I’ve spent many an hour both onstage and backstage creating impassioned pieces of live theatre, probably more hours than I care to admit. James Tynion IV is a writer whom I like very much; his Memetic and Cognetic books are trippy, David Cronenberg-esque sci-fi horror films that play as social satire, his UFOlogy harkens back to '80s films in which kids have to become the heroes, and his runs on a few different Batman titles - now specifically Detective Comics - have all been inspired. The Backstagers is nothing like any of them. It’s more of a Young Adult fantasy about the people who really bring to life the plays you might see or be a part in when you were in high school.
Reading House of Penance is like bathing in madness. It creeps into your psychological cracks like a good David Lynch film. This current issue finds that Sarah’s sister has returned to have her carted off to the madhouse. This inspires the first instance of violence we’ve seen on the Winchester’s mansion. You see, Sarah Winchester, who owns half of the Winchester fortune (the guns) has hired on a platoon of killers to work on her mansion. The workers create and recreate this maze of a mansion. Some doors lead nowhere, and some hallways and stairways lead nowhere. The banging of the hammers are supposed to keep the vengeful spirits that haunt Sarah at bay, but with that first instance of outright violence, order begins to lose against the chaos.
I think I’m addicted to Dept.H. I’ve been waiting an entire month to know what was going to happen next. With a novel, when you finish a chapter, you can turn the page and continue following the characters. Waiting a month is part of the thrill and part of the annoyance with a comic series this good. Like Jeff Lemire (who has his new continuing series out this month), Matt Kindt is working on so many titles right now that it’s amazing how he can keep up the pace. But everything that he touches is gold - Dept.H included.
The first episode of a new sitcom is usually the least funny. You have to set up the world, introduce the characters, usually the situational part is missing, and once everyone is in place, if the show is good, the second episode hits the ground running. The second issue of Jeff Lemire’s (Moon Knight, Old Man Logan, Descender . . . what isn’t he writing right now!) Black Hammer hits the ground running. The first issue was enough to intrigue: An odd assortment of superheroes are trapped on a farm and forced to live a “normal” life. Somehow, a black hammer has something to do with their being there. It was a quick pan across the world we’re entering. I wrote that once we get to know these characters a little more, I would return to the first issue again and watch it spring to life.
Who needs a whole seat when just the edge will do?
Mark Millar sets the galaxy on fire once again with the newest issue of Empress. Having been separated from the children by slavers, Dane, Emporia, and Tor struggle to get out of a tricky situation, while the kids have to look to their own devices to figure a way out of their predicament. This is the most action-packed issue yet, which is saying something if you’ve been reading the series, and the “Hell Yeah” moments are riddled throughout an issue which best exemplifies what we’ve seen so far.
You can’t take the sky from me.
I know I’ve gotten the Browncoats’ attention, and Warship Jolly Roger should have it, as well. Spinning a tale of redemption and daring do, Sylvain Runberg has gathered the kind of core characters that can interest and fascinate anyone, while Miquel Montllo brings animation-caliber artwork to the game and gives it a beautiful and moving sense of life. Four convicts who owe nothing to each other must find a way to survive and even thrive while they deal with the fallout from their lives and their removal from it.
For the last several months, Cullen Bunn has teased his story in a couple of different directions. First, it was Emmy helping a family in a house that was quite literally alive. Then, Bernice - Emmy’s neighbor and friend - took her first steps down the path of becoming a sort of mystical snake charmer. In the last couple of issues, Emmy has been introduced to the extended family of her mother. How all these threads will combine, I don’t know, but Bunn is building towards something that feels epic, especially if the last page of this issue holds true to the upcoming conflict. Or Bunn could pull the rug out from under us and go a completely different, yet amazing, direction. He’s good at that.
I’m back and forth on this new storyline that brings together the worlds of Aliens, Predator, and Prometheus. Prometheus the movie was ambitious, but deeply flawed, and the first Prometheus comic book took that ambition and filled in a lot of the gaps. It got rid of the more convoluted aspects and made the mythology terrifying. This new storyline by Dan Abnett seems to excel when the characters are in the heat of battle. Issue #2, when our band of humans suddenly find themselves surrounded by Aliens, was really exciting, but I don’t know if Abnett really knows what to do with the Engineers, the “gods” from the Prometheus storyline.