On this special 31 Days of Horror edition of Heroes and Villains, we’ll be looking at a variety of comics out this week and last, from a variety of genres and companies. And although the horror is a bit sparse this time around, we’ll keep in the spirit with reviews after the jump of Harrow County #26, Grimm Fairy Tales: Tarot #2, Grimm Fairy Tales, Volume Two #9, The Dying and the Dead #6, the E.V.I.L. Heroes trade collection, Atomahawk #0, God Complex: Dogma #1, The Family Trade #1, and more… be warned, there may be spoilers…
The first time I read Harrow County was only a few months back, and I was impressed. This continuing locale horror anthology is recommended, pulls no punches, and scary as hell. What better comic to start off this 31 Days of Horror edition of the column? If you need an explanation to keep your kids from running off alone into the woods, this ongoing tale of monsters, zombies, witches, and other unspeakable entities is a great start, and an excellent Halloween present. Not really for the kids though, just saying. If you’re one of those folks who give out full-size candy bars and comics for Trick or Treats like me, and you give out Harrow County, expect a visit from some angry, and probably a little unsettled, parents…
More in the vein of supernatural than superheroic, Tarot mixes both in this adventure that jumps from reality to fantasy and a number of dimensions as Talisman and her friends fight to evade the Order of Tarot. As a climactic trial by combat is set up in the fantasy world, the Order of Light learns the origins of their enemy. At the other end of the Zenescope universe in Grimm Fairy Tales, Skye begins to learn her destiny and runs afoul of an ancient genie. In another exercise in worldbuilding, we learn that this evil genie used to be the King of Cups fitting into the continuity of Tarot. I love the tapestry woven through these books, and others like Chapterhouse for instance. It reminds me of what made the early Marvel Universe so cool, putting the pieces together.
A Jonathan Hickman comic with horrendous delays? Whoever heard of such a thing? Sorry, that was mean, but one has to admit it happens often enough that the comment generates a chortle at least. Although in some cases, when the comic does show up, it’s worth it. No one mention Secret Wars, okay? The Dying and the Dead, sometimes referred to as “Indiana Jones for old people,” should be right up my alley, right? As someone who far too often feels today’s comics are adamantly not for me, I have to say that issue #6 was a rather cool surprise to me.
An insidious plot whose origins reach back to the second World War, a group of heroes from the greatest generation is assembled to face the challenge. In previous issues, details come up only gradually, but between the terrors of old age, these heroes face some dangerous threats that are truly challenging. The story is very good, the art of Ryan Bodenheim is gorgeous, and the colors pop when they are allowed – they are rarely used, and this being a Hickman book, the use of negative space is as irritating as it was a few years back when much of Infinity suffered from the same malady. That said, this book is awesome, double-sized, and worth a look, ditto for the previous issues as well.
Moving back into the pseudo-horror realm, surely nothing is scarier than the possibility of our heroes turning evil, except maybe our superheroes going bad. I was pretty hard on Secret Empire, but at its core, the concept of an evil Captain America is damned frightening. One might say that the whole story was done a bit too well in that way. Here in Joe Brusha’s E.V.I.L. Heroes we have a similar theme in which superheroes finally arrive on Earth, but they’re not here to save us, but enslave us and rule the planet. These new gods may look a bit familiar, some of them taking the template form of DC heroes Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman, others from mythology, but they are not our friends.
I really enjoyed this trade collecting the six Zenescope issues of the series, but I think it makes the tragic mistake that some Godzilla movies do – focusing on the victims/heroes of the piece, when the villains/monsters are far more interesting. The focus is made obvious when after a few issues we still don’t even know the names of all these evil entites. Nevertheless I did dig this, and did root for the humans mutated to fight these new gods. Hey, Zenescope, more superheroes please. This is superheroics and villainy victorious on a monstrous scale, and recommended, definitely check this out.
Grant Morrison says: “ATOMAHAWK is a screaming black hole feedback squall of death metal Kirbykozmik energy spinning straight towards your prefrontal cortex.” I have to confess, I don’t really know what that means, but it’s Grant Morrison, ya know… and I think he likes it. He got one thing right, Kirby, this comic is nothing if not born of an insane creativity similar to Jack Kirby, and in the King’s one hundredth year, what could be more appropriate?
Much like Morrison’s blurb on the book, I am really not sure what to make of this comic with enough Kirby dots to choke an Asgardian, but I know it’s good, and I want more. What is really amazing about this book is the art style of Ian Bederman, whose art sensibilities come not from comics as much as from tattoos, and it makes all the difference. Original published in Heavy Metal magazine, this is the best thing out this week, and recommended. I loved this book, and I want more of the Cyberzerker and the Atomahawk, bring it now!
Mythology seems to be a theme this time around, especially in God Complex: Dogma #1 where the gods of old are overlaid onto a cyberpunk, almost anime-like world. I like the story, and the art of Hendry Prastya is brilliant and visually stunning. The words however are by Paul Jenkins, and if I’m being honest, I have never quite forgiven him for creating Sentry and the allowing Brian Michael Bendis to bring him into the Avengers. Still, this is a starling vision, a murder mystery set in a cyberpunk world ruled by gods. I’m all in, despite personal reservations.
Another first issue this week, and another amazing find is The Family Trade from Image Comics. Writers Justin Jordan and Nikki Ryan, along with artist Morgan Beem give us adventure, intrigue, political drama, and mad steampunk worldbuilding in the great comic that I grew to love more with every page. On The Float, the floating neutral territory of Thessala, Jessa tries to carry on the family tradition with a botched assassination attempt on a Trump-like leader. The story moves quickly from there, giving us the details of this amazing world as we go. From the talking cats to fish alchemy to an island city of pirates, The Family Trade is just fun and adventure and intrigue from start to finish. Recommended!
Other releases this week include comics I’ve discussed previously like Retcon and American Gods, as well as the final issue of The Woods, the second issue of Kingsman: The Red Diamond, and a new printing of Neil Gaiman and John Bolton’s Harlequin Valentine. Other trades coming out include The Bunker, Stumptown, Michael Chabon’s The Escapists, the Overwatch anthology, and the Serenity adult coloring book. What did you read this week?