Saturday, October 22, 2011

Comic Quickies: Tales of Death

The Unexpected: 'Tis the season for horror, and The Unexpected, a one shot from Vertigo, is packed full of the stuff from the glorious cover drawn by Rafael Grampa to the back cover, which has an ad for The Big Bang Theory which is a wholly different brand of horror.

Vertigo managed to pull together some pretty big names to contribute to this anthology, but for the most part, I was disappointed with the content.  There was a decent ghost story in there from Joshua Hale Fialkov and Brian Wood delivered the goods with his tale Americana, (though it was a story that didn't actually feel like horror) and I enjoyed looking at Farel Dalrymple's art, but aside from those few high points I was pretty underwhelmed.  The rest of the content seemed to fall into one of two categories: "gore-fest" horror, which I don't care for at all, or "shocker endings!" which were never very shocking and at times outright predictable.

The $7.99 price tag makes me feel like I was ripped off.

 The Shade #1 of 12: After Batman, The Shade is my favorite DC character.  I say this despite my only previous experience with the guy being the first Starman Omnibus.  His shady demeanor, (pun intended), his ambiguous morals, and his creepy ability to make shadows come to life as beastly constructs makes him a memorable and like-able character.  The fact that this twelve issue mini-series is written by James Robinson, who wrote the Starman stuff and has an all-star lineup of artists working on the issues made this title a must have for me.

The first issue got things off to an odd start.  From what I can tell, The Shade basically spends his time sipping tea with superheros, and engaging in post-coitus repartee with his lady.  He also takes a stroll.

Robinson seemed to more intent on showing who The Shade is and only gives readers a very small taste of what he is capable of.  There is a shocker ending that was actually shocking, and has me pretty excited for the next issue.

Also, Cully Hamner handled the art for this issue, and he makes everything look beautiful.  Definitely worth checking out.  It'll be interesting to see where the hell this one is going.

Who is Jake Ellis #5 of 5: FINALLY!!

I think it was about at two or three month wait (it felt like longer!) for this final installment of what has been one of my favorite comics of the year.  Delays suck, but Who is Jake Ellis is worth the wait.

Since the very first issue, this has been an comic steeped in mystery, with a healthy dose of espionage action tossed in to make a delicious concoction of comic genius. I loved everything about this comic, from the writing, to the art, and the colors, and the final installment delivers on all fronts.  (Except for the ugly gray-tone cover, what the hell?)

I've always said that good endings are hard to come by, and the ending here (or is it?  More Jake Ellis please!) is pretty well handled.  Writer Nathan Edmondson wrapped up much of the mystery that was swirling around the primary characters, and answers most of my burning questions, and manages to leave the door open for potential sequels.  Not too shabby by my book.

If you aren't already reading this in single issues, buy the trade when it comes out. You will thank me.  Who is Jake Ellis is one of the best titles to hit shelves this year.

Sweet Tooth #26: Jeff Lemire is a busy dude lately.  He's writing and illustrating Sweet Tooth, plus writing  two other comics, and working on his creator owned graphic novel Underwater Welder in his spare time.  So when I heard that he was taking a three month hiatus from his Sweet Tooth drawing duties, I wasn't that surprised.

His sub, Matt Kindt, has been the subject of much scrutiny between myself and other Sweet Tooth readers at the comic shop.  I wasn't too thrilled to think that someone other than Lemire would be drawing the likes of Gus, Jeppard and the other Sweet Tooth folks, a feeling that seemed to be universal.

Well, boy was I surprised when I cracked open issue #26, Kindt's first call of duty, to find that he would be handling the art for a three issue side story titled The Taxidermist that is set one hundred years prior to the events of the main story line.

The story follows Dr. James Thacker on his sea-faring journey to the icy northern wastes of Alaska in search of his brother in law, who has gone missing while attempting to set up a Christian mission for the native Alaskans.  As soon as Thacker, the ship's captain and first mate hit land and begin their trek towards the settlement, things start to get weird, and before too long, their sled dogs are mysteriously killed, and things go south from there.

An awesome start to what looks to be an interesting side story.  Oh, and Matt Kindt's art is a good match to the strange story of icy Alaskan mystery and mayhem.

Near Death #1: Would I read a crime thriller set in Seattle? Sign me up!  Well, that's just what you get with Jay Faerber's Near Death.

Markham is a killer for hire, but from the looks of things in the early pages, his most recent job went to shit.  Now Markham is severely injured, and racing to save his own life.  He winds up on the operating table of a friend who runs an animal hospital and flatlines during surgery.  During his near death experience Markham is confronted by the hundreds of souls he's put to death, and told he needs to make amends for his sins.  Markham eventually is saved, and during his recovery, decides to use his skills to save people rather than kill them.

This first issue delivers the concept for the series in a pretty straight forward and workman like manner.  There is a no nonsense feel to the comic, which is possibly meant to make the story seem more spare and hard boiled, but to me it made the characters, especially Markham come across as empty vessels.  There is an interesting twist at the end that makes me think there might be more to this fledgling series than meets the eye, but I'm definitely on the fence with this title.  I do have the second issue waiting to be read, so I'll see if #2 can deliver the goods before I decide whether to carry on with this series or not.


Niall Alexander said...

Agreed, much to my dismay, on The Unexpected. What a disappointment! What with all the talent on board, I guess that, at the least, was unexpected. Precious little else about this book surprised though.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I hadn't realised The Shade was out already. Comic book store, I'm coming!

Ryan said...

Yup, The Unexpected was a big let down especially given the price tag. I've been less than thrilled with the anthologies I've been picking up lately. The CBLDF Liberty Annual was decent, but once again, not hugely entertaining.

I hope you enjoy The Shade!