Eve Stranger (2019) #1

Eve Stranger  2019  1

Eve Stranger feels a little retro. Lead Eve is a woman who only can remember the last week before her memory resets. She’s an assassin or something. Some kind of mercenary. Her mission this issue is shockingly unimportant; the story skips from her getting normalized in her situation and to the mission itself. Nothing about the aftermath of the mission, which is kind of a bummer because everyone likes ice cream and there’s the promise of ice cream.

Anyway. There’s action and mystery—Eve’s got a handler who follows her around and seems to have some kind of romantic history with her (the whole thing feels a little like Memento crossed with Run Lola Run, with what seems to be a Rocket Girl nod)—but there are also the people who want to hire Eve’s services, which is a very secretively and potentially lethal process.

The only thing keeping Eve going, as Eve tells herself in a letter to herself (from one self to the next, which is a convenient device for writer David Barnett, but nowhere near as good as he seems to think), is the hunt for the truth. Her dad is out there somewhere and he knows all. Someday she’ll find him.

Probably around issue three… though it’s a five issue series, not four, so maybe issue four.

It’s a solid read. Philip Bond’s art is good. He doesn’t really get a lot to do (it’s mostly establishing shots, not action) and Barnett seems a lot less interested in his narrative than its setting. Eve going past a women’s march, for example, has a lot of built-in subtext given her situation, whereas the comic itself doesn’t have any. Yet. It’s unclear if the things on the walls (proverbial and not) are Chekhov rifles or just decoration.

But it’s definitely one of those first issues where you get done and have no idea what the rest of the series is going to read like. It’s also a fast read… a tad too fast. Especially given there’s back matter with the protagonist in an alternate life as a reporter in a slightly absurd comic strip—art by Liz Prince, script by Barnett—and it’s got more entertainment potential than the feature. Like, it’s a biting smart and funny, where as the feature’s a safe smart and a tad too efficient.

Lodger (2018) #2

The Lodger  2018  2

I may have already read this issue of Lodger. I thought I’d only read (and mostly forgotten) the first issue, but this one seems very familiar. Going into it without having read the first issue recently and not really remembering the setup—it’s about some white guy named Dante who travels around causing trouble without people realizing it while he does his travel blog and then some white girl who’s chasing him down because he did something to her. Can’t remember if he did it in the first issue or if it’s going to be a reveal later on in the series. It’s not in this issue.

I also don’t know how Lodger would read if you were unfamiliar with David Lapham, co-writer (with Maria Lapham) and artist. There’s no way there’s not some creepy thing going on with the Dante guy even if he weren’t blogging about how he happened onto a serial killer—even though it’s fairly clear he’s the serial killer who’s framing the other guy—and perving on a teenage girl. The Lodger is just a Stray Bullets remix. It could even be a spin-off, though apparently not at IDW and Black Crown (Stray Bullets is at Image, at least as of this issue’s publication based on the house ad). So it’s hard to get too invested in any of the characters. The teenage girl, Ricky, is a victim, whether she knows it or not, the reader knows it. Her mom is a victim. Her dad is a victim. And so on and so on.

The issue starts a little weak on art—Lapham’s very inky style doesn’t work well in extreme closeup but does great with medium shots in small panels—but it’s fine. For what it is, it’s fine. Is there any reason to keep going on it? Did I keep going on it before? I never wrote about it, but there’s a long stretch where comics only went on the Comics Fondle podcast versus blog responses. But I don’t even remember talking about it. I just remember reading it and thinking… oh, Lapham’s doing the teenage girl victim in danger thing. Again.

It’s kind of his genre.

Assassinistas #5 (April 2018)

Assassinistas #5

Beto’s a trooper on Assassinistas. He’s getting it done, but not with much visual enthusiasm. The moving figures–and there are a lot of moving figures–are all too similar and all too static.

Otherwise, of course, it’s a perfectly solid comic. Beto’s talking heads stuff is great. It’s a showdown issue (of sorts); between action beats, there’s talking heads. So it works. Talking heads isn’t just close ups, it’s also medium shots. Basically anything without too much action, Beto’s got covered.

Howard’s reliance on the word “baby”–whether it’s Octavia calling Dominic baby or Dominic calling Taylor baby–it’s a lot of “babies.” Too many. It feels like filler.

Next issue seems like it’s going to wrap up this arc (or this series) and Howard finishes the issue in a good place. Some surprises, big and small, often funny.

The villain’s plan is a little suspect (and, frankly, reminds me of Identity Crisis, which nothing should ever remind someone of) and counter to when Howard has a great line from the villain to a mansplaining Taylor.

It seems, at this point, whatever the ending Assassinistas will be fine.

CREDITS

Pack Some Heat With That Lunch!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorists, Rob Davis and Robin Henley; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #4 (May 2018)

Punks Not Dead #4

The best part of this issue–which isn’t the best issue of the series so far, but pretty close–is the plotting. There’s a lot of humor with the federal agent ghost hunters and Sid and Fergie have a good adventure, but it all works because of the plotting. Barnett opens with a cliffhanging teaser, then goes into flashback and catches up.

There’s a lot going on–Fergie seems to have caused some kind of flash mob of seniors who can’t stop dancing, the feds are there, Fergie’s mom is sad, Sid’s not really being as helpful as he could be. Barnett and Simmonds make Punks Not Dead funny, weird, and dangerous. The danger is real. Even if it’s just the truth–Culpepper, the hilarious fed ghost hunter, has some truth and threatens to tell it.

It might change how the book reads, particularly in regards to Sid, and Barnett is real careful about how he plots out the teases. The tease has to be intriguing, dangerous, and still possibly not so terrible you can’t like Sid. You don’t want any evil from Sid.

Because Punks Not Dead is still going for fun. It’s a fun comic. Just wants some edge.

Simmonds does great the entire issue until the end, when he doesn’t seem to have enough pages to do the finale action right so he just skips it. A necessary reaction shot is missing.

It’s not a big deal. Nowhere near as big a deal as the cliffhanger, which promises new dangers for Sid and Fergie in the issues ahead. Hopefully Barnett can pull it off too, because it’s a doozy of a trope.

CREDITS

Keep the Faith; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #3 (April 2018)

Punks Not Dead #3

It’s a quick issue, which is almost a relief since it’s only #3 and Punks Not Dead feels like a lot has happened. Here there’s the aftermath of something happening and the preparation for more to happen. A quintessential bridging issue.

With some great art. Simmonds has a great sense of movement, which isn’t easy with painted comics, even digitally painted. But Simmonds has got it. Punks moves smooth from panel to panel.

And some really scary crows. The crows are looking for Fergie. They seem to be eating souls on the way. Or they’re looking for Sid. It’s not clear yet. Similarly, it’s not clear what’s around the corner for Fergie and Sid. They seem about ready to encounter the government ghostbusters.

Writer Barnett amps up the comedy this issue. Danger is up (a lot), comedy is up (a bit). I’m just as curious for what happens to the protagonists next issue as I am to see how Barnett paces it. Has Punks moved into the second act of the eventual trade (as I now assume all Black Crown are headed to the eventual trade)? Or is it just a quick issue.

Either way, good comics.

CREDITS

Wide Awake in a Dream; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #4 (March 2018)

Assassinistas #4

I’m back on board–fully on board–with Assassinistas. There’s character development here, instead of just the character revelations in flashback. It’s kind of cool too. Howard has the banter down in the present-day action sequences, which helps a lot too. Banter, action, character development. Does wonders.

There’s also a nice mix of serious and silly. The absurdity of the action and so on. But also the real danger–physical and psychological–helps things.

The comic does still read a little fast; the character development is a nice change though. It seems like it’s been a while (like since the first issue, really).

Beto’s art is pretty good. It seems rushed in a few too many places, but his practically stick figure bodies are growing on me. And the action works. He gets the pacing of it just right.

The story itself is either moving too fast or too slow. The series’ll probably have to wrap before it’s clear which one.

CREDITS

The Thing That Grew Inside Me!!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorists, Rob Davis and Robin Henley; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy #6 (March 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #6

Kid Lobotomy comes to a satisfactory, self-indulgent, successful conclusion. Milligan does not Milligan Lobotomy and he even has Kid refer to him (Milligan). But really only twice. And once during a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” reference, which is beautifully executed. Surprisingly so. Kid Lobotomy #6 almost feels like it’s from a different series.

Not least because Kid is now front and center protagonist. He’s discovering his past and how those secrets have affected him and the lives of those around him. It’s not near as outrageous an issue in terms of what Fowler has to visualize, but there’s something special about the art this time. It flows differently. Because Kid’s protagonist and everything else is subplot.

When I finished reading the comic, I was a little confused. Milligan changes the style a bunch, not just with the plotting and his self-reference but in how Kid functions in the comic. Then I realized how well it’d read in trade. It’s the pay-off chapter. It’s just not the pay-off issue. Well, it is the pay-off, but it’d read better in trade.

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CREDITS

Uncommon Lobotomies, Part Six of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorists, Lee Loughridge and Dee Cunliffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #3 (February 2018)

Assassinistas #3

Assassinistas is starting to lose momentum, which isn’t good considering it’s just the third issue. Beto’s panels are getting sparer and sparer, he’s rushing through the action sequences. He slows down for the flashbacks and there are a lot of flashbacks. The flashbacks have the three Assassinistas in their prime. The present has the women separate, with Octavia having her son and his boyfriend as her sidekicks. The flashbacks are better.

But even they’re not without issue. There’s always an awkward transition as Octavia forgets she’s telling a story and then goes back to it. Writer Howard is dragging the revelations out–and playing with the idea of dragging them out–but Assassinistas can’t get stretched that thin. The boys are likable. No one else is likable. In flashback, the three women are funny and the action’s good, but they’re not likable. They’re still too thin.

And the whole thing about a kidnapped toddler just makes it feel forced. Like… we have to care, a child is (ostensibly but probably not really) in danger.

Also, for whatever reason, Beto’s expressions for the characters often doesn’t match their dialogue. It gets real noticable since there’s not just flashback, there’s exposition about getting to the flashback.

This issue’s a concerning turn (or concerning standstill) for the book.

CREDITS

Don’t Find Me — I’m Allergic to You!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorists, Rob Davis and Robin Henley; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #2 (March 2018)

Punks Not Dead #2

So, yeah, Punks Not Dead #2 is smooth sailing. Barnett builds the characters, concentrating on Fergie’s daily life. School stuff, crush on the girl stuff, a little on the relationship with his mom. He and Sid try to figure out how their bond works, usually to comic effect. Barnett doesn’t play Sid for much but comic relief here, which is fine. It’s nice to have a little mystery.

Simultaneously, Barnett’s got Ms. Culpepper the government ghost hunter playfully tormenting her new hire while they’re on a mission.

It’s all set to Simmonds’s lovely art. There’s a static quality to the art–in a good way–where everything can sort of hang. Which is important since some of Fergie’s powers (he’s got supernatural powers of some kind now, maybe thanks to Sid, they don’t know) involves manipulating objects. Simmond’s panel composition is key; the way he paces scenes turns out to have less to do with actual space and depth and more to do with expressionist space and depth.

It’s a good looking book. And it just gets better as it goes.

Another Black Crown winner.

CREDITS

Teenage Kicks, Part Two: Turn It Up to Eleven; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy #5 (February 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #5

Kid Lobotomy seems about ready to have a “Milligan moment.” There’s no exact definition to a “Milligan,” it’s just when Peter Milligan does one of those Peter Milligan things and the comic never recovers. Sometimes he makes it twenty issues. Sometimes he doesn’t make it one.

Did he make it five on Kid Lobotomy? It’s a great issue, for the most part; even the ominous material is good. It’s just the end of a story but not the end of the arc. Milligan’s got one more to go and he’s just introduced the idea of the writer as interactive creator. i.e. the characters can interact with the writer.

We’ll see.

But otherwise it’s one of the best issues in the series so far. Fowler’s got a lot of different stuff–an action sequence in a mental hospital, some flashbacks, lots of bugs. Great visuals.

Kid Lobotomy just needs to survive its writer’s more extravagant impulses.

CREDITS

The Boy With Two Hearts, Part Five of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Punks Not Dead #1 (February 2018)

Punks Not Dead #1

Punks Not Dead #1 opens with the protagonist–Fergie–introducing himself. And talking about he’s got a punk rocker ghost friend named Sid. Yes, Sid looks like that Sid but he’s not that Sid. He thinks he’s that Sid. It’s all writer David Barnett’s back matter.

Anyway.

The comic sets up the kid, Fergie; he and his mom are reality show actors. They’re at the airport, Fergie discovers he can see the ghost, Sid. Sid gets tethered to Fergie. A comic book will ensue.

But then there’s this government agency–British government, it’s U.K.–for paranormal investigation and there are demon imps and ghosts and whatever else. The supernatural is real. So maybe Sid the ghost isn’t just some figment of the imagination or even a real ghost friend.

And it’s cool. Both sides of the story work. The teenage stuff, the secret agency thing–there’s a new guy starting, working for the tough lady who’s run it for years. Barnett’s setup is outstanding.

And Martin Simmonds art accentuates both the teenage stuff as well as the supernatural. The supernatural elements–the way Simmonds visualizes them alongside the mundane–it’s outstanding.

Oh, right. The kid might be a wizard too. He’s got magic of his own.

Another good one from Black Crown.

CREDITS

Teenage Kicks, Part One: Don’t Let Them Take You Alive; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #2 (January 2018)

Assassinistas #2

The second issue of Assassinistas doesn’t have much of the Assassinistas. But there’s a lot with Dom–he’s Assassinista Octavia’s son–and his boyfriend, Taylor, bonding with Octavia as they prepare for their mission.

There’s a little with the other Assassinistas–there’s a fun flashback and then the one with kidnapped baby has some trouble with her husband.

Hernandez’s art is excellent, no surprise, and he gives the whole thing a rather nice pace. Assassinistas #2 is gradual, building to its unexpected final reveal. It’s unexpected but still a soft cliffhanger, partially because there’s no immediate danger, but also because of the pacing. There’s not a lot of urgency to Assassinistas, which makes it rather likable, even if it’s not reinventing any wheels. Yet.

CREDITS

Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorist, Rob Davis; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy #4 (January 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #4

This issue is all about supporting cast member Oletta. While she’s trying to figure out what happened to Kid, she flashes back to her “origin.” Not her full origin (i.e. she’s a shapeshifter, how, why) but her beginnings at the hotel.

Milligan even introduces tween Kid, which is something to see. Though it does make Oletta hard crushing on him a little weird, as she met him when he was ten or something.

Though given the other oddities of Kid Lobotomy, that one is one of the least skeevy.

It’s a somewhat gentle issue–Milligan never goes as gross as he threatens–and Fowler’s artwork is fantastic.

Kid Lobotomy is a sturdy, sturdy book. Four issues in but still.

CREDITS

The Chambermaid’s Tale, Part Four of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Assassinistas #1 (December 2017)

Assassinistas #1

I don’t know what I was expecting from Assassinistas. Beto Hernandez drawing a book about a team of eighties(?) female assassins, written by Tini Howard, who I’m unfamiliar with. It’s a Black Crown book from IDW, but I still wasn’t expecting the Black Crown Pub reference in it. There’s no pomp or pretense to having a Beto female assassins (including masked swordfighting assassins) comic, which is just another feather in imprint editor Shelly Bond’s cap. It’s just this comic.

The issue is simultaneously awkward and comfortable. Howard introduces the cast in flashback, then plays catch up with two of the three Assassinistas. Only it doesn’t seem like they’re the leads of the book, at least not all of them. Instead, it’s one of their kids, who has to drop out of college to “intern” with mom. He brings along his boyfriend; about a third of the comic is just their romance comic. Howard and Beto pace it calmly–the boys are the reader’s vantage point, not the assassins. The son, in particular, gets to do this passive commmentary on the whole concept of the book. What’s the human cost, et cetera, et cetera. It’s cool.

It’s very cool.

Because there’s still all the other stuff going on, there’s still all the retired assassins stuff, there’s still Beto doing an action comic.

I was expecting Assassinistas to be a solid comic, but this first issue implies it could be a lot more.

CREDITS

Dominic Prince and the Semester Abroad, Part One of Six; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorist, Rob Davis; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy 3 (December 2017)

Kid Lobotomy #3

What a book.

Kid (Lobotomy) has turned into a giant cockroach. What do you think happens to you if you start reading Kafka at twelve–you grow up to internalize it. So he’s a giant cockroach and he’s trying to hide from his sister, who wants to turn their hotel into a haunted hotel attraction.

She doesn’t get to see the ghosts, only Kid. He can’t help but come across them as they help him see the errors of his ways (at least as his desire to be a giant cockroach). Kid has people who care about him, like the shape-shifting girl and another sidekick.

The issue’s split between him, his sister, and the love interest. Things come together at the end, but without out much collision. There’s a hard cliffhanger, detached from the issue’s events but sort of related.

Who knows where it goes to go next. I’m reading Kid Lobotomy on guard; Milligan wants to shock, maybe awe, probably disgust. Fowler’s art is down for shock and awe but not so much for disgust. Who knew Kid Cockroach would be sweeter looking than Kid Lobotomy?

CREDITS

Lost in Franz, Part Three of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy 2 (November 2017)

Kid Lobotomy #2

Milligan opens the issue with a couple new characters who ostensibly seem to provide the reader fresh perspective into the hotel and the existing cast. And they sort of do provide that fresh perspective, but all the action of the comic is so crazy it’s not like Milligan needed forced freshness.

The resolution to last issue’s cliffhanger takes up maybe half the pages; it’s Kid’s story arc. Then Kid’s story arc becomes something else entirely.

Meanwhile, one of the new characters explores a bit, discovering how little reality Kid Lobotomy has to it. Once Milligan gets that lack established, he and artist Fowler just go wild. Some great art throughout the book, including gross stuff. Fowler can make gross stuff palatable.

Who knows what next issue will bring, but it’ll be something else. Kid Lobotomy is definitely something else.

CREDITS

Vile Bodies, Part Two of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Black Crown Quarterly 1 (Fall 2017)

Black Crown Quarterly #1

The subtitle for Black Crown Quarterly should be “Shelly Bond Should Be Running Vertigo.” Only then we wouldn’t have BCQ.

There are a lot of features in the comic. Interviews, some text pieces, previews of upcoming Black Crown imprint (at IDW) titles. Some comics.

The first comic is a strange potential crossover comic by Rob Davis. It’s potential because the characters from the imprint’s books could meet there. They don’t (or I didn’t recognize them). Instead it’s Davis exploring this weird bar and its customers, all through a new barmaid’s point of view. It’s funny, kind of creepy, well-illustrated. It gets the comic off to a good start.

Then there’s a strip from writers Will Potter and Carl Puttnam and artist Philip Bond about an aged rock band; two of the members are in a retirement home, one is on a yacht, the former want to convince the latter to get the band back together. Too soon to tell much about the strip, but it’s got a fine tone and Bond’s art is nice as ever.

Amid all this original content, there are some great previews of the upcoming imprint titles.

Amid all those previews is Jamie Coe’s Bandtwits. It’s unclear if it’s called Bandtwits or Canonball Comics. It’s also unclear if it’s a BCQ strip or will have it’s own series. But it’s finely executed indie stuff.

Again, Shelly Bond should be running Vertigo. Instead, we get Black Crown, which will apparently have some excellent comics.

CREDITS

Tales from the Black Crown Pub, Part One: A Barmaid’s Tale; writer and artist, Rob Davis; colorists, Davis and Robin Henley. Cud, Side 1, Track 1: Rich and Strange; writers, William Poster and Carl Puttnam; artist, Philip Bond; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar. Canonball Comics, Bandtwist; writer and artist, Jamie Coe. Editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy 1 (October 2017)

Kid Lobotomy #1

Kid Lobotomy shows just how much editing can help when it comes to an excessive concept. Writer Peter Milligan has this expansive, weird, creepy, disturbing story yet it’s always in check. It hits all its story beats, the writing is there for the art, the art is there for the writing.

It’s so well-executed, one can look past some of the defects. For example, it’s a little slow at times. Milligan seems to be dragging things out; artist Tess Fowler compensates with focus on characters, but most of them are gross so the focus becomes problematic.

Actually, all the characters are gross to some degree. There aren’t any nice characters. Maybe the shape-shifting maid, who might be Franz Kafka’s sister. Speaking of Kafka, the protagonist sees lots of insects in his hotel. The protagonist is a mentally disturbed, wealthy young man whose father has gifted him a hotel to manage. In addition to managing, the protagonist (Kid), performs high-tech lobotomies on wanting customers.

Sometimes to good result, sometimes to bad.

Anyway, he sees the insects whenever he’s messing around with his sister, who wants to the hotel for herself.

So. Yeah. Kid Lobotomy sort of does an insect/incest word play thing. It’s icky, but well-executed.

And the comic’s got a great cliffhanger.

CREDITS

Do Not Disturb, Part One of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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