Basilisk #1 is the foundation for a new story, new characters, and a new world from the mind of Cullen Bunn (one of the best horror comic book writers currently writing in the genre) and artist Jonas Scharf (whom I’ll speak more of shortly). Bunn’s Harrow County absolutely blew me away with its scope and character-focused story lines. That started small, focusing on a single character getting swept up into something beyond their control and built outward. Basilisk gives us a few things: an initial event that occurred some time in the past, two characters coming to a head, and a villainous family. Even beyond that, there are plenty of elements introduced. This is giving us hints of who the multiple characters are, and instead it’s giving a wider vision of this world and all the things our two female protagonists might run into along the way. And because it’s probably a five to six-issue story arc, as many BOOM! titles are, there’s a need to get to it!
Every now and again, I’m reminded that I live during a time in which we have been able to enjoy wonderful people and experiences like David Bowie, Robin Williams, and Star Wars. There are so many things that I could add to that list, and while reading The Last Ronin, one of those items is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe if I had been born in the '20s and '30s, I would have felt this way about Errol Flynn or Charlie Chaplin (who died a year before I was born and is one of my comedy and filmmaking idols), but during my youth, it was all about TMNT. As a kid, it was the indie comic (made more for adults). Then, as a pre-teen, it was the cartoon (made for kids), and as I became a teenager, it was the movie made for teenagers, and so on and so forth. I played every game. I had every poster hanging on my wall. I knew every lyric to every theme song (and still mostly do.)
I “squeeeed” when I saw that a new issue of Something Is Killing the Children was coming out. During lockdown last year, this was one of those things I was looking forward to every month, like a dog waiting for a milk bone. The lead of the story, Erica Slaughter, hit every single note that makes a character worth following: She was capable; she was emotionally affected by the violence around her; she was a bit unsteady mentally; against the worst of odds, she wanted to do the right thing; and even though we knew all of those admirable things, she also remained somewhat of a mystery.
The tone of each of the Outerverse books from Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden vary ever so slightly. Joe Golem was a film noir, Cojacaru was a WWII war story, and Lady Baltimore is a swashbuckling, Indiana Jones-style high adventure. All three are connected by one thing: witches and a realm called The Outer Worlds, where Cthulhu-inspired old gods exist.
Whew! Boy! Holy shit! If you were waiting for Stray Dogs to go full serial killer, then this is the issue. Comic books don’t get that sort of surge of emotions out of a person unless they really, really, really nail the pacing and through that the elevation of intensity, and, well, no one wants to see anything bad happen to dogs.
If you can imagine a Kaiju story as told by David Cronenberg, you’ll get Ultramega. The very first issue taught me to expect the unexpected, and, even with that, the unexpected doesn’t seem to cover everything. While creator James Harrem certainly cares about the characters he’s writing, or at least cares about their depth and complexity, he isn’t reverent to his creations. This is a harsh, weird world with not a single character archetype to safely guide us through it. Every moment of heroic certainty is followed by one of, well, now what?!
This is the same world that Joe Golem, another Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden character, inhabits. It’s a world of witches and alternate time lines. In the case of Cojacaru the Skinner, we have witches allying with the Nazis. The first issue started us in the middle of the action, with a group of allied soldiers trying to get important information to a church without dying.
Black Hammer is about stories: the stories we’re steeped in; the stories we’re trapped in; the stories that define us or that lie just out of reach of who we are; the stories that set us free; the stories that we tell ourselves; the stories that others tell us to make things easier; and the stories that we fight to live. While Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston dedicated a story arc in the main series of Black Hammer specifically to this meta-level storytelling, Visions takes our heroes of Spiral City and looses other creators upon them. In this case, Mariko Tamaki and Diego Olortegui approach this idea of shifting stories with some creative mischievousness. They take the family dynamic we’ve grown used to and drop them into different genres and archetypes all together. Seemingly, our center point to all of this is an unphased Captain Weird who is able to travel between alternate realities/stories.
If nothing else, I know that I’m never going to go wrong with a release from BOOM! Studios, but I’m still consistently caught off guard by the quality of their showings. Their most recent is Eve, an obvious reference to the Biblical story. Taking place not terribly far in the future, we are introduced to a girl and her father who have a job to do - a mission one might say - that Eve is just about to learn about. When a twist occurs in the story, we realize that maybe Eve isn’t where we thought she was (or never has been) and the circumstances are far worse. An android that looks like an old, mangled teddy bear named Wexler becomes her introduction to this new reality, and the adventure truly begins.