If you don’t already know, I’m a huge fan of military sci-fi. From Jack Campbell to John Scalzi to Orson Scott Card to Elizabeth Moon, they all have something to offer. But now, it looks like Joe Haldeman has jumped into comics once again with an ongoing series from Titan Comics. I had the pleasure of getting a signed copy of The Forever War, Vol. 1: Private Mandella at Forbidden Planet in New York in 1990. The new comic series is based on his second series of novels set in the same universe.
The final issue of Giants showcases the big, epic battle between monsters and brothers that the previous issue promised. It’s visceral, cinematic, and emotional. The outcome isn’t necessarily unexpected. The story has veered slightly away from the complex world the first issue created in exchange for a more good vs. evil showdown, or at least enlightened vs. led astray showdown; that delineation feeds into the emotional gravitas of the final moments. So, while the outcome isn’t unexpected, it is satisfying. Every twist and turn in this sci-fi actioneer calls upon elements of everything from Evangelion, Akira, and Godzilla. Every story element has been crafted beautifully into the story. Nothing feels inauthentic. Now, I will give a book the best compliment it can get: What would have made it more satisfying is if this series had a much longer run. Comic books, more than cinema and even television, have the ability to world build to the Nth degree. They can take their time and really delve into the characters, who they become, and why. Where Giants falls short for me is literally in the fact that it fell short…issue-count wise.
Writer and artist Gabriel Hardman drops us smack dab into a situation no one would want to find themselves in. An unwitting son runs into his mother’s room in the middle of the night to find something wrapped around his mother’s face. He doesn’t know what it is. We do: a facehugger. This is a nightmare. This is terror. In these first few panels, Hardman has reinvigorated the horror of the Alien universe, and the comic doesn’t let up. An evac has been called, and mother and son must traverse the city. It’s go, go, go from page one. It’s adrenaline. No mystery, no science fiction tropes - this is survival. This is Ripley running around on a spaceship in her undergarments, all alone with god knows what on board with her. It should be no surprise that the colony, LV-871, is under the supervision of Weyland-Yutani.
Welcome back. If you missed it, Black Hammer was one of the great surprises of 2017. Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormstrom, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein, Daniel Chabon, and others all joined forces to bring their love of Golden Age comics to us and then beat those tropes into a bloody pulp with a wrench of emotional despondency. It was brilliant. Aging Golden Age heroes of Spiral City, after saving the world from a cosmic evil, found themselves trapped on a farm like some Philip K. Dickian reality show as psychoanalytical mind-f*** to live out their lives. In this new world where superheroes don’t exist, some took to it, some did not. When Black Hammer tried to escape, he was killed by unknown forces. Ten years later . . . hope came anew when the daughter of the great Black Hammer, Lucy Weber, found her way to these despondent heroes. She began to uncover strange mysteries about the town all while Col. Weird, who has access to the Para-zone, seemed to know a lot more than he was letting on. In the final moments leading up to the story break, Lucy Weber picked up her father’s hammer and became the new Black Hammer.
On the surface, Crude is a mystery about a father searching out what his son was involved in before he died. This is where we begin to unpack the potential of the deeply resonating drama that this book promises; this father isn’t just going to discover how his son was killed, but what kind of person his son chose to be and how he chose to live. Let’s unpack that a little more: The location for our story is Russia, a place where homosexuality is a crime, where it can be dangerous for a person to walk the streets of Moscow as an openly gay person.
A couple of issues ago, Emmy, the hero of this horror series that has become greater than genre fiction in every way, made the mistake you didn’t want her to make: To become powerful enough to defeat her witch mother Hester, she consumed her sister, putting greater power over greater goodness. Now, as the final battle between Emmy and Hester draws closer, the darkness that now lies within Emmy is beginning to take root. If all that seems baffling to you, then you haven’t been following along. You don’t know the rich textures that Cullen Bunn has woven into this world, the history, and the mythology. Harrow County is a world with a beating heart at its center. A world that is only a handful of issues way from ending.
“I was born on August 5th, 1894, at St, Vincent’s Hospital to Thomas and Helen Moore.
My father was an officer for the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1904, he became one of two officers to work for the city of Hollywood.
My earliest memory is the feeling of stubble on his face and touching his shiny badge.
The last time I saw him, I was 15 years old…”
Complete and utter pandemonium is perhaps the best way to describe the fourth and final issue of Dark Horse’s buddy cop/Lovecraftian/carnivalesque series, Vinegar Teeth. The series’ revelation is that Vinegar Teeth (real name Zathral) was sent to Earth by his father, Cullzathro, to contaminate the water with alien eggs/embryos that, when ingested, brainwash the populace to sow the seeds of anger, allowing cosmic horrors to invade. Issue four sees Brick City aflame in chaos, as cultists and monsters run amok while Cullzathro’s hand gleefully plucks up buildings full of people to consume. With their partnership fully solidified, it is up to Vinegar Teeth and Artie to thwart the invading forces through all means necessary: shootin’, singin’, and drinkin'.
Chuck Palahniuk is one of the most brilliant and prolific writers of this era, with several major novels to his name and some of the most thought-provoking and occasionally terrifying stories that have been written. While it's not my favorite of his novels, Palahniuk will likely always be remembered for Fight Club, his opus about mental illness, chaos, and toxic masculinity, among other things. The film adaptation, despite being a bomb during its release, is a cult favorite, and Palahniuk's work, while controversial, has been more and more interesting as time has followed.