After a week off to attend the superb Short Run Comix & Arts Festival in Seattle, the Round-Up is back, and we’ve got four first issues to take a look at because, hey, every week at your LCS there are at least four “number ones,” if not more, are there not? It sure as hell seems like it —
First off, Joe Hill’s horror comics imprint at DC, Hill House, gives us The Dollhouse Family #1 by the veteran pairing of Mike Carey (here writing, for reasons unknown, under the pretentious moniker of “M.R. Carey”) and Peter Gross, joined this time out by the criminally under-utilized Vince Locke, who for my money has always been — and remains — one of the most distinctive artists working in the comics mainstream. Gross is credited with “layouts,” Locke with “finishes,” which means this looks to be about 75% Locke, at least, and that’s a good thing because his creepy, expressive, and highly atmospheric style is just plain perfect for the always-reliable Carey’s immediately-engrossing script about a fracturing family with a unique heirloom that may be at the source of all their troubles. In an unpredictable world, it’s good to have something you can always count on, and any book by these three exceptionally solid pros is at the very least going to get the job done, plus interest, and there are any number of brash “up-and-comers” who would do well to pay attention to what these guys are doing here, because this is a veritable clinic on how to grab readers right away with a new horror concept — and it’s a safe bet that subsequent issues will be every bit as good as this one was.
And while we’re on the subject of DC sub-labels, Gerard Way’s Young Animal this week serves up a highly-publicized debut of their own with Far Sector #1, the story of a Green Lantern in the far future called in to solve a murder on a planet with no crime to speak of, by the superstar pairing of best-selling genre novelist N.K. Jemison and Naomi co-creator Jamal Campbell. Jemison shows why she’s one of the more popular authors in the sci-fi game at the moment with this well-crafted script that’s rich with well-thought-through “world building” while Campbell, who does both line art and color, ups his game to match the material by turning out one eye-catching, sleek as hell page after another. This is a great-looking book with a fundamentally sound story and I’m more than happy to consider myself “all in” for the entire 12-issue run.
And just to keep the sub-imprint theme going, Marvel’s largely-moribund Max Comics line pops its head back above water for Punisher : Soviet #1, which marks Garth Ennis’ welcome return to the character he does better than anyone else, this time joined by Providence artist Jacen Burrows, who is fast turning into the contemporary master of “clean-line” comic book art. Frank Castle vs. the Russian Mafia is a natural, of course, but when there’s somebody else out there who’s doing an even better job of being Frank Castle than he is himself — well, that adds an intriguing wrinkle into the mix. This is bad-ass stuff that may just be the most fun read of the week, and Burrows is an inspired choice for a Punisher yarn. I am so down for this.
And to finish off back where we started, at least in a thematic sense, we go from Stephen King’s kid to a pretty damn respectable Stephen King impersonation performed by Jeff Lemire in Image’s Family Tree #1. Lemire checks all the usual boxes pretty well by setting his story in a small Maine town, giving us a good flavor of the place, introducing us in short-hand form to all the principal players (in this case an over-burdened single mom and her kids), and then tossing in elements of the supernatural, in this case a mysterious local outbreak turning folks into — errrmmm — tree-people. But the answer to the problem may be hidden in the — errrmmm again — titular family tree of the protagonist clan themselves, as the last-second appearance of grandpa would indicate. This is fairly by-the-numbers stuff, which does sorta seem to be the Lemire specialty these days, but it hit all the right notes for me, and the art by Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur — who have collaborated on a few projects together in the past — suits the mood and atmosphere quite nicely. Nothing overly spectacular, but a plenty solid read.
And there you have it, all that’s left at this point being to remind you folks that this column is “brought to you” each and every week by my Patreon site, where I regale you with three new and exclusive posts per week on all things comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a buck a month. Please help support my ongoing work by subscribing at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse