Erik Cheski

Erik Cheski

A story ends, a story begins, a story ends . . .

The Dark Crystal was something very different for those of us who grew up with the Muppets; it was a dark, mature story that saw no Cookie Monsters or Sam Eagles.  This was a new world, separate from ours, and saw some of the most innovative designs from Brian Froud, who now stands as a paragon of the faerie and fantasy world.  His designs breathed life into a hero's journey helmed by Henson and created a world unlike most we had seen before.  It paved the way for the more lighthearted, but equally epic, Labyrinth but would occupy a space all its own for its depth and connection to its audience.

There's only one exit from Lonely Street.

This is the last issue of The Goon.  Right?!  Me too.  When I read the notice in Dark Horse's advance notices, I was floored.  I've come upon Eric Powell's work more recently than some, but it's an incredible body of work to catch up on.  I've gone through The Goon a few times, and though this run of Once Upon a Hard Time seemed like it could be leading towards a big ending, I was desperately hoping that it would be offset with a "Frankie likes to have sex despite his hygiene/taste" gag or a finale smash from the square-jawed and scarred titular hero . . . er, defen . . . um, guy who likes to hit things.

I want to believe.

Pathogens spread in ways that confused us as a species during the Industrial Revolution. People would get sick and die and have no cause other than the divine; "God has decided I'll be sick. It's a test."  It wasn't until the discovery of bacteria and viruses that we finally had earthly culprits, and since that time, the influence of faith healing has come down in popularity.  The Empty Man finds humanity at the brink of a new kind of disease, where our usual suspects appear totally innocent, as victims share no food, living space, or occupation.  There's nothing apparent tying the infected together, and two agents of the combined FBI and CDC have to track down an epidemic with no source.  People who see the established agencies with their collective thumbs up their noses turn to faith, support groups, or anyone who can tell them, "It will all be better soon."

There’s a lot of bad out there.

The Steam Man of the Prairie is an interesting Steampunk idea by Joe R. Lansdale, setting us in the middle of a war with the baddies list from the works of H.G. Wells.  Dealing with the walkers from War of the Worlds and a Dark Rider who leads a wild pack of Moorlocks from The Time Machine, the titular Steam Man is a Megazord for the 19th century with a wily and driven crew at the helm.  This adaptation takes the work of a Steampunk classic and gives it a great rendition on a paneled page.

There's fire in the stone, and it burns everyone.

Hayden Fryer brings us to the Australian frontier in his new series, Cobber.  A desolate and harsh land that rivals the American West in legends of gunfights and lone men facing down dirty town bureaucrats, Cobber sets up just such a town under the thumb of a ruthless and selfish boss.  Opal mines seem to be the source of the power and greed in this tale, and their reputation for bad luck seems to be well founded.

Son's going down, watch yourself.

So, in The Bible, after Jesus dies on the cross, he opens the gates of Heaven and allows those who have been suffering in Hell to enter the Divine Kingdom.  Doesn't go much beyond that in Scripture, and that's where Demon Slayer takes over. Jesus has come to free the souls of the shouldn't-be-damned from Lucifer's pitch-forky grasp.  In the first page, we have a "no more mister nice deity" line, and there's a lot of a*$-kicking in store.

If the stars didn't die, we wouldn’t live.

C. A. Higgins has found a philosophical quandary in a physical property of the universe and spends her novel preparing the reader for the twist that defines the novel's message.  Though this leaves some questions unanswered for perhaps a little longer than I enjoyed, the murky feelings you're left with at the end make for an excellent discussion piece about technology, the people who use it, and our place in the larger universe.

Revenge is a dish best served gratuitously.

I love environmental, emotional storytelling.  I grew up with Samurai Jack, and Genndy Tartakovsky was a master of this style.  Allowing a rich environment suffused with a singular mood influenced by music and color to tell the story for you, to be content with the smallest of expression, to have the courage to let it stand and allow the audience to be drawn into your world;it’s an incredibly brave and effective storytelling method when it works.  Victor Santos has that fearless talent, and it makes his two graphic novels a masterwork of the style, which makes for two very enjoyable reads.

Alice goes through a fun house looking glass.

Ben Gilboa spins a tale that will set your mind on fire.  Reality becomes something more akin to silly putty in his hands with a narrative that makes you question not only the motivations and interests of the characters on the page, but their sanity (and possibly yours), as well.  There's no way to read through Blue Moon without having a strong impact. It's a Lynchian horror show that is quite beautiful to look at, making you feel like you're cringing or reading out of the side of your eyes, wanting to keep one foot ready to flee this mental circus.  It's the kind of work that makes you wonder "What's happening?" while making you nervous to know the answer.  I dig it.

A place for voices to be heard.

This may be a bit meta, but I’m a guy who writes about comic books going to talk about a publication of folks who . . . write about comic books.  There are also a slew of comic strips and shorts included, so at least something’s familiar to me.  I have to say, this is a very ambitious project and if every issue is as strong as this one, it may become a very cool platform for creators and those that hope to engage and shape the medium.  There are some fantastic contributors hitting on interesting topics that comic readers can really be intrigued by.  Whether they come to the hobby through the artwork or the stories, there’s definitely something for everyone who enjoys comics.

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