This week brings a wide variety of comic book reviews from MAJK, Luke, and Kay; we’ve got lady vampires, lady archers, lady maybe-cat-killers, and fantastic fantasy and sci-fi on every corner. Keep reading to see what we read this week.
Vampirella Halloween Special (One-Shot)
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Blake Northcott
Art by: Rapha Lobosco, Anthony Marques
Synopsis: “Where Vampirella comes from they don’t celebrate birthdays — so she had to choose her own. Is it any wonder she picked Halloween night? Unfortunately, her simple celebration is interrupted by — you guessed it — one of those pan-dimensional demonic invasions that often seem to take place on All Hallows’ Eve!” ~ Source Dynamite.com
MAJK says: Halloween issue comic book reviews are the best. This one in particular was a lot of fun. There are actually two tales in it. The first is a classic Vampirella – action, blood, gore, sarcasm. We learn that being immortal, Vampirella has never had a birthday as we know it. We also see that she spends All Hallows’ Eve saving humanity. Nothing new in that except this particular All Hallows’ Eve, a convergence of the planets allows the dead to once more walk the Earth. A single soul against an evil army of the Dead? Vampirella is one BAMF but she is still only one. In the fight to save the human race Vampirella finds that she’s not entirely alone…and that all the dead aren’t truly evil.
In the second tale of Vampirella’s Halloween Special we see what Vampirella would look like if she suddenly went all suburban house housewife on us. I swear this is the most modest attire I’ve seen Vampirella wear, other than in some of Jeremy Whitley’s work running a close second. Leave it to pre-pubescent boys to show up at Vampirella’s house and not get the irony of her attire and healthy snacks. I personally though that was a great Halloween costume but hey, I’ve know this lady for a long time. Still there are some things you shouldn’t do: tug on Superman’s Cape. Spit into the wind. TP the local vampire’s house on Halloween. Those naughty boys get the scare of their young lives that Halloween, and Vampirella is there. Lessons are learned in this cute but creepy romp. This issue was definitely all treat and no trick.
Best Line: “You’re saying an old gypsy woman told you the Earth is going to Hell — literally.”
Honorable mention: “Holy Frazetta!” because if you actually know who Frazetta is you deserve a +10 to cool.
This week was my week for comic book reviews about women and girls who are done with the patriarchy, apparently. I technically talked about Nancy Drew last week, I know, but given that it was a preview issue and I couldn’t show you the incredible art that the team is putting out, I threw together a quick slideshow of images to show off the fantastic finish to this first arc.
This week also brought me the second issue of Chelsea Cain’s Man-Eaters and the third issue of West Coast Avengers. And just… all the ladies here are D.O.N.E.
Nancy Drew #5
Kay Says: I can’t stop loving on the art from the new Nancy Drew. The trade of the first arc is up for pre-order with delivery in February, and I’m going to be grabbing that; easiest way to share it with my kids. The 7-year-old is probably too young for it, and the 11-year-old will probably make a face at the kissing, but an exciting, diverse book with the kind of mysteries she loves? Yes, please.
We have art from Jenn St-Onge and colors from Triona Farrell.
West Coast Avengers #3
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Stefano Caselli
Colors: Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Issue #3 can be a rough place for a comic’s arc (especially in this world where we’ve all seemed to agree that, in mainstream comics at least, arcs are 5-6 issues long so that they’re convenient to collect in a trade). #3 and #4 can get bogged down in the middle, leaving us without a lot of direction or real movement.
West Coast Avengers #3 does not have that problem. We see the return of Tigra from Issue #1, and she’s angrier than before. Quentin now has full license to deal with her in whatever way is necessary. We learn that Johnny (Fuse)’s piercings are made from vibranium, an incredibly rare metal (what was used to make Captain America’s shield, and the primary source of Wakanda’s wealth and technology). No, he’s not interested in discussing where that came from. And we learn that Gwenpool does not seem to have her reality affecting powers in this comic.
So there’s a lot happening here. It’s not just Tigra attacking Santa Monica, it’s a host of giant sized creatures. Kate figures out that B.R.O.D.O.K. has been turning women into these monsters somehow. She goes back to his lab and confronts him, angrily explaining to him that it doesn’t matter how handsome he makes himself, he’s still a monster inside, and that is what makes women turn him down (ahem, friend-zone, ahem, “nice guy” myth). And of course he takes his revenge.
This book continues to offer excellent art, sassy humor, and a great story. It’s everything I want to be reading. Please keep it coming, team.
Writer/Creator: Chelsea Cain
Pencils & Inks: Kate Niemczyk
Colors: Rachel Rosenberg
Letters: Joe Caramagna
I may have anticipated Man-Eaters #2 even more than I was anticipating the first issue. This book did not disappoint me, even a little.
Much of this issue focuses on Maude and her relationships with the people around her. We see her interacting with her mother and father, and their dry, sometimes bitter, humor towards each other. We also see her sitting down with a tampon for the first time, reading the package insert (remember those? ugh), and feeling completely unregulated and not really knowing how to handle the emotional swings that come with this territory.
The comic also kept up the horror story line of the cat maulings and what’s happening in the community. Both of Maude’s parents are involved in solving the crime and catching the cat, which means we should continue to see more of how they interact – and what drove them apart.
But what particularly resonated with me in this issue was the memories it called up about dealing with my period for the first few times. Not sure how to handle tampons or pads, not knowing who to ask or how, not knowing what to do. And Maude has the extra pressure of feeling like she needs to keep her pubic hair trimmed, and maybe she’s going to turn into a monster cat that tries to kill her family.
I’m pleased to see this narrative continue in its no-forks-to-give attitude towards commentary on what periods are like for (a certain subset of) young girls. I am all in for this book to continue.
Murder Falcon #1
Written by Daniel Warren Johnson
Art by Daniel Warren Johnson
Colors by Mike Spicer
Letters by Daniel Warren Johnson
Cover by Daniel Warren Johnson & Mike Spicer
Published by Skybound, an imprint of Image Comics
Synopsis: From DANIEL WARREN JOHNSON, the creator of the Eisner-nominated series EXTREMITY, comes MURDER FALCON! The world is under attack by monsters, and Jake’s life is falling apart: no band, no girl, no future… until he meets Murder Falcon. He was sent from The Heavy to destroy all evil, but he can’t do it without Jake shredding up a storm. Now, with every chord Jake plays on his guitar, the power of metal fuels Murder Falcon into all-out kung fu fury on those that seek to conquer Earth. It’s time to shred! ~source: imagecomics.com
Luke says: This first issue of Murder Falcon throws us into the middle of a story that feels like it follows the trend of larger publishers (Skybound) releasing titles seeking to be the next indie darling. That doesn’t make it bad, by any means. But it does hit some of those tropes spot on.
Jake is clearly going through a personal crisis, and it appears to be related to the death of his girlfriend/wife. He is self-destructing, until a giant monster causes him to grab his guitar, and before he can say “Shazam!,” Murder Falcon appears on the scene. From there, we have images of epic monster beatdowns intermixed with guitar playing scenes with lots of stylized backgrounds and action lines.
The art feels like it is a great match for the story. It has the right level on linework to feel unpretentious, and Murder Falcon in particular has a great permanent scowl. The colors are crisp and vivid, and while the monsters themselves are occasionally all flailing limbs and viscera, they look like a very attractive ball of confused anatomy.
This story has potential, but it needs to find its feet. The humor is evident, but it isn’t always successfully pulled off, and the highly tongue-in-cheek nature of metal guitars defeating evil will not appeal to everyone.
Daniel Warren Johnson appears to have some fun ideas flowing into this title, but it needs to get deeper into the story for much more of an assessment to be made. If you like goofy ideas played seriously, music-adjacent comics, or rough looking bird people, then consider supporting this title in individual issues to help it stay afloat. If you are on the fence, wait and see how the next few issues turn out before investing.
Infinite Dark #1
Written by Ryan Cady
Art by Andrea Mutti
Coloring by K. Michael Russell
Lettering by Troy Peteri of A Larger World
Cover by Andrea Mutti & K. Michael Russell
Published by Top Cow Productions, an imprint of Image Comics
Synopsis: The universe ended, but onboard the void station Orpheus, a skeleton crew of humanity survived: the last two thousand souls, waiting for a second big bang that may never come. Now, two years into their voyage, Security Director Deva Karrell investigates the station’s first murder—and the otherworldly motives behind it. ~ source: imagecomics.com
Luke says: Last week, horror fared very well when I read The Whispering Dark #1. This week, horror comes blaring back on the scene with the first issue of Infinite Dark. Ryan Cady doesn’t mess around with his story. It starts with the end of the entire universe, and then gets darker.
Ostensibly, Deva Karrell is the protagonist, but the functional narrator and steady presence is SM1TH, the ship AI. Of course, as a fan of horror and science fiction, I have very little hope for SM1TH’s continued existence and/or stance as a force for good. SM1TH serves multiple purposes, including therapist for Karrell. We see early on that Cady plans to address external and internal horrors.
The story moves at a solid clip, and this is certainly aided by Andrea Mutti’s atmospheric art. Readers familiar with continental European comics art will recognize that in Mutti’s work here, and it serves the title well. The ship feels dark and oppressive, and the last panel cliffhanger ending is fantastically vivid.
Horror lovers should snap this title up as soon as they can. It is brilliant. It also delves into the beginnings of some work with mental health, which Cady speaks more to in the post-story content in this issue. As someone with a background working in mental health, I am always interested in seeing new depictions of that intimate struggle, and I look forward to seeing what Cady does next with it.
The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #1 (of 7)
Written by Gerard Way
Art by Gabriel Bá
Lettering by Nate Piekos for Blambot
Cover by Gabriel Bá
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Symopsis: Faced with an increasing number of lunatics with superpowers eager to face off with his own wunderkind brood, Sir Reginald Hargreeves developed the ultimate solution.
Now, just a few years after Hargreeves’s death, his Umbrella Academy is scattered. Number Five is a hired gun, Kraken is stalking big game, Rumor is dealing with the wreckage of her marriage, a rotund Spaceboy runs around the streets of Tokyo, Vanya continues her physical therapy after being shot in the head–and no one wants to even mention Seance until issue #2.
With a Netflix series soon to debut, the award-winning and best-selling superhero series returns, stranger than ever.
And their past is coming back to hunt them. ~source: darkhorse.com
Luke says: I have never actually read any of Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s The Umbrella Academy, so I figured this was as good a place as any to jump in. And I think I was right.
The plot moves with a clip in the first issue of The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion. It states it is set immediately after the previous Umbrella Academy series. Characters are introduced, plot lines fly past left and right, and the whole thing feels like it has places to go. I can generally say that, following reading this issue, I have no idea what is going on and I love it.
Clearly, these characters have history, and if you are new to this saga like I am, this issue will have you curious to dive into the back issues. Truly, however, this issue also feels relatively new-reader friendly. Relationships are either hashed out or implied, characters are written distinctly enough that they don’t get confusing, and there is a sense that all of these disparate plot threads are coming together for something big.
As good as Way’s writing is, Bá’s art is just as solid. All of the characters feel bombastic and over-the-top in a good way. There is warmth in the art and the coloring, and Bá somehow manages to balance realism and cartoonishness without it every feeling awkward.
This comic is flat-out fun. If you haven’t read any of The Umbrella Academy yet, join me in checking it out!