January 17, 2021
Not only does this graphic novella have an attention-getting title, but said title is also very appropriate for the tone and style writer Alex De Campi and artist Erica Henderson are trying to evoke. After a very brief prologue in Vienna, 1889, the story jumps to Los Angeles, 1974, where Quincy Harker is making a living as a photographer who tries to get the juiciest crime scene photos. Quincy thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he arrives first to the scene of a multiple murder at the home of aging actress Bebe Beauland, and snaps a picture of the dead starlet herself. This turns out not to be the case when she appears on TV alive the next day, and then comes to the photographer himself to see if he’ll join up with her and her dread master. Then one of Dracula’s ex-wives shows up and things start getting craaaaaaazy!
“Dracula Motherf**er!” is best described as an exercise in style over substance, and BOY HOWDY does this graphic novella have style. De Campi and Henderson have crafted a lurid horror tale that nips at the edges of psychedelia. I liked Henderson’s work in last year’s “Assassin Nation,” but this is some next-level stuff she delivers here. There’s striking composition work on each page, and the use of color makes it look like a fever dream right out of 70’s cinema. The coloring itself is over-the-top in the best way, and very fitting for a vampire story set in L.A. during the 70’s.
De Campi keeps the story ticking along fast enough to keep you from being bored, but not fast enough to keep you from noticing how slight it is. Nor from realizing that the cast in this tale barely register as actual characters. If anything, they’re here more to articulate the writer’s views on women in regards to the “Dracula” mythos and our current social climate. I know this because De Campi does a better job spelling these things out in her informative afterword than she does in the text itself. Still, the style of “Dracula Motherf**er!” is something to behold and worth the price of admission itself.
January 16, 2021
The superhero known as Stealth has protected the mean streets of Detroit for decades. Nobody knew who he was, until he came crashing home late one night and journalist Tony Barber found out that it was his retired firefighter father Daniel. Tony’s reaction to this reveal was a kind of “surprised” that was more frightened than excited. That’s because his father has been suffering from alzheimer’s for a while now and the symptoms have recently been getting worse. To the point where his loss of touch with reality is starting to hurt innocent people on the streets and those closest to him. While there’s one supervillain out there who views this as his chance to get rid of a perpetual thorn in his side, will he actually be able to take Stealth out before complications from Alzheimer's do the hero in?
“Stealth” was co-created by Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri, but this volume was actually written by Mike Costa and illustrated by Nate Bellegarde. What Costa and Bellegarde have produced here is something I wanted to like more than I actually did. The idea of a son struggling to deal with his father’s Alzheimer's is a familiar hook, but the superhero angle gives it some added urgency. The relationship between Tony and Daniel is also handled well in general and Costa has some interesting ideas about how superheroism can go wrong. Bellegarde delivers some appealing art, which has a liveliness and cleanness to it that compares favorably to the work in fellow Skybound title “Invincible.”
The problem is that Costa doesn’t dig deep enough into the ideas he brings to the table. We’re told that Stealth is going out of control in public, but we only get a good example of that in a private context. His idea that people will eventually turn on the heroes they follow is only given lip service. Most bizarre is the fact that while the premise is spelled out on the back of the volume, the first issue reads like we’re not supposed to know Daniel is Stealth. Given all this, I was surprised that the use of time-travel actually worked as well as it did to wrap things up. It still wasn’t enough to make me think of “Stealth” as a prime example of missed potential, more than anything else.
If you’re wondering about the question mark next to the volume number, that’s because this is billed as “vol. 1” on the spine and in the publication information. There have yet to be further issues of this series solicited at the time I’m writing this and the ending to this volume wraps things up pretty definitively. Unless someone decides to make a movie or TV show out of this, I wouldn’t be expecting a “vol. 2” anytime soon.
January 15, 2021
Syd Holmes used to be a homicide detective. Now he’s hustling for laughs at some of the seediest comedy clubs in New York City. If that didn’t sound bad enough, another stand-up comic by the name of Carl Dixon is about to get his big shot on Leno, and he’s managed to do it by stealing other comedians’ jokes. Including Syd’s. This leads to Syd joking with some of his friends about how much it would cost to hire a hitman to take out Carl. It’s hilarious stuff until the cops come calling the following day to arrest Syd for Carl’s murder. Now Syd is going to have to use every bit of ingenuity he can muster, as well as his rusty detective skills, to find the real killer and clear his name.
At one point in “Dying is Easy,” a character remarks about how someone thinks that there’s still a market for dumb 80’s cop comedies with big action scenes and mouthy tough guys. Swap out the 80’s for the 90’s and that’s a pretty spot-on approximation of the vibe that writer Joe Hill and artist Martin Simmonds are trying to capture here. While Hill’s work in comics has always had a supernatural or horror vibe to it, he transitions pretty seamlessly to the action/comedy genre with this graphic novel. He delivers a satisfyingly twisty and action-packed story with a likeably snarky lead who has just enough tragedy in his past to earn the reader’s sympathy. Granted, if you were old enough to stay up late night watching cable in the 90’s then you’ve likely already seen some version of this plot, but this is a better-than-average take on it.
Hill and Simmonds also do a good job of grounding this story in the era. As the 90’s are a firmly nostalgic era for me, it was nice to read a story that felt like it came from the era without feeling outdated. Simmonds' art helps with that as he gives the story an appreciably gritty vibe that’s appropriate to the overall tone of things. It leads to an ending that’s suggestive of more adventures for Syd, which is certainly an easy proposition to accept after his solid debut here.
January 13, 2021
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. There really hasn’t been a need for one, what with my “To Review” pile coming very close to being exhausted at a few points in the last year. However, as the postal network sorts itself out post-pandemic, I cash in a gift certificate, and make a spur-of-the-moment online order, the pile now looks almost… daunting. So, very quickly now, here are my thoughts on “Folklords,” “Alienated,” “Terminator: Sector War,” “The Butcher of Paris,” and “Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order -- Dark Temple.”
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January 11, 2021
Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about Meguru’s (and Maki’s) efforts to work his way to the top spot in the Nationals. You can chalk that up to a mix of digital titles being somewhat “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to reviewing them, as well as the inherent predictability of this current arc in general. That’s the biggest problem this series faces as it gears up for the Meguru vs. Takahashi showdown. The good news is that mangaka Hiroki Endo has at least one good idea to get around that.
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January 10, 2021
...With the wrap-up coming here as the Sin-Eater takes the fight to the current administrator of the Ravencroft Institute, Norman Osborn. The thing is that based on what the vigilante has been doing to all of the other supervillains, why shouldn’t he be allowed to do that to Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis? As Peter points out, they still don’t know exactly what Sin-Eater has been doing to these supervillains besides stealing their powers and leaving them repentant. Then there’s the fact that Spider-Man isn’t the kind of hero to let negligence take care of his problems -- not after what happened to Uncle Ben. This is in spite of the group of Spider-Friends who try to convince him to leave the monster to his fate. When that plan inevitably fails, they decide to save Spider-Man from the deaths they’ve foreseen for him whether he wants them to or not.
There are things I liked about this volume. Chief among them was how Spencer manages to get across the idea that Spider-Man and the Green Goblin’s antagonism towards each other is a real tragedy. They could’ve done some real good working together and we get a glimpse of what could’ve been here. The problem is that this is only a small part of this volume and the overall storyline is crushed under the weight of how predictable this business of whether or not Spidey is going to deliver a permanent solution to Osborne’s villainy after all these years. (Spoilers: Of course he isn’t.) Not helping matters are his Spider-Friends who are just there for added drama and nothing else.
The art is strong, of course, with Mark Bagley, Ryan Ottley, and Humberto Ramos turning in expectedly strong work, and Federico Vicentini showing that you shouldn’t underestimate him just because he’s the least famous artist in this volume. There are also some cute short stories at the end of the volume, since issue #49 is also “Amazing Spider-Man #850.” They’re a nice bonus, but not worth picking up the volume for. Which is something I’d only recommend to people invested in this storyline at this point. With these past two volumes, Spencer has plowed his run on “Amazing” into territory that’s not as fun or entertaining as when he’s indulging his funny side. The only reason I’m onboard for the next volume at this point is because I still need to find out who Kindred is. After that, who can say?
January 10, 2021
...Well, it turns out they’re leading to the kind of grim, dark storyline that’s the antithesis of what we got in the previous volume. It all starts with a special issue devoted to refreshing and modernizing one of Spidey’s foes who has managed to stay dead for a few decades now: The Sin-Eater. Stanley Carver once thought it was his mission to cleanse New York City of sin, but he eventually realized that he was the real problem and set him self up to go out via suicide by cop. Except now, thanks to Kindred, he’s back and now he’s got some additional powers to help him live up to his name. Powers that will help him purge the sins of supervillains and… leave them begging for forgiveness? It’s a setup that seems like it’s too good to be true, and Spidey has been around long enough to know that’s exactly what it is. The problem is that he has to figure out what Sin-Eater’s real goal is before he can rope in enough followers to his cause and take his crusade to one of the Web-Slinger’s oldest and most dangerous foes.
Yeah, the good times are over for now as things look to get considerably darker in “Amazing” for a while. I wouldn’t have a problem with what Spencer is doing here except that he’s not bringing a whole lot that’s new to the table here. While the writer uses the Sin-Eater to make some points responds to authoritarian strongmen who take the law into our own hands, it’s still not enough to make what he’s doing here feel fresh or interesting. “Sins Rising” ultimately feels like just another story where the bad guy comes back bigger and badder than before to make life worse for our hero. It just happens to be missing the parts that I like most about Spencer’s run so far.
I will give him credit for coming up with a pretty decent cliffhanger. In fact, it’s so well positioned that it essentially means this storyline is being spread out over two volumes…
January 8, 2021
Vol. 7 was a bit of a misfire for this series as the storytelling and the art didn’t click as well as they usually do. “Threats & Menaces,” however, represents a return to form as writer Nick Spencer gets back to what he does best on this title: Showing us familiar and weird bits of Spider-Man’s history in a new and fun light. Familiar, in the form of Spidey’s… complicated history with J. Jonah Jameson, who has just been recruited by Norah Winters to start working at her new media news outlet. While you’d think that an old-school journalist like Jameson would hate everything about that offer, it actually has more in common with his old tactics than he’d like to admit. Especially when he gets his first major podcast guest -- Spider-Man! Then it’s time to check in with Boomerang to find out about the secret he’s been keeping from Wilson Fisk all this time. It’s something that leads him and Spidey on a hunt through the underbelly of New York City where they come face to face with none other than the title character’s pet monster!
Seeing Boomerang show up again for an arc is always a good time as his arrogant self-absorption is always good for a laugh. Better still is that Ryan Ottley returned to illustrate this arc and seeing him draw the adventures and carnage the monster has and leaves behind are as good as you’d expect. Still, I was kind of hoping for Boomerang’s secret to be more than just a MacGuffin from Spidey’s past. That’s why the opening arc with Jameson is the better of the two stories here. Spencer has a really good handle on the Jameson/Spidey relationship and shows us how even though they’re friends now, things are just as fractured as they’ve always been. He even does it in a way that makes good use of continuity as well. Also, Iban Coello and Ze Carlos may not be on Ottley’s level, but they still deliver some solid art for this arc.
“Threats & Menaces” is a good example of the strengths of Spencer’s run so far. I’d be happy if subsequent volumes followed its lead. At least, until you consider those really dark “The Sins of…” shorts that are at the ends of some of these issues…
January 6, 2021
Steve is back so we can talk about the new hotness from Shonen Jump and the crazy series its creator did before it.
January 4, 2021
Imagine if you’re Mob at the start of this volume. You’ve just been defeated by the members of a secret organization of super-humans who are out to use their powers to take over the world. You’re currently trapped in a room with your brother and a former rival. Some of the other kids who were kidnapped by the organization are currently trying to escape, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to do so. Meanwhile the leaders of this branch of the organization are trying to figure out what to do with these extremely powerful individuals they’ve managed to capture. Your only hope is that your shifty conman of a boss, whose only real superpower is his confidence, has realized that his favorite employee has gone missing and decides to track him down.
In a situation such as this, I think you’ll agree that Mob and his friends are going to be all right.
So if the idea of seeing Mob’s boss steamroll over the opposition (mostly) using the power of his unshakable belief in himself (with maybe a bit of outside interference) sounds like a good time to you, then the first three-quarters of this volume have you covered. While this means we get some quality psychic action, of the kind that this series has been consistently dealing out for a few volumes now, it’s actually more impressive to see Reigen size up the situation and impart some acutely observed moral guidance to everyone involved. Actual kids, and the adults who are actually kids as well.
It all leads to a satisfying wrap-up to this arc that also sets the stage for a bigger conflict to come down the line. As well as a couple chapters that see Mob navigating the social gauntlet of high school as he runs for student council president, and… gets a girlfriend? Yes, there’s more going on there than you’d expect, but it leads to a surprising finish that may lead to some unexpected growth for our protagonist. So you should all rush out and buy this volume in order for that to happen. Why? Because Dark Horse hasn’t solicited any volumes of this series after the “Reigen” volume that came out in November. I can’t say that this series has been put on hiatus for sure, but if you want to see this series reach its conclusion you’d best go out and start buying the volumes you need RIGHT NOW!