Saturday, April 2, 2016

Comics Capsule Reviews

Lords of the Jungle #1 – This Jungle Lord mashup teams Will Eisner’s Jungle Queen Sheena with Tarzan of the Apes (one of my favorite pulpy literary characters). Writer Corinna Bechko twists continuity a little too hard—Sheena goes through some kind of time warp in the present to team with Tarzan in the past—who really cares how they team up? Why don’t they just exist at the same time? Tarzan doesn’t appear until the last page, the creators could have skipped a whole issue worth of setup and started the story a lot earlier. That said, it’s fun to see Sheena take on a whole crew of corrupt and angry construction workers, working illegally in the Amazon. Artist Roberto Castro makes her look great and his action sequences really come alive. As Sheena bursts into the past, Tarzan is literally ready and waiting to pounce. A promising start. At this point, any new Tarzan story is welcome. By the way, the trailer for the new Tarzan movie looks good, but do I have to point out Tarzan wears a loincloth, not culottes?

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

The Shadow Glass #1 – I picked up this comic because the art was absolutely picture perfect. Luckily, there is a solid story underneath. It’s 1562, and Elizabeth is Queen of England. The roguish Thomas Hughes succumbs to temptation and has an affair with Arabella, the wife of his good friend Adam. Weeks later, Thomas convinces Arabella to participate in an occult experiment with Doctor John Dee, Queen Elizabeth’s famous alchemist and advisor. Twenty years later, Thomas and Arabella’s daughter comes home to visit Adam, who she thinks is her real father. She’s headstrong, good with a sword and dresses like a swashbuckler. Adam tells her of her true heritage before warning her against meeting Thomas Hughes. But something very strange happens later during her own meeting with Doctor Dee ...

The Shadow Glass is a breath of fresh air. A historical drama with supernatural overtones, the book contains some of the finest comic book art I have ever seen—and I’ve read a lot of comics. I love that the idea seems to be original to comics—I don’t think this is a licensed property or based on a video game. Writer/artist Aly Fell should be applauded for providing something original to a medium that desperately needs it. She’s quite a talent.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

Badger #1 & 2 - Mike Baron’s Badger is back! After a long run in the ‘80s and popping up every few years since, Baron has started things from scratch in this new series. The Badger is Norbert Sykes, a Special Forces war veteran with multiple personalities. One of those personalities is the Badger, a costumed vigilante who dishes out punishment to drug dealers, demons, indifferent fast food clerks and those who park illegally in handicapped spaces. Most of the players are the same, just updated, in Baron’s Badger reboot. As before, Badger is hired by Hamilton Thorndyke, a druid from Roman times, as a bodyguard. Norbert is accompanied into Ham’s employ by his therapist Daisy. At any time one of his six other personalities could pop out and leave him defenseless—among them Max, a gay decorator, Emily, a helpless child and Pierre, a French serial killer. 

The Badger is already taking on Ham’s enemies and giving martial arts lessons to arrogant black belts. The Badger is back, Larry! (The Badger calls most men “Larry.” You can read the book to find out why, but it’s no wonder the character needs a full-time therapist.) Like all of Baron’s work, this is vastly entertaining.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Satan’s Hollow #1 – Satan’s Hollow in Blue Ash, Ohio, is a real place, surrounded by actual rumors of human sacrifice and devil worship (see a local article here). I used to work in Blue Ash, but I’d never heard of Satan’s Hollow until this comic was solicited. In the comic, John and Sandy Ward move to Blue Ash, into the ancestral home of Sandy’s family. Something bad happened in the house when Sandy was young and she hasn’t been back since. Meanwhile, some teenagers explore the drainage ditches in Satan’s Hollow (in real life, the property owners can’t keep adventure seekers out) and one of them goes missing. In this first issue, John and Sandy help with the search, while one character meets the famous Shadow Man (rumored to be the Hollow’s evil liaison with Satan). The book ends with a surprising character trying to make a literal deal with the devil.

I did buy the book for the local angle, but the art and story work well together, and there are enough surprises that I’ll stick around for at least issue two.

Rating: ***½ stars out of 5

King Conan: Wolves at the Border #4 – With Dark Horse’s regular Conan comic drifting on coast for a while (I’m sure it will get better, it always does), the company’s King Conan tales are always outstanding. This miniseries certainly is, mostly due to the excellent writing of Tim Truman and the art of Tomas Giorello. Giorello is hands-down one of the finest artists currently working in comics—his layouts, drawing ability, action sequences and general storytelling are better than almost anyone currently drawing comics.

Truman takes a story suggested by Robert E. Howard’s notes and fleshes it out into a full and satisfying tale. King Conan leaves his kingdom to have one last battle with the Picts. When his small retinue is murdered by sorcery, he finds himself working with a Pictish warrior tribe against the greater evil. Both sides have years of stored up hard feelings and aggression; but they finally win a grudging respect from each other.

In this final issue, Bril the Pict, his people, and Conan go in search of Bril’s nephew and heir to the tribe leadership, the child Brune. They are after Brune’s kidnapper, an evil sorceress named Kwarada, who sacrifices her own son to summon demons from the depths to fight the Picts. Of particular humor is the following exchange between Bril and Conan:

Bril: “The Aquilonian settlers make war on us for gain—to take our land! But I think you are not like them, Cimmerian. I believe you fought us for joy!”

Conan: “Wrong. I did it for both gain and joy!” That made me laugh.

Truman wraps up the tale with a lot of action and thrills—I love reading about Conan still being able to kick tail as an old(er) man. I hope Truman and Giorello continue to work together, on Conan or anything else. They make a fantastic team.

Rating: ****½ out of 5 stars 

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