I read a lot of comic books to whittle this column down to ten to review. And after a while, it becomes really hard for a book to stand out. So, when I say that Dark Fang, launching today from Image Comics, got me to blurt out “The f***?!”, that should tell you just how hilariously warped this book is.
Mile Gunter and Kelsey Shannon play it close to the vest, at first, and honestly, it seems they’re doing yet another cheesecake vampire story of the sort that infests smaller publishers, albeit one with better dialogue as a confused vampire from the 19th century tries to understand concepts like “camgirls.” Characters are introduced without any real explanation, the plot seems to be skipping ahead… and then the book shows what it’s really up to.
Thanks, in particular, to Shannon’s cartooning work and deliberately flat coloring, the book eventually emerges as a parody of the Disney princess trope, only with one of Dracula’s brides. By the end of the first issue, she’s got all the money in the world (since vampire mind control extends to the internet), her own castle, and happily ever after, right? Well… not so much. Gunter could stand to take a breath in the plotting, as this feels like a rush through to what the book really wants to do, but if it continues to be this off-kilter and funny, it’ll stay worth a read.
Fence #1, BOOM! Studios
C.S. Pacat, Johanna The Mad, and Joanna Lafuente offer a sports comic that in some ways feels familiar: The underdog with a chip on his shoulder, the arrogant prodigy who has a takedown coming, the snobs sneering at both in different ways. But that doesn’t make the story any less affecting, and Johanna the Mad visually explains a complicated sport and makes what can feel a bit stuffy when you watch the Olympics incredibly dynamic on the page.
Evolution #1, Image Comics
Christopher Sebela, Joe Keatinge, Josh Williamson, and James Asmus script, and Joe Infurniari and Jordan Boyd handle the art on this sprawling story of human evolution suddenly becoming a matter of weeks, not centuries. It’s a huge project, but the writing team does an excellent job of telling one consistent story, and it’s helped by Infurniari and Boyd. Their artwork here is washed-out and scratchy, and they cleverly let the technique set the mood. Even the sunniest of California days seems on the verge of unfolding amid the scratches and the cross-hatching. It ends on some intriguing questions, not just about the plot but about our heroes, and makes you wonder what’ll happen next.
Spider-Men II #4, Marvel
Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli finally unveil just what this book is revolving around. The older, villainous Miles Morales, it turns out, has a very human motive for all the insane stunts he’s been pulling. But what stands out most in this book are the conversations. The heroic, younger Miles, it turns out, is struggling with his entire universe being destroyed, while the older Miles has the same sense of loss, but for deeper, more personal reasons. While there’s no shortage of quips and punching, it’s the quiet moments that make this book.
The Wild Storm #9, DC Comics
Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt continue their deadpan-hilarious take on conspiracy theories and how running the world from the shadows is really just a giant bureaucratic pain in the ass even before the immortal aliens and black-market superheroes pop up. As the book cleverly reveals it’s a mirror image of the main DCU, Ellis and Davis-Hunt explore the pressure keeping such a huge secret means for the people running it. Oh, and also Davis-Hunt shows he can draw one hell of a samurai action scene.
Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houndini #1, Hard Case Crime: Cynthia Von Buhler writes and illustrates a vivid tribute to ’20s mysteries while dissecting their gender politics and style.
The American Way: Those Above And Those Below #4, DC Comics: John Ridley and Georges Jeanty continue a story that feels like what would happen if comics in the ’70s had been more honest about race and politics during the era itself.
Jenny Finn #1, Dark Horse: Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey’s horror comic, mixing Lovecraft and Jack the Ripper, returns with colors by Dave Stewart. If you’re curious to see Mignola’s work with moods other than those found in Hellboy, this will fit the bill.
Ninja-K #1, Valiant: Christos Gage and Tomás Giorello give the hero who mixes Bond and ninjas a darker tale to explore. After all, he’s Ninja-K. There’s a lot of history freighted on A through J, and it’s all coming back at once.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #297, Marvel: Yes, Marvel’s numbering campaign strikes again, but Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert, and Jason Keith kick off a smart arc here, where the police are after that notorious criminal… Peter Parker?
This Week’s Best Collections
Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker, Image Comics ($18, Softcover): Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston take a sledgehammer to superhero tropes, and the immaturity of how superheroes approach sex, in this energetic, uncomfortable, and gleefully weird story of a former superhero exploiting his past to impress women and regain glory.
James Bond: Vargr, Dynamite ($18, Softcover): Warren Ellis and Jason Masters bring Bond back to his icy roots in this superb series.
Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, Dynamite ($20, Softcover): The kiddie mysteries get a stiff dose of Veronica Mars in this smart miniseries.