As the story of Conan the Slayer unfolds, you come to understand that Cullen Bunn isn’t interested in telling your typical hero story. He’s interested in putting his hero through the shredder. That doesn’t come in the form of losing fights or getting beaten up physically, but in losing battles and the consequences of doing so – and the consequence of simply being a “slayer” looms on the horizon. I won’t go into all of them, but you get the sense that something big is going to go down.
Mycroft Holmes doesn’t randomly look for trouble. He studies people’s personality, notices the trouble, and then invites them over for a friendly chat. It’s safe to say this quality is readily apparent in the latest chapter of Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook. In this instance, he invites the “infamous bandit Jesse James” over for a proposition that would earn the gunslinger a lot more money than a simple train heist.
For all the pathos and dark twists and turns, for all the loneliness and sadness at the heart of Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer, there is also a sincere sense of joy for comic books and what they represent and the worlds they can create. Lemire is able to explore the complex emotions and psychologies of a group of superheroes trapped on a mysterious farm, unable to reveal who they really are, while at the same time revealing their pasts through Golden Age-style comic book tropes. This book is complex, emotionally satisfying, and entertaining. Is issue #9, we step into a horror vault-style comic book in which weird magic and dark turns occur, and then we get to see how that echoes into the modern age of comics environment.
For the last few issues of Matt and Sharlene Kindt’s murder mystery, Dept.H, Mia - while trapped in a mostly submerged room with Roger on a deep sea research base - has been trying to learn more about the motives of the other crew members, so she can solve who killed her father. Her father having been the head of Dept.H. While Mia is considering Roger’s character analysis, we get to see how the paired-up crew members not only deal with the structure as it falls apart around them, but how they react with each other. Right now, there are three different cliffhangers that I’m waiting to find out how they will resolve.
Matt Kindt’s most recent book, Ether, finds a scientist from our world venturing into a world of nothing but magic to help solve a murder mystery. This is a weird, wonderful book, and, so far, I like it, though I have no idea exactly what this book is going to end up actually being about.
I like The Spire a lot. It feels big, dense, and lived-in. I’ve been reading a lot of comics that fit into the same broad techno-fantasy genre (It seems like we’re getting a lot these days.), but relatively few produce a world that seems quite so complex as The Spire. This is the kind of world where, though the story wraps up by the end of the book, there’s a real sense that the world goes on. That it existed before this story began and will continue to exist now that it’s over, even if we don’t get to peek into it anymore.