The Black Monday Murders is not only intriguing, it’s downright riveting. It’s what going after Wall Street might look like if handled by Stanley Kubrick or Alan Moore. It’s rife with archaic symbols, occult-like gatherings, and bizarre, ritualistic murders. When dealing with Jonathan Hickman as the writer, something with an esoteric flare is to be expected. Even with his runs on Marvel’s Avengers, well-known commodities became parts of the Illuminati and Futurists, and as unwieldy as the Secret Wars crossover became for Marvel to handle, at its core was a delightful story about politics and the abuse of power and a dictator recreating a world in his own image (something that’s very timely right now.) Wall Street is also very relevant, and Hickman shows no love for them, but those are twists and turns have no desire to simply tell you about.
Brian Wood is a heck of a craftsman when it comes to comic book writing, so I was overjoyed to see his name on the cover of an Aliens comic nine months ago. I didn’t get around to reading it at the time, but was salivating at the mouth to dig into the first collection.
There are two issues left of the Life and Death cycle, with sixteen issues total encapsulating the worlds of Predator, Prometheus, Alien, and AvP under one umbrella. Truthfully, after fourteen issues, it doesn’t feel like a lot has happened.
There’s something very intimate and personal, even beautiful, about Issue #10 of Matt and Sharlene Kindt’s Dept.H. It feels almost like a really great Michaelangelo Antonioni film, like L’avventura, placed gently within a taut underwater thriller. Part of that has to do with the beautiful black-and-white imagery Sharlene creates on the page. The other part is the quiet way in which Matt explores memory and its questionable reliability and fragility.
Two realities, two bases for said realities: one science-based and the other magic-based. Boone Dias is a scientist who has found a way to travel to this land full of magic. It’s a land of nonsense and absurdity, one that has very little concern for logic. Boone has spent his time here using his knowledge in science to help solve mysteries. He’s almost like an Indiana Jones/Sherlock Holmes of Candyland. His Watson is a sarcastic and brutish, monkey-like creature called Glum.
So much has happened to our hero Emmy in these last six issues. For me to give a synopsis of everything that’s taken place would destroy the discovery of going down this rabbit hole yourself, because it’s absolutely a rabbit hole worth disappearing into.
The fact that Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer has an annual when most Dark Horse comics don’t shows just how fully committed he is to his superhero-driven world which pays homage to Golden Age comics, while turning the idea of what a superhero is later in life on its head. This world is almost analogous to what it’s like for an older ballet dancer or football player. In your prime, you were amazing. As you age, once all of those beatings your body has taken set in, you just don’t work as well. In Black Hammer, for this group of aging superheroes trapped on a strange farm, it’s both physical and psychological scars they have to deal with.
Found within the tome of this new collection of horror stories, you’ll find Richard Corben spinning tales inspired by the likes of old EC series like The Vault of Horror or Tales from the Crypt. Calling it a tome is a bit hyperbolic, but this is thirty-some pages of a fun throwback to when horror was far more innocent.
Mag the Hag is our storyteller, and much like the Cryptkeeper, he introduces us to all the stories and has a clever turn of phrase at the end of each. In one story, two puppets are actually tiny, little creatures. In another, two people are stranded on an island after a plane crash and run across horrific roots. In the third, a wife unintentionally finds a way around 'till death do us part, and the final tale is an ancient story about gods and a man who has great strength that will continue in issue two.
The stories are a fun romp. I can’t say anything scared me or gave me chills, but I did smile with fondness whenever our protagonists stumbled unknowingly towards their wretched fates.
The thing that makes this most worthwhile is the simply stunning black-and-white art from Corben himself. He’s a master of bringing life to the absurd, weird, and horrific, and he gives himself plenty of opportunity to do so in this first issue. His work as an artist is epic and surreal through his characters' long faces and eyes that seem to come to life. It’s a haunting landscape, because the humans are warped ever so slightly, almost as if they were mocking the reader with how closely they resemble us.
Is this comic going to be worth it for just anyone to pick up and buy? Most likely not, but if you’re a horror fan or a fan of Corben, you really can’t go wrong.
As Cullen Bunn lets the roots of his mythology in Harrow County grow ever deeper, he hasn’t forgotten about the human element. Emmy may not be who we or even she thought she was, her real family may be made of monsters and people with god-like powers, but she’s still Emmy. She still has a father that raised her as a daughter, she still has neighbors, and there still is a world full of humans outside Harrow County.
The Life and Death story arc has quite literally been everywhere, and it’s quite literally about surviving every circumstance. That’s the only through line I can make of it. It’s like Dan Abnett was given all the ingredients and just started stirring. There doesn’t seem to be any larger function or endgame here, just a push to get through to the next cool idea. The unfortunate thing is without that endgame, the story that tethers the cool ideas together isn’t always the strongest, and the characters aren’t always the most intriguing. They end up being shuffled around like chess pieces, simply reacting to what’s coming without a goal beyond survival or without an anchor point to make them relatable.