Beasts of Burden is one of those worlds that I’m absolutely happy to have exist. Dogs that are witches for anyone else would sound like someone was grasping at straws for an idea, but Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s creation is really quite fantastic. In their hands, dogs just seem like the type of animal that would use magic to help the world. I mean, duh.
No. No, no, no, no. Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins just dropped a bomb of an issue, and now I have to wait an entire month to see what happens next.
Someone is trying to kill one of the most famous assassins in the world. So, what does he do? He tries to hire all of the other greatest assassins in the world to protect himself. That’s it. That’s the concept of this story. It’s a high-concept shoot-em-up. You can expect a lot of ego to be thrown around from characters that have elevated eccentricities, and a lot . . . a LOT of bullets to be fired. If you saw Brie Larson in Free Fire, Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces, or Shoot’em Up with Clive Owen, or… you get it. There’s an entire subgenre of film that’s poked its head over the horizon in the last decade or so.
This was great. I sat down this evening to write reviews feeling uninspired, disinterested, and tired. As I scrolled through the first issue of Little Bird, as each page passed, as every panel erupted from the page, I slowly began to wake up and, by the end, a fire had lit in me.
I grew up on anime and manga in the '90s, but this was my first time delving into Berserk, and I’m glad I did. It’s a wild, audacious, ridiculous romp. Much of the manga and anime from that era has a very specific feel to it: The tropes were always being leaned into pretty heavily, with bad guys that you couldn’t kill and instead only got bigger when you defeated them, action scenes that were only just barely discernible, and a kooky sidekick whose style didn’t match anything else.
Samurai movies are some of my favorites. Watching Kurosawa weave universal tales and Toshiro Mifune cutting down endless numbers of foes, films simply called Kill! wove 1960s-style cinema with breathless fight choreography and riveting stories of characters barely surviving. For me, there was something otherworldly, yet completely relatable, as themes of honor, loyalty, and death were explored in ways that made my imagination spin uncontrollably. And even though there is a strong similarity, I feel more connected to the worlds of the Samurai than I ever could to those in a Western, and that’s closer to my culture. That’s a whole other article, so I digress…
Taking some inspiration from the Tuskegee Airmen, Jeff Lemire takes his world of Black Hammer to World War II, as we follow a group of three black and one Chinese pilots, known as the Black Hammer Squadron, on their final mission against the Axis. Lemire doesn’t do it alone this time; writer Ray Fawkes is the first to co-pilot and takes on the job of telling the story. In addition, three of my personal favorite comic creators hop on board - Matt Kindt (art), Sharlene Kindt (colors), and Marie Enger (letters) - all three of whom worked on a beautiful book and one of my favorites from last year, Dept. H. It’s like Lemire wanted a powerhouse team; he got it, and it shows.
Two issues ago, the superhero family of Black Hammer made a decision to jump back into the reality of Spiral City (their own world) despite the fear of Anti-God (their greatest villain) returning with them. This was after having solved the mystery of how they ended up at the farm. Then, issue #7 happened. It was bonkers and wonderful. It took the idea of “meta” in this series to its most playful and heightened conclusion. That was what happened to the reality-hopping Colonel Weird. Now, in issue #8, we find our way to some of the other members of the team. If issue #7 was about where all of the unused ideas go to die, then issue #8 is about a world with no stories. Of all the issues of the series so far, this resembles our own, the reader’s world. The most tragic place for a superhero to end up is, of course, a place where they are no one, where they no longer mean anything to the world and they have no ambition.
It wasn’t that I had my doubts about Black Badge. After finishing The Grass Kings, I’d put my trust in the creative team of Matt Kindt, Tyler Jenkins, and Hillary Jenkins any time. Like The Grass Kings, Black Badge took a few issues to settle into itself. The entirety of issue seven had me exclaiming out loud at the end, “Oh, sh*t!”
I’m fully aware that fans of something can inflate their initial experience with their fandom, turning it into a perfect achievement that nothing can ever touch. After binging season one of The Umbrella Academy over two days, on the third day I went back to read the first two volumes of the Dark Horse comic book series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, and I’m glad I did, because it freed me to write a review unfettered from my initial experience with the comics.