Here’s how you set the mood to read Nailbiter: Turn on YouTube (or talk to Alexa or Siri or whatever you have) and put on the sound of a storm in the background (or if you have a real storm, even better, but I live in Los Angeles where lightning doesn’t exist), then you go to YouTube, maybe a second time, if you already have storm sounds playing, and you turn on the original score to Se7en by Howard Shore, and then sit back and just try to peel yours eyes away from the pages. You won’t; you can’t.
Issue #13 of Grass Kings finds a really nice balance between the war that’s been brewing between the Grass Kingdom and the outside world and the slow burn of uncovering who the serial killer is that might be hiding nearby. For me, it’s the first time this perfect synchronicity has been reached - though it wouldn’t be working as well as it is if building blocks weren’t previously put in place.
Issue number 4 of the Valderramas’ Giants leaps a year into the future. Usually, time jumps like this so early on (or near the end of a story) are bold moves to take, but, logistically, it’s a smart one for the story, which is... The above world has been covered in snow and kaiju (For the uninitiated, think giant monsters like Godzilla or Pacific Rim.) These kaiju fight territorial fights. Meanwhile, in underground cities, violent gangs fight for control over what little territory there actually is to live in. Two ambitious lads, Zedo and Gogi, wanted nothing more than to join one of these gangs, so they were sent above ground to gather some ambernoir, which is a bit like Unobtanium from Avatar, just with a better name. It’s a rocky substance that’s incredibly volatile but creates energy needed for life and growth. Above ground, the two brothers were separated when a kaiju attacked. Thinking the other dead, Zedo went back underground, and Gogi met a peaceful group of people who were managing to survive above ground. Cut to a year later and wheeling back around.
Jeff Lemire is an endless source of intriguing and complex stories. Reading Gideon Falls #1, his newest book from Image Comics, I couldn’t help but feel he and I have been inspired by many of the same things. We both have a penchant to dive immediately into the biggest questions that we all face as humans. In this first issue, we see religion, order, chaos, and madness all wrapped into what appears to be a dark, subversive mystery that seems to revolve around a place that may or may not exist. Gideon Falls inhabit that esoteric place that David Lynch finds himself.
The world of Black Hammer is becoming more and more fully realized with every issue under its umbrella. Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows is the second off-shoot series from the main Black Hammer comic (The first was Sherlock Frankenstein.), and it pulsates with the humanity, melancholy, and the kind of dangerous curiosity in discovering something new that tends to either reward cats or kill them. The world of Black Hammer is a beautiful discovery, Jeff Lemire’s curiosity to explore the mythos of superheroes in a different way is our reward. Black Hammer is relevant and - a descriptor I use rarely - it’s important.
Kaleidoscope City is a love letter to the city - to the energy of it and the loneliness that can be found within its crowded world. Marcellus Hall has put to page his memories: his feelings of his early adulthood becoming lost in the idea of finding something new and exquisite with every step taken, hoping that something will excite and define you, perhaps even recreate you. To the point where the artist in the book literally draws himself landscapes to realize.
One more issue left. This issue, the one I’m writing about, is the penultimate issue of the team of Matt and Sharlene Kindt’s underwater murder mystery opus. A story that in 23 issues has spanned the distance from outer space to the depths of the ocean. In its trajectory of discovering who a murderer is and why they murdered, we follow a group of scientists exploring the unexplored for answers, and we have done most of this in the headspace of Mia. Mia is the daughter of the head scientist who was murdered. Mia is the hero of our story, and she has gone on as arduous a journey through her memories as she has through the crumbling underwater research labs and caverns full of strange creatures. As far as I can tell, Mia’s memories and Mia’s experiences can’t be trusted. Her understanding of the truth is subject to just that: her own understanding of it. This has occurred on numerous occasions. This is why - knowing full well that twenty-three issues is a lot to weigh when you’re approaching the reveal of something - that I don’t fully trust her analysis of the situation. This is why I’m worried for her.
Like a bucking bronco, Grass Kings #12 suddenly kicks! It’s an about-face shift in tone from the last few issues which were gradual and poetic. It made me wonder if I had missed reading an issue. This sudden shift has scattered the sheep. Characters that were on a specific trajectory have now been sent reeling in every other direction. You start poking around in the ash, and you’re bound to get the fire started again. I’m getting ahead of myself…
I love this book. To its very core. It’s a character-driven, science fiction adventure, high stakes coming-of-age story. I can see the trail of inspiration, the creative landmarks that carved a way through history to get here: Godzilla, Akira, Evangelion, and countless others. It feels of the same value, the same creative energies, but it never steals, and it never mirrors.
Demons, gangsters, the 1930s: that’s Cullen Bunn’s The Damned in a nutshell. While it has the world building and epic story arc that Bunn in known to imbue with most of his works, it also has the rhythm of a jazz band riffing at the top of their game.