Phillip Kelly, Fanbase Press Contributor

Phillip Kelly, Fanbase Press Contributor

*For mature readers only

I’ve never read Manara before now. I knew what to expect, but I had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect the absolute absurd lengths to which he would actually go. These aren’t just sexual exploits between characters with longing desires, but more like a jump down the rabbit hole into subversive oblivion through which some form of social commentary is arrived at. It is perverse erotic comedy. These stories play like creative daydreams of early sexual progressives.

Issue #4 of Cullen Bunn’s Conan the Slayer is juicy goodness. I say this not only because of the awesome violence and gruesomeness brought to visceral life by Sergio Dávil (art) and Michael Atiyeh (colors), but because Bunn approaches the goings on with a rhythm and poetry that gives the weight of myth to Conan’s plight.

Jeff Lemire is less concerned about telling a superhero story and more concerned about telling a story about what being a superhero means, and what it means to have that responsibility taken away. At least that’s what I thought until reading Issue #4. Bit by bit, it’s becoming about even more than that. It’s about inclusion versus exclusion. Where is a person’s place at in the world? What does a person mean to those around them? As Lemiere digs in, these themes begin to resonate emotionally in ways I wasn’t fully expecting after having read Issue #1

At this point, it’s hard for me to believe that there will ever be a disappointing issue of Harrow County. I have complete faith in Cullen Bunn’s vision for the world. The roots are so deep that every revelation, every turn, every detail feels natural, authentic, and unnerving.

Matt Kindt slows down for Issue #7. Mia, our hero who is trapped in a quickly crumbling underwater research center with a group of scientists - one (or more) of whom killed her father, has decided to stop letting her situation dictate her next step. Trapped in the control room with her father’s closest confidant, Roger, Mia asks why she shouldn’t just leave and let all of them die. Roger focuses on one of their group who we haven’t gotten to know yet. While Roger talks about Aaron, we see him on one of the console cameras. In a smart move, we follow a character that is not Mia.

World War I was a pretty terrifying ordeal: the advent of modern warfare; the war to end all wars. Thousands died each day and that was just in Russia. From that war sprung painter Paul Nash, a British soldier so shaken by the war that it inspired some beautiful and powerfully surreal war imagery. He is quoted as saying, “I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever. Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth and may it burn their lousy souls.” Now, approaching WWI’s centenary, David McKean embraces this passion and brings us a graphic novel in honor of Nash’s work.

Collecting volumes two and three of the popular manga and now film, I Am a Hero, by Kengo Hanazawa is one of the most fascinating, weirdly hilarious, and uncommonly human zombie epics in existence. Our “hero” of this story is Hideo Suzuki, a thirty-five-year-old reclusive manga artist who takes medication for hallucinations, illegally owns a personal shotgun (Look up Japan’s gun laws.), and who has yet to reach the popularity he’s struggled for as a creator. In Omnibus One, it almost begins as a slice-of-life character study, and zombies seem like a second thought to Hanazawa. Hideo has a girlfriend who can’t take her liquor and who looks up to another manga artist which causes some jealous friction between the two. Hideo’s co-workers don’t treat him well, while Hideo rants on and on about the true art of manga, and, honestly, the whole book could be this. I would have praised it.

The last we saw Conan, not only was he betrayed by the brother of one of his party members, but he came face to face with what appeared to be a troll. Most of Issue #3 deals with the immediate threat which is veiled in a mystery we may not figure out, but while Conan is away, chess pieces continue to shift at home.

For five issues now, Mia has been tossed around by circumstance. A scientist sent to investigate her father’s possible murder on an underwater station six miles below the surface of the ocean, she has been met with one disruption after the next. Sabotage, giant squids, rescue missions, crazed chefs, it has been nonstop survival with almost zero actual detective work on Mia’s part. It seems like she hasn’t slept in days and that no one wants to actually figure out what happened to her father. This has been just as frustrating for Mia as it has been the reader.

Holy crap. Black Hammer #3 was downright riveting and with nary an action scene. After spending Issue #2 getting to know the tragic tale of Gail, we now delve into Barbalien’s past, and it’s bittersweet as hell. Taking a page from Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous series, Jeff Lemire titles this issue, "The Warlord of Mars," which is smartly fitting in multiple ways: Barbalien’s home planet, the time period in which these types of serials were huge in comics, and the irony in how it deals with Barbalien’s political stance.

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