Hear ye, hear ye! Time for another round-up of reviews! We’ve got some mainstream, some indie, some old, some new, all of them worthy of the Man Cave once over. So let the recommendations, commendations, and declamations begin!
Tales Of Mr Rhee Karmageddon
Perhaps writer Dirk Manning should have called this volume–a continuation of his breakout hit webcomic-turned-Image success Nightmare World–CARMAGEDDON. The issue is a joy from start to finish, but Manning and artist Seth Damoose (Xenoholics) truly shine when the lead characters find themselves on the road, quietly sharing a moment while one drives and the other rides shotgun.
For the uninitiated, the original Nightmare World, collected in three volumes from Image Comics’ Shadowline imprint, is a series of interconnected short stories, mostly horror, that ultimately reveal Lucifer’s plan to bring about the capital-A-Armageddon by summoning the Eldritch gods. Yes, the devil and Cthulhu teaming up to battle angels at the end of the world is pretty much as awesome as it sounds. The first Tales of Mr. Rhee volume takes place after the so-called Armegeddon and was originally serialized online before arriving as a print collection from Devil’s Due earlier this year. In the first volume, Mr. Rhee, nee Michael Reese, is a streetwise magician working to eradicate all the supernatural threats left over after Lucifer’s bid to end the planet.
This second volume, KARMAGEDDON will be serialized monthly beginning August 27th from Devil’s Due, with the introductory issue featuring a cover by Eric Powell (The Goon) and a cover price of only $1.99. KARMAGEDDON is a prequel story chronicling Rhee’s adventures during Lucifer’s ‘three days of darkness.’ That Rhee finds himself looking after five children after their parents meet an untimely demise is hardly groundbreaking in the horror genre, but then, Manning already broke the new ground when he teamed up Lucifer with the Old Ones. Instead, Manning focuses on the interactions between Rhee and these children, especially Abby, the eldest, as all six load into Rhee’s car and head for safe haven. When one of the children recognizes the silly pun inherent in the main character’s name, Manning hangs a lampshade and moves on. Yes, it is a silly pun, but that all parties recognize this, including Rhee himself, goes a long way toward humanizing the characters.
Manning is joined on KARMAGEDDON by Seth Damoose, who replaces the first volume’s Joshua Ross on art duties. While some of the characters who appear in the early framing sequence presumably appeared in earlier Rhee and Nightmare World volumes, they are not immediately recognizable, but that’s likely down to differing art styles. Like Manning, Damoose comes into his own once all the characters are piled into Rhee’s car, managing to make a long car ride both interesting and enjoyable, which is something my father could never do when I was a kid. The somewhat telegraphed cliffhanger can be forgiven. The ride’s too much fun, no matter what horrors await Mr. Rhee and his chargers, here on the road toward the end of the world.
Described by writer Justin Jordan as “Lone Wolf and Cub meets John Carpenter’s The Thing,” Spread tells the story of a man called No, a survivor of an otherworldly invasion who becomes the guardian of an infant called Hope. The child may hold the key to finally stopping the eponymous creatures. Like Justin’s other work for Image Comics (Luther Strode, Dead Body Road), Spread is soaked with blood, but, like those other books, the violence is underscored by moments of genuine tenderness, such as No’s somber farewell to his partner Billy in the issue’s opening pages.
Spread’s dialogue is sparse, even with the use narrative captions, which are written from the perspective of the infant Hope. Jordan wisely steps out of the way and lets his collaborators do much of the heavy lifting. Artist Kyle Strahm, late of IDW’s We Will Bury You, has a style perfectly suited not only for outrageous biological horror but also for conveying the hopelessness of living life in the shadow of the Spread. When No says goodbye to Billy, and again when Hope’s previous caretaker realizes that she’s failed to protect the child, every accompanying emotion is revealed in the characters’s faces thanks to Strahm’s linework.
Meanwhile, Felipe Sobreiro, the veteran colorist behind Jordan’s Luther Strode volumes, works from a washed-out palette. In the world of the Spread, blue-white snow fades at the horizon into a blue-grey sky, and the characters’ pallor suggests they haven’t seen the sun in ages. Given the color scheme that otherwise fills the book, the color red seems to leap from the page, and the appearance of red here means one of two things, either blood or the Spread. In either case, it means that things are about to go badly for the characters.
In spite of its outwardly simplistic premise, Spread teases a deeper world in need of exploring. In addition to the human raiders (one of whom, whimsically named Amell, sports a bow and arrows), who else besides No and Hope has survived the Spread? And what exactly is the Spread? Is it alien? Is it one it or several? These questions demand answers, and our impatience to have them is one sign of a deftly crafted first issue.
Eric Palicki is currently Kickstarting the graphic novel RED ANGEL DRAGNET, with artist Anna Wieszczyk. The first for chapters of his previous graphic novel, ORPHANS, are available on comiXology. Read his work for and about comics on his website. Follow him on Twitter.
Eric previously reviewed Amala’s Blade and found that to be pretty terrific, too.
This patchwork mystery started off intriguing, and has turned downright engaging, as police from various eras try to solve baffling murders decades apart. A pattern quickly emerges, but it’s not one they’ll easily discern, given how far apart the killings are. All of the investigating protagonists are outsiders, half of them with a secret that could destroy their lives. The unifying factor appears to be a Freemason conspiracy, but does it date all the way back to the Neolithic and stretch to a pandemic of amnesia sometime in the future?
Bodies wisely applies its four artists to fit the era they depict, and if the series lacks any colossal moments thus far, it’s certainly got memorable impressions: a scavenging cannibal, a body from the sky…weaving an entertaining tale all the same. It’s eight issues, so granted it has room to breathe and a demanding structure, but it could still stand to pick up the pace a bit. So far everyone’s pretty much discovered a body and gone home, plus had an unwelcome interlude. You can pick it up or leave it, but right now it suggests that the final product will pay off.
Future’s End #17
Now here’s a book that set its mood early in the run. After a horrifying look at the merciless future, DC’s four-man writing team sent the new Batman back to the present to avert catastrophe. The only problem is he short-shot, and ended up five years from now. The most exciting of DC’s (too) many crossover events now, Future’s End has come to an eddying drift. Granted, this issue has two huge reveals, both of them related to Superman’s new, more mysterious look, but it doesn’t make up for how many immediate questions it raises.
This is not a book that rewards an intermittent reader. You’re either on board for a year’s worth of issues or you wonder what the heck is happening. Why is Constantine daubing his cigarettes in blood? What are Hawkgirl and Dr. Sook talking about? Why does an OMAC go rogue? What are E2s? (a term for denizens of DC’s Earth-2, if you’re wondering). Why are the mind-controlled prisoners exiting their cells if the energy walls containing them don’t look any different? (Going to go ahead and blame the artist or colorist for that one.)
It’s an obtuse first half of the book, and not one that builds a swell of feeling or action. It’s not that this stuff isn’t connected to earlier issues or won’t be explained in forthcoming ones, it’s that it’s not satisfying while it’s happening right now.
Thankfully, the last two scenes of the book are more immediate to the book’s perpetual sense of dread. And what’s great about this title is still here: the characters are in various horror and thriller tales. Constantine is wandering the globe tracking the biblical apocalypse, Hawkgirl is in a paranoid thriller, Grifter is shooting his way through his own private They Live, while Batman Beyond (absent here) is racing the clock to find out if he’s in Terminator or 12 Monkeys.
Get it if you’re caught up, but wait for the trade if you’re not. Read it either way if you’re steeped in DC lore. It’s got too much talent to ignore.
Boy, this one isn’t going anyplace happy. Superman’s all about hope, and Geoff Johns’s bibliography shows him to be a fan of inspirational superheroes. So when Superman meets an otherworldly hero who’s a match for his powers and a twin to his origin story, they become fast friends. So far Ulysses is more the star of this story than Superman, but it ends with a big enough development to suggest that will change in short order.
Everything’s been going so well prior to this story that you have to expect the turnaround to be heartbreaking. Ulysses’s ignorance of Earth customs continues to be slightly unnerving, since he could destroy the planet if he felt like it, and here they reach a head when he doesn’t put due diligence in. Another one that’s better in the trade, but sprinkled with enough warmth to buy for the feels.
And hey, speaking of warm fuzzies, John Romita Sr. steps in to draw a variant cover for his son’s book. He’s still got it. You’ve been missed, sir.
G.I. Zombie #2
We were pretty surprised to find out this isn’t a gritty revamp of some goofy ’70s title. It sounds as if it would fit in with silliness like Creature Commandos, but what you get instead is Captain America: The Winter Soldier if Cap were preserved by other means, and if Black Widow were actually as broken as the movies keep saying she is. You want memorable moments, this is your book.
Here, a U.S. soldier turned sentient zombie becomes a special forces operative, and is tasked with halting an arms deal between some bikers and his agency’s real target. His partner is as arresting as he is, and may be even more fierce. This is what people ask for when they talk about strong female characters: Carmen King is sharp, capable, flawed, and well-realized without sounding like a male character. If you only buy one of the DC books reviewed here this week, make it this one.
It’s baffling how a team like Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti can, for years now, craft huge emotional payoffs like in The Monolith or unforgettable images like the torture and murder last issue, and not get that premiere billing enjoyed by much less satisfying titles. Is it because they’re working in more curious corners of the DC Universe? Because those are the same corners that gave us Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and The Sandman.
Brendan McGinley is editor round these parts when not writing comics or Cracked columns. You can say a neighborly hello to him on Twitter @BrendanMcGinley. You’d probably enjoy his supervillain comic Heist, if you’re a fan of tarnished souls and brutal retribution.
Brendan recently interviewed Star Wars Editor Jordan D. White about what fans can expect from the new series.