Weekly Reading Round-Up : 02/17/2019 – 02/23/2019, Starts And Stops

Two notable debuts and two equally-notable finales were among the “big stories” in the world of the “Wednesday Warrior” this past week, so let’s take a look at them all and see how they either kicked things off or wrapped them up —

Sharkey The Bounty Hunter #1 (Image/Millarworld) from Mark Millar and Simone Bianchi isn’t exactlyHeavy Metal for the whole family” (Sharkey has sex with a hot half-robot chick, after all), but it’s pretty close, as our hard-ass-with-a-heart-of-gold hero takes it upon himself to escort a kid he just made an orphan halfway across the galaxy (or maybe it’s the universe) to the home planet of his closest living relatives — until a big payday “score” falls into his lap when the most-wanted criminal in the universe (or maybe it’s the galaxy) gets a price put on his head that’s high enough to send every freelance scalp-chaser scurrying in his direction, that “everyone” including Sharkey’s mortal enemy. This isn’t taxing stuff by any means — Millar’s books never are — but it is a surprisingly likable mash-up of genres that was enjoyable enough to get even my cynical ass to overlook its calculated (again, a Millar specialty) nature and just go with the flow as it ticked every box on the list. Bianchi’s Eurocomics-influenced art is flat-out gorgeous and detailed “AF,” as the kids say, the colors rich and lush, and who knows? Between this and The Magic Order it seems that the oft-derided Millar may be on a bit of a roll following his big Netflix payday. There are a million and one reasons to turn your nose up at this book, sure, but I’ll be damned if I could remember a single one of them while I was reading it, and I expect to stick around for the rest of the ride.

Considerably more thematically ambitious is Phil Hester and Ryan Kelly’s Stronghold #1 (Aftershock), a “cosmic horror” that’s part The Matrix, part The Omen, and altogether interesting, if a bit jumbled out of the starting gate. Still, I dig the set-up : ancient apocalyptic Lovecraftian alien force of destruction lives amongst us as an unassuming insurance agent, his true nature unbeknownst to him thanks to the efforts of a secret society with global reach dedicated to keeping him in check. Turns out he’s got company in the delusion department, though, as none of us know that the Earth itself is just one big prison designed to hold this guy down. All that starts to change, however, when — nah, you should just read it for yourself. Hester’s a damn good artist but up and down as a writer — fortunately, he’s mostly “up” here, the only pitfall being that he’s playing with almost too much concept for a single issue to handle. I’ve no reservations about Kelly’s art, though, as his trademark thick and “syrupy” line and keen attention to even the littlest of little things has rarely been put to better use. This may just be the book he was born to draw, and again, I expect to be strapped in for the duration with this one.

Sticking with Aftershock but flipping the script to the final chapter, Eliot Rahal and Jorge Fornes’ Hot Lunch Special comes to a very pleasing end with issue #5, a nice mix of high-octane action and solid characterization that puts a nice bow on the package but still leaves the box-top ajar just enough for a potential sequel if the creators were to feel up for taking things in a very different direction. Yeah, this series was basically “Fargo The Comic,” but what’s wrong with that? Rahal’s scripts have been well-paced and loaded with a mix of bloody noir violence and gallows humor, and Fornes’ art is gritty, stylish, and basically pitch-perfect for a crime book like this. If you’ve been passing on this one in singles, rest assured that it’ll read great in trade. Speaking of which —

The Lone Ranger by Mark Russell and Bob Q has been a fun and reasonably thought-provoking ride that’s been a blast in singles, sure, but will be absolutely great collected. Russell refuses to “mail it in” on these Dynamite licensed titles (see Red Sonja), and while I highly doubt the term “human resources” even existed in the Old West, when one line of dialogue is my only gripe, shit — that’s small potatoes. The Ranger, Tonto, and Silver make their final stand against the corrupt Texas land barons out to partition the land with barbed wire here in #5’s (no lie) thrilling conclusion, a bold double-cross pays off, and a cannibalistic dandy bounty hunter gets his pound of flesh, plus we get some solid social commentary and even a few laughs. Tonto was the real star of this series, sure, but that’s cool with me, and there’s plenty of room here for a follow-up, which I certainly hope to see — provided the same creators are on board. Yeah, the writing was the big draw on this title, but the art’s definitely solid, too, and truth be told I kind of admire Bob Q’s commitment to craft over “flash.” The trade should be out fairly soon, and if you pass on it, you’re crazy. This is the best Western comic since the days of Lansdale and Truman.

And that’s it for this week — just enough time to remind you that this column is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I offer thrice-weekly exclusive rants on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and even politics. Your support not only enables me to keep things going there, it also allows me to continue providing plenty of free content both here and on my trashfilmguru movie site. Please consider joining up over at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse



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