It's hard to think about comics right now in the wake of the nerd tragedy that is Dan Harmon getting fired from Community, but while there's little we can do but listen to "At Least It Was Here" by The 88 on repeat and be glad that the last episode of Season 3 also functions as a series finale, we here at the Comics Channel must soldier on and do our jobs. Part of that job is telling you about comics that you may or may not be reading, and sadly, with a lot of indie comics, chances are you're not. So here's what you might be missing, and some stuff you might want to check out.
For starters, here are full reviews for Robert Kirkman's Hardcore #1, Brian K. Vaughan's Saga #3, Tom Hutchison's The Legend of Oz: Wicked West #3, Caitlin R. Kiernan's Alabaster: Wolves #2, John Byrne's Trio #1, Dan Abnett's The New Deadwardians, and Jim McCann's Mind The Gap #1. We'll follow those up with a condensed rundown of other titles we don't want to ignore from recent weeks.
AMERICA'S GOT POWERS #1
(Jonathan Ross, Bryan Hitch)
The concept here is basically The Hunger Games meets J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars – instead of sequestering all the special people who were mysteriously given super powers and studying them, they broadcast death matches between them all in a reality-show format. As if you couldn't guess that from the off-putting title riff on America's Got Talent that makes you not want to ever read it. However, if you aren't as knee-jerk surly about reality shows as I am, you might like the densely written story about the biggest loser who winds up being the ultimate of the 'Stoners' (all the powers came from some magic space meteor, see). There's some decent drama here, and Hitch art is always pretty good stuff, but it's a sign that reality shows are never going out of style, and that's just too depressing.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF D.B. COOPER #3
This book is just so weird, I can't quit it. When you see an image of an eyeless rocky turtle monster fighting a fat old undead lady who walks on her hands and fights with the howling red mouth and powerful giant blue tongue that comes out of her anus, your brain is arrested for a while and you just can't process. It's the weird story of an assassin who exists in two dimensions at once – ours and one called The Glut where zombie anus tongues happen as dreamscape manifestations of real people, and if you kill that monster, the human dies in reality. It's just crazy that Churilla's able to balance a pseudo-political thriller with the craziest-assed monsters going, like the toothy intestine monster with an eyeball in its throat. His art is nuts, and his story is a batshit version of historical fiction. It's gross and great at the same time.
HIGHER EARTH #1
(Sam Humphries, Francesco Biagini)
This first issue is mostly action, taking place on Garbage Dump Earth, but it's only one of infinite alternate Earths that apparently all have strained relationships with each other. A guy comes to junk-planet to collect a young woman named Heidi, who has apparently lived alone there as a scavenger with a nice little hidey-hole of trinkets and occasionally kickin' it inside a robot bear battlesuit rather than being trained for something bigger like she was supposed to be. The guy is also being hunted by a masked man, and there is a lot of fighting. We have very little idea what's going on besides a general setting and the sci-fi premise of alternate reality, but Humphries gives us enough little moments with Heidi to make us care about what's going to happen to her, specifically her shattered reaction when her hovel goes up in flames. It's definitely earned a few more issues.
EPIC KILL #1
The story of a girl named Song who has severe memory deficiencies but an instinctively deadly combat skill escaping from captivity and going on the run might've been vaguely interesting if not for the absolutely lifeless artwork. Every action moment feels rigidly static and all eyes appear dead. It tries to make a big deal out of bullet time, and thus it feels like it's all been done.
(Nathan Edmonson, Nic Klein)
This introductory issue sets up a retired professional killer trying to go straight yarn, as one American Alan Fisher, ex-military assassin, has settled in Italy with his Irish gal Quinn, a ballet dancer. As is always the case with such men, he is targeted for death by a mysterious assailant, and most of the story features the two of them on the run, with Quinn entirely confused as to why they are running from the police and people are getting shot all around them. The moody art and retro style of Quinn's dress make it feel like a throwback of sorts, a cool mod-noir sort of thing not unlike a dramatic version of Charade with an older Cary Grant, and while it doesn't feel like much we haven't seen before, the modestly sci-fi twist at the end is new enough to be intriguing.
THE SECRET SERVICE #2
(Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons)
The first issue made us cautious about Millar but reminded us what's great about Gibbons. The second issue opens with a horribly ugly scene of mind-controlled group-wedding couples suddenly murdering each other, and it's so hateful and cruel that I felt a little nauseous. Probably the desired effect, as it's the bad guy pulling dirty shit, but it casts a pall over the rest of the story. Jack London recruits his nephew Gary into the spy game, and it's all the standard 'new kid learns the ropes' tropes. Gibbons is still great, but it likely comes down to my not trusting Millar to take this anywhere I'll enjoy going.
SAUCER COUNTRY #3
(Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly)
The X-Files Meets The West Wing pitch continues as presidential candidate Arcadia Alvarado brings in ex-professor Joshua Kidd, who talks to weird imaginary people who are sometimes in urinals, to be the covert alien expert for the team, so they can try to figure out what kind of space-man malarkey is secretly going on in the world without making the 'little green men' notion public. Meanwhile, Alvarado's ex-husband is undergoing therapy to try and break through the enforced bunny-rabbit illusions of his abduction experience to get actual details of the aliens, only to be interrupted at a crucial moment by mystery jerks. While it's got some neat ideas unfolding here, one can't help but be reminded how painfully slowly The X-Files revealed its elaborate conspiracies, and fear that this book doesn't quite have a character as awesome as Skinner yet to really solidify our investment.
CRITICAL MILLENNIUM: THE DARK FRONTIER #1 (Andrew E.C. Gaska, Daniel Dussault)
A very thick first installment in a four-part miniseries succeeds mainly on the strong, painted-style art from Dussault, although I didn't realize the coloring was a little confusing until one of Gaska's story elements about a dystopian Earth where white people are now a spat-upon minority called Ghosts is introduced, which was the first time I realized the pseudo-protagonists we'd been following weren't white guys. A really eerie space-disaster opening, followed by a flashback to a pair of best friends – one is a hunting-obsessed mustachioed bastard named Eryc Kartoneas and uber-rich boy Thomm Coney – partying lavishly on the latter's 17th birthday and getting involved in a potential interstellar journey away from this scuzzy mudball they call home. It makes the opening tragedy seem a little less tragic when it's these entitled jackholes suffering it, but that's sure to change over the course of the series. Most striking is the introduction of Prime Minister Lucinda Blacklytter of the Former Republic of Polynesia being ruthless in her upholding of tradition in the wake of disastrously changing conditions for her people – including slaughtering a pod of near-extinct dolphins. There's gotta be some 'morality of hunting' through-line starting here. Regardless, the book is compelling and nice to look at. We'll just need characters we actively like to make it gel completely.