They just keep piling up around my place. New volumes from all of the Image titles I read. Being several, and in one case seven, volumes deep into them I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect from them at this point. So even if there’s not as much to talk about these latest volumes of East of West, Sex Criminals, Manifest Destiny, Outcast, and I Hate Fairyland that doesn’t mean they’re not still good. Or still not living up to their potential. Find out which of these series falls under those classifications after the break.
Seven volumes in and I’m starting to get the feeling with East of West that this series would be best experienced by going back and re-reading all of the previous ones before taking in its latest edition. There’s just so many different characters and factions to keep track of at this point that diving into this volume felt just a little daunting at first. Fortunately that feeling went away as things went on with creators Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta doing their level best to make sure the conflicts in this volume are engaging as possible. To wit: The surprise outcome of the cult’s march on the Endless Kingdom was inspired, the downfall of the Union was fraught with enjoyable schadenfreude, and Archibald Chamberlain’s scheming managed to be entertaining in spite of the fact that he is a complete and utter bastard. We’re coming into the final year of the Apocalypse now and this volume successfully kicks things into high gear.
I’ve talked before about how some volumes of certain series are difficult to re-read because they represent a low point for the protagonists. A point where everything goes wrong for them and we, the readers, have to suffer along with them. That’s pretty much what happens here with Sex Criminals vol. 4: Fourgy, except that this series has never been in the same class as, say, “The Sandman,” or “Blade of the Immortal,” or even the still-quite-good “Ooku.” Vol. 4 basically has the entirety of the cast being shat on (metaphorically, thankfully) by Kegelface and her minions just so she can show them who’s boss. It’s as much fun as you’d expect. While this doesn’t completely snuff out the title’s irreverence, it puts a damper on things to the point where even traditionally amusing running gags like the store names in the background aren’t as funny this time around. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky end the volume with the implication that payback is coming, and it had better goddamn deliver if they want me to keep reading their series after this.
Manifest Destiny vol. 5: Mnemophobia & Chronophobia throws a sizeable challenge at the Discovery Corps as they hunker down in their base for Winter. That challenge would be EVERY MONSTER THEY’VE FACED BEFORE! All at once, too! If that sounds like an impossible threat to overcome then you’d be right because everything isn’t as it seems here. It does allow writer Chris Dingess to throw his entire cast into a wonderfully tense pressure cooker and artist Matthew Roberts the chance to do an action-packed “greatest hits” version of all the monsters he’s delivered in the series so far. The results are satisfying, but they don’t move the main story about the arches and the threat they represent forward all that much.
In my review of the previous volume of “Outcast” I mentioned that it does the slow burn well. Now, I’m feeling less sure about that. Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta vol. 5: The New Path does move things forward by showing us the fallout from the shocking death that closed out the previous volume and what it means for the perpetrator and the possessed humans who control the town. We’re also introduced to a new character with a close connection to protagonist Kyle Barnes who shows him the way to focus his exorcist abilities in ways that allow them to take the fight to the possessed. I won’t deny that it’s satisfying to see the bad guys on the ropes for the majority of this volume, but the flow of this volume felt very rigid here. It came off like Kirkman was checking off a lot of boxes regarding things that needed to happen for the progression of the story rather than let things play out naturally. Still, it’s a sign that the writer does have a plan and the art from Azaceta is enjoyably moody as always. Not a total loss but maybe an indication that the creators should look to wrapping up this title sooner rather than later.
I’d say that creator Skottie Young should consider wrapping up his signature Image series with I Hate Fairyland vol. 3: Good Girl, but as the final page makes clear there’s more story to come. The thing is that while Young is a phenomenally talented artist his sense of humor isn’t on the same level. There’s no denying that the visuals in this volume, which include a visit to a fantasy dungeon convention, a feudal-Japan inspired village populated by mushrooms, and one final all-out romp through the countryside are top-notch with demented style and protagonist Gert’s entertainingly crazed facial expressions. Yet whenever Young sets up a joke he always winds up going for the most obvious punchline, the lowest-hanging fruit, a tasteless visual gag or some combination of the three. I’d like to think the volume’s final twist would offer a way to revitalize it going forward. The thing is that after three volumes of this schtick I know better and will just go ahead and call it quits here.
Also, if Valofax is going to make a career out of showing up in other Image titles after his “God Country” breakout then he’s going to have to do better than this one.