Why are wrestling books always so good?!
Dark Space: Good Deeds #1 (w: Che Grayson, a: Kelsey Ramsay)
Publisher: Image Comics
I'm admittedly biased because this book takes place in St. Augustine, FL and seems to have the exact same love/hate relationship I have with that city...
Two stories unfold parallel to one another. One story follows a writer trying to recover from some unknown incident five years prior. She is handed a puff piece on St. Augustine's 450th Founder's Day. The second story follows a high schooler whose mother just purchased an old diner in the same town. She's having a hard time fitting in at school but is excited to help her mother with this new stage of life. However, both women find themselves surrounded by something mysterious. Our writer keeps seeing a strange, haggard apparition, while our student is saved from an assault by a mysterious and violent haze.
While not much happens beyond character development in this first issue, a satisfying air of mystery has been established. I like the angle Grayson is taking, focusing on the history of St. Augustine as a backdrop for a story about ancient, almost druidic horrors. We honestly don't see much of these mysterious forces of nature beyond the establishing pages and the aforementioned mist, but it's a cool set up for a spooky tale. I like the art and the characters feel real enough to be empathetic. I really liked the first entry in the Dark Spaces collection, Wildfire, so I'm hopeful that this one can keep up that same excitement.
Ghostlore #1 (w: Cullen Bunn, a: Leomacs)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
If there's one thing Cullen Bunn does well (and there's more than that, but come with me on this), it's a ghost story that simultaneously feels new and different, but well steeped in traditional horror tropes. It's like getting a new blanket; same coziness you expect, but still a new pattern or color or size.
In this tale, we watch a family struggle to connect. The father is a paster watching his congregation walk away from the church slowly but surely, the mother is cynical and struggling to keep the family together, the teenage daughter is moody and ready to leave the minute she's 18, and the son... has just stopped talking, for some reason. It's very standard dysfunctional family, but because they're so easily relatable, Cullen's able to dive right into the meat of it all without too much exposition.
The meat, by the way, is a car crash. And that, my friends, is when it all gets weird. Body horror, demons, ghosts, lies... The vibe changes FAST, but in a good way. It's a pretty quick read, and while it doesn't up-end the genre in any way, it's still a tasty morsel for horror traditionalists.
Arcade Kings #1 (w/a: Dylan Burnett)
Publisher: Image Comics
This book is cool AF. If you've been around for a while, you know one of our favorite new (and sort of random) new genres of comics lately have been wrestling-centered tales. Not really sure what happened in the industry, but all of a sudden a TON of new stories all centered around the ropes started happening all at once, and what's even stranger is that most of them are really, really good! This one, thankfully, is no different.
Joe, our "dragonfruit-headed" protag walks into town just in time to watch a video game nerd get pummeled right outside an arcade. After interrupting the fight and saving the victim with some super cool fighting moves, they become friends and Joe starts crashing at the arcade, laying low and dominating the fighting games. Laying low from what, we only have vague details about until the last few pages, but it's safe to say he's wrapped up in some hostile crime syndicate of some kind and searching for someone important.
It's colorful, it's creative, it's both based in reality while solidly not at the same time. Dylan clearly has a vision for a Joe's upcoming adventure, and I'm really excited to see it play out.
Weekly Comic Features: May 3, 2023
Lot's of people thrown together with lots of magic this week!
Monomyth #1 (w: David Hazan, a: Cecilia Lo Valvo)
Publisher: Mad Cave Comics
So, I'll start by saying this comic isn't super unique. It follows the whole "x number of strangers are thrust together by a magical bond they didn't know about" scenario. In this case, it's seven strangers and none of them really stand out as being any type of interesting. However, two things make this book worth picking up. First: the world-building and design. Lo Valvo brings a really cool art style to the mix, and the design of the creatures and the Homunculus character is really nifty. I like the art a lot, it's edgy without going too hard and doesn't stray too far from a more traditional comic style.
The second thing making this one worth getting is the hook at the end. It seems magic doesn't work the way we expect it to, which is a really fun thing to deliver on the last couple pages. Whether purposefully or not, the book plays heavily into our expectations from the aforementioned overused set-up, and then whirls that around in the end to suggest that magic ain't what it seems. I love stories where magic has a cost, so I'm hooked. Gonna give this title at least one more issue and just hope that the characters either get more interesting or keep dying off.
Star Signs #1 (w: Saladin Ahmed, a: Megan Levens)
Publisher: Image Comics
Okay, bare with me because this is another "strangers thrust together after a magical bond" type of book, but the premise for this one is definitely a good bit more intriguing.
Rana Fawaaz is a catering chef living in New York and just trying to get through life. One day, the stars disappear. Yep, all the stars in the sky. Poof. Gone. She hears about it on Twitter (since you can't even really see the stars in NYC).
And nothing changes, life goes on. Rana continues to work, occasionally dreams of stars. She thinks about her mom, who she coincidentally lost the same moment the stars disappeared. Mainly, she just tries to not get yelled at by her clients.
And then she learns she can freeze time.
Rana is now wrapped up in some sort of event that seems to have granted people all over the world with powers tied to specific zodiac signs. Where she goes from here and what the mysterious Mr. Duke has to do with it, time will tell.
Like I said, it's a super cool premise. I dig the astrological angle. The art is also gorgeous, with Levens beautiful lines being accompanied by an incredibly bold use of colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick that fits the celestial vibe of the book extraordinarily well. It's wonderfully vibrant and fun, delightfully heartfelt and whimsical. Absolutely solid book.
Kept you waiting, huh?
Okay so we've been silent for quite a while. Turns out moving to an entirely new state is a difficult, demanding process. However, we are now officially moved and slowly becoming settled, so it's time to get back into regular content drops for the homies. Without further ado, here are some of the best comics that have come out in the month or so since we last posted.
Deep Cuts #1 (w: Joe Clark, Kyle Higgins; a: Danilo Beyruth)
Publisher: Image Comics
Deep Cuts is a six-part anthology of stories spanning the length of America's musical history and the rise and evolution of Jazz. In the first entry, titled "What it Means," we follow a young clarinetist named Charles in 1917 New Orleans. Charles has aspirations to play with his musical idol, Jack Cartier. Once he finally gets noticed by Jack, Charles soon finds himself caught between two paths. On one, through the teachings of Jack, he can sacrifice all his principals and obsess over money, lavish social gatherings and achieving the perfect set. However, another path presents itself, wherein Charles learns that music is about what it brings to the people. It's about the heart that goes into it and performing whether there is monetary gain or not.
This is a slice of life with a lot of growth, and Charles is a wonderfully sweet character. It's not horribly shocking what befalls him in his relationship with the slick Jack Cartier, but I honestly think that makes the story and the resolution all more effective. This young man is driven by hope and optimism, despite the warnings of those around him, and the audience falls in line with those naysayers telling him to be careful around Jack. We know characters like this, and we anticipate the drop of the other shoe at every page turn. And yet, when the shoe does drop, Charles remains bright and hopeful. He holds to his principals and becomes stronger for them. It's a beautiful story, beautifully presented by Beyruth's art. Definitely going to be a fun anthology for music lovers and those just looking for a swinging good time.
W0RLDTR33 #1 (w: James Tynion IV, a: Fernando Blanco)
Publisher: Image Comics
I honestly don't feel like I need to say much about W0RLDTR33 since Tynion and the comics world at large have been saying so much about it. It is worth all the hype. I am a bought and sold Tynion fan, but even beyond that bias, this is a cool book. Techno-horror, creepy naked alt ladies, murder sprees. Good times.
The Great British Bump Off #1 (w: John Allison, a: Max Sarin)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
I absolutely ADORE this book. It's incredibly witty, wonderfully cute and a compelling concept all wrapped into a delicious Tiramisu.
Our quirky and energetic hero is Shauna, one of twelve bakers participating in the Great British Bake Off The UK Bakery Tent, a baking competition with high stakes and even higher caloric intakes. As the initial excitement fades, tensions arise in the test kitchen when one baker, Neal, tries to use every oven in the kitchen for his practice recipes. Shauna and her friends, Jill and Sunil, convince everyone to leave Neal to finish while they all go to get dinner, effectively saving Neal from a full on beat down from three or four of his fellow contestants. Upon returning, Shauna finds Neal face first in a bowl of batter. He has been poisoned! Gasp!
In order to keep the show from being pulled from air, Shauna somehow convinces the producers to let her try and solve the case. Can she effectively sniff out a heartless murderer while also trying to keep herself from being eliminated? She sure hopes so!
This book is absolutely adorable and Shauna is without a doubt my newest comic book crush. She is such a fun main character follow through this incredibly wacky world. Sarin's art brings the whole thing together we wonderful energy and an animated feel. Incredible book. Definitely one to keep up with. Bon appetit!
Parting Ways #1 (w: Alex Scherkenbach, a: Gustavo Novaes)
Publisher: Scout Comics
A romance comic. No alternate dimensions. No ghosts. No people in spandex. Just a good ol' fashioned romantic drama. It's incredibly refreshing.
The premise is admittedly a bit like a Lifetime movie for me. I don't know why every dude in Romance media has to be in the military, but here we are. Gabbee is a Brazilian emigrant studying digital media, Brandon is an Army medic hoping to one day become a doctor. The two meet at the coffee shop where Gabee works and thus begins their romantic entanglement. However, things come to a head when after dating for some time Brandon finally reveals that he is shipping out to boot camp soon. Can these two lovebirds maintain their spark as their dreams and plans for their future clash?
The story is told in a fascinating way that is reminiscent of a book I read a LONG time ago called "Cry Havoc" from Image Comics and Si Spurrier. Basically, different moments in time are draped in different colors. This book opens in red, showing Gabee fretting over being ghosted by Brandon as someone is in a car outside her house (possibly Brandon, but unclear). Next we see the world cast in blue as Brandon, now a uniformed soldier, meets Gabee by a fountain to discuss his leaving and the status of their relationship. As they ask how they got to this point, the world is now thrown into yellow as we see their relationship start and blossom. Do these different colors represent moments in time, or does the title give away the surprise in that maybe all these different colors are moments where choices could have gone differently. Time will tell.
This is a Scout Nonstop imprint, so the whole story should be available in graphic novel form soon.
Exorcists Never Die #! (w: Steve Orlando, a: Sebastian Piriz)
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
This book would make a pretty sick anime. It's like Naruto by way of the Knights Templar.
A pair of exorcists, which in this case are skilled martial artists who punch the crap out of demons and occassionally summon the power of biblically accurate angels to aid them, enter into a structure to stop a massive soul auction. They have to fight their way down to the very bottom, encountering the domains of all seven sins along the way, the first being Sloth. Also, they have some baggage from previously being in a relationship that went south. Never date your coworkers, kids.
This is a cool book even if it is a bit too rapidly paced, sacrificing character development for action. I also personally find the common narrative thread of "our male and female lead have romantic history and that is where we'll get our tension from" to be lazy writing. Especially when dealing with demons and the embodiment of sins, it would be more interesting in my opinion to have their personal conflicts be entirely separate from one another. A good example of this is Garth Ennis's "A Walk Through Hell" (which I cannot truly recommend enough, that series was amazing). It's fine to let them have history together, but an entire story arch of them trudging up relationship drama is just cheap and tedious. Still, concept for the action elements is cool, and Piriz does a great job giving a fun spin to what the angels look like.
Neat book, could be better, maybe further issues will develop more compelling tensions.
Hairball #1 (w: Matt Kindt, a: Tyler Jenkins)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This book is an exercise in what happens when you let a child of divorce deep dive into their trauma and try to see how it could have been worse. In this case, a girl retells the tale of her adoption by a couple with a lot of marital issues, and her relationship to her beloved cat, Bestie, who was brought in on the same day. There are all sorts of issues in this family: the wife is potentially an alcoholic, the father resents the daughter and her financial burden on the family, the mother is having an implied affair with the child's therapist, the father has definite anger issues... it's not a great environment for, well, anyone, really. But what's making it all the worse is Bestie seems to have more going on than meets the eye... like acid spit? Poisonous hair balls? Demon eyes? Bestie, we love you, but what ARE you?
Being told from the apparent grown-up perspective of our main character, looking back on the devastating chaos of her youth, we get a very honest and more mature view of how this family completely fell apart. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that. The pacing is solid, the characters feel very real, and Bestie inserts just enough paranormal strangeness to keep this from being too heavy but still very intriguing. Definitely one to pick up if you can!
The man go down the hoooole...
Beautiful, ethereal, metaphorical - it's not a very long book, and it doesn't say a ton, but the vagueness adds to the eerie strangeness. A new tale in the Bone Orchard mythos from Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, the endless depths of a hole on an island by a lighthouse leaves way more questions than answers. Of course, this all adds up to some quality creepy horror.
Weekly Comic Features: March 2023
Did we mention we're moving?
You may have noticed that we haven't been posting so much lately. It's not because we don't love you (and if you thought that, it might be something to bring up with your therapist...), but because we're going through a big cross-state move and it is taking up a LOT of our time. So apologies for the delay, but here are a good grouping of comics you may have missed in March!
The Forged #1 (w: Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, a: Mike Henderson)
Publisher: Image Comics
Apparently, at some point over the last year or so, Greg Rucka nd Eric Trautmann sat down and played some Warhammer 40k. During their tournament, they were like "Hey, what if this but... sexy?" And then The Forged was born.
Or so I assume.
Though the "40k but easier on the eyes" analogy does hold up, issue one does a nice bit of world building to separate itself. Sure, the similarities run deep: An empire ruled over by an eternal empress/emperor, genetically modified soldiers in hulking battle armor, massive space ship travelling vast distances in a dark universe, the blending of magic and sci-fi. I would definitely be SHOCKED to hear the Rucka DIDN'T take inspiration from 40k. That said, Rucka and Trautmann bring a fun spin by amping up the cleanliness, brightness and general beauty of the universe they're building. The empire in this tale feels a bit softer than the hardened, gothic Empire of the Grim Dark. Moreover, we don't yet know the extent of the Empire's outlook on the rest of the universe. Are they harsh colonisers? Are they staunch genetic fascists? Are they bringing peace and technology to the planets of their system? We don't yet know, but the characters we see definitely show an Empire that, while dealing with some class struggles within, seems to be prospering.
It's a cool book. It's actiony and tickles anyone who is a fan of the "Space Marine" trope, a la Doom or the Alien franchise. It's sexy and beautifully inked. The backing material provides a good bit of world-building in that typical Rucka/Lazarus style. There's mystery, there's blood, there's action. It's fun.
Etheres One Shot (w: Anas Abdulhak, a: Dennis Menheere)
Publisher: Source Point Press
If Source Point put out more stuff like this, I would be WAY more interested in them as a publisher.
First, I should start by saying this book is poetry. It is narrated poetically, which I know is not for everyone. It is at times a little disjunct in rhythm and at times the rhyme scheme is a bit forced, but it is overall well executed poetic narration. It didn't take me out of it and in fact, I believe it elevated the mystery of the book.
This book is beautiful. It's a gorgeous, bite-sized romp through a mysterious magical world with a narrator carrying a heavy burden. I won't postulate too much on what I believe this book is about, as I believe this is one of those stories that can be whatever people need it to be, but there are some heavy topics on display. Our narrator has a history of trauma, loss, potential abuse and perhaps has even been the abuser themselves. We follow along as they experience various trials, all while hounded by a strange creature whose intentions are obscured. As they attempt each trial, they are plagued by visions of the life they once had. This epic journey is beautifully painted, swirling in a soft dance across each page. It's a tragic book elegantly presented.
Read this one with an open mind. Feel how it affects you and see what your takeaways are. I believe this could be an important read for the right people.
Ambassadors #1 (w: Mark Millar, a: Frank Quitely)
Publisher: Image Comics
I'll start by saying, Jupiter's Legacy is one of my favorite series ever and is one of the reasons I got back into comics about a decade ago. So, I'm a bit biased. Just getting that out of the way.
HOLY CRAP THIS BOOK IS AMAZING
Enough gushing, let me explain.
Ambassadors takes place in a world where governments of almost every nation have spent decades trying to develop super-people. They tried radiation, gene therapy, evolutionary stimulation, and various other fudge sciencey whatnots. In comes Choon-He Chung, the (self-proclaimed but probably true) smartest woman in the world and brilliant tech mogul, who has successfully downloaded her conciousness into a super-powered body, despite being locked up in prison. She comes to the world with an offer: She wants to be Willy Wonka but with superpowers. She wants to give powers to the most deserving - not the ultra rich, not governments. She wants to find the best people to join her team and act as ambassadors for their home countries. Meanwhile, out in the wild we meet a man in South Africa who can crush people with his mind and a superpowered, Scottish ape of some kind who like beer, runs fast and is telekentic.
What I love so much about Mark Millar's superhero stories is how chaotic they are. When you're hanging out in a Marvel or DC Universe, every supe has one power, or a variety of powers, all centered around a central focus (i.e. telekinesis AND telepathy). In Jupiter's Legacy and now also in Amabassadors, Millar creates a world where a superhero can fly and also lift things with their mind and also shoot lazers from their toes and also turn any potato chip flavor into BBQ. His superheroes are so grand and ultra-powerful that it helps to sell the overall message of them honestly being a bit bleak and unchained. I've always loved content that explores what it's like living in a super world as much as the lives of super people themselves. How scary and chaotic would it be knowing that Superman exists? What happens the day he's no match for something, or even worse the day he decides he's had enough. The Boys does a really fun job of this, and Jupiter's Legacy touched on it a smidge but mostly focused on the inner turmoil of super world. I'm hoping this book builds up Millar and Quitely's brand of ultra-super, bombastic individuals and lets us see what a day in the life of a normal person or a government official or an insurance agent would be like.
Really cool book. I'm super glad to have another comic coming from this team.
Dead Romans #1 (w: Fred Kennedy, a: Nick Marinkovich)
Publisher: Image Comics
You guys know I love a good historial fiction, and honestly a time period that doesn't get enough love is the Roman Empire NOT surrounding the emperors. This tale takes place in Germanic land as Romans and tribes come to fight. We see a love story blooming between Arminius, a Germanic prince moonlighting as a Roman soldier, and the beautiful slave Honoria, who belongs to a high-ranking Roman official. Whoops, looks like Arminius wants a queen, and he's got his sights set on Honoria - whether she wants the job or not.
While this book absolutely begins to play out like a Diana Gabaldon novel, what I really find myself drawn in by is the promise of a woman being put into cornered scenarios and fighting back. Does she love Arminius? Maybe. Has he absolutely betrayed her people? Oh, you're darn tootin'. And she's got something to say about that.
It's a period peace with love and betrayal and violence and political intrigue and I'm IN. Let's go, book two! I'm ready.
It's Jeff! #1 (w: Kelly Thompson, a: G. Gurihiru)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Sweet landshark-lovin' Christmas, this is maybe the cutest book ever made. Marvel decided to compile the adorable adventures of Jeff the Landshark from their Marvel Unlimited "Infinity Comics" series into a one shot all about Jeff being cute and doing cute things and navigating cute scenarios.
Ever wanted to see Jeff sled down a mountain on Captain America's shield? ✔️
Ever wondered how Jeff might handle a super hot summer day with his super friends? ✔️
Ever wish you could experience Thanksgiving dinner with Jeff and the Avengers fam? ✔️
Seriously, I was squee-ing the entire book, laughing out loud, aww-ing up a storm...
I need more Jeff in my life. We ALL need more Jeff in our lives.
It's a haunting for good...
Phantom Road #1 (w: Jeff Lemire, a: Gabriel H. Walta)
Publisher: Image Comics
This book is one of those rare first issues wherein the establishing work draws me in more than the narrative work. It's honestly a fairly underwhelming first issue narratively. We spend barely any time in the world being built, only to get brief glimpses of development for one character and basically none for the other character. However, for anyone who has read Lemire's works before, character development is honestly what he does best and even the small glimpse we get of our lead is moderately compelling. Outside of the narrative, we have a fascinating setting of a dusty road that exists in some sort of liminal space. It may be dimension hopping, it may be time travel, it may be hell for all we know, but it is definitely a long, eerie stretch of road populated by faceless husks who attack when provoked. It's that melding of subtle but effective character development and a world that has yet to define it's genre that draws me into this book yearning to know more.
I love the opening of this book, too. Many books open in the middle of action and then flash back in time to establish what the heck is going on, but Lemire and Walta chose such an ambiguous scene to show. They show no violence, no creature. All they show at the very beginning of the book is our main protagonist being afraid. It's a super interesting choice, and I actually had to flash back when I realized the scared, screaming man in the beginning was the same stoic, polite trucker we end up following for the next few pages.
The last page is equally as fun, wherein the creators choose to forego showing a climactic moment of action and violence, instead delivering a splash page title card, and then return us to the main characters in the aftermath of whatever just happened out of sight. It's a cool choice. They are making some nifty creative choices here. I like.
Deadfellows #1 (w: Kody Hamilton, a: Ramiro Borrallo)
Publisher: Scout Comics
Trigger warning on this one, folks. This book talks about suicide, self-harm and domestic abuse.
A man named Pete is struggling with PTSD after being dumped by his abusive girlfriend and ultimately finds himself alone. He spent years in a relationship that forced him to burn all the bridges he had with friends, and his mother only wants to talk to him about the relationship. He moves into a cheap, run down apartment, clearly aware of the possibility that he might end his life there. One night, as the memories of his trauma flash through his mind, he inadvertently overdoses on acetaminophen. Suddenly, a woman appears and helps him purge the drug from his system before it gets processed. Turns out, his apartment is haunted by three ghosts, all who ended their own lives, who are determined to make sure he doesn't do the same and get stuck here himself.
And they plan to do so by making sure he leaves for good. Pete, however, is done letting someone else control his life.
I think this book has a really sweet premise and can do a lot of good if handled properly. It does a very good job showing how PTSD from relationships can manifest and handles the topic fairly delicately, while detailing the severity of it. Pete is a very well crafted sympathetic character. Anyone who has experienced similar trauma can relate to his mental state, and even those that haven't are given plenty of space for empathy. By the end of the book, you find yourself just yearning for him to make friends with these three kind specters. You just want him to find someone to talk to so that he can hopefully heal.
I did not expect this book to be as clever and well-written as it is. From the outside looking in, it was just another pump and dump horror book. Honestly, the cover almost undersold it so hard for me that I passed on it. Just goes to show that sometimes you have to dig a bit deeper to be completely surprised by an incredible story. If only there was some sort of idiom for that....
It's rare to get to feel smarter than Sherlock...
Blue Book #1 (w: James Tynion IV, a: Michael Avon Oeming, Klaus Janson)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Blue Book is a very interesting comic. Here we have two creators known for incredibly bombastic work, be it Something is Killing the Children, Powers, or any of the other wildly successful titles these two creators have brought to the world. However, the work they're teaming up for is incredibly subdued. It's a very cool style that we don't really see much outside of the graphic novel space: it's a non-fiction book. More importantly, this book functions as one of those "fact or fiction" types of TV shows, wherein Tynion explores real stories of aliens and other bizarre occurrences in a series he's calling "True Weird" in an attempt to explore the validity and mysterious facts surrounding those events. These are the stories of real people in the real world, which is a massive departure for Tynion. In a way, we really get to see Tynion's writing shine in a new light as he takes on the role of a journalist more than a fiction writer. Meanwhile, Oeming is also producing very subdued art, which is complimented perfectly by a reduced pallet limited to blue, black and white. It's somehow calm and eerie at the same time, which works perfectly for the tone of the story.
The follow up story at the end of the book puts Klaus Janson in the art seat as he and Tynion recount the bizarre history of Coney Island, specifically that of the sightings of a mysterious flying man in 1880. It's a much different story than the UFO tale that precedes it, but again finds Tynion acting more as historian than fictioneer, and it's a fun read unless you're a fan of elephants.
I personally am a huge fan of TV shows that explore strange occurrences and the possibility of the supernatural, and I never realized how primed the comic anthology space was to produce similar content. This is a very nifty book and definitely one worth picking up, whether your a UFO fan or just a follower of Tynion's work.
Local Man #1 (w: Tim Seeley, a: Tony Fleecs)
Publisher: Image Comics
First, I just want to say that Tim Seeley does an absolutely INCREDIBLE Liefeld...
Anyway, Local Man is a story about a super hero going home. However, it's not all ticker-tape parades and keys to the city when Crossjack returns to his sleepy hometown. Instead, he's met by vitriol and disappointment. Though we aren't shown exactly why yet, we are given hints that Crossjack was fired from his superhero team, Third Gen, and is a bit of a disgraced hero overall. Makes him a little less than welcome around here.
Local Hero is a dark superhero story on its surface, but below that are a handful of very relatable themes. Themes of growth and opportunity. The ever present worry of disappointing those you care about. How generally shitty everything is in a post-capitalist society. It's a character piece as much as it is an exploration of a unique superhero world. I figure one day I'll get tired of these "what if superheroes but dark" stories, but writers like Seeley have been around for so long that they are the right type of creators to approach the subject.
This is going to be a hard book to read, I'm sure, but if I made it through Blue Flame, I can make it through this.
Moriarty: Clockwork Empire #1 (w: Fred Duval & Jean-Pierre Pecau, a: Steven Subic)
Publisher: Titan Comics
Sherlock Holmes and his ever-faithful companion Watson fight robots. Also, Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde are there. Yep.
I'm honestly not a huge fan of modern takes on Sherlock Holmes. I've read a few of the Arthur Conan Doyle original stories, but the modern stuff tends to be so "Holmes solves things just because he does" instead of showing the audience hints of a logical thread. That said, while there are MOMENTS of that in this book, it all typically pertains to the more superficial elements of Holmes flexing as opposed to the larger mysteries. The writers do a good job building suspense and mystery while laying down bread crumbs for the audience. Add to that a bit of delicious dramatic irony, and we're actually left in a fairly interesting position where we actually know MORE than Holmes does, which is refreshing.
The writers are taking a very traditional approach to the Holmes format and characters, while instead making the world around Holmes modernized and unique. This London is one of automatons, clockwork machinations and steam-punky goodness. There are self driving cars, automated airships, airships in general, and poker playing robots. It's a fun world to see Holmes and Watson pottering around in. A great choice for Holmes fans or fans of Victorian stories and steam punk and the like.
Who doesn't love a good slasher?
Monarch #1 (w: Rodney Barnes, a: Alex Lins)
Publisher: Image Comics
On its surface, this is a story about kids surviving a horrific alien invasion.
At its heart, this is a story about the difficulties of finding love and peace in a harsh world full of violence and hate. It's about the things that the world shapes us to be in the face of all that. How refusing to let go of isolated moments in our life can destroy us. Monarch is a story about hope as much as it is a story about the lack thereof.
It's a cool book and I'm wary to say too much about the story itself to take away any of the impact. The art is wonderful and shockingly visceral. The characters are sweet and their pain resonates with the reader. Barnes and Lins have hit on some magic with this one. Go pick it up.
Harrower #1 (w: Justin Jordan, a: Brahm Revel)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
A nice, straight-forward slasher that seems to be setting up some significant beats dealing with PTSD, loss and conviction.
Harrower takes place in the town of Barlowe, New York: a town gripped by superstition. Legends in this town tell of the Harrower, an avenging spirit sent to punish the wicked. On Halloween night, as all the adults prepare to attend the Harvest Gala, Jessa and her friends are preparing for a night of high school debauchery. However, this particular Harvest Gala feels especially grim, being the ten year anniversary of a massive tragedy that rocked the town. We don't know much about what occurred, but Jessa lost her brother, and others in the town also lost young family members. As all the preparation builds, we see a police officer attacked by the Harrower himself. The officer admits to wanting to reveal some sort of secret and blaming others in the town for his demise. His son, Carter, discovers the body and decides to take his father's mission into his own hands.
As I said, Harrower delivers a nice, recognizable slasher premise. Halloween night, small town, teens out to get murdered. What it provides to enhance the experience are hints of a deep web of corruption among the adults in the town and a very upsetting betrayal toward the end of the book. There is something happening - some secret behind the Harrower that will hopefully provide a very shocking reveal down the line.
This is a great book for slasher fans or people who like a good "teens getting picked off one by one" horror story. For people who need more, I feel confident that this can please them too, whether it be for the folklore elements or the general sense of intrigue.
The Finder #1 (w: Christos Gage, a: Tomas Giorello)
Publisher: Bad Idea Comics
This book is a bit more actiony than what I typically prefer, but I really dig the overall premise. I am an absolute sucker for superheroes with very subtle powers, and the Finder fits the bill.
The story follows the eponymous Finder, a woman with the power to find anyone by resonating with something they cherish, as she carries out her duties of finding a kidnapped superhero, First Responder. We learn over the course of their interaction that this world is made up of two types of powered individuals: natural powers like the Finder, and scientifically enhanced powers like First Responder. The first category of hero make up the Ground Crew, a group of heroes who perform less than glamorous duties in order to set the stage for the enhanced heroes, known as Frontliners, to claim their glory or to clean up afterward. The Frontliners themselves are mainly government pawns, enlisted and enhanced by government units to perform bombastic tasks in order to grab media attention and whatnot. It's a really fascinating world, especially for anyone who likes superhero content like The Boys and such.
The story itself is a little bland. A lot of cliché action movie badass-ering, silly lines about being too tough for their own good, etc., etc. I did like the characters and the design of the world, just some of the dialogue felt a bit too "Vin Diesel movie" for me.
Anyway, cool book overall with some great art. Dialogue choices aside, I highly recommend.
Law & Order: Special Angels Unit
Blood Tree #1 (w: Peter J. Tomasi, a: Maxim Simic)
Publisher: Image Comics
I want to start by saying that the 'A' cover to this book portrays a very different story than what you actually get...
That said, the story we do get might be void of giant, night-vision goggle adorned angel murderers, but it is compelling all the same. Grizzled NYC Detective Dario Azzaro is running routine security for big wigs in the St. Patrick's Day parade when something falls from the sky and impacts onto the pavement, narrowly missing the Governor and Mayor, thanks to Dario's snap to action. Once the commotion dies down, Dario and his partner Maria Diaz discover the falling object to be a naked man with wings surgically grafted to his body. They set off to try and discover why this young man would throw himself 50 stories to the pavement below, leaving behind a note that only says "Blood Begets Blood," and they find themselves at a loss for any sort of solution. Then, the second body shows up.
This book is a very straight-forward procedural drama, great for fans of Law and Order or True Detective and the like. Where it excels is honestly creating a compelling mystery. The "Wingman," as he gets casually named by Diaz, is a fascinating character with, so far, unclear motivations. I think this tale will be a compelling mystery to watch unfold. As for the characters, they are pretty much what you'd expect from a procedural set in NYC. That said, we have yet to see any instances of debauchery or infidelity or substance abuse in Dario's character, which are things all too common in super-tropey entries in the genre, so I'm hoping it stays that way. Dario seems to have a very stable home life, and that is a nice breath of fresh air in a world full of muck.
Where Monsters Lie #1 (w: Kyle Starks, a: Piotr Kowalski)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Wilmhurst is a peaceful community. They take care of each other here, as long as everyone adheres to easy-to-follow rules. Simple requests like "don't leave your trash cans out" or "maintain a healthy yard" or "no killing your victims within the walls of the community."
Oh, right... Wilmhurst is a sanctuary for Serial Killers.
This book sees various slasher pastiches, everything from Jason to Jigsaw to John Wayne Gacy, living within the walls of a quaint rural community headed up by a woman named Zel. Here, the killers work together to help plan excursions, recover injured or incapacitated killers, build death traps and weaponry, and much much more. The only requirement is that each member of the community must sew discord and fear in the world while keeping Wilmhurst out of the attention of law enforcement. It's all going according to plan until one killer gets a bit over-zealous.
This book is brash and hilarious. It's a wild concept that sees typically cold, ruthless killers reduced to petty neighbor squabbles. It's a fun ride for slasher fans and, honestly, just a funny book for anyone in the mood for a different type of horror comic. Starks and Kowalski have laid the ground work for a really good time and I am here for it.
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.
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.