Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dylan's Sequential Theology 07.18.2012

As if it wasn't Dark Horse heavy last week, this time around it's all Dark Horse. But it's all excellent stuff. While you're at your local comic book store this week, or buying comics on your tablet during your lunch break, don't miss out on these.

Story by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden, Art by Ben Stenbeck
Many years back, I read the first volume of Hellboy and was so bored to tears by John Byrne's writing, and a little unimpressed by Mignola's art that I decided to write the series off completely. But I've been tired of hearing people say, "you're missing out," so I've been trying to dive into the Mignola-verse and devour as much as I can to make a more informed decision.
As a second foray into Mignola's writing, this was much better. A peg-legged vampire-hunter, spouting concerted one-liners while traveling through post-WWI Europe fighting evil? Yeah. I'd read more of that. Lord Baltimore feels like Wolverine mixed with Van Helsing with a touch of Blade thrown in for good measure. That sounds terrible, but it's really not. I doubt Mignola was thinking of any of those characters when he and Golden were writing this book. It's got a strong classic supernatural feel that will please any gothic horror fan in the mood for adventure.
Ben Stenbeck's monster faces cast in silhouette feel like they are doing their best Mignola impression. The people have a much more cartoony simplistic look that sounds tonally off, but actually works quite nicely. Where Stenbeck really shines on this book is the locations, and the hordes of monsters attacking this tiny village full of all kinds of ravenous fiends. 
Also, this trio's combined efforts have made me scared of crabs.

by Paul Chadwick
This was my first exposure to Concrete, and I have to say, I will be buying more. The basic concept is that a man was abducted by aliens and they changed him into a being made of living concrete. And it's a big Jack Kirby-esque mountain of concrete. Now the main character searches the world solving environmental crises, small domestic disputes, social injustice and searching for answers to his transformation. But his figure is more a means to an end in an otherwise realistic world. When Concrete attempts to solve the town's excessive drunken population by hugging the criminals into submission, he quickly realizes that no one man (no matter how invulnerable) can do this job, and another fix must be found.
I adore how simple and quite Chadwick's world seems. These people are perfectly at ease with Concrete, and yet he is the only one of his kind. The art is excellent and, from what little I've skimmed in used bookstores, does not seem to have dipped in quality since the book's first appearance on the comic book stands. It's beautiful stuff. It reminds me of the line focused work of old Lord of the Rings illustrations. But yet it's in a completely contemporary setting... Well done Paul Chadwick, you have another convert.

Dark Horse presents was recently revived a little over a year ago and it's definitely changed tact from "See the pioneers of the Bronze Age working again" to "we do it all and we do it awesomer!" This magazine has everything comedy, superheroics, horror, sci-fi and a haunting piece of dream logic that I can't stop thinking about. As I've said before, I love the anthology format and it's even more impressive when a company packs this much story into one issue. This one is definitely worth the higher price tag. If you've been feeling like your comic reading's been in a bit of a rut, put back three DC books, or two Marvel books and check out this series. Worse comes to worse, you might find some more creators to look into. I'm only going to highlight 4 of the 15 stories contained within this issue, but hopefully, that's enough to get you to pick it up.

ALIENS: INHUMAN CONDITION story by John Layman, art by Sam Keith
I always forget how nice it is to see Sam Keith's work. DC seems to have difficulty coloring his stories, and so I tend to be disappointed by his recent Batman series the past decade. But in this installment, he really brings the horror. Several scientists and representatives of Weyland-Yutani look on as a xenomorph fights a synthetic human. This somehow grizzly spectacle causes a woman who helped design the Artificial Combat Unit to remember her time spent trapped in a facility for weeks with one of these aliens. After the simulation is over, one of the scientists visits her in her room and we learn more about her past all while these memories keep invading her mind. She is broken and trying to behave rationally when she is constantly confronted with the creature that took her life from her. And Sam Keith portrays her closed down psyche with the same power he brought to the Maxx back in the 90s.

Everything you need to know is in that title. And possibly this photo.

BUDDY COPS story by Nate Cosby, art by Evan Shaner
This is a new series by Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner starring (you guessed it) two partners policing the city. T.A.Z.E.R. is a by the book android, and Uranus is an over-the-top intergalactic superhero who has been "demoted" to the more traditional channels of law enforcement. Uranus' sheer joy at wanting to wreck things with no sense of consequence had me laughing nonstop. And while T.A.Z.E.R. might be a typical android straight-man to Uranus' wacky hijinx at this point, I'm still excited for what else these two have in store as the series progresses.

A SPY DREAM by George Schall
This story was hands-down the best thing I read this week. I had to read it twice, and continue to have questions, and enjoy falling in love with George Schall's art all over again. His style is in that magic sweet spot between cartoon and realism that makes me swoon. It reminds me a lot of GB Tran's work actually. George's sense of motion is impeccable, and his anatomy never falters. The way he breaks down time into panel increments and his layouts really help reinforce the dream concept. My only complaint, is how he renders facial hair. They look like they are drawn on instead of being actual facial hair but that's a personal pet-peeve.

And those were just my favorites from this issue. This particular issue is EASILY worth its $8 price tag. 

Story by Haden Blackman, art by Agustin Alessio
Chris may have already covered this issue on his column, but it bares repeating. This series is excellent. If you have been dying to see Vader at his most stoic and have found it increasingly hard to take him seriously, Haden Blackman brings him back to that tortured soul we used to know and love. And Augustin Alessio manages to not only make him imposing, but the Prism, the Jedi Guantanamo Bay, feels quite cold and foreboding. What has impressed me about the Star Wars comics today is their analysis of the Dark Side of the force and how its leading to entropy is never just a product of evil, but a manifestation of human common human attributes.
It's also nice to see a writer casting the Jedi in a darker light. Their motives for building the prison make sense, but it also has to be considered if their seeming hypocrisy was the right thing to do or if they had become the thing they are trying to defeat. It makes you think that maybe Vader wasn't wrong for going to the Dark Side, and that it wasn't just the adolescent whimpering of a hormonal teenager.

Not impressed? Tell me I'm wrong.

1 comment:

  1. John Byrne's writing in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is laughably bad. But the series gets a LOT better. And it never gets that bad ever again.