Better late than never, right? Sorry for not having this Round-Up column ready last Sunday, as is my custom, but “real life” kept yours truly busy for just a bit there, and now I’m playing catch-up. Fortunately, what I’m catching up on are four very good comics, all published under Image’s auspices. Let us waste no more time —
Oliver #1 was a book I was a bit hesitant about, due to no fault of creators Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson. It’s just that the idea of a dystopian take on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist had already been done recently over at Dark Horse’s Berger Books imprint, and frankly, Olivia Twist was well and truly awful. This, on the other hand — well, let’s just say I’m more than happy I put my reservations aside and gave it a shot.
Whitta is a veteran screenwriter known for his work on such films as The Book Of Eli and Rogue One : A Star Wars Story, while Robertson is — well, shit, you know who he is, and that he fills up every last millimeter of every panel with exquisite detail. Their version of Oliver is a cross-breed of one human and one clone parent, with the clones being second-class citizens of a post-Apocalyptic Britain that “bred” them as cannon fodder for some war or other and now uses them as slave labor. This first issue is mostly an exercise in “world-building,” but it’s smart, well-realized and immediately absorbing, even if its origins as a movie script (the first, in fact, that Whitta “pitched” around Hollywood, some 15 years ago) shows in terms of some of its “storyboarded” feel. No matter. Robertson and colorist Diego Rordriguez put on a visual clinic here, and even if the script were only half as good as it, in fact, actually is, this would still be a “must-buy” book. So buy it!
Oliver #2, out just this past Wednesday is, if anything, even better, though, as the Dickensian parallels become ever more literal, and the Victoriana and steam punk tropes meld seamlessly into a story that’s as obvious as it is awesome. Yes, that’s me saying there are no surprises on offer here — but it’s also me saying you won’t care, because everything you think you want to see happen here does, all rendered with meticulous care and attention. You’re gonna feel the grime on the workhouse walls and taste how cold the fucking porridge is. Whitta and Robertson are such a simpatico team you’ll think they’ve been making comics together for two decades rather than two months. This is as near to “staggering” as mainstream “Wednesday warrior” books get.
Tell you what, though, the two-part “Hopscotch Melange” loosely-linked (aren’t they all in this series?) storyline begun in W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo’s Ice Cream Man #9 is damn near as good, as the scope of this book’s premise gets blown open wide — -as in, cosmically wide, eternally wide. Our titular Ice Cream Man as an infinite force with an “origin story” of his own? Believe it. This issue combines “revisionist Western” motifs with sci-fi with horror with religious cosmology for a comic that’s — quite unlike pretty much anything else, and very successful at achieving some damn lofty narrative goals. Morazzo and colorist Chris O’Halloran are proving to be a dynamite team, their pages uniformly crisp, sharp, and polished without losing an ounce of character or personality, while Prince’s scripts are brisk, economic, and precisely-worded for maximum impact. This is a killer title that everyone should be reading.
The second part of “Hopscotch Melange,” in Wednesday last’s Ice Cream Man #10, makes the cosmic personal as oblique thematic links carry over from last issue into this Romeo And Juliet-esque tale of doomed love in Old Mexico. A good chunk of the issue is in Spanish, so break out your Google Translate app, but damn, is this some creepy shit. Prince crafts one hell of a villain with the General Santa Ana stand-in here, and Morazzo’s art is painfully authentic — geographically and emotionally.
So, yeah, I had a little catching up to do on some titles this week — but am I ever glad that I did, in fact, get caught up. These are two of the best regularly-produced series being published by anyone these days, period.
And with that, a belated column reaches its conclusion — but on the positive side, you’ve only gotta wait a few days for the next one rather than the standard week. Just enough time to remind, then, you that these Round-Ups are, as always, “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly updates on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Your support there not only keeps the whole thing going, but allows me to keep providing free content here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Please check it out and consider joining at :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse