Comic Eye: The Round-up

Okay – as I have gotten firmly back into comics (partly due to reviewing them for SFX, partly because quite frankly I need all the four-coloured escapism I can get right now), I’m going to start doing quick round-ups of the comics I’ve been reading. They will be short, and to the point. (Except when they’re not…)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen V3: Century – 1910
Reviewed here.

Hack / Slash – Entry Wound
A frequently scantily-clad goth girl comitting acts of horrendous violence against supernatural and non-supernatural ‘Slasher’-type killers? With the aid of a semi-monstrous companion called Vlad? Absurd amounts of nudity, gore and swearing? Have to admit – I’m kind of sold. This ‘teaser’ issue has a crossover story device with lots of other comics published by DDP that doesn’t work (it’s the kind of thing that make you go “Huh?” and not in a good way), but it’s got rather a cool energy to it, and I like the way that it does feel like a scuzzy, ultra-violent trailer-park Buffy, as well as the fact that there’s a genuine friendship between main character Cassie Hack and Vlad. I’m flirting with getting one of the larger omnibuses at some point, or I might just properly try the monthly for a while. We shall see…

Owly and Friends (Free Comic Book Day)
A free comic book from Top Shelf, and I’ve got to say – I rather loved the excerpt from Owly by Andy Runton, the tales of a big-eyed and very kind owl, all of which are completely free of traditional dialogue (the speech bubbles are pictures, rather than being written), and which do appear to be very, very heartwarming. I might need an excuse to get myself one of the graphic novels at some point – it’s very cartoony, but sentimental in the right way. Along with this, there were also teasers of Johnny Boo – which was, well, eccentric, and Korgi, which was beautifully drawn but I haven’t got the faintest idea what it was about (A dog almost gets swallowed by this large, spider-tree thing. Or maybe it doesn’t.)

The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft – Part 1
This is an odd one – there’ve been a whole slew of recent Cthulhu themed comic books, all of which cranked the creatures and overt horror up to fairly high levels, and which missed the point of Lovecraft (that you very, very rarely see the monsters, and when you do you go completely insane). This is a definite improvement on some of the bunch, and it’s basically the traditional “Writer is horrified to find elements from his fiction are coming true”, except wrapping it up with some details of Lovecraft’s life. Naturally, some details have been invented (I’m doubting Lovecraft really was in a love triangle with an attractive heiress) while some have been carefully omitted (no trace of Lovecraft’s major-league racism as yet), but while the scratchy, atmospheric art is sometimes a little too inscrutable, there are some very atmospheric moments in here, and it does capture a Lovecraftian mood better than any other Cthulhu-related comic I’ve read yet. Of course, it’s only issue 1 so there’s still plenty of time for it to go wrong. And this has been optioned for a film, just to make it even stranger…

Locke and Key: Head Games – Part 5
The second miniseries in Joe Hill’s horror fantasy saga has been kind of odd – it’s gorgeous stuff, but after a brilliant first series, it’s gone in a very different and not quite as satisfying direction. If this was an ongoing, I’d be hooked, but there’s only one issue to go, and while we’ve had a whole selection of interesting hints, not that much has actually happenned yet. Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork is remaining as brilliant as ever, but I’m not completely convinced, and may only be getting issue 6 out of a sense of “Well, I’ve come this far…”

The Unwritten – Issue 1
New from Mike Carey, comics writer turned novelist, and this is rather promising, a Vertigo title that feels almost retro in the way it ties into a slightly Gaiman-esque Sandman sensibility without being a rip-off in any way whatsoever. The set-up is that a guy who’s only claim to fame is that his father based a Harry Potter-style childrens fantasy character on him suddenly finds out that his identity may not be as firm as he thinks it is – that the books might be more along the lines of biography rather than fiction, and that characters from the books are now breaking into reality and coming after him. There’s some good, satisfying comic book storytelling here- the art from Peter Gross gets the mood perfect (even if it’s never quite spectacular) and I’m definitely intrigued to see what happens next. Plus, it had the advantage of being 40 pages for only $1 (70p in comic shop money).

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance – Issue 1
I liked Final Crisis rather a lot. Sure, it’s a mess, but it’s a glorious and ambitious mess that isn’t just three hundred pages of men in tights fighting each other, and for every moment that falls flat there’s another ten that are genuinely, head-spinningly weird (plus, it’s the first time that old-school Jack Kirby villain Darkseid has actually felt scary). There’s been lots of fanboy moaning about where Final Crisis fits into continuity, but the DC universe is slowly catching up and slotting together, and these miniseries are supposedly part of the plan. Well, this one features the Super Young Team, the fun gang of fame-hungry Japanese superheroes introduced in Final Crisis, who are now trying to use their status as universal saviours to boost their careers to the next level. It’s fun, media-savvy stuff that hints at some interesting stuff to come – the characterisation is good, the somewhat OTT appearence of a lizard-like bad guy is pretty bad. Overall, it’s promising, although I can’t help feeling Peter Milligan and Michael Allred did the same kind of stuff back in their X-Force / X-Statix series, and did it better.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas – Issue 6
I loved the first three issues. And then… then it went strange. Which is no surprise, considering how batshit peculiar this series is, but the story seemed to wander off the reservation, and there’s a plotline concerning a corporate head that seemed to go absolutely nowhere, and I’m left feeling that I should like this series much more than I actually do. There are moments of demented genius, and I really like artist Gabriel Ba’s work, but it’s trying so hard for a Doom Patrol level of weirdness, and yet it never seems to be able to sustain it for an entire six-issue stretch. Or maybe I should read it again, and then discover that I’m wrong and it’s a work of genius. Consider me perplexed, and unlikely to do cartwheels at the prospect of another series (whenever that will be).

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape – Issue 1
And while the links in ‘Dance’ are obvious, the links with Final Crisis here are a lot vaguer, to the extent that I’ve got no idea what they are. And yet, Escape is actually a really good start issue – it’s enigmatic, essentially a hallucinogenic superhero version of The Prisoner starring an obscure DC character called Nemesis, and yet there’s a really quite effective dream-like atmosphere here. A handful of Photoshop-style effects are used really well, it’s atmospheric, the art is rather good, and the whole thing is completely inscrutable in a way that brings back happy memories of Sapphire and Steel. I’ve no idea where it’s going, but I’m certainly going to get the next issue to find out.

Power Girl – Issue 1
Okay, this definitely ranks as a guilty pleasure, and yet this was also a really good fun old-school superhero comic, taking the absurdly large-breasted Kryptonian hero with the frankly boggling costume and actually making her work as a character. Honest. It probably helps that the artist goes for a really good, expressive cartoony look rather than the more usual superhero style, and that she’s redesigned the Power Girl costume so that it’s… well… it’s still ridiculous, but it’s a little less ridiculous. But it’s fun and lively stuff that actually manages to present it’s main character as an intelligent, forthright woman with a brain (who just happens to wear an hilariously revealling costume). The script is good, the art is good, and there’s no absurdly graphic ultraviolence (which is getting more common in superhero comics – opened an issue of Ultimatum in the shop, and could have done without seeing that one particular character had basically been disembowelled. And not in a “let’s cut quietly away” manner. And this was followed by the villain responsible having his head bitten off by the character’s husband. Again, not in a subtle way (although, there probably isn’t a subtle way of doing that)). Consider me entertained. (Another scantily clad female hero. I’d better be careful – this could be wondering into the realm of ‘pattern’…

That’s all for now. More soon…

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