How to Train Your Dragon has been one of my favorite animated film series of the last few decades. It struck me immediately on a lot of different levels. It didn’t hurt that Toothless, the star dragon of the series, looked exactly like my cat. In fact, that was the point: The creators and animators wanted the dragon to resemble and act like pets that we recognize. The themes of not letting your fear guide how you view the world and learning to work together were handled in such an effective way. Seeing Hiccup (the hero of the story) basically become one with Toothless by the end was emotionally satisfying in a way few other stories have affected me. The flying scenes brought tears to my eyes.

“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”
-- William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Cullen Bunn is one of the most prominent horror writers in comic books right now. From his recently finished, Eisner-nominated hit, Harrow County, to his genre-bending offerings like The Damned and The Sixth Gun, his works are character-driven, world-building yarns that explore some pretty big themes. Cold Spots starts off on a smaller scale, staying fairly intimate and personal, as a private detective of sorts, Mr. Kerr - in true film noir fashion - is called back by presumably an old employer, Mr. Warren, to come to his large, cold mansion. Mr. Warren would like Mr. Kerr to find his grownup daughter, Alyssa, and the granddaughter, Grace, that he was given custody over. Usually, we become a little better acquainted with the main character early on in Bunn’s worlds, but, instead, a lot is left unsaid. This approach fits soundly into the film noir, mystery approach. My guess is that all of those elements will come to light when they need to and when they will be most dramatically effective. We’ve all had bad bosses, but the weight Kerr feels as he re-enters this world is pretty noticeable. Mr. Kerr comes across some information, perhaps a little too easily, and he’s led down a path that introduces a strange, supernatural element.

Adventure awaits within the pages of Ether. Boone Dias travels the alternate universe created from the runoff of all of the stories we tell. At his side is Violet Bell (a faerie warrior), Big Glum (the protector of the entrance to the Ether), and Grandor (a minotaur who Dias and company sprung from jail). They are on a mission to stop dangerous copper golems from entering the real world and creating chaos and destruction.

Coda takes place in the dredges of a post-high-fantasy world as everyone fights for what little of civilization remains. Some people are trying to rebuild society, some people have become marauders or rebels, and some people have become like the hero of this book. Hum could be one of the most intriguing anti-heroes that I’ve seen in some time. He keeps making decisions that surprise even me and yet feel completely in line with who he has become and what his ultimate goal is, which after the first three issues has been turned completely on its head in this fourth completely on-point issue.

When dealing with the esoteric and the surreal as part of a story, there are a lot of ways to go. I should say, I feel like there are a lot of bad, easy ways to go. Like, “Let’s throw everything into the pot, and the story not making sense will be weird!” There are fewer ways that actually work, but when they do, it can jostle your sense of reality. The creative team of Gideon Falls, a story about a place called the Black Barn that rests half in an alternate reality and half in the unconscious mind, and how it affects a certain group of people like a star slowly sucking everything circling it into its field of gravity, treads a fine line.

Podcasts, Dungeons & Dragons ,and comics are three of my favorite things in the world. With the release of the first The Adventure Zone graphic novel, all three of those things were rolled into one ridiculous and hilarious tome, filled with some good, good content.

While Hollywood only just released its LEGO Batman movie in 2017, DC made a direct-to-DVD LEGO Batman movie in 2013 and has been releasing LEGO Justice League films ever since. And while Hollywood’s live-action blockbuster Aquaman movie doesn’t come out until late December, DC has a LEGO Aquaman movie for you right now. Though I haven’t seen the live-action movie yet, I think I can guarantee that you will laugh much harder at this one than at the one with Jason Momoa.

Christopher Sebela has modernized the “on the lam” genre with Crowded, the latest book by Image Comics. In a world where technology has completely blanketed the socio-economic landscape, a young girl is being pursued by a willing mob of heavily armed regular folk who are all crowdfunded to kill her. The book is hot, heavy, and full of bloodshed. The characters are brutal and sassy. Crowded makes no apologies for its devout roughness and is better for it.

As goofy, fantastical, hyper-realistic, and chaotic as The Weatherman is, Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox ground the characters in real, heightened emotions. When a gun is put to one of the character’s heads, they don’t grit their teeth. They experience true, genuine fear. They have no idea how that moment will end for them. This isn’t a story about heroes or villains, this is a story about people caught up in events that push them to their limits. In this case, the event is trying to track down who blew up Earth, so that it doesn’t happen to another populated planet. There are layers and levels to that, but this is terrorism on a planetary scale. It’s enough to push even the most trained warrior to their limits.

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