky necromantic thrill ride in it's last two pages.
Rob Guillory does a good job keeping interest up in the first few pages with solid character writing and a veil of mystery as to what Moseley's role in the new world order actually is. The bloody knuckles ending of this book just adds to the overall mystery of the world, leaving the reader ever curious as to what makes Moseley so wonderfully special and what his goals will be going forward. I would love to see this book introduce some grey area. Make it so that Moseley's mystical crusade against technology isn't necessarily right or wrong. Make the robot overlords generally benevolent, even if at times misguided. There is a lot of really cool storytelling potential here and it is definitely a book for thrill seekers.
Looking to 2023 with excitement and expectation!
It's the end of the year, and we're looking back on the best of the best in comics, graphic novels, movies, TV shows, video games, board games, and episodes. Let's get down and dirty on our top picks from 2022!
When it's King, you know it's going to be just the tip of the iceberg...
Art Brut #1 (w: W. Maxwell Prince, a: Martin Morazzo)
Publisher: Image Comics
If those creator names sound familiar, it's because they're the minds behind the critically acclaimed and absolute Cover B Certified Fresh series "Ice Cream Man." Art Brut is actually a remaster of sorts of this teams first collaboration, which was originally named The Electric Sublime and published through IDW. What we're getting now is a book with new covers, new lettering, new design and delightful Silver-Age styled backup stories.
Much like Ice Cream Man, Art Brut is wildly inventive and astoundingly fun. The story focuses around a man name Arthur Brut, who is referred to as "the Dream Painter." He is contacted by the Bureau of Artistic Integrity after a spate of tragic murders/suicides/terrorist attacks all surface surrounding a similar image and culminates in the Mona Lisa suddenly winking. As things come to a dramatic head in the investigation, we finally see exactly what makes Arthur so special in the world of art. At the center lies mysterious artistic powers, the nature of art and mental health, and a creative look into the history of some of the greatest works of arm mankind has ever produced.
While tonally very different from Prince's other works like Ice Cream Man and Haha, which both take a very bleak perspective on their various messages, Art Brut still drips of the magic and whimsy that is common among Prince and Morazzo's work. It's an adventure on par with some of the most popular stories out there, be it Sandman or Umbrella Academy or whatever else might tickle your fancy. Morazzo's blending of various art styles not only gives credit to their skill as an artist, but also gives the story such incredible depth and beauty. It's a wonderful book and absolutely deserving of a revival.
A Vicious Circle #1 (w: Mattson Tomlin, a: Lee Bermejo)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Let me just start by saying that if you've never read a book with art by Lee Bermejo, then you are in a for a treat. Bermejo's art is so incredibly visceral at the best of times, and this book is a prime example. Bermejo takes some risks here, splashing in a bunch of different uses of color and bouncing his style around, borrowing from various different styles to absolutely magical results. It's a wonder to behold page after page.
This isn't to say Tomlin's story isn't holding its own. A dark, neo-noir tale about a pair of time travelers locked in an endless struggle. It's fatalist, it's existential and it's captivating.
I can't think of the last time Boom! did a magazine sized issue, if ever, but this is an absolute homerun. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up before it becomes impossible to come by.
Danger Street #1 (w: Tom King, a: Jorge Fornés)
Publisher: DC Comics
Look, when you pick up a DC book from Tom King, you know there's going to be a LOT more coming from underneath the surface. This interesting little title definitely has that, but also has some very classic charm we haven't necessarily gotten from his other titles in the same vein. The internal pages are printed matte, like an old school newspaper run. The story has a narrator (Dr. Fate's half-helmet, to be exact) who tells of intertwining tales of princesses and ogres and knights...
... when in fact, we're watching a man try to break back into the news industry after clearly becoming a pundit, a bunch of kids stuff up traffic with a 15mph forerunner, and a group of heroes who want so badly to be a part of the League of Superheroes they can't see their bad decision making as it happens. When I say it's a lot, I mean it. But I'm also very, very excited to see what sort of uncomfortable, timely commentary King is bringing to us this time.
The future's so dark, I need to wear a headlamp...
Hexware #1 (w: Tim Seeley, a: Zulema Scotto Lavina)
Publisher: Image Comics
Tim Seeley does it again. He once again produces a comic that I fall in love with at the jump. Damn you, Seeley, you beautiful, beautiful mind.
Hexware is a Constantine story by way of Detroit: Become Human. We enter into a world in extreme class divide, with the rich and privileged, the aptly nicknamed "uppies," living in high rises above the city streets, and the less fortunate forced to endure a dank, dark world at street level. In the wake of a terrorist attack at a mall, a family suffers the loss of their teenage daughter Jesi. The family's android, who acts mainly as a maid and quality-of-life assistant, is forced to sit and watch as the family falls into their grief. Her programming compels her to constantly ask what she can do to help, eventually drawing the ire of the broken and mournful family. As a simple support unit, she is helpless. Until she suddenly springs into action and reads through the extensive collection of books the family has regarding paganism, mysticism and witchcraft. And here we find ourselves at the tagline for the book: "Why sell your soul when you can buy one...?"
Hexware is a beautiful mash-up of science and the supernatural. So often we see these two things crammed together in a way that results in one of them being more of a theme or set-piece than an actual setting. Whenever they are successfully blended, they result is some of the most unique examples of modern storytelling, and this book is definitely just that. Seeley quickly shows that he aims to truly examine how demons, souls, witchcraft, and other supernatural tidbits would interact in a world full of androids and advanced technologies. Moreover, it's that world itself that lends an exceptional quality to the story in that it's a world more advanced than that of the reader but not so advanced as to feel unreachable. Sure, we don't have in home androids, but we have AI slowly becoming more accessible, various companies working to bring robots to the masses, and entire generations brought up not knowing what it was like to not have interconnected supercomputers attached to our hips. This is a distant world, but it's not SO distant that it becomes hard to relate to, making the characters feel that much more real.
This book is a delight. I love it so very much.
All Against All #1 (w/a: Alex Paknadel & Caspar Wijngaard)
Publisher: Image Comics
All Against All is a fascinating story made even better by fascinating art. This book has a lot to offer and a lot to think on, from it's incredibly bleak outlook of the Earth's future to the existential nature of a race of aliens who inhabit the bodies of other creatures. The most interesting thing to me from the jump is that this is an alien invasion story told from the perspective of the invaders. Man-kind's position in the narrative seems to be that of an antagonist or even a monster. It's like someone threw an Uno-reverse card at a xenomorph.
We follow director B'tay, a highly decorated researcher for a race known as "the operators," as he examines the biomes of Earth, wherein his race is cultivating lifeforms that they apparently found in the Svalbard seed vault. The goal seems to be utilizing the animals of earth to build better bodies for their soldiers in order to end a war that we never see. However, B'tay has reservations for this goal and has restricted access to live specimens, making the station he operates one of pure observation. This lack of productivity has caught the eye of the military who have decided to step in and move things along.
All of the above takes place years after the book's opening scene, wherein Director B'tay comes face to face with a hostile human boy. By the end of the book, the boy has grown and is not too happy to see a new group of Operator scouts investigating his home.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot happening in this book. There's nepotism, a commentary on the military viewing people as tools, thoughts on conservation, reflections on loss, examples of panic attacks and anxiety disorders... It's a hefty think-piece wrapped in a beautiful, technicolor coat. It's absolutely stunning and a must read for sci-fi fans.
It's Only Teenage Wasteland #1 (w: Curt Pires, a: Jacoby Salcedo)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I feel like a lot of comics nowadays are focusing on what it was like to be a teenager before - with lots of stories set in the '90s and early '00s, giving authors the opportunity to show what their world was like when they were teens, and pull on their own experiences. What was nice about this book is that it's from the perspective of teens right now, but it actually feels realistic. The things they say, the things they do, the behaviors they express, all feel true to teens today (from my limited experience with current teens & the relationships I see in others, anyway).
For the bulk majority of this book, those behaviors and actions are what matter. We follow Javi, a sort-of-in-the-closet-but-not-really teen boy, as he hangs out with friends and narrates his planning and throwing of a party while his parents are out of town. When the party gets crashed by the racist, sexist, homophobic d-bags no one invited, a fight breaks out and ends with... a massive twist out of left field that is not even a little bit hinted to or explained in the first book. Trust me, you won't guess it. Don't even try.
If you've ever seen the movie +1, it feels kind of like that. You're drawn in through a traditional teen-based story of relationships and clique-drama, only to be whisked away into some weird, (potentially?) sci-fi vibes that you can't reconcile and aren't entirely sure how it happened. I really like the characters they've established, and I'm interested to see where the heck this is going. Talk about a cliffhanger.
Know Your Station #1 (w: Sarah Gailey, a/ca: Liana Kangas)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
The first few pages of this book made my skin crawl - in a good way. From the beginning, we're introduced to "The First Resort - A Hub for the Future," and all the many drafts of marketing gobble-di-gook they worked through to get to that tagline. Then we meet, one-by-one, the C-Suite, all of which have nefarious, pro-capitalistic, marginally offensive backstories that generally make you feel really icky. Oh, and all the jobs on this station pretty well suck, too. The future is bleak for the not-1%, my friends.
The real story focuses on Elise, a Security Liason for the station, and an investigation into a brutal murder that just took place. Clearly, nothing like this has ever happened before, so they call in reinforcements from ground-level to help break the case. Before she knows it, Elise is wrapped up in something much darker than she knows how to deal with, and may be more involved than she even knows.
What I like about this book is that they subtly-not-so-subtly double down on horrible things being absolutely normal. For instance, Elise wakes up with an awful hangover, proclaiming she's quitting her job, only to receive some sort of medication provided by the ship's all-knowing AI that serves as the strongest upper I've ever seen - completely reversing her instinct to leave and pepping her step for the day ahead. It feels futuristic and surreal, but also, not. So much of our current news cycle is getting weirder and weirder, more and more dystopian, that this almost feels... about right? Like, if the world's richest men did have a pow-wow and decided to build a space station that accommodates their needs, this is exactly what it would be like. And honestly, I can't tell if I really like that sort of truth-telling, or kind of hate it. Either way, it makes for a compelling read.
Glasses that offer more than X-Ray vision...
Two Graves #1 (w: Genevieve Valentine, a: Ming Doyle, Annie Wu)
Publisher: Image Comics
I can't guarantee that I totally understand exactly what is happening in this book, but I find myself completely drawn into it. It's enigmatic in the ways that comic classics like Sandman are: cool and mysterious with emotions lingering just on the edge of the narrative, out of reach and building a strange tension. It's a dark book that ruminates on death at every corner, and in both tone and art style, it drips late '90s/ early '00s indie works.
A man with a smoky face and a young woman with a nihilistic streak are journeying to the east coast so she can lay her mother to rest. In the middle, we see them enacting vengeance for the dead, visiting people at the end of their life, and floating on a cliffside. We are unsure of the relationship of the two, and it seems they themselves don't truly know the nature of it. There are allusions to Greek myths, discussions of the nature of death and a general bleak romanticism permeated through the pages. The alternating art provides a unique flip-flopping of perspective throughout, giving the world each character exists in its own specific vibe.
From the title, I went in expecting another vengeance story in the style of a Brubaker title or a modern western like Undone by Blood. I suppose there is still room for this kind of story to develop, but the supernatural elements and ties to myth were a very nice surprise.
Specs #1 (w: David M. Booher, a: Chris Shehan)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
On the surface, Specs is a pretty straightforward "Kids on Bikes" story that flips the formula a bit by making the focus on things the kids themselves do instead of things happening in the world around them. In the '80s, two high school best friends are living their lives as outcasts. Our main character, Kenny, is struggling with his sense of identity as he navigates high school as a young gay man, a fact he keeps hidden from everyone around him, including his best friend, Teddy, who he confesses to being in love with. Meanwhile, Teddy is the only black student at his school, and his family appears to be one of the few, if not the only, black families in the town. The two deal with the expected amount of high school bullying that is common in these stories, but they stick together and do their best to defend each other. One day, Kenny receives a pair of wish-granting specs from one of those novelty ads found in an old comic book that belonged to his brother (who it seems has been kicked out of their home). They dive into the expected whacky antics of using the specs to get small amounts of cash, pass tests, win at video games, and many other silly 1980s shenanigans. They realize that the specs can't grant wishes too large, so things have to stay small. That is until the local bully, Skunk, comes at them with a knife and Teddy pushes a bit too hard.
Beyond that, Specs is a story about being disenfranchised in small town America. It's a story about what its like to get wins in a world that tries as hard as it can to keep you from success. Any win, however small it may be, feels magical or miraculous. It's a story about living under the weight of having to hide who you are, or the pain of not being able to hide who you are in a world that looks down on you for it. The struggles Teddy and Kenny have to endure are incredibly relatable to a lot of people, making their journey with the magic specs a fantasy deep from the hearts of those same people. David M. Booher is producing some of the finest queer stories in comics these days, and this is certainly not one to miss.
Knockturn County #1 (w: James E. Roche, a: Axur Eneas)
Publisher: Scout Comics
The first issue of Knockturn County consists of two stories under the premise of "Dr. Seuss but DARK." The first story plays out much as you'd expect: It's a story of drugs and murder and deceit all done in the cartoony art style and simplistic rhyme structure of a Dr. Seuss book. While it's fun, it's pretty generic as far as stories go. It's a noir tale about a cop falling for the girlfriend of a mob boss and ends about the way you'd expect. This story admittedly almost made me stop reading in that it was just too generic. We have seen so many "kids-focused IP but DARK" stories that rarely do more than just make the character do drugs and get naked. As such, I figured this book was going to just be another flash in the pan as many of its predecessors were. Then I got to story #2.
The second story in this book is about abuse, plain and simple, and while it is simplistic by nature in its structure, there is so much being said subtly about the ramifications of abuse and the effects it has on a child's mind. It was horribly dark and not an uplifting story at all, but it was an amazing use of a very specific storytelling style to portray something powerfully. It was fascinating to experience and I hope the rest of the stories in this series tackle equally as important subjects. This is published under Scout's "Nonstop!" imprint, so the next we'll see of Knockturn County will be a full trade paperback, which I definitely plan to pick up.
The internet can be a dark and nasty place...
Lovesick #1 (w/a: Luana Vecchio)
Publisher: Image Comics
I almost didn't write about this one because I was having a hard time organizing my thoughts. This book is weirdly powerful in a lot of different ways. First, much like Piskor's Red Room, it takes a look at a (possibly) dramatized idea of these dark corners of the internet and the horrible things people say or do there. While I'll leave the validity of "red rooms" up to those more familiar with the Dark Web than I, I have seen first hand the disgusting things people can say online when protected by a wall of anonymity. In books like this, it's always the realness of the chatrooms that hits me. I admit to feeling a bit triggered at first in a "wow, they're gonna really GO there" kinda-way, but it's worth it. What seems like shock for shock's sake is an important call out. If you've never experienced some of the more hate-filled corners of the internet space, it might be easy to write off the things said in the chat windows of these books as over-the-top or unrealistic, but it's really not. It's time we start making these communities, these hate-filled men the true villains of the story. Much in the way the She-Hulk made the more misogynistic side of Marvel fandom the literal villains of her series, so too do these books shine a light on these dark, vitriolic communities. Sure, it's no secret that the internet is full of shitty people, but too often I feel it just gets written off as "trolls" and not taken as seriously as it should. Our art and media should reflect that reality, that danger.
This book also takes a wild look at consent as a concept. CAN consent have a dark side? What happens if you consent to too much and lose yourself along the way? Whose responsibility is it to dial you back? In this book we have men gleefully signing up to be victims of torture and murder. They want their final moments to be broadcast to an audience of thousands. They consent to this fully and are given what they ask for. We know little about the process at the moment, but it's assumed that there are lists and rules. I think there is an incredible analysis here both of the nature of social media and how it relates to things like violence and suicide, namely the idea that people will do incredible things for so called "clout," but also the idea of consent as a weapon wielded by a group of women. I won't get too involved in picking this analysis apart here (though I'm tempted to do a deeper dive if I'm being honest), but there is something to be said about the shift in power dynamic of women demanding consent from men to perform horrible acts, whereas the inverse in our real world often finds consent ignored, dissected, or discarded.
Finally, I think the character of Domino is absolutely fascinating and refreshingly unique. In the back pages of the book, Vecchio discusses her early concepts and sketches for the character. She mentions that a friend of hers once asked why the character always looks so sad. It's that morose quality that fascinates me. Often characters in these spheres, either that of BDSM communities or of the darker and deadlier internet side, exist as one of two tropes: the repressed and rage-filled animal or the playful, lusty controller. Domino holds more of a somber quality. She seems to want to do what she's doing, and certainly seems to enjoy it, but her focus seems to be more on the emotions and results of the action than the action itself. In a way, I liken her to more of a Pinhead character than that of a lingerie-clad slasher. She seeks to give something back to those she performs her work on. She also seems to want something in return, and I am excited to watch Vecchio perform a deep analysis on this character.
Sara Lone #1 (w: Erik Arnoux, a: David Morancho)
Publisher: Sumerian Comics
A story of mobs, murder and mystery. Joy Carruthers, whose stage name is Sara Lone, is called back to Texas from New Orleans with the death of her father, who was found gruesomely murdered on a beach. This kicks off a series of events that finds Joy in the crosshairs of the mob, manipulated by a shady federal agent, and wrapped up in a potentially cursed treasure. This book has a lot going for it, from a very nostalgic (at times old-fashioned) serial feel to a very pleasant art style. It's a hefty, text forward book and is definitely worth checking out for noir fans out there. Sure, at times it relies a bit too heavily on themes of it's period, basically turning every male character into a manipulative piece of crap, but I'm interested to see if going forward the creators let Joy shine as a strong, driven female lead. They've laid the foundation for an eventual rise above the misogyny, but we don't see it happen in book one. Still, this was a fun read, and there are a whole bunch of threads happening that will be fun to see conclude.
Damn Them All #1 (w: Simon Spurrier; a: Charlie Adlard)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Well then - I guess Si didn't feel like he was done with Constantine, either. Remember how mad I was when it ended, and I wanted more? Remember when I complained because it was basically my favorite book and I felt we just didn't get enough and that only Spurrier truly understood how to write that grumpy bloke the right way? I'm getting the vibe he felt similarly.
This has all that tasty, foul-mouthed, magic-doer goodness, but gives us a female "protag" (heavy air-quotes there, for now anyway) in Ellie, who works for a bunch of mobsters and has about the same level of self deprecation that big John C. always had. It's all that spicy UK underworld stuff mixed with demonic underworld stuff and I'm just so excited this book is happening I'm not really sure what to do with myself. If this book could last forever? I'd be down. If they wanted to give it a TV show? Even-bloody-better.
Justice for Ice Cream Man! Stupid Quibi...
It's been flop after failure-to-launch after cancellation when it comes to comic adaptations lately, and boy has it left some pretty big sticks in our collective craws. Today, we're talking about the three things that keep blocking the successful paths of comic IPs to the big or silver screens: a lack of marketing, good writing, and advocacy.
Okay, I don't write comics, but if I did, they'd have a samurai...
Hack/Slash Hot Shorts One Shot (w: Tim Seeley, Daniel Leister, a: Felipe Sobreiro, Triona Farrell, Carlos Badilla)
Publisher: Image Comics
Look, I'm always gonna want to talk about Hack/Slash. This series is one of my long standing favorites and while it hasn't always been perfect, I just can't get enough. This book features 3 short stories set in the H/S universe. The first follows Johnny Cash (not named such in the story but obviously Johnny Cash) as he has a weird vision of Elvis's death at the hands of demons and/or otherworldly beings. He decides at that point to dedicate to fighting evil. Story #2 is simply Cassie and Vlad, seemingly early in their relationship, washing blood off each other. The final story follows Mary Shelley Lovecraft, a reality skipping villain who feeds on fiction, who has found herself trapped in a superhero universe and absolutely hates it. The stories themselves are definitely more targeted at the fans of H/S, as I don't know if they'd be as fun if you didn't already have some familiarity with the content. That said, it's Halloween time, so some fun little bite-sized tales of a sexy monster hunter can't be so bad. Also, there's a bunch of Dynamite cameos, so that's neat.
The Approach #1 (w: Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, a: Jesus Hervas, Lea Caballero)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
It's like 30 Days of Night meets the Thing.
This book has a really cool premise right off the bat. A small airport is receiving a plane for of passengers that got diverted in a snow storm. They go through the motions and we see that they are clearly not prepared for this kind of emergency. As they are taking in the passengers, a mysterious single-engine plane crashes to the runway. They manage to pull out the pilot, who unfortunately perishes from his injuries. What chaotic night, right?
As the power goes out, the crew prep for a long, cold night. At least it couldn't get worse.
Until the tower researches the tail number on that small plane... and someone goes to check on the deceased pilot...
Hitomi #1 (w: HS Tak, a: Isabella Mazzanti)
Publisher: Image Comics
Oh dang, this is a cool book. A samurai tale of vengeance and regret. We follow a young girl on her journey through the cold mountainlands as she seeks out a samurai that killed her family. Meanwhile, we follow said Samurai as he is currently older and employed as a sumo wrestler, traveling with his small group from town to town in hopes of earning a charter back home. Eventually, the two paths collide as the Samurai saves the girl from frigid waters, unaware that her quest ends in his blood.
This book was described as a Kurosawa/Tarantino fusion, and I can't honestly think of a more fit description. The art is absolutely beautiful, just dripping with respect for the culture and history of the world in which the story takes place. This is some top tier comic work and it is NOT one to miss.
Chilling Adventures of Salem (One-Shot) (w: Cullen Bunn, a: Dan Schoening)
Publisher: Archie Comics
You can always count on Cullen Bunn to come in with a Halloween goodie, and you guys know I can't pass up an Archie Horror book. This one is simple, classic, and perfectly paced - Sabrina's cat Salem, who was formerly a magician/warlock who got bound to being a cat for doing something nefarious, finds out someone is trapping demonic entities inside people's lost pets. Normally I shudder at this kind of thing, being an animal-lover and all, but I can't get mad when the bad guy gets what's coming to him. The art is that same delicious vintage-gothic-Sabrina flavor, and the writing is perfect for the spooky season. A quick read, but a good one to get you in the Halloween mood.
As beautiful as the jazz it portrays...
As two English majors talking about media on a weekly basis, it is super exciting when we get a graphic novel like this one that gives us something to really sink out teeth into. This book is beautiful, creative, subjective, and leaves so much up to the reader. From the use of color, to the nonsequential storytelling, to the subtle weaving of music the whole way through, this title has so much to offer. Definitely not one to miss!
A horror theme park with a dark... well, everything...
West Moon Chronicles #1 (w: Frank Jun Kim, a: Joe Bocardo)
Publisher: Scout Comics
Korean folklore gets aggressive in the back woods of Texas. Jae-Sun and his grandfather embark on a journey to uncover why the various folk creatures they've worked with and against for years are getting so surly lately, while also possibly journeying to a land of magic to rescue Jae-Sun's daughter. There's goblins, shapeshifters, racists, swordfights, dragons and much, much more, and this is only issue one! It's "Once and Future" meets "God Country" with a Korean cultural spin, and I am absolutely adding it to my file. You should do the same.
Dark Ride #1 (w: Joshua Williamson, a: Andrei Bressan)
Publisher: Image Comics
I see you, Joshua Williamson. You think I don't, but I do. You think it's cool to just reach into my brain and pull out a book that hits on most of my favorite things? Just invade my subconscious mind and create a wonderful comic that I'll love and cherish? Thank you, you psychic bastard.
Dark Ride is one of the coolest Indie-Horror-Film-Adjacent comics I've read in a while. We open with a theme park ride designer named Arthur Dante murdering his wife before striking up a mysterious deal with an unseen force. Flash to the future, Arthur has built an theme park empire around the idea of horror: Devil Land. Whereas most theme parks are about family fun, however, Devil Land is about all things creepy, spooky and scary. We follow new employee and Devil Land superfan, Owen, as he embarks on his exciting day one of employment. Eventually, he meets Samhain Dante, son to Arthur and current head of the park. They eventually both run into Samhain's bombastic and boisterous sister, Halloween. As we begin to see that the park may be in dire straits, Owen winds down his work day as something calls to him from the depths of the park's oldest ride, Devil's Due.
Owen does not fair well by the end of this book.
It's dark, it's spooky, it's got compelling characters - it absolutely rocks. This book drips with "Shudder Original," which is said as a compliment for anyone who doesn't know how much I love Shudder originals, and could only truly be improved with the addition of a badass soundtrack. I very rarely feel impatient for new issues to be released, but I am going to be biting my nails down to a nub waiting for the #2 of this series.
3Keys #1 (w/a: David Messina)
Publisher: Image Comics
So, okay, I like this book. I like the art of this book. I like the premise of this book. I like where this book is promising to go. However, I don't love the main character nor do I love the first half of this book. Honestly, it was Messina's insanely detailed art and wonderful use of layout that kept me going. The first few pages are an absolute SLOG of exposition since we're starting in media res. After that, we get a presumably comedic conversation about how much comics and nerds suck, which was more cringeworthy than anything. The cringe continues when we establish that the main character's personality is effectively "party booze city sex" and a handful of background characters spend two pages arguing about whether she is straight or not. I don't know, I just am not really feeling the direction here. It's like 14 pages dedicated to hefty, clunky exposition and then "hey, look how edgy and possibly queer my main character is! Neat, right?" Lotta cringe, gotta be real.
We then meet our second main character in Dale and her mentor Jacob. They end up fighting this horrible demon and the action is awesome. This is what I was promised by the solicitation for this book and it paid off here. I'm definitely gonna give #2 a try, but Sandra's character is my biggest hang up. I get that the whole "savior of the world is also an addict and their mentor has to struggle to keep them on track" is a popular trope, but it's just not for me. If you want a book that has some great art, a good bit of sexiness and some cool monster designs, pick this one up. If you're looking for a lot of character depth, probably best to give this one a pass.
Leonide the Vampyr: Miracle at the Crow's Head (w: Mike Mignola, a: Rachele Aragno)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
If there's one thing Mignola knows how to do, it's take concepts we're very familiar with - horror tropes, classic creatures, historical events - and make them feel completely new and original. In this instance, we're introduced to a casket that's been shipwrecked and washed ashore, filled with a not-so-dead young girl, suddenly bringing joy and vigor to a previously-lifeless town. We're all ready for her to drink somebody's blood, right? WRONG. And that's what makes this book so cool. I adore a horror book that mixes familiar tales with just a little bit of the unexpected. It feels exciting but also exactly like what I was looking for.
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