Bedlam #4
Published by Image Comics
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo
$3.50, 32 Pages

The reformed Madder Red has been trying to help the police solve a series of gruesome murders.  They think he's the killer and a total loon at that, but he's genuinely trying to help them.  As a former serial killer himself, he sees things that they can't.  More victims turn up when he's in custody, so the plot thickens.

The actual murderer in Bedlam is depicted as a twisted angel of death.  At first the theory is that he's hunting people that somehow escaped death, such as surviving a car crash.  We were shown glimpses of the killer previously, but this time we get to see him in action and he's cool and calculated.  He knows exactly what he's doing and he can cause panic at a moment's notice, disappearing into the crowd.  He has a pair of distorted mechanical wings that seem to be detachable.  These show up when he's ready to kill.  The guy also takes off all his clothes revealing the fact that he's a eunuch.  

The trouble with this situation is that the killer is upping his game.  It's not enough to secretly take out one person at a time.  He's now evolved into a full-fledged super villain.  It's a good thing that the police have Madder Red in their corner.  Of course, they don't know that this man used to terrorize the city years ago.  

Riley Rossmo's artwork matches up to the frenetic pace of Bedlam.  It's like he drew everything very quickly trying to keep up with the story.  This hasn't hurt the quality of the pencils.  This issue lulls you into a false sense of security as the police sit back on their laurels, thinking that they've found their guy.  This is like the part of a procedural cop show like Law & Order, where things look wrapped up and then a brand new piece of evidence changes everything.

Author Nick Spencer lets Rossmo spread his proverbial wings in several scenes.  The last three pages are presented without any text at all.  You just sit and watch as the serial killer starts on his next rampage.  The silence of the scene really builds up the tension.

Bedlam is like C.S.I. on crack.  There's a super hero element, but the focus is on the psychology of the villains and whether or not they can be cured of their evil tendencies.  I guess it's more like Silence of the Lambs with super powers. 

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall: 4 Stars

 

Ex Sanguine #5
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Joshua Scott Emmons and Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Tim Seeley
$3.99, 24 Pages

The killer stands revealed as of the last issue so slight spoilers ahead if you haven't read issue #4.  The call was coming from inside the house the whole time.  Wait, wrong movie.  The serial killer was actually Agent Quinn, one of the people investigating the case.  That's convenient, isn't it?  Saul sees this as an opportunity to clear his name, but Ashley wants to live forever like her vampire boyfriend.  She wants to use these murders as a legacy.  Their torrid love affair ends the way it began: in blood.

Ex Sanguine has been a rocky romance story with a detective angle thrown in.  Authors Joshua Scott Emmons and Tim Seeley have weaved this tale through twists and turns.  Saul was a red herring for the murderer.  He's an obvious choice being that he's a vampire, but he's smarter than that.  He hasn't gotten to be this old by being sloppy.  Although he has a level head about survival, he loses control a bit when Ashley comes into the picture.  

She's a whirlwind of a character.  Ashley has some deep issues that date back to her asshole of a father.  Saul has helped her solve one of her problems, but she's still carrying around a lot of baggage.  The ending of this issue leaves her path open-ended as she pursues the next piece of her past that her father took from her.

Seeley's artwork manages to be both gorgeous and gory.  Ashley is beautiful but deadly.  There's a great moment at the beginning of the issue where she tries to use her feminine wiles to get into a crime scene.  Unfortunately the hike of her skirt is ineffective against the gay police officer guarding the area.  When she shows that bit of leg, a garter is revealed showing the sharp fountain pen that she stole earlier in the series.  She uses it as a weapon and she's very efficient with it.  

Ex Sanguine created a new spin on the romance / vampire genre.  It's somewhere between True Blood and Bonnie & Clyde.  There are some bits and pieces that are left unanswered or not explained enough for my tastes.  This might read better in the trade.  One thing is clear though:  There's definitely room for the story to continue, but whether or not Saul and Ashley will cross paths again is up in the air.

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall: 3.5 Stars

 

The New Ghostbusters #1
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Erik Burnham
Illustrated by Dan Schoening and Erik Burnham
$3.99, 24 Pages

The Ghostbusters are abducted by weird paranormal versions of themselves and plopped into limbo.  Now Janine is left to run things on her own, but fortunately she's got a few people around to help her out.  There's Kylie Griffin, the manager of Ray's occult bookstore, and Melanie Ortiz, an FBI special agent based out of New Mexico who has befriended Peter.  This sounds great at first.  Three chicks teaming up to find the Ghostbusters and do a bit of ghost busting themselves.  That is, until they realize that it's very difficult to operate this equipment that is akin to strapping a nuclear reactor to your back.  

That's where Gregory Peck and P.C.O.C. step in.  He has ideas for how to regulate this new team and more importantly, how the city can make money off of it.  He piles a mound of red tape on the girls and a new team member in Ron Alexander, the leader of the now defunct Ghost Smashers.  

This is an interesting turn for the Ghostbusters comic.  I'm iffy about it though because I love the original team.  They're not entirely absent from the book, but their time is limited, allowing this new group to shine.  The reason for their disappearance is a big mystery.  There is absolutely no explanation given.  Outside of Janine, I don't have much of a connection with any of the characters, and what I do  is rocky at best.  As Peck points out several times in this issue, she's a secretary.

Dan Schoening continues to shine as the artist.  I'm glad that they didn't break up this creative team with the comic's relaunch as they work very well together.  Schoening walks the fine line between humor and terror.  He ends up mostly on the humor side, which makes the ghosts much scarier.  The demon version of Peter that shows up at the beginning of the issue is very creepy.  

Also included with this issue is a backup strip written and illustrated by Burnham set in the Real Ghostbusters universe.  This is an eight-page story that will be broken up over several issues, so you only get two pages this time around.  The story focuses on what happens to a ghost after it's put into the containment unit.  This seems interesting, but splitting the strip up like this seems like a waste.  It's only eight pages.  Just put them all at the back or just include them in the trade.

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall: 3.5 Stars

 

Hoax Hunters #7
Published by Image Comics
Written by Michael Moreci & Steve Seeley
Illustrated by Axel Medellin
$2.99, 32 Pages

When we last left the Hoax Hunters, they were challenged by conspiracy theorists to disprove the legend of the Hauncheyville gnomes.  This led to the gruesome death of one of the paranoid Hoax Hunters Hunters (Yes, that's their brilliant name) and the kidnapping of Ken Cadaver.  Meanwhile, shady bossman Donavan has tagged along for this trip and it's making the rest of the team uncomfortable.  There's something slimy and evil about him and no one knows exactly what it is...until now.

This issue of Hoax Hunters fills in a LOT of information on Ken Cadaver and to some extent, Donavan.  If you've been following the series from the beginning like me (which you should have because this is great), this represents a huge payoff.  Ken is like a walking, talking zombie, and it turns out he developed a reanimation technology for his wife who was dying of cancer.  This paints him as a tragic hero in line with characters like Mr. Freeze, going through a dramatic transformation in an effort to save the love of his life.  Ken is forced to relive these memories that he had thought were locked away thanks to the albino king of the gnomes, who is not a gnome at all.  He's actually rather tall and thin, sort of like a psychic Voldemort.

The stuff about Ken was great, but Donavan's creep factor is raised to 11.  His origin story isn't revealed here.  Instead we get a glimpse of the strings he's pulling behind the scenes and they are not pretty.  His endgame is not yet known but he's playing fast and loose with the Hoax Hunters and the lives of nearby civilians.  One thing is for certain thoug:  Regardless of how bad you think your boss is, he doesn't have sharp, pointed teeth and a pet golem ready to do his bidding, so your job is probably pretty good by comparison.

The gnomes are probably the most disturbing things you'll see in a comic this week.  These are like the demented children of Shrek and the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.  They're stumpy and powerful.  They work as a team, rampaging at your ankles and kneecaps.  Artist Axel Medellin brought them to life and I'd almost rather he didn't.  They're a far cry from David the Gnome.

Medellin has a great full page spread of Ken when he's reliving some lost memories.  His face is at the center, screaming in pain as pieces of his life flash around him including running on a beach with his wife, carrying her over the threshold, and receiving a medal.  His anguish is framed by these scenes of happiness in a nice contrast.

Murder continues to be my favorite character in the book even though he doesn't actually say anything outside of the occasional "Kaw."  When he's tagged into the action, Jack finds him alone in a hotel room, sitting on the bed with crows spread out amongst the entire place.  It's an awesome shot that needs no other explanation.  It has an eerie feeling.

During the first arc, the Hoax Hunters had to stop a dimension-hopping cult leader with a huge monster made up of all the creatures it had killed.  Now they're fighting a group of ugly gnomes with a psychic albino capable of ripping off a man's head, not to mention an evil from within in the form of Donavan.  It's safe to say that the stakes have been raised a bit.  Damn, this is a great comic.

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall:

 

The Strain #11
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by David Lapham
Illustrated by Mike Huddleston
$3.50, 24 Pages

This is it.  Dark Horse's adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain wraps up with this issue.  The master has successfully infected hundreds of people in Manhattan with the vampire virus.  Now an unusual trio heads into the underground to destroy the beast once and for all.  Armed with UV lights, swords, and nail guns, will it be enough?

I have yet to read The Strain Trilogy, but this comic has definitely moved the books up higher in my "To Read" pile.  It's a clinical strike on New York City and it shows just how unprepared we are for an attack of this kind.  Forget bombs.  We should be afraid of vampires.  After 10 issues of confusion, Eph, Vasiliy, and the Professor are finally taking the fight to the bloodsuckers.  This entire chapter consists of vampire violence as the three of them tear through the opposing force.  This is what would have happened had the powers that be had any idea what they were up against.

While this is a satisfying end, I think it will work better when read in a collected volume.  As a standalone issue, it felt a little rushed as author David Lapham tried to tie up the remaining loose ends to finish up the adaptation of the first novel in the series.  

I've said it throughout the entire series, but Mike Huddleston's art looks comical with The Strain.  I like his style, however it's not a fit for a story that is as serious as this one.  Basic anatomy is distorted, giving people tiny hands, feet, and heads.  It's very distracting to see as you go through the issue.  Huddleston's depiction of the master is pretty badass though.  He's shown as a giant, looming over the Professor in a long cloak.  His body is gnarly and looks like a skeleton.  

It should also be noted that E.M. Gist's cover for this issue is nothing short of awesome.  You can't look at that image and not want to kick some vampire ass.

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall: 3 stars

 

Fatale #12
Published by Image Comics
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips
$3.50, 32 Pages

The story of Josephine gets stranger with this standalone story in Fatale.  Up until now, the comic has been focused in the 1950s and later, but this issue jumps back to 1286, where a witch named Mathilda is being burned at the stake in France.  She has powers similar to Josephine in that she has a strange effect on men.  That's what led to her precarious situation.  She's not going down that easy though, and she fights her way through the men that would have burned her alive, thinking that she has escaped her fate.  Of course, it's never that easy, especially in this comic.

I have no idea how this ties into the main story of Fatale, but it's still an interesting tale.  Mathilda could be Josephine's ancestor or it could be Jo herself.  She can't be killed or hurt.  Her wounds heal within moments of being inflicted.  

What I'm most interested in are the bizarre creatures that Mathilda sees as she runs through the woods looking for safety.  There's a creepy ghost owl, a hanged man with horns, and some sort of large, orange fish thing.  Throughout this journey, the narration points out that she can now see "secret paths and the things that walked upon them."  But what the hell are they?  I love the mystery and intrigue of Fatale, but sometimes I just want answers.  

Artist Sean Phillips is still pretty great.  This isn't surprising.  If you're reading Fatale (and you should be), you know that there's going to be some pretty damn good art inside.  Those aforementioned monsters that Mathilda runs into are each enough to give you a nightmare.  Phillips adds so much more to the issue.  For example, Mathilda ends up hiding out in a cabin with an old man named Ganix.  The forest around them seems to move to keep her protected...or keep her a prisoner.  Phillips frames some of the panels with trees and branches, making it look like they're surrounding the cabin and Mathilda.  It's subtle but it speaks volumes.

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall: 3 stars

 

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - The Abyss of Time #2 (B.P.R.D. #104)
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Illustrated by James Harren
$3.50, 26 Pages

After finding an odd sword in an abandoned warehouse, a B.P.R.D. agent is sent to the far past...or far future.  It's unclear, but he inhabits the body of Gall Dennar, the leader of a tribe living in fear of the Cold People and other monsters that are roaming the area.  Dennar is tired of this and decides to lead a force to the Cold People and prevent the monsters from rising to power.  

This all sounds pretty cool, but I don't really care about Dennar or the agent he once was.  Mike Mignola has been raising the visibility of some of the human agents in the Bureau, but I don't know much about this one.  I don't even remember his name.  I'm not sure how this arc ties in to the overall Hell on Earth storyline, but it didn't do much for me.  

James Harren can draw some violence.  When Dennar's tribe starts fighting the Cold People, it gets brutal.  Dennar's sword hacks through his opponents in really vicious ways.  He slices through jaws and necks like butter, making the blood flow.  This leads to the release of a huge beast that is so friggin' creepy.  Yes, it's covered in tentacles, but it has nothing to do with Cthulu as far as I can tell.  It lashes out, grabbing any living thing in its perimeter, pulling them into its gaping mouth.  

The Abyss of Time feels like a low-tech version of Prophet from Image Comics.  It didn't strike me as terribly scary and I don't see the connection yet.  The sword might prove to be an important artifact in the coming issues. 

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall: 2 Stars

 

True Blood #9
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Annie Nocenti and Michael McMillian
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos and Beni Lobel
$3.99, 32 Pages

The Ghost Pack of werewolves is set to exterminate the town of Bon Temps.  Now Alcide, Eric, and Sookie are preparing to stop them.  What follows is non-stop monster-on-monster violence.  

I like the idea of the Ghost Pack.  They pray to the god Croatoan and they're responsible for mass disappearances in towns throughout history such as Roanoke.  It's a great tie-in to those unsolved mysteries.  Of course, it still presents numerous questions, like how the pack managed to kill everyone while making it look like everyone vanished.  Wouldn't they have left blood or other signs of a struggle?

Anyway, lots of violence!  That's what you get with this issue of True Blood.  Vampires fighting werewolves.  Werewolves fighting werewolves.  Humans shooting at werewolves.  It bounces between battles as the leader of the Ghost Pack is trading barbs with Eric and Alcide while the rest of his group is trying to kill the sheriff and his family with Tara and Pam.  

The artwork for this issue is split between Michael Gaydos and Beni Lobel.  Their styles are very different and it's easy to spot who did what.  Gaydos is very heavy on the inks, creating thick lines that surround the characters in shadow.  This can be distracting as it makes the characters look very generic.  Lobel is the opposite, providing very clear pencils and characters that look just like the actors that portray them in the show.  

This arc felt like a mini-season of True Blood, where the Ghost Pack came in to town.  It could have used a little more time to breathe, but I'm not sure if writers Annie Nocenti and Michael MacMillian had much more of a story to fill in the space.  It was a good idea, but it just didn't go much farther.  The Croatoan amulet could prove to be a valuable artifact of power as it allowed the leader of the Ghost Pack to fight off vampires like they were nothing.

 

Grades:

 

 
Overall: 3 stars

 

 

 

Buy Buffy Season 9 comics at TFAW.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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