The new Richard Corben comic from Dark Horse, The Raven and the Red Death, contains two brand new adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe poetry. With “The Raven,” Corben gets to revisit the Poe classic. Back in December 1974, Corben (along with writer Rich Margopoulos) originally adapted The Raven in a faithful, if reworked here to make it an eight page comic, story. Appearing in Creepy #67 (and reprinted in 2012′s Creepy Presents Richard Corben,) Corben gets to illustrate a man opening his door, hoping to find his love Lenore only to have his home invaded by a pesky raven, who thwarts his every desire with the repeated word, “nevermore.” Corben’s painted work is dark, moody and has colors that pierce you down to your soul. He’s constantly bouncing back and forth between forcing you to encounter the chill of the raven’s night and the heat of the narrator’s desire.
Like his run on Uncanny X-Force, Remender has an almost Claremontian interest in these characters on a personal level that gets in the way of any forward momentum that the book has. This issue feels stuck in the same place this storyline has been since it began. Acuña’s artwork, a rich, painterly style applied over a heavily inked base, continues to be rich and delicious. Acuña taps into Remender’s motivations for both the heroes and the villains, creating a dark labyrinth of humor, conflicted characters and twisted souls.
The opening death of the hero, Haggard West, sets up the far more interesting young character; Aurora West. The daughter of the city’s protector, her story is a familiar one but has more room to explore than Battling Boy’s story does. She sees her father’s death and becomes determined to carry on her father’s legacy only to see the city quickly move on from grieving her father to embracing Battling Boy as its next hero. Pope constructs Aurora’s tale around Battling Boy’s but she has a purpose and drive that is lacking in his main character. Battling Boy gets all of the screen time but Aurora gets all of the pathos. Pope gives Aurora an actual story; she has to become the hero now that her father is dead. Battling Boy doesn’t have any kind of purpose like that. He has to become a hero simply because that’s what his people do. They go through these tests (like Hercules tasks) to graduate and become gods themselves.
Brubaker and Epting take the Ms. Moneypenny role from the Bond stories and question who she is and why she is where she is. Brubaker twists the Bond story from being one strictly about espionage into a murder mystery. He and Epting introduce any number of shadowy figures that could be the murderer. Unlike Bond films where everyone, often including the femme fatales, are who we think they are, Brubaker and Epting don’t easily lay out the good guys and the bad guys in Velvet #1. We don’t even know who the secretary in this story really is.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman has been all about masks. From “The Court of Owls’” creepy minimalistic avian masks to Lincoln March’s many masks and even to the Joker’s disturbing mask made of his own facial skin in “The Death of the Family,” this theme of identity and concealment has been at the heart of most of Snyder and Capullo’s stories. And each of these stories has also picked away a bit at Bruce Wayne; he didn’t know his city, he didn’t know his family and he didn’t know his friends or his villains. Snyder and Capullo have scraped away at the confidence of the character, exposing the raw nerves that are his weaknesses and doubts.
Flipping through The Shaolin Cowboy #1, a book full of violence, zombies, weaponized chainsaws and a main character who has been buried underneath a boulder for six years, you can see that Darrow finds peace in those details. For Darrow, those details are life and energy. The details are the story more so than any dialogue or plot are. Darrow makes sure that every detail he can fit can get into the page but he knows how to construct those details. Darrow’s eye for details in this violent and bloody story reveal a world that has many wonders in it if you just spend the time to really look at them.
When the son of the Scarlet Witch wants to make his boyfriend happy, things like reality and death don’t get in the way. In Young Avengers V1: Style > Substance, Teddy (a.k.a. Hulkling,) a half blooded alien shape changer is struggling through a world without a mother, without a superhero boyfriend at his side and without a team or more exactly a group of friends who are going through the same things that he is. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie take Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung’s Avengers-wannabe team and kick them out of their young teenage angst and thrust them into the verge of adulthood, where the world is never quite as cool or as altogether as it seems like it should be.
“It should be simple,” Jack Farrell says on the first page of Elephantmen #51. He’s referring to the grisly murder scene he’s standing over (“A Guy. A Girl. A Gun. Blood.”) but he could just as easily be talking about Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen series. What started out as a mascot for his lettering studio has turned into a grand tapestry of all different kinds of stories, all centered around Hip Flask, a genetically engineered human/hippopotamus hybrid, bred for war now earning a living pounding the streets as part of the police agency for creatures like himself. A gumshoe, if you will. Animals as detectives and policemen and businessmen. It sounds funny but Starkings isn’t writing stories but animals.
Lazarus #4 is the work of two cool and calculating creators; Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Ambushed at the edge of her family’s land, Forever fights back from near-death to discover just how treacherous the Carlyle family can really be. Lark is such a matter-of-fact artist. He simply puts down the drawing for a panel, capturing the right image that moves the story along with the greatest efficiency.
You can see Warren Ellis’s Authority in almost every big superhero team story that Marvel has produced in the last 10 years or more. Even though Ellis himself has barely been writing superheroes lately, his “voice” is everywhere, echoing through the words of all of these writers. His strong influence still resonates in comics like Hickman’s Avengers, Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers and in movies like Iron Man3. Through The Authority, Ellis defined the modern approach to superhero comics. The problem is that all of those lessons have been absorbed by today’s Marvel writers.
The brilliant thing that Brian Michael Bendis did with All New X-Men is to make our presenttime the dystopian “Days of Future Past” for the original X-Men. Today is the future that young Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast and Iceman don’t want to see come to be. They’ll do anything to avoid the future they were brought to where Cyclops killed Professor Xavier. In Wolverine and the X-Men #36, the past and present X-Men have to fight alongside and against an X-Men team from the future who want to send the original X-Men back to the time they really belong. (Who says time travel stories aren’t confusing?) “Battle of the Atom” continues with Jason Aaron and Giuseppe Camuncoli stepping in to move the plot along while they lead us into the second month of this crossover.
As the Avengers still feel like they’re only in this story because the Fantastic Four or the X-Men were out of town this week, characters like Ex Nihilo and Abyss begin playing larger parts in this story as Hickman begins building deeper mysteries into their roles in Infinity. Their tie to the Builders, the Doctor Who-ish alien antagonists, is the first sign that there is something more sinister happening here than just an alien horde attacking planet after planet.
Century West looks like a western story, taking place in a small Texas town where the Texas Ranger still wears a cowboy vest and a duster. He looks more like an aging version of a 1950s television cowboy than any rough and tumble cowboy. Bob is a man who looks at the future more as an invasion than as progress. Chaykin shows this just through sighs the man exhales and through his sad eyes whenever he sees some sign of the future. It’s not like the past was great though; he’s got every young gun coming and looking for him, believing he’s the man who shot Jesse James in the back even though Bob was still a kid in Saskatoon when that happened. The past happened and Bob is more comfortable there, riding his horse than in the cars invade his town.
Infinity #3 continues the two-front war for the Avengers that we’ve been reading about here and in Avengers (space) and New Avengers (Earth.) Hickman, Opeña and Weaver are trying to create a modern “Kree Skrull War” but Hickman’s writing lacks the little human touches that colored Roy Thomas’s classic story. Thomas weaved in just the right amount of soap opera into his Avengers stories, whether it was the developing love between a synthezoid and a mutant or the seemingly growing distrust between the founders of the Avengers and the latest team members to carry that name.
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Daredevil Volume 5 is chicken soup for the superhero comic book fan. The fifth volume of Waid’s run (and Samnee’s second) is about friendship, something that almost surprisingly the book has never really been about. Like almost any run on this series since the early 1980s, Waid and Samnee have been pushing Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson apart, staining their friendship and personal relationship to the point where Foggy dissolved their professional relationship by basically firing Murdock. This latest volume opens with Murdock at the bottom, with only a $20 in his pocket, shades of Miller and Mazzuchelli’s Born Again. But this book isn’t about how far Daredevil can fall; we’ve been there and done that over and over again. Starting this story that low, Waid and Samnee show us the riches of friendship, beginning with a short tale featuring the recent incarnation of Spider-Man before diving into a story where Matt Murdock has to be the strength that Foggy Nelson does not think he has within himself.
Charles Forsman’s The End of the Fucking World looks like a Charles Schulz comic gone horribly wrong. We’re all familiar with Schulz’s Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus and that world of childhood innocence that was never lost. The only thing that Forsman’s comics shares with that is a penchant for those bulbous little noses and mouths that can end up being impossible gaping oblong holes on faces. The similarities are enough to draw the comparison to Schulz’s cartooning but Forsman walks down dark paths that I doubt (and hope)Schulz even knew existed. At least, I prefer to think that none of Schulz’s characters never grew up with the utter lack of empathy that exists in Forsman’s main character James.
Satellite Sam #1 is a slightly paradoxical comic because it wears its influences on its sleeve. And that influence just happens to be drawing this comic. Fraction, like a whole generation of comic creators and readers, has grown up reading Howard Chaykin comics. It’s a bit scary to think that someday someone should do a study on just how Chaykin books like American Flagg!, The Shadow and Black Kiss has warped the minds of everyone who read those books at ages when they probably shouldn’t have. This comic reads like a love letter to those Chaykin comics as Fraction introduces these strange little perversions into the lives of his character.
Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s Los Angeles. isn’t populated by people walking around, hoping to be recognized but by people who wear masks, disguise their voices and praying to their gods that no one knows who they really are. Vaughan and Martin aren’t interested in a Los Angeles that’s made up of cults of personalities or people wanting to be celebrities but by people who know and have experienced the follies of secrets. That’s the background of The Private Eye, the story of an eponymously initialed P.I. (real name unknown) who has been hired to discover just what secrets could be exposed in his client’s past. When she’s discovered killed in her apartment, all signs point to P.I. as either the killer or the man who knows her secrets that she was killed for
In their first volume of Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples showed us the couple we would end up unable to imagine apart, Alana and Marko. Lovers from opposite sides of an intergalactic war, we witnessed the birth of their daughter Hazel and everything they went through to try and escape the civilizations that wanted to tear them apart because they were born on different planets. All of the struggle in that first book is about keeping this new family together. The book read like the race against time it was as Vaughan and Staples introduced us to these men and women, soldiers and pacifists, killers and parents, lovers and ghosts that we had never seen before. That first book demonstrated just how much these two crazy kids should be together so, defying expectations, Vaughan and Staples do everything they can in the second volume to keep Marko and Alana apart.