A-hoy-hoy, everyone! The dreadnaught of chicanery, Johnny, is back with a brand new comic round-up! In March, I read 197 comics (that’s right, I keep track). Here’s what’s worth mentioning:
Once and Future Queen #1 by (W) Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride (A/CA) Nick Brokenshire from Dark Horse Comics was a pretty solid debut issue from the Amelia Cole team. Another modern sword in the stone story starring a 19-year-old chess prodigy who finds and draws the fabled Excalibur from its resting place. Adventure ensues. Definitely worth checking out.
All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 by (W) Josh Bayer, (A) Herb Trimpe with inks from Benjamin Marra from Fantagraphics was an excellent homage to Ostrandrian 80’s grit comics, and I loved it. They even dotted the I’s with some throwback newsprint paper stock that really tied the feeling together. The combination of pencils from Trimpe, an old school comic guy, and inks from Marra, a punk rock indie artist, is an interesting blend of comic generations. Though it’s a great book over all, I’d have to say the best part of the book was Al Milgrom’s review of Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit comics! Seriously worth the price of admission!
Batwoman #1 by (W) Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV (A/CA) Steve Epting from DC Comics. As a huge fan of the modern Batwoman, I came into this with big expectations and all of them were met! Bennett and Tynion IV are hit or miss writers for me and I’m glad that they knocked this one outta the park. Doesn’t hurt having Steve Epting on art delivering interesting layouts and fantastic detail.
American Gods #1 by (W) Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell (A) P. Craig Russell, and Scott Hampton from Dark Horse Comics was a totally solid adaptation. I am not much interested in straight adaptations of other works into comics. They just don’t appeal to me, with a very few exceptions (like Evan Dorkin’s Bill and Ted movie adaptations that were almost as good as the movies!) but, Gaiman and P. Craig Russell know how to tell wonderful stories beautifully, so it’s no surprise that this is quality!
Grass Kings #1 by (W) Matt Kindt (A) Tyler Jenkins from Dark Horse Comics was an interesting yet low key debut of a beautifully illustrated rural mystery drama. The story takes place in the “Grass Kingdom,” an off-the-grid trailer park kingdom populated by the poor and disenfranchised, ruled by three brothers. A mysterious woman shows up seeking refuge and is taken in by Robert, one of these “Grass Kings”, but does he know the true weight of this decision?
Street Tiger from (W/A) Ertito Montanawas from Amigo Comics was pretty decent! A person with a motorcycle helmet, baseball bat, and leather jacket featuring an image of a tiger dishes out lethal justice against the criminals of Nam City. Two detectives investigate these brutal slayings and begin to trace this mysterious crime-stomper’s steps. Like a Tarantino, but not as dirty.
Hillbilly Volume 1 by (W/A) Eric Powell from Albatross Funnybooks is flawless. Eric Powell as an artist has an amazing way of getting better with every issue he releases. He doesn’t get into a groove or plateau by playing it safe. Rather, like a true artist, challenges himself and fine tunes his craft. This book is a culmination of all of that storytelling experience. Hillbilly is a mean and poetic gothic folktale told as one-shot (more or less) stories featuring Rondel, the hillbilly of the woods, equipped with the literal Devil’s meat cleaver, traveling around and going on adventures which usually end up with his cleaver slicing through phantasms or witches and other such ghouls. Volume 1 just came out and I couldn’t recommend it more!
DC Comics also debuted the first wave of DC Comics/Hanna Barbera crossover one-shots and, so far so good! Nothing incredible, mind you, but entertaining enough. Green Lantern/Space Ghost was a great team-up and instant classic. Booster Gold/Flintstones was interesting, especially since it establishes the Flintstones as the DCU in the stone age! Maybe Anthro will make an appearance in the future? My personal favorite was the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits issue. I don’t particularly care for the Squad but I LOVED the Splits as a kid, so I find it especially hilarious for the Splits to be confused for metahumans and put to work rescuing the Squad! That issue also had a ridiculous Snagglepuss back-up story that is a nice little taste of the upcoming miniseries that reinvents Snapplepuss as a gay southern gothic playwright in the way of Tenessee Williams! Looking forward to the upcoming Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam and the Lobo/Roadrunner one-shots.
Underwinter #1 by (W/A/) Ray Fawkes from Image Comics was interesting. Don’t want to say too much and give anything away, but it’s a horror story about a musical quartet hired by the filthy rich to perform for them. Their instructions are wildly eccentric and specific, but for $10,000 each who can say no? The horror starts to set in during the performance, when one of their blindfolds loosens…
Man-Thing #1 by (W) R. L. Stine (A) German Peralta, Christopher Mitten from Marvel Comics was absolutely abysmal. I didn’t expect much from the famous hack writer, but, yowza! I am not sure Mr. Stine even bothered to read a single issue of the Man-Thing or even wiki him before embarking on this project. It’s a shame, because the art isn’t bad at all and Tyler Crook’s covers are gorgeous. My deep dismay (surprisingly) isn’t centered on Man-Thing’s newly developed ability to speak, but rather on the great mischaracterization of the putrid Quag Beast. Why would a Biochemist who was tragically transformed into a mindless swamp creature through mystical and scientific means, who just recently gained back conscious thought and the ability to speak, now suddenly want nothing more than to become a Hollywood star? What?! You’re telling me his first thought after regaining thought wouldn’t be to figure out a way back to a human form? He’s a Biochemist! And why is Man-Thing concerned with plane tickets when he can teleport anywhere, he’s the Guardian of the Nexus of All Realities for pete’s sake!? Has he lost this ability? I dunno, but I’d say the less you know about Man-Thing, the better your chances for enjoying this book! Luckily, it is only 5 issues. 3 more left. Then it will be all over and instantly forgotten.
X-Files: Deviations One-Shot by (W) Amy Chu (A) Silvia Califano, Elena Casagrande from IDW was garbage. I take partial blame because it was my fault for being so excited. But come on, a story that portrays Fox as the abductee and Samantha as the sibling who made it her life’s work to pursue the truth aided by Special Agent Dana Scully could be freaking awesome!! Instead of doing something new while paying homage to the original storyline, they just quickly and lamely recapped various storylines, with Samantha acting just like Fox would, but with zero sexual tension between her and Agent Scully. This one-shot was truly a missed opportunity.
March also marked the end of the Island comic anthology magazine as well as the return of Head Lopper from Image Comics. Space Riders by (W) Fabian Rangel (A) Alexis Ziritt also returned from Black Mask Studios in a new miniseries, and we learned in Unworthy Thor #5 what made the Odin-son so unworthy!
The most ridiculous thing I read through this month was a one-shot story from the 1983, a Spider-Man and Dallas Cowboys crossover! These were an insert in the Dallas Times Herald newspaper and this was not the only one made! Not that great, but still totally silly!
Unfortunately we also lost a great this past month. Bernie Wrightson (1948-2017), sometimes credited as “Berni” Wrightson, was known for co-creating Swamp Thing, as well as for his extensive work in the horror genre. Bernie was an artist’s artist. A truly masterful illustrator beyond the comic format and world. I’d say a great artist is equipped with many things, but the two most important attributes are ability and creativity. Bernie had both of these traits in spades, but what made him legendary was that his amazing imagination and creations inspired his fans and readers. He ignited the spark of creativity in others, inspiring them to become artists that in turn continue to influence future generations of artists. It is one thing to be brilliant in your art, but to also influence your peers and the future of your craft is something else entirely. That’s what Bernie did. Luckily, Bernie supplied us with enough art to enjoy for a lifetime. RIP Bernie, thank you so much, you will be missed by many but forgotten by none.
Image from Bernie Wrightson’s adaptation of the novel Frankenstein