Phillip Kelly, Fanbase Press Contributor

Phillip Kelly, Fanbase Press Contributor

I started scrolling through the PDF reviewer’s copy of The Last Ronin, the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tale from the dynamic duo of my youth, Eastman and Laird. “These are amazing alternate covers,” I thought to myself. I continued to scroll, “Oh, wow, more!”… I continued to scroll… and scroll… and scroll… just as Pee Wee Herman kept knitting and knitting and knitting. There are 71 retail covers for The Last Ronan. SEVENTY-ONE! All beautiful. All showing a scarred, broken, and aged mutant turtle armed to the hilt with all four of the brothers’ weapons - katana, nunchucks, staff, and sai - and wearing a black mask around his eyes.

I’m am getting so much joy out of reading Nailbiter Returns, and issue 6 only adds to it.

Wynd #5 brought tears to my eyes. Good tears, hopeful tears. Wynd is a character that has grown up believing he has been cursed with magic, having nightmares that portend his changing into a monster that everyone will fear. He has been taught this, because people have been taught to hate and fear magical creatures. The king has magical creatures killed on sight, and his hunter, the Bandaged Man, is the best there is at killing them. He can sniff out magic, and he is relentless.
Now, Wynd has been whisked away on an adventure, joining the king’s son, the son of the royal gardner who Wynd has a crush on, and his best friend, leaving the relative safety of Pipetown with the Bandaged Man hot on their heels.

When I finished Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer what seems like forever ago (but not so long ago), I was left with something nagging at me. The story was brought to a conclusion, a sort of melancholy middle ground, but it didn’t feel complete. Over the last year, Lemire has continued tapdancing around the Black Hammer universe, bringing new characters into the fray, dealing with the same characters in the near past or distant future. It has been a remarkable world building experience, especially with all the amazing talent he’s brought on to help create this world. To what end, has been the question. Where is all of this leading? Why spend all of this time on these stories - just for a laugh, to cash in? Obviously not, Lemire isn’t a cynical creator. He’s a genuine writing talent. So, then, to what end?

For a series that has built to a crescendo on a couple of occasions, only to find out that this is the penultimate issue kind of caught me off guard. In the next issue, Gideon Falls concludes, and I’m two years and some change older. It has often felt like we’ve been nearing a conclusion on a number of occasions, only for the script to flip on the characters. Now with several new characters and storylines only recently introduced, in the blink of an eye, it will be concluded. If it sounds like I have mixed feelings about that… well, I do.

Building blocks, gently being placed one on top of the other. Every block brings a shift in dynamic, and every block below it gives it stability. Where will the next block be placed? Will it all come tumbling down? James Tynion IV’s Something Is Killing the Children is a masterclass in how to patiently construct a meaningful and powerful story. Every added story element surprises and brings about a greater dilemma but also makes complete sense. Plot holes? Tynion declares, “Never!” Unmotivated character decisions? Tynion scoffs, “Not on your life!”

I reviewed the first issue of Spy Island way back in March before everything shut down. I’m incredibly happy that it’s back.

The fourth issue of Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres’ Bang! introduces the final member of the team: Paige Turnier… get it? It’s a cheeky poke at your murder mystery madams like Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote or Agatha Christie’s Marple. Turnier is an aging Chinese woman with an incredibly sharp mind and a few other tricks up her sleeves. Though like Dr. Queen who was introduced in the last issue, she downplays her position. Dr. Queen did it for a certain level of anonymity, Turnier, so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable with her heightened intellect, puts on a sort of silly French accent reminiscent of Inspector Jacques Clouseau. I find it interesting that the two female characters have to downplay their positions. I wonder if something more will come of that. Either way, Turnier is a fun character, very different from the other three added to the pool to fight against Goldmaze, a secret organization very much akin to James Bond’s SPECTRE.

The original Nailbiter series took itself quite seriously. It was textured, painting a dark world of weird and violent characters. There were definitely satirical elements pointed toward the serial killer genre, but it really took its time to indulge in a new, subversive mythology. The end of the run may have felt like the end of a Hollywood blockbuster, but the journey felt complete.

I welcome Peter Murrieta and D.E. Schrader’s Rafael Garcia: Henchman with open arms. They approach a burgeoning superhero subgenre without falling into the traps that usually come with the territory. They expertly avoid an extreme level of jokey absurdness, overt self-awareness, or lazy spoofing that would undermine their characters. Here, the characters are well thought out and exist on their own terms first, which makes the experience incredibly refreshing, surprisingly relatable, and really funny.

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