Walter Hill is a name that looms large in the mind of film fans thanks to beloved hits like The Warriors, The Driver, and 48 Hrs. He’s got a few cult classics like Streets of Fire under his belt as well. So this project, a cross between the gangster tale and the Western, that adapts into comics a story he never got to the screen is attention-getting, especially since it launched the terrific crime fiction publisher Hard Case Crime into the world of comics. It’s a hell of a debut.
Hill’s story is adapted by French comics writer Alexis Nolent, better known as Matz, with whom Hill worked before on the 2012 film oddity Bullet to the Head. (You may remember it as the one where Sylvester Stallone has an axe fight.) Nolent’s work is translated by Edward Gauvin, who gives the dialogue the hard, clipped style fans of Hill’s movies know well. But the artist, Jef, is the real standout here. The book is filled with lush cinematic panels that echo everything from John Ford westerns to Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde to Jules Dassin’s underrated prison drama Brute Force. It’s a gangster movie that only exists in the imagination of the people reading the book.
While there’s been no shortage of gangster comics, Triggerman is a bold, lush bid to bring them to a new level. Too often something’s lost in translation with European comics, but this excellent work shouldn’t be missed.
Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1, DC Comics
Okay, so Sarah Vaughn and Len Medina’s Gothic romance has an overly elaborate title, but that fits with the genre. And, surprisingly, DC’s cynical dead acrobat is a perfect fit as well. Vaughn’s plot is a fairly typical gothic story, in some respects, but she weaves Deadman in perfectly, and more importantly, grounds all the characters in such a way that you keep reading.
Medina stands out here in particular for some gorgeously clean, vivid art, with Jose Villarrubia’s coloring work pumping it full of atmosphere. Medina and Villarrubia really make the book, and in a field that’s pretty short on romance, it’s an appealing change of pace.
Champions #1, Marvel
Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos take up a new name for a team of teen heroes who are well and truly sick of the more “adult” heroes basically getting into fights with each other instead of actually helping. So, in the tradition of teen heroes, they band together to make a difference and do it their way.
It’s difficult not to read this book as something of a rebuke for Marvel, which is still running Civil War II, even as it’s rolling out all the books that it’s supposed to have changed everything forever for. But Waid and Ramos are old hands at this, and the book flows by meshing together the personalities, especially Kamala as she becomes disillusioned with the Avengers. While Waid and Ramos will need to find a way to make their team stand out in later issues, especially with other teams like Generation Zero on the stands, it’s still refreshing to see a return to heroes wanting to be heroes.
Cannibal #1, Image
J. Young, Brian Buccellato, and Matias Bergara have a new, Southern-set thriller that oddly avoids its own concept, to a degree. Young and Buccellato focus instead on the bayou town that makes up their setting and the people who live in it. That said, there is, well, a cannibal. An extremely reluctant, terrified, very human cannibal who does something disgusting and horrendous in the first few pages.
Bergara’s art is just realistic enough to sell the horror, although if you’re not a fan of gore, this will definitely unnerve you, even with Buccellato muting the color palette. But the slow pace also helps and draws you in. Whatever this book turns out to be, it’s not going to be your typical horror book, and that’s something worth paying attention to.
Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1, BOOM! Studios
Greg Pak and Daniel Bayliss bring together two of Kurt Russell’s most iconic roles in what’s probably the most ridiculous crossover you’ll read this week. It works because Pak and Bayliss know how to keep the book funny without compromising Snake’s essential grittiness. That said, this book is told from Jack Burton’s perspective, so, uh, let’s just say this is a bit wackier than Snake’s usual comic book adventures. But if you’re a fan of ol’ Jack Burton, this is will make you wish it was a movie.
Romulus #1, Image Comics: Bryan Hill and Nelson Blake II mix conspiracy theories and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a fun new action book that fills in an old story of spited assassins and ancient conspiracies in a fresh, brisk way.
Cage! #1, Marvel: Genndy Tartakovsky pays tribute to the original ’70s Luke Cage comics, warts and all. Some of the ’70s aspects haven’t aged well, but Tarkovsky nails them, making for a fun read that might work just as well as a TV series.
Moonshine #1, Image Comics: Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso of 100 Bullets are back together for a story of 1920s gangsters, Appalachian moonshiners, and, although it doesn’t quite get into it, werewolves. It’s promising, but we’ll have to see what else this team has up their sleeve.
James Bond #10, Dynamite: Warren Ellis and Jason Masters continue to deliver a book that feels like a great Bond movie, every month, and it’s consistently one of the best espionage stories.
Entwined #1, Dynamite: This comic executes the kung-fu fantasy quite well, with brisk fight scenes and a just breezy enough tone to whisk it along.
This Week’s Best Collected Editions
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, Dark Horse (Softcover, $15): Over fifty female comics professionals share personal stories, great tales, and urban legends about the geeky stuff they love in a surprisingly heart-warming anthology and letter to fandom that everyone can love, no matter who they are.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe, Marvel (Hardcover, $25): Marvel’s clever and adorable superheroine book gets a prestige graphic novel that gently parodies books where some grim and gritty anti-hero “kills” the rest of the publisher’s stable while exploring just what makes Doreen Green different from the usual punching crowd.
Thought Bubble Anthology Collection, Image (Softcover, $10): Celebrating the Thought Bubble comics festival, this gathers some of the greatest hits from a litany of creators that’s almost too staggering to list. If you wonder what pros do for fun, this book puts it all in one place, from the scary to the funny to even, yes, the superheroic.