There certainly hasn’t been a shortage of good reading lately. Comics just keep getting better and more diversified with a fresh crop of talented artists and writers debuting every other day. What’s a dedicated blogger to do? One of my goals in writing for BC REFUGEES is to bring attention to the less-noticed but more-deserving quality work. If I can help someone else discover something new and worthy, then I am accomplishing my mission. I’ve been reading a lot lately and putting books that I feel deserve a write-up in a separate pile. The pile is growing faster than I can keep up with my writing. Rather than wait far too long to give them some attention, I’m going to feature them in the “Lightening Round”. Every book mentioned here is worthy of a longer review. I’m forced to compromise with a shorter summary - - but, I hope you’ll check out some of these books.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS VOLUME 2 #1 (Dark Horse, April 2011)
Dark Horse revives one of their flagship titles in a big 80-page special featuring some big talent. Paul Chadwick’s marvelous and heartwarming creation CONCRETE leads off with “Intersection”. During an evening walk, good neighbor Concrete spots a break-in and enlists the aid of a passing driver to call it in to police on his cell phone - - - with complications. I love the way Chadwick sets up a scene. His imagery is always just right. . . . . In very graphic style, the fabulous Neal Adams begins the story of “Blood”, a crime noir thriller. Wow - - his stuff still amazes me. . . . . . “Finder: Third World Chapter 1” is my first look at the story and art of Carla Speed MacNeil and I’m impressed. It’s an unusual and very stylish story about a man well-suited for a very different and quirky new job. . . . . . “Mr. Monster Vs. Ooak!” reunites writer/artist Michael T. Gilbert with his infamous creation. I've always enjoyed his Mr. Monster stories and this one is classic, although a little sillier than average. . . . . . There’s a very short preview of “Xeres”, Frank Miller’s prequel to 300. The art is similar to SIN CITY but not as complex - - - and a little disappointing. Here’s hoping this is just a rough draft. . . . . . Issue #1 also features some new work from Howard Chaykin and Richard Corben, as well as the opening pages from “Star Wars” Crimson Empire III” which looks epic. . . . . . There’s an interview with Frank Miller, and a reprint of a very good Harlan Ellison short story from earlier in 2010. . . . . . The issue wraps up with some silly comic strips by Patrick Alexander, which are thankfully short and not equal in quality to the rest of this book. Ditto for “Snow Angel” with interesting simplistic art by David Chelsea - - but is story is a little confusing - - maybe things get explained better in Chapter 2.
INDIE COMICS MAGAZINE #2 (Aazurn Publishing, April 2011 - - - Indie ComicsMagazine.com)
This 64-page black and white comic-sized magazine focuses on independent comic book creators. Issue 2 features seven separate tales, all with high quality script and art. . . . . . The Vigil brothers (Tim, Joe, Jeff) present a hard-boiled detective investigating demons in “City Of Lost Souls”, a good story with strong 1950’s style crime comic art. . . . . . “Spy Guy And The Case Of The Anunnaki Artifact” by Mike Kitchen features another hard-boiled detective, this one being funny and suitable for all ages. It reminded me of Inspector Gadget - - story and art should be very appealing to younger readers. . . . . . “Omega Man: Current Events And Celebrity Injustice” by Alonzo Johnson/ Johnny Johnson showcases a positive role model black superhero and deals with social issues. . . . . . My absolute favorite story of this issue is “Recalcitrant Jones And The Dead Beats” by Terry Cronin/Steve Mack. In a very funny fashion, musician Jones promises more than he can deliver and lands a huge performance job. In desperation, he makes a pact with the Devil who sets Jones up with a backing band featuring the dead Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, Lawrence Welk and Elvis Presley. Rehearsals are a riot! Trying to keep the band together and ready for opening night creates some thoroughly amusing situations. . . . . . Gary Scott Beatty in “Jazz: Near Midnight Rockabilly” tells another musical story with art and captions inspired by 1950’s album covers. If you enjoy GLAMOURPUSS, you will like this. It very creative and a neat way to tell an engaging story that mixes in a little musical history as well. . . . . . “Billion Dollar Caveman” by Michael Marcus and George McVey tells a short science fiction tale with a twist ending and interesting art that reminds me of both EC Comics and 1970’s underground comic books. . . . . . Blair Kitchen wraps up the issue with “The Possum – Monkey See, Monkey Kill”, a net little funny tale featuring his nerdy super-hero who uses pajamas with a hoodie for a costume. This one is also suitable for younger readers, and contains some satire that adults will appreciate as well.
THE MISSION #3 (Image Comics, April 2011)
I’ve previously written here about the first two issues of THE MISSION, which neatly wrap up the first story arc and reach a resolution. But that respite is only temporary for protagonist Paul – – as he encounters an elderly and rowdy street vagrant carrying placards prophesying doom. The beggar seems to know something of Paul’s encounters with the rough-mannered Gabriel and even has a few words of advice (before he starts asking for hand-outs.) Paul’s marriage has begun to suffer due to his obsession with finding out more details about Gabe. Paul’s wife feels he is hiding a deep secret and seeks counseling for them. This book is much deeper than the surface content. It’s about faith and belief and the contrast between those who will carry out a chore with no further information versus others who doubt and ask questions. Paul’s probing angers Gabe, who warns him - - “You don’t ever discuss your work with anyone. You don’t ever discuss me with anyone . . . And stay away from the homeless guy. He’s a friend of mine.” I’m certain Paul is about to get a new dire mission in Issue #4.
SUPERBOY #6 + #7 (DC Comics)
Marco Rudy takes over the art chores in both of these issues, although his art style seems to change from issue #6 to #7 - - - perhaps adapting in response to the particular story. I may learn to like that. Issue #6 (June 2011) features pages of six and nine-panel details and then explodes into four-panel and full page art when the battle ensues. . . . . . I almost didn’t pick up this issue, realizing that it was a one-issue crossover with the Reign Of Doomsday story line continuing in Action Comics. I figured Jeff Lemire would have to modify his story telling style in order to blend in/fit in with the Doomsday story arc. He does. But, he also manages to add in some great scenes like the opening pages where Connor seeks the advice of Tim Drake/Red Robin and some meaningful and revealing discussion ensues that make it worth picking up this issue. . . . And, there’s another interesting two page multi-paneled interlude where friend Simon gets a little independent and considers a research assistant job with a certain Doctor Palmer at Ivy University. . . . . .
The art in issue #7 (July 2011) by Rudy is certainly different than what I’ve come to expect in this title - - but it suits the storyline very well. The opening pages where Connor wakes from a nightmare only to find it didn’t go away is very stunning. he changes up his style for the flashback sequences with Psionic Lad. . . . . . An alien plant life-form roots itself telepathically inside it’s victims minds and causes them to have waking hallucinations. It the opening chapter in a new invasion story. It’s the most frightening, disturbing and offbeat story as told by Jeff Lemire since he took over this series. This book remains one of my favorite DC superhero titles.
I’ve seen enough here to convince me to seek out the eventual trade paperback once it’s released. The very talented Nick Spencer takes a so-so 1970’s Tower super-hero title (which DC now owns the rights to) and modernizes it, blending covert team/espionage/spy work/infiltration by moles/double agents with corporate politics to create one very mixed-up but super-organized covert agency running a group of power-augmented heroes into the ground with no scruples and no regrets. Artist Cafu is especially skilled at using facial expressions to convey moods and intentions.
UNDYING LOVE #1 (Image Comics, March 2011)
A lone wolf gunman. Hong Kong. Ninjas. Secretive Asian societies. Vampires. Magicians and sorcerers. It sounds like a miss-match but the blend is tasty. The gunman loves a beautiful Chinese vampire and wants to protect her from the gangs and cults that want her dead for ever. The only cure for her is to trace the problem back to the source, one of the most powerful and protected ancient vampires in the world. Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman collaborate on both story, art and colors. The script moves things along like a classic detective yarn. The art is great and very rich in detail for the small panel style employed - - - a neat mix reminding me of Steranko and Gulacy’s best.
WARRIORS THREE #3 + #4 of 4 (Marvel Comics, April 2011)
Another mini-series concludes, and another one that I’ve previously written about. As much as I liked Issues #1 and #2 - - - I absolutely love Issues #3 and #4. It’s the best part of the entire story. Writer Bill Willingham has definitely written a Tales Of Asgard for the ages, and one that will put his own indelible stamp on the Marvel version of Asgardian Lore. What I appreciate is Willingham not just coming up with some revelations regarding the character background and raison d'être of the Warriors Three - - he also further develops the character and abilities of the Fenris Wolf (creating Willingham ownership again). In addition, he also creates his own new addition to the ranks of Asgard - - the mortal female A.I.M. agent and narrator of the min-series - - an awesome character in her own right. (And, possibly featured in a future story of the Warriors Four?)