Black Hammer: Age of Doom #2 (May 2018)

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #2

Black Hammer goes Vertigo. At least Lucy’s half of the comic. Not only does she go Vertigo and to Hell, she meets a former costumed hero-type who’s now in Hell as well. Lots of almost rhyming, sorry.

Wasn’t a former hero type in Hell a Swamp Thing plot point back in the day?

Lucy’s story is kind of an odyssey, but only after she gets sent to Hell, and only taking the cliffhanger into account. Otherwise, she’s just become a superhero–moments earlier–and is now on a crappy first adventure. With a lot of talking and not much of it relating to the Black Hammer story.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, it’s a Barbalien and Gail issue. They go to the library to investigate the empty books Lucy found last series. They’re in for a surprise. There’s also the moment when Gail tells Barbalien about an illicit romance… which got introduced in one of the spin-off books and really doesn’t have any emotional impact here.

It’s kind of concerning. But it’s also Ormston art and Black Hammer Prime has miles of goodwill to burn through. It doesn’t really burn any here, just implies it might.

Fingers crossed Lemire’s got some plans. Right now, it doesn’t seem like he’s got any plans.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Star Wars: Thrawn #4 (July 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #4

All of a sudden, Thrawn is about Thrawn again. The issue covers a few years, sometimes emphasizing some of Thrawn’s achievements, sometimes just hopping ahead. It’s just really nice to have Thrawn and sidekick Vanto back. They’re so fun together.

There’s also the analytical stuff, which is what makes Thrawn engaging. Not the action or intrigue–the issue even determines Thrawn’s no good for intrigue–but the plotting and the contemplation. Well, the contemplation when Thrawn gets to quiz Vanto about it.

It’s such a nice return to form, it barely matters the issue doesn’t really go anywhere, just does a bunch of summary to set up the next issue. It’d be even nicer if writer Houser had employed a similar tactic on the previous issue, which lost its leads to world build.

Good art from Ross. He’s able to mix in some silly composition choices–floating heads talking across an action panel–to reasonable success. Thrawn isn’t strict; Ross uses its fluidity to good result here.

So. Perfectly fine stuff. Especially for a licensed tie-in novel adaptation.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #2 (May 2018)

Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #2

This issue of Resident Alien, which actually has Harry getting to New York City and being overwhelmed, is somehow entirely understated. A comic about being overwhelmed keeps it calm, always. Harry brings his friend–and love interest’s father–along with him for initially moral support then protection (it’s not safe for an alien); the friend, Dan, gives Hogan a good perspective on Harry for the reader.

Plus Dan and Harry are cute together.

Meanwhile, an unwelcome guest doctor shows up to take over Harry’s practice for his vacation. Either it’s going to be a subplot for Alien in New York or it’ll be something for the next series. Hogan’s plotting for these books is so chill, it’s hard to guess.

As for Harry’s New York Mystery? Next issue might be some answers. This issue just raises more questions.

The Parkhouse New York City is, no surprise, absolutely gorgeous stuff.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #3 (May 2018)

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #3

I suppose this issue–where Doctor Star discovers he’s inadvertently inspired the creation of the Green Lantern Corps (different name, same exact idea)–is the best so far in the series. There’s a lot of dramatics and a lot of interstellar stuff.

The dramatics are more flashbacks with Doctor Star coming home. He argues with his wife, goes to Vietnam looking for his son, then finds his son in the hospital (presumably stateside). These scenes have a lot more dramatic fodder than the present day, where Doctor Star is trying to save his son from cancer. Why Lemire skipped out on the more dramatic stuff for the melodramatic tropes… just another of Doctor Star’s mysteries.

The space stuff is at least cool looking, thanks to Fiumara. It’s all a knock-off of Green Lantern now, but whatever, it does look good.

One more issue to go. There’s nowhere for Lemire to go at this point. But at least the book has stopped being as disappointing, though only because it’s a moot point now.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Max Fiumara; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Vinegar Teeth #4 (April 2018)

Vinegar Teeth #4

Vinegar Teeth ends. Vinegar Teeth, the character, remains likable. Nixey’s art remains crazy and awesome and gross (but not too gross). Detective Buckle… well, he barely figures into the last issue. He’s zonked out of his mind for a while; when he does come back, he’s got to save the city from Vinegar Teeth’s dad, a Cthulhu-like interdimensional evil monster.

It’s easily the worst issue in the series. Gentry and Nixey’s script just keeps moving and moving and moving until the ending. It’s all action, with Vinegar Teeth and Buckle having to complete a task to stop the invasion. If you’ve seen a certain Tim Burton movie from the nineties, it’s not a surprise. It still works to some degree, thanks to Nixey’s art.

But, even with the lackluster finish, Vinegar Teeth is a success. It’s a gross, strange book and it never gives up on being gross or strange. It instead embraces them, as Nixey’s so capable at visualizing such things without being revolting. There’s beauty in his visual pacing.

This issue might have some of the best panels; they’re just too small and the issue’s moving too fast for them to come off.

So a success. Just not as successful as hoped.

CREDITS

Writers, Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey; artist and letterer, Nixey; colorist, Michelle Madsen; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Vinegar Teeth #3 (March 2018)

Vinegar Teeth #3

Vinegar Teeth continues being Vinegar Teeth.

So it turns out these first page courtroom bookends are set during the final (and next) issue–the D.A.’s questions for Artie even make sense now (because of this issue’s events). They sort of make sense for the comic? But not really.

Anyway. The action immediately moves on the Vinegar Teeth, working the streets alone, as all the citzens turn into Cthulhu (called something else) zombies. Vinegar Teeth finds himself unable to control his hunger and he eats some bad guys. It upsets him, so he goes and gets drunk with Artie. They bond and Artie’s back on the force, back to being Vinegar Teeth’s partner.

If Vinegar Teeth weren’t so visually disgusting and eating people, it’d almost be a nice sequence. They get wasted and puke. Touching stuff.

The rest of the comic is revelations about the zombies and Vinegar Teeth. But amid the police procedural–city’s in crisis, Artie and Vinegar Teeth are needed–and with a lot of jokes. Lots and lots of jokes. Most of them connect.

There’s some excellent art from Nixey this issue. He lets loose with the action, does some great visual pacing work.

Vinegar Teeth is a good comic; expectations are high for next issue’s finish.

CREDITS

Writers, Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey; artist and letterer, Nixey; colorist, Michelle Madsen; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1 (April 2018)

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1

Not a lot of content in Age of Doom #1 but it’s sure nice to have Dean Ormston back on Black Hammer. He didn’t ever really leave but the book’s been on hiatus awhile and you don’t realize how much you miss his sad superheroes’ faces until you see them again.

No, Jeff Lemire doesn’t solve the Black Hammer riddle. Lucy Weber, new Black Hammer, solves one riddle–though it’s unclear how she solves it, whether it’s because she discovered something or just found out when she got the hammer–and finds herself in a new one. Before she has a chance to tell anyone what’s going on.

So the regular cast is basically just regrouping–though them making a concerted effort is new for them–and getting their drink on.

It’s a little fast of a read and while Ormston does do a lot of detail in his panels, he doesn’t do very big panels. But it’s very nice to have Black Hammer Prime back.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #1 (April 2018)

Resident Alien: An Alien in New York #1

Resident Alien, not to get too extreme about it, is good for the soul. Writer Peter Hogan’s quiet, careful deliberateness with all the characters–and all the character development–alongside Steve Parkhouse’s gentle, emotive, detailed art? It’s just such a nice comic to read. Before everything else, there’s this professional love of the medium the two creators exercise throughout. It’s a joyful read, regardless of content; always has been.

And An Alien in New York is no different. Doctor Harry has his standard B plot–he’s worried the Men in Black are going to discover him (they sort of have, but he doesn’t know yet)–and now he’s worried he should abandon his established life as a town doctor. There’s some romantic drama (but very gentle) as he and female friend, Asta, carefully orbit each other.

So while he’s thinking about doing a runner from his regular life to instead be an alien on the run, he comes across evidence of an alien in the New York area.

And then the issue’s over. It’s a teaser for the series itself (I’m so glad Dark Horse gave them four issues again for New York). It’d be the perfect time for Hogan to catch up new readers… but no.

One thing about Resident Alien, which is both good and bad–good as a fan, bad as a fan who wants the book to get more readers–is Hogan never bothers with catch-up. This time Harry’s whole crisis gets kicked off because he finds out about the picture of him a child drew–kids can see he’s an alien–and his staff wants to hang it up. The picture’s from last series. The Feds are on to him from last series.

I appreciate the hell out of the book as Hogan and Parkhouse execute it, but I want it to catch on too. Hogan’s not just writing for the trade, he’s writing for the trades as a series.

Who cares. Harry’s back. I’ll worry about it later. Next issue is New York. Steve Parkhouse New York.

CREDITS

Writer, Peter Hogan; artist, Steve Parkhouse; editors, Megan Walker and Philip R. Simon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Star Wars: Thrawn #3 (June 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #3

Thrawn really isn’t important this issue of Thrawn. Instead, it tracks the adventures of a young woman from the Outer Sim who ends up on the Imperial homeworld and discovers corruption and manipulation in politics. But she sees an opportunity for advancement, and calls on Thrawn to help her.

For a while, it’s a decent issue. It seems like Houser is building to something. He might be–the issue has a hard cliffhanger–but he’s immediately overdue on it. An indulgence issue. Maybe it’s to the eventual trade paces out well. But in floppy? It’s a little much.

Especially since it’s so confusing. There’s so much dialogue, so much exposition. But then an event will occur and it won’t seem like anything previous discussed. And you reread the previous discussions and it certainly doesn’t seem like they’re talking about planning the immediately occurring events. The issue’s lead–the new woman–keeps a lot to herself.

The book is getting to be a bummer. But Ross’s art is awesome this issue.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #2 (April 2018)

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #2

What’s really bad is I barely have any memory of Doctor Star #1 other than it not being particularly good and a Starman homage, certainly not for a Black Hammer brand title.

The second issue isn’t much better but it’s at least got space aliens.

Doctor Star is a terrible father. Well, not exactly. Not intentionally. But his dying son wants nothing to do with him; the issue’s got some flashbacks to the early fifties to explain it all. I suppose it gives Fiumara some cool stuff to draw, but then Lemire pulls him back to the mundane. Fiumara does better with the fantastic. His mundane is boring.

Outside being a crappy (but not exactly) dad, Doctor Star doesn’t have much character. He’s sad and he’s sorry. Nothing else. The flashback scenes showing him being busy dad to his son (as a kid) and loving his wife doesn’t make him into a character. It fleshes out the caricature with more caricature.

I suppose the book’s in a better place than it was after the first issue, but it’s a long way from solid.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Max Fiumara; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Star Wars: Thrawn #2 (May 2018)

One of the amusing franchise realties for Star Wars is Imperial officers aren’t bright. The movies established early on only Darth Vader had any brains. Darth Vader, then the Emperor. Otherwise, the Imperials were twits.

So Thrawn, which has a genius alien ascending the ranks of the racist Imperial Navy, has a somewhat peculiar problem. How can writer Houser show Thrawn’s ability to excel amid a group of twits. Even allowing for some intelligence, they’re still a bunch of racist twits. It’s kind of an interesting thing. Houser doesn’t really explore it because you don’t get to acknowledge a problem with a franchise in a licensed title. Well, whatever Star Wars is to Marvel.

It’s a successful issue. Maybe a little less impressive than the first; Houser thinks the big reveal is a lot more dramatic than it turns out to be. Thrawn is still all about Thrawn and his human flunky, Ensign Eli. Eli’s supposedly Thrawn’s handler (and is his assigned aide), but Thrawn’s really two steps ahead. Or ten steps. Whichever. Eli’s not too bright.

Decent art from Ross. Little too much with the computer shading, but decent art. He doesn’t do the action well. Like when there are fistfights and prison breaks and whatever. Those scenes, which are rushed in the script, are confusing on the page. Too little information and not the best panel subjects.

But a fine enough, sci-fi comic. It’s a little Star Wars, but not a lot Star Wars. It’s just the right amount.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Mata Hari #1 (February 2018)

Mata Hari #1

Mata Hari is pretty boring. Writer Emma Beeby fractures the narrative to drum up drama, but even with that fracturing, there’s not much drama. Some of it is artist Ariela Kristantina’s lack of scale–Mata Hari feels incredibly cramped, both the panels on the page and the characters rendered in the panels. Maybe everything was small in 1917 France.

The promotional materials for the series mention the attention to realism (the writer and artist using actual MI5 files for reference). Still, it’s an incredible yawn. It’s not scholarly enough to be snooty compelling and it’s nowhere near dramatic enough to be entertainment.

It’s a history comic without a reason for being a comic (so far). The wikipedia page is probably more interesting.

Once again, the Berger Books imprint disappoints. Once again, it disappoints with material shockingly “not ready for prime time.” Kristantina’s style is too rough, Beeby’s exposition-only dialogue (and narration) is muddled blather.

If the creators are enthralled with the mystery of Mata Hari… well, it’d have been nice if some of that energy came across on the page.

Instead, it’s a tedious snore.

CREDITS

Bare Faced; writer, Emma Beeby; artist, Ariela Kristantina; colorist, Pat Wasioni; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editors, Rachel Roberts and Karen Berger; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Vinegar Teeth #2 (February 2018)

Vinegar Teeth #2

The first issue of Vinegar Teeth made the protoplasm cop visually reasonable so the second issue goes all in with the writing. Nixey and Gentry explore the strangeness of Brick City, from its music clubs to its boy scouts turned bank robber.

There’s also a framing device (for a page), with lead copper Artie in trouble in court. The issue doesn’t come back to it; there’s some more with Artie in trouble, like when Vinegar Teeth gets assigned to be the lead detective, but not the courtroom. The courtroom’s a memorable scene. It sets the tone for the issue.

And the issue’s got those boy scout bank robbers and Artie’s interest in music, which are strange enough on their own. There’s also the green and yellow colors of Brick City. Guy Major does them. They make it all seem like spoiling vegetables, which means Vinegar Teeth is working.

There’s a soft cliffhanger for Vinegar Teeth and Artie, but also the end implication of an interstellar threat.

The writing also pushes against the fourth wall a couple times, which comes as a surprise but ends up being a fine fit. Vinegar Teeth can get away with a lot.

CREDITS

Writers, Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey; artist and letterer, Nixey; colorists, Guy Major and Michelle Madsen; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #1 (March 2018)

Ds1

Doctor Star and The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows is a Black Hammer tie-in book–more a sidequel, with the WWII setting showing Abraham Slam and Golden Gail in their respective youths. It starts out a Starman homage (I assume, I’ve never read it but the protagonist’s name is James Robinson and his outfit is similar so… it’s pretty obvious).

Robinson narrates. Writer Jeff Lemire lays on the melancholy, which artist Max Fiumara visualizes quite well. Doctor Star never looks better than when it’s about some intense sadness and desperation. Not even when there are superhero things going on.

So the intense sadness should be the best part. And it’s not. It’s just intense and sad, something Lemire does exceedingly well with on Black Hammer and exceedingly poorly with Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows. Just think about that title. It’s so sad. Everything is so sad.

Other than being sad, being Starman homage, and having minor Black Hammer tie-in… there’s nothing to Doctor Star #1. Not good when there are only four issues.

CREDITS

Star Child; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Max Fiumara; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Brett Israel and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Star Wars: Thrawn #1 (April 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #1

Even through Thrawn gets a fair number of close-ups in Thrawn #1, I finished the issue feeling like he didn’t. Thrawn is a Star Wars comic–one of the new official ones so all those old official ones from Dark Horse starring Thrawn are out of continuity. Though, since they’re all based on Timothy Zahn novels, there’s got to be crossover.

This issue deals with how blue super-intelligent alien Thrawn gets into the Imperial Academy. There’s even a cameo by the Emperor (which is maybe the comic’s only draggy scene). Otherwise, it just moves and moves.

Some of the brevity is thanks to the narrator. It’s not Thrawn, but some Imperial cadet who gets stuck translating and babysitting him. The cadet’s not a jerk, but he’s completely disinterested in his assignment. Writer Jody Houser uses the cadet as the reader’s vantage point, but the cadet’s got more information than he’s sharing in narration. Got to keep it dramatically compelling.

And Houser and artist Luke Ross are able to keep it compelling. Even when the comic hits a second or fourth talking heads sequence. There’s sporadic action, but most of it is just seeing how Thrawn reacts to this new world around him. There’s Star Wars minutiae but the better, not-created-by-George-Lucas minutiae (i.e. the Galactic language being called Basic–it’s immediately self-explanatory).

It’s an exceedingly competent comic book. Good art, good scripting.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Vinegar Teeth #1 (January 2018)

Vinegar Teeth #1

Vinegar Teeth is a lot. Like, a whole lot. Because it’s gross and Troy Nixey’s art manages to hint at the gross without ever inundating with the gross.

It’s a cop story. Only the lead, drunk rogue cop has a new partner–a giant toxic waste monster named Vinegar Teeth. Vinegar Teeth didn’t pick its name. It isn’t even sure it wants to be a cop. It definitely wants people to be nice to it and one another.

Damon Gentry’s writing keeps up–mostly–with the art, which isn’t easy. Nixey’s doing this extremely detailed noir with some cartoonistisms. The ending comes way too quick–Vinegar Teeth doesn’t get to be a character enough–but the cliffhanger is cool. Gross, but not too much, and cool.

Apparently the Lovecraft influences start next issue. Woo!

CREDITS

Writers, Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey; artist and letterer, Nixey; colorist, Guy Major; editors, Cardner Clark, Brett Israel, and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Hungry Ghosts #1 (January 2018)

Hungry Ghosts #1

Hungry Ghosts is the story of restaurant staff who get suckered into telling ghost stories with one of their hideous rich customers. The hook of the series, presumably, is “executive producer” Anthony Bourdain. He’s credited as co-story but–from the back matter–it’s clear Joel Rose, the other story credit, did the writing work.

Though, presumably Bourdain agrees most of his customers are hideous rich people.

Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey do the interior art. Ponticelli does the setup and the first story, Del Rey does the second story. It’s the one about the pirate ship rescuing a drowning woman just so they can rape her. It doesn’t go as planned. It’s not scary though. None of Hungry Ghosts is scary or even disturbing. It’s PG–13, conceptually as well as visually.

Yawn.

The first story has a cook not feeding a homeless guy and the homeless guy turning into a demon to exact retribution. So, maybe if you bring a copy of Hungry Ghosts #1 to a Bourdain restaurant you get a free meal? Because the story literally says not feeding the hungry deserves death.

So. I guess the comic is for people who just love anything with Anthony Bourdain’s name on it? Because there’s nothing else to it. Sure, it’s updating Japanese “Kaidan” but so are a lot of things. Even some actual scary things, which Ghosts isn’t.

At all.

CREDITS

Writers, Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose; artists, Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #4 (January 2018)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #4

I wasn’t particularly concerned about Sherlock Frankenstein #4 going into it. I knew Lemire would have something good cooked up.

And he does. He and Rubín don’t just do the history of Sherlock Frankenstein, they do the history of the Black Hammer universe, at least in the twentieth century. It goes from Golden to Silver to Bronze. Lemire doesn’t break out all the heroes it goes through, just gives Rubín space to show off some familiar–and not familiar–designs.

Lots of double page spreads this issue. Rubín goes crazy with it to great success. Lucy and Sherlock’s meeting pays off.

And the ending of the book, which has very little to do with Black Hammer itself, is a perfect finish to this series. Lemire’s been doing a lot with the “supervillains” of BH. The finish embraces that work (more than it does having a Lucy investigates issue).

It’ll be interesting to see what Lemire does with the next spin-off, which is Lucy-less.

CREDITS

The Undying Love of Sherlock Frankenstein; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil 3 (December 2017)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #3

The only thing wrong with Sherlock Frankenstein is realizing it’s almost over. I don’t know why I thought it was six issues; just being hopeful, I guess.

Lucy’s investigation continues, even after someone has attacked her in the sanctuary. Real quick–apparently Black Hammer (the character) got his powers from the New Gods? I don’t think the New Gods and their planet were in Black Hammer. Maybe I’m wrong but… it seems like a fresh reveal.

Anyway, the investigation continues and Lucy makes a couple surprise discoveries. The first leads to a lovely scene from Lemire, who really gets to leave Hammer’s sadness aside when he writes Lucy. She’s got sadness, but it’s not that hopeless sadness. It’s a hopeful sort of sadness.

And that scene leads to the big reveal and the soft cliffhanger tag announcing the final issue. Boo, final issue. Yay, Sherlock Frankenstein.

Great art from Rubín, of course, including some fantastic double-page spreads. His little Lucy intro is great too.

CREDITS

Who is the Metal Minotaur?; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens: Dead Orbit 4 (December 2017)

Aliens: Dead Orbit #4

Stokoe finishes up Dead Orbit with an awesome all-action issue. There’s very little in the way of story. There’s very little in the way of characters. There are characters–it’s been so long since the last issue, I only remember the lead and don’t remember how the bookends work–but there’s no characterization.

It’s about Aliens after all, and the Alien action is phenomenal. Stokoe’s pacing is wondrous. He doesn’t do all the Stokoe detail on Orbit, he’s more concentrated on movement and the threat of the aliens.

I’m going to have to read Dead Orbit in a sitting (or a trade); the experience is what Stokoe’s going for. He’s making an Aliens comic as unnerving as an Alien movie, versus making an Aliens comic expanding or exploiting the franchise.

The issue’s a short “read,” but a longer visual experience. The Stokoe art is just so good, the eyes have to linger, even when the pace is amped.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, and letterer, James Stokoe; editors, Rachel Roberts and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil 2 (November 2017)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #2

Lemire just won the Cthulhu game. For over ten years, comic book companies–usually indie ones–have been doing Cthulhu stuff. Boom!, Avatar (obviously), Archie, Dark Horse, Image. And Lemire just won it for Dark Horse with this issue of Sherlock Frankenstein.

In searching for her father, Lucy Weber meets Cthu-Lou II. He’s a sewer varient of Cthulhu’s chosen emissary on Earth and he’s not interested. He fights with his wife, who’s got a husband with an octopus head and no interest in super-villainy. They’ve got a sweet daughter, also with octupus head, but in a cute way. It’s just this sad story for Weber to encounter. There are clues too, but it’s really just this sad family.

Lemire couldn’t do it without Rubín though. Not at all. Rubín uses comic strip pacing for some of the issue, which makes the mundane hilarious and the terrifying genial. The expressive faces–it’s a talking heads issue–are wonderful.

It’s a fantastic comic. Lemire and Rubín each do great stuff here.

CREDITS

The Call of Cthu-Lou!; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Berger Books Preview (November 2017)

Berger Books Free 2018 Preview

The Berger Books Preview is, frankly, concerning. Influential comic editor Karen Berger has an imprint coming out from Dark Horse next year and the Preview shows off the launch titles.

Of the four, Hungry Ghosts seems the strongest. The writing isn’t bad, which is something. There’s some bad writing before the end of the ashcan.

Incognegro, even with its excellent Warren Pleece art, has a lazy script. Mat Johnson’s dialogue is choppy exposition. Nothing to suggest it’s going to turn around either.

Then the Mata Hari preview is too slight to tell. Ariela Kristantina’s art isn’t impressive and there’s not enough of Emma Beeby’s writing to get a feel. But it definitely doesn’t look ready.

Finally there are some promotional images from The Seeds, which has David Aja art and Ann Nocenti writing. Two images. It’ll look amazing because Aja but otherwise… who knows.

The strangest thing about this Preview is how unimpressive the line appears. Even if Hungry Ghosts is good, it’s a book for Anthony Bourdain fanatics who also read indie comics and art wanks. Pleece isn’t an artist who sells comics. No one cares about Mata Hari. And David Aja art is only a big deal when there’s actual David Aja art.

It’s concerning.

CREDITS

Editor, Karen Berger; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil 1 (October 2017)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #1

The panel composition. David Rubín sometimes spirals the panels in double-page spreads, sometimes just moves action horizontal, always guiding the reader’s eye. It’s a visual treat, which is particularly awesome given it’s a talking heads issue.

Set before Lucy Weber joins Black Hammer, Sherlock Frankenstein and Legion of Evil has her investigating arch-villain Sherlock Frankenstein (think a mix of Sivana and Lex Luthor) in hopes of finding her father and the other heroes. Writer Jeff Lemire paces it well–he clearly loves writing Lucy Weber, the comic’s got first-person narration–and even the hinted revelations have a lot of weight. Though Frankenstein is probably incomprehensible if you haven’t kept up on Black Hammer.

Rubín’s art isn’t just amazing for the double-page spreads, it’s the single panels too. The way he visualizes Spiral City, modern technology amid grime, it’s breathtaking.

So good.

CREDITS

Whatever Happened to Sherlock Frankenstein?; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 13 (September 2017)

Black Hammer #13

This issue wraps up the second arc. I haven’t decided if I’m going to wait for the trade or just read the second arc again in one sitting, because Black Hammer has arrived. Lemire and Ormston do New Gods, they do Darkseid (sort of), they do a big climatic finish, and it all works. Even when it seems, for a panel, like the pace is off, all of a sudden it’s right back on.

Lemire sets up a bit for the next arc, moving some characters around, then bakes in how he’s going to do the finale. It’s subtle and thoughtful. And Ormston’s panels are those heartbreaking Black Hammer panels. Lush desolation.

Black Hammer just keeps getting better.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 12 (August 2017)

Black Hammer #12

David Rubín returns for another issue (maybe a few), with Lemire doing an origin story for Lucy Weber. The entire thing is flashback, starting when Lucy’s a kid (right after the heroes’ disappearance) and going until she starts investigating it as an adult. There’s some talking heads, some exposition, some foreshadowing; Rubín beautifully visualizes it all, making the final reveal–which is somewhat static–emotionally devastating. It’s a different kind of Black Hammer, but Lemire clearly knows how to do all kinds of them.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist and letterer, David Rubín; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 11 (July 2017)

Black Hammer #11

It’s a bridging issue–though it’s still unclear what Lemire’s setting up. Lucy Weber continues her investigation, sort of recapping everything. Nothing new exactly, just some rather nice Ormston art. Barbalien has a showdown–both in the present and in flashback; it’s well-written, but it’s character development, not progressing the overall narrative. Again, some great Ormston art. Gail has the most dramatics, but not character development. Meanwhile Abraham sort of pops in to keep a couple of the other subplots alive. Black Hammer isn’t in idle, Lemire is arranging the pieces to move forward. It’s almost a mellow issue, even if it’s got a lot of emotional heft.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens: Dead Orbit 3 (June 2017)

Aliens: Dead Orbit #3

This issue finally delivers Stokoe action violence with Aliens. There’s not a lot, he mostly goes for the terror of the crew, but it’s also terrorized crew members by Stokoe. This issue is exactly what Dead Orbit has always promised. And it’s still just an Aliens comic. Stokoe needs more room, he needs more pages. He feels too confined. He’s got his visual poetics, very much in line with the original Alien, but he can’t get their pace right. He can pace the action and gore right; there’s just not enough room for both. It’s too bad. But still awesome.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, and letterer, James Stokoe; editors, Rachel Roberts and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 10 (June 2017)

Bh10

Has Black Hammer not had a big issue lately? Because this issue gives me the “momentous reveal” chills I got reading the first trade. Lemire works the whole thing on multiple levels–you get big moment on a character level for Barbalien, but there’s also a whole “what’s the mystery of Black Hammer” thing going on. And Lemire juxtaposes those subplots against Abraham Slam’s story and flashback. It’s really good.

Wonderful Ormston art this issue too. The flashback is awesome, but the modern stuff is so melancholic and disheartening. Real upper, this comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, Dean Ormston; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Aliens: Dead Orbit 2 (May 2017)

Aliens: Dead Orbit #2

Dead Orbit continues–James Stokoe drawing chestbursters alert!–without any bumps. Stokoe’s script is solid; most of the issue is flashback explaining how the aliens got onboard, then the aliens finally show up at the end. The issue leaves the protagonist in a precarious situation but it doesn’t really matter. Stokoe, even in his reduced, licensed-title friendly level of detail, is the draw. And there’s a cute nod to Alien3.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, and letterer, James Stokoe; editors, Rachel Roberts and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Black Hammer 9 (May 2017)

Black Hammer #9

It’s a depressing issue. Lemire knows he’s going to do a depressing issue–he set it up with the previous issue’s cliffhanger–but he just drags the reader through it all. David Rubín fills in on the art, which is a fantastic mix of psychedelic and cartooning. His expressions on Colonel Weird, in a flashback to the Colonel’s younger, Adam Strange days, are phenomenal. It’s practically comic relief, which Lemire desperately needs for the comic. Black Hammer can be depressing, it can be despondent, but when something actually sad happens… it’s almost too much to bare (thanks to all the other stuff). It’s a solid issue with some great art.

CREDITS

Writer, Jeff Lemire; artist and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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