I’ve got a lot of downtime over the holidays this year, and it’s afforded me the opportunity to read a lot of comics, some of which I’ve decided to review. In this batch of capsule reviews, I examine the latest issues of Bone Parish, Damage, Exorsisters and X-Force.
by Cullen Bunn & Jonas Scharf
Writer Cullen Bunn has quietly carved out a niche as one of the preeminent horror writers in the industry today, but he’s done at smaller publishers. He has a tendency to blend his horror stories with other genres, and that’s true here. Bone Parish is a crime comic with New Orleans, voodoo-horror elements, and it’s well done. Perhaps what was most impressive about this issue is the fact that despite it being my first issue, I was able to piece together what was going on and how we got to this point. Bunn offers an accessible read without going heavy on the exposition. As a new reader, I was able to figure out the backstory and connections among the characters by inference.
Given the subject matter and the dark mood looming over the entire issue, I found the line art to be far more conventional than I expected. I was reminded of the style of Tom (Starman, Robin) Lyle here; now, I like Lyle’s work, but such a style seems like a mismatch for this story. The darkness in the art flows primarily from the colors of Alex Guimaraes, who establishes a distinctly unnatural and supernatural tone. 7/10
by Robert Venditti, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan
When DC announced this new title spinning out of the events of its Dark Nights: Metal series, I was intrigued only because I had an interest in the original version of Damage from the 1990s — and that was mainly because of a tenuous link to DC’s Golden Age super-heroes. I saw little of that in the advance promotion for the new title, so I didn’t check it out. But now I’m starting to realize that writer Robert Venditti offers a level of craft that holds my attention, so I decided to delve into the book. The good news is that even though this is the 12th issue and the conclusion of the latest story arc, I had little trouble following the story. The bad news is that because this is a low-rent Hulk knockoff, and it’s just not that interesting. I’ve read many more engaging Hulk comics over the years (including some inventive stuff in the current Immortal Hulk series), and this brawl between the monster and Superman doesn’t compare to that material or to the landmark 1992 “Death of Superman” story. After reading this comic, I had no idea what its purpose was, and I was also confused about the Justice League lineup that was included. Guy Gardner’s lines are groan-inducing, and Deadman is oddly depicted as a thoroughly conventional super-hero when he’s anything but.
Lopresti and Ryan’s artwork boasts a surprisingly soft tone, and it’s not at all in keeping with the brutal tone for which the story strives in the script. Clearly, a darker tone would fit the nature of this story better, but it’s oddly bright and clean. 4/10
by Ian Boothby & Gisèle Lagacé
I’m a big fan of Gisèle Lagacé’s Ménage à 3, which I read in print collection formats rather than the original webcomic, so when this new collaboration with Ian Boothby was announced, I was thrilled to hear of it. Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of issues for various reasons, but I was finally able to delve into this third issue. I had little problem picking up on the premise and players, and Exorsisters proved to be exactly what I was hoping. It’s playfully sexy, saucy, cute and cartoony, all at once. The premise is reminiscent of the Supernatural TV show, but with a greater emphasis on the fun than the grim.
Lagacé’s art achieves an interesting balance between an innocent tone and a more bawdy one, and I absolutely love it. The insectoid character that turns up later in the issue evokes memories of classic cartoons, but the plot takes us to a place of teen horror cinema. Boothby’s script is clearly tailor-made for the pluck and spice of Lagacé’s approach to the art, which is an odd amalgam of manga and Archie house styles. 8/10
by Ed Brisson, Dylan Burnett & Juanan Ramirez
This stands out as one of the sharpest looking comics I’ve seen in a couple of weeks, definitely boasting what is the most distinct and unconventional artwork I’ve seen in a Marvel title in a while. Dylan Burnett’s art for the main story sees him channeling the style of Gabriel (Umbrella Academy) Ba. I love the exaggerated takes on Marvel’s mutants here; and his mostly long, lithe figures are quite striking. Juanan Ramirez provide the art for the backup story, which details what one missing team member was up to while the others were on the mission depicted in the main story. Ramirez delivers a more realistic look for his segment, but what struck me about it was how he was clearly drawing inspiration from the style of Stuart (Amazing Spider-Man, Nextwave) Immonen. Despite the radically divergent look from the main art, I was still impressed and entertained by his linework.
While writer Ed Brisson offers up some playful dialogue (especially when it came to the banter between X-Man and his cybernetic ally) that reminded me a bit of the work of Warren (Transmetropolitan, Cemetery Beach) Ellis, the story here didn’t hold my interest nearly as well as the artwork. This latest in a string of mutant massacres in the Marvel Universe just didn’t click for me, as it felt I’d seen this sort of thing too many times. Writer Tom Taylor demonstrated in X-Men Red this year that the hatred and genocide angle still has lots of life and relevance in it, but X-Force just doesn’t deliver in the same way. I also have a hard time accepting Cannonball in this lineup of hardened heroes, and the manipulative and hate-filled Transian general who serves as one of the antagonists seems more like a cliche than a character. The international political elements touched upon here are intriguing, mind you, but plot-wise, I didn’t find anything to justify yet another X-Force relaunch. 6/10