Issue two of Brain Boy takes off, in a very literal sense, right where issue one ended, and the action here, part two of a three-part story arc titled Psy vs. Psy, is just as top-notch as in the premiere issue. Writer Fred Van Lente, penciller R.B. Silva, and inker Rob Lean continue to develop the retro-futuristic spy world vibe of the life of psychic Matt Price. On loan to the United States Secret Service to protect a foreign dignitary, things take a turn for the bizarre, and Matt isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be working for the USSS, either by his choice or theirs. Trouble is coming to a head, and Price isn’t exactly sure how he is going to keep his, both physically and psychically.
Welcome to the review dossier for the first volume of IDW’s G.I. Joe Special Missions. The book collects the first four issues and first story arc, titled Crush Depth, of the series, which has been a long-running one, at least in name, in the larger G.I. Joe milieu. This marks my second foray into IDW’s current Joe universe, and it is one fraught with danger, intrigue, a fair amount of humor, and loads of sex appeal, the latter mostly supplied by The Baroness. In fact, The Baroness never made pure evil look so good, though I can’t think she wears those outfits for their comfort. Another fact is that writer Chuck Dixon and artist Paul Gulacy create an exciting story that is as much about the Joes’ Special Mission team as it is about the malevolent machinations of The Baroness, here working outside of the good graces of Cobra, all of which makes for an especially engaging read.
Dark Horse collects a bevy of bizarre, hilarious, and possibly largely unread, or read long ago, stories from its storied Star Wars publishing history into an exciting Omnibus entitled Wild Space Volume 2. This does mean that an introductory Wild Space omnibus exists, and I am sure it contains just as many colorful and varied stories and adventures as I found in this over 400-page second volume, and I am sure there is enough unique Dark Horse Star Wars content to fill many more omnibuses, and maybe a few omnivans, too. Yes, that’s a bit of a bad pun, but it is completely in line with the style of much of the Wild Space slice of the Star Wars universal pie.
Tall Tales from the Badlands is a western anthology series from independent digital publisher Black Jack Press, and I accepted the assignment to review the first three issues, each around fifty pages long, yet still the price of a regular-sized issue, sight unseen. I was hoping my gamble would pay off with well-told, western-themed stories and solid art, and I was not disappointed. Even better, now I am able to show Tall Tales from the Badlands’ hand, removing any uncertainty you may feel toward trying out a book and publisher that are completely new to you.
Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart is a complex, cerebral, and imaginative graphic novel, and that is simply scratching the surface. The story and art are fluid, as in a waking dream where you think you know what is going on until you realize you don’t, you can’t see beyond the periphery no matter how hard you try, and though you remember aspects of it so intensely, it may all have just been a dream. That also describes what reading Sin Titulo is like, as Alex Mackay finds himself jumping, dragged, and stumbling into and through a journey of confusion, impossibility, and discovery. It all starts when Alex goes to visit his grandfather at his retirement home, only to find out he died a month ago. While rummaging through his grandfather’s belongings, he comes across a photo of his grandfather with a young woman, smiling and looking happier than he ever remembered him. Curious about the photo, Alex inquires about the woman, setting into motion a chain of events that will dig up his past, destroy his present, and forever change his future. This is a book you can’t put down until you’ve reached the end – I tried, and I couldn’t do it. The story and its immediacy compel you to keep reading, because, just like Alex, you have to know what it all means, you have to keep going until you can make sense of it all, until you find the truth.
Get ready for irreverent, super heroic hilarity in Knuckleheads Issues 1 – 3 from Monkeybrain Comics, my favorite digital comics publisher. The loose, goofy, action-packed, neon-infused story of Knuckleheads comes from writer Brian Winkeler and artist Robert Wilson IV, and the look of the book is rounded out with colors from Jordan Boyd and lettering by Thomas Mauer. Originally created by Winkeler and Wilson IV in 2010 as a single issue print comic, Knuckleheads is getting a fantastic, new life as a digital comic, and the creators definitely play to the format’s strengths, especially with their bold, eye-catching covers. I noticed this right away, and my opinion was validated at the end of issue two where Wilson IV discusses how they came up with the style and look of their covers. Everything inside the issue is a blast, too, and there is an excellent balance between comedy and action . . . and most of the action is comedic, as well. I would expect nothing less from a pink robe, goggles, and boxer shorts-wearing superhero, nicknamed ‘The Crystal Fist’ and/or ‘The Human Joystick,’ depending on if you’re talking to his best friend Lance or their new friend, Pizza Guy.
Conan: The Phenomenon from Dark Horse is a treasure trove of all things Conan, and once you’ve finished the book, you will feel like a regular “Howard Head” or Conan scholar, and believe me, both of these titles exist. The author, Paul Sammon, considers himself a “Howard Head,” which is someone who has a deep affection, connection, and respect for Conan creator Robert E. Howard and for his original Conan stories, of which it turns out there were only twenty-one, which included one serialized novel. Seventeen of these stories first appeared in the popular pulp magazine Weird Tales from 1932-1936, and Howard only ever saw his work, from Conan and Solomon Kane to his lesser-known western stories appear in the pulps, as he committed suicide on June 11, 1936, at the age of thirty. Indeed, I knew next to nothing about Conan’s creator, and Sammon sheds an amazing amount of light and pathos on the troubled life and mind of Robert E. Howard, affectionately known as REH by his admirers.
Welcome to the world of Smoke/Ashes, two series, separated by eight years in real time and five years in story time, that comprise of writer and creator Alex de Campi’s comics masterwork, being released by Dark Horse in one glorious, gorgeous package. Don’t know who Alex de Campi is? I didn’t either, but, thankfully, writer Kieron Gillen provides a background on de Campi in his foreword, while also prepping us for the scope of her storytelling. Smoke tells the story of British secret agent turned government assassin Rupert Cain and on-the-cusp journalist Katie Shah and their involvement with the highest echelons of power in Britain, both secret and known. Smoke reveals itself in layers, and pulls you down into a maze of past, present, and future, where everything becomes so much more intricate and complex than it at first seems, and that is the beauty of de Campi’s writing.
If you are just now joining Dark Horse’s Dream Thief with this issue, then you have missed out on four previous and superb issues. But, if you have been following this great, new series from the beginning, then you are ready to see some events come to a head in issue #5, the last in the miniseries . . . or is it? In this final issue, some mysteries come into the light, while others still remain cloaked in darkness, and this is probably the most John Lincoln has been himself in quite a while, though that self has changed dramatically from when we first met him.
Prepare yourself for a bizarre, intellectual, violent, comical, absurd, and surreal trip into the eighties and nineties' burgeoning mindscape of two comics revolutionaries in Dark Horse’s hardcover collection The Best of Milligan & McCarthy. Those initial adjectives only scratch the surface of the enigmatic creativity, subversive chicanery, and working-class empathy that are found in the early work of writer Peter Milligan and artist Brendan McCarthy. Both Brits, their writing, story, and art styles combine to create many a comic the likes of which I had never experienced before. For me, the closest I had come to this kind of cerebral complexity and aloofness in structure was in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, and so this was a trip into the unknown for me, a step off a cliff into sheer, unadulterated imagination and artistic freedom. At over 200 pages, I was sucked into the mind-bending, heady world of Milligan and McCarthy’s creations, living amongst the pages of these concepts, characters, and comics from the early eighties and nineties, and my mind was blown open more than once, both by the creators’ innate grasp of surrealism and absurdity, and the pure versatility in their abilities.