Monday, November 30, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 11/25

The Fade Out #11
Story: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser

The penultimate issue of Ed Brubaker's serialized novel about corruption and decadence in old time Hollywood, The Fade Out, shows off everything great that this combination of creators can do. The issue is a mix of action and character, and fills in one of the last holes in the web of characters, giving us some details about the relationship between our block screenwriter protagonist, Charlie Parish, and the murdered movie star Valeria Sommers. The issue opens with the story of what happened between Charlie and Valeria, and in a book that can be so sordid, the scene of tenderness, of two people who are both so lost connecting and simply being there with and for each other, stands out all the more starkly in its beauty and tragedy. From the end of that scene, of Charlie standing in the surf as the sun rises, we cut to night at a diner, where Charlie is talking to his writing partner (or recently the blacklisted writer he's been fronting for), Gil Mason, who he tells his theory of exactly what is going on, a tale of FBI blackmail, molestation, and murder. But the two writers have no proof, so they head out to the ranch of Al Kamp, the figurehead of Victory Studios, hoping to use his dementia to get him to confess to the horrors he did to Val and other child stars. But these guys are writers; they're not cops, P.I.s or any other kind of professional, so when they sneak onto Kamp's ranch through a dark forest beautifully drawn by Phillips and colored ominously by Elizabeth Breitweiser, they find a mostly empty house, a corpse, and one last guard, leading to a chase through the woods, a gunshot, and a gutpunch of a last panel. One issue left, and I can't wait to see the ending of what has become my favorite work by the tremendous Brubaker/Phillips team.

Ghostbusters Annual 2015
Main Story: Erik Burnham
Art: Dan Schoening & Luis Antonio Delgado

After a couple crossover mini-series, one with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and one with their own animated counterparts, the Ghostbusters go back to doing what they do best: busting ghosts. The opening tease has one of the creepiest moments I've seen in a Ghostbusters comic, with a woman waking up with... well, that would be telling, and horror so depends on the surprise of it, I don't want to ruin it. The Ghostbusters, still repairing the firehouse after their confrntation with the god Proteus, are called in by the NYPD detective equivalent of Harvey Bullock to look into the woman's case, and find a specter in her house dressed in a tall hat and cape carrying an hourglass. They blast the ghost, which explodes, and things seem normal for a few pages. But if you looked at the cover, you know that the threat is the Sandman, so it doesn't take long for Ray to realize something is wrong with his friends, and when his spirit guide, the Blues Brothers clad John Belushi, reappears (every time this happens, it's great!), he confirms that he's in a dream, so it's up to Ray to travel through the dreams of his friends and free them. Peter's dream in a memory of a scene from the original Ghostbusters movie, made considerably weirder by Ray taking Dana Barrett's place, and Peter is happily sprung from this. Winston, though, is aware he's in a dream, dreaming of his wedding to Tiyah from the previous ongoing, the wedding that was wiped from reality to stop Tiamat from destroying the world, and we see an anger in Winston that he hasn't vented in the real world, a weariness of how being a Ghostbuster has affected his life, and I wonder if this is going to payoff in the future. Egon is also aware that he's in a dream, remembering the time he traveled into Janine's subconscious to save her and knowing this feels the same, and it turns out his refusal to sleep is what called the Sandman to the team. The guys are able to save Egon at the last minute from a horrible fate, naturally, and everything works out. There are also a series of short strips at the back of the issue, little one pagers that give a spotlight on different characters, not just the Ghostbusters, but Janine, Louis Tully, Slimer, and a couple others. They're all a lot of fun, but the highlight is the final one, a four pager that explains why Peter gave up the talk show he had during Ghostbusters 2. This is a great, continuity light story that sets up some future stories and will let those who haven't been reading all of IDW's Ghostbusters comics know what they're missing.

Groot #6
Story: Jeff Loveness
Art: Brian Kesinger

After their long and winding path, Groot and his buddy Rocket finally arrive on Earth in the final issue of this mini-series, which I frankly had forgotten had been their goal the entire time after all the space hijinks. And getting their, they check off the things the different Guardians gave them on a checklist of stuff to do on Earth. And as you might imagine, it's not like your average tourist to-do list, although they do check out a rock concert and watch a movie. I also have to give creators Jeff Loveness and Brian Kesigner credit: the battle between Groot and Rocket and a bunch of C- and D-List villains is great. Rocket's, "Well, I just shot a Dinosaur-Man in a loincloth. I'm having a great time," is definitely quote of the week for me. And Kesinger's X-Men from when Kitty told the boys to go party with the X-Men are great. Teen Scott and Jean's awkward chat is charming, and Kesinger's style has a very cartoon sensibility; it reminds me of the character style from certain Disney films (which makes sense, since a little bit of research shows he worked for Disney for years). His Groot and Rocket are wonderfully expressive, with charming facial expressions that tell stories all their own; it's important to have an expressive lead when all he says is one sentence over and over. That does change when Groot gets into a telepathic conversation with Jean Grey, and relays his origin to her. We've known a bit about Groot and why he's no longer welcome on Planet X, but as far as I know, this is the first time we've heard this whole story, and it ends with a heart-tugging scene as Groot goes and does exactly what he came to Earth to do, and meets an old friend for the first time in years. The Groot mini-series has been a delightful all-ages adventure across the galaxy that winds up reinforcing its themes about friendship and loyalty in a perfect way.

Itty Bitty Hellboy: The Search for the Were-Jaguar #1
Story & Art: Art Baltazar & Franco

It's always a good day when Art and Franco are back with another fun all ages book. This time around Itty Bitty Hellboy and Liz Sherman are heading out to the island of the Rogers with a bag of underpants, since there's only one pair of those metal underpants on the island. It's a strange and hilarious set up for a story, and it works perfectly in the absurdly adorable universe that I feel all of Art and Franco's comics are set in. All the rest of the gang are there, with Rasputin and Kroenen looking to photograph the mythic were-jaguar, Lobster Johnson and his lobster partner, Smitty chasing the villains, and Abe and his little sister Eve out swimming. And we get the first appearance of Itty Bitty Kate Corrigan, who looks to be a slightly older kid. There's stuff with Roger (the original Roger) and his brothers getting underwear, the villains and the Lobster getting caught up in trees, and the were-jaguar popping in and out of panels. It's just an absolutely fun comic, and I'm looking forward to seeing where Hellboy and his friends go after this issue.

Rick and Morty #8
Story: Zac Gorman
Art: Zac Gorman & Ryan Hill 
Back-up Art: Marc Ellerby & Ryan Hill

Nothing is EVER as it seems in the multiverse of Rick and Morty. What looks like a simple Christmas story is going to be anything but. We've never gotten a Rick and Morty Christmas episode since the show has aired its two seasons in the summer, so the comic is filling in that gap with this, the weirdest Christmas story I've ever read. And that, friends, is a compliment. Off an alternate Earth where Christmas is Blumbus, where Santa is instead Mr. Chimney, and there;s an extra tradition called the Blumberflarg, and if you've ever seen or read Rick and Morty, anything they run across in these alternate worlds is going to end poorly for one or the other, and probably the one is Morty.In this case, after arguing about whether Blumbus is nice or creepy, Rick goes off to drink and Morty literally bumps into melody, a pretty girl who feels bad Morty has no one on Blumbus and invites him back to her place. While Rick runs eventually finds an open bar, and starts drinking with a morose holiday drunk, Morty goes back to Melody's house and seems to be in the middle of a Mlumbus miracle, as her family thought she was dead and Melody has come home. Things get progressively weirder for Morty, with everyone being extra nice, and as Rick finds out that a Blumberfarg is a teen boy who is brought home, mated with and then eaten by the family, Melody puts the moves on Morty, which her family has no problem with. It's the hilarious reaction of Morty, as he begins to piece together exactly what is happening, that's the highlight of the comic. Only the timely intervention of Rick and a new friend keeps Morty from being eaten with a nice ghost pepper sauce, and as is often the case, that safety doesn't last. The final page of the main story sees a happy ending for the lonely drunk from the bar, undercut by the fact that he'll be having nice Blumberfarg leftovers with his family. The backup sees Rick thrust into the plot of A Christmas Carol and learning absolutely nothing, which makes perfect sense if you know Rick. So Merry Blumbus to all, and all a good night,

Robin Son of Batman #6
Story: Patrick Gleason
Art: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Tom Nguyen, & John Kalisz

Before heading back to Gotham for next month's "Robin War" crossover, Damian Wayne has one final stop on his tour to seek redemption for all the things he did during the Year of Blood, the trials he went through to prove himself a worthy al Ghul. The opening flashback shows his trip to Bialya, where he took the Scepter of Kings, and found a little red bat creature. After killing its family and not seeing any anger in the creature, we see a crack in Damian's harsh facade, and he takes the creature that will become Goliath home with him. In the present, Talia makes easy work of Bialya's current ruler and with the Scepter sets herself up as the country's new ruler. When Damian awakens from the abuse he took the previous issue, he and Talia talk, and he asks her the question readers (well at least me) have been waiting for him to ask: "Why did you kill me, mother?" Talia's answer isn't exactly satisfactory to Damian, as Talia herself is unsure since her resurrection removed the madness from her and put it into a marble that she gives to Damian, offering him the option to return it to her and slay her in revenge for his own death. But after a conversation with Nobody, the daughter of the villain that Damian killed who bore the name before her, about exactly what he's been doing, and that the R he bears now stands for redemption, a beautiful sentiment that shows exactly how far Damian has come. He isn't the child assassin he was in his first appearance, or even the brat he was at the beginning of Batman and Robin. He has earned the name Robin, has earned the Wayne name. And the final pages see him be forgiven by Nobody, who through her time with Damian no longer thinks of herself that way, reclaiming for herself her own name, Maya, and then he removes the chains that have held Goliath, freeing his loyal monster. It's fascinating to have read Damian from his first appearance and see exactly where creators have gone with the character. And as he sets off , having forgiven his mother, it's a new beginning for Damian. This first six months of his title have taken Damian away from home, so now it's time for him to head back to Gotham, and we'll see if he is ready for the city, or vice versa, next issue.

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