Comic Picks By The Glick
The Ghost in You:  A Reckless Book

The Ghost in You: A Reckless Book

June 24, 2022

You know how I said the podcast was going to be up either tonight or Saturday?  Logistics reared their head again and it'll be up on Wednesday.  All I can say about that is... HALLOWEEN!

 

If you think about it, the “Reckless” series has been building up to this point.  As she’s become a bigger presence over the course of the first three graphic novels, it’s not surprising to see Anna Keller take center stage for this latest story.  “The Ghost in You” sees her taking up a case from Lorna Valentine, a legendary “Scream Queen” and horror movie show host, who was recently left a mansion by one of her biggest fans.  Not just any mansion:  The Lamour Mansion, one of the most infamous murder houses in Hollywood.  It seems like a perfect match of property to owner, right?  Too perfect, in fact, as Lorna has reason to believe that her new house is haunted.  Not wanting to pass up a chance to help out one of her idols, Anna readily agrees and the investigation begins.  It isn’t too long before our protagonist comes face to face with one of the specters of her own past, however:  Her mother, who is getting married to a guy she met in rehab.

 

Creators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have done such a great job of establishing Anna’s character over the previous volumes that she slides effortlessly into the lead role here.  Better still is that the solo focus on the character here means that we deeper dive into her history, which helps fill in the gaps regarding how and why she wound up working with Ethan in the first place.  The story itself is solid, though you probably shouldn’t go into this volume expecting the existence of the supernatural to be proven in the “Reckless” universe.  What you can expect to read is a solidly crafted mystery that unfolds with the kind of skill and craft that we’ve all come to expect from this creative team after all these years.

 

In short, if Brubaker and Phillips want to spin off Anna’s adventures into their own series of graphic novels, I’d be more than willing to give them a shot.  In the meantime, the next “Reckless” book promises to tell us what the title character was up to while this was going on.  Even though I enjoyed seeing Anna tackle a case on her own, I’m still eager to see how Ethan managed without her there.

 

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The Good Asian vol. 2

The Good Asian vol. 2

June 22, 2022

No podcast... yet.  There were some unavoidable logistics problems over the weekend and John, Steve, and I haven't been able to connect yet.  We're looking to record either Friday or Saturday, at which we'll upload it once we're done.  Until then...

 

The last time we saw Edison Hark, he was investigating a series of murders that looked to be perpetrated by Hui Long – an ax-wielding Chinatown legend.  He also had to deal with a blackmail plan against an influential Chinese lawyer and the reason he was in town in the first place:  Finding out what happened to his adopted father’s mistress.  Vol. 1 ended with a death that threatened to make life worse for everyone in the city, and things only get worse for Edison from there as he investigates further into the identity of Hui Long and winds up losing more than he expected to.  So much so that it might come down to someone else having to sort out this tangled web of murder and lies in Chinatown.

 

I felt that this second volume of “The Good Asian” was a solid enough read that wraps things up well enough.  There are plenty of twists, turns, surprising reveals, and an ending that ties everything together with a bow on top.  The problem here is that I can appreciate how all this is structured by writer Pornsak Pitchetshote without feeling very invested in it all.  That’s partly due to how the writer keeps feeling the need to reiterate the developments in the mystery with every issue, which makes it feel like he’s not confident in the audience’s ability to follow it all.  There’s also the fact that the majority of the cast feels pretty one-dimensional.  This is aside from Edison, who also has self-loathing as his single dimension, but at least it’s a multi-faceted kind of loathing.

 

Then you’ve got the fact that this story feels like it was intended as a history lesson to show us how bad things were for Asian Americans in the 1930’s.  While it may seem like a redundant lesson to talk about something like this, it’s still a necessary one given how hate crimes against this segment of the population have been on the rise in recent years.  Pitchetshote and artist Andre Tefenkgi do a good job of illustrating these issues for the reader’s awareness even if the story feels like it’s serving that idea rather than the other way around.  Given the quality of the story being told, “The Good Asian” is left feeling like something that’s more important than genuinely engaging.  It’s promised that Edison Hark will return at the end of this volume, and I can only hope that he comes with a story that’s as entertaining as it is important.

 

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Mob Psycho 100 vol. 8

Mob Psycho 100 vol. 8

June 20, 2022

The last time we saw Mob and Reigen, they had been invited along with a host of other psychics to the house of a millionaire who was offering big bucks to the individual who could successfully exorcize his daughter.  It seemed like it could be the basis for a reality show, until Reigen went in and found out that the spirit possessing the girl was far stronger than anyone could have anticipated.  Hell started to break loose and we find out the reason why in the first chapter of this volume.  The spirit possessing the girl is that of Keiji Mogami, a spirit medium who was responsible for popularizing the profession on TV but also had a secret dark side.  Dimple had a run-in with him where he found out all the bad things Keiji was up to before his death and he DESPERATELY wants Mob and Reigen to get the hell out of here.  Mob isn’t having any of this, of course, and has a plan to bypass his opponent’s defenses:  Astral projection.  Even if he can pull it off, the question remains of what he’s going to do when he finds himself on his opponent’s playing field.

 

The answer to that is kind of uncomfortable to read as Keiji sees great potential in Mob.  Potential for the young boy to become just like him.  What follows is an in-depth interrogation of why our protagonist refrains from using his powers and whether or not it actually counts as a form of privilege.  Would Mob be able to hold onto this ideal if he was constantly being bullied at school day in and day out?  “Mob Psycho 100” isn’t about to depart from the shonen manga playbook to show us the worst-case scenario answer to this, but what mangaka ONE does feel like there was actual thought put into it along with plenty of style.  I mean, it involves talking “snot” along with plenty of visual flourishes to show that the mangaka makes up for in execution and presentation what he lacks in aesthetics.  The story being told here in vol. 8 is certainly a familiar one, but the way it’s delivered here is more engaging than anything else.

 

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Tales From the Outerverse

Tales From the Outerverse

June 19, 2022

You’d think he’d be satisfied with having just one fictional universe all to himself.  Yet here we are with “Tales From the Outerverse,” a collection of stories set in the shared realms of “Baltimore” and “Joe Golem,” co-created by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden.  These stories were meant to add characters to and flesh out existing parts of the “Outerverse” starting with “Cojacaru the Skinner.”  She once worked with the golem, Josef, to fight against the threat presented by witches.  That was hundreds of years ago and now she’s been called back again on the eve of WWII to fight against the Hexenkorps – Nazi Witches!  Next is “Imogen of the Wyrding Way” as a woman uses her knowledge of the mystic arts to help a young man find his family after they’ve been taken by a group of hungry mountain trolls.  Last up is “The Golem Walks Among Us” where Josef is summoned to stop a baby-sacrificing cult of fishermen, only to find an old enemy awaiting him.

 

You can always count on Mignola to deliver some weird comics of a certain level of quality, and his work with Golden here is still perfectly readable.  It’s just that the threats presented here, the aforementioned Nazi Witches, along with the feral witches, trolls, and magic-wielding fishermen, feel kind of run-of-the mill compared to what we’ve seen from both creators in the past.  Worse still is that the storytelling here also feels by-the-numbers in light of the creators’ previous and better work.  Only the indomitable will displayed by Josef makes an impression as his expressions and actions tell you that he ran out of showing mercy towards his opponents a few centuries back.  Artist Peter Bergting helps sell this and there’s a roughness to his art that’s appealing here with all of the grisly and grubby supernatural threats on display.  These “Tales From the Outerverse” aren’t bad, but I wouldn’t say they’re good enough to make me anticipate further expansions of the Outerverse in the future.

 

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The Department of Truth vol. 3:  Free Country

The Department of Truth vol. 3: Free Country

June 18, 2022

Vol. 1 of “The Department of Truth” was a well-constructed marvel which tied the idea that belief shapes the world to the history of conspiracy theories as they relate to America.  It did this with a reveal at the end of the first issue that stands among the best I’ve seen in recent memory.  Vol. 2 didn’t hit this same level of quality, though.  It had its moments, like the introduction of Hawk Harrison and a touching story about Bigfoot of all things, but a good portion of that volume felt like you were being led around by your nose as writer James Tynion IV explained the plot to you.  Now we’re at vol. 3 and it’s the first one to not feature any interior art from co-creator Martin Simonds.  Instead, he’s replaced by six very talented artists as we get the history of the department in ways that are as disturbing as they are compelling.

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Undiscovered Country vol. 3:  Possibility

Undiscovered Country vol. 3: Possibility

June 17, 2022

Vol. 2 of this series was held back by how it was about America’s relation to technology and how – stop me if you’ve heard this before – it wound up being used for the wrong purposes and things started going wrong!  The good news here is that vol. 3 sees things get back on track a bit, in that it offers more of the craziness that made vol. 1 so appealing.  This is due to the fact that our protagonists have wound up in the “Possibility” zone which was meant to embody America’s creativity in relation to the arts.  Which is why they get attacked by gangsters on a boat who look like they came out of a 30’s gangster flick (complete with a black-and-white look) almost immediately.  That’s only the start of things as everything from superheroes, characters from tall tales, a sentient drum set, and even the Devil himself show up to pressure everyone into finding ways to create new stories for them to live out.  This is also the way our protagonists are going to find a way out of this zone as all they have to do is create a new American Masterpiece.

 

What exactly constitutes an “American Masterpiece?”  That’s the subject of much debate over the course of this volume, along with the nature of what our country’s “soft power” has wrought on the rest of the world.  Co-writers Scott Snyder and Charles Soule seem very interested in these questions, but they don’t have any clever answers for the reader by the end of this leg of the story.  They’re better at fleshing out the personalities and backstories of Valentina, the reporter, and Ace, the historian, and making them seem like real characters beyond their stated roles.  Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouts) and Leonardo Grassi (finishes) also deserve credit for drawing so much crazy stuff in this volume as well, even if their efforts don’t quite live up to the majesty of what they’re aiming for.  It all results in a volume that does keep me invested in the series, but more for its spectacle than what it has to say.

 

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Serial vol. 2:  Cat & Mouse

Serial vol. 2: Cat & Mouse

June 15, 2022

Jenni, the serial killer who goes around killing men who prey on women, and the women who help them, is still at large when this volume opens.  She’s almost at the end of her list of targets, too.  That’s good because Zoe is closing in on her as well, and the bit of detective work she does at the opening of vol. 2 has delivered her a big break.  Now she just has to catch up with this killer before the cops do.  This is because it’s not enough that Jenni has to die for what she’s done.  It’s because Zoe believes she has to die badly for it.

 

“Serial” wraps up with this volume and I’m feeling a little mixed about that.  While I wrote last time that I thought it’d be better for this series to finish up sooner than later, creator Terry Moore does a lot of things right in vol. 2.  Chief among these is playing out the struggles between Jenni and Zoe as they try to achieve their respective goals.  Even with her decades of life experience, Zoe is still stuck with the body of a child and Jenni, for all of her planning, isn’t able to make everything go according to her plan.  Some might also have a problem with Moore playing certain scenes for extremely dark and/or absurdist comedy, but I thought that stuff worked in the first volume and it continues to do so here.

 

More of an issue are the occasional cartoonish flourishes the creator adds to the art which are at odds with the grounded tone he establishes here.  There’s also a last-minute development that seeks to muddy the righteousness of Zoe’s quest and a final-page reveal that couldn’t scream “SEQUEL!” harder if it tried.  That said, Moore does deliver the goods with this concluding volume, and if he wants to pick up Zoe’s adventures in another town with another cast I have to admit that I’m feeling more open to that possibility now.

 

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Crazy Food Truck vol. 1

Crazy Food Truck vol. 1

June 13, 2022

Gordon Goliath drives a food truck for a living.  That in itself isn’t a remarkable occupation.  Except in this case where he’s driving it through a world whose setting can easily be described as “Post-Apocalyptic.”  Business in a world where a good portion of its population has been wiped out is as terrible as you’d expect.  However, Gordon feels that this work is his calling and he’s not about to give up on it anytime soon.  Not even after he encounters a naked girl sleeping in the middle of the road one day.  While Gordon is a good enough guy to take the girl in and even feed her, it’s not long before he finds out that her name is Arisa and she’s a super-strong fighting machine who’s on the run from the military.  Which is fine by Gordon because he’s on the run from them too.

 

“Crazy Food Truck” has a premise that makes me want to like this series.  The problem is that mangaka Rokurou Ogaki half-asses the storytelling all the way through the first volume.  Having a food truck operate in a post-apocalyptic setting is an interesting setup, but Gordon is made out to be terrible at actually selling food to those who want or need it.  Showing us how he sources the ingredients for his food is also done briefly or played for over-the-top action comedy.  Though the post-apocalyptic setting helps distinguish this title from other foodie manga I’ve read, it feels utterly generic compared to other titles that take place in a similar version of it.

 

The characters also don’t make much of an impression either.  Gordon is gruff but good-natured, while Arisa is a bubbly, gluttonous airhead who hits like an actual truck and likes walking around with her clothes off.  Any hint of an overarching story here beyond “they’re on the run from the military” isn’t given here, either.  I really don’t like giving up on series after reading their first volume, but “Crazy Food Truck” doesn’t offer anything to me that I haven’t seen done before and better elsewhere.

 

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Venom by Ram V and Al Ewing vol. 1:  Recursion

Venom by Ram V and Al Ewing vol. 1: Recursion

June 12, 2022

The Cates/Stegman (and friends) run was the first time I followed the ongoing adventures of Eddie Brock and his symbiote.  In case anyone has forgotten, I was thoroughly entertained by that “Venom” series, particularly in the way that it served to build up the main character arc by arc and while also making major changes to his backstory and status quo.  I’d say it’s the definitive “Venom” run… but it’s also the only “Venom” run I’ve read.  Until now.  Choosing to follow up Cates and Stegman’s (and friends’) work are not one, but two writers, Ram V and Al Ewing, and a hell of an artist in Bryan Hitch.  Throwing this much talent at a single series shows that while you can definitely make it readable, it doesn’t result in an instant classic.

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In the Flood

In the Flood

June 11, 2022

Let me quote directly from the description of this series on its back cover:

 

“Trapped and separated by an apocalyptic rainfall, Mike and Clara, devoted husband and wife, have sworn to find their way back to one another.  But they quickly discover that the rain – and their predicament – is not what it seems.  Can they figure out the grand trick that’s being played on them and overcome it to reunite?”

 

Whoever at Dark Horse, or at ComiXology who originally published this miniseries digitally, came up with this description clearly deserves a medal.  That’s because they really had to work in order to discern this kinda, sorta true description from the comic itself.

 

That’s because Mike and Clara are really trapped and separated in a house slowly filling up with water and a nightclub, respectively.  Everything else about this miniseries from creator Ray Fawkes is up for interpretation.  That’s because it becomes pretty clear early on that they’re not actually trapped in real places, they’re trapped in metaphors.  So if you can’t figure out what these spaces actually represent, good luck enjoying “In the Flood.”

 

Speaking as someone who didn’t – that is, enjoy “In the Flood” or figure out what these metaphors represent – your enjoyment of this miniseries may differ greatly from mine.  It’s just that in addition to being inscrutable, this miniseries didn’t offer me anything else to latch onto and give me a reason to try.  The characters are inscrutable, the storytelling meanders, and the writing is functional at best.  Fawkes’ art does conjure some Sienkiewicz-esque moodiness, but it’s not enough for me to recommend that anyone take a chance on trying to figure out this miniseries for themselves.

 

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