John Arcudi has been around since the '90s, writing everything from Aquaman to Hellboy to Aliens. I’ve seen his name on comics that I’ve read, but I don’t think (of what I’ve read) anything has quite hit me like Dead Inside. This feeling took me by surprise. Dead Inside is a murder mystery set within the confines of a prison system. The first issue set things in motion; it didn’t quite grab me, but it was interesting enough to continue on. After four issues, I’m hooked.
From issue to issue, Matt Kindt’s books are a thrill to read, and Ether is no exception. We’ve been following the story of a scientist, Boone, who travels into another dimension, a fantastical one called the Ether, to solve crimes and disprove the magic of the world. As it turns out, this fantastical world is pretty dark at its core, and Boone, like an addict it seems, has slowly lost his life to it. In the Ether, he is a hero. He is Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones rolled up into one. In the real world, he lives on the street and has pushed everyone he cares about away from him. Even the way to get into the Ether could only ever be discovered by someone willing to basically kill themselves.
Welcome to the Grass Kingdom, a microcosm of civilization. In Matt Kindt’s newest series, Grass Kings, a collective of people have laid claim to a small territory of land. Here, they abide by their own laws and rules. The first issue has the local officer escorting a trespasser off the private land. The trespasser is a young man who calls the people who live there squatters. From there, the first issue is mostly expository as we’re given a tour of the Kingdom; it’s not a terribly involving first issue story-wise. Despite its lackadaisical beginning, Kindt has earned my trust in building a story, which only comes into focus at the end of this issue. Echoes of the past point to conflicts in the future, conflicts that appear to rise from a mystery that has been left unsolved: a crime.
I’ve been reading Harrow County since the second story arc, and not once has Cullen Bunn broken the reality for a good scare. Not once has he cheapened the world by breaking the rules set forth. That’s not what kind of horror this is. The horror Bunn is dealing with is much deeper and darker than that. I think even profound. Yes, it has the witches, the monsters hiding in the dark, the struggles that take place at the ledge of life and death, but we’re talking about a character’s soul here. The soul of Emmy: a young woman born of evil, the offspring (of sorts) of a witch, and imbued with the power to direct the fate of others - humans and haints (those monsters in the shadows) alike.
I’ve taken to listening to music while reading comics, and I found the perfect (for the moment) song to listen to while reading Joelle Jones’ Lady Killer: "Zorba’s Dance" from the film score for Zorba the Greek. It has a nice, slow build with escalating anticipation, a playful rhythm, and a promise of something that’s about to happen while the enjoyment of what’s happening unspools before you. Like with the classic score by Mikis Theodorakis, you can tell Jones is having a hell of a good time on this book and that she really cares about it. How can I tell? Look at the detail.
The Life and Death cycle by Dan Abnett has had some really good issues and some very mediocre ones. I feel like the story he had in place wasn’t quite bulky enough for such a long run, and so issues have passed to move some of our intrepid colonial marines from one place to the other in preparation for a better issue. I felt this especially about some of the Prometheus issues and the previous issue of Aliens vs. Predator. But as we near the final issue, Abnett has no other choice but to tighten the noose, and so we have issue three.
A reverie through Dave McKean’s mind - that’s what Cages is: a perfectly undiluted vision plucked from both his conscious and subconscious mind. This massive volume from Dark Horse marks its 25th anniversary, and I have only just discovered it. To think on the same shelves as the superhero comics I read in my youth this living, breathing examination of that place where fiction, music, art, memory, dreams, love, loneliness, and hope all intersect was screaming at me to read it, and I only just heard its call. Cages isn’t so much a comic book as it is a sincere work of art, never finished, because it will change as we change.
The first issue of Dead Inside by John Arcudi and Toni Jejzula was enough to peak my interest. The story of Detective Linda Caruso who, after a series of promotions and demotions, finds herself working at a Jail Crimes Division. Immediately, we’re treated to the aftermath of a gruesome and bizarre murder in the Mariposa prison between inmates. A scrawny prisoner manages to kill someone 10 times his size. Everyone thinks it’s an open-and-shut case - everyone but Linda. Every corner she turns, she’s met with resistance until she finally finds a crack in the façade that opens the case back up. Where the first issue made me curious, issue two had me hooked.
Dept.H has to be one of my favorite comics on the shelves right now. Truthfully, anything Matt Kindt touches these days, especially in the creator-owned environment, is near perfect. He doesn’t think like your typical comic book creator. Every panel of every issue tells a story on multiple levels. He creates tone, a sense of space that reflects the mood and inner psyche of the characters, all while furthering the actual story along. By tackling all these elements, you get a sense of the tension and emotional journeys his characters are in the midst of taking. In Dept.H, it’s Mia’s story.
Issue #4 of Matt Kindt and David Rubín’s Ether focuses on the harrowing story of Hazel, the female character we’ve thus far only seen in flashbacks and only briefly. Hazel’s story is a fairy tale gone bad. We see how, as a child, she found her way to the Ether, and we see how the Ether revealed its darker nature. One that isn’t so fun. One that’s more Grimm’s Fairy Tales for HBO than Adventure Time.