It's a big week for fans of horror comics. Lots of new books of all shapes and sizes. Let's take a look at what his the stands.
The Manhattan Projects #1
I've heard nothing but great things about Jonathan Hickman's writing, but this is the first comic of his that I've ever read. It certainly has an interesting premise. It takes the story of Robert Oppenheimer, the man responsible for the atomic bomb, and puts him in a bit of historical fiction. Instead of being recruited to the Manhattan Project for the sole purpose of developing this weapon of mass destruction, he's brought in to the Manhattan Projects — plural — where the bomb can still be created but he can also focus on all sorts of other ideas that may pop out of his genius mind.
This alternate version of the United States is under constant attack by the Japanese. In this issue we see them attack with a Red Torii, a portal that's dropped on the lab and unleashes a hoard of samurai robots Zen-powered by Death Buddhists.
In this world, Oppenheimer had a twin brother. While Robert grew up to be a successful scholar, his brother Joseph was a madman with a super IQ. Their lives parallel one another and connect in a very interesting way towards the end of this issue.
The artwork on Manhattan Projects was handled by Nick Pitarra. His work reminds me of that of Frank Quitely very much. It has that same wiggly look to it, but unlike Quitely, Pitarra's characters look like actual people. I like the way he depicts Oppenheimer as this pencil-thin, stoic super genius. The scene with the Red Torii is great too, with a huge spread of these robots just storming the base. Pitarra pulls back to give a good idea of the scope of the attack.
Manhattan Projects sets the ground for a really cool premise. There are all sorts of pieces to the puzzle that Hickman lays out here. Some parts are a little wacky and are reminiscent of the work of Warren Ellis, which is never a bad thing. I'm not sure if this is going to still be a fit for Funny Book Splatter moving forward, but it's certainly a fun book.
True Blood: The French Quarter #6
As a fan of the HBO TV show, I am always down for more True Blood. This month sees the conclusion of the French Quarter mini-series where Eric, Bill, and Sookie head down to New Orleans to investigate a series of vampire murders. The previous issue revealed the murdered to be Le Deux, an ex-lover of Lorena's, and Bill's previous love interest. Everybody fights. Some blood goes all over the place. Hilarity and sexual tension ensue.
As this comic is based on the TV show, the characters have to bear a resemblance to the actors. Unfortunately, Claudia Balboni's artwork looks nothing like Anna Paquin and the other people from the show. Admittedly, a tie-in comic is a tough job for any artist because of this. Aside from the non-look-a-likes, Balboni's artwork isn't bad. These characters show up in just about every panel so it can get a little distracting when you know they don't look like how they're supposed to look.
I'm usually able to find something to enjoy out of every comic that I read, but I am truly struggling to find something I really liked in True Blood: French Quarter. The story was mediocre. The artwork was alright. What really bothered me, though, was the narration. Not so much in this issue, but throughout the entire mini-series there were these boxes that would show up almost like the old Pop-Up Video to provide basic background info or other tidbits that were completely obvious. No one is thinking these pieces of exposition. They're just there to spell it out for anyone that doesn't get it. There's only a few in this issue, but the ones that do appear are awful. A writer shouldn't have to depend on a faceless voice to explain the feelings of their characters.
After spending the bulk of the story in the past, we're given an update on Nicolas Lash as he's recovering from his brutal car accident with Josephine in the present. Nicolas, now with only one leg, dives into the lost manuscript of his now-deceased godfather Hank Raines and it proves to be unlike anything he's ever seen. This is but an interlude as we get back to the main story of Raines and this mysterious woman who doesn't seem to age.
Fatale is just dripping with noir and Sean Phillips' artwork accentuates this tenfold. He's got some great panel setups throughout the issue. One that really drew me in was towards the end of the book, where there's a close-up shot of Josephine's eye. The look of it just screams spider woman. You can tell so much about her character from that one shot and yet she's still a mystery.
This issue moves a lot of pieces around the chess board. The supernatural elements are a little light this time around, but several gaps are filled in. I have faith in that Brubaker and Phillips know what they're doing with their latest love letter to pulp fiction.
Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
IDW's ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series is easily one of the best comics being published today. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that heroes on a half shell would be included in the big crossover event that sees Lovecraftian monsters invading the IDWverse. After being somewhat let down by the previous tie-ins, I was hoping the Turtles could come to the rescue.
Everything is business as usual for the four brothers until some strange disappearances start to stump the cops. An odd creature was shot during one of the abductions, but information is scarce. The sewer home of the Turtles is then invaded by a fierce creature which sets them on the trail of some tunnels deep under New York City.
Mark Torres art here is pretty solid. It actually reminds me of a lighter version of the stuff you see in the pages of Hellboy. I had some issue with the colors by Jay Fotos, though. The Turtles all look alike and the way you tell them apart is by their unique weapons and different colored headbands. Both Donatello and Leonardo have the same shade in this issue, so it's difficult to tell the two of them apart.
Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles manages to walk the fine line between the humor that I've grown to love from these characters and the mind-bending terror you'd expect from Lovecraft. It's an odd mix and I'm not entirely sold on it, but this is the tie-in that I have the highest hopes for. Hopefully this will prove true with the second issue.
30 Days of Night #5
Eben returns to the town of Barrow, Alaska and holy shit is it bloody. He tears through the townsfolk like a hot knife through butter, truly decimating the area. Meanwhile, the FBI is trying to keep the recent vampire sightings under wraps by any means necessary. The 30 Days of Night ongoing series is shaping up to be a conspiracy laden gorefest.
Sam Kieth is off the artwork for this issue, being replaced by Davide Furno with the help of Paolo Armitano. I'm not familiar with their work so I can't tell who handled which parts of the book, but the pencils are a definite step up from the previous arc. Things are much clearer and the characters look less like they belong in a Peanuts comic strip.
This issue is probably the bloodiest comic you will read all month. There were decapitations (Yes, that's plural). People get their throats ripped out. It is gruesome. It's also damn fun and much more deserving of the name 30 Days of Night.
Valen the Outcast #4
Poor Valen cannot catch a break. His soul is taken by the necromancer Norrus Kull, turning him into an abomination. First his friend Zjanna is possessed by Kull to try to reign Valen in and now Cordovan, his other traveling companion, is captured by the Order. This guy has no luck whatsoever. Fortunately, he settles his problems with violence and there's plenty of that to go around when one of Kull's soldiers show up.
Matteo Scalera's art keeps up with the frenetic pace set by author Michael Alan Nelson. While there are some more subdued scenes, where Scalera really shines is during the battles. At least half of this issue is made up of big fight scenes as Valen, Zjanna, and Cordovon take on Ivo and the members of the Order.
Valen the Outcast is shaping up to be a damn fine horror fantasy comic. It's filled with gore and some of it is a little over the top, but it works here. Seriously, there's a panel where Valen performs five decapitations in one swing of his massive sword. That's insane. The final pages of his issue provide a few more choice pieces of information to the story that are sure to enrich the mythos created here.
Life isn't easy when you're a fallen angel trying to do the Lord's work on earth. After Father Michael went nuts and killed 27 cops and several other people, Avengelyne wants to bring him in. She doesn't think it's his fault, though. She thinks he's possessed. Unfortunately for her, the War Dogs have arrived to take down Father Michael, who's now calling himself Priest and sporting some white face paint.
Owen Gieni's artwork gives the comic a softer touch. Avengelyne looks like a big-eyed sweetheart in every other panel which makes her battle with the War Dogs interesting to say the least. Gieni's style is changed a bit during a flashback scene to Priest's time in the war. It's a nice effect and it works well.
This book is a relaunch of a Rob Liefeld creation and you can almost tell this without looking at the cover drawn in his signature style. Despite the fact that the main character is a woman, Avengelyne is oozing with testosterone. Every character is a super tough guy and they all speak in awful puns. I like the idea behind the book, but the dialogue is tough to get through.
Also on shelves this week, but not reviewed here are:
- Animal Man #7 (DC Comics)
- Beyond the Fringe #1 (DC Comics)
- Night Force #1 (DC Comics)
- Supernatural #6 (DC Comics)
- Swamp Thing #7 (DC Comics)
- iZombie #23 (Vertigo)
- Vampirella vs Dracula #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Spawn #217 (Image Comics)
- Magdalena #11 (Top Cow Productions)
- Rachel Rising #6 (Abstract Studios)
- Helldorado #3 (Ape Entertainment)
- Crossed: Get Infected: C-Day Edition (Avatar Press)
- Ferals #3 (Avatar Press)
- Stitched #3 (Avatar Press)
- Hellraiser: Masterpieces #9 (BOOM! Studios)
- Lady Death #15 (Boundless Comics)
- Salem's Daughter: The Haunting #5 (Zenescope Entertainment)
That's a lot of books! But that's not all! We've also got a few choice trades that came out this week.
- Hellboy: Volume 12 - The Storm and the Fury (Dark Horse Comics) - HorrorTalk Review
- The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor Archives: Volume 4 (Dark Horse Comics)
- '68: Volume 1 - Better Run Through the Jungle (Image Comics)
- Vault: Volume 1 (Image Comics)
- Extinct (215 Ink)
- Sparko (Amaze Ink / Slave Labor Graphics)
You've heard what I had to say about this week's horror comics, but I want to know what was on your pull list. Hit me up in the comments!
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