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