Comic Book Corner: ‘Hellboy,’ ‘Ronin Island,’ ‘Fairlady,’ and More

Indie comics dominate this week in Comic Book Corner. Our reviewers looked at some one-shots as well as several on-going series. Mariana gives Hellboy fans the inside scoop on a couple of stand-alone issues they might want to check-out. Eric updates us on his feelings for Ronin Island and the hot new hit Fairlady. MAJK catches up with Punk Mambo and chats about The Avant-Guards. We are thrilled to have you here in Comic Book Corner. Let’s get started!

Ronin Island #4

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Cover Artist: Giannis Milonogiannis & Msassyk

Publication Date: June 5, 2019

Reviewer: Eric Parish

Ronin Island has been a perplexing comic book for me over the first four issues. In a previous Comic Book Corner post for issue #1, I noted that I had trouble figuring out what this comic book was supposed to be, but that there was enough of an interesting storyline to keep me coming back to try more issues. Four issues in, I think I’ve lost a bit of interest.

There are several intriguing concepts in this series: the rivalry between Hana and Kenichi, two young samurai-in-training from different cultures (Korea and Japan respectively), the eponymous island where they live along with several other settlers, isolated from the mainland after a previous natural disaster, and even a backstory involving the Shogunate that rules the land but has shunned the citizens of the island. Not to mention an attack by an army of zombie-like monsters. Any one of these concepts could have made for an interesting series on its own, with the exception of the zombie-monsters, which I feel are the least interesting part of this comic series. But Ronin Island throws all of them at the reader at once, and the broad focus on so many different concepts in the story has made the book feel somewhat scattered to me.

With Ronin Island #4, writer Greg Pak attempted to tie a few of these concepts together. Now on the mainland after traveling to liaise with other soldiers in Ronin Island #3 (for a book called Ronin Island, there hasn’t been much action on the actual island), Kenichi has become a new general for the arrogant, bombastic shogun, while Hana befriends some of the other samurai and attempts to find out more about the monsters, known as the “byonin.” Kenichi, in his unwanted role, keeps the shogun occupied while Hana sneaks around and comes upon a suspicious laboratory when, after discovering the origins of the byonin, they are attacked by several of the monsters. After a short battle, the shogun directs the group to retreat back to the island, where there will surely be further conflicts and casualties in upcoming issues.

With this issue’s prominent focus on the byonin, we now have an answer for where the zombie monsters came from. But as I mentioned above, to me the monsters are far less compelling than the other plotlines in this story. I’m more intrigued by the rivalry that Pak has built between Kenichi and Hana. Hana is clearly the more talented samurai of the two, and this frustrates Kenichi because of his respect for tradition and his desire to live up to his family’s legacy. Hana is also more “take-action” in battle, while Kenichi seems considerate, even hesitant. It’s these contrasts between the two, and the scenes where they argue over the best ways to handle their situations, that I think provides the story’s best moments. There’s a death in this issue of a character who has featured fairly prominently thus far and served as the mentor for the two, and Pak uses this death well to illustrate the contrasting personalities of the characters. The art by Milonogiannis and Kniivila serves Pak’s script well; Milonogiannis’ linework transitions well from the calmer early half of the story to the more frenetic battle scenes with the byonin, and Kniivila’s colors accompany those transitions with blues, grays, and browns featuring prominently in the first half, switching to yellows, reds, and oranges in the latter half’s battle scenes.

I felt like this comic book did well in beginning to tie storylines together from previous issues. But I still would have liked to see a more in-depth exploration of the main characters, the Shogunate, and even the island itself—so there’s some promise in that the next issue seems to be heading back to the island. I may give it another issue to see if anything more happens with these aspects instead of the zombie monsters, but if not, I may not be invested enough in Ronin Island to continue after that.

Hellboy vs. Lobster Johnson in the Ring of Death

′Hellboy vs. Lobster Johnson in: The ring of death′
Hellboy vs. Lobster Johnson in the Ring of Death

Writer: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Artist: Mike Norton, Paul Grist
Colorist: Dave Stewart, Bill Crabtree
Cover Artist: Paolo Rivera

Publication Date: May 29, 2019

Reviewer: Mariana Ruiz

This one-shot comic book has no meaning whatsoever if you have not read first Hellboy in Mexico.

In 2016, Mignola decided to compile all the stories about an erased part of Hellboy’s past, a drunken blur of five months in the mid-fifties where he decides to join some wrestlers and fight monsters. Every day, he would attack, stab, and destroy all kinds of hellish creatures, and at night, with his pals, he would just drink tequila until they dropped.

I can’t recommend you read that TPB strongly enough. Hellboy’s infamous misadventures in Mexico are everything you imagine them to be: silly creatures, all kind of fights, luchadores, he even got married to a mysterious woman one drunken night!

After witnessing the death of one of his luchador friends, Esteban, Hellboy just doesn’t want to know what he did. And what he did, of course, was to fight in rings and appear in movies. Silver movies, nostalgic and weird, and this one-shot is one of them—facing Lobster Johnson, of all people.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: The Beast of Vargu

′Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: the Beast of Vargu′
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: The Beast of Vargu

Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Duncan Fegredo
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Duncan Fegredo

Publication Date: June 19, 2019

Reviewer: Mariana Ruiz

Another one-shot comic book about fighting monsters, this short story amply demonstrates why Mignola has never gone out of style and why we loved his early works so much.

There are tons of legends about demonic appearances all around the world, and we have followed Hellboy everywhere: from Africa to South America, even Japan, and yet, we always come back to Eastern Europe, where vampires were the stuff of everyday lore.

In this case, it′s not vampires, though, but something else: Hellboy is in Romania fighting a centuries-old curse and a man-eating monster.

And, as you may have guessed, he is getting unexpected help from an old gypsy woman and her caravan…

Fairlady #2

FairLady #2 cover art
Fairlady #2 cover art

Writer: Brian Schirmer
Artist: Claudia Balboni
Colorist: Marissa Louise
Cover Artist: Balboni & Louise

Publication Date: June 19, 2019

Reviewer: Eric Parish

I raved about Fairlady #1 in a recent Comic Book Corner post, so I was excited to see what the second issue would bring. I wasn’t disappointed. Image’s new fantasy-meets-mystery series is fun and compelling, and I found myself enjoying the second issue as much as the first.

As advertised on the cover, each issue of Fairlady contains a full mystery story. The mystery in Fairlady #2 centers around a missing Fairman (in this fantastic world of anthropomorphic lizards and felines, wizards’ towers, and towns inside of gigantic robot carcasses, Fairmen—and the one Fairlady, the heroine of our story—serve as licensed private investigators). Fairlady Jenner Faulds is hired by a woman to investigate her husband’s disappearance; she explains that the constable organization that employs the Fairmen told her he was killed by a dragon. But there was no body, and the whole situation seemed suspicious, and thus Jenner and her musclebound feline partner, Oanu, begin an investigation to determine what happened. Without spoiling, by the end of the issue, Jenner has performed some textbook detective work, conducted some intense interrogations, and ultimately figured it out, all in the span of around 30 pages.

That each issue is a full story is a fresh concept—while some of the excitement of cliffhangers is lost in this series, I think the self-contained stories work well. The pacing of this comic is reminiscent of old-school detective procedural TV series (other reviews I’ve read have referenced Columbo), and Jenner Faulds is an intelligent, captivating lead character. Writer Brian Schirmer is creating an absorbing world in Fairlady, and thus far has only given readers hints of the backstories of the cast and the land in which they dwell. These hints provide enough of a proverbial carrot-and-stick that I want to follow into further issues. The art team does well with depicting Schirmer’s story—illustrator Claudia Balboni is adept at taking readers through Jenner’s close personal interrogations as well as the broader scope of her detective work, and colorist Marissa Louise adroitly shifts her color tones throughout the issue to match the story’s beats. It all comes together well in a nice, tight, single-issue package.

Two issues in, and I’m becoming more convinced that Fairlady is one of the most enjoyable, freshest comics on the stands. It’s worth a read. I’m adding it to my pull at my local comic shop.

Avant-Guards #6

Writer: Carly Usdin
Artist & Cover Artist: Noah Hayes
Colorist: Rebecca Nalty
Variant Cover Artist: Cara McGee

Publication Date: June 26, 2019

Reviewer: MAJK

There is so much to love in this comic! I haven’t been this into anything basketball related since Shaquille O’Neal was playing. (Don’t judge) The Avant-Guards is a fun slice-of-life style comic. The foundational premise is a group of women at an Arts College and their struggles to have a women’s basketball team. If you haven’t read the first five issues, I highly recommend you do.

The Avant-Guards #6 is an emotional roller-coaster with huge highs and devastating moments. This issue the focus is on Ashley. There is so much to love about this woman from her self-introduction in the first issue “I sing like Beyonce… party like Rihanna… ball like Lebron.” I was hooked.

Through the eyes of her friends we see she is as amazing as she claims. In this issue, we see there’s a lot more going on inside her. Ashely can’t play ball right now due to a knee injury serious enough that she’s still on crutches and in physical therapy. The team is doing well and they are undefeated so far. Ashley has stepped up at the coach but it’s killing her not to play. She also has concerns about how serious the team takes their basketball.

At Ashely’s birthday party we get to see her as she loves to be—the center of attention. She’s not used to being in a supporting role, she loves the spotlight. She’s happiest there which makes the sacrifice of her coaching all the more clear. There’s a great surprise at her birthday celebration. It’s one of those moments that makes your heart soar. It’s also the high right before the bottom drops out. The events of the next day are harsh. I’m already eager for the next issue to see whether the team can make it through.

Punk Mambo #2

Writer: Brian Schirmer
Artist: Claudia Balboni
Colorist: Marissa Louise
Cover Artist: Balboni & Louise

Publication Date: May 29th, 2019

Reviewer: MAJK

Punk Mambo #2 picks up where the first issue left us, smack in the midst of a bunch of less than happy Loa. Cullen Bunn and Adam Gorham craft another excellent issue. Gorham’s first full-page splash of the Loa is stunning in its detail. Punk Mambo would be wowed if she wasn’t busy being sarcastic. Throughout this book, Gorham’s art is rocking harder than the Ramones in Glasgow.

Bunn keeps pace with Gorham starting with a verbal duel between the Voodoo Gods and our sassy little Brit. We learn that Aye is not the first Loa to be kidnapped. There’s a clever chase through the streets of Haiti culminating is a high-stakes fight scene with Uncle Gunnysack’s followers. Everything about this series is great.

The Loa task Mambo with finding Uncle Gunnysack and freeing the missing Loa. They send their faithful Houngan, Josef to assist her. Needless to say, she is not impressed. The feeling turns out to be mutual and in one of the best scenes of this book, Josef addresses exactly what is wrong with everything Punk Mambo does in terms of Voodoo, the Loa, and the magic she wields.  He pegs her for a spoiled British girl with a chip on her shoulder. Mambo’s response it to correct him. “I’ve got chips on both shoulders. Thank you very much.”

Marie Laveau is also back keeping Mambo company for some reason. There’s also the strange possibly crazy people that keep referring to Mambo as Maman Bridgette. If you paid attention you saw Maman Bridgette on the first page. She’s a Loa and it doesn’t look like she’s present, but then Bunn is a master of storytelling. There’s a reason for this supposed mistaken identity and I can’t wait to find out what it is.

The fight with Uncle Gunnysack’s followers is intense and we get to see that Josef is no slouch in a fight. Mambo is her usual badass self, but is it enough?

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