Hellboy: The Fury #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo
I must thank writer and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola for dedicating the first two pages of this issue to recapping what’s come before in the various limited series that led up to it. I definitely missed a few of those issues along the way, and even the synopsis of what’s come before is complicated. As the issue progresses, it also becomes clear that this isn’t the climactic storyline of Hellboy’s life since he left the B.P.R.D. The plot here connects with the earliest Hellboy stories from the 1990s, and that grants this crescendo toward the battle a feeling that this is a major turning point in the title character’s life, not just this nomadic mode of his existence. Of course, given the graver, climactic tone that dominates this issue, the more playful, comedic elements that turn up in other Hellboy comics has faded here. For the most part, little actually happens in this issue when it comes to the conflict. Instead, the various players take their places on the stage, and what’s important in this issue is mood rather than plot developments. I also thoroughly enjoyed the mish-mash of mythic references.
One of the things that made Hellboy such a hit was Mignola’s minimalist, gothic artwork, but over the years, the design and the property have proven themselves to be versatile. Duncan Fegredo still instils Mignola’s mark on the art here, but he also doesn’t submerge his own more detailed style. I particular love how he depicts the old architecture and the English knights. It’s such a lovely book, albeit in a dark way. Adding to the gothic effects are Dave Stewart’s remarkably effective colors. the comic is full color, but often, it seems immersed in blacks and greys. Stewart is careful to employ dark but muted tones that are in keeping with the shadowy, pitch-black circumstances in which the title character finds himself. 7/10
Moon Knight #2 (Marvel Comics)
by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
When Marvel announced a trio of new/relaunched titles featuring three of its better-known, street-level heroes, it was Moon Knight to which I looked forward the most. After all, the creative team was responsible for a landmark run on Daredevil, and I’ve enjoyed much of Bendis’ work in the past. But when I reached the end of the issue, I was underwhelmed. I just didn’t care where the story was going, why the title character’s multiple-personality disorder had changed and manifested as a one-man team of Avengers. It seems like an intriguing high concept, but I’m just not being drawn in. There’s no sense that the title character has anything at stake, anything to lose. The appearance of a C-list character from Bendis’ runs on DD and New Avengers v.1 seems rather random, and I didn’t really enjoy that Moon Knight is the least empowered and knowledgeable figure in these circumstances. Furthermore, there’s no sense that this story arc is even going to touch on Marc Spector’s latest psychological fracturing. Other characters notice he’s behaving oddly, but they don’t seem interested in learning why.
Maleev conveys the several-heroes-in-one-form premise pretty well. The coloring motif struck me as a little odd. When the action unfolds, Spider-Man and the main antagonist in this issue, a woman named Snapdragon (am I supposed to recognize her?), are bathed in shades of red while others around them. I don’t really get the effect. It doesn’t really add to the mood of the scene, and when other characters are cast in darkness, it makes it a little difficult to follow the action. 5/10
Static Shock Special #1 (DC Comics)
by Felicia D. Henderson, Denys Cowan, Rodney Ramos, Prentis Rollins & John Stanisci/by Matt Wayne & John Paul Leon
Comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie was taken from his family, friends and fans far too early, and this one-shot was published as a tribute to his work. In recent years, he’s been better known for his contributions to animated incarnations of DC’s familiar super-hero characters, but a more important contribution of his to pop culture was his co-creation of the Milestone Media brand and its various minority super-heroes. The main story in this comic book features Milestone’s best-known character, Static (or Static Shock, as fans of the character’s cartoon sometimes call him). Felicia Henderson’s plot offers an accessible introduction to the character and the world of Dakota for the uninitiated, but the real point here is Static’s relationship with his uncle and his grief over losing him. Obviously, the uncle is a standin for McDuffie, who teaches lessons about racism, perseverance and vindication. It’s an effective story though a bit too transparent. Its greatest strength stems from the fact that it’s pencilled by Denys Cowan. His work here — which will appeal to fans of the style of Bill Sienkiewicz — has a lot of energy in it. He conveys the main protagonist’s youth nicely, and despite the loose nature and darkness of his linework, there’s a bright, encouraging tone to the visuals. I hope that between his contribution to the recent first issue of Vertigo’s Strange Adventures anthology and this short story, we’re seeing something of a comeback for Cowan.
The second story, though much shorter than the first, is definitely the stronger of the pair. Matt Wayne takes us inside a comic-book shop in Dakota where McDuffie, after his death, is joined for the afternoon by two of his creations. Wayne’s script is much more poignant and pointed. He explores the notion that in death, people tend to reverse their positions and only speak glowingly of the subject. Through Static and Rocket, Wayne speaks of how McDuffie has been transformed from a thorn in the side of the establishment of the entertainment landscape in life to a celebrated visionary in death. I love how McDuffie remains silent; Wayne doesn’t make him a party to his elevation but rather just portrays him as a guy who loved and loves comics of all different kinds. John Paul Leon’s art seems simpler than usual but it’s quite effective. His likeness of McDuffie is spot-on, and I love the smiles and knowing glances he paints on his face. 7/10
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