Monday, November 26, 2012

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 11/21

Baltimore: The Play
Story: Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
Art: Ben Steinbeck

I haven't followed the adventures of Lord Baltimore, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola's one-legged vampire slayer, in comics before; I only know his adventures from his first appearance, the novel Baltimore; or the Steadfast Tin Soldier. This one shot, seemingly centered around a theatre troupe of vampires piqued my interest, and so I figured I'd give it a shot. I was pleased to see the usual charm and horror of the works of Mignola and his Baltimore co-creator Christopher Golden. The story really isn't about Baltimore himself; he only appears in the framing sequence. The story is about the troupe, sponsored by Baltimore's nemesis, the vampire Haigus, to spread the plague of vampirism, and the backstage chaos of a troupe of vampires. The starlet of the troupe seems to beloved both by the troupe leader and by Haigus himself, something that confuses the vampire lord. The director, leader, and playwright of the troupe has a secret: he isn't the real author, but instead has Edgar Allan Poe's reanimated head in a jar. Other than a few good Futurama jokes in my head, I love the works of Poe, and to see the death-obsessed author trapped in this sort of strange netherworld was oddly suiting. The play itself is an adaptation of Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" and artists Ben Steinbeck does a wonderful job making the play itself evoke Poe's dark tale. This is a well crafted horror one-shot, and I think I'm going to have to hunt down the previous Baltimore comic stories. Fun fact: In a connection between main character and guest star, Poe made his home in the American city, you guessed it, Baltimore.

Batwoman #14
Story: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Art: J.H. Williams III

Batwoman is the most visually stunning comic on the racks. J.H. Williams III has been an artist whose work has evolved and improved from his early, already excellent, work on Chase, through Promethea, and now on to this title. As we near the confrontation between Batwoman and Medusa, the ancient Greek mother of monsters and her brood, Wonder Woman has come to her aid. The two heroines meet Pegasus, one of Medusa's children who refused to join her quest and finds her all the worse for wear because of it. Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman, craft a sad tale around Pegasus, and leave the heroes with no choice but to take his life to spare him agony and learn that Medusa has been right where everything started: Gotham. Williams has been telling this arc in nearly entirely double page spreads, and the art flows from page to page in an organic way. Williams balances his truly beautiful characters with some really hideous monsters. The transformation of Killer Croc, already horribly mutated, into a giant hydra is a stunning image. With the return to Gotham, I look forward to seeing Batwoman and her supporting cast in combat with these monsters in the rest of this arc.

Comeback #1
Story: Ed Brisson
Art: Michael Walsh

Somewhere in the past five years or so, Image Comics has become home to some of the best sci-fi, fantasy, and horror comics on the stands, and it becomes harder to pass up any new series they start, because you could be passing up the next Walking Dead or Saga. Comeback is a new series I'm glad I snapped up. In the near future, time travel is functional and commercial, you can hire someone to go back in time and save a loved one from death. The first issue sets up the premise with one of these retrievals going wrong, and you meet two of the agents who are responsible for it. One of them has become weary of this line of work, and says that this is his last job. Anyone familiar with the concept of retirony (where something horrible happens to anyone who says that he or she is about to retire) knows that this means that he's going to be dragged into something more than just one final normal job. There's more going on in the story, as there seems to be mysterious crime that will certainly tie into the main plot. Comeback is an excellent first issue, and I'm curious to see where the rest of the series goes. If you happen to enjoy the time travel twists of films like this year's excellent Looper, check out Comeback.

Daredevil #20
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee

Oh, Matt Murdock... Not even having your head removed can keep you down. With the revelation that all of the things that have popped up to prove matt Murdock insane were crafted by the newly badass Spot, now calling himself the Coyote, Matt goes on the offensive, even though Coyote has used his new technology to carry around Daredevil's head like it's a football. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee continue to explore exactly how Daredevil's powers work in some fascinating ways: who needs a head when you're used to working without sight? As I saw more of exactly what the Coyote is up to, my skin crawled. This is really an evil villain, not just some guy looking to score a quick buck like The Spot has usually been show to be in the past. It wasn't a surprise at the end when it was revealed there's a lot more going on with Coyote and The Spot than has met the eye. And Daredevil's rash decision to smash Coyote's head separating machine comes back to bite him in the end. This issue is setting up a lot of payoff on storylines that have been running through this book from the beginning of Waid's run, and I'm excited to see the payoff. Chris Samnee has proven to be an able partner for Waid, who has had a murderer's row of excellent artists in this series. I hope they stick around for quite a while, and occasionally do other projects like...

The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #4
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee

With Waid and Samnee, the hits just keep on coming. A comic that features the Rocketeer toting a ray gun and fighting dinosaurs plowing through downtown L.A. is pretty much a no brains sale to me. While Samnee isn't quite the master of cheesecake that Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens was, he does really beautiful period illustration, with the setting looking perfectly forties and Betty still a complete knockout. But the thing that really knocks me out are his dinosaurs and the flight sequences. The Rocketeer in a aerial dogfight with a Pterodactyl and trying to stop a T-Rex are both sights to behold. There's also a good understanding of the pulp roots of the Rocketeer, making it clear the villain, known as the Master, is John Sunlight, archnemesis to Doc Savage, who anyone familiar with Rocketeer comics knows has a link to the title hero. In the end, with the threat resolved, we get some nice character pieces with Cliff (the Rocketeer) and Betty, a resolution to the story involving Peevy's niece, Sally, and a little tease for a future Rocketeer mini-series. Whether its for the next series, due out next year from Roger Langridge and J. Bone, or for a project from Waid and Samnee I'm not sure. I just hope to see them back in the 40s for another tale of our erstwhile hero and his loyal supporting cast soon.

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