Monday, October 27, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 10/22

It's Halloween week, folks, and so for this week I'm going to review some comics with tales of horror and the supernatural this week. Plenty of other great books hit this week, including a double dose of Greg Rucka in Lazarus and Stumptown, a  new She-Hulk from Charles Soule, a delightfully funny issue of The Delinquents, and the debut of an interesting new direction for Catwoman, but for this week? Horror reigns in the Matt Signal reviews.

Colder: The Bad Seed #1
Story: Paul Tobin
Art: Juan Ferreyra

I did a recommendation for the original Colder mini-series on Friday, and so I'm happy to say I can review and recommend the first issue of the second series, The Bad Seed, today. Since the defeat of Nimble Jack, Declan and Reece have been living happily together. Reece is working again, and Declan is using his powers to help the insane recover; she even brings him to work to meet her coworkers and to let him help some of the patients. This bit of idyllic life isn't going to last. There is a hint that Reece is still effected by the events of the first series, as she asks him if, with Jack dead, they are safe from the Hungry World, the world of the insane, and Declan assures her they are safe, although there is a hint he is unsure. And he is quickly proven right. A new monster appears, one who has a hunger for fingers, and who is using them for some macabre planting, walking around with a clay pot and planning for something to grow. He also shows a fascination with Declan, whose fingers he "feeds." Whatever this monster has in mind, it's not going to end well for our protagonists. The plot of the issue is simple, and sets up the new series, but since it's been quite a while since the last series, I can see why. It also establishes the powers and creep factor of our new monster, which is high. He doesn't seem to have the same macabre madness as Jack, but is more focused on his planting and harvesting, which is somehow more disturbing; planting is associated with growth and nature, so to see something using it in an evil way seems wrong on so many levels. Juan Ferreyra's monster designs continue to impress, as we see the madness of the people Declan is looking in on embodied by horrors surrounding them, and of course our new lead monster is, as you can see from the cover, made out of fingers. Again, there is something particularly unnatural about that, something off kilter that just made my skin crawl. It's good to be back in the world of Colder, but beware, as its a world where something dark waits around every corner.

Five Ghosts #13
Story: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Chris Mooneyham

Five Ghosts is back, and just in time for Halloween. While the first arc of the series, about treasure hunter Fabian Grey, who has five ghosts of great literary figures/archetypes in him, was an Indiana Jones-style pulp adventure, and the next was a pirates/shipwrecked adventure, this third arc is cemented deeply in the horror genre. Set in Romania, the story opens with Fabian saving a young boy from what seem to be vampires, and finds out the boy is bringing medicine to the nearest village, where a plague has set in. Arriving in a village, we find that Fabian is following a clue to his the whereabouts of his best friend, kidnapped at the end of the last issue. When the village elder sees the symbol that is the clue, we hear a tale of the rich family who once lived in a nearby manor, a story that is gothic and horrible, with sickness, death, and elder gods. Fabian has dreams where he must confront one of his ghosts, the Vampire, who is being brought out by being in its native, for want of a better word, genre, and though Fabian wins, the Vampire has always been the most insistent of the ghosts and I wonder if Fabian will be able to hold him back forever. Finally, we see a man in a wagon dressed as a plague doctor, you know, with the creepy bird mask, and we learn that he is not curing the plague, but spreading it, and is creating more of the vampire/zombies from the beginning of the issue. Five Ghosts is a comic that has the best kind of pulp vibe, taking all the tropes of classic adventure genres and mixing them together. It's take on horror is atmospheric, both from writer Frank Barbiere's script, full of portent and mystery, and artist Chris Mooneyham's moody, dark art working to add to the sense of gloom. The vampire/zombie monsters are threatening and wreak of evil, and there's something I've always found unsettling about plague doctors, and Mooneyham makes this one all the more unsettling. With mystery, monsters, and heroics, the new arc of Five Ghosts looks to be another exciting adventure of Fabian Grey.

The Unwritten: Apocalypse #10
Story: Mike Carey
Art: Peter Gross

The final arc of The Unwritten, "Annals of Comparative Literature," begins with Tom Taylor, the man whose father sewed his life into the life of his fictional character, and his band of allies preparing to make one final attempt to stop the evil Pullman from wiping out existence. Meanwhile, Pullman and his allies are attempting to, well, wipe out existence. But it works for neither of them. The Unwritten is a story about stories and their power, so everyone quickly realizes that tools of power from a story have no power out of that context, so a race is on, as the story ends with Tommy coming face-to-wand with his fictional counterpart, boy wizard Tommy Taylor. The action of this issue is a lot of talking and planing, so it gives the characters time to have some great moments, especially Pauly Bruckner. When Bruckner was originally introduced, he was a comedic figure, a hitman trapped in a Winnie-the-Pooh type story where he was in the body of an  anthropomorphic rabbit. But as the series has continued, a character I thought was a one off gag has grown in depth, filled with anger at his fate, and now a more pathetic figure, just wanting to get back to the story. Having betrayed Tom to Pullman, he now abandons Pullman to warn Tom. That evolution of Pauly is one of the things that makes The Unwritten great, taking something so minor and making it so deep. There's also a wonderful moment between Tom and Lizzy, his romantic interest. I've been rooting for these kids to get and stay together for years, so seeing that they are now really a couple is nice. In the world of Tommy Taylor, Pullman's messenger encounters Count Ambrosio, Tommy's arch nemesis, who has appeared in our world a few times, possessing people, but to see him in his full vampiric power (see, vampires, bringing it back around to horror) makes him seem a more daunting foe. And of course, in the background, the literal puppet master, Madam Rausch, plays the two sides against each other. I'm wondering if the story with Pullman will be wrapped up next issue, leaving Tom to deal with Rausch in the very end, or if the final battler will have three sides. One way or the other, this issue starts what should be a grand climax to The Unwritten.

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