Wasteland #18 (Oni Press): Johnston and Mitten take us on a wild ride this issue, with plenty of crafty shuck and jive moves to keep us off balance. I especially enjoyed the way that supporting cast members like Skot’s mother are fully fleshed out with distinct personalities and agenda, only to then meet a most unexpected end. These types of surprises only further the notion that this is a complicated, unsettling reality involving precarious existence that essentially hangs on a thread at any given moment. It’s hard not to get caught up in the sweeping momentum of the story, rife with Mitten’s cinematic panels and ability to juggle so many sets effortlessly. Golden Voice’s brewing rebellion sparks the idea that regardless of setting, certain qualities are just endemic to the human experience. The notions of political posturing, jealousy, greed, power, strained familial relations, or the inalienable quest for the right to freedom are universal. This creative team has proven that they are masters of dramatic tension. One need only look at that last sequence involving “Mary?” and apparent Sand-Eater abilities to understand the degree to which these guys are willing to ratchet up the ferocious intensity of their tale. Grade A+.
Conan: The Cimmerian #0 (Dark Horse): Tim Truman and Tomas Giorello jump into their relaunch with a fun framing device that allows them to depict an illustrated poem. Giorello’s art suffers a bit from some awkward early action sequences that lack fluidity, but otherwise the art is clean and enhanced by beautiful colors and a washed out effect that feels like old parchment. Howard’s poem is juxtaposed against Conan’s own reflections of his time abroad; we see bits of the Frost Giant, Tower of the Elephant, his past lovers, and dead friends. It’s a very fitting way to mark this new chapter in his life with a new creative team. It’s really more of the same for fans, and a nice jumping on point for new readers. With a .99 cent price tag and the tease for number one bearing a Frank Cho cover, it’s hard not to like. Grade A.
No Hero #0 (Avatar Press): Black Summer creators Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp are back again and pretty consistent, if not repetitive with their approach. Ryp delivers the same intricate art that boasts a Geoff Darrow level of nuance and detail. Yet again, Ellis asks the conceptual question “What happens when you have super powered beings who are essentially above the law? What if the rules don’t apply to these ‘New Humans?’ What would they really do? Essentially, who watches The Watchmen?” It is all very interesting, it’s all very well done, but let’s be clear that it’s not really original or new. Not to the industry, and not to Ellis’ body of work. The characters state that they “don’t want to rule or control,” but functionally that’s exactly the position they’re inevitably put into. This puts them at risk of becoming the very thing they purport to condemn. When you stand above society in judgment without an effective check and balance system, you lean more toward fascist control rather than promoting a democratic republic. If those in charge carry out their vision of “what’s right,” it is inherently subjective and thus subject to fallibility. Regardless of their one-note nature, I think Ellis deserves some credit for his ability to engage the audience in this level of public debate around sociopolitical issues. Nitpick: The Judex scene, with it’s horrific reveal and blood draining, smacked a bit of Sloth in the movie Seven. Grade A.
Fear Agent #22 (Dark Horse): Let’s cut right to the chase: Heath Huston is the new Han Solo. He is the likable rogue with a heart, who is wise-cracking even in the face of adverse odds. Rick Remender and Tony Moore really capture the essence of Huston this time out and provide a highly entertaining ride that’s largely a “talking heads” issue. Lines like “Da… is good… but not great” or “Is awkward hetero situation” are the laugh out loud charming moments that keep fans coming back to Fear Agent time and time again. Had we seen the return of the well-placed Samuel Clemens’ quotes, this would probably have entered “+” territory. Grade A.
I also picked up;
Good-Bye (Drawn & Quarterly): Another Yoshihiro Tatsumi volume chronicling his work from 1971 to 1972, with more interviews from Adrian Tomine, is always reason for celebration.
All Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder: Volume 1 (DC): While it’s laughable that it took nearly four years to publish a mere nine issues, if you read this as exaggerated characterization to the point of meta-commentary satire, it’s pretty enjoyable.