Weekly Reading Round-Up : 02/16/2020 – 02/22/2020

Once in awhile, you have one of those weeks that reminds you why you love going to the comic shop on Wednesday — assuming, that is, that you actually do go to the comic shop on Wednesday. If you do, here are some things that you may have picked up. If you don’t, here are some things that you may (or may not, your call) want to pick up next time you’re there —

Going back to the Marvel Zombies rip-off well, writer Tom Taylor revisits his breakout hit concept of last year (one of the few to come from DC in recent memory) with DCeased : Unkillables #1, the debut intstallment of a three-part series that shows what the villains got up to while the heroes were all (okay, mostly) getting either wiped out or fucked by Darkseid’s infamous Anti-Life Equation being unleashed on Earth and turning everyone affected by it into shambling corpses. Karl Mostert is on board as artist this time and illustrates the proceedings in a really crisp, lively style — two adjectives that also apply to this book’s minimalist scripting. Deathstroke appears to be the main protagonist here, which is a good choice since pitting the DCU’s biggest bad-ass against the walking undead makes  perfect  sense and, as a premise, lends itself to some killer fight scenes. This was a fun, breezy read that I’m happy to have picked up and intend to stick with, but the book’s $4.99 cover price is maybe a little steep considering you can read the whole thing in about ten minutes.

Also on the DC front, Joe Hill kicks off the latest fiver-part (I think, at any rate) series to come out under his Hill House Comics imprint over at Black Label with Plunge #1, a creepy and unsettling Flying Dutchman-esque story with superb art from Stuart Immonen that centers around a salvage crew that’s hired to look into the mysterious re-appearance of an oil exploration vessel called the Derleth (clever there, as any Lovecraft fan can tell you) that just popped back up out of nowhere after 40 years. I’d never thought of Immonen as being a natural choice for a horror book previously, but it turns out I was dead wrong, as he’s modified his typical style to accentuate the story’s Cthulhu-esque elements in a manner that perfectly complements Hill’s inventive (if extremely wordy) script. Maybe the strongest Hill House debut yet, which is really saying something considering they’ve all been pretty goddamn good.

Kicking off a new series (also slated to run five parts) that looks like it could go either way is writer Mark Sable and artist Maan House’s Godkillers #1 from Aftershock, a rather discombobulated introduction to a cool enough premise that’s focused on an off-the-books paramilitary hit squad tasked with securing and/or destroying artifacts of mystical power on behalf on Uncle Sam. Sable’s bio refers to him as a writer, futurist, and military consultant, which sure sounds to me like an indirect way of saying he’s a spook, and also seems eerily reminiscent to the background of Republican — sorry, nominally Democratic — presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and while the script is a bit of a rolling info dump, odds are that’ll tighten up now that the particulars have been established, and House’s moody and sleek artwork is a great match for the material. I’ll probably give this at least one more issue — but again, a $4.99 cover price is a little bit steep for what you’re getting here.

My favorite pick-up of the week was Dark Horse’s Bang! #1, the opening salvo of yet another five-part mini, this one from the “A-list” creative team of writer Matt Kindt and artist Wilfredo Torres. Combining a basic James Bond premise with Philip K. Dick/ Steve Gerber/ Grant Morrison meta-tinged science fiction, this thing was a ton of fun, loaded as it is with intriguing unanswered questions and solidly expressive genre artwork with a marginally “mod” twist. Obliquely connected with Kindt’s earlier series Revolver, this nevertheless stands on its own just fine and lays out the contours of a highly creative, ambitious, reality-bending premise in appealingly broad strokes by means of snappy, stylish dialogue and just plain cool illustration. I have no idea what’s happening so far, but I can’t wait to find out, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

And with that, we’ll call it a day — or a night, depending on when you’re reading this. Just a reminder that this column is, as always,”brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the bast way to support my ongoing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to check it out by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 12/08/2019 – 12/14/2019

Looks like we’re back on the first issue train in a big way this week — even if one of them’s a one-shot. And since that one-shot is the comic that everyone is talking about right this very moment, that’s where we’ll start things off —

Frank Miller goes back to the well (that’s been rather unwell) with Dark Knight Returns : The Golden Child #1, presented in the old school “Dark Knight Format” that it pioneered (this time under DC’s Black Label imprint), with sumptuous art from the criminally under-utilized-in-recent-years Rafael Grampa, who’s infused his sleek, cinematic style with a little bit more Dave Cooper-esque physical “ripple” than we’ve seen from him in the past while maintaining the overall aesthetic of his Geoff Darrow-by-way-of- Moebius roots. The result is a book that looks absolutely gorgeous and earns a “buy” recommendation for the art alone, with the generally fun and lighthearted story just being a nice plus. The Joker and Darkseid are both pulling the strings of an obvious Donald Trump analogue in the so-called “Dark Knight Universe,” and it’s up to a new generation of heroes — Carrie Kelly, Superman and Wonder Woman’s daughter Lara, and their son, Jon —to stop him (and, by extension, them)? I’m all in for that, and nobody has drawn Darkseid this well since Kirby, so — yeah. This thing is all kinds of entertainingly batshit-crazy eye candy.

Also worth a buy just for the illustration is Boom! Studios’ The Red Mother #1, written by The Beauty‘s Jeremy Haun, who this time hands off art chores to Danny Luckert of Regression renown. The script is a nice mix mix of solid-if-uninspired body horror and demonic entity stuff, centered as it is on a protagonist who loses an eye in a mugging and begins to see an evil figure out of her new prosthetic, but Luckert’s hyper-detailed art almost reminds me of a street-level take on Monstress, and to call the whole thing gorgeous is probably to sell it a little bit shorter than it deserves. Not sure how many issues this one is slated to run, but I’ll be there for all of them.

Moving over to Dark Horse, Steve Niles returns to his long-shelved Cal McDonald character for Criminal Macabre : The Big Bleed Out #1, with gritty “horror noir” art courtesy of Gyula Nemeth. This one’s a pretty breezy read that does a nice job of re-introducing our ostensible “hero” — or of introducing him in the first place if you’re new to the franchise — and successfully transposes standard pulp tropes, particularly the femme fatale, into a horror context. Nothing earth-shattering happening here by any stretch, but as it’s only four issues I have no problem with following it through to the finish. I do kinda wish Niles would challenge himself with some more long-form storytelling, though.

Finally, the best-written book of the week is Dying Is Easy #1, which comes our way courtesy of IDW and the creative team of Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds. A disgraced former cop who drove a woman to suicide is trying to make it in the stand-up world, only to fall under immediate suspicion when a rival who stole some of his jokes for a routine he performed on the Jay Leno show turns up murdered in this debut issue, and Hill does a flat-out magnificent job of immersing us in his particularly sardonic view of comedy club “culture,”while Simmonds, who impressed with his work on Punks Not Dead, channels his inner Sienkiewicz with plenty of stylish aplomb. This comic was just plan great, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

And that’ll about do it for this Round-Up, my last obligation being to remind you all that this column is brought to you each and every week by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be damn appreciative if you’d give it a look by heading on over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse



Weekly Reading Round-Up : 10/27/2019 – 11/02/2019

Four new number ones stood out on LCS racks this week, all from DC, and all from the new(-ish) Black Label imprint. Did someone say something about diluting the market with too much product? Well, that’s what the “Big Two” have been doing for decades now, and we’re all still here, so why the hell would they stop? Marvel’s doing it with their X-books, and DC’s doing it with this ostensible successor line to Vertigo, so let’s see what they’re giving — or, more accurately, selling — us:

After three failed relaunches featuring a watered-down iteration of John Constantine, DC finally realized what they used to know : people want the real thing, and so here we finally have it with the one-shot special The Sandman Universe : Hellblazer #1. There’s a bit of irony at play here in that Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series spun out of the “dark corner” of the DCU that Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer run helped make so popular, and now the tables have been turned with the new Hellblazer spinning out of the Sandman line, but whatever : it’s just good to have John, as we knew him, back. There’s a brief sidebar with Tim Hunter that I guess ties into something that’s going to be going down over in Books Of Magic, but by and large writer Simon Spurrier — who proves himself to be a pitch-perfect hire — is setting the stage for his new monthly Hellblazer  title, which won’t be “presented” by anybody, but will be carrying the Black Label — uuuhhhmmm — label. The most-referenced past run in this particular story is that of Garth Ennis, but stylistically, thematically, this is Delano redux all the way, with more than one version of John loose upon the Earth and a classic casual-betrayal-of-a-friend premise. Marcio Takara’s art is suitably gritty and grimy, as is John himself, thankfully, so the only question that I guess remains is : seriously, DC, if you knew how to publish good Constantine stories all along, why the hell did you ever stop?

The new Hill House sub-imprint within Black Label kicks off with Basketful Of Heads #1, and it’s the kind of thing that would make writer/line “curator” Joe Hill’s dad proud : a supernatural story set in early 1980s Maine featuring strong, relatable characters, an easy-to-grasp premise, and some fairly compelling, if obvious, chills and thrills. Leomacs’ art is pretty stylish for a DC publication, reminding me more than a bit of Leandro Fernandez, and if you dig stuff like Stranger Things and It, odds are better than good that you’ll get plenty of enjoyment out of this thing — I know I certainly did.

Way off the beaten path is The Last God #1, the opening salvo of a sprawling new fantasy epic called The Fellspyre Chronicles created by writer Philip Kennedy Johnson, a relative newcomer who proves his mettle quickly with some strong and comprehensive “world-building” that paints an intriguing picture of the old school swords-and-sandals society he’s looking to draw us into complete with slaves-turned-heroes, asshole royalty, weird religious beliefs, and brutish, nasty monsters. The real star of the show, though, is artist Ricardo Federici, who channels just a little bit of Vallejo, more than a little bit of Frazetta, and plenty of Eurocomics stylishness in what can only be called a visual tour de force. If you’ve been missing this sort of thing in your comics reading, you’re gonna be happy indeed, and if fantasy isn’t your usual bag, you’re at least gonna be pleasantly surprised.

Lastly, we’ve got the only member of our foursome in the usual deluxe Black Label format (all the others being standard-issue “floppy” comics), Joker : Killer Smile #1, from the Gideon Falls creative team of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino. The premise of this three-parter is one we’ve seen before — “how long can you work with a madman before his madness rubs off on you? — but Lemire’s shrink protagonist is is generally likable enough, a nice short-hand accounting of his perfectly lovely home life is provided, and The Joker himself comes off as relatively menacing in a Hannibal Lecter sort of way. It’s Sorrentino’s art that you’re really here for, though, and the oversized presentation really does it proud, inventive page layouts popping right out at you with gusto and fervor, and detailed faces and figure drawings showing every well-placed line and brush stroke. This is kinda what we’ve come to expect from this team : competent, if unspectacular, storytelling elevated greatly by a visual presentation that just plain sings. I’m down to follow this one for the duration.

And that’s “Black Label Week” over and done with. I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from the Round-Up as the Mr.s and I will be out in Seattle for the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival next weekend, but will be back with a new column in two weeks’ time. In the meantime, I do intend to crank out my long-form reviews at the usual two-or-three-per-week clip, and of course, the best way to support my continuing work is to subscribe to my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Please take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention toward https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse