Monday, June 4, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 5/30

Angel & Faith #10
Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Chris Samnee

OK, I'm going to say it, just in case: SPOILERS if you haven't read all the way through Buffy Season 8 yet. I know it's a year+ old at this point, but I figured it better to say it up front.

Now that that's out of the way... I have thoroughly been enjoying Angel & Faith, even more than it's parent title, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9. Not to slight Buffy; it's a very good comic too. But Angel & Faith has been a very strong title, with Christos Gage at the top of his game, and Rebekah Isaacs turning in some excellent art. This issue stands out for a couple reasons though. First is guest artist Chris Samnee. Samnee is one a small group of artists whose work I will follow anywhere (the others being Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Guy Davis, and Michael Lark). I'm mostly a story and character guy, but there's something in Samnee's art that has really grabbed me and made me want to watch him grow in the craft. This issue spotlights his talent, shifting into a couple time periods, showing some really well-designed creatures, and mixing in some great character moments. The main story is great. It introduces us to former Buffy mainstay Rupert Giles's two aunts, who happen to be powerful witches who have used their power to keep them young for years. They have made various demonic deals along the way to help that, and now the demon's have come to collect, and the aunts have arrived at Angel and Faith's London flat hoping for help. This leads to some great combat and some amusing situations. But the scene that gets me is a flashback to Giles as a young boy in his first confrontation with the supernatural. Angel & Faith has shown various scenes flashing back to Giles's past since so much of the series is about Angel seeking redemption for his murder of Giles at the end of Season 8, but this shows something we've never really seen: an innocent Giles before the supernatural really invaded his life. As someone to whom Giles meant a lot (he was my favorite of the original Buffy characters, and one of my favorite Whedon characters of all time), this glimpse of his past was worth the price of admission.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell
Writers: Mike Mignola & Scott Allie
Art: Max Fiumara

Hellboy's back! Well, in flashback anyway. This story is the origin of Prof. J.H. O'Donnell, the crazy researcher who pops up occasionally in the background of various B.P.R.D. comics, rambling insanely and occasionally giving out some key piece of information. It's one of those excellent Mignola creepy one shots, with an old house full of mystical books, scary fly monsters, a flaming beast, and little bits of background on the history of modern magicians. There are some great moments, especially one in which the agent telling the story of what happened to O'Donnell and Hellboy basically says, "Oh, and so Hellboy fought a monster and burned the house down," as if it's what's to be expected, which, if you've ever read a Hellboy comic, it pretty much is. Max Fiumara, best known for Joe Kelly's awesome dragon-fighting-ring-in-the-great-depression comic Four Eyes, comes on board for this one shot, and he deserves his place among the artists of the Mignolaverse, with a style that's just off kilter enough to really make a shiver run up your spine as Prof. O'Donnell walks down the secret steps and sees what's waiting for him. The ending is bitterweet, as most stories set around Hellboy are, and even more so since Hell on Earth began. It fits the world Mignola has crafted well. If you like Hellboy and haven't tried the spinoffs yet, or haven't in a while, give this one shot a try. You won't be disappointed.

Roger Langridge's Snarked #8
Story & Art: Roger Langridge

I feel like I'm going to be reviewing Snarked every month until I feel like the book is getting the attention it deserves. Having discovered Roger Langridge during his incredible run on The Muppet Show Comic Book (which will be returning for one final arc as a mini-series from Marvel next month), I followed him to his creator-owned Snarked, a mish-mash of various characters form the works of Lewis Carroll. The Walrus (Wilberforce J. Walrus)  and the Carpenter (Clyde McDunk) and a young Red Queen and her baby brother (Scarlett and Rusty respectively) are our leads, and they run across characters from The Hunting of the Snark and The Jabberwocky, along with a couple from Wonderland, although that name, and that of Carroll's most famous protagonist, are never mentioned. This issue wraps up the second arc, where our heroes continue to sail with the Bellman and his crew towards Snark Island to find the missing Red King, but the Gryphon, who has been hunting them since they escaped the kingdom, has finally caught up to them, with the frumious Bandersnatch in tow. Snarked is worth reading to watch a cartoonist at the height of his craft. It moves effortlessly from high adventure, to comedy, to some truly touching little character bits; the book never rests on just being a humor or kids comic, but does so much more. And Langridge, being the main creative force as both writer and artist, really uses his art to set up all the things he'll be playing with later in the issue through hints, and never skimps on the details. The action really pops in this issue, as the Bandersnatch attacks the ship, and the solution to the issue's events play well off of the established character traits of the leads, Queen Scarlett's imperious nature and the Walrus's constant scheming, but this arc has shown both characters, especially the seemingly cowardly and conniving Walrus, grow. I'm a sucker for comics playing with literary convention and character (The Sandman, Kill Shakespeare,  the first couple League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volumes come to mind), and Snarked is a worthy addition to those ranks.

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