Tim Palmer, Fanbase Press Contributor

Tim Palmer, Fanbase Press Contributor

This is it, the conclusion of Fear Agent.  The final five issues, twenty-eight through thirty-two, are brought together in Volume Six: Out of Step, and they perfectly tie up the series, not in a neat, little bow, but in a tangled knot of emotions, violence, pain, sacrifice, hope, and retribution that does justice to the sorrows, struggles, and successes of Heath Huston, the last Fear Agent.  This is the last hurrah for Huston, and everything is on the line.  Everything has been on the line for Huston before, but this time, here at the end, the entire universe is on the line, the fate of existence lies in the hands of Huston, and he’s up to the challenge.

I had seen issues of IDW’s The Illegitimates hanging out on the shelves of the various comic book shops that I frequent, but didn’t really know anything about it beyond that it was created by Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam.  But, after I heard Killam on The Nerdist Podcast discussing The Illegitimates, from conception to writing with Marc Andreyko, to all the elements that have to come together to make an idea into a reality, I was intrigued.  And so, when the time came to be able to review the trade of issues one through six, I jumped at the opportunity, in the hopes of introducing the book to others.

Binary Gray, a strong and assured spin on the superhero genre from independent publisher Assailant Comics, started off with a rich and intriguing history from the very first issue, but now with issue eight, writer and creator Chris Charlton sheds light on the mysterious past of The Agency and blows Alex Gray’s world into pieces in the process.  It turns out Alex has an unexpected connection to the subversive Agency, and this raises more questions than it answers for the overwhelmed Alex.  In this issue, aptly titled "Karma Police," Alex is tasked with keeping his mother safe, and the emotional intensity of their situation is palpable, full of menace, danger, and regret.  The repercussions of The Agency and Alex’s choices here will be felt long into the future of Binary Gray

This is it.  The conclusion of Brian Wood’s Conan run, and the end of Robert E. Howard’s Queen of the Black Coast story.  Conan and the pirate queen Bêlit, the titular Queen of the Black Coast, are an unstoppable force, their desire for each other as intense as it is ferocious, and nothing on land or sea, Heaven or Hell, can keep them apart.  While equals, they both retain their individuality as they learn new things about themselves through the other. They are a violent, powerful couple, laying waste to those that defy them or stand in their way.  From their very first encounter, their love has been fraught with danger, with deceit, with death, and with each escape or conquest, there is a sense that this cannot last forever.  Collecting Conan issues nineteen through twenty-five, The Song of Bêlit tackles what happens when that time runs out and what is left in the wake of such a passionate, all-consuming relationship.

Frank Doberano is back in Los Angeles, and while the city may have changed, Frank is betting everything that Jasper Kane is still the same no-good criminal scumbag who killed his partner all that time ago.  Rehabilitated in the eyes of the city, and never having to actually pay for his crimes, Kane is now on top of the world, but Frank doesn’t intend to let him stay there for long, no matter what anyone else says.  Frank has made up his mind, and Kane is going down.  Welcome to issue two of Doberman, the new buddy cop comedy comic from Darby Pop Publishing and IDW.

The Guns of Shadow Valley is tremendous, plain and simple.  The deft blend of western, supernatural, and science fiction staples and surprises is sure to delight fans of all three genres, and the different genres may even win some new converts thanks to creators Dave Wachter and James Andrew Clark’s twisting tale of redemption, revenge, power, and purpose in the old west.  Starting off small and mysterious, the story and its characters grow larger in scale and depth with each issue, and, before you know it, you are in the middle of a complex and rousing epic.

I am here to bring to your attention once more the outrageous and unbelievable adventures, trials, and feats of bravura insanity that make up the existence of Fear Agent Heath Huston.  Continuing down his uniquely oscillating path of self-destruction and self-sacrifice in this fifth volume, I Against I, Huston finds himself coming face to face with his own worst self.  The complexities and intricacies of that encounter I will let you discover for yourself, because the Fear Agent co-creators, writer Rick Remender and artist Tony Moore, have a plethora of mind-warping shocks and surprises in store for Huston, and just as he is blindsided by these revelations, so should you be, too, intrepid reader.

Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman’s reign of terror continues!  I’m talking of course about their Image Comics series Burn the Orphanage, now on the third issue of its second miniseries, Reign of Terror.  Grace and Freedman are co-creators and co-writers, with Grace also providing the artwork.  Born out of nostalgia for butt-kicking video games and action movies of the nineties, Burn the Orphanage has moved on to create its own mythos and backstory, and Grace and Freedman adeptly pull in elements and characters from the fist miniseries, proving that nothing Rock and his friends Lex and Bear do is an act unto itself.  Their actions have far-reaching consequences, and now more than ever, everyone is depending on them to save the day.

I have read issue eight of digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics’ Knuckleheads twice now, and I’m not ashamed to admit that both times I teared up.  If you have read issue seven, you probably have a pretty good idea why this issue packs such an emotional punch, and it really, truly does.  Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson IV’s sci-fi buddy comedy has always focused on the hilarity and complexity that exists within friendships, and the importance of having a support system when facing tough and unexpected challenges, or when trying to unlock superpowers.  Bringing the first story arc, Fist Contact, to a close, the Knuckleheads solidify that necessity for relationships as Trev, Lance, Emma, and Guy finally become something of a family, and we celebrate their triumphs alongside them.

Brian Buccellato’s Foster is a labor of love, and it shows on every page, from the introduction by long-time friend Robert Place Napton to the final scene.  Eddie Foster is a down-and-out war vet living on the fringes of the gritty, grimy, noir-ish Vintage City.  He has chosen the life of a drunk, and his mantra is to only look out for himself.  When we meet him, the world wants nothing to do with him, and he wants nothing to do with the world.  Things take a turn when he takes in his absentee neighbor’s six-year-old son Ben and suddenly finds himself protecting the boy from monsters, scientists, and the police, not to mention from Eddie’s own poor choices and inner demons.  As these first six issues unfold, Buccellato slowly pulls back the layers of Eddie’s past and lets us into his emotionally damaged psyche.  You find yourself both liking and loathing Eddie Foster as he battles against his own selfish impulses, setting himself up for failure sometimes, and doing all he can to help Ben at other times.  Kudos to Buccellato for revealing Eddie’s dark, tragic backstory slowly and for leaving it up to the reader to decide how much of his past is his fault and how much is due to his experiences.  But, even if the mistakes in Eddie’s past are due to his experiences, does that really let him off the hook for the choices he’s made?  That is a question that Buccellato asks the reader, and that Eddie struggles with constantly, and this is part of what makes him such a complex, compelling character.    

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