Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1

Comic book, 2012

Holy smokes. Arcudi and Zonjic, what a team. Two great tastes that tase great together. This is like eating a penut butter and Nutella sandwich for the first time. So rich, so smooth and so complimentary. A part of this  is simply due to the two creator’s shared sensibilities. Zonjic is clearly at home in the first half of the century, and even when Arcudi is writing a story about an occult military fighting a Jaguar-god in the modern day it feels oddly like a John Wayne movie. If there’s a disconnect it’s only that Zonjic’s images may be a little too delicate for Arcudi’s blunt disposition. But I’m really looking forward to drinking the rest of this series in.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia #4

BPRD Russia 4

Comic book, 2011

Okay, so, I really have to get over this thing where all I think about when reading BPRD is how the new artist, Tyler Crook, is not as good as the previous artist, Guy Davis. But I realized while reading this issue another big reason for that. Davis’ art was loose, from construction to inking. This left room for your imagination to participate in the horrors being depicted. (I mean Davis is also a brilliant designer and cartoon expressionist, some other departments in which Crook is falling short.) But Crook’s work is rendered in a concreate reality that leaves no room for your mind to play. He actually appears to be actively combating this, getting looser in his inking by tiny increments every issue. But I think the book’s editors are with me on this one- BPRD is about to be drawn by a variety of artists in its upcoming installments, a possible scaling back of Crook’s position as THE new BPRD artist. One of the upcoming artists, James Harren, is fresh off of Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest, where he turned in some of the best action scenes BPRD has ever seen. (His scenes of simple conversation were a bit awkward though.) Not to mention Tonci Zonjic drawing the upcoming Lobster Johnson series. His work on the last Madman annual knocked me out with sheer storytelling alone- his pitch perfect Moebius meets Herge art style is the icing on the cake. Anyway, BPRD still hasn’t found its way out of Davis’ shadow for me, and I don’t feel like I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Additional: I found out today that I am not a completist when it comes to Hellboy, as I passed on buying a copy of Dark Horse Presents #7, featuring what looks like a little wisp of a Hellboy short. I will be buying Dark horse Presents #8, however, which features a BPRD short. Being less willing to miss out on anything BPRD is a direct result of how much John Arcudi has made me care about these characters.

Dark Secrets of Infestation 2

Comic book, 2011

I got this little preview pamphlet for free on my way out of the comic shop tonight. Wow, what a piece of shit. It seems like the idea behind this whole thing, IDW’s Infestation 2, is that it’s a team up between the Ninja Turtles, Transformers, GI Joe and some other stuff. I can see a certain group of people getting really excited about that. But they wont get excited about whatever this thing is. Nope, instead we get the boring backstory of that crossover, the part no one cares about. I remember thinking years ago before the first Alien Vs Predator came out, “The worst thing they could do with this movie is make it about a bunch of stupid humans that no one cares about”. And of course, they did. I mean, if you’re going to try and sell me this orgy, why wont you stop telling me about the curtains in the room it takes place in? Just show me a room full of people having sex, that’s what I came here for. What was i talking about? Oh yeah, this is a boring piece of shit. I guess meta-hijacking Lovecraft’s entire body of work and using it as your own is like an official genre now. There’s also an Ed Anger essay in the back of this, because I guess IDW licensed the Weekly World News? That’s just ridiculous and pointless enough for a pass. But only for that part. Every other part of this manages to miss a target that a blind child who didn’t know they were in a shooting match could hit.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia #3

Comic book, 2011

My enjoyment of B.P.R.D.’s new artist, Tyler Crook, has been experiencing diminishing returns ever since his debut four issues ago. I really liked him on his first issue. I thought his art strode a line between cartooning and realism that allowed him to be very expressive, human and relatable, not unlike his predecessor. But since then I’ve increasingly found his line to be too stiff and controlled, his constructions too cartoony and tangible, to fit the wild, dirty, indiscriminately evil, and most of all scary, world of B.P.R.D. I was ready to have my opinion of Crook cemented in this issue, but something weird happened midway through. There are some bad drawings in this issue. Real bad. Not stylistically bad, but inept. But that poor quality brought a rawness and a realism to the story that most of his more competent work lacks. So, that happened. Is it him heading off to a new direction that I think will work better? Has B.P.R.D. finally gone Picturebox? Probably not. But I was given hope by a couple of the monsters here. He nails the last panel of the book pretty hard and the unmasking of Verlacz wasn’t too shabby either.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods #1

Comic book, 2011

Maybe it’s just our proximity to the era, but a lot of people seem stuck in the 90’s. Here, Arcudi, Mignola and Davis show us how out of touch they are with “the kids” by depicting a traveling group of them that must have gotten all of their older siblings hand-me-downs and haircuts. And I guess one of them is going to be around for a while, so we’ll be thrilling to these styles for a while. On the bright side, Davis draws a close-up of a woman’s face that literally took my breath away, and the colors are still soul-stirringly gorgeous. 3.5

Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead #1

Comic book, 2011

Run-of-the-mill Hellboy story (monster bother someone, Hellboy learn about monster, Hellboy smash monster) is kind of ruined by Scott Hampton’s art. His renderings of Hellboy are clearly copied from old Mignola-drawn issues, even going so far as to use the same source material for different panels in the same issue. Seems weird that Dark Horse would let that slip through, knowing how attentive Hellboy readers are. What’s not Hellboy is photo-traced. The effect achieved is stiff, lifeless, and hard to even comprehend in some places. Hellboy artists are supposed to be great renderers AND cartoonists. 2.5

Prison Pit

Comic book, 2009

This was a little more than the over-the-top gross out fest that I thought it was going to be. There’s an air of melancholy over the proceedings that I can’t quite give a name to, but I’m looking forward to returning to the work and reading it’s subsequent volumes to further explore it. 3.5

Neonomicon #3

Comic book, 2010

Hoo boy, Neonomicon. This thing is hard to take. I have a hard time accepting, and most of the time even rationalizing, rape depicted in entertainment. After the horrors of last issue this one doesn’t seem so bad, which seemed intentional. This comic is the first thing in a long time that feels dangerous, like I shouldn’t be reading it. They say that you can’t shock anyone any more, that there are no boundaries left uncrossed, but this book has proven otherwise, at least to me. Compared to the first two issues, this one’s pretty light on plot. It’s showing more and more of the horrors that it promised in the first couple of issues, and they’ve become more mundane as a result. Not sure if they could ever have appeared as terrifying as they were suggested to be, the only slow-burn horror I’ve ever seen deliver on it’s promises was Berserk, but we’ll see- the next issue promises to show even more. 3.5

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 1

Comic book, first published in Japan in 2002 with this American edition being released in 2006

Merely serviceable artwork and a story that mixes a bunch of concepts it thinks are edgy together and hopes they seem cool. They don’t. Cool cover though. 2

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World #5

Comic book, 2010

B.P.R.D.‘s first series since the world-changing events of their previous epic has been a consciously smaller one, hearkening back to the simpler stories of yore; B.P.R.D. hear about monster, find monster, resolve monster. While superficially that, this story also ties into the larger forces at work which adds some heft to an otherwise… underwhelming (?) story. I like the smaller stories, but something about this felt slight in a wrong way. Maybe it was the narrative simplicity; a mystery was established, the monster was fought and then we’re told explicitly what happened in five or so pages of straight exposition at the beginning of this issue. I’m willing to chalk the lack of complexity up to the creative team getting back in the saddle. 3.5