Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Brian Ching
$2.99, 26 Pages
Willow continues her journey to restore magic to our dimension. She's on another world now with a weird and not quite evil demon-looking guy named Marrak. After narrowly escaping death at the teeth of a giant beast, the pair meet up with Aluwyn, the snake lady first seen in Buffy Season 8. She taught Willow the high witching arts and there was some kissing. Aluwyn has created a haven for witches called the Wellspring. It's here that Willow has the most hope of completing her quest.
What's great about Willow's adventure is that we get to see all the little things that magic affected. There were some hints to it in Angel & Faith when it was explained that no good songs have come out and suicides are up since the Seed of Wonder was destroyed. This issue introduces lost dreams. Marrak explains that recurring dreams start to become alive and flap around like birds. Now that they're cut off from Earth, they have formed into flocks. This can be good or bad as nightmares are in the bunch too. Also, if the dreams are stuck here, that means that they're not happening in our world.
Brian Ching really kills it with this issue. He gets to draw all sorts of cool things as Willow and Marrak work their way through this world. From the creature that's trying to eat them at the start to all of the witches that make up the Super Coven in the Wellspring, there's a great deal of variety. Ching gets to play with a lot of different archetypes including a centaur. Seriously, how often do you get to draw a centaur? He's managed to plop Willow into this world in an organic way. She never seems out of place here.
Willow's quest is definitely an important one and it will have huge ramifications for Buffy Season 9. The dialogue could be a little snappier, but I dig the overall adventure factor of it. Author Jeff Parker gives Willow this wide-eyed wonder kind of style which doesn't seem right. She should be a bit more mature than that by this point in her life, especially considering everything that she's been through.
|Hellboy in Hell #1
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written and Illustrated by Mike Mignola
$2.99, 32 Pages
This is it. Some time ago, Hellboy died. He went out with a bang after literally slaying a dragon and saving the world. Now he's fallen down into the darkness and awoken in the Abyss, the outer edge of Hell. Ugly things lurk in the shadows and he's already being hunted by an old foe. He's guided by someone who has a great interest in his future but where is he supposed to go next?
I've been looking forward to Hellboy in Hell for a long time. The character has fought with his destiny for awhile. He could rule here, but now that he's dead, no one is going to just hand him the keys to the joint. He has to find his place, here but he's still not exactly sure where he is.
The Hellboy comics have gotten pretty elaborate in recent years as creator Mike Mignola explored bigger and more intricate legends and mythologies. This culminated with the character finding out that he's a direct descendant of King Arthur and the rightful King of all Britain. This issue is a return to the basics of what makes Hellboy so fun to read. He's plopped into a weird situation and he's got to figure out who to trust and how to get by. Someone wants to kill him and he has to punch him really hard. The last panel of this issue sums it up well. I'm not spoiling anything, but Hellboy is asked if he's afraid. He responds "Let's see...I got killed, fell into a hole full of giant bugs, and a big iron guy beat the crap out of me with a hammer. Considering the day I'm having, I think I'm doing pretty good." That right there is pure, unfiltered Hellboy.
This comic is also the return of Mignola as the full time artist on Hellboy. It's been way too long since he's drawn interiors. He has a way of setting the mood of a book very quickly and in such a subtle way. Hellboy literally falls into Hell and instead of making a convoluted trip through the depths, Mignola shows this in a few simple panels. In a room of darkness, there is suddenly a red spot plummeting to the ground.
This is just the introduction to Hellboy's journey through Hell. He just landed. He has a lot to explore and a lot of people to meet. I can't wait to see it.
|Chasing the Dead #2
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Matthew Scott & Tim Westland
Illustrated by Dietrich Smith
$3.99, 24 Pages
Susan is following directions but not very well as a man has her daughter Lily held captive. She has to do what he says or Lily dies. His requests are getting stranger and stranger though. She finds her nanny dead with her eyes cut out and now Susan has to drive along a specific route looking at statues along the way, all the while hoping that her daughter doesn't get killed.
Chasing the Dead might have been a great novel by Joe Schreiber, but it's having a rough time in this comic book adaptation. The story seems so ridiculous and there's not much more to go on outside of the weird guy on the phone. It's like a poorly constructed torture-porn movie. Susan isn't getting physically tortured, but her daughter's life is threatened.
There's even a character introduced in this issue whose sole purpose is exposition. This kid named Jeff Tatum jumps into Susan's car and starts rattling off information which will probably be important later. He knew her husband Phil who disappeared a year ago and he has a warning about the route that she's taking through the snow. Oh, and he wants her to memorize a poem. Yes, this strange young man hops into her car, claiming to know her lost husband, and gives her homework.
Dietrich Smith's artwork is uneven throughout Chasing the Dead. The close up shots are great with a lot of detail and very clear images. As the issue progresses, this gets lost. What's interesting is that Smith seems to handle Susan very well when she's bundled up in her winter clothes. When her journey takes her to the back of a strip club where she has to take her clothes off to get a glimpse of her child (I'm not making any of this up), she starts to appear lopsided and awkward, as if Smith isn't sure how to draw the basic female form.
|Alpha Girl #5
Published by Image Comics
Written by Jeff Roenning and Jean-Paul Bonjour
Illustrated by Diego Simone
$2.99, 26 Pages
Judith finally gets to the juvenile hall where her brother Buddy is imprisoned. When a cosmetics company inadvertently turned a bunch of women into raging psychopaths, Buddy was the only thing on Judith's mind. Now that she's sprung him with the help of Frank, the trio kill a whole lot of people.
This is an end of sorts for Alpha Girl, but there are a ton of questions left unanswered. Penny, the busty cashier introduced a few issues back, disappeared and Judith and Frank hope to find her. The world is still in ruins. None of the characters have a real goal outside of maybe finding Penny.
Despite Judith being a kickass chick, Frank has risen to tough guy status. He's taken up the role of the grizzly dude from post-apocalyptic movies. He's Snake Pliskin and Captain Taylor. When Judith asks him what he wants to do next, he tells her that he wants to do a lot of killing and drink some whiskey, but he can't really say if he likes the beverage or not.
Diego Simone's artwork lends itself well to the story in Alpha Girl. It's cartoony and fun while laying on the gore. There is a lot of bloodshed in this comic. People get their heads blown off or just blown up. Nunchucks are used to knock out eyes and club in skulls. It's pretty vicious. Each time Judith, Frank, and Buddy jump into battle, Simone pulls back a little, providing a large panel with a lot going on within it. You can sit and look through these shots for awhile just to catch all the carnage.
I hope this isn't the last of Alpha Girl as there's a lot more story that creators Jeff Roenning and Jean-Paul Bonjour can tell. The characters are interesting and the story is hilarious. It's a zombie apocalypse caused by a makeup company.
|The Pound: Ghouls Night Out #4
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Stephan Nilson
Illustrated by Ibrahim Moustafa
$3.99, 28 Pages
Scottie and Howie's supernatural animal control company has hit the big leagues. They're dealing a federal agency that specializes in things that go bump in the night. One of the agents is Big Foot. Now they're working to try to stop a horde of ghouls from killing the Council of Four, the leaders of the monster community. This is quite a step up for guys that used to catch dogs for a living.
The Pound is a fun comic about dealing with monsters. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it still has some life and death situations. The end of this mini-series came pretty abruptly. It felt like it wrapped up right when things were getting interesting. Scottie and Howie are growing their business, but they have trouble at home. As it turns out, Scottie's son is part werewolf and Howie has a surprise of his own.
This issue also finally gave us a glimpse as to who was pulling the strings in this whole mess. The man in the shadows popped up for just a moment to reveal himself. When you think about it, it's pretty easy to figure out who he is. He is the only classic monster that hadn't been shown.
Artist Ibrahim Moustafa has a talent for creating a casual look for supernatural creatures. They don't look too scary, but you know they can rip your throat out if given the opportunity. This works well with Stephan Nilson's story. I hope he returns for the next mini-series, which can't come soon enough.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Paul Tobin
Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra
$3.99, 28 Pages
Declan has woken up from a decades long haze. His body is cold and his skin is pale. He looks like he's frozen. For the first time in ages, he's mobile and talking. Reece, his caregiver for the past few years, is puzzled but still wants to help. Declan has to get creative to explain what's going on as Reece isn't crazy. Only a crazy person can understand.
This is where author Paul Tobin brings in the most imaginative explanation for madness I've seen in comics. It's something that works perfectly within the medium as well. Declan finds a homeless man on the street who is clearly raving mad. He's talking to himself and muttering about all kinds of nonsense. Declan piggybacks on this man's insanity to show Reece a version of the world viewed through a crazy lens. The buildings don't align and break apart in sporadic pieces. Ghouls roam the streets, presumably feeding on this man's mind. It's disturbing but it's such a great visual explanation of madness. Artist Juan Ferreyra really does a great job with this.
Speaking of Ferreyra, he turns in some fantastic work in this issue. Each panel is beautifully rendered. The scenes set in the real world are bright and vibrant with Declan being the only thing that stands out due to his pale nature. This makes the scenes set in the world of insanity really pop because it's the complete opposite. It's dark and gritty but with a great edge to it.
Colder really shaped up with this issue. The first chapter was a little slow, but this one fills in a lot of the gaps and makes me a lot more excited for the series.
|Black Acre #1
Published by Image Comics
Written by Duffy Boudreau
Illustrated by Wendell Cavalcanti
$2.99, 26 Pages
You know how Dawn of the Dead is a social commentary on the way things were in the 1970s? Black Acre is like that but present day and it does a great job of it. Faced with a rising economic crisis, the US government sells a huge chunk of land to a bunch of rich white people. They were meant to use the land for energy and develop new energy solutions and military technologies. Instead they built a walled garden for all the wealthy people to live in as the world went to shit similar to Land of the Dead but with 100% less John Leguizamo. Decades later, the one-percenters are still living in luxury while pirates and hostiles roam the wilderness.
This comic is exactly how a first issue should be. It presents a cool idea and runs with it. You're dropped right into the action of a really interesting setup and one that you can almost see happening. That's what makes it scary. There are snapshots of several different cultures throughout the book. You're given just enough information to draw you in.
Artist Wendell Cavalcanti creates this dystopian world almost like a film. His work could easily be translated to the big screen. The art direction is top notch. There are a few awkward poses here and there, but aside from that, the characters really stand out. Cavalcanti gets to draw zombies, pirates, and futuristic soldiers all in one comic. That has to be fun.
|Grimm Fairy Tales 2012 Holiday Special
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Written by Pat Shand
Illustrated by Various Artists
$5.99, 48 Pages
It's that time of year again and Zenescope has prepared a new Holiday Special to bring in the season with busty women. As with the Halloween Special, this one-shot has a main arc with some side stories breaking it up. In this case, it's framed by a group of high school students that have broken into a mall after hours with the help of a creepy and lecherous twenty-something. They're all looking for various items when they're stopped separately by a mall Santa that's still hanging out around the stores. He offers each of them the option of calling the cops or listening to a story. Unfortunately for them, the story usually ends in death.
There are three different tales included in this Holiday Special, but the one that stands out the most is the first one, entitled "Frosty the Snowman." A man kills his wife around Christmas. He drives out to a field and buries her next to a snowman. Somehow the wife's spirit possesses the snowman and she starts fighting back. This is a disturbing idea to begin with, but what makes it a great comic is the detail. As the snow-wife is beating the man to death, the sound effects read "Thumpity Thump Thump." I laughed so hard when I saw this. It's such a nice touch and it makes the book work so well.
Unfortunately, the other two tales pale in comparison to this one. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is rather boring, showing a twin who just wants her sister back from the dead. Be careful what you wish for...yada yada yada. "Twelve Days of Christmas" takes the idea of all those lame gifts from the most annoying holiday song and turns them into unsettling acts of murder.
The overall story gets tied in to the main Grimm Fairy Tales universe as Sela Mathers shows up to put an end to the mall Santa and his evil work. It felt like this was thrown in at the end and wasn't all that necessary.
I wish I could tell you who did the artwork on this book but I can't find it anywhere. It's pretty uneven, but the pencils on "Frosty the Snowman" stand out. It's a simple layout that works very well with the story. There's something terrifying about a snowman with a smile made out of coal viciously beating a man to death.
Also on comic shelves this week but not covered here were...
- Animal Man #15 (DC Comics)
- Swamp Thing #15 (DC Comics)
- Dark Shadows / Vampirella #5 (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Haunted Horror #2 (IDW Publishing)
- Black Kiss II #5 (Image Comics)
- Perhapanauts: Danger Down Under #2 (Image Comics)
- Storm Dogs #2 (Image Comics)
- Ferals #11 (Avatar Press)
- Stitched #10 (Avatar Press)
- Planet Of The Apes Cataclysm #4 (BOOM! Studios)
- Lady Death #24 (Boundless Comics)
- Shadowman #2 (Valiant Entertainment)
It was a pretty light week for graphic novels, but there were still some choice titles that were released.
- BPRD: Hell On Earth - Vol 4: Devils Engine And The Long Death (Dark Horse Comics)
- Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season 9): Vol 2 - On Your Own (Dark Horse Comics)
- I Zombie: Vol 4 - Repossession (Vertigo)
- KISS Vol 1 (IDW Publishing)
- Hoax Hunters: Vol 1 - Murder Death And The Devil (Image Comics)
- Anomaly (Anomaly Productions)
- Valen The Outcast: Vol 2 (BOOM! Studios)
- Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites (Dial Books)
- Dreamless (Keenspot Entertainment)
That does it for this week's edition of Funny Book Splatter. You've read my thoughts on the week's horror comics but I want to hear yours. Let me know in the comments!
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