Wednesday is the day when the new comics arrive.
Oh, you scamps!
You see, the other day I noted that this latest issue of Ashley Wood and T.P. Louise’s ongoing series was double-sized, thus justifying a $6 price tag. And also expressed hope that we’d get some more of those funny text pieces. Well bless my buttons did Wood and Louise have a dandy surprise for my dear old self!
There are 8 (that’s eight) pages of comics in this issue. Four in the front, and four in the back. I’m counting the title page as a page of comics.
Between them, we have 40 (forty) pages of text. All text. No illustrations even.
It’s… it’s like I made a wish for funny text pieces with the evil djinn from the acclaimed “Wishmaster” film series and he sneered and cackled “AS YOU WISH!” and I gave him six dollars and I got THIS. I mean shit, even “Cerebus: The Latter Days” threw in some drawings to go with all the type. The last few issues of “Lore” had illustrations for the text too. But not here!!!
Hey, does IDW have anything about this on their site? Nope! No suggestion that the text would be eating up 5/6 of the page count. But tellingly, the solicitation for issue #5 says: "Featuring the prose Jonathan Bradley diaries with comic pages by Ashley Wood" (emphasis mine). So is Wood only showing up with the prose now? Will future issues be predominantly prose? And for how long?
What comics that we get are nice (half of them are full-page splashes, btw). They act as a decent framing sequence for the Feature Presentation of prose. The early, foggy scenes aboard the boat are quite beautiful. Check out the detail on that coat in the bottom panel of page 3! It looks a little like a Photoshop effect, but it’s very well-integrated. The story itself seems to be picking up some time after the conclusion of issue #3, whith a lot of character development left in the background for now.
And that text. It’s pretty good. It’s often genuinely funny (“Taking the crucifix out for a walk, are we?”) even if the ‘Englishness’ of the characters seems to be a little overplayed. A lot of background is given on the Shepards organization, and Jonathan emerges as a much more competent character than he originally seemed, and Delphi reveals a few interesting sides of herself. It’s entertaining text, sure. Flipping through previous issues, the ‘world’ of the comic seems quite thoroughly thought out. I like this story quite a bit.
But it’s hard not to feel just a wee little bit ripped off paying $6 for page after page after page of text without any sort of warning that the volume of text was going to shoot up to a much more prevalent level, pushing Wood's art off onto the borders of the story.
Joe R. Lansdale’s By Bizarre Hands #4 (of 6)
My shop had this issue all firmly sealed up in plastic. Good thinking! Here we get into what manga and anime fans like to call 'tentacle' material. And while this installment of Avatar’s limited series of Lansdale short story adaptations doesn’t quite dive as deeply into those glassy waters as “Demon Beast Invasion”, there’s more than enough to restrict this to Adults Only. Not that prior issues of this series would lead you to believe otherwise, of course.
The narration is one of Lansdale’s wittier bits, courtesy of a nuclear scientist who begins to feel a certain degree of guilt after an atom-splitting international exchange transforms the world into a mutated hellscape. He asks his bitter wife to memorialize their evaporated daughter in a tattoo on his back as they hide out in a lighthouse from giant lizards, land whales, and hungry mutant roses and their long, thorny vines. Both the malevolent blossoms and the scientist’s tattoos are physical manifestations of his guilt, of course, and all that’s left to do is let the transformation of the flesh reunite mankind through death. Real feel-good stuff, but like Lansdale’s better work (at least the little of it I’ve read) there’s an undercurrent of humor to the damnation, and Dheeraj Verma’s art is sufficiently trashy, detailing the mayhem as well as one would expect.
The court rules this pleasure guilty, don’t get me wrong, but I find myself compelled to return; these are the sort of completely disreputable horror comics I can’t help but peruse.
Metal Hurlant #13
Not as strong an issue as we've seen recently. Not only is Jodorowsky missing, but Jean-Pierre Dionnet’s oddball recommendations column is gone as well. There’s also the first installment of what may be the book’s third ongoing story, “Lucha Libre”, written by Jerry Frissen with some really nice art by a French fellow who’s known simply as ‘Bill’. It’s a really attractive superdeformed manga-fusion thing, with excellent use of color, giving the whole thing the feel of a muggy summer afternoon. The story involves a bunch of welfare-case Mexican Wrestlers battling indigent werewolf gangs in LA. It wanders around a lot and it doesn’t end as much as stop, but it would make a nice recurring feature. Better than Stefano Raffaele‘s “Fragile”, which has simply gotten boring (as far as zombie romances go), even though this installment has scary demons being ripped in half by trucks. Frissen also scripts Hurlant’s third continuing feature, “The Zombies That Ate the World”, with the ever-excellent Guy Davis on art. This episode is a Very Special one, highlighting the plight of living persons who only want society to accept their forbidden desires. For zombies. Also, fun is made of superhero costumes.
As for the non-continuing material, David Lloyd (with digital artist Snakebite) illustrates a Jim Alexander story about an overworked demon hustling to fill his soul quotas. It certainly looks nice, and there’s a fun twist that partially rehabilitates the familiar plot. Video game vets Nicolas Pothier and Yannick Corboz offer up an attractive nothing story about the romance of dreams and the resulting contrast with reality (hint: it’s unpleasant). And “Technopriests” artist Fred Beltran lends his lush style to Brian Robertson’s basic magical palace intrigue story in the cover story, “The Second Son“.
All in all, an attractive issue (with one great debut) but nothing off the book’s well-worn path.