A pretty big week for horror comics with a nice range of titles. Should have something for everyone so let's get into it, shall we?
Published by Top Cow Productions
Written by Ron Marz
Illustrated by Nelson Blake II and David Marquez
$3.99, 32 Pages
The One, True Cross arc comes to a close this month as Patience, the descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, teams up with Sara Pezzini, the bearer of the Witchblade, to stop a giant dragon that's been brought to life with the Spear of Destiny and a piece of the cross that Jesus was crucified on. Wow. That's a mouthful. This all sounds really complicated but it's far from it. Author Ron Marz crafts this story in a pretty simple setup. There's a big dragon and an evil stereotypical Asian guy (complete with Fu Manchu mustache) that need to be taken down. Let's do this.
|B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell One-Shot
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Illustrated by Max Fiumara
$3.50, 24 Pages
You ever see a weird guy walking around muttering to himself? That's J.H. O'Donnell at the B.P.R.D. office in Colorado. He's incredibly intelligent, but he seems a little crazy. I've seen him pop up in some recent Mignola-verse books, but didn't think much about him. Now we're given a bit of back story for O'Donnell and how he got that way.
Over twenty years ago he went out to examine a library that was said to have included numerous occult books. An expert in ancient languages, O'Donnell was excited to check it out. Hellboy tagged along to supervise, but wasn't too excited about protecting this professor next to a bunch of old tomes. O'Donnell found a lot more than just a few books and stumbled onto something that would drive a man insane. Being that this is the B.P.R.D., there's no shortage of those kind of things, but this one seems like it could have a connection to a certain writer from Massachusetts and his squid-faced friends.
Max Fiumara's artwork is light and airy, which manages to capitalize on the humor in all the right places. You can't help but laugh when you see O'Donnell pop up in the first couple pages with his bugged out eyes as he rambles on to another doctor who has clearly heard way too much from him. It's slightly cartoonish, but it works very well. Fiumara also delivers on the spooky when things get hairy in the flashback. There are some really scary panels towards the end of this issue with faces being ripped off. If you ever needed a reminder of the kind of creepy stuff that B.P.R.D. is capable of, look no further.
This one-shot looks like it's laying out some ground work for even more big bads for the B.P.R.D. to encounter as they go through Hell on Earth. Even though Hellboy is dead, we get another chapter featuring one of his older adventures here. My favorite part of the whole issue is the line that I think sums up the character completely: "Hellboy, of course, somehow ran into a monster, and burned the house down."
|Angel & Faith #10
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Christos Gage
Illustrated by Chris Samnee
$2.99, 24 Pages
With Drucila taken care of for the moment, Angel & Faith return home to the Giles residence to relax for a bit. Instead they're confronted by Rupert's aunts, Lavinia and Sophronia. They are, in so many words, total stuck-up bitches. They've been using magic for ages to selfishly keep themselves young, which is quite the opposite of what Giles aimed for with duty and honor. It seems that the pair have made several deals over the years with some ugly monsterish types which came due when they got their first grey hairs. Now that magic is gone, they've started to age, and the creatures have come to collect.
What follows is a pretty funny monster beat 'em up as Angel & Faith take on a wide assortment of beasts while Lavinia and Sophronia complain and take up space. Anyone that's watched a sitcom in the past thirty years will have an idea of the kind of people these two are. You instantly hate them and want to see them get their comeuppance. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they're going anywhere too soon.
We also get another look back at the childhood of Giles. This comic is about him just as much as it's about the title characters. Angel is on a quest to bring him back to life in an effort to redeem himself from all the wrongs he did as Twilight. This quest is dangerous, but seeing bits of Giles' life like the one we get here make me think that the world would really be better if he was around again.
Chris Samnee picked up the art duties for this stand alone issue, giving Rebakah Isaacs a break. Fortunately Samnee keeps a similar style to Isaacs, which keeps the momentum of the book going. He does a great job with the design of the aunts. It's clear before they even say a word that they're total snobs. The horde of monsters is varied and impressive. Everything from giant spiders to fat slobs.
This was a nice departure from the serious drama that we saw with the previous arc entitled Daddy Issues. Seeing Angel & Faith fight all those monsters was pretty funny and it's basically like a montage in the comic. It's not all fun and games, though, as we're reminded why this book exists in the first place, and that's to bring back Giles.
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari
Illustrated by menton3
$3.99, 32 Pages
Monocyte wraps up this month with the title character finally arriving at his target. War rages around him as these two ancient races clash, but what need is there for a necromancer when the battle is over? What purpose does he have now?
This is probably one of the most intelligent comics that I've read in a long time. This is both a good and a bad thing. It's great because Monocyte is unlike anything you'll read in comics today and certainly different than anything you'd get from the big two publishers. On the downside, it was released bi-monthly, so by the time the next issue came out, I had forgotten pieces of the story and had to go back to refresh my memory. I think the collected edition of Monocyte will be a bit easier to digest.
One thing is for certain -- and I've said this about every issue -- is that menton3 is a dynamite artist. His work alone is worth the price of admission. I wish more comics looked like this. It's beautiful and epic while at the same time creepy and unsettling. Ben Templesmith also contributes a two page spread in the issue which was a welcome surprise.
Monocyte is a huge story crammed into just four issues. I'd be lying if I said that I picked up on every single detail on my first read through. As I mentioned above, The graphic novel will be a better way to take on this story. It's definitely worth checking out, though, because you will not see another book like it this year.
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Erik Burnham
Illustrated by Dan Schoening
$3.99, 32 Pages
Road trip! The Ghostbusters are in high demand all across the country so the city of New York has sent them out to wrangle a few spirits...for a price of course. While they have several stops scheduled, that's not going to prevent them from popping some ghosts that they encounter as they drive through the states.
This issue reminded me a lot of the Real Ghostbusters TV show where the team is sent on a bizarre adventure outside of their comfort zone of NYC. They're on the road with portable equipment, making due in unfamiliar surroundings and cracking jokes along the way. The humor was amped up a bit here, from Winston requiring a signed Wings jersey to complete the job to Venkman giving out samples of "Ahgotcha" juice to trick the ghost army.
Dan Schoening matches that cartoonish feel with his artwork. It's light but the ghosts are still pretty spooky. The Ghostbusters capture a weird two-headed "crybaby bridge manifestation" at the beginning of this issue that will easily provide fuel for my nightmares for the next few evenings. Similarly, Anthony Wayne, the leader of the ghost army amassed in Detroit is pretty creepy, although he reminds me more of Jonah Hex.
I'm interested to see what's next on the Ghostbusting road trip. I'm also interested to see what's going on with Egon. He's been distant lately and there's definitely something bugging him about all this paranormal activity that's crept up.
|Road Rage #4
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Richard Matheson
Adapted by Chris Ryall
Illustrated by Rafa Garres
$3.99, 24 Pages
The adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic Duel finishes with this issue. Mann is desperate as the ominous truck looms in his rear view mirror. He frantically passes the 18-wheeler that is clearly out to get him, but for an unknown reason. Then he takes his car to the limits.
I don't envy Chris Ryall with this writing gig. Adapting anything for another medium can be tough but he has the unlucky position of doing so for giants in the literary world such as Stephen King and Matheson. That being said, Ryall manages to cram the entire story of Duel into just two issues without losing any of the momentum or tension that made the original story so good.
Ryall had help though. This book wouldn't be the same without Rafa Garres' art. He gives it a pulp feel which is perfect for Matheson's story. The pencils feel washed out which helps amplify the desperation that Mann finds himself in. Mann also transforms as the issue continues. His face starts to distort in pain and stress. This is what a man at the end of his rope looks like. By the end, he's a completely different person than the one that set out on this easy cross country drive.
|Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Alice in Wonderland #6
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Written by Raven Gregory
Illustrated by Robert Gill
$4.99, 50 Pages
This is it. The climactic finale to the prequel to the Wonderland trilogy. Alice has amassed an army of giant chess pieces to go up against the Red Queen and her card soldiers as the Jabberwocky watches on. Things get bloody. Heads literally roll.
There have been some problems with artwork throughout this series, but I was happy to see Robert Gill return as the one and only artist for this issue. It gives the book a more consistent look. Gill's characters are well-proportioned and rarely awkward which was something that popped up numerous times throughout Alice. Where Gill really excels is the art direction. Anyone that's interested in creative storytelling should pick up this comic. It throws conventional panel-by-panel comics out the window. During the big battle, someone flips gravity. Instead of just having everyone start falling up, Gill turns the page. The characters start right side up, then the page is sideways, then the next one is upside down. It's a great affect that is admittedly a little annoying to read as a digital comic but would be awesome as a print issue.
The Alice in Wonderland series lacked the finesse of the original Wonderland trilogy, but it still delivered on some details of Callie's mother's trip down the rabbit hole. The reason for Alice's suicide in the early pages of Return to Wonderland is finally revealed. All this time I just figured she did herself in because she couldn't take the lingering madness that was left within her after escaping from that bizarre world. It was something far more sinister and it makes Alice a tragic character.
|Call of Wonderland #1
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Written by Dan Wickline
Illustrated by Matt Triano and Nacho Arranz
$3.99, 36 Pages
Due to a shipping delay, we've got a double dose of Wonderland from Zenescope. With Alice finishing up, the publisher is working towards the premiere of the Wonderland ongoing series this summer. In the meantime, we've got this four issue mini-series, Call of Wonderland, written by Dan Wickline. A literary student is studying Lovecraft and finds what could be a link between the writer's work and the land of insanity.
First off, I'm really getting tired of Lovecraft. I haven't read any of his original work, but every other comic I pick up lately has something to do with him or Elder Gods. It's really getting tired. Granted, the squid that broke the camel's back was Infestation 2 from IDW where Optimus Prime basically fought Cthulu, but Call of Wonderland feels like a bit of a stretch. We all know the story of Alice and the looking glass. Zenescope has had a great bunch of stories set in this world that feeds off of the madness created in our own. It worked and it tied those old characters together. Now Wickline is trying to also bring in Lovecraft, which makes no sense. I can see the possible connection in that both Lovecraft and Wonderland have ties to insanity, but come on. You already have the mythology setup here. This feels like a desperate way to try to attach to what's semi-popular right now. What's next? Everyone's a zombie?
Anyway, now that I got that mini-rant out of the way, there were some pictures that went with all those words. The artwork is split between Matt Triano and Nacho Arranz with the former handling the flashback scenes to Lovecraft's past and the latter drawing the present day story. Both pay attention to the details, with clear and concise characters. Any panels that don't feature a close up still have a well defined character instead of an approximation of the human form. Arranz wins out with the spooky factor though when giant tentacles start whipping through the library. That was creepy and reminded me too much of Japanese porn.
Call of Wonderland had a whole two pages that had anything to do with the title of the book. Instead we got a weird story about Lovecraft being a voyeur to a monster summoning gone wrong and getting a big nerd boner over it. Was it an interesting story? Sure. Does it fit within the Wonderland mythos? Not at all.
|Grim Leaper #1
Published by Image Comics
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Illustrated by Aluisio Santos
$3.50, 24 Pages
No one knows what happens to us when we die. Do we follow a bright light into heaven? Do we get reincarnated as an ant? Do we just stop being? Lou found out an answer. He's not sure if it's the end-all be-all of life after death, but it's certainly something. You see, he's died thirteen times. Each time he goes through a weird limbo where he's eaten by a living painting. Then he pops up in a new body until he's brutally killed again. He thinks he needs to do something, but he doesn't know what. This is Grim Leaper and it's like a cross between Groundhog Day and Final Destination.
The idea behind this is really interesting, but it opens up so many questions. What happens to the people that Lou jumps into? Do they die too? Are they already dead? How did Lou die originally? What is he supposed to do really? Death doesn't like Lou coming back time and time again but there's some higher power involved that keeps that revolving door to the afterlife spinning for him.
The artwork from Aluisio Santos keeps the story light and humorous. Lou's tale is a tragic one, but it's also pretty funny. He finds a way to laugh at it as he's bumbling through the same bar and trying to avoid bizarre life threatening accidents long enough to possibly score with a girl. The living painting is damn creepy though. It looks a bit like someone but I can't quite place it. This is going to bother me for awhile, but the guy in the frame has brown hair, square shaped glasses and a scruffy beard. He transforms into a clawed creature that eats Lou whole.
Grim Leaper is a refreshing and new idea to come out of comics. It's also something that I could see easily spinning into a TV show like Quantum Leap. It has a lot more dark humor to it than that show ever had.
Also out this week in the wide world of horror comics, but not reviewed here were...
- Animal Man: Annual #1 (DC Comics)
- Diablo #4 (DC Comics)
- American Vampire #27 (Vertigo)
- New Deadwardians #3 (Vertigo)
- Hawken #4 (IDW Publishing)
- Zombies vs Robots Annual 2012 (IDW Publishing)
- Walking Dead #98 (Image Comics)
- Rachel Rising #8 (Abstract Studios)
- Last Zombie Neverland #4 (Antarctic Press)
- Exile On The Planet Of The Apes #3 (BOOM! Studios)
- Gore #6 (G.G. Studio)
- Zombies vs Cheerleaders #7 (Moonstone)
- Grimm Fairy Tales Myths & Legends #17 (Zenescope Entertainment)
- Grimm Fairy Tales Oversized Cosplay Special (Zenescope Entertainment)
And in graphic novel news...
- Baltimore Vol 2 Curse Bells (Dark Horse Comics)
- Zombies Chilling Archives Of Horror Comics (IDW Publishing)
- Darkness Compendium Vol 2 (Top Cow Productions)
- Hack Slash Omnibus Vol 4 (Image Comics)
- Spawn Compendium Vol 1 (Image Comics)
- Stephen Kings Stand Vol 3 Soul Survivors (Marvel Comics)
- A.K.A. (Skatoon Productions)
- Troma Chillers (Transfuzion Publishing)
- Grimm Fairy Tales Myths & Legends Vol 3 (Zenescope Entertainment)
A nice big week for horror fans in the funny books. You've heard my thoughts on the week's comics, but what did you pick up? Let me know in the comments!
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