B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master #1
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Tyler Crook
$3.50, 24 Pages

You know those ominous first few minutes of a master plan being developed by a mad genius in a movie?  That's what the latest chapter in B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth feels like.  The Return of the Master is like a pot of water that's just starting to boil.  The Bureau is in shambles.  Hellboy is dead.  Abe is in a coma.  Liz is missing.  They're left with the spectre Johann, who is currently on suspension, and a slew of human agents that have risen up to take care of business as of late.  There's a situation in Scotland that needs to be looked into, so a team is assembled to check it out. 

Meanwhile, Fenix, the mystic girl who shot Abe, makes it to B.P.R.D. headquarters and starts her training.  She pumped those bullets into Abe for a reason.  We're also brought back to Russia and the S.S.S. to initiate the Scotland inquiry.  All the pieces are in motion.

Scotland itself is a shithole.  Granted, it might be hard to tell the difference from present day, but there's a never-ending storm that's killing people, so the government is evacuating residents to Norway.  With everyone leaving, it's very odd that someone wants to come in.  It's even stranger when his presence is causing the police dogs to mutate into ferocious beasts and attack the refugees.  Tyler Crook's artwork on these dogs is terrifying.  It's the kind of thing that will make you think twice before petting that adorable mutt of the neighbor's, even if it's on a leash. 

The Return of the Master is like the precursor to something horrible.  It's like that first step when you realized you missed one as you were walking up the stairs.  You know you're going to fall.  You know it's going to hurt.  You're powerless to do anything.  I know it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  It makes sense then that this book is called Hell on Earth.

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Angel & Faith #13
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Christos Gage
Illustrated by Rebekah Isaacs
$2.99, 24 Pages

Angel and his crew have gotten a little sidetracked on their field trip to Quor'Toth, the hell dimension where Connor grew up.  It turns out that when he was a boy, Connor and Holtz inadvertently taught compassion to some locals.  As time moves differently in Quor'Toth, centuries have passed since he was last here and his life is looked upon as a legend.  These peace-loving creatures are being persecuted by the rest of the demons so Angel and his team aims to put a stop to it and save them.  There's one major problem with that:  It seems that Quor'Toth isn't just the name of the area.  It was named after the behemoth of a monster that lives in its heart. 

I've said it before, but this issue in particular holds true to the fact that comics have no limitations when it comes to big budget effects.  This giant creature -- not to mention the entire world around it -- would never appear in a regular TV show.  This is something that can only exist in the funny books and artist Rebekah Isaacs plays it up beautifully.  She already nails all of the characters, but this comic is filled with all sorts of monsters, big and small.  The variety of them is impressive, but the big bad is even more so. This thing is brutal.  It walks on four legs that look like several elephant feet put together.  It's brain is exposed and it has this huge, gaping mouth with jagged teeth surrounding it.  Everything about this screams ugly and it's clear that you wouldn't want to encounter anything even remotely like this in your lifetime.

Throughout this issue, author Christos Gage continues to develop the characters in a natural way.  Putting Angel in Quor'Toth so he can see first hand how his son was raised is a big step in bringing him closer to Connor and cementing that relationship.  Meanwhile, you've got Faith continuing to doubt not only herself but Angel too.  Finally, there's Willow who finally has access to magic and can continue her quest to bring it back to Earth but she's not sure if she's ready to pay the price for it.  All of this is done while maintaining crisp dialogue and a great story.  This is why Angel & Faith is not only one of the best comics that Dark Horse is putting out, but one of the best out there right now.

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Grim Leaper #4
Published by Image Comics
Written by Kurtis Wiebe
Illustrated by Aluisio C. Santos
$3.50, 32 Pages

The story of Grim Leaper comes to a close this month.  Lou and Ella have jumped into a bunch of different bodies, each one suffering from gruesome deaths that became more and more elaborate.  They've been resurrected in their own bodies this time and have the opportunity to start fresh.  It's a good thing they're already in love.  We get a bit more of the backstory behind Ella and her connection to Lou.  It's a very "missed connection" type thing.  There wasn't an opportunity to post an ad on Craig's List though.  Instead they had to go through this death and rebirth ordeal over and over again until they finally found each other.

Artist Aluisio C. Santos doesn't get much in the way of brutal death scenes this time around.  There's one tough car crash, but aside from that, it's mostly about Lou and Ella.  They look great and you can tell just by the way that they're drawn that they are so into each other.  It's a good match. 

As with the rest of Grim Leaper, this issue has a lot of humor to it.  It's not quite as dark as the previous chapters, but there are some twisted moments.  This issue felt a little rushed, like writer Kurtis Wiebe had to cram a lot of story into these pages to get to an ending, but it's a fitting closure to the series. 

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The Goon #41
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Eric Powell
Illustrated by Eric Powell and Mark Buckingham
$3.50, 24 Pages

The phrase "Be careful what you wish for" is a good theme for this month's issue of The Goon.  The comic focuses on a one-eyed hobo that practices witchcraft for people that ask, in exchange for a few dollars.  Things rarely ever work out the way the buyer wants though.  A chubby girl asks for a handsome man to be attracted to her and the guy ends up becoming hideously deformed.  A man is jealous of his brother's litter of five sons and a sixth on the way and his sister-in-law gives birth to something that's clearly not a man, but definitely a monster.  In each of these scenarios, the Goon is around to beat the crap out of whatever pops out or otherwise put a stop to the hobo's work.

Eric Powell continues to kick ass on The Goon.  The way that this story unfolds is both creepy but and rather humorous.  Yes, what happens to these people is horrible, but some might argue that they brought it on themselves for seeking out a witch doctor in the first place.  Powell illustrates the first half of the book and does such a great job.  His artwork is really top notch.  There are some hideous creatures throughout the comic, but they are all beautifully rendered.

The back of the comic includes another story entitled "The Bog Lurk that Lurked like a Thing! A Bad Thing!" which is written by Powell and drawn by Mark Buckingham.  It has the same type of humor that you can expect from The Goon, but Buckingham's colorless art gives it a slightly different feel.  It's a nice setup for a big monster fight, which is all you really need sometimes.  The Goon works on multiple levels, but one where it works best is when the title character is punching something big and ugly in the face.

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Witchblade #159
Published by Top Cow Productions
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Diego Bernard
$2.99, 32 Pages

Sara Pezzini isn't having much success as a private investigator in Chicago.  She keeps getting sidetracked by ghosts and demons and fairy lands.  Now she's got a bigger bad to deal with.  There's a being of pure evil that has popped up in the Windy City and it's in the form of an annoyingly cute hipster girl.  As if you needed another reason to hate her, she's also orchestrating a plan to send the everyone into a world of suffering. 

In addition to all this, Sara finds out that Jackie Estacado, the wielder of the Darkness, has been spying on her.  Of the three titles in the Top Cow Rebirth line, Witchblade was the one that didn't have a clear connection.  I can't wait to see how author Tim Seeley brings the Darkness into this title.  He's provided a great new background for Sara to explore in Chicago, but she's all alone, cut off from any of the other Artifacts. 

Diego Bernard continues to deliver great art on Witchblade.  His work is clean and well detailed.  Sara is hot, but she doesn't have her boobs falling out in every other panel.  Similarly, she seems to be able to use the Witchblade without having it tear her clothes to pieces.  Seeley has explained that the Artifact is so closely linked to Sara at this point that it can create exactly what she needs with barely a thought.  I'm just surprised that it took this long for it to figure out that she needs to wear clothes when she's not tearing shit up. 

This new element of evil is a nice spin on what could be the devil.  Yes, there have been things like it in other mediums, but Seeley is tying this in to the overall Top Cow universe in a seamless way.  The pacing is quick as well as this is a two issue arc, so we'll get some sort of resolution next month.  No need to drag this out for six issues if you can tell the story in just a couple.

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Valen the Outcast #8
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Michael Alan Nelson
Illustrated by Matteo Scalera
$3.99, 24 Pages

Valen's quest for revenge has reached its conclusion, but the setup isn't what he had expected.  He's under the control of the necromancer Korrus Null, leading an army to attack his former homeland of Oakhaven.  With a little help from his friends, he breaks free of his bonds and takes the fight right to Null himself in a huge battle. 

Although we got the kind of fight I was hoping for with the finale of Valen the Outcast, this comic feels rushed.  I would have loved a few extra pages to flesh out some bits and pieces because some characters didn't get the screentime they deserve, especially the thief Cordovan.  He's grown to become the comic relief of the series and he's almost thrown away with this issue.  There is a lot of closure that's brought about, but some of it feels like it was brought up before we had time to really take in what the need for it was to begin with.  The ghost of Valen's wife is an example.  She was brought in as a sympathetic character at first and quickly flipped to become a demonic witch lashing out at Zjanna in jealousy. 

Matteo Scalera's art is frenetic.  His work makes this book a page-turner because it feels like it's moving so fast.  Swords are clashing.  Blood is gushing.  Lives are in the balance.  He has a talent for fight scenes and gets to deliver some major ones in this issue.  The battle between Valen and Korrus Null is epic and takes us around most of the castle.  It's the kind of thing you'd expect from the climax of an action / adventure movie.

Author Michael Alan Nelson introduced an entirely new series of fantasy characters in Valen the Outcast.  He told their entire story in just eight issues.  Did I want more details?  Absolutely.  Does it work as a whole?  Yes.  This is a gory comic filled with demons, reanimated corpses, and ghosts but it's a story of redemption and how one man sets out to make things right.

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Ghostbusters #12
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Erik Burnham
Illustrated by Dan Schoening
$3.99, 32 Pages

The ghostbusting road trip comes to a close this month as the boys arrive in Seattle.  The ghost of local musician Dante Barnes has been causing a ruckus in the city.  The man burst into flames on stage and since then strange music has been heard throughout the area followed by a fire.  The Ghostbusters have to work to put a stop to rock and roll.

I've liked this arc of Ghostbusters as it's taken the crew outside of their comfort zone of New York City.  They're in new locales each month, but sometimes it can be like a scenic tour of the place they're visiting, almost like a brochure.  This issue is no different as they cruise around the city investigating some of Dante's old hangouts.  It's like a visual guide of what to do when you visit the Emerald City. 

Author Erik Burnham captures the voice of these characters perfectly.  Peter is a smart wiseass befitting of Bill Murray.  Egon is a dry egghead.  Ray talks too much and is awkward with people.  Winston...is Ernie Hudson.  The humor is great.  Burnham manages to give enough of a story that this standalone issue doesn't feel rushed or condensed.  There are hints to an overall bigger arc coming down the line, such as Egon's concern of more threatening ghosts. 

Dan Schoening continues to walk a line between the movies and the cartoon with his artwork.  It's a fun style that works with the tone.  The ghost this week is centered on a guitar and fire and it's rendered very well.  The image of a rock star made of flames jamming out on his six string is pretty badass.

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Godzilla #4
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Simon Gane
$3.99, 24 Pages

It wouldn't be a Godzilla comic if it wasn't filled with wanton destruction.  Boxer and his team of giant monster hunters are on the trail of Titanosaurus when Rodan shows up.  Would it be two for the price of one?  Or has this crew finally met their match?  They're certainly armed to the teeth with "headache cannons" and tons of explosives to make things interesting.

Meanwhile, what is the government doing with the monsters once they've been subdued by Boxer?  This is building up to what I hope will be either a gladiator style arena where huge beasts fight for the viewing pleasure of humanity or a weird version of Jurassic Park.  Either way it's a win-win. 

Simon Gane's artwork still reminds me a lot of that of Frank Quitely.  It looks like he was shaking when he drew his characters, so everyone is all squiggly lines.  The monsters look great though, and we get a few of them this month, including an appearance by the big guy himself. 

I like the overall idea of what Duane Swierczynski is doing with this Godzilla ongoing series, but I'm still having a tough time caring about Boxer or the members of his team.  Each month it's been a series of giant creatures being shot in the face and that can get old after a bit.

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Also in stores this week, but not quite on my pull list...

 

  • Diablo #5 (DC Comics)
  • National Comics Looker #1 (DC Comics)
  • American Vampire #30 (Vertigo)
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #6 (Vertigo)
  • New Deadwardians #6 (Vertigo)
  • Prophecy #3 (Dynamite Entertainment)
  • Witchblade: Demon Reborn #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)
  • Deadworld War Of The Dead #5 (IDW Publishing)
  • Locke & Key Grindhouse One Shot (IDW Publishing)
  • Prophet #28 (Image Comics)
  • Infernal Man-Thing #3 (Marvel Comics)
  • FUBAR Summer Special One Shot (Alterna Comics)
  • Crossed Badlands #12 (Avatar Press)
  • Ferals #8 (Avatar Press)
  • Clive Barker's Hellraiser #17 (BOOM! Studios)

 

And in graphic novel releases this week...

 

  • Riven (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Supernatural: The Dogs Of Edinburgh (DC Comics)
  • Darkness: Rebirth - Volume 1 (Top Cow Productions)
  • Clive Barker's Hellraiser Masterpieces: Vol 2 (BOOM! Studios)
  • Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse: Vol 2 - The Chosen (Heavy Metal)
  • Dark Shadows: Complete Original Series - Vol 5 (Hermes Press)
  • Courtney Crumrin: Vol 2 - Courtney Crumrin And The Coven Of Mystics (Oni Press)
  • Lenore: Swirlies (Titan Comics) - HorrorTalk Review

 

That about does it for this week's edition of Funny Book Splatter.  I've rambled on about what I thought of this batch of horror comics, but I want to hear about what kind of spooky stuff was in your pull list.  Let me know in the comments!

 

Buy Buffy Season 9 comics at TFAW.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to comment on this? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.

 

 

About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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