Archive for Daytripper

Holiday Gift Bag: Daytripper

Well, well, well, looks like it’s time again for the biggest shopping day of the year! Time to go fight your way through wall-to-wall crowds at the mall, while stores offer insulting “doorbuster” sales that require you to get up at dark-thirty so they can squeeze another few pennies out of you. And don’t you just love shopping mall parking on the day after Thanksgiving? You know why they call it “Black Friday,” right? Because it’s EEEEVIL.

But I’m here to offer you an alternative: comics! There are lots of comics and comic-related gifts you can find for the comics fan in your life, or for the person who you want to turn on to comics. So we’re going to spend a few weeks looking through our Holiday Gift Bag to find some good presents that won’t require anything more stressful than a trip to your friendly neighborhood comics shop.

Today, let’s start things off with Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.

If you’ve read this site for a while, you know that this was my very favorite comic series from last year. It wasn’t available in trade paperback last Christmas, but it is now. And here’s why you should consider gifting it to someone else.

This isn’t a traditional comic story. There are no superheroes or villains, no great battle between good and evil, and the only fights are short, brutal, and generally deadly, just like real life. It’s not really a story about mundane life either — though the main character and everyone he knows are perfectly normal people, there are a few traces of magical realism. It’s definitely not a linear story. We follow our hero from the age of 32 to 21 to 28 to 41 to 11 and older and younger and older. But every chapter ends the same way.

Our hero is a Brazilian named Brás de Oliva Domingos. He’s the son of a famous writer, and he has dreams of becoming a writer himself. For now, he’s employed at a newspaper writing obituaries while working on his own novel. He’s got coworkers, a best friend, a prickly relationship with his father, and everything’s going about the way things do. And at the end, Brás dies.

No, not at the end of the entire story. Brás dies at the end of the first chapter.

And then at the end of the second chapter. And the third.

Brás doesn’t have superpowers. He just seems to die on days that are significant and important to him. The day of his first kiss, the day he meets his wife for the first time, the day his son is born, the day he spends writing obits for dozens of people dead in a plane crash.

You can call it miracles, alternate universes, metaphors, whatever you want. Because the deaths aren’t ultimately any more important than anyone else’s death. We all have death to look forward to, or to dread — we all get to die, from the top 1% to the schmuck at the bottom of the 99% rung.

What’s important is how we get there, right?

And how Brás gets there is what keeps you turning the pages of this story. His life, his family, his friends, his lovers, his trials and triumphs, from the entire stretch of his history, from childhood to old age. I wasn’t able to get enough of this, and I think you’d love it, too.

In a way, I’m still a little surprised it didn’t get more acclaim. It’s pretty much the best comic work that Moon and Bá have done — and both of them have done lots of brilliant work prior to this. The series won an Eisner Award, a Harvey, and an Eagle, and I’ve never heard anyone say a cross word about it. DC never published this as a hardcover, just a regular paperback — and this was definitely good enough for a hardcover. Still, DC’s loss is your gain — you can buy it for less than $20.

Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. Go pick it up.

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The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to do a year-end retrospective list — it’s always too difficult for me to pick out a list of things I enjoyed the most out of 12 whole months. But what the heck, I’m gonna try it today.

This list is strictly listed in alphabetical order. I can’t claim it’s a list of the best comics — I haven’t read all the comics, after all — but it’s the list of the 15 comics that I enjoyed the most.

American Vampire

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Stephen King came together to re-invent the vampire for the rough-and-tumble American West. Outstanding characters, close attention to setting, and rip-snorting horror make this a must-read for anyone who loves non-sparkly bloodsuckers.

Batgirl

The adventures of Stephanie Brown as the newest Batgirl are full of great humor, great action, great dialogue, and great characterizations. This is one of the best superhero comics around.

Batman and Robin

Grant Morrison’s triumphant run of Batman comics had its most epic stretch in these stories of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, as well as Alfred, Dr. Hurt, and the Joker. The scale of Morrison’s storytelling here was breathtaking.

Blackest Night

Possibly the most successful crossover storyarc in years, this grabbed readers’ imaginations and didn’t let go for months. Even better than its commercial successes were the overall excellence of the plotline. At its height, there was nothing as good as this story about zombies, power rings, and emotions.

Crossed

I’m not a fan of the new series, but Garth Ennis’ original Crossed miniseries was the most harrowing, brutal, relentless, depressing, and terrifying horror comic to hit the stands in a long, long time.

Daytripper

This was, without a single doubt, the best comic series of the entire year. Nothing else came close. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon deserve to win so many awards for this one. If you missed this series in the original run, you should definitely keep your eyes open in the next few months for the trade paperback.

Detective Comics starring Batwoman

Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III didn’t create the character, but they crafted her best stories. While Rucka brilliantly fleshed out her backstory, personality, and supporting cast, Williams took the stories and created some of the year’s most beautiful artwork and design.

Hellboy in Mexico

This story of, well, Hellboy in Mexico was my favorite, but I also loved all of the other collaborations between Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and fantasy artist Richard Corben. These two meshed together creatively in ways that very few creators are able to do, and all of us readers were the beneficiaries.

Joe the Barbarian

Grant Morrison’s fantasy story is both epic and mundane in scale, which is really quite a trick — Joe is in diabetic shock, and he’s hallucinating that his home and toys have turned into a fantasy kingdom. But what if he’s not really hallucinating?

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit

The second chapter of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Donald Westlake’s crime fiction is a beautiful tribute to Cooke’s retro-cool art sensibilities and the pure fun of good pulp crime novels.

Power Girl

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner created the best version of Power Girl ever for a year’s worth of funny, smart, sexy, exciting superhero stories. These creators loved this character, and you can tell that in every story they published about her. I still hope they’ll be able to come back to this title eventually.

Secret Six

Far and away DC’s best team book, Gail Simone has hooked us a bunch of people who are extremely likeable and also completely crazy and prone to trying to kill each other from moment to moment. This shouldn’t work as well as it does, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s colossal fun to read every single month.

Strange Science Fantasy

Scott Morse’s retro-pulp series packed a heck of a lot of audacious fun into six short issues. This was a treat visually, emotionally, intellectually — even on a tactile level, what with the heavy, rough paper it was printed on.

Thor and the Warriors Four

The Power Pack go to Asgard. I didn’t really expect much of it, to be honest, but readers were treated to godlike quantities of humor, excitement, whimsey, and awesomeness, thanks to writer Alex Zalben and artists Gurihiru, and to Colleen Coover’s excellent backup stories.

Tiny Titans

Probably the best all-ages comic out there right now. These comics are smart and funny and cute and just plain fun to read.

Aaaaand that’s what I got. There were plenty of other comics that just barely missed the cut, but these were nevertheless the ones that gave me the most joy when I was reading them.

So farewell, 2010. And hello, rapidly onrushing 2011. Hope you’re a better year for all of us, and I hope we can all look forward to plenty more great comics to come.

Now y’all be safe and have a good time tonight, but call a cab if you need it — I want to make sure all of y’all are here to read me in 2011.

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The Best Comic Series of the Year

Daytripper #10

It’s the final issue of this beautiful series. Brás de Oliva Domingos is 76 years old, and he’s just had three different brain tumors diagnosed by his doctor. And he decides he’s not going to fight it — he’s had a good life, and he doesn’t want to end his days strapped to a hospital bed. He breaks the news to his wife, gets to enjoy a meal with his son, who shares news about his grandchildren, and he gets a very, very old letter from his own father. And finally, he goes for a nighttime stroll on the beach outside his home.

Verdict: Do I have to say it? Thumbs up. Ten billion thumbs up. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá deserve to win every possible comics award out there for this series.

I’ve been trying to figure out what was my favorite moment from this final issue. It might be the all-in-darkness transition on pages two and three dividing Brás’ birth from his 76th year. It might be the way Brás throws the flowers into the ocean, or the way Brás’ son simultaneously resembles him and looks wildly different. It might be Brás’ train ride home from the hospital or the way he connects with a little girl on an elevator. It might be the letter from his father.

Okay, I’m not being serious. The best moment is when Brás breaks the news to his wife. It’s a sweet, sad, heartwarming moment, and it’ll make you want to go off by yourself and think for a while.

Here’s the only bad thing about it — DC won’t be releasing a collected edition of “Daytripper” for another five months. That’s even after Christmas! That’s just the maddest thing I’ve heard in a while — sometimes I wonder if DC even thinks these things through.

But if you can find Issue #10, go get it. If you can find the previous nine issues, go get them. If you have the patience to wait another five months for the collected edition, well, you’re stronger than I am.

I’ve got some other comics to review, but I’ll wait ’til another day for those. Anything would suffer in comparison to this.

“Daytripper” by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. It’s the best comic series of the year. Stone guarantee.

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Book of Dreams

Daytripper #9

It’s the next-to-the-last issue of this incredible series. Brás de Oliva Domingos is — well, he’s everywhere. A wide variety of ages. Sometimes a boy, sometimes an adult, sometimes married, sometimes visiting old friends and relatives, sometimes a completely different person. He’s dreaming, he can’t seem to wake up, and there’s something he needs to learn.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Thumbs up. Thumbs up. People, if you haven’t been reading this, you should’ve been. See if you can find the back issues. See if you can hunker down and wait for the trade paperback. This one is going to win awards, it’s going to wind up on everyone’s “Best of 2010″ lists, it’s going to be the type of story they teach in textbooks someday. It’s a beautifully illustrated and beautifully written story, and I hope you’ll go buy it and enjoy it.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #1

It’s definitely a new world for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense — they have a new mandate from the United Nations, a much larger staff and budget, and a new global focus on the supernatural threats popping up all over the world. While new field director Kate Corrigan works to coordinate worldwide operations, Abe Sapien heads up north to investigate a string of mysterious disappearances. Andrew Devon still worries that Abe is somehow allied with the recently defeated frogs, and Johann Kraus is deeply wishing he had his old body back again. What other secret threats and resentments are lurking in wait for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice new start for everyone, with several new interpersonal subplots that we haven’t had to deal with before — the tensions between Abe, Andrew, and Kate are going to end up being pretty interesting. Guy Davis’s artwork is as interesting as ever — he doesn’t do the prettiest, glossiest art, but he’s brilliant with characterization and mood — his facial expressions are great, and the scene where Abe discovers how empty the Canadian town has gotten is wonderfully creepy.

Birds of Prey #4

Eeeeverybody’s in trouble. Black Canary is taking on the White Canary, who is at least as good a fighter as Dinah is and quite likely better. Savant and Creote are planning on dropping Babs Gordon off a bridge. Hawk may be dying of poison, and the Penguin has just stabbed Lady Blackhawk because he thinks he’s going to be given a database that includes the secret identities of every superhero on Earth. Things are dire all around, and several sacrifices are going to have to be made if everyone is going to get out alive.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the greatest story in the world, but Gail Simone structures it very entertainingly. The tidbits we get from the White Canary’s life are pretty interesting, the fight scenes are good, and Oracle’s confrontation with Savant is quite nice.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Evidence of Absence

Daytripper #8

Brás de Oliva Domingos is now 47, and for the first time, he doesn’t actually appear in this issue. Our focus is on his wife and young son — Brás is traveling on business. But he keeps in touch with frequent phone calls and e-mails, telling them how much he loves them, making up new bedtime stories for his son, and telling them he’s looking forward to coming home soon. And of course, this series being what it is, we all know that’s not going to turn out the way Brás had planned…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good grief, this is just a great series — very likely the best we’ve seen so far this year. If you’re not reading it, you shoulda been, man. Just two issues left of this one…

Batgirl #12

While Oracle fights against the Calculator inside his own subconscious, Batgirl makes her way through the deathtraps in his secret headquarters. Can Stephanie save Oracle and everyone in Gotham City from Calculator and his techno-zombie virus?

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s an awesome cover, but I just couldn’t get excited about the story. Do we really need Wendy Harris as a second Oracle?

Birds of Prey #3

The Penguin is hallucinating from blood loss, a bunch of rogue cops attack the team with a couple of tanks, Savant and Creote aren’t actually dead after all and have shown up to kidnap Oracle, the White Canary manages to injure Hawk and force him to switch to his unpowered form, and there’s a secret mastermind — maybe several secret masterminds — behind everything.

Verdict: Thumbs down. There’s just too much going on — and even with all the stuff going on, we’re still not seeing the plot advance quickly enough.

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Hex Signs

Jonah Hex #56

Hey, that cover is by Darwyn Cooke! Yay! We all love Darwyn Cooke! And it’s basically Clint Eastwood with a really ugly scar! Yay!

Anyway, we get multiple stories in this issue. In the first, Jonah is hired by an elderly Indian woman to help her with some shady characters who want to buy her home from her. She’s willing to let them use the land to graze cattle, build roads through it, build other houses on the property, but she won’t move, because she’s old, and because her late husband built the house for her. And all she wants Hex to do is sit quietly in another room and make sure her visitors don’t get rowdy. If they don’t cause any trouble, Hex can collect his fee and be on his way. Of course, her visitors have ulterior motives for wanting the old woman’s house, and of course, they’ve got plans for her when she won’t sell… but is Jonah going to do anything about it?

The second story is mostly a retelling of Hex’s youth. He was sold by his father to a tribe of Apaches in exchange for allowing him and the rest of the family to pass peacefully, and his early years were filled with hardship and regular beatings from bullies in the tribe. Eventually, he found favor with the tribal leaders and one daughter of the tribe, but his chief rival’s hatred for him grew every day.

And finally, there’s an interview with comic writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and Jimmy Hayward, the director of the new “Jonah Hex” movie.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The first story really is pretty smack-kapow awesome — great dialogue, excellent plot, and beautifully detailed artwork by Phil Winslade. The second story is fine, too. The interview — ehh, if you’re into that kind of stuff, maybe you’ll like it. I scanned it, didn’t see anything particularly useful. I don’t know about you, but I ain’t holding out a lot of hope for the movie. The horse-mounted Gatling guns are plenty cool, and Josh Brolin seems to be a really good actor… but to be honest, I think the presence of Megan Fox in any movie makes it unwatchable. But we’ll see what the buzz says about the movie…

Daytripper #7

Brás de Oliva Domingos is now 38 years old, enjoying real success with his debut novel. But he can’t stop thinking about his old friend Jorge, who retreated from the world he missed a flight on a jetliner that later crashed and killed all the passengers. Desperate to reconnect with his best friend, he travels to the opposite end of the country after receiving a single postcard from Jorge. Will Brás be able to find Jorge again? And what will they have to say to each other after so many years apart?

Verdict: Another thumbs up for this wonderful, wonderful series. The artwork is gorgeous, the writing is magnificent, the emotional content is genuine. I love this series.

Prince of Power #2

While Amadeus Cho is out trying to acquire the recipe to literal godhood, Vali Halfling, an Asgardian scoundrel who wants the god recipe for much more selfish reasons, pulls off a sneaky attack and takes over the Olympus Groups corporate headquarters — in fact, he wants to be able to destroy all the gods. Meanwhile, Vali already beat Amadeus to Asgard’s immortality-granting Apples of Idunn, but Thor thinks that Amadeus was responsible for the theft. After a colossal fight (Amadeus is able to hold his own because he has Hercules’ magical mace and a forcefield designed by Bruce Banner), Amadeus is eventually able to convince the thunder god that he’s innocent — and that Thor and Amadeus can help bring Hercules back. But Vali Halfling isn’t the only obstacle in their way…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great action, fun dialogue, wonderful character work. Not much more I can say other than — this series rocks, and youse mugs should go get it.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Flashforward

The Flash #2

Flash is confronted by a bunch of guys who look like the Rogues and have the Rogues’ powers, but they’re actually a bunch of superpowered policemen from the future who claim that they need to arrest him for the future murder of one of their fellow officers named Mirror Monarch. He’s able to force them all back to the future, but the chronal mishap ends up destroying a nearby apartment building. Flash evacuates the building and then completely rebuilds it. Meanwhile, Captain Boomerang runs into Mirror Master and Captain Cold in prison, who tell him that, due to the way he let himself go before he was killed, they’re not just going to let him back into the Rogues until he can prove himself by giving the Flash as much trouble as possible. Back at the precinct house, Barry Allen opens a closed case that his boss wants to stay closed, plus he gets some bad news about the Mirror Monarch investigation.

Verdict: Ehh, not that enthused, sorry to say. The story seems fine, but this is all stuff that Barry did back in the old days. This title needs to prove that Barry Allen’s resurrection served some purpose other than letting Geoff Johns write about his old Silver Age heroes.

Daytripper #6

Brás de Oliva Domingos is now 33 years old, writing obituaries for a Brazilian newspaper. But his role at the paper gets a lot more prominent when there’s a colossal plane crash, and he’s tasked with helping families find closure by writing obits for all of the victims. And while he’s trying to create tributes to all the plane’s victims, he’s also upset because his friend Jorge has disappeared. Was he on the plane? Is he safe? Alive? And how does Brás’ fate intertwine with a long-haul trucker?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Another beautifully written and illustrated story from Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. Brás’ ongoing depression about Jorge and the difficulty of writing about a national tragedy is nicely contrasted with excerpts from his heartfelt obits for the victims of the crash. And the covers of this comic have all been absolutely brilliant so far — someone better be framing these somewhere, or printing them up in a book…

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Bunnies Aren't Just Cute Like Everybody Supposes…

The Unwritten #12

This was one of my favorite comics from last week, ’cause it’s got such a great hook.

We don’t see Tom Taylor or any of our other main characters this week — our focus is on Pauly Bruckner, a guy who’s stuck in a very bad situation. Pauly used to be a normal guy, a bit dishonest, who once made the mistake of breaking into the home of Wilson Taylor, famous author of the “Tommy Taylor” novels. And now Pauly is a bunny. A cute fluffy bunny with long ears and twitchy whiskers and a smart vest and a darling cravat and his home in the side of a hill in Willowbank Wood. Pauly hates Willowbank Wood, he hates living in a syrupy-sweet children’s story, he hates the other animals who act like twits and get nervous when he swears and tries to kill them, and he’s willing to do anything to get his old life back.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s like a hard-boiled crime novel taking place inside “House on Pooh Corner.” Does that make it awesome? Oh, heck yes, it’s awesome.

Daytripper #5

Brás de Oliva Domingos is now 11 years old. He’s living a pretty happy life, hanging out on his grandparents’ ranch, eating, listening to stories, flying kites, staging duels between beetles and frogs, and telling his cousins his favorite family story — that he was born dead during a blackout, but miraculously returned to life at the same time as the lights came back on. And in the end, something that is, by now, very much expected, comes to pass.

Verdict: Thumbs up. An interesting change of pace here — a look into Brás’ childhood. By now, I think it’s safe to tell this series’ special gimmick, yes? In each issue, we get some important day in Brás’ life, and at the end of each issue, Brás is killed. And it’s interesting that this may actually stem from his death and rebirth as a newborn. Anyway, great story, very charmingly told, and wonderful artwork. Please go pick up this series — so far, it’s been a great ride.

Chew #10

FDA agent/cannibal Tony Chu is running around the tropical island nation of Yamapalu, trying to keep himself, the girl he loves, and his brother alive in the middle of a rooster-inspired civil war. And it’s all complicated by a freakin’ vampire. Is everyone going to survive, or is somebody going to get their face eaten off by a freakin’ vampire?

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. This one just didn’t have the same oomph that the rest of the series normally has.

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Cowboys, Vampires, and Stephen King

American Vampire #1

Listen, man, I need good horror stories in my life. I need an occasional Western, too. And I got this entirely unnatural fondness for stuff from the 1920s. Co-written by Stephen King? That’s a bonus. Art by Rafael Albuquerque, who aside from having an awesome name, also provided art for my fondly-remembered “Blue Beetle” series? Another bonus. So yeah, you bet I picked this one up.

We get two different stories in this one. We start out in Hollywood in 1925, where Pearl Jones and her roommate Hattie are living their silver screen dreams — well, not really dreams. They’re just extras in a silent costume drama, and Pearl also works extra jobs as a cigarette girl in a fancy club and as a waitress in a diner to make ends meet. Things finally start looking up when she catches the eye of the handsome star of the movie, who invites her to a ritzy party being thrown by the film’s producer. And it turns out the producer and his friends have a — how shall we say this — a bit of a drinking problem, if you catch my drift.

Our second story is set in Sidewinder, Colorado, back in 1880, where notorious murderer and bank robber Skinner Sweet has finally been captured and is being taken by train to New Mexico, where he’ll be hanged. Riding with him are James Book, the Pinkerton agent who captured him, William Bunting, a writer looking for a story, and Mr. Percy, the wealthy financier who helped pay Agent Book’s salary. But even chained up, Sweet’s a dangerous outlaw — and that’s without his gang looking for a way to derail the train. And once the lead’s started flying at the end, it turns out that someone on the train has an even sweeter tooth than Skinner Sweet…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loves me a good vampire story. Pearl and Skinner both make very enjoyable protagonists, and we’re treated to a lot of fun characterization for both of them — probably more for Pearl, since she’s likely to be a much nicer and less murder-y protagonist than Skinner is. But all told? I like it. A lot.

Daytripper #4

Brás de Oliva Domingos is now in his 40s, and his wife is gonna have a baby any time now. After they race to the hospital, Brás learns that his father, a famous novelist, has just died. So he has to go through the stress of losing his father, the stress of the high-profile funeral, the stress of waiting for his baby to be born, and the stress of meeting, for only the second time, the half-sister he never knew. And then something unexpected happens.

Verdict: Thumbs up. For something that has basically the same ending every time, this one is a story that never fails to entertain me. The art and writing by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are just really wonderful. If you aren’t reading this, I really do hope you’ll start soon — it’s something special.

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Tripping the Light Fantastic

Daytripper #3

Seven years have passed since the events from the last issue, and Brás de Oliva Domingos’ relationship with Olinda has irretrievably soured. He goes through a few weeks of miserable loneliness, his friend Jorge and his father both trying to give him pep talks, before he finally runs into a girl he feels an instant attraction for while at the grocery. He starts to go on with his life, then decides he must at least try to meet her. And then something unexpected happens.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are turning out a fascinating series. The artwork is outstanding, the writing is fantastic, and the mystery behind the entire series is getting more and more interesting with every issue.

Secret Six #18

The Secret Six and the Suicide Squad are under attack at Belle Reve Prison by a squadron of Black Lantern zombies consisting of dead prisoners and dead Suicide Squad members. They all run for the Six’s headquarters, which Amanda Waller has put the torch to. Of course, the zombies follow, and another big fight erupts. Knowing they need something to even the odds, Waller has Nightshade teleport her back to Belle Reve to pick up a remote-controlled Manhunter robot. But can even it turn the tide?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great action and great characterization, even among all the zombie-fighting. And there’s a genuine shocker ending you’ll have to see to disbelieve.

The Unwritten #10

Tom Taylor, Lizzie Hexam, and Richard Savoy have escaped from prison — and possibly landed somewhere much worse — Nazi Germany. On the bright side, it’s some sort of hologram of Nazi Germany — no one can see them or touch them. Nevertheless, something has clearly gone bad wrong somewhere, and everyone is hopelessly lost. Back in the real world, Governor Chadron has taken on his new role as the vampire Count Ambrosio and is willing to do anything to get his claws on Tommy again. Back in the Germany hologram, Lizzie tries to contact her patrons, and Tom and Savoy meet Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis’ head propagandist — and he can see Tom and Savoy just fine. And if he can see them, is there anything else he can do to them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A big crazy scene-shift, so there’s some story derailment, since we don’t yet know what the Germany hallucination is about. But the ongoing mystery is getting more interesting, and Tom’s complete inexperience with this stuff means he’s in severe danger.

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