H.P. Lovecraft is a genre-defining horror writer, as much for his ideas as his execution, and detectives are a favorite protagonists of many Lovecraft homages. That makes sense since they dig into humanity’s dark side in the first place. But here’s a variation so obvious, and seemingly so cheesy, it’s kind of amazing nobody’s done it before: What if Cthulhu was the detective?
That’s the basic premise of Weird Detective (Dark Horse) from Fred Van Lente and Guiu Vilanova. All right, so Sebastian Greene isn’t Cthulhu, but rather one of the residents of the ruins in At The Mountain of Madness. But he’s on Earth to find, and stop, the Great Old Ones. He’s on our side. Sorta.
Van Lente’s script pastiches Lovecraft, only with the sly humor and sharp plotting for which Van Lente has become known. Van Lente helps give Greene, not the most sympathetic hero at times, some genuine dimension. He may have seventeen different senses, but he’s still not able to figure out he’s a bit full of himself. Vilanova, meanwhile, gives the art a suitably noir-ish quality and makes the scary parts scary without taking it to over-the-top in either direction. There’s one sequence in particular, involving a monster’s victim being taken out via toilet, that’s simultaneously grotesque and gut-bustingly funny. A unique idea is a rare and great thing, as Lovecraft proved. But it’s all in the execution, and Weird Detective offers a fresh take on the eldritch no one should miss.
Descender #12, Image
Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s book about robots trying to find their place in the universe contrasts our hero Tim-21 with Tim-22. Tim-22’s past is nightmarish, in its own way, but Nguyen smartly plays down the horror just enough to make it deeply affecting. Tim-22’s hatred of humans, and deep-seated fear of Tim-21, makes a little too much sense, and it makes for a disturbing, and thoughtful, story.
Han Solo #1, Marvel
Yes, Han Solo now has his own miniseries. After Leia tries to get Han to loan out the Falcon, he manages to talk her into letting him take on a mission to find and rescue Rebel informants under the cover of the galaxy’s most elaborate, dangerous space race. Needless to say, it goes a bit sideways. Marjorie Liu, who handles the writing, and Mark Brooks, on art, deliver the Han Solo movie you’ve pretty much wanted from the start. Han is, of course, a smart-ass and a wee bit overconfident, and that humor carries the book. But the final twist ensures you’re going to keep reading, not least to see how Han gets out of this one.
Astro City #36, DC
One quality unique to DC is the idea of “legacy” heroes and villains, people who have children or grandchildren who pick up the mantle well after the hero in question have had their day. But a legacy is a hell of a thing to carry with you, and the end of this two-parter explores the results of clinging to the past a little too tightly. As usual, Kurt Busiek’s warmth and humanism defines this issue, and Brent Anderson’s vivid, clean art feels like a Silver Age comic that never was. Busiek and Anderson have really dug into the humanity behind superheroes on this run, and anybody who loves comics should be reading.
The Beauty #8, Image
Picking up after a disappointingly generic six-issue first arc, this book has been exploring the consequences of its central idea in more detail. If you could catch an STD that makes you attractive… would you go out and catch it? Here Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley explore just what being your “real self” means in this context, with a transwoman using the Beauty to become herself.
Brett Weldele takes over the art here, and does quite a good job with both aspects of the story. The action elements that open the book seem almost obligatory and detract from the much more interesting and compassionate story they’re trying to tell, but one assumes that they’re laying the groundwork for a larger arc here. Still, if the price of a little compassion is a somewhat clichéd action sequence, it’s worth it.
Black Widow #4, Marvel: Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s story of espionage and old, old debts gets more complex and rich with each issue.
Scooby Apocalypse #2, DC: Admittedly, Daphne wasting a bug woman with an assault rifle is… unexpected, but Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ reinvention of the silly Hanna Barbera series is genuinely engaging in its own right.
Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #8, Valiant: This book cleverly balances the seeming threat, a supervillain who keeps killing
off Gilad to discover the secret of his immortality, with the real one: Gilad accidentally burning his family life to the ground.
Joyride #3, BOOM! Studios: Once again this book shows off a breezy, smart, space-opera style that makes it a joy to read while giving it more depth. Who wouldn’t enjoy cruising the galaxy in a stolen alien spaceship?
Jughead #7, Archie: While this has a fair number of Archie-style hijinks, Chip Zdarsky slips in a look at how friends can grow apart with surprising emotional sting to it.
This Week’s Collections:
Welcome to Showside, Z2 (Softcover, $20): Ian McGinty’s adorable comics about the son of an ’80s-esque supervillain deciding he’d rather not take over the world but hang out with his friends are some of the cutest, smartest kids comics you’ll read this week.
Sex Criminals Vol. 3: The Hard Way, Image (Softcover, $15): The comic book you can never read on the bus collects Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s thoughtful and often hilarious musings on sex and sexual identity. Come for the strong emotions and thoughtful romantic plotline, stay for the anime magical girl made entirely out of animate bodily fluids. Look, we told you this wasn’t good reading on public transit.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Dark Horse (Hardcover, $18): Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá adapt Neil Gaiman’s witty, sweet story about flirting with aliens.