Recent Readings: Horror, Myths and Heroes
ALL STAR WESTERN #13, 14, 15 (DC): I picked this up because of the TOMAHAWK back-up feature that begins in Issue #13, but ended up appreciating the JONAH HEX main feature much more. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sail to the Americas, and mayhem ensues. Dr. Jekyll’s formula is stolen and mistakenly sold through a carnival barker, as the major populace gets transformed into a raging crowd with a severe mad-on. In issue #13 the carnival clown embraces the dark side and has to be put down by Hex and hanger-on one-eyed Tallulah Black along with Dr. Arkham. There is a side plot involving the Golden Dragons and the Barbary Ghost, who proves much more interesting in this story than she did in her bland spotlight back-up feature many issues ago. In Issue #14 Dr. Arkham is induced to drink some of the formula and begins acting peculiar and very out of character. The massive Mr. Hyde escapes and Hex begins to track him down, now minus Miss Black who left with the Barbary Ghost with the promise of recovering money or some other treasure of her fancy. I thought the TOMAHAWK back-up feature put a different twist on this classic DC series, transforming the main character from a frontier scout to an Indian warrior. Art by Phil Winslade lends a historic flavor to events, and seems a nice tribute to the original works. Too bad it’s wasted by a slow-moving story. TOMAHAWK as portrayed here is a bit too emotionless to empathize with, especially when he doesn’t wince after discovering his wife and young son slaughtered by the Army.
BALTIMORE: THE PLAY (Dark Horse): A plague is wiping out half the population of Verona, Italy in 1917. Into town rides the vampire hunter Lord Baltimore in search of the ancient Haigus. The legendary vampire has secreted himself away as the financier of a local theatre company presenting an adaptation of Poe’s Masque Of The Red Death. Haigus has infected the majority of the theatre company with vampirism, with the exception of the lead actress (who turns out to be an actual muse with siren like abilities) and the director (who takes advice through his direct link to the late Edgar Allan Poe). All this, and another recent comic with reference to Poe’s The Conqueror Worm poem as well. What more could you ask of a one-shot story? Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden script, along with mesmerizing art by Ben Stenbeck. I loved it.
DEATHMATCH #1 (Boom!) : I passed this up after reading about it in PREVIEWS. The premise was okay = battles to the death between super-heroes paired off in a elimination tournament of 32 combatants. However, if this was Superman versus Spider-Man for instance, or even Batman versus Captain America I would have to read it. But with newly created characters I didn’t feel I would have enough investment in them to even care about the outcome. Still, I picked it up on a whim, based on the attractive $1 cover price and some decent looking art. Glad I did. I was wrong. Writer Paul Jenkins makes you care about the characters. Somehow he juggles all the introductions and includes enough backstory to make you feel like rooting for Dragonfly, etc. And the characters are very inventive, definitely not carbon copies of the trademarked heroes from the Big Two companies. The art by Carlos Magno is very stylish and European looking. This could be a sleeper book. Worth your checking out.
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY VOLUME 4: THE MANCHESTER GODS TPB (Marvel) : I’d heard about how JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY was one of the best of Marvel’s current titles. After seeing it selected to several Best of 2012 lists, impulse kicked in and I picked up this trade paperback. The art by Richard Elson is delightful. The story has a sort of FABLES feel to it, although it’s set in the mythical land of the Norse Gods (the Marvel version). A young Loki is dispatched to a multi-verse land called Otherworld inhabited by King Arthur and Captain Britain in order to help defeat a new threat. Spawned in the industrial revolution in Britain, the Manchester Gods are giant lumbering trains, machines and monoliths leading an army of goons and leaving a wave of sooty gray in their path of destruction. Kieron Gillen writes with passion for his creation and in his capable hands Loki is indeed the god of mischief and a great schemer. I loved Sinisterworld as created by Gillen and this is another fantastic setting. The man seems to love his steampunk and UK history and I’m ready to read whatever he drops into these creations. This volume also reprints THE MIGHTY THOR ANNUAL #1 written by J. M. DeMatteis and illustrated by Richard Elson again (wow! – his art outshines the script by far). The story is very cosmic, mystical and philosophical as detailed by DeMatteis (like much of his scripts, but a little too wordy here) and includes Thor, Silver Surfer, Galactus, The Scrier, and The Other (with a little Eternity mixed in). At times it seemed like I was reading about one cosmic backstory after another. Maybe there should have been footnotes. The script dragged a little too much for me and failed to indicate the universe-threatening challenge as well as the art did. Bravo, Elson!