In this third chapter, Gaiman and artist J.H. Williams III get lost in the story as the two Dreams continue their walk through the cosmos, picking up and orphaned child who is unironically named Hope. Along the way, Williams III gets to continue being one of the hardest working artists drawing comics right now. Every page is a medley of panels and styles as he crafts his images around the story. From Kirby gods to Moebius landscapes, Williams III uses style as any other tool in his toolbox. The decision of style is a decision of storytelling as he changes his layouts and lines to illustrate more than Gaiman’s words; he’s using style to tell you how you should be reading this comic.
Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. What a minute, that’s the wrong opening. Instead of that, Chuck Dixon gets away with writing in Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1, “These are dark days for our friends the Harks” and the writing just gets sillier from there with made up slang like “Bospor,” “rammer,” and the lovely descriptive compound phrase “ramming’ Bospor!” Opening with a civil war in some alien galaxy, a group of soldiers called the Nomad Squad has to check all of the refugee ships to make sure that they actually contain refugees and nothing more sinisterly nefarious. Chuck Dixon, Larry Stroman and Carl Potts begin with that idea for a story and never get any farther than that in this first issue.
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson one-shot featuring their four-legged supernatural crusaders is a welcomed but too brief visit to Burden Hill and its protectors. Full of a lot of different and unique animals and one hard to catch monster, Dorkin’s dialogue is distinct and perfectly reveals who the characters are. That’s one thing Dorkin is excellent at in all of his writing– using the characters own words and actions to reveal who they are.
It’s hard to believe that Ed McGuinness has never really drawn an X-Men adventure before because he steps into it so naturally. In Amazing X-Men #1, his lively and jaunty style perfectly suits a character like Nightcrawler who should have a spring in his step (or backwards somersault, as the case may be) and a smile on his face even in the face of death. In no time at all, he claims Nightcrawler as his character like no one other than Dave Cockrum and Alan Davis have before.
Umbral #1 is an exercise in world building on an epic level, owing as much to Tolkien as it does to George R. Martin. Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten introduce us to Rascal, a young thief and her best friend, the prince Arthir. On the grand event of an eclipse, the two children steal away to one of the highest points in the town to witness it but find themselves drawn into a mystery as mystical artifacts end up missing and people around the prince end up being killed as dark hearted monsters rip through the castle.
There are many ways that Mike Mignola’s young Hellboy is just a normal kid in Hellboy: The Midnight Circus. Set in 1948, when Hellboy hears someone warning the closest thing he has to a father that the boy is dangerous and should be dealt with, he does what any kid would do: he runs away to join the circus. This being a Hellboy story, it’s no normal circus as a Pied-Piper-like clown and his dog lead Hellboy down the road to the circus which runs “from the clock strikes midnight… to the fearful crack of dawn.” The clown recites incantations to summon the rest of the circus folk into a magical center ring and of course even back in 1948, Hellboy is the inquisitive sort and can’t look away from the wonders in front of him. If Mike Mignola’s shadowy art hides the world around Hellboy in most stories, Fegredo and Stewart’s shadows part ways to reveal more and more mysteries to Hellboy in this circus.
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.
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.