Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday Comics Round-Up - August 28

Yesterday was "Read Comics in Public" day and you'd better believe that I celebrated. After all, I had last Sunday to make up for. And I'm still behind! It never ends! Which is a good thing.

BODYSNATCHERS, Issues 1 and 2


Bodysnatchers is written and drawn by Pakko Massimo, colored by Barbara Ciardo, and released by GG Studios, your American home for crazy/weird and occasionally awesome Italian comics. Andrea Plazzi translated it into English.


A story with retro sci-fi flare and a visionary dystopian saga, Bodysnatchers is a pulsing narrative set in the future city of Ecumenopolis. Bodies are disappearing as the city's foundations are eaten away by an internal threat. A civil war between castes ignites, as Black Eightball, Aristoi, Cives, Bodysnatchers shamans and White Eightball struggle for supremacy. - from GG Studios' website


Eep. Already two issues of #TheBodySnatchers on my stack. When did GG Studios get so prompt and timely?

Cover features a very angular/geometric woman in weird body armor on top w/bikini bottoms, holding 2 swords.

She's vaguely Lara Croft-like. And jumping from a skyscraper in a full tuck into some kind of fray below.

Like a lot of GG's books, I'm finding this a little impenetrable. Not sure if it's cultural or what.

"You make the prisoners, asscrat." Umm... whut?

I *think* this aristocrat (?) with her hair in the severe red bun is the same person as the sword chick ...

I get a Transmetropolitan vibe from the street scenes and the way the characters talk about commoners.

I wonder if #TheBodySnatchers are stealing prole bodies (still in use) for spare parts/regeneration for old aristos?

Guess not. But it seems our now-widowed heroine is in danger from some ill-defined plot and on the lam. OK.

Maybe things will get clearer in Issue 2? I can only hope.

Opening with a flashback. Visually striking, white lines delineate figures against dark burgundy/green BGS.

Yeah, bog standard aristo descending into the underbelly tale going on.

OK, the "TeenToys" got my attention. And one is referred to as "Perky Pat!"

The TeenToys are quite striking and creepy. A lot like the dwarf-robots in BladeRunner. I hear those voices for the TTs dialogue.

Still a little O_o after Issue 2 but intrigued by the Dickian elements and aesthetic.


I realize now that it wasn't GG being timely at all; the first issue came out in March! I just had it filed to read later because I view a lot of GG product with suspicion; the first book they solicited, Mediterranea, is basically a big dumb slab of cheesecake eye candy, its techno-Byzantine populated by a serious overabundance of pneumatic, doe-eyed, practically naked women, and here comes Bodysnatchers with a sword-wielder in bikini bottoms on the cover. Issue 2 finally came a long and I realized I needed to have a look and make a decision about whether to keep my subscription going. Having read these two issues back to back now, I'm still not sure. There's some intriguing stuff here but I'm still not sure what's supposed to be going on except that it's a cyberpunk world, with the standard high-tech/lowlife schtick straight out of early William Gibson with perhaps a dash of the Bruce Sterling of Heavy Weather. I find the protagonist pretty boring and none of the other characters have their hooks in me. What does have a modest barb is the art: the gritty city is excellently rendered and intriguing and the character designs are pretty cool. It's possible that no matter what exertions Plazzi makes in translating the dialogue it's just not going to come across? I don't know anyone who isn't having a problem following this story at any rate.



This one is very much writer/penciller/inker Joe Benitez's baby; he's wearing all of his (steampunked) hats here, teamed up with Peter Stiegerwald on colors. Aspen Comics is publishing this one, sporadically. Honestly, I don't know if it's the press or Diamond who keeps Aspen's, Moonstone's and other indie titles coming to me at such random and long intervals!


Specializing in the occult and paranormal activities, Lady Mechanika solves the confounding mysteries of the supernatural others cannot. However, it is the mystery of her own origin that drives her unflinching determination. She is part human and part metal, but must use all of her wits to uncover the truth about her creation. It is a path leading her directly into the sights of Lord Blackpool, a malevolant, and deadly, arms dealer with the answers she seeks about her life— and the power to end it. Lady Mechanika debuted in the fall of 2010 and quickly became one of the best selling independent comic books of that year. The genre smashing title has captivated the hearts of steampunk and graphic novel fans around the world. - From Aspen Comics' website


How about some #LadyMechanika now. I wonder if I remember enough of what's going on in this one. Long time since #1.

Wow. This is a really talky comic. Art overwhelmed by speech balloons.

All the dialogue is one person, too. And I really want her to shut up. Graceless exposition. Bah.

Ha! And then she complains about #LadyMechanika's "incessant drone." Projection, much?

"He decimated us. Decimated us all." Bleargh. #LexicalPetPeeves #ReducedByATenthMotherfolklore

Argh. Another character just spewing backstory.

There is serious talent at work in #LadyMechanika, but the story is feeling stale. And the ravishing art is covered in words.

This issue felt mostly like padding. All the scenes could have been shorter, or at least less wordy.


I should be enjoying this comic way more than I am. It's a glorious steampunk adventure and the main character is a Victorian cyborg, for pity's sake. What's not to love. But this issue really did feel padded out to a degree I'm disinclined to forgive. There really are whole pages where you can't see anything but speech balloons overwhelming the characters, so what should be exciting -- Mechankia meeting her nemesis who was once her mentor (itself a pretty cliched superhero trope, but Benitez has spent a lot of his career churning out superhero books, so yeah...) -- just made me roll my eyes and wait for it to be over. And the issue never recovered from the speechifying, which just bled over into other scenes. Mechanika is at risk of becoming Lemmiwinks, kids. I'm pretty disappointed.


This one's from Image Comics. The story is by Viktor "Heavy Metal" Kalvachev and Andrew Osborne, with art by Kalvachev, Toby Cypress (who's done everything from Batman to X-Men to Star Trek, but whom I chiefly did for the issue he did of C.B.G.B.) and Nathan Fox.


A powerhouse team of Hollywood and comic book veterans (along with special guest artists) presents a fast, funny, 100% cool new series for readers of all stripes. On the mean streets of Los Angeles, an alcoholic hit man and a desperate starlet dodge Russian mobsters, Italian gangsters, ninjas, hippies and the L.A.P.D. in a scheme to steal millions from a psychotic action movie hero. - from Image's website.


#BlueEstate is next on the stack. Lurid tabloid-y pulp crime fiction with lots of Hollywood seediness troweled on.

Smashing up yard gnomes with a tire iron. Cover your eyes, @JeremyCShipp*

The stuff with the wigs is pretty funny.

Groan. "What's he doing out there, sudoku?" And so when the 'ho emerges from his car, they call her Sudoku.

Hee hee. Termites. A wannabe real estate tycoon's best friend. Hee hee.

The OTT cartooniness of the art is perfect for this farcical story.

I don't feel as much like I need a shower as I thought I would after reading an issue sub-titled "The Money Shot"


This comic is growing on me. At first I thought it was trying too hard, and while it still is, it's succeeding a lot of the time. This is a very convoluted crime story -- actually several crime stories all interwoven in amusing and intriguing ways (each new issue starts off with a helpful diagram to illustrate the complexities of the relationships between the characters it highlights): money laundering, murder plots, real estate tomfoolery, and the making of stupid B-movies starring the head bad guy's Russian girlfriend. Neither the HBG nor the RG are in this issue, but I didn't notice their lack until the end, watching henchmen hench (and fiddle around with a lady's wig collection). It's all presented in a hilarious cartoony style that reminds me of John K. (of Ren & Stimpy fame) and some really great coloring. Really great -- the coloring is what first caught my eye. If you wish Quentin Tarantino would lay off the French film snobbery and kung-fu kookiness and just go back to making stuff like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, this is the comic for you.



B.R.P.D. is a Dark Horse book, a spin-off of Hellboy, created by Mike Mignola. This arc is written by  John Arcudi, penciled by Tyler Crook and colored by Dave Stewart.


Trapped in a weird trailer park full of hillbilly cult fanatics, Liz Sherman must fight her way through the high priest of trash for safety! - From Dark Horse's website.


#BRPD: Hell on Earth: Monsters Issue 2 next. Yeah, the title/issue #s get complicated in the Hellboy universe.

Gotta say, I've enjoyed this Liz-centric arc a lot more than I thought I would. She's not been my favorite character.

Ahh yes. We're still among the hillbillies. One of whose ass Liz kicked last time XD

Oh no! Chased by possessed rednecks!


Has Liz ever been this badass? And still barefoot, mind!

Meanwhile, back at HQ, WTF?


As I said above, Liz has never been my favorite character in the Hellboy universe, but she's quite enjoyable to watch here; instead of angsting over how her power (she's a firestarter) isolates her or over her complicated relationship with Hellboy, she's drawing on her training as a Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense agent and using her brain to figure out what's going on in this trailer park, and her fists and feet to make it out alive -- despite the betrayal by someone she thought she should be able to trust. This is all -- with developments in the Hellboy comic -- building up to something major, and it's going to be great and terrible, especially if that someone who seems to have died back at headquarters really died back at headquarters. Um. Wow.



Feeding Ground comes from Archaia Comics and was created by Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski and Chris Mangun. The six issues in this awesome miniseries are written by Lang and drawn and colored in fantastic, folk-art style by Lapinski.


This new series is ripped right out of the real-life drama unfolding on the Mexico-Arizona border! Feeding Ground reaches a large and diverse audience no matter your personal point of view on the issue. In this factious story, a famine caused by Blackwell Industries drives Diego Busqueda, a noble “coyote,” to lead a band of Mexican border crossers across the unforgiving Devil’s Highway, a desert cursed with blistering days and deadly nights. Back home, Diego’s daughter Flaca discovers that something hungrier prowls the factory fields. Stalked and persecuted, can the Busqueda family maintain their dreams of immigration or will the horrors of the desert tear them apart? - From Archaia Comics' website


Now, a long-overdue helping of werewolf/illegal immigrant mayhem. It can only be #FeedingGround

I love that these are bilingual flip books. I dig testing myself with the Spanish version first.

I wonder what @MYMHM's** grandma, who loves Sleep Dealer, would think of #FeedingGround. Similar themes. But werewolves.

Oh man. Oh man. Flaca, don't eat your daddy. Please?

This storyline is getting pretty intense.

OK, killing that daddy instead is a little better. But only a little.

And this last issue of the series ends with a big ol' question mark. As perhaps it should.

Lots of cool pin-ups in the center of this one, including one by GB Tran! Neat 8).

That's a book I'm really glad I took a chance on. There's a hardcover soon. Get it.


I reviewed this comic fairly extensively for The Functional Nerds when Issue 4 came out back in April. I stand by that very favorable review; this is truly a stand-out comic for its topicality, its art and its incredible dramatic tension as well as its publication as a bilingual flip book, and I am delighted that it ended with potential for more storylines in the future. Werewolves and illegal immigration are not an obvious pairing but Lang and Lapinski made it work. If you missed this, get on over to Archaia's website and get you some, single issues or I guess you can wait for the hardcover but the flipbooks are just so cool! At any rate, go!



Avatar Press produces this book, written by David "Crossed" Lapham and drawn by newcomer German Nobile, who has so far worked exclusively for Avatar Press. That all should be warning enough.


David (Crossed) Lapham unveils a new tale of ancient Rome and the most feared emperor of all time. The one name that still speaks volumes of how absolute power can corrupt - Caligula. Assassination attempts against him have failed and Caligula now demands blood vengeance. Can Felix keep his focus and sanity in the face of so much misery and horror? A modern master of horror, Lapham digs deep into the world of Rome 37 AD and offers a unique epic of sin. Joined by new talent German Nobile who promises to serve up fully-painted pages dripping with blood, this all-new, full-color series will be six issues of evil that will make any Crossed fan smile with glee. For in the age of Caligula, all roads lead to Hell.


What's up, #Caligula, you sick, scary bastard whom they found a way to make even sicker and scarier?

"I wasn't feeling well and so stayed at the palace while #Caligula went to the ampitheater to mete out more death." XD

This caption accompanying a splash page with what appears to be a minotaur brandishing wolverine claws. Neat.

I believe I've said before that German Nobile is the next Jacen Burrows? He totally is. His art is depraved.

Of course, the subject matter Nobile is given to portray is depraved. Chicken-egg problem? XD

Ew. Yeah, that's more the kind of wrong I was expecting. And also: ew. #Incitatus

If Felix refers to him as "husband to a murdered wife, father to a murdered son" I'm throwing #Caligula against the wall.

OK. He came close but didn't directly quote.

"What would I tell him anyway? The emperor's immortal and his horse is a talking beast from the depths of Hades?" XD

Weaving in actual shit #Caligula did like "riding across the Bay of Baiae" is a good touch.

Oh, and effect this issue ends with #Caligula proclaiming "No more Mr. Nice Immortal Evil Emperor" XD


Caligula is gruesome and moronic and over the top and taken on its own merits could give comics a very bad name indeed. Its every page brims with pure and unadulterated wrong, as befits its subject matter: the only way the real Caligula could have been crazier or more evil would have been if he was unkillable, as this version of him is. The Felix of whom I tweet is our point of view character, someone whose family was murdered on Caligula's orders and has already tried to murder the emperor in revenge, only to find that yeah, he couldn't. But now he's stuck in the position by which he infiltrated the palace; he's part of Caligula's entourage, has attracted the attention both of his sister (I can't tell if she's supposed to be Drusilla, Agrippina or Livilla, all three of whom were real pieces of work) and his horse, Incitatus, whom the real Caligula made a Roman Senator but who is here imbued with a whole 'nother kind of evil: Incitatus talks, and likes to rape strapping young men. Ew. Which is all to say that this is a bad, bad book and that I'm probably a bad, bad person for liking it, even though I mostly just want to see where else Lapham is going to find to embroider on the already lavishly awful story of Little Boot.



Baltimore is another entry in the Dark Horse's vast and teeming Mignola-verse. This comic series is an offshoot of a novel Mike Mignola co-wrote with Christopher Golden, and they both have a hand in the series as well. Ben Stenbeck, a major Dark Horse/Mignola workhorse, is on pencils and here, too, Dave Stewart is on colors.


Monsters are overrunning Europe, and Baltimore, the only one who can put an end to these horrors, must find and kill Haigus, the vampire responsible for this chaos. Following reports that Haigus is holed up in a cloister, Baltimore finds a haven full of death and black magic, and the creature at the heart of his obsession! - From Dark Horse's Website


Another I feel I've waited forever for. New #Baltimore!

#Baltimore is a late 19th/early 20th century monster-hunter in the Mignolaverse for those who don't know him.

#Balitmore is still chasing the one-eyed vampire he failed to destroy during WWI. I remember now 8)

#Baltimore vs a whole den of vampires. Gawd yes.

Bwahaha. Standard "cool guy walking away from explosions" panel. #GuessTheyCouldntResist

So it appears #Baltimore has picked up a journalist sidekick. Ho hum. But as long as he's amusing.


Lord Baltimore is a great, tragic character, who lost his family to the same vampire he now hunts. As Stenbeck draws him he is unprepossessing, with just a hint of badassery as he tracks down Haigus. What I've chiefly enjoyed about this series to date (an earlier arc "The Plague Ships" wrapped up a few months ago) was its exploration of the idea of vampirism as a disease that was camouflaged and perhaps aggravated by other European plagues through history and by the flu epidemic that accompanied World War I. The sidekick he has picked up wants to make a name for himself writing the definitive guide to modern ("modern" in this case being "post WWI") vampires who has imposed himself on our hero as the price for sharing his clues about Haigus' doings and whereabouts, which is not terribly original but as I said, I'll tolerate it if he stays amusing. So far, so good. We don't know, as yet, how this supposed "Curse Bell" relates to what else is going on in the story but I trust that we will before long. This isn't great comics storytelling for the ages, but it's a solidly enjoyable title that looks to continue as same. It may be suffering slightly from comparison with the comic I read next...



It's Hellboy. Original creator Mike Mignola is scripting this very important story arc and the great Duncan Fegredo is bringing it to glorious eye-loving life, with, of course, Dave Stewart on colors.


While Hellboy makes one last stand against the Queen of Blood the war between the forces of good and evil rages on the battlefield with heaps of dead monsters and knights! - From Dark Horse's website


OK. Finally up to Issue 3 of #Hellboy: The Fury. @inkybat and other pals have been raving over this one

Picking up right where we left off. #Hellboy vs a trash talking dragon. @duncanfegredo run amuck destroying a village 8)

I love how this beast resembles the prow monsters on Viking ships.

Love all the monsters frolicking in Mab's mind's eye. They look positively playful on the scorched earth XD

Now THAT's how to end an arc. Holy crap. I can see why everyone's so excited about where #Hellboy is going.


Okay, right off, I was wrong about this issue ending the arc; there's one more to go, though I'm not sure where it can go from here; it looks awfully like Hellboy established a pyrrhic victory over his nemesis at the end of this one. Maybe he's just resting, and I was just overreacting to the teaser ad for the next big arc, Hellboy in Hell, due out next year. All that aside, this is proving a fantastic culmination to a long collaboration between Mignola and Fegredo (and Stewart, who simply exceeded himself in coloring this eye-popping stuff). It's apocalypse done as gorgeously as possible and portends yet more greatness.



The fantastic Chris "I, Zombie" Roberson is writing this brand new entry in Michael Moorcock's multiversal tales of the Eternal Champion in his many incarnations, with Francesco Biagini continuing to impress me on pencils and Stephen Downer coloring the madness. Boom! Studios is the publisher.


Signs continue to appear throughout the Multiverse that the Cosmic Balance is in peril, and the Eternal Champion is caught in the cross-hairs! Across worlds, Elric, Hawkmoon and Corum begin to face the force that threatens to overpower them all, while Eric Beck, a modern-day video game designer, must acknowledge that his reoccurring dreams of a Pale Prince aren’t all in his head. - From Boom! Studios website


#Hellboy vs Nimue put me in the mood for more of #Elric: The Balance Lost. How fortunate that I have issue 2 here!

Oswald Freaking Bastable. Oh, hell yes.

Continuing theme of mouths were they don't belong, you guys gotta see this one demon.

Not just vagina dentata, but boob dentata, jaw dentata (one mouth, four (?) jaws), maybe even armpit dentata.

Ooh, @chrisroberson "Spammer's Fishlings" is my new favorite expletive!

My detect allegory senses are tingling big time about this Cult of the One Arrow 8)

I say, the page visualizing the multiverse is a bit sublime. Would be moreso without the dreary inset panels across the top though.

Haw haw! The realm of the dentate demons used to be the "Republic of Texas" and they let the chaos in because it was an energy source.

The dentate/deranged buildings are a lot like how I picture post-Melding Plague Chasm City #AlastairReynolds

This continues to be a pretty groovy take on the Moorcockian Multiverse. Applause!


It's hard not to see the Tea Party and its in Roberson's Cult of the One Arrow, imposing its version of order with military and political force in whatever universe it finds itself, in its different (but perhaps more plausible) way just as icky and horrific as the disgusting chaos monsters Biagini has imagined for the worlds where the balance is tilting the other way. Couple that with the moral message of the Republic of Texas, tapping into "color spots" where chaos was originally trickling into that world and tearing wider gaps through which it could spill in and be harnessed as an energy source, to that world's ruin and you can see why my allegory sense tingled so. This is a Comic with a Message, but it's one that Moorcock surely must approve; his heroes are servants of the balance, not of either side. Roberson and Biagini keep drawing on that pool of heroes, too; I may yet get to see my dream of Jerry Cornelius popping up (though hey, Oswald Bastable is close!). If you love Michael Moorcock (and who doesn't?) you should definitely be getting this series. And if you don't know him, this is as good a place as any to start finding out what you've been missing.

'68, Issue 3


Hey, I couldn't get through Sunday Comics without something from Image, could I? This one is written by Mark Kidwell and drawn by Nat Jones and Tim B. Vigil, strangers none of them to comics and to monsters.


Visions of home-brewed hell take center stage as an anti-war protest on a California college campus turns into a cannibalistic massacre at the clawing hands of the hungry undead. Two lost soldiers fight their way across a jungle wasteland teeming with rot. And in Vietnam, Agent Declan Rule reveals his true reasons for being in country. - From Image Comics' website


Issue 3 of #68. Zombies in the Vietnam War. Oh yes.

Haw. Was wondering why this issue was "Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies" - the morgue is called Penny Lane... #68

...Because they've laid tin on the floor &put pennies on the corpses' eyes. If they rise as zombies you hear 'em moving XD

Oho! The zombie plague has reached the states and is spreading through anti-war rallies. Didn't see that coming.

ZOMBIE HIPPIES! And yes, you can tell the difference.

Wrist slit bathtub suicide hippie zombies! This just gets better and better (and gorier)

Well, developments are certainly developing. #68 is still giving up the good stuff 8)


This book was already a weird one, going way beyond what you'd expect from a zombie/war mash-up, and that was even before this issue took the story to the home front, where we not only find our hero's girl two-timing him with a bunch of hippies and hooked on drugs, but she's soon to go participate in the famous anti-war demonstrations at Berkeley, where a provocateur is planning to shoot some cops under cover of the riot. When his shot hits the wrong target and that target is reanimated as a hungry hippy zombie, the chaos is unbelievable and hilariously narrated by a reporter hovering over the scene in a chopper. There is possibly more allegory coming on here, as a lot of this issue is focused on the irony of a peace ralley degenerating into a cannibalistic orgy, but it doesn't work as well as Elric's if that's indeed the intent. Regardless, it works just fine as a ridiculous spectacle. ZOMBIE HIPPIES. They're the ones with faces full of blood, coming right for you with bared teeth.



Mark "Unthinkable" Sable is writing this one, also for Image (who is being either brave or reckless in publishing two zombie/war comics at once; I can't decide), with Paul Azeceta on art duty.


The new C.O. of a remote outpost in Afghanistan has his hands full. If the terror of the Taliban and the mutiny of a Marine sniper weren't bad enough, his squad is now under attack by the undead! GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES doesn't just show you the face of modern warfare - it rips it right off. - From Image Comics' website


Issue 2 of #GraveyardOfEmpires now. More military madness for #SundayComics

I haven't seen this many zombie-ish naked old men since Rare Exports*** XD

Flashbacks give a nice look at what it must be like for ordinary Afghans to live between the US forces & Taliban demands.

And in the present day, the bullet impacts' resemblance to poppies is surely not coincidental. Strong iconography.

Is... is that guy stabbing himself in the eye?

Mad doctor implanting bombs in zombies. Really? Apparently so.

The cultural clash is really brilliantly handled in this one.


Mark Sable first came to my attention when, famously, he and his early script for Unthinkable were detained by the TSA at an airport. Unthinkable concerned a think tank whose job it was to dream up horrible scenarios as yet not dreamed up by terrorists and other America-haters, and to try to design ways for us to cope with them and so yes, it featured a whole lot of imaginary terrorist plots. It was ridiculous that he got detained for it and, while I'd been planning to read Unthinkable anyway, this incident only strengthened my resolve. In Graveyard of Empires, Sable continues to show considerable talent for occupying the mindset of the other side; in this case not so much the enemy as the ordinary people caught in the middle. This issue largely concerns the plight of a farmer, who was growing wheat at the U.S. occupation's behest until the Taliban threatened his family to coerce him to grow opium poppies (as I tweeted, much is made of the poppy as an icon for this series, its stylized image doubling for a fresh bullet wound in firefights. It's very effective), and then is later visited by U.S. forces wanting to know why he won't grow wheat for them. I'm not sure, but the poor guy seems eventually to be one of the undead naked old men attacking the U.S. compound; even in death he gets no rest and can't sit out the conflicts. This is sobering, devastating stuff, for all its zombie-killing thrills.

And that's it for this week. Back soon with more Sunday Comics!
*Jeremy C. Shipp is a writer of bizarro fiction with whom I enjoy collaborating on stuff (we're in an anthology together and I frequently narrate audio versions of his stories for podcasts) and who has a well-documented affection for garden gnomes.

**MYMHM is the Twitter handle of Juan Bagnell, half of the daffy duo behind the Movies You May Have Missed video podcast and website. Click here for their review of the fascinating Mexican sci-fi extravaganza, Sleep Dealer.

***Rare Exports is a Finnish film I saw at last year's Toronto International Film Festival: a Christmas/Horror/Action/Comedy in which Santa Claus is an ancient Lovecraftian horror entombed in ice and his helpers, hordes of naked old men with long white beards, rampage about the landscape in all their naked old man glory. Once seen, it cannot but unseen, but you'll be too busy laughing your ass off to care.

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