In this installment of my capsule reviews, I turn my attention to another quartet of debut issues, featuring a sorcerer Scotty, a couple of ghost stories and heroes fighting walking land sharks. Yeah, I had a fun afternoon…
by Evan Dorkin & Benjamin Dewey
It’s been quite some time since I visited Burden and spent time with its magic-wielding, canine protectors, and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why I lost touch with this wonderfully entertaining and well-crafted property. Evan Dorkin’s script is highly accessible; one needn’t be well-versed in Beasts of Burden lore to appreciate the plotting and characterization here, and for readers like me, fading memory isn’t a liability either. The script reflects the title incredibly well: the wisdom just drips off of these canine characters, and the voices are so strong, it makes the audience accept and believe in these impossible heroes wholly. The action here is exciting, and the mystery is an engrossing one.
Benjamin Dewey’s artwork captures the same figurative and literal magic that co-creator Jill Thompson did in the original Beasts of Burden comics. I particularly appreciate the soft colors Dewey employs to bring the dogs’ wizardry to life. There’s a softness to those manifestations that’s alluring. I also love how the dogs really look like dogs; beyond their speech, these animals haven’t been anthropomorphized at all. 9/10
by Cullen Bunn & Mark Torres
Writer Cullen Bunn combines a private-eye/missing-persons mystery with a ghost story/paranormal-crisis yarn to great effect. The dynamic between Kerr and his former employer is rather clichéd, but it’s a trope of one of the contributing genres that works well and brings a palpable tension to the story. Kerr’s connection to the missing seems far too telegraphed, and if that turns out not to be the case, it’s a bait-and-switch that might prove frustrating. It seems like there are two stories unfolding here: Kerr’s case and the notion of ghosts punishing the living with extreme cold. Obviously, the twain shall meet, and I’m honestly curious to see how those plotlines converge.
Mark Torres’ artwork is far more intriguing than the familiar elements in the plot and script. His art reminds me of a weird cross between the disparate styles of Ben (30 Days of Night, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse) Templesmith and Mike (Powers, United States of Murder Inc.) Avon Oeming. The most striking visual is the hazy ghosts with their pinprick, glowing eyes. It’s simple but incredibly chilling. The color palette is an unnatural one, establishing an eerie atmosphere with how it purposefully avoids any sense of realism. 7/10
by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker & M.J. Erickson
Writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker offer up a campy, satirical look at noir storytelling and supernatural mystery, and there’s a lot of personality in the characters and concepts. The husband-and-wife sleuths of the paranormal are charmingly snooty and blasé in their reactions to and perspectives of unnatural phenomena, and it makes them an entertaining duo to read. Their experience and nonchalant attitude are balanced nicely by the vanilla couple they’re entertaining, who are uninitiated in the worlds that the Doyles frequent. The problem with this comic is that it feels rather disjointed. The comic opens by focusing on a reporter on the trail of a story, and the tone of the script isn’t nearly as light as it becomes later once the Doyles are introduced. It feels as though the book starts out being one character’s story, so when the primary focus shifts to the Doyles, it’s a bit jarring.
M.J. Erickson’s cartoony figures and animation-influenced designs are in keeping with the lighter tone later in the issue, and I rather like the emotive displays that are captured in the line art. However, the artist doesn’t capture any kind of an eerie or tense atmosphere. Neither does the linework convey any real sense of dread or menace earlier in the book. There’s a bit of a disconnect between the visual style of the book and the atmosphere and genres the writers are exploring here. 6/10
by Kelly Thompson & Stefano Caselli
After Matt Fraction’s and Jeff Lemire’s takes on the two Hawkeyes in different series in recent years, I wasn’t all that taken with writer Kelly Thompson’s exploration of the characters and their dynamic when she helmed the most recent Hawkeye. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this latest incarnation of West Coast Avengers, featuring both Hawkeyes and Thompson’s writing, but I’m pleased I did. This is a tremendously fun super-hero comedy book. It boasts some sit-com-like banter and a real sweetness in the form of the younger Hawkeye’s romance with greenhorn super-hero Fuse. And the genre concepts thrown at the reader here, from rampaging land sharks to a 50-foot were-cat on the beach, reminded me of the kind of glorious insanity that we saw in Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E. from several years ago.