Archive for Alabaster

Order of the Harrow


Harrow County #9

This issue — featuring artwork by none other than Carla Speed McNeil! — focuses on the Skinless Boy. A mysterious man comes through town and lures the young haint out of the house. He claims to be a cannibal, and he knows an awful lot about the ghostly kid than even the Skinless Boy does. The kid doesn’t know his name, and the cannibal says he does — and he shows the kid a home he claims was his when he was alive. The Skinless Boy puts his skin back on and tries to reclaim his life from the little boy sleeping inside — but you can never really go home again, can you?

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, this is one of the most gloriously creepy and frightening horror comics on the stands. The cannibal — or the Boogeyman’s Boogeyman, as he calls himself at one point — makes a really wonderful new villain. And I was really jazzed to see McNeil contributing the artwork in this issue. Come on, y’all, you should all be reading this title.


Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #3

The Asquith twins have finally cast their spell, despite interference from a bunch of supernatural ghoul/dogs — and Dancy Flammarion claws her way out of hell and out of the swamp. And just to remind everyone what a complete badass she is, the first thing she does after getting back on solid ground is kill a bull alligator — no clothes, covered in mud, and her only weapon a broken branch. After that, she wanders to the road, where she’s picked up by a kindly motorist. Ha ha, he’s not a kindly motorist, he’s sinister as all heck. He tells her that he gave her another ride back when she was alive before, and that was when he had a couple vampires riding in his back seat. The guy is shady as the night. But he takes Dancy to Selma, and she’s reunited with Maisie.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Finally, finally, Dancy Flammarion is back among the living and ready to start butchering monsters again. Fantastic atmosphere, particularly riding in the truck with the shady old guy. Ain’t many things as much fun as reading a good Dancy Flammarion comic.

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Con Artists for the Dead


Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #2

Dancy Flammarion is dead, and Maisie — Dancy’s ex-girlfriend (and werewolf) (and ghost) — is trying to make some money with her only friend, Bird, a talking bird. Maisie is scamming people nowadays, posing as a “medium and Christian spiritualist” so people mourning their loved ones will pay her to talk to the dead. Of course, Maisie can’t talk to the dead, but Bird can sneak into homes and knock on tables so it looks like the dead are communicating with her. Meanwhile, Carson and Hunter, a couple of blood-drenched lesbian occultists, are making their plans while actual demons watch them for signs of weakness.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The dialogue between Maisie and Bird — and between Carson and Hunter — and really, between everyone — is just wonderful and fun, and the visuals are outstandingly creepy.


All-New Hawkeye #3

In the future, Old Man Hawkeye and Older Lady Hawkeye have raided SHIELD to get the grownup kids from Operation Communion back, with assistance from Captain America Chavez. Unfortunately, they don’t arrive in time for everyone. And in the present, Kate makes bad decisions, Clint visits his brother Barney, and they decide to fix their errors while time is still on their side.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see the band getting back together. Also cool to see America Chavez being as badass and super-cool as always in the future.


All-New Wolverine #4

Trying to keep her clones safe from Alchemax, Wolverine takes them to a place she knows can’t be spied on — the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange. Unfortunately, the place freaks Bellona out, and she accidentally releases a magical monster from captivity. When one of the clones falls severely ill in the aftermath, Strange teleports all of them to the local hospital to take an MRI — and what he finds is something he can’t handle with magic.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Always fun seeing highly physical characters like Laura interact with more cerebral ones like Strange. Laura’s clones are still good fun, and the humor and action are very nice.

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The Blackness of the Soul


Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #1

Dancy Flammarion, the Southern possibly-crazy monster-hunting albino girl, is back. No, wait, actually, she’s not back. She’s dead, and apparently in Hell, which is an infinite blank space inhabited only by Dancy and, occasionally, her furious, vengeful angel. Dancy doesn’t want to be in Hell, but she’s also not too keen on the angel telling her that her life was worthless or a betrayal or something that should be renounced. And while Dancy is dead, shady underworld characters in the South, including a wealthy fixer and a couple of psychos wearing cute animal masks, celebrate her end. Good times are here again for the forces of evil…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was so excited to see this. I got so much joy out of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s amazing Dancy Flammarion stories, and it’s great that, even with a new artist, the series is still maintaining the extremely high quality we’ve come to expect from it. Y’all get in on this one early, okay?


Harrow County #8

Emmy now knows for certain that her “sister” Kammi is thoroughly evil. She’s rousted up all the most evil of the haints in Harrow County and set them after Emmy to kill her, while she plans on killing Emmy’s father, just to hurt her a little bit more. Can Emmy and the few friendly haints on her side manage to get the better of Kammi and her ghostly army? And where does the girls’ mother come in?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Less low-key creepiness this time and more out-and-out supernatural war — but there’s still a lot of good to say for this story. A confrontation between the two sisters and their contrasting views of the world probably couldn’t end any other way…


All-New Hawkeye #2

In the future, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop have been betrayed by SHIELD and imprisoned by the Mandarin. And he’s also captured one of the super-psychic kids who’d helped cause the massacre of Mandarin’s people — and he wants the Hawkeyes to get the psychic to work for him so he can use him for his own weapon of mass destruction. But Kate has an ace in the hole — her ex-boyfriend and Kree superhero Noh-Varr, who’s much better equipped to deal with hordes of robots and the Mandarin’s powers. So what’s the Hawkeyes next move?

Verdict: Ehh, close enough to a thumbs up. I like the look of the Mandarin, but a lot of the story was just kinda nowhere. The surprise appearance of Marvel Boy was my favorite bit.


The Ultimates #2

The Ultimates have a plan to neutralize Galactus. It involves obtaining the giant mechanical “cradle” that originally transitioned Galen, the last surviving being of the previous universe, into the Devourer of Worlds of this universe. While the Black Panther keeps Galactus distracted with monologuing (the only attack that all supervillains respect), Monica Rambeau and America Chavez obtain the birthing chamber and teleport it to Galactus, then the rest of the team blast him inside the cradle — and what emerges, transformed, may look like Galactus — but it definitely doesn’t act like him anymore.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s all fairly standard proactive superhero fare — but the final splash page certainly does sell the issue. It can’t last, of course, but it’ll be fun seeing how it all goes wrong.


Spider-Gwen #3

Gwen travels to the regular Marvel Universe because she’s stuck in adamantium handcuffs she can’t get off. Once the extremely pregnant Spider-Woman of our universe gets her free, it’s time for Gwen to head home, where Officer Ben Grimm has just been inducted to the NYPD’s anti-Spider-Woman task force. They suspect Captain George Stacy of being one of Spider-Woman’s assistants, because she’s rescued him twice — and others are suspecting there may be a connection, too, as Matt Murdock, blind attorney and rotten lieutenant to Wilson Fisk, pays Captain Stacy a visit.

Meanwhile, Gwen goes to see friends from school and runs into the long-lost Harry Osborn, one of her best friends, alongside the late Peter Parker. Unfortunately, Harry blames Spider-Woman for Peter’s death, just like everyone else — and he has plans for what he means to do about it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story, fun art, all kinds of great complications getting thrown into the blender. I still think Spider-Woman being pregnant is a bit out of left field, but her scenes with Gwen are really fantastic.


Starfire #7

Dick Grayson, Agent of SHIELD — um, Spyral or Spectre or whatever he’s an agent of — is in Florida tracking some bad guys. He disguises himself to get aboard a yacht — and as it turns out, Starfire is on the same boat, so he enlists her to help out. Will they be able to stop the villains, retrieve the secret package, and discover what kind of being is stalking Kory?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Sorry — I thought it was more than a bit dull.

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Alabaster and Onyx


Alabaster: Pale Horse by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Hopefully, you enjoyed Dark Horse’s “Alabaster: Wolves” miniseries that came out two years ago. I figured I’d never get a chance to read Caitlin R. Kiernan’s original short stories about Dancy Flammarion, the weird Southern monster-hunting possibly-crazy albino girl who starred in the series. But as it turned out, Dark Horse decided to collect Kiernan’s previous tales in this nice softcover.

So we get a series of six stories, most of them fairly well connected to each other, covering the weirdness and terror of Dancy’s life from her childhood to her monster-stalking young adulthood. She meets up with were-creatures, vampires, angels, demons, and things that are so much worse. And for the most part, she’s very, very lucky. Things are just not very easy for Dancy Flammarion. She’s an albino walking around in the hot Georgia sun, every monster in the state knows who she is and wants revenge on her because she keeps killing monsters — even though everything she meets tends to be a lot tougher than she is.

Dancy’s the star, but a very strong supporting character is the Deep South atmosphere. It’s blazingly hot everywhere, even in the shade. Almost every location is run-down and filthy and corrupted and falling apart, aside from the occasional vampire-infested mansion. Everyone’s a monster, especially the people. In fact, just about the only really decent people are animals who Dancy may be hallucinating.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I really was kinda overjoyed when I saw this in the local shop. I’d never dreamed there was a chance I’d get to see all the Dancy Flammarion stories all in one place, and I loved the comic series so much, this one was kinda a zero-hesitation buy.

Dancy’s an outstanding character — quite clearly insane, except for the fact that she keeps fighting monsters and talking to dogs and angels. Unless those are just normal people she’s killing. She comes across as low-grade white trash, broken inside, wandering aimlessly and miserably around the South, getting screamed at by the voices inside her head. But she’s got a weirdly hyper-moral core of her personality — she doesn’t seem to particularly hate monsters — in fact, she generally acts like she’d just as soon leave them alone, especially because they keep trying to kill her.

But she keeps going, partly because her angel keeps screaming at her, partly because she’s on a holy crusade. Dancy’s a doomed character — you just can’t imagine any way she could ever get out of this life or find happiness or even survive much past the next year or so. But it’s absolutely clear that she’d keep right on going, no matter what, because she can’t imagine life without her crusade.

And one more point to recommend this one — it ends with a fantastically creepy afterword from Kiernan recounting a moment of her life along a Georgia highway that helped inspire the horrors of the Dancy stories. Don’t skip the afterword. It’s very good and very spooky.

If you like wonderfully visceral, grim, dirty horror with a sweet Southern twang, starring an amazingly, awesomely weird female protagonist, you’ll definitely want to pick this up.

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Ghost to Ghost

Dark Horse Presents #13

This month’s highlights include Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto rebooting Ghost for the era of paranormal reality TV; Carla Speed McNeil’s always-amazing “Finder: Third World”; John Layman and Sam Kieth looking at android psychology in the ongoing battle against xenomorph aliens; John Arcudi and Jonathon Case’s deformed detective in “The Creep”; Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten sending the heroes of “Criminal Macabre” up against a horde of werewolves; and much, much more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of fun stuff this time, particularly “Finder,” “The Creep,” and “Aliens.” The “Ghost” reboot was interesting, at least for a first chapter. There were a few stinkers in this issue, too, but on the whole, it’s still worth reading.

Alabaster: Wolves #3

Dancy Flammarion has a new benefactor — the ghost of the werewolf girl she killed in the first issue! She drags her out of the burning church and helps nurse her back to health, but Dancy doesn’t trust her. She demands answers to her questions about her former guardian angel, and Dancy tells her about the time the angel guided her to a werepanther she had to kill, and about the panther’s cruel owner.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good, creepy fun. Moody, good dialogue, excellent characterization. I loved this all the way through.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Devil’s Engine #2

Estranged BPRD agent Andrew Devon, flighty precognitive Fenix, and Bruiser, Fenix’s dog, are out walking along a deserted highway, the lone survivors of the colossal train crash that stranded them out in the desert. They finally locate a semi truck they can use for transport — only to discover there’s half a dead body inside. And then they get attacked by giant monsters. They manage to flee, but there’s not enough gas to get them far. Is there any hope for them? Meanwhile, the Nazi bastards running Zinco are working hard to get their old diabolical, world-ending tricks going again.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent apocalyptic action. Outstanding monsters and tension. Just an all-around great comic. It’s amazing how good nearly all of the BPRD comics have been for the last few years.

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Blade of Frankenstein

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #9

Frankenstein and Nina Mazursky get sent out on a missing persons case connected to Animal Man — the last person to see Buddy Baker has gone missing. It’s not long before Frank and  Nina locate their quarry, and he’s dead — in fact, he’s been taken over by the Rot, the dead counterpart to the Green and the Red, as seen in “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing.” Frankenstein at least seems to be immune to the contaminating death-touch of the Rot, but the undead horrors are spreading faster, and neither swords nor flamethrowers do anything to slow them down. Does S.H.A.D.E. have anything in its arsenal that can stop the Rot?

Verdict: Ehhh, I don’t know. The story is **okay** but no great shakes. I wasn’t any kind of a fan of “Swamp Thing,” which was just infested with crap about the Rot. I hope we’re not going to start seeing this stuff in more than just a few isolated comics…

Alabaster: Wolves #2

Dancy Flammarion has just finished killing a werewolf — and now she’s worried she’s gotten a fever from her injuries. Not lycanthropy — as far as she knows, you can only catch werewolfery from a bite. Nevertheless, she’s stuck in a deserted town, having fever dreams, talking to birds, worried that she could die from her fever. She breaks into an old drugstore to find some medicine and goes off to find a nice, safe church where she can rest and recuperate. Too bad it’s been taken over by all the local monsters…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very fun story, fantastic character work, too. Dancy is a great character, and that’s all there is to it. Excellent action, and pretty good mood, too. I’m enjoying this quite a bit.

Fatale #5

Walt Booker, desperate to get his cure for cancer, betrays Josephine, knocks her out, and takes her to the demonic crime boss, Bishop, who plans to sacrifice Jo and Hank Raines — and likely, to stiff Booker on his cancer cure. But Booker may not be as utterly untrustworthy as he looks. Does he have a chance to strike a blow against the immortal Bishop, save Jo and Hank, and come out of all this smelling like a rose?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Hard-boiled action and magic-charged horror. I am so glad I was able to get this series — it took a few weeks for my local shop to get this in stock — because it has been so much fun to read. Great writing, great art, can’t wait for more.

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Dancy in the Dark

Alabaster: Wolves #1

Caitlin R. Kiernan is the writer of this new Dark Horse series, based on the adventures of a character she’s written in several books. Dancy Flammarion is a young Southern girl, an albino, and a monster hunter, watched over by her own multi-headed guardian angel. Dancy is hanging out in a small, dying town in South Carolina waiting for a bus when she meets up with a girl who knows far too much about her — in fact, the girl is a werewolf, and she challenges Dancy to a riddle contest. If Dancy wins, she gets back a cigar box of her old trinkets and possessions; if the werewolf wins, it’s suppertime. And then Dancy has to go and screw it all up by making her angel mad.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Didn’t plan on picking this up, and didn’t know anything about the novels the character comes from, but the previews I saw of this were really great fun. Dancy is a really wonderful character with a great voice and personality. Heck, the werewolf girl is a great character, too. Come to think of it, the bird Dancy talks to is a pretty good character, too. Love Steve Lieber’s artwork, too — the atmosphere in the deserted town is pretty much perfect.

Batgirl #8

Barbara has learned that one of Grotesque’s minions was one of the Joker’s henchmen on the night she was shot. And for some reason, she lets him go free. She finally has the long-overdue talk with her estranged mother and learns that she left the family because she had a breakdown when Barbara’s little brother, James Jr., killed a cat and told her he’d kill Babs if she didn’t leave the family. Batgirl meets up with Grotesque again, gives him the beatdown he deserves, and gets her unexpected closure from Danny, the henchman who watched her get shot all those years ago. All that plus a nice little cliffhanger on the last page…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m not sure I buy Babs letting Danny go the first time, but the rest of the comic is gold. And the cliffhanger really is stellar. Don’t wanna say more and spoil it, but it’s just wonderful — I was afraid we’d lost that particular character in the DC Reboot.

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #4

The Black Flame, a skull-faced specter able to burn anything with mystical black fire, is running amok as mobster Arnie Wald presses his attack on Lobster Johnson and his crimefighting cohorts. Lobster takes out most of the gangsters, but the Black Flame is a bit more impervious. Can anything stop the undying monster?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent art and writing. Good twists and turns in the story, too.

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