Welcome back to Comic Book Corner, the place where comic book lovers collaborate on comic reviews. In true Halloween style, today’s comic reviews are filled with the creepy, some crawlers, a bit of horror, and a bit of crime. Before we get started, Comic Book Corner welcomes a new reviewer. Everyone say “Hello” to Luke. We are glad to have you and hope you enjoy our comfy little corner of the internet. Luke shares his perspective on some of the recent indie releases, including the dystopian Death Orb, crime noir Lodger, and the much-anticipated thriller The Whispering Dark. Kay and MAJK check out the newest issues of X-Men Red, Nancy Drew, Vampirella/Dejah Thoris, and Labrynith: Coronation. MAJK also peeks at the first issue of the Spider-geddon tie-in Spider-Girls.
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Roge Antonio
Cover by Jenny Frison
Synopsis: “Following the shocking events of X-Men Red #8, it’s time for Jean to finally confront her demon head-on. Jean Grey and Cassandra Nova… The showdown begins here!” ~Source Marvel.com
MAJK Says: This issue is tense, but we knew it was coming. Cassandra is a special level of evil that just doesn’t quit. We saw her invade Rachel’s mind in the last issue. In this issue, Jean discovers Cassandra has her daughter and there’s no question that she’ll do whatever she has to, in order to free Rachel… even if that means dying. No spoilers, but be prepared because a woman like Jean Grey doesn’t go down without a fight and she rarely fights alone.
Jean is determined to head out on her own, but at least she’ll accept a bit of help from Ororo before she makes her move. There’s a moment between Ororo and Jean that just brings all the feels—especially if you’ve followed the X-Men as long as I have. Jean and Storm are probably closer than any sisters could be, given the incredible history they have. Ororo pegs jeans personality right on when she tells her “Go. Be a hero.” I teared up a bit. You get the sense that Storm truly understands this may be goodbye but she also knows Jean’s heart.
There’s a great exchange between Jean and Cassandra which is intensely applicable to America today. Jean points out that Cassandra confuses empathy for weakness. The writing here is strong and so pertinent to humanity, especially at this particular point in real-world history. This book is worth reading just for the points it makes about empathy, compassion, and those who are afraid of it. Also, you want to be here, if you haven’t figured it out by now—war is on the horizon.
Speaking of compassion, the exchange between Trinary and Gentle might have caused me to squee just a tiny bit… okay, a lot. Laura’s talent for slicing right to the truth is both amusing and cringe-worthy. Unfortunately, we have to wait to see the results. I’ll say this—I wouldn’t be upset to see Trinary with someone like Gentle. Fingers crossed!
The art is different in this issue. I don’t love it as much as I did Carmen’s work in the last issue but it’s still solid, and the scene in which Cassandra says goodbye to Jean is visually well done.
Favorite Line: “Use your snikt powers to slice through the awkward.”
Written by Erik Burnham
Art by Ediano Silva
Synopsis: “Forbidden to modify Heliumite technology to try and save the dying planet of Drakulon, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris decide to navigate the River Iss and petition the goddess Issus for aid. It’s a dangerous journey, and with thousands of blood-hungry vampires currently on their way to Barsoom, there’s no time to lose!” ~ Source Dynamite.com
MAJK says: So remember how I snarked about the bro-fest in the last issue? Get ready for some more of it… a lot more. Still, I enjoyed this issue—particularly Vampirella’s feminist commentary on Barsoom and the heart to heart she and Dejah have about it. I rather enjoy the art style. It evokes the fantasy art of my teen years. Frankly, I’m not opposed to the “eye-candy,” especially since thus far the scantily clad females are the smartest characters in this comic. But is Dejah Thoris the only female in all of Barsoom? I’ve not seen another female of her race yet—not even in the background. How is that possible?
We start this issue arguing with the Jeddak. While protesting his refusal, Vampirella is grabbed by one of the military guys. In frustration, she nails him in the jaw. Okay, I can accept she was out of line but they dogpile on her. Mistake. She sends them flying. Then Gur Tus—the mansplaining moron from last issue—attempts to kill her and is stopped by Dejah. Next, the Jeddak tells them to back off—that she was just upset and “It’s to be expected with females”.
Vampirella calls him out on his comment and you can hear the sarcasm in her voice. After some discussion, the Jeddak recommends Vampirella seek the help of the Goddess Issus. It’s during this journey that this issue passes the Bechdel test. On a serious note, the women discuss their respective societies and it’s this bonding that builds the story out.
They get to know each other, they tease one another, and they encounter deadly enemies together. All the foundation you need for a solid friendship. They do fight well as a team. Just before a bunch of men capture and threaten to enslave them… Yeah, my money is on these girls.
Assessment: between the art style and the fun of seeing a feminist vampire enlighten Dejah Thoris, I’m invested in this. More for the girls’ relationship than the story, but I suspect there’s some solid plot development on the horizon.
Dejah: “We have advanced technology but the attitudes of my race could not be more primitive.”
Vampirella: “…though the men are more likely to go in to the Arts than the Sciences. They’re very sensitive, you know.”
Written by Jody Houser
Art by Andres Genolet
Cover by Yasmine Putri
Synopsis: “A SPIDER-GEDDON TIE-IN! MAY “MAYDAY” PARKER, the original SPIDER-GIRL, ANYA CORAZON, the Prime Universe SPIDER-GIRL, and ANNIE MAY PARKER, A.K.A. SPIDERLING — together for the first time! May will do anything to protect her brother from the Inheritors, and Anya’s knowledge of the mystical Spider-Totems could save the day. But how does Annie fit in? And what chance do three girls have against ageless universal forces?!” ~ Source Marvel.com
MAJK says: I’m not always a fan of tie-in series, but Marvel does what it does and when it works it works well. Will this one? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to fork over the cash to see how it turns out. Annie narrates this first issue with all the introspection that would come from growing-up a superhero in a family of superheroes. In this case, we get a sense that having doting super parents isn’t always the greatest. When the family comes face to face with Anya and Mayday, it’s a complicated situation. MJ’s still raw from the pain of losing May so seeing Mayday is complex emotionally. Annie and her parent are wise enough not to waste time struggling to believe the unbelievable.
“You’re from another Universe in another timeline?”
“There’s bad guys that we need to stop from killing off Spidey folk in other worlds.”
“Okay, let’s get started.”
That’s pretty much the gist of the initial meeting. This issue introduces the characters and sets the stage for what to come. If Annie’s visions are any indication, something big is on the way. Annie goes from wondering when her parents will take the training wheels off to being the key to stopping inter-dimensional monsters. What more could a young woman ask for?
Peter: “Annie are you okay? Are you – .”
Annie: “I won’t be if you make that joke again.”
Written by Ryan Ferrier
Art by Alejandro Aragon
Colors by Chris O’Halloran
Letters by Ryan Ferrier
Cover by Alejandro Aragon
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Synopsis: “Rider, an ax-wielding wasteland survivor, carves a bloody path across a war-torn North America ruled over by the Lords, the mysterious Father, and their cult followers as he searches for his abducted wife and child. Information from one of Father’s hired mercenaries could lead Rider to his family—if the Lords don’t take him out first.” ~ Source: darkhorse.com
Luke says: Death Orb appears to be looking to mesh a Mad Max atmosphere with manga-style action and storytelling. In this, it succeeds—perhaps too well for the series to succeed. First, let’s talk about strengths.
This first issue of Death Orb exudes atmosphere. Aragon and Ferrier have dreamed a neo-punk western future that doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense, but it doesn’t have to. Aragon makes it look gritty and lived in. His line work is just the right amount of scratchy.
This issue also feels very much like a Westernized manga as well. The plot uses dynamic action set pieces with plenty of action lines, whether it’s depicting bar fights or mid-chase aerial combat. The pacing is tight and fast, with the action only stopping to allow for some dark foreshadowing.
What’s tricky here is that this issue feels a LOT like an episode of a manga series. Tons of action, great choreography, and fast pace count among the pros. However, also like manga, Death Orb #1 has very little plot and introduces many clearly bad elements with no steps towards explanation or strong motivation. I learned as much about the plot from the comic solicitation text as I did from actually reading it. For example, the comic never actually mentions that the protagonist’s wife and child were abducted, only that they were missing. And Rider is never actually named.
Manga can get away with this because of its release schedule. Weekly chapters allow readers to stay immersed and story elements are teased out. Meanwhile, waiting a month for the next issue of Death Orb will leave many readers detached from the minimal story content.
Death Orb #1 is stylistic and dynamic, but lacking in plot. This might be a story best read in a collected format.
Written by Christofer Emgård
Art by Tomás Aira
Lettering by Mauro Mantella
Cover by Tomás Aira and Mauro Mantella
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Synopsis: “An Army pilot confronts a supernatural horror in this thriller in the tradition of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now!”
Hannah Vance believes her faith in God can survive anything. But when her helicopter is shot down behind enemy lines, she will fight and kill on an ever-more-savage battlefield, desperate for a way home. On the horizon, an evil waits for her—and freedom, of a sort.” ~Source: darkhorse.com
Luke says: Sometimes, you come across a comic that is exactly what your weekly comic stack needed, even though you had no idea you needed it. The Whispering Dark #1 was that for me. I find myself struggling to find satisfying horror comics that go beyond spectacle and use real human emotion, and this mini-series holds the potential to be the shot in the arm horror comics so needs.
In a near-future conflict with Russia, Hannah Vance is a rescue pilot. On her first mission, everything goes wrong and she finds herself in extreme danger. There is plenty of action, but most of the story revolves around fleeing from unseen soldiers through mountains woodlands.
Emgård does a wonderful job of building the tension. His strongest trick is when he shifts the tension from being directed at enemy combatants and brings it around to an internal struggle within Hannah. Bit by bit, Emgård slowly takes a seemingly innocent Hannah and runs her through the wringer, changing her in the process.
This is very effectively bookended with scenes before and after the conflict where Hannah is speaking with her father, a priest, in his church. There is a quietness to these scenes that makes their conversations stand out all the more, especially as they change and seem to grow in menace.
All of this is illustrated very effectively by Aira and Mantella. Each of the survivors escaping through the woods has a visual design as distinct as their personalities, and facial expressions that add to the impact of each scene. They incorporate subtle, creepy elements into their art so effectively that you internalize them even if you barely notice them consciously. This is very effective, very clear artwork that equally carries that story with the writing.
The Whispering Dark #1 is highly recommended, especially for horror fans.
Written by David & Maria Lapham
Art by David Lapham
Cover by David Lapham
Published by Black Crown, an imprint of IDW Publishing
Synopsis: “A handsome drifter murders his way through the midwest while hiding in plain sight as a travel blogger, leaving families in shreds and body bags in his wake. Ricky Toledo was fifteen when she fell hard for “Dante”—until he killed her mother and got her father sent to prison for it. It’s three years later, and Ricky will stop at nothing to get revenge. Lodger is a dark, grimy, psychological thriller—a game of cat and mouse between a broken young woman and a serial killer—and like all the best crime noir… a twisted love story.” ~ Source: idwpublishing.com
Luke says: David and Maria Lapham are a comic creating gem. Anyone who has read Stray Bullets knows what I’m talking about. The Laphams take hardboiled crime, a well-trod genre, and translate it into comics, somehow managing to make it even better in the process each time. And with Lodger, we have a whole new entry point into their fantastic storytelling abilities.
The Laphams combine narrations and action points deftly, and in a way that never feels heavy-handed. In fact, the two play off of each other so nicely that you get absorbed into the story in a way that is rarely achieved in comics today. David Lapham’s art also manages to capture that fine balance between being detailed enough while also feeling breezy and emotional when it needs to be. Black and white is a brilliant choice here, and very much in tradition for the Laphams.
It is tricky to talk too much about Lodger #1 without ruining the easy flow of the plot, so I won’t overstep. Suffice it to say that this feels like the beginning of a story that will be very important for the genre and the medium, and you would be very unfortunate indeed to miss out being on the ground floor of this.
Nancy Drew #5
Written by Kelly Thompson
Arti by Jenn St-Onge
Colors by Triona Farrell
Lettering by Ariana Maher
Kay Thinks: I’m going to be careful what I say here; issue #5 of Nancy Drew doesn’t officially release until Halloween, but when I got the chance to snag an early review copy, you’re darn right I did it. Nancy is my favorite girl detective, even beating out Goldie Vance and Kate Bishop. I’ve been a Nancy fan since I was about 8 years old.
This book ends the first arc of the new comic, the only adaptation of the original Nancy stories I’ve ever enjoyed. At the end of issue #4, Bess had been kidnapped as Nancy and the crew closed in on the killers.
So I want to avoid major spoilers—but I do want to say that the arc wraps up beautifully, that I think it follows all the rules of a fair play mystery (but I need to read it again to be sure), and that the hook for the next arc is beautifully placed. Art by Jenn St. Onge and Triona Farrell continues to be gorgeous, beautifully colored, and spot-on for the tone of the piece. Panel design is easy to read, creative, and Nancy’s internal monologue on notepaper continues to delight me.
Pick this book up on Halloween. It’s mystery-spooky, not creepy-spooky, but you’re still going to love it.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #8
Written by Simon Spurrier & Ryan Ferrier
Illustrated by Daniel Bayliss with Irene Flores
Colors by Joana Lafuente
Lettering by Jim Campbell
Kay Thinks: It’s fair to say that the last few issues of Labyrinth haven’t been particularly exciting for me. They’ve been a little laggy, and have felt like the great boggy middle. They’re setting up the ending, I’m sure, but after such a strong beginning, I’ve had a hard time staying really engaged with the story. We’ve gotten almost none of Sarah and Toby’s journey here, and a lot of the early charm of the book for me was seeing Sarah’s journey paralleled with Maria’s. There have been fun deviations—this book also has a troll like Lugo, but he’s evil instead of friendly. There’s also a worm, but instead of inviting Sarah inside for a nice cuppa tea, this worm goes out on the adventure, trying to rally the goblins to overthrow the Owl King.
But overall, I’ve lost the sense of urgency from Maria. She wants to rescue her child because he’s her child, but that need hasn’t been present on the page in the same way that it was in the original movie. It should be—we have similar switches from the baby back to Maria—but it just hasn’t been there for me.
This issue picks up a little bit; after a lot of passive following people around, Maria finally makes a choice and flings herself towards a possible endpoint. As she passes through a portal, we think she’s heading for a throne room; instead, we end with a page showing her back at the ball that started the story, and a full splash of her husband holding his hand out to her, saying they can stay there together, forever.
It’s unlikely this is a real return to the world, or if she’s back, her son is lost to her forever. We shall see. For the first time in a few months, I’m excited to see what happens in this story.
Disclaimer: Some of these comics were provided to GeekMom and GeekDad for review purposes