Reading the final, final chapter in the Life and Death series is like reading the first chapter in what should be a brand new series. A really good brand new series. I finally feel like Dan Abnett has hit upon a story that works and carries with it some authentic emotional weight and intelligence, and yet we’re simply wrapping up . . . or are we?
Any time that I see "Daniel Chabon, Editor" on the inside page of a comic, my ears perk up like a happy puppy who’s heard the word “treat.” He’s currently the rock star of Dark Horse Comics who is shepherding some of the best comics I know to shape and form. His current book is the new chapter in the Aliens world, James Stokoe’s Aliens: Dead Orbit.
Mia, a scientist who has been to space looking for new life with her father, is now deep under the ocean trying to figure out who killed him. The problem is that there are more than a handful of possible suspects, all trying their best to help Mia survive on the underwater station as it literally falls apart around them, but which is trying to stop her from solving the murder.
Sometimes, it takes a fresh perspective to start knocking on new doors, and other times, it helps to step away from a problem for awhile and come back to it. Our vanished superhero team, stuck in the small town of Rockwood, hasn’t done much of the latter. They’ve been living and thinking in the mire of their situation for some time now. For each, it has had a different effect. Now, the daughter of the character who owes the book its title, Black Hammer, has found her way to Rockwood in search of him. She not only represents that fresh perspective, but a journalistic one, as well. She begins digging, and with answers come more questions, some seemingly small, and some very big.
Like a Hollywood bio-pic Milo Manara tackles the life of the genius artist Caravaggio, giving us explanations of what inspired his greatest works and who his female muses were, as well as his greatest adversaries. In the end, however, the story presented by Manara feels more like an explanation of events than an actual story.
Have you ever sat and listened to someone try and tell you their dream? Of course you have. No matter how interesting or crazy the dream is, there’s always a disconnect. You’re always just out of reach of the experience, because it’s not your dream. At its best, reading a comic book is like living in someone else’s dream, usually a handful of people. You’re sent on a journey, experience the adrenaline, and feel the feels. There is a tangible intersection, a crossroads of the conscious and subconscious.
Rock Candy Mountain, written and drawn by Eisner-nominated Kyle Starks, takes its silliness seriously and is serious in a very silly way, and wins because of it. This is a world with hobos, hobo mafias, and Satan. (Literally, the guy with horns makes an appearance.) Ya see, Satan is looking for someone and that someone is Jackson, and Jackson is looking for something and that’s Big Rock Candy Mountain. Yes, from the song.
In the introduction, the writer of the original Aliens comic book, Mark Verheiden, states that in the original publication, they weren’t able to call the characters Newt or Hicks due to interference with the chronology of the third film in the series. I’m ever so happy to report that this has finally been corrected, and everyone will finally be able to see what happened to Newt and Hicks if they weren’t killed like a Shakespearean character – off screen.
You know those days in which it feels like nothing will turn out in your favor; no matter how much you accomplish, nothing goes right for you. Emmy, the protagonist of Harrow County, has had a twenty-two-issue run of this. No matter how hard she tries, there’s something right around the corner to test her, and those things usually pertain to demons and ghosts (Here known as haints.) and god-like brothers and sisters, only now she has to contend with one of her only friends, Bernice.
The zombie genre has been fighting to stay relevant for some time now, often endlessly repeating the same tropes, drawing the same conclusions about humanity, and - when in desperate straits - resorting to empty, gruesome violence. There’s been very little truly original in the zombie genre since George Romero’s seminal films which not only kicked off the craze but stayed ahead of the curve and continue to put most attempts to shame. Aside from the occasional television or cinematic victory, eventually, all genre fare falls into this cycle, struggling to find an original voice. Without something to drive the story forward that isn’t zombies, you can expect standard biting and chewing of human flesh. All of that has its place, but as a reader (viewer), I like to be excited, surprised and thrilled. The Walking Dead swings back and fourth dramatically from one end of the spectrum to the other, Shaun of the Dead mattered because it poked fun at all of those tropes while finding its own emotional center, and World War Z (the book) grounded the zombie apocalypse in a real-world setting with real world consequences.