Heroes & Villains: ‘Darling’ and ‘Junkwraith’ start off 2022

Look! I made it to 2022!

I don’t know if that’s surprising or not, I don’t think it should be. The last few weeks have mostly involved me dodging Covid like The Matrix’s bullet-time and mostly staying inside. What an incredible load of crap that we’re collectively all still having to deal with this. 

Last year was a rebuilding year for me personally, and it just shot right by me before I had a chance to figure out what the year was going to be about. Since I’m my own harshest critic I feel like I didn’t grow as a writer at ALL in 2021. I felt like I was stagnating and by extension that I was doing a horrible disservice to all of the fantastic comics I got a chance to read.

So, here I am again. Back at it for 2022. I haven’t a clue as to what this year is going to be about and I don’t think I really care to find out. Things will either get better or they won’t. Until then, I’ve got comics to read.

Darling Collected Edition
Michael Fleizach & Todd Hunt (W)|
Dave Mims (A)
Source Point Press

In the spirit of the new year everything old is new again! Way, way back in April of last year I was fortunate enough to check out the first issue of Darling well in advance of its June premier date. 

Here’s the blurb along with some of my initial thoughts on it:

With all of New York City enveloped in the zeitgeist of a missing 8-year-old girl, lovable anti-hero Francis Darling accidentally stumbles onto the machinations behind her kidnapping and the drug war that ensues.

…but has he really?

A bit like chasing the Mad Hatter through a toxic chemical cloud, Francis’ inconceivable journey brings us uncomfortably close to NYC’s most crooked…most deviant…most irredeemable characters; the kind that can only be extricated from the drug-addled, guilty conscience of a failing brain.

“Few things are grosser than NYC in the 1980s except for maybe NYC in the 70s…or NYC now and Darling perfectly captures the grime of the era before Times Square was cleaned up. It’s also a somewhat uncomfortable look at the realities of addiction that some people were facing at the time. Admittedly, it something I get squeamish about and it’s not something that Darling shies away from but it mercifully steers clear of Requiem For A Dream territory. So far…this is just the first issue.”

Darling continues to be a fantastical and engaging read. In fact, I was caught a bit flat-footed at the end of the Collected Edition because I wasn’t quite ready for the book to end. It felt a little bit like the overall story was just starting to get going when the collection ends. If anything, it’s a great excuse to get this book added to your monthly pull list at your local comic shop. 

Ellinor Richey (W/A)
Top Shelf Productions

Out next week from Top Shelf Productions is Junkwraith!

Here’s the blurb: 

Junkwraith tells the story of ice-skating prodigy Florence Sato who is overwhelmed by pressure from her parents and peers and throws away her skates. This fateful moment accidentally summons a “junkwraith,” a terrifying ghost that seeks revenge for its abandonment by attacking the memories of its former owner. Before she forgets who she is, and to find out who she really wants to be, Florence must set off – with her trusty digital assistant Frank — on a long journey into the Wastelands to face the monster she created.

Junkwraith was a welcome surprise and a great way to get back into the swing of things for a new year of column writing for me. The book also confutes the long and proud tradition of me never being letdown by anything Top Shelf Productions publishes. Selfishly, it makes my job a heck of a lot easier when I know I’m about to enjoy a book I have to read.

Richey’s artwork is unique and gorgeous on its own terms and the story of loss and recovery was compelling enough for me to completely absorb the book in one sitting. The biggest question the book puts forth is, “What relationship should we have with the things we love?” As a collector of, well, stuff I find myself asking similar questions often and Junkwraith does an admirable job of articulating the answers to these questions better than I could ever hope to.

Junkwraith will be out January 18th from Top Shelf Productions.

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