Last week was all about first issues, but this week sees a mix of debuts and very notable finales —
Berlin #22 concludes Jason Lutes’ 20-year epic, and I think it’s going to take awhile for those of us who have been following this series from the beginning to fully comprehend the quietly gaping hole its absence will leave in our lives. This comic has spanned two publishers (Black Eye — remember them? — and Drawn + Quarterly), three decades, even two centuries, and the idea that it’s over is really only just beginning to sink in. You’d expect a suitably poignant finale, of course, and Lutes delivers : the final fates of all our principal characters during the waning days of the Weimar Republic are revealed — Silvia, David, Marthe, Kurt, Anna, we have loved you all — but more than that we are given a privileged glimpse at the fall, division, and eventual re-birth of the city itself in a breathtaking series of double-page spreads that sweeps us out of this world we have sporadically immersed ourselves in for so long. An overpowering but understated sense of life’s fragility is what we’re left with at the end of the day, as well as a profound sense of appreciation for all that’s been accomplished here. We’ve almost taken for granted, I think, how good this book is, and the fact that its quality never waned even once in all this time is an absolutely remarkable feat. You can’t even count how many “hot” cartoonists have seen their stars rise and fall during the time Lutes has been off in his self-made corner of the comics universe, toiling away on his magum opus, and if it feels strange for us readers to have this over and done with, shit — I can only imagine how it must feel for him to be waking up in the morning, the project that has taken up most of his entire adult life now complete. I salute you, good sir, and hope that the coming years see this work recognized as what it undoubtedly is — one of the great achievements in the history of the medium.
As a side note : the release of this comic also very probably marks the end of D + Q’s existence as a periodical publisher. Yeah, they’re pretty much (rightly) perceived as strictly a book publisher these days, anyway, and sure, Adrian Tomine may pop up here and there with a new issue of Optic Nerve, I suppose — but there wasn’t one last year and there’s nothing on the horizon for 2018, either, so he might just be working on a book, too, for all I know. Maybe I’m just a hopeless nostalgic at heart, but I think there’s something bittersweet about that — after all, this is the publisher that put out some of the finest comic books on the stands for decades, and the idea that their logo could very well never appear on a “floppy” single issue again is sort of a sad reality to consider, no matter how many superb graphic novels and collections they continue to release. Looked at from that perspective, then, Berlin #22 seems as though it may signify the end of conclusion of more than just one era.
Two years ain’t 20, by any means, but Dept. H #24 puts to bed Matt Kindt’s second long-running series from Dark Horse, and this comic will also be missed by its legion of loyal readers, myself among them. Kindt answered most of the burning “whodunnit?” questions in the previous issue, but the final fate of his protagonist — as well as that of the planet’s population itself — were still very much open questions coming into this one, and the pitch-perfect ambiguous note he leaves things on ensures that the resolution to at least one of these situations remains very much open to interpretation. Some folks might find that a bit frustrating, I suppose, but I think it works — in fact, I’m not sure I’d have it any other way. I’ll be eager to see what Kindt and colorist wife Sharlene turn their attentions to next, but until we find out what that is, they’ve earned the right to take a bow for they’ve done here. This was a more hermetically-sealed and insular story than the sprawling, multi-layered Mind MGMT, but no less effective and enthralling.
Before any good story has to end, though, it has to start, so let’s balance our look at the “omegas” by having a gander at a couple of “alphas,” shall we?
Lucy Dreaming #1 comes our way from Boom! Studios way courtesy of writer Max Bemis and artist/colorist Michael Dialynas, and while it’s every bit as un-subtle as its title, genre fans will probably have a good time with this nifty little sci-fi/fantasy yarn. Bright but socially awkward middle-school girl (whose name you already know) prone to Walter Mitty-esque flights of fancy discovers that her Star Wars-style dreams are real, and that she’s the central figure in what’s most likely a struggle for the survival of the universe? Yeah, that’s a premise heavy on the “fan-service,” to be sure (sorry, but us comic book geeks are never going to find ourselves whisked away into these imaginary realms we read about, and we aren’t any more important than anyone else just because we consume this kind of escapist nonsense), but Bemis absolutely nails the mindset of his charming-if-contrived main character, the dialogue is spot-on hokey, and the book’s pacing is quick and smartly-constructed — while Dialynas, for his part, continues the artistic evolution so clearly in evidence over the course of his run on The Woods by delineating both the mundane and the fantastic with equal attention to detail, but adding a real sense of flourish when shit gets inter-galactic. This is hardly revolutionary stuff — and at $3.99 an issue you may be better-served by waiting for the trade if your comics budget is tight — but it is a fun and brisk romp elevated to a slightly higher “weight class” by the quality of its art. It’s slated to run five issues, and I’ll probably stick around for the duration.
Last up we come to Cave Carson Has An Interstellar Eye #1, the latest quasi-debut to hit comic store shelves as part of the “soft reboot” going on at DC’s Young Animal imprint. The same creative team of writer Jon Rivera, artist Michael Avon Oeming, and colorist Nick Filardi that handled the previous Cave run is in place here, minus co-plotter/YA head honcho Gerard Way, and frankly the book pretty much feels exactly the same even though it’s swapped its former subterranean setting for outer space. I don’t know that there’s anything especially great happening here from a story perspective — Cave and team pay a visit to a one-time rock music “god” who now might just be some sort of actual god (or close enough to it), then things go pear-shaped and it looks like they might be in way over their heads — but Rivera does a great job of giving his artist plenty to sink his teeth into and Oeming, as his is custom, makes the absolute most of it. Inventive page layouts, spectacularly “trippy” design work, and superbly fluid action have always been his trademarks, and if you’re one of those people — like me — who thinks that a comic can be worth four bucks for the art alone, then you’ll be more than pleased to shell out for this one. I guess I hold out some perhaps-vain hope that we’ll get a bit more from this latest iteration of the title than the frenetic and goofy run-around we got with the last, but even if that’s all it amounts to, shit — nobody breathes more life and excitement into frenetic and goofy run-arounds than Oeming does, and it’s an absolute pleasure to see a master of his craft operating at the peak of his creative powers. The brain may go a bit hungry here, but it’s a veritable feast for the eyes.
This week in our collective rear-view, then, we look ahead to next, which apepars to be a legit “blockbuster” week for DC, what with the final issue of Dark Nights : Metal and the latest installment of Doomsday Clock hitting on the same Wednesday — but for those of us who like good comics, the prospects appear slightly more dim. Join me back here in seven days to see if I was able to shove the slavering throngs of crossover-devouring fanboys aside and find anything good on the racks.