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 : 02/02/2020 – 02/08/2020

What’ve we got this week? A one-shot, a first issue, the start of a new story arc, and the prelude to the prelude to a new story arc. It’s about as mixed a bag as it sounds, to be honest, but every one of these books has at least something going for it, and you can’t always say that. And so, with that in mind —

Never one to pass on the chance to squeeze as much blood from a rock as they can (and then some), Marvel is cashing in on the resurgent popularity of the Hulk with a series of one-offs from their main series, the first of which is The Immortal Hulk : Great Power #1, which sees Bruce Banner’s gamma powers temporarily take up residence in Peter Parker — and if one guest star’s not enough for you, the entirety of the Fantastic Four is on hand, to boot. On the one hand I wanted to hate this one, because it’s such an obviously cynical cash-grab and it’s priced at five bucks, but Tom Taylor’s script is actually pretty fun, and the art by penciler Jorge Molina and inkers Adriano Di Benedetto and Roberto Poggi is certainly more than serviceable. Yeah, nothing here is gonna make you forget about Al Ewing and Joe Bennett, and it’s far from an essential purchase, but if you’re looking for a nice little side-step, this provides it. I read it twice, so what the hell? I don’t even feel particularly ripped off by it — even though, logically speaking, who are we kidding? I was.

Our debut issue for the week is writer John Layman’s latest project for Aftershock, The Man Who Effed Up Time #1. Again, this is no re-invention of the wheel or anything, but for a predictable-enough genre yarn it’s not bad at all. Playing right into the standard time-travel trope of “if  you change even one thing, you’ll screw up everything,” this one’s about a schmuck lab assistant whose former best friend stole his work, stole his girl, and now treats him like shit, so when he invents a time machine, he goes back to try and “fix” all that — and ends up creating an alternate reality where Abraham Lincoln became an emperor (or king, or something), and his distant heir now sits on the throne. The script is light-hearted, heavy on the humor, and features smartly-written (if painfully obvious) characters, while the art by Karl Mostert is clean, simple, and almost admirable in its eschewing of the slick in favor of the effective. It is, however, another one that checks in with a five dollar cover price, so I dunno — you might be better off waiting for the whole thing to be collected in trade.

Moving on over to Dynamite, Red Sonja #13 kicks off the second year of this latest iteration of the series, and while interior artist Bob Q and cover artist Jae Lee (who’s done better work than he turns in with this one, that’s for sure) are both new faces, writer Mark Russell is still around, and let’s just be honest — he’s the engine driving this thing, and the reason everyone’s picking it up. That being said — Mirko Colak’s art was a lot better-suited to this sword-and-sandals stuff than Q’s rather workmanlike illustration, but for people just concerned with a continuation of the narrative, this shouldn’t disappoint. The new arc kicks off with Sonja having won the war that took up the title’s first year, but at a pretty steep cost — her people are now starving to death. What to do? Well, how about venturing into the territory of your sworn enemies to see if they’ll give you a hand? Hey, it’s comics — crazier shit than that has worked before. I’m still enjoying the heck out of this book, so I’ll probably stick out this storyline, even if it doesn’t look as period-appropriate visually, but it’s all riding on Russell from here on out — which is probably not anywhere near as dire as it sounds, given that he has yet to let me down on anything he’s worked on.

Finally, over at Image we’ve got Copra #5, which is the first of two issues that set the stage for the big confrontation with the villainous Ochizon that writer/artist Michel Fiffe has been building up towards since the start of this title’s first incarnation. Next issue is billed as the “prelude” proper, so yeah, this one is the “prelude to the prelude” that I mentioned at the outset of this column. It’s a fun ride with some great foreshadowing, even-more-creative-than-usual page layouts, and eye-popping colors — and I really gig the texturing effect that Fiffe is playing with in his art here. Of course, I’m always ready to follow this book wherever it goes, and even though this issue was pure set-up, it was good set-up, so if you’re enjoying this comic, it’s safe to say that you’ll be well-pleased with this most recent installment. I know I sure was.

And that’ll do it for this time around, apart from my customary reminder 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 very appreciative if you’d take a moment to check it out by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse