Four series I’ve been following from their inception — in the case of two that means for a couple/few years now, for the other two just a handful of months — wrapped up this past week. But did they wrap up succesfully? That is the question —
Okay, it’s probably a cheat to include The Beef #5 in this column given it hit shelves the Wednesday before last, but my shop didn’t get their copies until this week, so it counts as a “new comic” as far as I’m concerned — and it’s an awesome one, at that. Things don’t go so well for our guy Chuck — in fact, hopefully it’s not giving too much away to call him “Ground Chuck” at this point — but that doesn’t mean his alter ego doesn’t live on. This issue was grotesque and unnerving even by this series’ standards, but it was also funny as shit, and at the end of the day co-writers Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline can pat themselves on their backs for serving up raw the most entertaining, absurdist, and disturbing polemic in favor of vegetarianism ever produced in any medium, while Shaky Kane — well, shit, he’s Shaky Kane. Words simply cannot do the man justice. The backmatter also does a great job of highlighting the contributions of designer John Roshell, who seriously busted his ass producing this books’ strikingly original covers. If you’ve been passing on this in singles, fear not, Image will be cranking it out in trade in fairly short order, I’m sure, and you have absolutely no excuse not to grab a copy. Gandhi takes a shotgun blast through the head — and it’s played for laughs. You need this comic in order to survive.
Sticking with Image, we come to Kill Or Be Killed #20, the grand finale of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ latest crime/noir thing (albeit with a supernatural twist and plenty of Amazing Spider-Man references — check that cover!), except it’s really not so “grand” at all. Brubaker seems to have gone from The Fade-Out to “The Fake-Out,” tossing two major, but decidedly uninspired, head-fakes our way before settling on a bog-standard Hollywood genre ending that you’ve seen done both before and better more times than you can count. Phillips’ art remains competent if a bit stuck in a certain stylistic rut, but seriously — this is two underwhelming long-form series in a row from this celebrated team, and how long I feel the need to keep following them remains a very open question. They’re moving onto a graphic novella next (a preview of which is included at the back of this issue), then kicking off another monthly, and I think I’m gonna wait and hear what folks have to say about both before slapping down my hard-earned cash for either.
Also on the long-form front, Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook put their fan-favorite Dark Horse horror title Harrow County to bed with issue #32, and while it’s a fairly cut-and-dried “epic final battle” sort of thing, it’s got a lot of heart behind it, and Emmy’s story feels like it’s ending exactly as it should. Bunn steps back and lets and Crook’s gorgeous watercolor art carry the bulk of the storytelling load, as it should, and the extra page count for this issue (which, fair warning, is priced at $4.99, while everything else on our “radar screen” this week carries a now-pretty-standard $3.99 price tag — although this one also boasts a higher-quality cardstock cover, as well) affords him the opportunity to finish with a flourish of stunning double-page spreads. I’m really gonna miss picking this comic up every month, and I do hope these two find themselves collaborating on another project in the not-too-distant future. They didn’t set out to re-invent the wheel or anything here, just tell an involving folk/rural horror story that did its characters, concepts, and setting justice. And that they certainly did. Take a bow, gents — you’ve earned it.
Lat but not least, over at Vertigo, Simon Spurrier and Rachael Stott send off their wildly inventive sci-fi family drama, Motherlands, with issue #6, and it’s pretty much a textbook example of how to go out with a bang. The previous installment left us with one hell of a cliffhanger, and Spurrier not only makes sure we get some sweet “payoff” out of it by exploring all of its attendant implications (I’m trying really hard to avoid “spoilers” here, if you couldn’t tell), he also sees to it that every single sub-plot he’d been toying with along the way gets tied together in cohesive fashion, while Stott — who appeared to stumble a bit, deadline-wise, in the early going and only drew four and half of the series’ issues — illustrates the heavily- 2000AD-influenced proceedings with a clean, crisp line that looks extremely polished but still conveys plenty of excitement and, when necessary, raw pain and angst. This comic seems to have gone largely overlooked on stands — let’s be honest, most Vertigo things are these days — but you know what? It’s been an absolute blast, combining rip-roaring adventure, human emotion, and smart, “high-concept” genre storytelling in about as thoroughly satisfying a fashion as possible, so anyone who missed out on it monthly? You should seriously check it out in trade.
And with that, we conclude our look at conclusions. Next week they tell me Batman and Catwoman are getting married — but hopefully some comics that actually matter will be coming out, as well, and we’ll be looking at them here seven short days from now. Hope to see you then!