The Weekly Haul: Reviews for the Week of April 10
A good range of comics this week in style, but there wasn’t too much substance, and a surprising dearth of Skrulls, what with Skrullapalooza going on (Thanks for that one, Brian!) Still, some interesting books, so let’s discuss.
Book of the Week: Locke & Key #3 — In Hollywood, this century so far has been dominated by horror films, an endless line of creepy or violent flicks that closely imitate either The Ring or Saw. It would be easy to look at a project like Locke & Key, which is published by horror house IDW and written by Stephen King’s son, and think it’s just another creative property hopping on the horror bandwagon.
Writer Joe Hill is crafting a very distinctive story, though, and one that’s made strong by the characters. In each issue so far, Hill has mostly featured one of the three children whose father was murdered by a teenage psychopath. This issue it’s the daughter, Kinsey, and the bulk of the story is a completely convincing look at how she struggles to fit in as "the girl whose dad got killed."
The little side moments then are used to further develop the supernatural mystery of the family’s home – Keyhouse – and to bring the villain back into the picture, as the murderous and insane Lesser makes his bloody escape from lockup. No surprise then that the series has already been optioned for a movie.
Nova #12 — This series is lightyears ahead of every other outerspace series right now, and every issue can be counted on for epic battle, a thoughtful plot and some cool interstellar weirdness. This time it’s Richard finally besting the Phalanx infection, only to end up in a too-big fight with a Technarc (a giant alien robot from Warlock’s family tree).
A special credit goes to the art team of Paul Letterier and Rick Magyar, who manage to make the robot aliens believable and expressive, no easy task. Now, if only the conclusion to this story was actually in this series, not Annihilation: Conquest.
Batman: Death Mask #1 — I have something of a painful secret to admit. I don’t read manga. I just can’t get into it, no matter what I try. I really hate to admit then that it took a manga version of Batman to hook me. But aside from some introductory pages that rehash Batman’s history (I’m assuming for readers who like manga and not Batman), Yoshinori Natsume’s American comics debut is a strong one.
The questions raised of Batman’s true identity (whether he’s Bruce Wayne or Batman) are nothing new, but the deeper story of Batman’s history in Japan and the mask-wearing, face-cutting-off villain are set up quite well in this first issue.
The Goon #23 — When this series first started it became one of my favorites, always irreverent and hilarious and gross, yet maintaining a strong story with a surprising amount of pathos. Then it swerved badly off course while Eric Powell worked on the Chinatown graphic novel and Action Comics art. Now The Goon is back in the saddle, with this issue almost taking a top spot, if it weren’t for some choppy transitions at the beginning. Still, a really good read.
Justice Society of America #14 — Another near miss. Finally the JSA and Gog throw down, and Dave Eaglesham portrays an amazingly intense fight for the few pages it takes up. That just serves as an appetite-whetter for the big slugfest on the way next issue. The only problem with this series is that, as much as I like all the characters, there are simply too many of them, lending to some spastic storytelling.
Number of the Beast #1 — I picked this up not knowing it was an Authority tie-in, and since I never got into that series I was predictably lost from the get-go. Still, not a bad book, though it never settles for a tone. There are some great moments of drama with a doomsday (not Doomsday) apparently on the way, but then there are goofball moments and characters like Stinkbug, which feel like a page from The Tick was randomly inserted.
BPRD #4 — This series does a quite creditable job of adding to the Hellboy mythos while both keeping in the tone Mignola has set and establishing a new voice. And, after a relatively relaxed first few issues, things start jumping with a cliffhanger that involves a living evil head and Nazi apes.
Green Lantern Corps #23 — Unless you’re a Green Lantern junkie (I’m not), the only thing of real interest here is the side plot of Mongol continuing to amass Sinestro Corps rings. As DC’s promotional art has shown us, this is a bad thing.
Amazing Spider-Girl #19 — I’ve really wanted to get into this series (call it Brand New Day spite), but the shop didn’t have any issues. I’ll assume it sold out, and not that they didn’t order any.
Titans #1 — A pretty entertaining issue, with page after page of huge cliffhangers and scary villains, but it feels completely removed from the DCU and doesn’t hold much weight for those who aren’t obsessed with the Titans of yore. Also, the whole every-hero-is-taken-out angle has been done too many times in recent DC history, including Justice and Justice League of America.
Fantastic Four #556 — I like the angle Mark Millar is taking of returning the FF to their roots, as a family of celebrities/heroes struggling to balance those roles and responsibilities. But it’s hard to get sucked into a book that isn’t connected to continuity (at least in a meaningful way) and that relies on empty villains like a giant Captain America robot. What, no Nazi robots?
Wonder Woman #19 — After starting out with an arc that set out to get back in touch with WW’s identity, Gail Simone now is out in left field (outer space, actually) with a cheesy, weird story that never feels important, though it has a classic moment of WW using nonviolence to win. Things aren’t helped by some weak art left in Terry Dodson’s wake.
Last Defenders #2 — This series has two of my favorite characters in the Flaming Skull and Colossus, but it’s never as fun as it sets out to be. It could just be that memories of the criminally under-appreciated New Invaders are coloring my perception of this similar book. And I did like the use of split-narrative at the beginning as the team tries to explain to Iron Man why they screwed up so badly in their first mission.
Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book journalist. Every Wednesday, he braves Atlanta traffic to visit Oxford Comics, where he reads a whole mess of books for his weekly reviews. Van’s blog can be found at graphicfiction.wordpress.com.
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