Image © DC Comics, Inc.
Writer Charles Soule makes good use of the Annual format here to focus on one character’s story, specifically the end of it. He introduced Capucine, the 1,000-year-old assassin and self-appointed bodyguard to Alec Holland in SWAMP THING #20 released in May of 2013, expanded on her life story over time, made her come to life and grow as a character, and now oversees her final adventure in this world. The story involves The Demon, Etrigan, created by Jack Kirby, and Soule’s handling of the hellish rhymer is the best I’ve seen in a long time. The art on the book is all excellent, with the main story by Javier Pina and Carmen Carnero, and chapters of Capucine and Swamp Thing’s pasts by Ryan Browne, Dave Bullock and Yanick Paquette (nice to see him back on this book briefly). A fine comic, satisfying and rewarding to read.
Image © Mike Mignola.
If you like comics with monsters that will really creep you out, have a look at this one. Writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi are spinning out a relentless tale of a disintegrating world, and this volume focuses on New York City. Two teams of B.P.R.D. agents are attempting to enter in from different directions, hoping to meet in the middle. Their mission is simply to gather information, not get into battles with whatever evils have taken over the city, but as you might expect, that doesn’t last long. Liz Sherman, the team’s fire-starter, is back to full strength, and itching to take on The Black Flame, the apparent demon ruler of the city, and it’s a battle you have to see to believe. Plenty of other horrible things are in the path of both teams, both hellish and human. As usual, the teams take a beating, but this time they do at least complete their mission. The art by James Harren is excellent, he’s a great find, and team players Dave Stewart and Clem Robins help make this book a complete success.
Image © Mark Helprin and Chris Van Allsburg.
Chris Van Allsburg is probably best known as the writer and artist of the book “The Polar Express.” This is one of three by Mark Helprin illustrated by Van Allsburg, and the book is formatted in a similar style to the artist’s other books that I’ve seen. At 8 by 10 inches, and 148 pages, it straddles the boundary between picture book and children’s novel. The illustrations are gorgeous, often making good use of perspective and low viewing angles, two Van Allsburg trademarks.
The story by Helprin has many good qualities, and some that bothered me as well. The prose is often full of strong, evocative imagery that rivals the pictures. It’s told from the perspective of a young girl from distant mountains who is secretly a princess destined to rule the massive city she comes to, or so she’s been told, but at present that city is ruled with iron control by “the usurper,” who killed her parents. As the innocent girl is swept into city life and put to work in the massive kitchens of the royal palace, she finds friends who help her toward her destiny, though that path is dangerous for all of them. The emotional arc of the story works well, and I liked the characters, but the book is full of impossible things (like a single room filled with ovens for baking that takes hours to travel through) that kept pulling me out of the story. The plot is also full of lucky coincidences and deus ex machina solutions that don’t play fair. I suppose I might have accepted such things with less trouble in my own childhood, so perhaps this book is not for me. In all, I liked it, but never fully fell into the story, as I think one should with a fantasy. The “willing suspension of disbelief” was too difficult.
Image © DC Comics, Inc.
Geoff Johns really is good at this. The issue features a fascinating challenge between two alpha males, Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne, who have seemingly joined forces both in business and in the Justice League. But the undertow is staggering, with both plotting and counter-plotting. Bruce’s plots are more obvious, but Lex’s are more dangerous. The interplay is brilliant, and the rest of the team stands by clearly ready for anything, but enjoying the battle of wits and fortunes. Of course, things go wrong, a third party enters the picture intent on mayhem, and the team action is on. The art by Mahnke, Reis and a host of inkers is outstanding, as usual, and seamless. This is great comics.
Image © Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse.
Now that this series is in its second arc, I have a clearer picture of the story’s direction. An alien has been stranded on Earth, and is hiding out in plain sight in the small town of Patience in the Pacific Northwest. He was posing as a retired doctor devoted to fishing, but has been sucked into working as the town’s doctor. After being shot in the first volume, he’s recovering and still helping his young replacement, who the nurses and townsfolk don’t like very much. This is one storyline that presents great character development, but there are two more. The alien is also a detective novel fan, and solved a serial murderer case (leading to his being shot). Now another murder victim, unrelated, has turned up, and the alien can’t seem to resist the opportunity to try to solve this one as well. Finally, the government knows something or someone crash-landed years ago, and is still trying to find out more. New evidence surfaces with a photo of the alien’s true face (that most around him can’t see, though we readers can). The government sends out a team to investigate.
This combination of science fiction, murder mystery and small town soap opera from veteran British creators Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse is great reading, with lots of interwoven threads and slowly building tension. Reminds me a bit of that old TV show “The Fugitive,” except this fellow is mostly staying put and hoping not to be found out, though the chances of that are increasing.
Well done and Recommended.