So, a million years ago, Paul Pope drew an illustration of his THB protagonist, HR Watson, jumping for joy and exclaiming “Yay for Comics!” It is a reminder that medium is filled with excitement. Yet, it can be difficult to enjoy comics with the sexist and violent tirades of certain fans, the thin margins under which the industry operates and the continuing racial and gender inequality in the creative sector of the business, but there are still things to love about it. Things that make me jump for joy, just like HR Watson.
This months finds me talking about a title I’m not entirely enthusiastic about, but still want to support, a superb indie title, noir and fantasy books, and one title that takes place entirely in Hell.
Sex Criminals Vol. 1 – One Weird Trick: Despite it’s salacious prompt — two people stop time when they climax; decide to rob banks — this first volume of the praise-worthy series by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is a surprisingly sweet take on that one amazing, life-changing hook-up that turns into something that has no end. Of course, there’s plenty of sex-themed jokes, time-out-joint narration and the Sex Police to make the sweetness a little more palatable. But it’s the way the two main characters, Suzie and Jon, become almost instantly attractive to the reader that makes it all worthwhile. It’s no accident that the title has received high marks from all the major comic news outlets and Time Magazine.
All-New Ghost Rider: This is the title I’m most ambivalent about right now. I want to like it more than I do. The new Ghost Rider is a kid from East L.A. who is murdered while joy-riding in a vintage Dodge Charger (at least, I think it’s a Charger) he’s been restoring at his job. The car and the kid are possessed by an entity known only as Eli. The entity offers the kid the power to help save his paraplegic brother the tough life ahead of him. It’s a great premise and the art from “Luther Strange” artist Tradd Moore is just spectacular. The fault here lies in writer Felipe Smith, who hasn’t really made the main character distinctive enough for me to even remember his name. He also tries to make the dialogue as natural as possible, but it looks ridiculous with all the swear words bleeped out in that classic comic book #@%$! That said, all the chase scenes are great and currently worth the price of admission.
Fatale, Book 1 – Death Chases Me: I love Ed Brubaker’s work so much, that I forget I love it. Case in point, I accidentally bought TWO COPIES of the first Fatale book, but I’m glad I could share this noir gem with Clint because it’s the goods. Taking place in the present and in the 1950s, the titular Fatale is apparently some sort of witch, raised to immortality, with a knack for getting dudes into trouble. The Sean Phillips art is moody and the perfect accompaniment to Bru’s favorite genre — the pair have been making noirish comics for decades. This is a strong recommendation.
Joe the Barbarian: Grant Morrison’s curious tale of a fantasy world that comes to life when young boy goes hypoglycemic. It’s a crazy mix of boy’s adventure, fantasy tropes recognizable to anyone who’s seen (or read) The Secret of NIMH and The NeverEnding Story and the very real danger of going into a diabetic coma. Part of the Morrison charm is how he takes everyday things, wild psychedelic dream logic and the love of pop culture to spin terrifically satisfying yarns that are both magical and incredibly human. The particular yarn skews more toward the human, but the way the fantastic is integrated reveals just how much Morrison cares about the real world. The art from Sean Murphy is both imaginative and grounded all at once. The fantasy scenes pop to life with hilarious action figure cameos by Batman, a not-quite-Optimus-Prime and others. The scenes firmly set in reality pull back on the color just enough to reveal Joe’s plight.
Hellboy in Hell Vol. 1 – The Descent: Because of the complicated bifurcation of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe and line of books, I told myself I would no longer read any of the titles … but then I was weak and glad for it. This first volume of Hellboy’s new status quo sees the titular hero face Hell itself, the domain he is destined to rule, now a nearly empty reality with only but a few demons bickering over the ruins. Aided by the ghost of Sir Edward Grey from Mignola’s Witchfinder series, Hellboy thumbs his nose at that often quoted prophesy that he will bring on the End of Time and quite possibly kills Satan in the process. Then he settles down in abandoned part of French Hell to do … um, nothing it seems. Yet, somehow, it all works as Mignola provides art in that moody, nearly all black-ink way of his. While reading the Hellboy family of titles, which now includes B.P.R.D., B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Abe Sapien, Witchfinder, and Lobster Johnson can be a task as daunting as the monthly slate of Avengers and X-Men titles, this lone book, divorced from the others, reminds me while I started reading Mignola’s stuff in the first place.
Next month: Will Brian K. Vaughn finally break his losing streak for my attention? Will Superior Spider-Man continue to hold my esteem? Do I need another comic book about mad scientists? Is Nail Biter the first horror comic I genuinely like? These, and other questions, to be answered in the next edition of Yay for Comics!