Monday, July 21, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 7/16

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth #121
Story: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
Art: Laurence Campbell

So many of the B.P.R.D. stories have been so big lately, that I forget what wonderful creepy little stories the book can do as well. That's not a complaint about the big stories, as "Reign of the Black Flame," the last five -parter, was one of my favorite action/horror stories the series has ever done. This issue wraps up a two part story that takes place both in the present and flashbacks to 1949, and features four of my favorite characters in the who Mignola-verse; in the present, it's Kate Corrigan and Professor J.H. O'Donnell, and in the past it's Professor Bruttenholm and Hellboy. Instead of ancient Lovecraftian horrors and men with flaming heads, this is really a haunted house story, or a haunted artifact story, with some possession tossed in for good measure. The daffy professor has accidentally unleashed an evil force that has possessed Kate, and now it's up to Liz Sherman, Panya, Fenix, and Carla Giarocco to figure out what is going on and to save Kate. In the past, Bruttenholm and a young Hellboy, who insisted on going on his first field mission, confront the necromancer whose spirit is wreaking havoc in the present, and that confrontation ends with Hellboy making a decision that I hope is going to play into the events in the upcoming Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. mini-series. It's also nice to see the good guys get an unqualified win; so much of Hell on Earth has seen our heroes fighting a rearguard action to stop the world from slipping deeper into the abyss, so even if it's a small one, a real victory is nice to see. I also want to give a real shout out to Laurence Campbell, whose moody, shadowy art worked beautifully in this story. B.P.R.D. has featured art form some of my favorite artists in comics, including Guy Davis, Tyler Crook, Ryan Sook, and of course Mike Mignola himself, and Campbell looks to be another artist in a long line who is going to burn up these pages with some really terrifying art.

Fables #142
Story: Bill Willingham
Art: Mark Buckingham & Eric Shanower

First things first: SPOILERS ahead for anyone who doesn't read Fables in singles. Trust me, you don't want to be spoiled. Move along to the next review, nothing to see here. It seems like Bill Willingham has been building to this last, mega-arc of Fables for quite some time, and now that the events have started to unfold, they're unfolding rapidly. Bigby Wolf, a broken monster thanks to the machinations of Miss Douglas, has drawn the attention of the mundies, the normal humans of New York, and is killing unrepentantly.  Grimble, the troll turned sparrow, has finally found someone who understands him. Winter, Snow and Bigby's daughter who is now the embodiment of the North Wind, is gathering her vassals for the final battle. And Snow White and Rose Red's fates seem to be moving on a bullet train to confrontation. All of these disparate plot elements are balanced, so none of them feel particularly rushed or forced. It's an intricate piece of work, similar to the finals major arcs of Sandman and Starman. The part that has me most curious is the mundy reaction to Bigby's monstrous attacks; the Fabletown community has done its best to keep out of the limelight for centuries, but this looks like their downfall in that respect, and I'm curious to see how that plays into the series climax. It's great to have Mark Buckingham going full steam ahead for this final arc, and especially his monster Bigby is something to behold. This arc also includes back-ups featuring, "The Last _____ Story." Last issue's Flycatcher story was a cute one page story, but this issue's is far more sinister. Featuring art from legendary Eric Shanower, it features Sinbad and shows that, even though the Empire of old has fallen, that is not the end of Empires, and Willingham hints that he might finally be able to use the grand villain he originally planned to be the Adversary. And if he doesn't, well, it's still a great nod for those of us wrapped up in Fables history.

Robin Rising: Omega
Story: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Andy Kubert

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman has been the crown jewel of the New 52 Batman family, and rightly so; it's a gorgeous roller-coaster ride of a Batman title, with new ideas and amazing art. But the absolute heart of the Batman family has been Peter Tomasi's Batman & Robin. Tomasi, more than any other current writer of Batman, understands the emotional weight that Batman is under, and has done beautiful things with Batman's relationship not just with his currently deceased son, Damian, but with the rest of the Batman family. It's a book that has dealt with doubt, grief, and love better than most mainstream superhero comics could dream of. And now, after the quest to find the bodies of Damian and his mother, Talia al Ghul, stolen by her father, Ra's al Ghul, Batman finds himself trapped into an alliance with Ra's against the forces of Apokolips. The issue, which begins the "Robin Rising" story is mostly an action issue, with Batman, Ra's al Ghul, Batman's dog Titus, and Frankenstein battling Parademons and other minions of Darkseid lead by Glorious Godfrey to retrieve a Chaos Shard, a mystical artifact desired by Darkseid. Andy Kubert is an artist at home with massive amounts of kinetic action, and this issue gives him that in spades. And when the Justice League shows up, it's even more exciting. While all of that makes for a great comic, the first few pages, where Batman recounts his time with Damian, is the highlight of the issue. It's heartbreaking to see Batman go through everything he did, and then to lose the son that he had come to love and who had come to love and respect his father. The end of this issue sees Batman beginning a quest to retrieve Damian's body from Apokolips and to see him returned to life. I'm excited to see if he can pull it off.

And that's it for this week's reviews. This actually marks the 200th post here on The Matt Signal, so I want to thank you all for reading so far. Wednesday marks Batman Day, the day DC has set aside for celebrating Batman's 75th Anniversary, so expect a post about the things I love about Batman, and some more Batman goodness over the next couple weeks. I look forward to 200 more posts!

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