So I am, technically, on vacation this week. Normally, that would mean a quick throw-away article if I was busy doing vacation stuff, or some crazy in-depth thing about something I’ve read, re-read, or dug into in my time off from the day job. This time, though… I’m not busy doing anything but goofing off. And I haven’t had time yet to dig into anything especially interesting. So I guess I guess I’ll just talk about this here stack of funnybooks like always, then. It’ll just maybe come up a little bit shorter than usual. I’ve got all that nothing to get back to, after all…
Black Hammer: Age of Doom 3
by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston
It’s hard to believe that we’re only three issues in on this book. Seems longer. I mean, there was the entire original series. And a couple of mini-series side projects. But, still. It seems longer than three months since Black Hammer proper returned. Obviously not. But it feels like it’s covered a lot of ground. Maybe that’s just because I assumed, back in issue one, that Lucy’s journey through whatever underworld she’s been trapped in would be a long and epic one, and this issue she seems to be well on her way back to the Farm.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The main thrust of this issue is two-fold. On the one hand, Lucy (the new Black Hammer) encounters stand-ins for the Endless from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman…
…and they help her on her way. The scene moves past a bit too quickly, with the Endless stand-ins registering as little more than plot devices. I mean, I suppose the monster bar she was in last time served the same purpose. But it FELT more important, more a part of the over-arching plot, something that was leading somewhere. This time around, it just feels like Lemire’s walking her through a tour of famous horror comics. Which is entertaining enough, I suppose. The Endless stand-ins are charming, and their names are funny. It’s just a bit more lightweight than I expect from this book.
Not that most of the characters aren’t some kind of commentary on comic book history, mind you. It’s just that they’ve all tended to also be characters worth reading about in their own right, with real stakes to add to the story. Golden Gail is a piss-take on Mary Marvel, for instance, but her emotional trauma over being trapped for decades in the body of a little girl is meaty stuff. And that’s what I’m used to with Black Hammer: there aren’t any throw-aways. Everything adds something of consequence. And here… I just don’t get that feeling.
Luckily, then, the issue’s other focus is on advancing existing storylines. Abe tries to make peace with Tammy, and Barbalien confronts the local minister he’s recently gotten involved with…
…both with strange results, born of meddling from Madame Dragonfly. Why she’s doing this – hell, why she’s BEEN doing this for ten years now – remains a mystery. THE mystery, to be honest. The central question at the core of this book. The implication is that she’s been keeping Our Heroes trapped in this unreal world, with Col. Weird’s help, but we don’t know the reason. Though it sounds like there’s a good one.
So, hmm. HMM. Either way, it sounds like things may be coming to a head soon. I have no idea where Lemire and Ormston will take it next, but in spite of my slight disappointment with this issue, I look forward to finding out.
Gideon Falls 4
by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino
Another Jeff Lemire horror comic, Gideon Falls is much more a supernatural thriller than it is a pastiche of anything. It concerns a mystical black barn of unknown origins, and the terrifying effect it has on the lives of the people it touches. We don’t know yet precisely what an encounter with the barn entails, but it mostly seems to involve madness and death.
What I like most about this book is the atmosphere of intense dread it conjures up. It’s easy to become jaded toward scenes of bloody murder, but Lemire and Sorrentino never quite let you settle in enough to become that complacent. There’s something bad in that barn. Something scary. And that’s just the way I want it.
Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye 4
by Jon Rivera and Michael Avon Oeming
Another psychedelic issue of a book that’s made “trippy” its stock in trade.
This is not a complaint, you understand. Far from it. While I wouldn’t want everything to read this way, it’s fun and refreshing here. Rivera and Oeming handle it well, anyway, and it’s the approach I’ve come to expect. It also allows them to tackle some serious sci-fi concepts without them getting too heavy. This time around, it’s a story about how easily duty can overcome decency and common sense.
Which is hardly new territory for pulp sci-fi, I’ll grant you. We’ve seen these kinds of cultural breakdowns on space-faring generation ships before. But Rivera and Oeming manage to entertain while they’re covering that familiar ground. They decorate it up with plenty of their own fictional gew-gaws, so I’ll forgive them the well-worn plot.
The read IS a bit lightweight, I suppose, so I can’t give it a full four-star review. It’s a high three, though. It’s a REALLY high three…
Ether: The Copper Golems 2
by Matt Kindt and David Rubin
Another funnybook that’s fun, but maybe just a bit lightweight. There’s certainly not much to this issue, anyway, though I feel like the series as a whole has a bit more heft to it. This time out, though, it’s basically just a riddle and an action sequence. Entertaining, and beautifully-drawn, but still… Not much to it, really. Which is fine. It’s charming, at least. I enjoyed it. It features something called “Shoggoth Smokes,” after all…
…and that’s GOT to count for something.
But I might find the series wanting if it stays in this mode for more than an issue or two. Charming ideas and pretty pictures are fine for a while, but I want them to lead somewhere worth leading, in the end. I trust that this series, like the one that preceded it, will do that. And if not… Well, I suppose I’ll just be sad, then. For now, though, that’s another very, very high…
Man of Steel 4
by Brian Michael Bendis, Kevin Maguire, and Jason Fabok
This issue dealt solely with Rogol Zaar…
…and as such, it was the first issue I didn’t like at all. Seriously, I’ll be glad when this goon is out of the way, and we can get down to whatever the rest of Bendis’ Superman run is going to be. Because this is tedious. Not poorly-executed, in particular. I just don’t care about it. Get back to the arson, and the character study. And then maybe this’ll be worth my four bucks. For now, though, it barely ranks a very, very LOW…