Gideon Falls is a mystery - both a psychological mystery and a supernatural mystery. The characters are tied together by threads, their individual histories creating a tapestry that’s slowly weaving together to form a greater picture, a picture that revolves around an ominous structure called the Black Barn, which feels right out of one of David Lynch’s nightmares. Presumably, inside this structure is a creature made of red eyes, shadows, and a smile that’s all teeth – too many teeth. The creature - or demon - spirit is unnatural in a way that doesn’t feel like it can be drawn, that it just sort of lives somewhere between the reality on the page and the space you’re inhabiting. It’s that feeling you get when you’re lying in your bed at night and you think you feel something staring at you from your open closet or in the shadows across the room. It’s this unnerving sensation that something is just out of sight - that can’t quite be given words - that affects all of the characters of Gideon Falls.
The Quantum Age happens in the future of Black Hammer…or does it? My mind bent at the end of this issue. There are two Black Hammer series running at once, and I have no idea how the two series are going to wrap around in on themselves. What I do know is that something occurred that somehow got everyone to where they are in this series, and whatever happened in that series or after that series is affecting this series and maybe this series will affect that series. I’m dying to know! The end of this and the previous issue have left me breathless and gleeful. We’re seeing pieces of the puzzle completely out of order, and my mind loves puzzles.
Joe Golem: Occult Detective - The Drowning City. The world is full of mysterious dangers, with creatures and monsters out of the old serials. Mysteries abound in Manhattan, which was covered in water after an earthquake. The world of Joe Golem is like a radio play, and its characters are just as intriguing.
The plotting in the second issue of Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion is scattershot. I had to go back and read the first issue again to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. It makes sense that the story isn’t smooth; right now, the special siblings raised by a wealthy alien in human skin (Hargreeves) are currently not a team but are scattered about, each focused very much on their own goals, making this a complex, character-driven story. There are underpinnings of a story dealing with the Hotel Oblivion - a sort of prison on another planet for supervillains that has been left unattended since the untimely death of Hargreeves and a prison break.
As if there weren’t enough complications, more arise in issue #6 of Coda. Plus, there may be a potential solution to Hum’s ultimate goal. Hum is a do-gooding bard turned into a self-centered bandit. When the civilization of magic that had thrived then fell, he lost his wife Serka to bouts of rage, in which she’d disappear into the desert for weeks or months at a time seeking revenge. Now, the only bit of magic left in the world comes from a substance called Akker. Hum needs as much Akker as he can get to undo the curse that is coursing through Serka. The head of an Ylf that he now carries with him (Ylfs are magic beings that are full of Akker and regenerate.) accuses Hum of wanting to change her. He insists he wants to help her, and, with that, the strong and potentially tragic allegory at play here becomes very topical.
Cold Spots follows the story of an absentee father who is hired by his wealthy stepfather to find their wife/daughter, Alyssa, respectively, but, more importantly, the daughter that she has taken with her, Grace. Cullen Bunn enjoys crossing his genres, and this horror story is no exception, falling somewhere between gothic and noir. The father, Dan, sets off on a supernatural detective story that finds people instantaneously frozen to ice when touched by the supernatural predators.
Dave Stewart is one of the best colorists in the business. He excels and, in doing so, elevates whatever project he works on, and he was born to color horror. It’s not just about using red, blue, or green; he uses shades of color in ways that not only tell the story, but affect the emotion and mood of the reader - colors that feel unnatural. His work on Gideon Falls is a testament to his talent. When we flash back to see the Sheriff of Gideon Falls, Clara, as a kid, Stewart’s color palette softens and becomes brighter. He brings a different quality out of Andrea Sorrentino’s work as an artist without sacrificing the underlying tension of the book.
There is definitely a televised, serial feel to Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ newest series, Black Badge. I’m reminded of the TV shows I grew up on in the '80s - The A-Team, Macguyver, and Charlie’s Angels - where there was a hero or group of heroes that went on missions and while the episode specifics were different in what they had to accomplish and how, the same formula was used pretty much every time. This third issue throws a bit of a wrench in the formula, but not quite enough to elevate the stakes . . . yet.
Black Hammer: Age of Doom is committing hard. It’s walking a fine line; on one side, what’s happening right now could be incredibly cheesy and convoluted, and on the other side is a book that is playing with the reality it’s created in a really interesting and intense way. Jeff Lemire has spent so much time constructing the reality of the main characters' situations that when he untied the knot that was keeping it together two issues ago, it hasn’t stopped unfurling. To show just how much reality has shifted, Lemire has brought on a new artist, Rich Tommaso, who has also taken over coloring duties and possibly the lettering. The book has an entirely different feel. Usually, when an artist comes onto a book for an issue or two, it can feel a little weird, but because of the story and tonal shift, it works on a number of different levels, including intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically.