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 : 06/23/2019 – 06/29/2019, Catching Up With Black Crown

With the recent — and, I must say, not too terribly surprising, all things considered — announcement that DC will be shit-canning (excuse me, “sunsetting”) their venerable “mature readers” Vertigo imprint after 26 years, I figured now might be a good time to take a look at what Vertigo alum Shelly Bond was doing with her not-exactly-new-anymore Black Crown line over at IDW —

Say good-bye to Feargal “Fergie” Feguson and the ghost who isn’t really Sid Vicious with Punks Not Dead : London Calling #5, which wraps up the second (and, I presume, final) run of writer David Barnett and artist extraordinaire Martin Simmonds’ decidedly fun little slice of occult/supernatural hijinks with plenty of “fuck you” attitude mixed in. I’m gonna miss this book, but each and every storyline comes to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion here, except perhaps for Fergie’s would-be “romance” with his high school sweetie, and they manage to pull it all off with nothing (okay, nothing else) feeling at all forced or rushed, even if it was. Standard one-sentence summation for most anything good from a mainstream publisher applies to this one : I’ve you’ve been passing on the singles, pick it up in trade. You’ll be glad you did.

And speaking of passing on singles — that’s precisely what I did with Barnett and Philip Bond’s Eve Stranger #1, but since I saw #2 on the stands this week, I said “what the hell?” and grabbed ’em both. While the premise of an amnesiac-by-design “sleeper” agent/assassin seems a bit too calculated for its own good on paper, this actually reads pretty well and you develop a genuine liking for this protagonist — maybe because we know more about her than she does about herself? I dunno, but it works, and the art is eye-catching enough in its own right, as well, even if the more “cartoony” back-up strip illustrated by Liz Prince is, in fairness, better suited to the material. Nothing terribly Earth-shattering here, but I’m curious enough to see where it all goes.

Not that I had to wait too long, of course. Eve Stranger #2 is probably best described as “more of the same,” but when that means the same as something pretty cool, who’s complaining? Some backstory vis a vis Eve’s origins, a hint of romance that just manages to avoid being creepy (how do you pursue a relationship with someone who literally starts over as a blank slate every week or so?), and a genuinely out-of-nowhere cliffhanger ending, plus another solid backup feature, make for a perfectly good — if, again, less than Earth-shattering — sophomore installment of this not-quite-too-quirky-for-its-own-good miniseries.

I guess Marilyn Manor #1 isn’t a Black Crown comic per se, but it certainly is in all but name given that Bond edited it, the thing’s loaded with BC “house ads,” and it definitely fits within the overall framework and aesthetic of the line. I also could have sworn it was solicited as a BC book, but whatever — it’s here and just carries the standard IDW label. Magdalene Visaggio is a writer whose work runs hot and cold for me, and here I’ve gotta say that her story about a bratty first daughter throwing a “rager” in the White House circa the mid-1980s is more lukewarm than anything else. Truth be told, I found her BFF/sidekick, who may or may not be possessed by the ghost of Abe Lincoln, to be a far more interesting character than the titular Marilyn herself, but I’m game to give this thing at least one more issue — more due to the impish, always-delightful art of Marley Zarcone than anything else. Not as much for her to sink her considerable (if metaphorical) teeth into here as there was in her deliriously imaginative Young Animal book Shade, The Changing Girl and its sequel, Shade, The Changing Woman, but still lots of eye candy for “art-first” readers to enjoy.

And with that another week is rounded up with just enough time left over for me to remind you that this column is, as always, “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where you can at least theoretically “enjoy” three new posts from yours truly on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and movies each and every week for as little as one lousy dollar per month. Speaking of Vertigo, we’re in the midst of an extensive post-mortem/tribute to it over there, so if you’d like to join us, please break out that credit card and/or Paypal account and head over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse



Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/22/2018 – 04/28/2018

Anthologies, surreal vegetarian polemics, and smarter-than-average TV tie-ins abound, so let’s jump right in —

A haunting and frankly topical cover from the great Al Columbia kicks off  Now #3, and as we’ve quickly come to expect, editor Eric Reynolds has assembled a first-rate selection of cartoonists from around the globe in the pages within. Standout selections from this issue are Eleanor Davis’ psychologically and sexually complex “March Of The Penguins,” Dash Shaw’s soul-baring “Crowd Chatter,” Nathan Cowdry’s unsettling “Deliver Me/Sweet Baby,” Nah Van Sciver’s amusingly ironic (and that takes skill at this point, believe me) “Wolf Nerd,” Anna Haifisch’s unapologetically straightforward “A Proud Race,” Keren Ketz’s beautiful, elegiac “My Summer At The Fountain Of Fire And Wonder,” and Roberta Scomparsa’s disturbing and all-too-real “The Jellyfish,” but for my money (and at $10 for 120 pages you won’t be complaining about how you spent yours here) the absolute revelation is Anne Simon’s triptych of strips, “The Lady Equina,” “Renaldo & Armida,” and “The Washer Of Virgins,” which reveal a cartoonist in absolute command of her considerable skills creating a hermetically-sealed world that is by turns alien and familiar, hilarious and heartbreaking, mythological and timeless. Simon’s debut full-length graphic novel The Song Of Aglaia is slated for release later this summer from Now publisher Fantagraphics, and it just jumped to the top of my “must-read” list.

What’s perhaps nearly as remarkable as the quality of the “hits” in this volume, though, is the intriguing nature of the few “misses” on offer — Ben Passmore uncharacteristically doesn’t achieve quite what he sets out to with “The Vampire,” but it’s clear what he was aiming for and damn gutsy of him to go for something so utterly different, Marcelo Quintanilha is barely undone by the scope of his own ambition in “Sweet Daddy,” Jose Ja Ja Ja attempts to blend the unconventional with the mundane in “Grand Slam” and nearly pulls it off, and Jason T. Miles’ intro and outro one-pagers (the former titled “We Were Bound,” the latter being nameless) and Nick Thorburn’s back cover present tantalizing glimpses of situations that would merit further exploration, but don’t quite succeed in establishing and/or reflecting the larger tonal similarities (as with previous issues there’s no set “theme” or subject in this one, but Reynolds’ chosen running-order of stories invites readers to intuit at least subliminal connections) that flow throughout the rest of the collection. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t mind when a cartoonist swings for the fences and ends up hitting a long fly-ball out, and just a half-year (or thereabouts) into its existence, Now, with its well-chosen mix of already-established “regulars” and comparatively new faces, consistently provides readers with compelling, challenging, intelligent material that leaves preconceptions in the dust and demands rigorous examination. The anthology of the decade has finally arrived.

While we’re on the subject of anthologies — and third issues — Shelly Bond’s Black Crown Quarterly #3 continues the rather frustrating pattern of her IDW sub-label’s centerpiece title not knowing if it wants to tell actual stories, or just get you to buy the other books in the line. I’m enjoying Rob Davis’ “Tales From The Black Crown Pub,” this installment being no exception, but the other regular feature, Will Potter, Carl Puttnam, and Philip Bond’s “Rich And Strange : The Return Of The Cud Band” seems to be running out of gas (just as well this chapter’s only a page long, then, I guess), and the strips set in the Cannonball Comics shop are decidedly feast-or-famine, with Leah Moore and Dilraj Mann’s “Comme Des Gorgons” leaning much more toward the “famine” side of the equation.

It’s definitely not all bad, though, don’t get me wrong — Mann provides a crackerjack wrap-around cover, Peter Milligan and Kristian Rossi’s “Tales From The Raygun : Butterscotch And Soda” is a concise little Vertigo-esque tale of “high weirdness” done with more-than-requisite aplomb, Emmeline Pidgen’s “How To Spot A Galaxy” more than lives up to the high standard of previous installments of “Hey, Amateur!,” and the Tini Howard-scripted “Ghost-Walk With Me : Canon Street By Torchlight,” also illustrated by Monsieur Bond, is more fun than a blatantly promotional yarn probably has any right to be, while David Barnett and Martin Simmonds’ Punks Not Dead sidebar story, “Pretty In Punk,” provides an intriguing glimpse into the early years of Feargal Ferguson’s mother that goes some way toward explaining why she is the way she is today and fleshes out the world of their series considerably in just a few pages.

Tell you what, though, the less said about the text pieces in this ish the better — Barnett’s interview with Howard about her and Nick Robles’ forthcoming Euthanauts series is fine, but Cathi Unsworth’s “Swell Maps” (this time focused on Newcastle and featuring illustrations, once again, by the talented Cara McGee) suffers from the Black Crown curse of being too self-consciously “cool” for its own good, which is likewise my main “beef” with regular features “Four Corners” (Simmonds being forced to prove his “hipness” in this one) and “Beat Surrender” (which strong-arms Ms. Moore into doing the same). Things are simply becoming to repetitious and insular in this comic for it to maintain my interest much longer, and those are two “strikes” a series can’t afford when it’s saddled with an editorial vision as narrow and dated as Bond’s — and speaking of “can’t afford,” while this comic is printed on very nice paper and features high-quality cardstock covers, $7.99 for 48 pages is a more than a bit much, especially when you factor in that no fewer than six of those pages are eaten up with “house” ads for the other Black Crown books.

I dunno — I really wanted to like this comic, and there are things about it that I am perfectly well-satisfied by, at the very least, but I simply can’t keep justifying the expenditure at this point. I’m sticking with Black Crown’s other titles happily, but this is me saying “good-bye” to their “flagship” book.

Patrick McGoohan’s legendary ITV series The Prisoner has been “optioned” for four-color exploitation before — Jack Kirby started in on an adaptation while it was still running (or maybe shortly thereafter) that was abandoned before it saw publication, and DC released an “authorized” sequel by Dean Motter in the late 1980s — but Titan Comics seems bound and determined to give us the “definitive” funnybook iteration of Number Six with The Prisoner : The Uncertainty Machine, the first issue of which hit shops this past Wednesday. I grabbed the variant cover featuring one of Kirby’s stunning splash pages inked by Mike Royer (here presented in color for the first time — and in Mike Allred color, at that), but it was the interior of the book that actually impressed me most : Peter Milligan and Colin Lorimer would both be at the top of anyone’s list to helm this project, and they each deliver in a big way. Milligan’s script is tight, fast-paced, and sets the stage well for what promises to be a very intriguing updating of the concept, while Lorimer and colorist extraordinaire Joana Lafuente dial back the darkness a bit from their amazingly creepy Shadowline/Image horror title The Hunt and capture the tone and feel of the TV show pitch-perfectly. I swear, the double-page spread of The Village at the tail end of this comic is worth the $3.99 asking price all by itself. I am definitely in for the duration here.

And last but certainly not least, Richard Starkings, Tyler Shainline, and Shaky Kane are continuing to absolutely slay me with their Image series The Beef, and the just-released third issue continues their pattern of not so much subverting, but completely ignoring more or less every aspect of graphic storytelling convention altogether and writing their own rule book, which simply reads, in bold, block caps : “THERE ARE NO RULES.” We’re talking about a comic about a guy who turns into a slab of raw meat, after all. Dairy products and veal come in for special — and richly-deserved — shaming this time out, but the narrative also propels itself toward something that should serve as an approximation of a “conclusion,” as the asshole meat-packing plant owner’s even-bigger-asshole son puts The Beef’s lady-love in danger and the bought-and-paid-for local cop tries to fuck everything up for our ostensible “hero.” A savage take-down of the prejudice, gluttony, idiocy, and flat-out ugliness of Trump’s America that can’t decide if it wants to make you laugh or make you cringe and so, wisely, opts to do both, this comic is like nothing else that has come before it — nor anything that will follow in its wake. I’m in straight-up awe of this shit.

Okay, I’ve bent your ear for long enough, I think. Next week’s round-up is a bit up in the air as I’m headed out of town for the weekend, but if I can get some stuff read before Friday, who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise everyone — myself included — by slapping a column up before I head west for a few days. If not, then I’ll hope to see you good readers back here in two weeks’ time!

“Punks Not Dead” — Is It?

Here’s the thing — there are a million and one perfectly valid reasons for walking away from the first issue of writer David Barnett and artist Martin Simmonds’ Punks Not Dead, the latest offering from former Vertigo editor Shelly Bond’s new (-ish) Black Crown line at IDW, fairly unimpressed. For one thing, it seems to either not understand, or to deliberately eschew, punk’s radical politics in favor of glomming entirely onto its obnoxiousness. For another, it further cements the narrow aesthetic and editorial constraints that Bond has frankly shackled this entire label with since its debut a few months back. And for yet another, despite its present-day setting, its core premise is hopelessly dated and leaves the book wide open to charges of being the sort thing cooked up by people trying to be self-consciously “cool” — only their idea of what passes for “cool” is about 40 years past its expiration.

Okay, so that’s not exactly a “million and one” reasons — more like three — but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves : after all, what matters most (or should matter most) about a comic is the quality of its story and art, right? We should be judging Barnett and Simmonds on the merits of their ideas, sure, but also on how well they’re able to communicate them. In short, it’s up to them to prove doubters like me wrong, is it not?

Meet Feargal “Fergie” Ferguson, a fairly typical 15-year-old nominal “outsider” with a decidedly atypical home life in that his single mother makes her living by shilling a million and — sorry, we’ve already been down that road, let’s settle on a dozen or so — bogus stories about her “problem” child to the tabloid press and TV talk-show circuit. One day he’s a hopeless junkie. The next he’s a gay porn addict. The day after that he’s a put-upon bullying victim. And when those all run their course, he might be a combination of any or all of them. Whatever sells, I guess — unless and until the gutter media realizes they’re being played for suckers, which apparently hasn’t happened yet.

One day, I suppose, it will, but until that day comes they travel a lot, and it’s during one of those travels — or, specifically, an airport layover between them — that “Fergie” makes the acquaintance of Sid, a very peculiar sort of ghost who “lives” in a Heathrow men’s room, and who no one else can see or hear. Don’t ask me how that works.

In fact, don’t ask me how any of the paranormal “rules” in this comic work at all — and don’t ask me who Sid even is (or should that be was?), either. In Barnett’s backmatter text piece, he makes it clear that he’s not meant to be Sid Vicious, despite the comic explicitly referencing his date and place of death — which line right up with the circumstances of Vicious’ demise. Is this comic just being coy, then? Perhaps playing it safe legally? Well, maybe — and maybe not.

Certainly, as depicted by Simmonds, Sid looks more like the bastard love child of Gary Oldman’s take on Vicious from Sid & Nancy and Neil Gaiman’s Dream of the Endless, so there’s some visual evidence to suggest that maybe he really is just some ephemeral manifestation of the “Spirit of ’77,” as Barnett claims/insists. And he’s a bit less vulgar and confrontational than most of us would probably expect Vicious to be, although he still has attitude to spare. So I guess the jury’s out here on whether or not the creators are being straight with us, or too clever by half — and that’s perhaps the comic’s greatest single virtue.

You get where I’m going with this line of specious “reasoning”? Punks Not Dead — as the absence of an assumed-to-be-there apostrophe from its title should clue us in on from the start — is a book that enjoys fucking with its readers. Subverting expectations is one thing — and there’s plenty of that on offer here — but to do so with a smirk (albeit one hidden beneath a sneer)? That takes something that the best punk rock always had : balls. And the fact that Barnett and Simmonds clearly have them to spare goes some way toward convincing me that their understanding of punk as a cultural phenomenon, as an ethos, as a way of life, goes well beyond the merely superficial.

Even so, Simmonds’ crisp and precise art, while certainly hinting at a bit of Bill Sienkiewicz-style anarchic chaos at the margins (probably fitting, then, that Sienkiewicz himself does this issue’s variant cover), is far more controlled than you’d expect, particularly when overlaid with Dee Cunniffe’s ultra-clean color flats. But again, that’s not really meant as a “knock” — confounding expectation being, as already stated, an integral part of that whole “fucking with you” thing. Besides, it looks really welcoming and each character has an appearance equally distinctive and real. A comic that’s easy on the eyes may not scream “punk,” it’s true — but it will keep you engaged in the proceedings.

As will the just-referenced characters. “Fergie” comes off as a likable enough kid with a reasonable amount of depth to him; his mother’s a one-note cipher, sure, but at least an entertaining one; Sid’s utterly fascinating no matter who he’s supposed to be; and MI5 “ghost hunter” Dorothy Culpepper is the sort of been-there, done-that, and loved-every-minute-of-it wizened old crone that feels like someone cult British comics author John Smith (frankly my favorite funnybook scribe from the other side of the pond not named Moore) would come up with — I pretty much love her to death already.

So what the hell — count me in for this one. Punks Not Dead may not do much to dispel, or even assuage, my overall concerns about the extremely fenced-in remit that Bond seems to have foisted upon Black Crown immediately upon inception — one that inherently marks this so-called “curation operation” with the stench of an exercise in nostalgia — but if you’re willing to roll with the ground rules she’s set in place, this just might be as good as it gets. And you know what? That’s quite a bit better than I was figuring.

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 01/28/2018 – 02/03/2018

Would’ja believe — there wasn’t too much that came in my mailbox this week and it was my LCS that kept me busy with new stuff to read? I swear, it’s true, so let’s have a look at some items of note that I picked up —

For a series/line that prides itself on being “old-school,” Josh Bayer’s All-Time Comics seems in some ways to hew pretty closely to modern publishing norms. Issues frequently ship late, for instance, and their latest release, the bumper-sized (and subsequently more expensive than usual) All-Time Comics : Blind Justice #2, marks the end of the first “season” of the range, with an Image-style gap of three or four months now on deck as they get their ducks in a row for their next not-exactly-an-arc. The script this time out is a Bayer solo endeavor, and frankly not the greatest — the last half of the comic essentially being an extended “bad guy rant” — but it’s still kinda “warts and all”-style fun that will appeal to most Bronze Age babies like myself by hitting all the right nostalgic notes. It’s really down to the art to essentially carry most of the weight here, though, and weird as it sounds to even say things like “Noah Van Sciver inked by Al Milgrom” and “Sammy Harkham variant cover,” that’s precisely what you get here, and it’s every bit as awesome to look at as said phrases would lead you to expect. I have no doubt that the overall ATC project will continue to confound readers looking for some over-arching unifying grand purpose, as it appears that Bayer and co. really don’t seem to have one, but for my money that’s a large part of the appeal of what they’re doing, and even though I’m sure admitting as much will brand me an intellectual simpleton in the minds of many in the critical community, I’m seriously looking forward to seeing where this whole thing goes next, as regulars like Benjamin Marra return to the fold and newcomers like Gabrielle Bell (yes, you read that right!) join in the four-color carnage. Operating in a previously-unexplored middle ground that exists between the polarities of “homage” and “spoof,” these comics are hitting a “sweet spot” for me — even when they run six bucks, as this one did.

It’ll cost you seven, though, to pick up the second issue of Shelly Bond’s Black Crown Quarterly, and to be honest, I think I’ve seen enough at this point. The format’s nice, with heavy cardstock covers and high-quality glossy paper, and to be honest, most of the individual strips range in quality from “pretty decent” (Rob Davis’ “Tales From The Black Crown Pub,” Jamie Coe’s “Bandtwits,” Leah Moore and Nanna Venter’s “Hey, Amateur! How To Be A Badass Goth In Nine Panels”) to “actually quite good” (“Cannonball Comics” by Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus, who illustrates in a very engaging and eye-popping style quite unlike anything he’s ever done), but the “Cud : Rich and Strange” ongoing by Will Potter, Carl Puttnam and Philip Bond continues to be a dud, the inclusion of more preview pages for David Barnett and Martin Simmonds’ forthcoming Punks Not Dead make me wonder if we’re not going to end up seeing the entire first issue before it even comes out, and the text pieces are either essentially extended promo blurbs for other Black Crown titles like Kid Lobotomy, or else self-consciously “hip” music and travel recommendations. What frustrates most about BCQ, though, is that Bond’s hopelessly dated tastes and aesthetic sensibilities end up making the overall package less than the sum of its parts, and at the end of the day it almost feels like she’s assembling a comic for an audience of one — herself. Unless you, too, are an anglophile whose musical knowledge doesn’t extend beyond the borders of late-’70s UK punk, it’s hard to see the appeal in an anthology this specifically — and rigidly — constructed. Gotta love the pull-out poster featuring the Bill Sienkiewicz cover variant for Punks Not Dead #1, though.

In what passes for a “bargain” this week, five bucks will get you in the door of Justice League Of America/Doom Patrol Special #1, and while it’s not a spectacular read or anything of the sort, I did have fun with this first part of “Milk Wars,” a five-part weekly crossover that sees Gerard Way’s Young Animal line clashing head-on with the “proper” DC Universe. Way and Steve Orlando wrote the script for this book, and thematically and tonally it seems pretty well right in line with what the My Chemical Romance lead singer is doing with his main Doom Patrol series, in that it borrows equally from Grant Morrison’s run on the book and Larry Cohen’s cult-favorite horror/comedy hybrid The Stuff. I don’t know much about the current Justice League Of America line-up, but it appears to be a bunch of B-and C-list characters like Lobo and Vixen, so I guess re-casting them all as a 1950s neighborhood decency brigade is no particular skin off DC editorial’s back, and for the purposes of this story the conceit works — as does ACO’s frenetic, mildly psychedelic art. Perhaps even better than the main feature, though, is the two-page backup strip, which begins what I’m assuming will be an extended introduction to the character of Eternity Girl, who will soon be featuring in her own series courtesy of this story’s creators, Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew. I’m as shocked as anyone to see a cartoonist of Liew’s caliber taking on an assignment for DC, and equally shocked that he wouldn’t just write it himself since that’s how he’s made his bread and butter previously, but if this brief Silver Age-style yarn is any indication, he and Visaggio should make a good team. Anyway, all in all, this comic stood head, shoulders, and udders (read it and you’ll get what that reference is all about) above most “Big Two” fare.

Lastly, we come to Motehrlands #1, the first of a new Vertigo six-parter from writer Simon Spurrier and artist Rachael Stott that proudly wears its 2000AD influence on its sleeve and isn’t afraid to plunge you in at the deep end from the get-go and trust that you’ll catch up — at some point. The action’s pretty breakneck in this one, though, and absolutely absurd, so don’t expect much hand-holding in this wild mash-up of badass-bounty-hunter, “reality” TV, and dysfunctional family tropes, our main protagonist being an inter-dimensional mercenary skip-tracer who lures her mother, a sort of washed-up female version of that “Dawg” guy, out of retirement in order to help track down the third member of the clan, the good-for-nothing brother/son. It’s a fast-paced and — here’s that word again — fun read, and Stott’s art is a nice mix of the conventional and the far-out, so I’m probably gonna stick it out in single issues, but if you missed the first installment, “trade-waiting” probably wouldn’t do you any harm, and will more than likely save you a few dollars.

Okay, I think that’s good enough for now — the small-press stuff was in short supply this week, which is kind of a bummer, but I’ve got a box on the way from Retrofit any day now of some comics I missed out on from the tail end of 2017, so hopefully I’ll have read enough of those books by this time next week to talk about at least some of them in my next round-up column. Hope to see you again in seven short days!