|Hack / Slash #20
Published by Image Comics
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Elena Casagrande
$3.50, 32 Pages
Poor Cassie Hack. Her life is a never-ending series of bloody fights. She narrowly escaped the island of monsters and almost got killed by Samhain (whom she thought was a friend and possibly more) and then managed to heal Vlad but almost got killed by his family. Now she finds that she might be transforming into the very thing that she hates. After the events in South America, she has some Slasher blood in her. She's fought her entire life to rid the world of these psychopaths and now she's turning into one. Ouch.
Fortunately for her, she has some fantastic friends, specifically Vlad. While Catherine is the one that breaks the news to Cassie, it's the big guy that sees the bigger picture and realizes what it means to her. This issue really explores the relationship between Vlad and Cassie. At times author Tim Seeley literally wrote it out as dialogue between the two, but it's clear that they both really care about each other. It's not a romantic thing but more like long lost siblings. They depend on one another and would do anything to protect the other. Now they're going to go out and kill stuff together because that's what they do.
Elena Casagrande took over the art duties on Hack / Slash with this issue. She brings a very normal look and feel to the book. While Cassie is wearing her typical slutty looking outfit, she looks more like a confused girl with regular everyday problems instead of the no-nonsense slayer of slashers that she's been all this time. She looks vulnerable here and that matches up to Seeley's story very well.
|Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness #2
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Eric Powell with Tracy Marsh
Illustrated by Kyle Hotz
$3.50, 24 Pages
The gang of freaks and weirdos narrowly escape certain death at Loch Ness. They were going to be sacrificed to the beast in the water. Of course, after getting away with their lives, they go visit a nearby fellow named Dracula. Apparently they never heard all those vampire stories with this guy at the center. They're just looking for their friend with alligator skin and Dracula seems to have a collection of strange aquatic creatures. Things go from bad to worse and now they're fighting vampires. Just another day for Billy the Kid and his buddies.
I'm digging this comic, but I'm not entirely pulled in yet. Billy is easily likeable. He doesn't care about even the most basic forms of etiquette. This leads to further problems when he takes up Dracula on his offer for dinner and a place to rest. Being trapped in a castle with a few vampires is not the best place to be.
Artist Kyle Hotz has a great style on Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities. It's dark, but there's a warmth to the characters in the traveling freak show. They're a family and they care about each other, but they clearly still get on each other's nerves and you get that from the images. The monsters really stand out too. Dracula is creepy from the get-go with long fingernails and dour exposition.
|Hoax Hunters #5
Published by Image Comics
Written by Michael Moreci & Steve Seeley
Illustrated by Emilio Laiso
$2.99, 32 Pages
After the introductory arc, we're given a bit of a flashback in Hoax Hunters. We're going back a few years and visiting an orphanage in New Jersey. It's here that a young man is born unlike any other. He has fur all over his body, claws for hands, bat-like wings, a long tail, and a snout like a bull. He's immediately shunned but not killed. Instead he gets to live under the porch, caged like an animal. Everyone treats him like a beast except for one young girl who includes him in a game of tag. Years later the children that were once in that orphanage start dying in mysterious ways. The Jersey Devil is thought to be the culprit.
On the surface, this is set up like your average horror movie. The gargoyle kid gets treated like an outsider and grows up to take revenge on the kids that treated him horribly. It's like the opposite of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Instead, this is a story about compassion and it's so friggin' touching. This girl was the only one to show any sort of care towards the Jersey Devil. When the two of them come finally come face to face as adults (or whatever passes for an adult in his case), you get something you weren't expecting and it's beautiful.
Emilio Laiso worked as a fill-in artist for this one-shot issue and did a great job. The scenes with the children early on are filled with life. These kids have their entire future ahead of them and you can tell that from the expressions on their faces. You would never think that years later they would be brutally murdered. I love the build up to the monster's reveal throughout the issue too. At first you only see it in shadow or its hands peaking out of the fence. Then when it finally come into the light, it's a total shock. It's the kind of scene that would make you jump if it was in a movie.
Hoax Hunters builds on its mythos with this issue and it reinforces the fact that this is a damn good comic. If you get to the end of this issue and that cold nugget in your chest that you call a heart doesn't swell just a little bit, you're not human. Yes, I'm saying that about a comic book about a horrific monster that killed a bunch of orphans (albeit, grown up ones). It's that good. This is one of the best single issues I've read all year.
|Ex Sanguine #2
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Joshua Scott Emmons and Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Tim Seeley
$3.99, 24 Pages
The vampire romance gets a bit more twisted in this month's Ex Sanguine. What started as a harmless flirtation between an old vampire and a pyschopathic murderer-waitress has blossomed into love or the next closest thing considering the parties involved. They've bonded over blood, but it's clear that Ashley has some ulterior motives to her newfound crush.
This issue is definitely a pickup from last month. That felt a little slow but this gets right to the action while also including some romance. It's not sappy, but there is a sweetness to the relationship between Ashley and Mr. Adams. There are scenes in the comic that would be incredibly hokey in your average movie but work well on the page because they're framed in the vampire story. It's not a ripoff of True Blood or anything like that, despite the fact that Adams is a dead-ringer for Bill Compton.
Speaking of the art, Tim Seeley draws one mean vampire. When Adams hulks out, it's terrifying. You don't just get the two sharp teeth. The entire jaw gets bigger -- to the point where it won't fit in his mouth -- bulges out the front of his face. It's disturbing. There's plenty of eye candy as Ashley is popping around half-naked through the bulk of the issue. She's definitely using her feminine wiles to get what she wants from Adams, but it's not clear yet as to what that is.
Ex Sanguine moved along at a much quicker pace with this issue. Last month served more as an introduction while this one gets to the meat of the story, which is the relationship between the two main characters. It's a dysfunctional one and one that I think will end in blood.
|Engines of Doom One-Shot
Published by 215 Ink
Written by Fabian Rangel Jr & Austin Rogers
Illustrated by Austin Rogers
$3.99, 35 Pages
I'm pretty sure I've heard the story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse redone as bikers. Wasn't that in Good Omens? That's sort of the case in Engines of Doom but not to the level of the Horsemen. Instead, Satan releases Fang, Big Bastard, and Apache for a specific task. He needs them to bring his daughter home. She's betrothed to a demon and this wedding needs to happen. Of course, the girl isn't too happy about this and a big fight breaks out between all parties involved.
This sounds a little weird, but Engines of Doom is damn fun. The three bikers are like something out of a Rob Zombie cartoon. Fang has a helmet that looks like the one the Germans wore in World War I, but made of giant teeth. Big Bastard has huge beard and the blood of 666 berserkers running through his veins. Apache has a bitchin' mohawk and a pair of axes he holsters in his back. These guys are badass and they tear through town looking for Satan's little girl, who turns out to be a waitress at a rinky-dink diner in the middle of nowhere.
The story is a bit light, but it more than makes up for it in the fight scenes. The Engines of Doom are brutal. Bullets bounce off them while they knock heads off or literally cut through people. Austin Rogers delivers some dynamite art. It does look a bit like a cartoon, but not one you'd find on Saturday morning. His work has a very clean look to it. Everything is easy to follow. The background details are somewhat non-existent, but it doesn't matter with this comic. The characters and the other items in the foreground are all you really need.
There's also a backup story featuring Jack Manzo, a tough guy with a big mustache. He gets a gig as a lifeguard at a summer camp that's been losing counselors. This leads to a sacrifice and a fight with a fish monster. Rogers did the art for the short too. The fish creature is like a cross between something from the Black Lagoon and a follower of Cthulu. It's pretty creepy, but Manzo doesn't care. He's going to punch it really hard.
This one-shot is a fun book and definitely worth checking out. The main story is a set up for what I hope is a continuing series featuring some bikers from Hell kicking ass and taking names.
Published by Zenescope Entertainment
Written by Raven Gregory
Illustrated by Sheldon Goh
$2.99, 25 Pages
Remember that weird Call of Wonderland mini-series that inexplicably tried to tie H.P. Lovecraft to Wonderland? I hope so because otherwise you'll have no idea what's going on in this issue. The two girls from that book have landed right in front of the Queen of Spades. She works some mojo and merges the two of them to become the new Queen of Hearts in a pretty gruesome panel. I get the idea of the Queen of Hearts being two people like the playing card, but isn't that the case for all of the cards? By that logic, shouldn't the Queen of Spades also have a person rumbling around inside her?
Anyway, there's a fight between the Hearts and the Spades which takes up most of the issue. It looks cool but feels like filler, especially after the big pieces of the story we received last month with Calie on the run from the ghost of her dead brother, trying to stay ahead of the madness. The Queen of Spades means to rule Wonderland now that the Jabberwocky is gone, but this world needs some semblance of order, which is why she's created this new rival. Will the Diamonds and Clubs come into play at some point?
One thing that bugged me with this issue of Wonderland was how cool the two girls (I've forgotten their names after reading Call of Wonderland and they weren't mentioned in this book) are with their new circumstances. They fight each other, but they don't question the fact that they've just been sucked through a wormhole and are now being squished together into one body. There's no element of disbelief. They just go with it.
Sheldon Goh really upped his game this month. This book is beautiful. That scene I mentioned before with the two girls becoming one is a huge two-page spread and it's so creepy. It looks painful, like the transformation in An American Werewolf in London. There's no blood, but you know that there are creaking bones and melted flesh in there. Goh handles the transition between the personalities very well. It's clear that a change is happening and it's a struggle. The fight scenes between the two armies are epic in scale and framed with panels in the shape of playing cards. That's one thing about most of the Wonderland books that really stands out. They usually have great art direction and this one is no different.
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Simon Spurrier
Illustrated by V Ken Marion
$3.99, 26 Pages
The assembled group of misfit super heroes and villains bring the fight to the alien invaders that have enslaved the remaining members of the human race. Now it's time to shoot, tear, and destroy these bad guys. This sounds great, but I feel like I missed an issue with Extermination. This book jumps around a lot and I didn't pick up on it right away as there's no indication of the change. The art is exactly the same, but suddenly the setting is different. There's no marker to say that this is a flashback scene, so it can get rather confusing.
There's also a lot of needless deaths. Most of these characters were just introduced in the last two issues. It's clear now that they're nothing more than cannon fodder despite each of them getting about two pages to fill out their backstory and explain their past with Nox. Why bother doing that if you're just going to kill them off? It's a waste. Despite this, these introductions are pretty cool. Author Simon Spurrier has made some pretty unique characters and I would read a regular book about their exploits in a heartbeat.
V Ken Marion knows how to draw a super hero comic. His characters are big and ready for battle. It's like he's designed a fleet of action figures that I need to have. The aliens are creepy as ever, but this time there are a few more creatures that pop up in flashback including weird little mole monsters.
Also out this week but not covered here were the following:
- Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season 9) #15 (Dark Horse Comics)
- Demon Knights #14 (DC Comics)
- Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #14 (DC Comics)
- Saucer Country #9 (Vertigo)
- Dark Shadows / Vampirella #4 (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Evil Ernie #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Vampirella: Red Room #4 (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Witchblade: Demon Reborn #4 (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Chasing The Dead #1 (IDW Publishing)
- Locke & Key Omega #1 (IDW Publishing)
- Walking Dead #104 (Image Comics)
- Marvel Universe vs The Avengers #2 (Marvel Comics)
- Crossed Badlands #17 (Avatar Press)
- Fanboys vs Zombies #8 (BOOM! Studios)
- Courtney Crumrin #7 (Oni Press)
- Grimm Fairy Tales Bad Girls #4 (Zenescope Entertainment)
- Grimm Fairy Tales Myths & Legends #23 (Zenescope Entertainment)
And a big week for graphic novels. We had the following releases:
- Lobster Johnson: Vol 2 - Burning Hand (Dark Horse Comics)
- Strain: Vol 1 (Dark Horse Comics) HorrorTalk Review
- Fables: Werewolves Of The Heartland (Vertigo)
- Angel: After The Fall Slipcase Collection (IDW Publishing)
- Ghostbusters: Vol 3 - Haunted America (IDW Publishing)
- Godzilla: Vol 1 (IDW Publishing)
- Grim Leaper (Image Comics)
- Shinku: Vol 1 (Image Comics)
- Fear Itself: Hulk / Dracula (Marvel Comics)
- City In The Desert: Vol 1 (Archaia Entertainment)
- Hopeless Maine: Vol 1 (Archaia Entertainment)
- Tales Of The Macabre (Archaia Entertainment)
- Grimm Fairy Tales Myths & Legends: Vol 4 (Zenescope Entertainment)
Phew. Lots of titles to choose from this week. Did you break the bank at the comics shop? What did you pick up? Let me know in the comments!
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