Ok, and here I am back from what will hopefully the last of these extended absences. House is squared away mostly, should be moving in this weekend, and then construction of the comic house will begin. But for now, reviews!
Adventure Time Vol.2: Pixel Princesses TPB
Story: Danielle Corsetto
Art: Zack Sterling
One of the best parts of Adventure Time, both the animated series and its comic book adaptations, is the large and quirky cast. There are characters who appear only in the background, but you can just tell that an animator put a lot of work into making that character and has a whole crazy backstory for her or him. Pixel Princesses, the second original Adventure Time graphic novel, does not feature a single appearance by either of the series leads, Finn the Human or Jake the Dog. It doesn't even have their closest associates and enemies, like Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, or the Ice King in more than a couple of panels. No, this is a story featuring the "C-List" characters (hey, even Finn calls them that in an episode), headlined by the always amusing Lumpy Space Princess (LSP) in all her snotty glory. LSP wants to throw herself a surprise party with all the other princesses of the Land of Ooo as guests, but when only a handful show up, LSP throws her usual fit, and when BMO, the artificially intelligent video game system, spies on them and wishes he had what it took to be a princess inside him, the wandering mischief maker known as The Magic Man casts a spell to pull the princesses into BMO's game world. From there, it's a classic "people must fight there way to the end of the video game to escape" plot, but featuring the princesses. We get a good look into the personalities of Breakfast Princess, Skeleton Princess, Embryo Princess, Muscle Princess, and Turtle Princess, character who have only appeared in a handful of episodes, and usually with little to no dialogue. There's even a lesson at the end about being who you are and that everyone is a princess in their own right, but you're not reading this for the lesson, you're reading it for the sheer kooky madness of Adventure Time. Where else are you going to find a skeleton destroying cute baby animals with pointy teeth with a sword, monsters distracted by pancakes, and a gender neutral video game system deciding to be a mommy or a pretty princess? This is the kind of thing that is par for the course in Adventure Time, and creators Danielle Corsetto and Zack Sterling capture all of it perfectly. And if that isn't enough, you get a back-up story featuring Gunter, the Ice King's pet penguin, throwing a party for the other penguins. If you're not familiar with Adventure Time, there's no real previous knowledge needed here, and it reads very well as a standalone story, so give it a try as your first journey into Ooo.
Hellboy in Hell #5
Story & Art: Mike Mignola
It's been a few months, but Hellboy in Hell is back, and Mike Mignola hasn't missed a beat. Not exactly surprising, since anytime Mignola step up to the plate for a new Hellboy story, he hits it out of the park. After the first four issues of this new series, all of which were heavily entrenched in the mythology of the series, " The Three Gold Whips," is a one off that feels like those classic Hellboy stories where Hellboy stumbles onto someone in trouble and winds up quickly over his head. Inspired by the Grimm Fairy Tale, "The Devil and His Grandmother," Hellboy finds a soldier wandering the streets of Hell who has one last chance to save his soul by answering the riddle of the demon who he bargained with. Hellboy and the man go to where the man was directed, to the grave of the demon's grandmother where she agrees to hide them so they can hear the answer that will save the man. There are hints to the bigger plot of the series, with another reference to Hellboy's bloody knife hand, but the story mostly stands on its own. As with any work by Mignola, the story is as much a visual masterwork as anything else, with Mignola's design for the devil and his grandmother, and the trippy bits of a shrunken Hellboy and his companion dropped into a skull to hide them standing out in my mind. This story was a nice Christmas gift to all Hellboy fans; there might not be any Santa, but the other guy in red does his best to lift all our spirits.
Herobear and the Kid: The Inheritance #5
Story & Art: Mike Kunkel
For a series that's ten years old, I was pleasantly surprised to not see the twist coming at the end of this, the reprint of the original Herobear and the Kid series. You'd think somewhere I would have stumbled across it, but nope, and the new stories that have appeared over the past year seem to have almost intentionally avoided that big reveal for people like me, who didn't read the series the first time through. So, in deference to that, I'm not going to reveal it either. The story itself wraps up the threads from the previous issues in a way that leaves it well open for a new set of stories featuring Tyler and his teddy bear/best friend/superhero bear, but its a perfect story on its own. The final issue is about belief, and the kind of belief that all of us who have grown up have a hard time wrapping our heads around, the pure innocent belief of a child. Herobear and the Kid have a final battle with the robot of Von Klon, the archenemy they don't realize they have, and Tyler gets the final piece of his inheritance from his grandfather, something that made my heart grow three sizes when I read it. Herobear and the Kid, more than any other comic book I can think of, perfectly captures the wonderment of being a child, when anything is possible. Tyler is so likable, but at the same time perfectly human, not some idealized perfect kid. I hope that, with this material back in print, Kunkel doesn't make us wait another decade for more of these wonderful characters.