Archive for Severed

Skin of my Tiefling

Dungeons & Dragons #15

As seems to be the standard state of affairs, things are not going well for Adric Fell and his band of adventurers. Adric and Bree the halfling rogue are getting chased by a beholder, Tisha the tiefling warlock has fallen down a chasm and found herself surrounded by hordes of monstrous kruthiks, and Khal the dwarven paladin and Varis the elven ranger are fighting off Danni (Khal’s girlfriend) and her shapeshifting homunculi. No spoilers for how they get out of these predicaments — but the solutions include teaming up with the kruthiks, kissing a dwarf, and opening a portal to a realm of Elemental Evil. All in a day’s work for Fell’s Five!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing but awesomeness all the way through. Tons of wonderful moments — Bree offering to stab Adric to help him run faster, Khal and Varis bantering in the midst of battle, the beholder saying “Pardon?” The sole disappointment I have with this issue was realizing that it’s one of the few series that IDW doesn’t promote. I mean, come on, it’s the best fantasy comic on the shelves, and you don’t wave signs about it? That’s crazy, man.

The Unwritten #34

Tom Taylor is done for — the Cabal has captured him and taken away his magic powers by enlisting a roomful of storytellers to read conflicting stories about him. But Lizzie Hexam and Richie Savoy have been listening in, and as soon as they realize he’s in trouble, they use the magic doorknob to take them to the storytellers, where they sow a ton of chaos and disrupt their ability to block his powers. With his powers back, Tom takes care of the Cabal’s inner circle, then summons the spirit of one of its dead members to interrogate it about what the Cabal is. And he learns the answers to everything can be found in the Cabal’s deepest basement by communing with something called the Sibyl. Will he learn the answers he needs?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, great action, good dialogue. This all feels like it’s leading up to something big. This series isn’t about to end, is it? It feels like it’s all working up to a conclusion…

Severed #7

Jack Garron has been captured by the salesman, who has engineered his entire journey to this point. He’s killed Jack’s best friend, he’s hidden him from the world, he’s taken one of his arms off, and he plans to eat Jack alive. And then Jack’s adoptive mother shows up on the doorstep, and the salesman decides to take care of her, too. With one arm lopped off, strung up in the basement, does Jack have a chance in hell of stopping an immortal cannibal?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, excellent action, some outstanding plot twists. And in the end, perfectly, gloriously bleak horror. If you haven’t read any of this yet, I think you’ll certainly want to pick up the trade paperback when it’s released.

Demon Knights #6

With the army of the Questing Queen and Mordru laying siege to the village of Little Spring, our heroes have their work cut out for them. Exoristos the Amazon takes out some of the enemy’s siege-monsters, the Horsewoman mentally communicates with all the wild horses in the countryside, and Al Jabr’s crossbow-engines slaughter multitudes. But Exoristos is eventually cut down, the Horsewoman gets gravely injured, and the Horde finally breaks through the village’s defenses. Is there any hope to save the village?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, this story is obviously being stretched out to fill a trade paperback, just like all of DC’s other comics, but at least this one feels appropriately epic in scope. Still, they’re going to have to make it worth sticking around for the eight issues it’s apparently going to take to complete this first storyarc.

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Beware the Claw!

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1

This new Lobster Johnson series starts off with a 1930s setting, a scalped cop, and a bunch of mobsters dressed up as ghostly Indians. They all get slaughtered by Lobster Johnson before they can kill anyone else, and the case attracts the attention of a newspaper reporter named Cindy Tynan, and while most of the locals refuse to talk to her, she’s able to get a lot of the backstory from Harry McTell, a black mechanic, who shares his theory that the mobsters are pulling a Scooby-Doo plot — scare off all the locals, then buy their homes for a song. But when the Mob finds out that Cindy is snooping into their business, they’re going to send a few goons out to give her a permanent deadline.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent writing as ever from Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, with the excellent addition of Tonci Zonjic on art chores. Zonjic does a great job with action, facial expressions, and pretty much everything he works on, and I always love seeing his stuff.

Wonder Woman #5

While Wonder Woman, Hermes, and Zola hang around London, they meet up with a guy named Lennox, who claims to be the half-mortal son of one of the gods. He offers to help them out, and Wonder Woman gets to have a meeting with Poseidon, the very large and very fishy god of the sea. How will he react to Wondy’s request for an audience? And what kind of trouble is Lennox going to run into in London’s sewers?

Verdict: I’ll thumb this one up for the sake of Tony Akins’ art (which isn’t as good as Cliff Chiang’s, but is still pretty good) and for the always-fun visions of the modern-day Greek pantheon. But I don’t yet understand why anyone should care about Lennox, and the issue in general doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of story or action running through it.

Severed #6

Jack Garron is traveling to his father’s home in Mississippi with the traveling salesman, who he has recently discovered is a violent, murderous man who’s lied about his friend Sam deserting and robbing him. Jack gives the salesman the wrong address to his father’s home, then accompanies him to the “recording studio” — actually just a shack in the swamp. Jack tries to kill him with a switchblade, but the salesman has an axe — and his scary shark teeth. Jack wisely beats it outta there and steals the salesman’s car. Hoping he’s seen the last of the salesman, Jack heads for his father’s home, only to learn that both of his birth parents have been dead for almost a decade. So who’s been sending him letters all this time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great suspense and beautiful artwork. This one’s nearing the end, and I’m keen to see how it all works out.

The Unwritten #33

More and more people worldwide believe that Tom Taylor is the boy wizard Tommy Taylor, and as a result, Tom is hyper-charged with magical power. He plans to hit the Cabal’s headquarters as soon as possible so he’ll have enough magic to overwhelm their defenses, but he needs more information about where their HQ is located, which he manages to get by summoning and interrogating the ghost of the architect who created the building. But the Cabal knows he’s probably on the way. Pullman gives them a lecture on how consensus reality works and doesn’t work, and the Cabal’s masters work on a desperate gamble involving storytelling. Do they stand a chance of stopping Tom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, plot development and twists, fun art. As always, a good, solid read.

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A Stab in the Darkness

Demon Knights #4

Most of this story is a flashback of the Shining Knight’s origin. She had sustained a fatal wound on the battlefield after the fall of Camelot when Merlin found her and gave her a sip from the Holy Grail, granting her immortality and an obsession with finding the Grail again. What’s Merlin’s connection to all of this? Well, he’s the sap who threw the Grail away. Will Sir Ystina rededicate herself to finding the Grail and redeeming the world? And what sort of unpleasantness awaits her once she emerges from her vision?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An offbeat issue, but nice to get a little more background on Ystina and the world around our heroes. And it’s interesting that she either names their little band of adventurers or identifies the alien forces opposing them.

Severed #5

Jack Garron, on the hunt to find his mysterious musician father, has lost his best friend Sam. He thinks she tried to steal from him, but she was actually killed by the Salesman, a psychotic with a set of shark teeth. Now Jack is traveling south with the Salesman and slowly learning that he isn’t everything he said he was. He won’t tell anyone his real name, and when Jack gets into trouble with a shady character on the road, the Salesman butchers the man with ease. How much danger is Jack in? Probably a lot…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice, dark, bleak, bloody story. Hard to figure out any way there’s going to be hope for Jack to escape all this unscathed… but if we remember the first issue, we actually know that he won’t…

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Russia #4

The Russians are trying to keep an abomination from exploding out of the ground, so they’ve recruited Johann Kraus to go down into the mines and blow it up with a tacnuke. The complications include the monster sending wave after wave of zombies at the troops aboveground while it takes over the minds and bodies of the Russian soldiers accompanying Johann into the depths. Can a soldier’s sacrifice help Johann destroy the monster? And will the Russians destroy Johann just to make sure the threat is ended?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Hopeless situations, bleak outlook, certain death, noble but doomed sacrifice, and tainted miracles — dadgum, it’s like reading Russian lit! And it’s a lot less wordy, so that’s a good thing…

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Atomic Beatdown

Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X #3

Last issue, someone made a pretty good attempt at killing Atomic Robo. Now, he and his team are trying to figure out which of their enemies could be behind the attack — and the attack doesn’t really fit the M.O.s of any of the groups they’ve tangled with in the past. One of their analysts is able to hit a lucky bit of data that lets them trace where the calls into the company HQ were coming from, and the team scrambles to take them out with a surgical strike. Meanwhile, some of Robo’s old employees are working with British intelligence to track a two-story flat that’s been mysteriously stolen — they’re finally having some progress with interviews, but it just opens up more mysteries. And in Omaha, Nebraska, where Robo’s team has tracked the rogue signals, they find an empty office building — and they get ambushed by a large military force. They’re able to elude them and even take out some of their forces, but these guys are not willing to let Robo get away again.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great action, great art, wonderful humor and dialogue. This comic is insanely fun, and I don’t know why more of you aren’t reading it. Why do you hate fun and joy, non-readers? Whyyyy?

The Amazing Spider-Man #674

Spider-Island is no more, but some people are still coming to town wishing they could get some spider-powers of their own. They’re soon inducted into a new gang that specializes in high-rise burglaries and sometimes killing their members by dropping them from great heights. Peter Parker and his ex-girlfriend Carlie Cooper soon realize they’re after the same group of people, but long before they get too far in their investigation, we are introduced to the high flying gang and their leader, the Vulture.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I don’t know if they really meant that last-page reveal to be a big surprise, but anyone who wasn’t expecting the Vulture after seeing the cover or reading any of the rest of the story just wasn’t paying any real attention. Still, nice story, good dialogue, decent action.

Severed #4

Jack’s friend Sam — a girl passing as a boy to avoid unwanted creeps in 1930s Chicago — is very suspicious of “Alan Fisher,” the shark-toothed killer who is pretending to be a phonograph salesman. She stole one of his business cards and calls his boss, who tells her he hasn’t heard from the real Alan Fisher in days and agrees to meet with her to figure out what’s going on. However, Jack believes what Fisher has told them, and they have a big argument — though they eventually reconcile. Unfortunately, when Sam goes to see Fisher’s boss, it turns out it was really Fisher all along. Is there going to be a good ending for either Sam or Jack? I wouldn’t bet on it…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Dead grim Depression-era horror, with some serious scares and a ton of suspense. I really do love the way Scott Snyder seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the comics world’s best and most important writers.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Here’s a really cool video by Alan Moore, creator of a lot of the best comics in history, talking at length about the importance of the late Harvey Pekar.
  • Lots of webcomics are coming up with interesting ways to talk about depression.
  • Hey, do me a solid and go sign this petition. These Internet blacklist bills Congress is working on passing are guaranteed Internet-killers. They’d shut down Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Etsy, Wikipedia, and most of the blogs in the country, including this one.

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Plants vs. Zombies

Swamp Thing #2

Alec Holland finds himself face-to-face with the Swamp Thing. But wait, didn’t Alec Holland used to be the Swamp Thing? Well, this Swamp Thing is a 1940s-era Swamp Thing, who used to be a pilot named Cal Rodgers. He’d already been marked from birth as a potential Swamp Thing, and when he died in a plane crash, nature transformed him into the Protector of the Green. Now he wants Holland to return to his place as DC’s plant-based swamp monster. Holland doesn’t want any part of this, but he agrees to let the Swamp Thing explain why he’s needed — there’s something called Sethe — neither a creature of the Green, or plant life, nor of the Red, or animal life — it’s a monster of death and decay.

And Holland is actually genetically predisposed to being a perfect candidate for SwampThinghood. Holland nevertheless refuses to become a Swamp Thing again, and the ’40s Swamp Thing reveals that he’s already preparing to die and become part of the Parliament of Trees. But the Sethe is already gunning for Holland, with its ever-growing army of heads-turned-backwards zombies. Holland gets rescued by a mysterious motorcyclist — but did his life just go from bad to worse?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I enjoyed this issue a lot more than I did the first. The art by Yanick Paquette is, probably, even more gorgeous than the first. And it helps the story a lot to have an actual Swamp Thing in the story, even if it isn’t Alec Holland. My primary complaint here is that a lot of the story is extremely text-heavy — can’t be helped, because the Swamp Thing’s mythology is pretty complex, especially with the added twists Scott Snyder is plugging in here. Still, it’s a lot of words, and you gotta be really dedicated to reading a heck of a lot of words in only a small number of pages.

Severed #3

Jack Garron is on his own in Chicago, having missed his chance to meet his real father. He’s now hanging out and playing his violin for tips, while his friend Sam, a homeless girl who cross-dresses to avoid the kinds of creeps who would prey on homeless girls, serves as his manager and promoter. They hope to have enough money in a few weeks to book train passage to Mississippi to find Jack’s father. Unfortunately, they’re being stalked by a child-eating maniac masquerading as a phonograph salesman. The salesman invites them to his place for dinner after hearing Jack play, and despite Sam’s misgivings, they go along. They get a duck dinner, a few laughs at the salesman’s dirty jokes, and a demonstration of his seriously scary bear trap.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I gotta say, for a comic where nothing much happens other than dinner, this was a very tense and suspenseful story. The salesman is entirely nasty enough to take out Jack and Sam by himself, especially with his monster-sized bear trap, so his entire ruse with dinner is strictly about playing with his food. Thoroughly nerve-wracking.

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Wonders and Horrors

Wonder Woman #1

First new Rebooted Wonder Woman comic from Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. And the biggest surprise about this isn’t that Azzarello’s writing is great, or that Chiang’s art is even better — the big surprise is that this isn’t really a superhero story. It’s horror.

We start out with Apollo in Singapore manufacturing his own oracles out of a trio of partygirls. After that, we get someone who looks likely to be Hera creating some centaur assassins by hacking off a couple horses’ heads and letting freakish human torsos claw their way out through the necks. Ewwww. This is all leading up to the centaurs attacking a woman named Zola who is being protected — against her will — by a weird looking guy with blue skin, big black eyes, and wings on his feet. He gives her a key that teleports her into Wonder Woman’s apartment in London. After they teleport back, Wondy beats the centaurs, reveals that Zola’s defender was actually Hermes, messenger of the gods. What the heck is going on here?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like I said, Azzarello and Chiang are quite outstanding. I don’t know if I like the idea of this being a horror comic from now on, but there’s no doubt that the gods are depicted amazingly horrifically. And it really feels like an amazingly apt interpretation — if the idea of gods doesn’t creep you out a bit, you’re not really thinking about it enough.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Russia #1

It’s not a good time to be in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Horrific monsters are roaming almost unchecked across the Earth, Liz Sherman has gone into hiding, and Abe Sapien has been shot, is in a coma, and is probably dying. Kate Corrigan and Johann Kraus are on a trip to Moscow to meet with Russia’s Occult Bureau. And Russia is undergoing some sort of fungal plague that is turning people into monsters. Kate learns from the Russians that many of the B.P.R.D.’s secrets have been revealed to the world by Wikileaks. And the biggest surprise for Kate and Johann comes when they meet the man running the Russia Occult Bureau.

Verdict: Thumbs up. We’re just in the process of establishing the plot right now — but what really has me excited about this one is that it may give us a chance to catch up with the creepy demon girl Varvara, who we haven’t seen in quite a few years.

Severed #2

The year is 1916, and teenager Jack Garron has run away from home to stow away on a train. He wants to make his way to Chicago so he can meet his real father, a musician who he hopes will help make him successful as a performer. Jack has another run-in with the train cop who tried to throw him off, but this time, he’s able to get the better of the man and get his possessions back with the aid of a new friend named Sam. After they get to Chicago, they agree to rent a room together, and Jack learns that Sam is actually a girl disguising herself as a boy to avoid being assaulted or killed on the road. But Jack ends up missing his father — and he’s gone all the way back home to Mississippi. Sam suggests they earn some money by having Jack play his violin so they can take a train south — but the murderous traveling salesman with the horrific shark teeth has Jack’s scent now, and there may be no escape.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A rough-hewn, dirty story set in a rough-hewn, dirty country — it’s easy to forget that the U.S. wasn’t always the clean, heroic place we’ve invented for our myths. Good dialogue and tension — and more tension on the way, from the looks of it.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Just one today. There are a lot of the books in the DC Reboot that I’m very glad I’m not reading, and this article includes a lot of the reasons why. DC looks a lot like they’ve given up on producing comics that are acceptable reading for either children or for mature adults — too much of their focus is on producing comics for, about, and by immature man-children.

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Sever the Nerves

Severed #1

If you’re like more and more comics readers, you probably think Scott Snyder is pretty ginchy. He’s got a new horror series out now, created with Scott Tuft as co-writer, and art by Attila Futaki.

The story is set in 1916, as young Jack Garron prepares to leave his home for music school. Something weird’s going on with him, though — he jokes around with his mom about becoming a hobo, proudly shows off his new school uniform, talks about his hopes for success at the new school — and then he sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night to actually hitch a ride on a boxcar in hopes of meeting his adoptive father and performing with him. Of course, things don’t go well for him — a railroad cop steals everything he has and throws him off the train, leaving him relying on a bunch of tramps.

But the real danger is taking place not too far away — an orphan named Frederick is offered an apprenticeship with an electrician named Mr. Porter who works for General Electric. Porter is friendly but very, very weird. He tells about working for actress Mary Pickford, makes morbid jokes about his teeth, shows the Frederick the basics of working with electricity, and sends him into a deserted “trainer house” to learn how to hook up the power to a fusebox. But you know what happens down in dark, deserted basements, right?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So far, it’s very early in the story, but what we do have is a nice creepy beginning, and that’s probably enough for now.

Robert Bloch’s That Hellbound Train #3

Martin’s affair with his secretary — a woman who secretly works for the diabolical Conductor in exchange for youth and beauty — leads to more trouble. His wife suspects and hires a private detective to shadow them. When his secret is uncovered, his wife divorces him, his boss fires him, and his whole life plunges straight downhill. And to top it all off, he falls in a river and dies very briefly before he’s revived. So now the Hellbound Train has come to collect him, and it’s too late to unwind the magic watch that’ll allow him to live forever. Or is it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A faithful recreation of Bloch’s old story, along with plenty of great, creepy art.

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