Greetings, Nerd Bastards readers, Jake here from The Hall of Comics – where heroes shop. I’m a bag and boarded professional. My passion (and business) is to read, write about and sell comics. In an alliance forged in the stars, The Hall of Comics will be dropping by Nerd Bastards weekly, to bring you the latest word and the weeks best pulls in comics. So sit back, grab a snack, and check out what latest comic titles you should be reading.
Yes, Batman: Arkham Knight is based on the upcoming video game. No, I am not a video game guy. Yes, Batman: Arkham Knight is yet another Bat-title from DC titles, and yes, I am a big Batman guy. But hear me out. This prequel to the Arkham video game finale is written by Peter J. Tomasi, who’s done well by us with Batman & Robin for some time now. I gave the book a try on that merit and found it enjoyable. I only know the video game series superficially and still understood what was going on – I expect that it’ll please both game players and other Bat fans since it happens outside all of the current comic book plot threads. Despite what the cover art would lead you to think, we don’t get the over-armored Batman that I’m not a big fan of. I’d imagine that one of the attractions of the game is that it’s chock-full of Batman’s rogues gallery, and this comic manages that, too, without it seeming gratuitous. Victor Bogdanovic‘s art can be hit or miss at times, but works best when it looks Capullo-esque. (Just look at his Bruce Wayne – you’ll see what I mean.)
Something wonderful has been happening in indie comic books recently: the resurgence of true science fiction. Image‘s Southern Cross is another title in that trend, like Roche Limit, Low, Drifter, Fuse, and Copperhead. After seeing her cover, I kinda wish that Becky Cloonan was doing the interior art chores in addition to the writing, but that’s not a slight against Andy Belanger. He’s got a distinct and pleasant style that’s consistent from panel to panel. He fills the backgrounds with machinery and spaceship parts that convince us we’re confined inside a sprawling tanker, the Southern Cross, on its way to Titan. With us is Alex who’s going there to collect her sister’s remains after she died from as-of-yet unidentified causes. There’s definitely a mystery to the story, we just don’t know what it is yet. The book reminded me of the film Outland, and to some extent, Alien. It has a little of that strangeness you get in the British sci-fi anthology, 2000AD.
For a book about a talking duck who’s a private investigator in the Marvel Universe, Howard the Duck could stand to be more wacky and inventive. The first issue tries to stand on two points:
1: Howard is irascible.
2: He spends a lot of time talking about how he’s a duck and everyone else isn’t.
Maybe we’ll move beyond this in #2. It’s hard to un-know what one is already familiar with and I already know Howard’s history, so I’m willing to accept that this approach is for the sake of readers who have no knowledge of the character. But beyond that criticism, I still thought it was lackluster. The humor works best when Howard is interacting with superheroes like Spider-Man and She Hulk, but for the most part it falls flat. Even Joe Quinones‘s pencils don’t have the elegant flow we’ve seen in his Captain Marvel covers or the gorgeous Green Lantern piece he did for DC’s Wednesday Comics anthology. It feels as tho’ it’s meant to appeal to a young audience that would find this type of story novel – the same audience who’d enjoy Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but probably boys this time. C’mon, Marvel. Next time you want to try a humor book, surprise us with something for adults. (And no, that doesn’t mean it has to be rated R.)
I try to not revisit titles too often when I do these reviews – I’d like to spread the attention around as much as possible. But I’m determined that everyone know how good Postal is. After reading #2 from Top Cow this week, I’m convinced that #1 was not a fluke. This will be one of 2015’s standout titles. My elevator speech to customers is this: Postal takes place in Eden, a small town inhabited entirely by criminals in hiding. The woman governing the town has a son named Mark with aspergers who runs the local post office. He’s the only innocent resident. In order to maintain Eden’s anonymity, crime there is strictly prohibited. But Mark uncovers a murder and is compelled to solve it. I love that premise, but it could easily have fallen apart if Postal stalled after the first issue. Instead, we get a chunk of background info on certain characters and the series has already made more progress by the end of #2 than most titles make in five. Some mystery titles, like Nailbiter, have built their enjoyment factor on the mystery itself. But Postal appears to have figured out how to sustain a story while revealing those mysteries.
Image‘s second foray into science fiction this week is The Surface. It’s not an easy book to describe and sometimes it’s not easy to read, either. But I got sucked into it right away. Like the works of Phillip K Dick (whose Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the basis for Blade Runner), it’s about questioning the nature of reality. Specifically, the three lead characters theorize that the entire universe is actually an enormous hologram. It’s more complicated than I make it sound and there’s certainly some adventure to it, as well – definitely one of the more metaphysical comics I’ve read in a while. I wasn’t familiar with Langdon Foss‘s art, but it’s perfect for this book. Beautiful and detailed, not unlike Geoff Darrow, but easier for your eyes to move over. I especially liked the wardrobe he invented for the characters, as well as their features, almost as if all races have blended together at this point. Ales Kot (“Zero”) does a nice job of not making the subject matter too overwhelming or heady. Any more so, however, and this book could begin to sink, so take care, Mr Kot – I’d like to see a fair balance of conventional storytelling involved. This could certainly grow into one of the most fascinating and wonderful books on the market.
Wow, ‘managed to make it thru some reviews without using the words “Star” and “Wars” for the first time in a while. Yeah, yeah – Star Wars #3 did come out this week, but if you haven’t caught on to that whole scene yet, well, I’m not gonna hold your hand through everything. It’s interesting how many people I’ve talked to who’ve had to locate their nearest comic book shop for the first time thanks to Marvel’s Star Wars books. That is one cash cow that will not die! Hey, if it helps grow the market for reading traditional “floppies”, that’s what counts. Keep reading, kids!
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