‘Red Rover Charlie #1’ And Other Comics Of Note, December 4th

Garth Ennis asks how dogs would deal with humanity going to hell. And it’s a pretty compelling piece of work, a horror comic book that will make you really want to hug your dog, plus looks at books from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Avatar and Archie.

Garth Ennis, at his worst, is pretty bad; he goes for “shock value”, and his idea of “shock value” is stultifyingly pedestrian. But when he cuts the crap, on a book like Red Team, or this, and just writes a story, the results tend to be great. And so it is with Red Rover Charlie, about how dogs deal with the rage virus epidemic.

Part of this is just smart writing on the part of Ennis. He establishes the rules quickly, and ensures that we see the world through the eyes of dogs. What feels crappy and cheap in your average zombie book becomes wrenching when you’re introduced to Charlie, a service dog whose owner is dead and on fire, barking “I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog!” over and over again. What makes the book work is that our heroes have no idea what’s going on, at all. All they know is that the “feeders” have suddenly become very, very dangerous. They may not be affected by whatever killing the humans… but they’re still victims caught in the crossfire.

Michael Dipascale’s art adds immeasurably to the book, not least because he’s willing to show some pretty horrific and bloody acts without being over-the-top about it. That said, yes, this book gets pretty horrific. Similarly, his depiction of dogs is realistic but full of emotion; dog owners are going to recognize looks and mannerisms in his art, which is incredibly hard to do.

It’s not perfect; despite dogs not understanding human language at all, at least one seems to know human profanity a little too well, and it does break up the flow of the book. But it’s a compelling story that’s hard to put down, and highly recommended.

So that’s one book to pick up; what about the rest of this week’s books?

<!–pagetitle:Inhumanity #1–>

Matt Fraction and Oliver Coipel start off Marvel’s next round of heroes with… well, basically a pretty long exposition dump. Fraction’s facility with dialogue, and Coipel’s art, make it a quick and fun read, but this creative team deserved to be allowed to start things in the thick of the action. Why does this book start with Karnak, and not one of the newly minted Inhumans? I’m assuming that’s editorial’s choice, not Fraction’s, but it feels a bit locked off, an odd choice for a #1.

<!–pagetitle:Carbon Grey Vol. 3 #1–>

Paul Gardner and Hoang Nguyen commit the cardinal sin of number ones: Assuming that anybody who picks it up has obsessively read the last two volumes. If you’re a fan of this, you’ll enjoy this for the cheesy fantasy-pulp it is, but if you haven’t read this series before, it’s going to be just a wee bit impenetrable. Nguyen, Khari Evans, and Kinsun Loh can sure make some beautiful art, at least.

<!–pagetitle:Terminator: Salvation: The Final Battle #1–>

That’s an impressive case of colon cancer in that title. Anyway, J. Michael Stracyznski and Pete Woods attempt to wrap up the Terminator franchise just in time for the new movie coming in 2015. It’s a solid enough book, and Stracyznski has a few interesting threads in play, but it feels a bit rote at this point. Dark Horse has a preview up, so you can decide for yourself.

<!–pagetitle:Deadworld: Restoration #1–>

Gary Reed and Sami Makkonen have another miniseries in this zombie book from the ’80s and… well to be honest it’s kind of a wreck. The plot depends heavily on you having read all the previous miniseries, and Makkonen’s art style, while interesting, can be a little confusing and messy. It’ll be great for fans and people who love that Ben Templesmith kind of scribbly style, but for others it may not be so great. Here’s a preview to help you decide.

Christos Gage is a talented writer, and Paul Duffield does well with the manga style, but this book is so generically “shocking” and “Japanese pulp” that it’s really pretty much only for fans of Absolution willing to look past those flaws. Yeah, yeah, she’s a ninja in a schoolgirl outfit. Whatever. She cleaved a dude in half, I get it, she’s an action chick, how about we actually do something interesting with that concept? Considering the people involved, a disappointing book.

<!–pagetitle:Avengers Annual 2013–>

Kathryn Immonen and David Lafuente explore just what the core Avengers do on Christmas. The plot’s a little familiar, albeit anchored by a cleverly designed new character, but it’s fun to see what Cap, Tony, Bruce and the rest get up to for the holidays.

<!–pagetitle:Indestructible Hulk Annual #1–>

Jeff Parker and Mahmud Asrar deal with the question of why, precisely, noble men like Tony Stark and Bruce Banner built bombs and weapons for so long while they find themselves chasing after a profoundly cynical former mentor. Parker raises the questions in a smart, organic way and really captures the banter between Tony and Bruce quite well; Asrar, meanwhile, has a blast playing with the essential concept of the book, which we won’t ruin here. Suffice to say, it’s a great story and worth the money.

<!–pagetitle:Amazing X-Men #2–>

Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness have way, way too much fun taking this book to new heights of the ridiculous. They do a good job of maintaining the stakes, while having fun with the metaphysics of superheroes in the afterlife, fighting demonic pirates. Who are led by captains like Jack the Ripper and Billy The Kid. It’s a giddy, swashbuckling book and a lot of fun.

<!–pagetitle:Velvet #2–>

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting continue their ’70s spy adventure, and honestly, it’s a blast. Brubaker and Epting are obviously big fans of the espionage genre, but are also smart enough to dodge the cliches and keep the book grounded; Velvet is a super-spy, not a superhero. A great action book and highly recommended.

<!–pagetitle:Burn The Orphanage: Born To Lose #2–>

Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman’s tribute to the goofy fighting games of the ’90s is a blast, pure and simple. The last issue gently mocked Final Fight; this issue makes affectionate fun of Mortal Kombat. All it needs is a metal song playing constantly, and it’s a pitch perfect book. If you have any fondness for Capcom and Midway’s classic arcade games, or just like a good action book, put this in your sub folder.

<!–pagetitle:The Fox #2–>

Dean Haspiel, after a fun and slightly Eisnerian first issue, goes full-on, hilariously trippy with this issue, with the Fox sucked into something of a conundrum. You can pick this up without needing to read #1, and I highly recommend you do, not only because the main story is funny and fun, but because there’s an equally great, if more serious, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Cavallaro story about The Shield which has some real promise as well.

<!–pagetitle:Hinterkind #3–>

Ian Edginton and Francesco Trifogli take a pretty sharp turn towards the close of this book, a welcome swerve that both raises the stakes and makes this post-apocalypse meets fairy-tale story something different, to say the least. It’s worth picking this up if you’re curious… it’s becoming a sleeper surprise from Vertigo.

<!–pagetitle:The Occultist #3–>

Giving a horny college student a book of spells seems like a bad idea, and Tim Seeley and Mike Norton are really enjoying exploring just how bad an idea it actually is. This series has been a fun mix of Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, and if you haven’t been following it, it’s well worth picking up.

<!–pagetitle:Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight #3–>

This book fires up a new story with “Prison Ship Antares”, essentially Alex Di Campi and Simon Fraser’s take on a women in prison movie… except in space. It’s a lot more solid that the first story this book opened with, but it’s still a little cheesy in some respects. Still, worth picking up if you’re into SF.

It’s a yeoman effort from Mike Johnson, but the idea of Khan as a misunderstood benevolent ruler kind of doesn’t work, considering what a monster he’s seen as in the actual movies. It must be said, though, that there are some nice little touches and shout-outs to the original series in this book. Curious? Here’s a preview to judge for yourself.

<!–pagetitle:The Star Wars #4–>

Dark Horse’s bizarrely fascinating adaptation of the first draft of Star Wars just keeps becoming more bizarre and more fascinating. Wait until you see the original Han Solo! Recommended as a curiosity, if nothing else.

<!–pagetitle:Hellboy In Hell #5–>

Mike Mignola returns Hellboy to its roots with a story about saving a man who sold his soul to the Devil. It’s a one-off story, but it’s an engaging one that brings what so many love about the original series to the fore; the feeling of folklore, the moody art, the dream-like atmosphere. Highly recommended.

<!–pagetitle:Catalyst Comix #6–>

Joe Casey’s anthology book is slowly coming into focus, with the Frank Wells story in particular making an effort to stand out. What can a superpowered hero really do against the worst the world has to offer? It’s an interesting set of questions, and a fun superhero book.

<!–pagetitle:The Victories #7–>

Michael Avon Oeming closes this arc with a requiem for D.D. Mau, his foul-mouthed, somewhat tacky, emotionally tortured speedster. It’s simultaneously an interesting story and a sad one, and worth getting if you’re a fan of Oeming.

<!–pagetitle:Earth 2 #18–>

Tom Taylor is rather shamelessly milking the story of who, precisely, this new Earth 2 Batman is, but it’s so well done, and Taylor has so much latitude, that you don’t really care. Show up for the final twist, if nothing else.

<!–pagetitle:Action Comics #26–>

It’s often said that the only interesting Superman story is his origin. I happen to disagree; I think the best and most interesting Superman stories are the ones about how Superman works, emotionally. Part of the reason the story “For The Man Who Has Everything” is so painful is that Alan Moore deftly hits on the tragedy of Superman: He doesn’t actually want to be Superman. He wants to be a normal person.

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