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Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2020

2020 definitely felt like a year where I embraced comics in all their different formats and genres from the convenient, satisfying graphic novella to the series of loosely connected and curated one shots and even the door stopper of an omnibus/hardcover or that charming webcomic that comes out one or twice a week on Instagram. This was partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down comics’ traditional direct market for a bit so I started reviewing webcomics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels and nonfiction even after this supply chain re-opened. I also co-hosted and edited two seasons of a podcast about indie comics where we basically read either a trade every week for discussion, and that definitely meant spending more time with that format. However, floppy fans should still be happy because I do have a traditional ongoing series on my list as well as some minis.

Without further ado, here are my favorite comics of 2020.

Marvels Snapshots: X-Men #1 – But Why Tho? A Geek Community

10. Marvels Snapshots (Marvel)

Curated by original Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and with cover art by original Marvels artist Alex Ross, Marvels Snapshots collects seven perspectives on on the “major” events of the Marvel Universe from the perspectives of ordinary people from The Golden Age of the 1940s to 2006’s Civil War. It’s cool to get a more character-driven and human POV on the ol’ corporate IP toy box from Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway exploring Namor the Submariner’s PTSD to Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Benjamin Dewey showing the real reason behind Johnny Storm’s airhead celebrity act. There’s also Mark Russell and Ramon Perez’s take on the classic Captain America “Madbomb” storyline, Barbara Kesel’s and Staz Johnson’s sweet, Bronze Age-era romance between two first responders as the Avengers battle a threat against the city, and Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly add nuance to the superhuman Civil War by showing how the Registration Act affects a Cape-Killer agent as well as a young elemental protector of Toledo, Ohio, who just wants to help his community and do things like purify water. However, the main reason Marvels Snapshots made my “favorite” list was Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly‘s character-defining work showing the pre-X-Men life of Cyclops as he struggles with orphan life, is inspired by heroes like Reed Richards, and lays the groundwork for the strategist, leader, and even revolutionary that appears in later comics.

9. Fangs (Tapas)

Fangs is cartoonist Sarah Andersen’s entry into the Gothic romance genre and was a light, funny, and occasionally sexy series that got me through a difficult year. Simply put, it follows the relationship of a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, both how they met and their life together. Andersen plays with vampire and werewolf fiction tropes and sets up humorous situations like a date night featuring a bloody rare steak and a glass of blood instead of wine, Jimmy having an unspoken animosity against mail carriers, and just generally working around things like lycanthropy every 28 days and an aversion to sunlight. As well as being hilarious and cute, Fangs shows Sarah Andersen leveling up as an artist as she works with deep blacks, different eye shapes and textures, and more detailed backgrounds to match the tone of her story while not skimping on the relatable content that made Sarah’s Scribbles an online phenomenon.

8. Heavy #1-3 (Vault)

I really got into Vault Comics this year. (I retroactively make These Savage Shores my favorite comic of 2019.) As far as prose, I mainly read SF, and Vault nicely fills that niche in the comics landscape and features talented, idiosyncratic creative teams. Heavy is no exception as Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter tell the story of Bill, who was gunned down by some mobsters, and now is separated from his wife in a place called “The Wait” where he has to set right enough multiversal wrongs via violence to be reunited with her in Heaven. This series is a glorious grab bag of hyperviolence, psychological examinations of toxic masculinity, and moral philosophy. Heavy also has a filthy and non-heteronormative sense of humor. Donovan and Peter bring a high level of chaotic energy to the book’s visuals and are game for both tenderhearted flashbacks as well as brawls with literal cum monsters. In addition to all this, Bemis and Donovan aren’t afraid to play with and deconstruct their series’ premise, which is what makes Heavy my ongoing monthly comic.

Amazon.com: Maids eBook: Skelly, Katie, Skelly, Katie: Kindle Store

7. Maids (Fantagraphics)

Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre in Maids, a highly stylized account of Christine and Lea Papin murdering their employers in France during the 1930s. Skelly’s linework and eye popping colors expertly convey the trauma and isolation that the Papins go through as they are at the beck and call of the family they work almost 24/7. Flashbacks add depth and context to Christine and Lea’s characters and provide fuel to the fire of the class warfare that they end up engaging in. Skelly’s simple, yet iconic approach character design really allowed me to connect with the Papins and empathize with them during the build-up from a new job to murder and mayhem. Maids is truly a showcase for a gifted cartoonist and not just a summary of historical events.

6. Grind Like A Girl (Gumroad/Instagram)

In her webcomic Grind Like A Girl, cartoonist Veronica Casson tells the story of growing up trans in 1990s New Jersey. The memoir recently came to a beautiful conclusion with Casson showing her first forays into New York, meeting other trans women, and finding a sense of community with them that was almost the polar opposite of her experiences in high school. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Veronica Casson’s art style during different periods of her life from an almost Peanuts vibe for her childhood to using more flowing lines, bright colors, and ambitious panel layouts as an older teen and finally an adult. She also does a good job using the Instagram platform to give readers a true “guided view” experience and point out certain details before putting it all together in a single page so one can appreciate the comic at both a macro/micro levels. All in all, Grind Like A Girl is a personal and stylish coming of age memoir from Veronica Casson, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

5. Papaya Salad (Dark Horse)

Thai/Italian cartoonist Elisa Macellari tells an unconventional World War II story in Papaya Salad, a recently translated history comic about her great uncle Sompong, who just wanted to see the world. However, he ended up serving with the Thai diplomatic corps in Italy, Germany, and Austria during World War II. Macellari uses a recipe for her great uncle’s favorite dish, papaya salad, to structure the comic, and her work has a warm, dreamlike quality to go with the reality of the places that Sampong visits and works at. Also, it’s very refreshing to get a non-American or British perspective on this time in history as Sampong grapples with the shifting status of Thailand during the war as well as the racism of American soldiers, who celebrate the atomic bomb and lump him and his colleagues with the Japanese officers, and are not shown in a very positive light. However, deep down, Papaya Salad is a love story filled with small human moments that make life worth living, like appetizing meals, jokes during dark times, and faith in something beyond ourselves. It’s a real showcase of the comics medium’s ability to tell stories from a unique point of view.

4. Pulp (Image)

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with colorist Jacob Phillips) are two creators whose work has graced my “favorite comics” list many times. And this time they really outdid themselves with the graphic novella Pulp about the final days of Max Winters, a gunslinger-turned-Western dime novelist. It’s a character study peppered with flashbacks as Phillips and Phillips use changes in body posture and color palette to show Max getting older while his passion for resisting those who would exploit others is still intact. Basically, he can shoot and rob fascists just like he shot and robbed cattle barons back in the day. Brubaker and Phillips understand that genre fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is informed by the historical context around it, which is what makes Pulp such a compelling read. If you like your explorations of the banality of evil and creeping specter of fascism with heists, gun battles, and plenty of introspection, then this is the comic for you.

3. My Riot (Oni Press)

Music is my next favorite interest after comics so My Riot was an easy pick for my favorite comics list. The book is a coming of age story filtered through 1990s riot girl music from writer Rick Spears and artist Emmett Helen. It follows the life of Valerie, who goes from doing ballet and living a fairly conservative suburban life to being the frontwoman and songwriter for a cult riot girl band. Much of this transformation happens through Helen’s art and colors as his palette comes to life just as Valerie does when she successfully calls out some audience members/her boyfriend for being sexist and patronizing. The comic itself also takes on a much more DIY quality with its layouts and storytelling design as well as how the characters look and act. My Riot is about the power of music to find one’s identify and true self and build a community like The Proper Ladies do throughout the book. Valerie’s arc is definitely empowering and relatable for any queer kid, who was forced to conform to way of life and thinking that wasn’t their own.

2. Getting It Together #1-3 (Image)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: slice of life is my all-time favorite comic book genre. So, I was overjoyed when writers Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, artist Jenny D. Fine, and colorist Mx. Struble announced that they were doing a monthly slice of life comic about a brother, sister, and their best friend/ex-boyfriend (respectively) set in San Francisco that also touched on the gay and indie music scene. And Getting It Together definitely has lifted up to my pre-release hype as Grace and Spahi have fleshed out a complex web of relationships and drama with gorgeous and occasionally hilarious art by Fine and Struble. There are gay and bisexual characters all over the book with different personalities and approaches to life, dating, and relationships, which is refreshing too. Grace, Spahi, and Fine also take some time away from the drama to let us know about the ensemble cast’s passions and struggles like indie musician Lauren’s lifelong love for songwriting even if her band has a joke name (Nipslip), or her ex-boyfriend Sam’s issues with mental health. I would definitely love to spend more than four issues with these folks.

1. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott (Avery Hill)

My favorite comic of 2020 was The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott , a debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zoe Thorogood. The premise of the comic is that Billie is an artist who is going blind in two weeks, and she must come up with some paintings for her debut gallery show during that time period. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott boasts an adorably idiosyncratic cast of characters that Thorogood lovingly brings to life with warm visuals and naturalistic dialogue as Billie goes from making art alone in her room to making connections with the people around her, especially Rachel, a passionate folk punk musician. The book also acts as a powerful advocate for the inspirational quality of art and the act of creation. Zoe Thorogood even creates “art within the art” and concludes the story with the different portraits that Billie painted throughout her travels. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott was the hopeful comic that I needed in a dark year and one I will cherish for quite some time as I ooh and aah over Thorogood’s skill with everything from drawing different hair styles to crafting horrific dream sequences featuring eyeballs.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Pulp is the anti-Fascist Western We Need Right Now

“Shoot to win can feel so bittersweet. But you can take what you can get ’cause there ain’t no glory in the west.”

-from “No Glory in the West” by Orville Peck
PULP is the next OGN from Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips - The Beat

Thanks to their work on titles like Criminal, The Fade Out, Kill or Be Killed, and many others, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Philips’ collaborations have been some of my favorite comics to seek out on the stands. And their new Image Comics graphic novella, Pulp, is no exception. Set in New York in 1939 with occasional flashbacks to the turn of the 20th century, Pulp chronicles the last days of Max Winters, an Old West gun fighter and outlaw turned writer of pulp Westerns for the fictional magazine Six Gun Western. Brubaker and Phillips with amazing spot reds from colorist Jacob Phillips blur fact and fiction and show and steadily build up that Winters’ character, the Red River Kid, is a barely fictionalized version of his younger self.

While Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips riff on crime fiction tropes in their usual manner and add a dollop of the “one last job” story, I would consider Pulp to be a straight Western even though it’s predominantly set in New York. This mostly comes from the way Max behaves, especially in crime settings. (Car chases are definitely more stressful than horse ones.) However, Brubaker and Phillips aren’t merely content to do their take on this classic American staple of the Western, but instead recontextualize the genre to be about resistance against those who would exploit others (Basically, class warfare.), especially Nazis and fascists.

Image from Pulp

They lay the breadcrumbs for this early on as Max stands up for a young Jewish man at the subway station even though it leads to him getting his ass kicked, having a heart attack, and being robbed of his entire freelance paycheck that he was squirreling away to buy a house in Queens for him and his partner, Rosa. This scene sets up Max as a champion of the marginalized as Phillips and Phillips’ visuals convey the righteous fury in his soul as he stands up for what’s right even if no one helps him out when he takes a beating. The fury extends to the salty frankness of his dialogue as he tells the young anti-Semite, stating “Everyone here’s had enough of your crap”. Max is like if Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven had a social conscience, and this informs all of his actions in the narrative, especially in the second half of the book when he decides to fall in with an old foe. And not just any old enemy: a Pinkerton.

Even though they had semi-heroic beginnings as bodyguards for President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, Pinkertons become synonymous with strike-breaking and cloak and dagger operations to uphold the status quo. Historically, they tracked down the Jesse James Gang and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so they’re a good fit for baddies in a Western and are still doing private security to this day as part of the firm, Securitas AB. So, basically, Brubaker and Phillips set up the former Pinkerton, Goldman, who catches Max trying to do a robbery in broad daylight as an untrustworthy fellow with a bit of a bitter edge. Sean Phillips never draws Max and Goldman as buddy buddy arranging them in opposition to each other with Goldman as a savvy operator and Max as a cowboy stuck in city alleys instead of the open plains of Wyoming or another Western state.

This visual depiction extends to Ed Brubaker’s plot as what Max thinks is just good old-fashioned stage coach robbery (But with Nazis instead of cattle barons.) turns into something a little more complex as Goldman wants to hit at the names and accounts of Nazis, not just their cash. Of course, Max thinks this is all nonsense, and his captions the 1939 Old West gun fighter version of ACAB. (“Why would I trust a Pinkerton?”) However, Brubaker and Phillips drop in Goldman’s backstory that he had a good job doing accounting work for Henry and was laid off because he was Jewish, which makes him more of a sympathetic figure, and also sets up Max’s final showdown where he takes guns a-blazing vengeance against the fascists and on behalf of his Jewish partner, who was wrongfully murdered, even though he (and we) know that this will end in his demise. But he has that house in Queens for Rosa so he has nothing left to lose.

Image from Pulp

For better or worse, Max’s actions in both the Western past and New York present of Pulp are consistent. He always fights on behalf of folks that are exploited by those who have the power in society whether that’s settlers and robber barons or Jewish people and Nazis. He even advocates for ownership of his character Red River Kid (Pretty much self-ownership.) and going in a new creative direction with the character instead of retreading the same plots, but as anyone who has read about the history of comics that’s a futile battle. There’s a real Martin Goodman/Stan Lee vibe from Max’s editor Mort and his nephew Sidney, who’s a fan of Max’s Westerns and will do his job for a much cheaper rate. These scenes and Max’s sense of justice lead to more anger and chest pains and is what leads to him to picking up gun again and becoming an outlaw.

Image from Pulp

In Pulp, Brubaker and Phillips create a strong through-line between the exploitation of capitalists and fascists whose actions are insulated by people “just following orders”. Max is very aware of the banality of evil, and that’s why his final showdown is at German Bund beer hall and not against a veiled stand-in for Adolf Hitler atop a zeppelin. He has put his affairs in order, has set up his partner Rosa for life, just wants to avenge the death of his unlikely friend, Goldman, and put some goddamn Nazis six feet under. Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips up the intensity of the visuals in these final pages with plenty of guns, red, and abstraction while Ed Brubaker’s narration sums up what Max thinks of himself before his death, namely, “We weren’t heroes. We were killers.” Even though Max has good values, it was his quick trigger finger that kept him alive in the Old West, and it’s deteriorating heart that gets him in the end in a bar in New York surrounded by swastikas. But, at least, he went down shooting.

Pulp is a fantastic transposition of the Western to the big, modern city as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips apply outlaw-turned-pulp-writer code of fighting for the downtrodden to championing Jewish people against fascism even before the United States declared war on Nazi Germany. Max’s actions and ideals strike a chord in 2020 where the President of the United States himself called Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people”, and they run rampant both in the street and online. With his vulnerability, tenacity, soft spot for Rosa, and heart for justice, Max Winters is definitely the character find of 2020, and Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Jacob Phillips do a wonderful job making a Western story both exciting and socially relevant.

Comics Deserve Better: Episode 3: Daytripper by Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Dave Stewart, and Sean Konot

In this week’s Comic Deserve Better, Brian, Darci, and Logan discuss Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá‘, and Dave Stewart‘s life and death masterpiece, Daytripper, and get emotional and occasionally personal while breaking down the craft of this great title. They also chat about a plethora of recent indie releases ranging from Singaporean newspaper comics about Covid-19 and self-published comics about going to movie theaters (Remember those!) to Vault ComicsFinger Guns, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Pulp, and the manga, Yona of the Dawn. There’s something for everyone in this episode! (Episode art by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.)

Around the Tubes

Pulp

The weekend is almost here! What geeky things will you all be up to? Sound off in the comments below! While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web.

SKTCHD – “Literally Life-Changing”: Iron Circus Comics’ C. Spike Trotman on Kickstarter’s Impact – When it comes to crowdfunding, C. Spike Trotman is a person to listen to.

The Beat – INVINCIBLE animated character designs by comic co-creator Cory Walker unveiled – It’s looking pretty solid.

Reviews

Talking Comics – Injustice: Year Zero #1-3
Talking Comics – Pulp

Around the Tubes

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow #1

It’s new comic book day! What are you all excited to read and get? What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments below! While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around web.

Monkeys Fighting Robots – HaKashaph: The Witchy Jewish Potential of BtVS: WILLOW #1 – Hadn’t thought about this.

Comicbook – Jiro Kuwata, the Artist Behind Japan’s Iconic Batman Manga, Has Died – Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

ICv2 – Comic Publisher Institutes MAP Policy – Well this is interesting.

Reviews

The Beat – Dark One
The Geekiary – Daughters of Ys
CBR – Pulp

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Cloven

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

Cloven Vol. 1 (Fantagraphics) – Garth Stein and Matthew Southworth’s graphic novel about a genetically modified human who’s half-man, half-goat.

Empyre #3 (Marvel) – The event has been much improved the more it goes on and we’re excited to see what’s coming next. This is one for those who enjoy big summer popcorn events.

Hedra (Image Comics) – An astronaut leaves a world ravaged by nuclear war in search of life. The conept sounds interesting and art looks great. We’re intrigued to read this one.

Lost Soldiers #1 (Image Comics) – Ales Kot, Luca Casalanguida, and Heather Moore tell the story of three men tied together by the Vietnam War.

Nailbiter Returns #3 (Image Comics) – The series has been so much fun to return to. If you like slahser horror, it’s a must and you don’t need to have read the previous volume to enjoy it.

Plunge #5 (DC Comics/DC Black Label/Hill House Comics) – If you enjoy sci-fi/horror, this has been a fantastic series. This issue is full of reveals as well as betrayal.

Pulp (Image Comics) – Ed Brubaker, Jacob Phillips, and Sean Phillips’ graphic novel tell a pulp story in this highly anticipated graphic novel.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #3 (Marvel) – Absolutely fantastic so far, the series delivers even more depth to the popular character.

The Walking Dead: Alien (Image Comics/Skybound) – The digital comics set in the world of The Walking Dead is in print for the first time. See Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s take on the popular world.

X-Factor #1 (Marvel) – The classic team is back and now with new members its focus is to investigate the deaths of Mutants to figure out the why and how and if they’re really dead. It’s CSI: Krakoa.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Pulp Comes to Image this May. Get a First Look

The multiple Eisner Award winning creative powerhouse behind such hits as My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and Bad Weekend — Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips — spin an original graphic novel tale of ’30s era crime in the forthcoming Pulp. This title will hit stores from Image Comics in May.

Max Winters, a pulp writer in 1930s New York, finds himself drawn into a story not unlike the tales he churns out at five cents a word—tales of a Wild West outlaw dispensing justice with a six-gun. But will Max be able to do the same, when pursued by bank robbers, Nazi spies, and enemies from his past? Find out in this must-have thriller from one of comics’ most acclaimed creative teams, perfect for fans of The Fade Out and Criminal.

A darkly mysterious meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything the award-winning team of Brubaker and Phillips have ever done. A celebration of pulp fiction, set in a world on the brink.

Pulp hardcover edition (ISBN: 978-1-5343-1644-7) will be available on Wednesday, May 20 and in bookstores on Tuesday, May 26.

Pulp

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Deliver More Crime Tales in the Original Graphic Novel Pulp this May

The multiple Eisner Award winning creative powerhouse behind such hits as My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and Bad WeekendEd Brubaker and Sean Phillips — spin an original graphic novel tale of ’30s era crime in the forthcoming Pulp. This title will hit stores from Image Comics in May.

Max Winters, a pulp writer in 1930s New York, finds himself drawn into a story not unlike the tales he churns out at five cents a word—tales of a Wild West outlaw dispensing justice with a six-gun. But will Max be able to do the same, when pursued by bank robbers, Nazi spies, and enemies from his past? Find out in this must-have thriller from one of comics’ most acclaimed creative teams, perfect for fans of The Fade Out and Criminal.

A darkly mysterious meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything the award-winning team of Brubaker and Phillips have ever done. A celebration of pulp fiction, set in a world on the brink.

Pulp hardcover edition (ISBN: 978-1-5343-1644-7) will be available on Wednesday, May 20 and in bookstores on Tuesday, May 26.

Pulp

Review: Ten Grand #3

Wow. Those final few pages, am I right? But let’s get back to that later.

Ten Grand is not a new concept. Even this particular mash up has been done before (Hellblazer, arcs of Sandman, Fatale). Nothing about the idea of a supernatural tinged detective noir is fresh; in fact, occult tinted pulps were common as far back as the early 20th Century. And yet.

The character of Joe Fitzgerald, brought back to life again and again by God or angels, is a holy enforcer at times and a private eye at others. Frequently, as they must do, those two roles intersect. If he dies a righteous death, he gets to spend five minutes in heaven with the love of his life, Laura, before being brought back to life. While it’s a great premise, as I said before, it borrows heavily from some very classic ideas, whether it’s classic noir, The Divine Comedy, Greek mythology, or the Bible itself. However, J. Michael Straczynski’s handle on the character is superb. His dialogue is terse and to the point: a Sam Spade with immortality. The narration, while a little too frequent for my taste, does an excellent job of getting across Joe’s feelings without ever being too overt.

(SPOILERS) It’s this aspect that makes me care about the book. I’m generally a sucker for the hardboiled, but this book has its hooks in me deep. Because of JMS’ writing, I’ve come to actually care about Joe’s life and Laura’s death. I too want to see justice done. So when things get a little predictable, I’m happily along for the ride. And in this issue, things got a little predictable. Maybe a half of the issue was spent in flashback, and we learned how Joe met Laura and about the beginning of their courtship: Laura pulled him from the wreckage of a car crash and played the role of beautiful, understanding nurse. The flashback mostly (and thankfully) skates over the bulk of their relationship, but I still found it a tad long. The beginning of the issue posited some interesting new information about which I was keen to learn; unfortunately, it was dropped until (presumably) next issue, and instead we got a mostly cliché back story.

But it’s all right. I care about Joe, and I care about his relationship with Laura, so I’m content.

Let’s instead talk about those final few pages. Ben Templesmith is one of my absolute favorite artists working today (I’m still mourning the loss of Fell), and my God if he doesn’t knock this issue out of the park. He’s known for wallowing in shadows and dark and muted colors. He’s known for horror and mutilation and disfigurement. And we get all of that in this issue. The demons he draws are terrifying and visceral, all blood and teeth and rotting flesh. The first scene of this book, set in a morgue, is haunting and drained of almost all color, except for bright spots that stand out and look extra ethereal.

And yet, the flashback scenes with Laura are particularly lovely. She’s colored in such a way to make it seem like she’s constantly lit by some otherworldly light and surrounded by the outer dark (foreshadowing her time in heaven and the end of this issue, of course), lending the book, at least momentarily, a brightness and softness necessary to match the blackness of the narrative and the characters.

Finally, we have those last pages, focused on Laura, surrounded by beauty and intense light, which through Templesmith’s unique style indeed seems heavenly. But suddenly she turns and sees a dark spot growing, a cancer in heaven and on the page. Demons ascend into what she thought was paradise, given a speed and ferocity few artists could provide, and drag her relentlessly down. The entire sequence is a perfect complement to the early flashback, showing the reader, and Laura, that no one is quite safe anywhere in the world of Ten Grand. Monsters, in human form or demon, lurk just around the corner. Cynical? Depressing? Sure. But damn fine reading.

Story: J. Michael Straczynski Art: Ben Templesmith
Story: 8 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Mark Waid’s The Green Hornet #3

Unsurprisingly, Mark Waid and co. presents another great issue of The Green Hornet.

GHWaid03-Cov-RiveraIn this issue, Britt Reid continues to go down. His success as the Green Hornet has gone to his head, and we find him taking greater risks than ever before, both as Green Hornet and Britt Reid. The evolution of his character is amazing; we’re only three issues in and Waid has already begun a transition from classic protagonist to dangerous anti-hero.

(Spoilers) Issue #3 opens to find the Hornet and Kato trapped by the police in a butcher shop; this scene, in the very beginning, illustrates to us Reid’s arrogance and his developing moral blindness, a theme which is carried on throughout this issue and colors our every interaction with his character. To get out of the predicament, he bribes and threatens Lt. Dugan, an honest cop with a sick wife. In doing so he crosses a line, and his following interaction with Kato proves to us that Kato realizes it as well, laying the foundation for his departure later in the issue.

The bribe isn’t the only moment of Reid’s moral collapse. He uses his paper to sling mud on one of his oldest acquaintances, using evidence that is even less than circumstantial. So sure is he in his own crusade that he has no problem libeling a colleague, and he doesn’t realize that his own journey is blinding him to his coming downfall. The colleague’s death at the end of the issue puts a capper on Reid’s lack of code, and foreshadows greater violence to come. And towards the end of the book, he decides to run for mayor, promising political intrigue as well. Britt Reid’s upcoming political run is an exciting prospect for a reader: access to new levels of power and influence will put further strain on Reid’s already weak moral compass.

Again, unsurprisingly, the art in this book is fantastic. Characters are always consistent and Daniel Indro is a master of shadow and mood. The opening scene in the basement of the butcher shop is close and cramped, giving the pages a sense of claustrophobia and danger. A third of the way through the book is a scene in which Green Hornet and Kato have to rescue their car from a tow truck. While that sounds incredibly boring, I know, the way it’s drawn is nothing short of electric. Everything flows so smoothly and Indro gives the cars such a sense of motion that the short sequence seems like a Hollywood car chase.

One thing that really impresses me about the art is its lack of flash. I realize that sounds like an insult, but it’s not. Too often artists resort to splash pages and dramatic, showy panels due to a lack of storytelling ability. Daniel Indro presents the reader with page after page of clearly laid out art design. This allows Indro and Waid to tell a complex story in an engaging and interesting way. Such a deep narrative would certainly falter under the weight of huge splash pages, and Indro’s evocative, competent art and easily readable pages are perfect for this kind of intricate and emotional storytelling.

Before he leaves, Kato accuses Britt Reid of acting like a god, “casting thunderbolts” from on high. I look forward to reading more of this series to see exactly how high Reid gets before his inevitable fall. I wonder who will cast the bolt that strikes him.

Story: Mark Waid Art: Daniel Indro
Story:9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Dynamite Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

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