October 31, 2020
After the success of “DCeased,” a generally alright superhero zombie story, it was expected that a spinoff like this would be forthcoming. What I didn’t expect was for “Unkillables” to be more entertaining than its progenitor. It may be eighty pages shorter, but that makes for a tighter pace overall as writer Tom Taylor crams the story with plenty of creative violence, humor, and surprises. Starting with Deathstroke’s startling role in all of this as he and his daughter eventually join up with Vandal Savage and his island hideaway where he, Lady Shiva, Bane, Captain Cold, Mirror Master, the Creeper, and Solomon Grundy plan to wait out this current apocalypse. This isn’t the former caveman’s first extinction event after all. Meanwhile, over in Gotham, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, and Commissioner Gordon have managed to survive the carnage and have made it all the way to Bludhaven. There they encounter a group of children who have managed to survive and are planning on making their last stand.
I know this doesn’t sound like a setup that’s ripe for comedy, but there are plenty of good laughs strewn throughout “Unkillables.” From how the Creeper runs with Savage’s “tree lobster” analogy, to seeing the villains train the kids, to Deathstroke’s last words to Jason, Taylor takes every opportunity he can to lighten the mood. This approach doesn’t work against the story because the ways in which the things get worse for the cast are usually inventive, gory, or a combination of the two. It does help that the artist for this miniseries, Karl Mostert, is really quite good. His work reminds me of a less squiggly Frank Quitely, but with the same attention to detail and composition. Though there are some parts that feel a little predictable the attention to detail in the story and art really won me over. This definitely raises my expectations for “DCeased: Dead Earth,” except that’s mainly because I want to see what kind of role the survivors of this series have to play in it.
October 30, 2020
While I generally try to stay away from spoilers, sometimes they have a way of sneaking up on you. Maybe they’ll turn up in an unrelated article, or a friend will let one slip unaware that you were trying to remain in ignorance. Other times they’ll be spoiled in a publication from the same family. This is to say that if you’ve already read “X-Men by Jonathan Hickman” vol. 1 then you’ve already been spoiled for the big surprise in the first arc of this volume. There is the matter of seeing how it happened and the fallout that went along with it, but the end result is very much what you’d expect to see from a Krakoan-era take on the X-Men’s most militant mutant team.
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October 28, 2020
Hiromu Arakawa trades alchemy for agriculture, with mixed but generally good results.
October 26, 2020
Vol. 4 finally saw this series start to live up to its potential as the crew of the Quin Zaza tangled with an arrogant, high-class dragon researcher, and a legendary dragon in that order. This volume doesn’t have the same level of excitement or adventure, but it does broaden the scope of the series in some appealing ways. It starts off by wrapping up the business with Brno as the researcher joins the crew for a meal, and we find out that Vannie is all right. Which is something no one should be surprised by; though, I do hope we learn more about her past after the glimpses of it that we get here.
Then it’s off to the trading city of Harley as the crew gets to enjoy some much-needed R&R. There are the expected scenes of shopping and goofing off that you’d expect to see from a cast this large and they’re just fine as they are. The real meat of this encounter comes from following Mika, Takita, and Yoshi to a remote cafe as they search for some decent grub. Not only do they find it, but they also come across someone who knew Mika back before he was a quirky dragon-hunting savant. Cujo Landau was tough and ornery enough to put up with Mika back when he was just quirky, even if it’s immediately clear that the one-legged drunkard has had a hell of a life since those days.
It’s fun to see a two-man draking team, especially when half of it is Mika back when he was just “quirky.” These sequences help flesh out his character a bit, and even play off some elements introduced earlier in the series. There’s also a decent enough mystery set up at the end as to how Mika and Cujo survived their encounter with the Tenth Angel. Even if it’s clear that this tale of the past is just prologue for what’s coming next, it’s well-executed setup that manages to draw me further into the series as a whole.
October 25, 2020
After you’ve managed to make enemies of the galaxy’s biggest corporation, Lux, and its biggest religion, the Renunciation, by proving that they’re actually in bed together, what do you do for an encore? If you’re Captain Grix of the Sundog, then you try to find a way to survive while sticking to your principles. After a trip back to ex-Renunciator Vess’ home planet is mostly a bust, they try raiding the junk ring around her planet only to come face-to-face with some pirates. Their captain, Turo, is understanding of Grix’s situation and is willing to welcome her and her crew into his gang. Even though Grix isn’t interested, her status as a former Lux employee becomes very desirable when a cargo ship from the corporation wanders into the pirates’ grasp. While it seems like it’ll be a race to see which principle Grix will compromise first to keep her crew alive, the story has one other surprise in store for her: Vess’ biology has caused her to bond with the captain.
The question of whether or not love can bloom in a space junkard is a nice one that is answered before the end of the volume. It’s also refreshing to consider it in light of the main story, which is basically an exercise in showing what happens when you don’t try to compromise your principles in the face of abject poverty and the choices available to you in that situation. I get the feeling that writer G. Willow Wilson is trying to show us that there’s some nobility in that, but it ultimately leaves Grix and her crew having to hope that the god in the machine is watching out for them. Still, the writer mines some interesting moral drama from this setup, her cast remains quite likeable, and the art from Christian Ward delivers some lush cosmic sights with a psychedelic color palette. It’s all nice enough to get me to stick around for the series’ third and final volume, which is set to come out sometime next year. Is it enough to make me sad that this third volume will be the last one? No, not really.
October 24, 2020
There are some comics whose first volumes read like first issues. This is in the sense that they take a whole volume to do what a proper first issue should do: Explain the setup, introduce the core cast, and then show the audience where the story is really headed. “Reaver” is the example of this trend that springs most readily to my mind, and now you can add Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee’s “Fire Power” to that list as well. The main difference is that, in Kirkman’s latest comics industry power flex, the first volume of this series is its first issue.
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October 23, 2020
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A psychiatrist shows up at Arkham Asylum and begins to treat the Joker, convinced that they’ll be able to resolve his madness, only for the Clown Prince of Crime to turn the tables on them. “Killer Smile” isn’t the story of Dr. Harleen Quinzel; however, it’s the story of Dr. Benjamin Arnell, married family man who has spent three… weeks talking to the Joker about his problems. As this is coming to us from writer Jeff Lemire, your best guess about what will happen to Dr. Arnell is likely to be right. It’s clear that the writer wants this to be a story about how a good man with good intentions can fall prey to the Joker’s brand of corruptive madness. The problem is that except for a decent twist halfway through, the story plays out exactly as you’d expect. As crazy as the Joker may be, it’s disappointing to see that the way he gets inside other people’s heads turns out to be so ordinary.
The thing is, I was expecting the story to be half-baked in this fashion. It’s what I expect from Lemire these days. The main reason I picked up this volume (on Amazon’s most recent Buy-2-Get-1-Free sale) was because it featured art from the writer’s “Gideon Falls” collaborator Andrea Sorrentino. The artist invests some incredible effort in the story as he renders the flashbacks to Joker’s crimes in a bright, clean style while giving the present-day sequences a shadowy and grounded look to them. Sorrentino also has the story play out in some incredibly stylized ways, such as displaying the action over grinning teeth when Arnell starts to feel the Joker really getting to him. This is all to say that the art is as impressive as I was expecting to see, which is arguably better than this story deserves.
If this was all there was to “Killer Smile” then it would just be an okay story in a really overpriced format. However, it also includes the one-shot “Batman: The Smile Killer,” also from Lemire and Sorrentino. I initially figured that this one-shot was commissioned to pad out this volume and would offer Batman’s perspective on these events. It’s actually a follow-up to them that is ultimately more ambitious and less satisfying than I was expecting. That’s because Lemire and Sorrentino set up a new story to tell here and “The Smile Killer” is just a teaser for it. Will they ever get around to it? Probably, but ending a story that was advertised as a complete one with “To Be Continued…” really sours me on the idea of following it any further.
October 21, 2020
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the biggest Image launch from 2019. For most of that year, Image was having its thunder routinely stolen from other publishers like BOOM! with their launches of titles like “Once and Future” and “Something is Killing the Children.” Then along came “Undiscovered Country” towards the end of the year, and its first issue outsold all others from publishers that weren’t Marvel or DC. They managed to do this because the series came from an all-star creative team that included co-writers Scot Snyder and Charles Soule, and main artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, and came with a killer hook for its story. That the series itself turned out to be a wild and crazy trip through a lost America certainly helped too.
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October 19, 2020
The end of the previous volume promised us a showdown between longtime rivals Io Fleming and Darryl Lorenz. We don’t quite get that here as the first half of the volume gives us a still-thrilling encounter between the two as Fleming presses his advantage as hard as he can. It’s only the unbreakable determination of Darryl and his support team which keeps the pilot alive long enough for Claudia to show up with the Psycho Zaku. Io has his own backup on the way, in the form of Bianca and the Trust squadron. It seems like it’s going to come down to who can get their leader resupplied first; that is, unless someone does something so reckless in the heat of battle that it completely changes the dynamic of the conflict.
Vol. 14 shows that even if tenosynovitis has robbed mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki of his ability to draw fine detail, he still remains a hell of a storyteller. Not only is the art improved from the previous volume, it boasts some of the most gripping scenes of the series to date. Io’s rampage to get Darryl at the beginning is just the tip of the iceberg as it segues into Claudia’s mad dash to keep the Psycho Zaku away from her former lover. After that the action shifts to outside the base as what seems like a figurative exercise in deck-clearing becomes a sadly literal one for some members of the cast.
“Thunderbolt” has always been a little uneven over the course of its run. When it’s firing on all cylinders, as it is here, it’s as thrilling as anything you’ll see in the “Gundam” universe. I will admit that I’m a little disappointed to find out that the story won’t be wrapping up here as I was expecting it to. We’ve just reached the end of Act 2 here. Based on the quality of this volume, however, the thought of an Act 3 to this story definitely has promise.
October 18, 2020
Well, vol. 4 doesn’t make me want to give up on the series before its final volume comes out. So that puts it ahead of “Sex Criminals” at least.
As for the actual story contained within this volume, it involves a lot of running around. Clara and the local police are running after the Laughing Man after he escapes from Doc Sutton in Rural Gideon Falls and starts having his way with the townspeople. At the same time, Norton and Doc start running towards the only people they think have a chance of stopping this threat: The Ploughmen. Meanwhile, over in Urban Gideon Falls, Father Fred and Angela meet up with the Bishop and are thrust into the Pentoculus in hopes of getting to the literal center of everything. Before that happens, they have to run away from some very creepy creatures. It all leads to a climax that actually involves a whole lot of standing around, but more than enough C4 to make up for it.
“The Pentoculus” further cements “Gideon Falls” as a series that’s worth reading more for its art than its story. Writer Jeff Lemire shuffles the characters around a whole lot and even gives us some answers to some of the questions the series has raised. I’m glad that he does, but “because it’s a multiverse” is one that needed to be built up more than it has been to this point. Fortunately Andrea Sorrentino’s art is more than enough to make up for the narrative’s failings. His surrealistic layouts and creepy insectoid imagery conjure suspense and horror from the visuals alone. Even though there are the occasional misshapen faces that appear that way due to deadline pressure than supernatural forces, the majority of Sorrentino’s work captivates and sells the stakes that the writer is trying to conjure. Though I will give Lemire this: Ending the story on a cliffhanger that causes the villain some consternation is something that I’d like to see more writers do.