Category Archives: Comics

Review: Sinestro Volume 1: The Demon Within by Cullen Bunn, Dale Eaglesham and Rags Morales

Sinestro Volume 1: The Demon Within

Sinestro Volume 1: The Demon Within
DC, 2015 (containing material from 2013-2014)
Writers: Cullen Bunn and Matt Kindt
Artists: Dale Eaglesham, Rags Morales, Igor Lima and Ruy José

Review by N Emmett.

Green Lantern and its sister titles have long had their feet in two genre camps. When the story is set on Earth, Hal Jordan – or Alan Scott, or Jon Stewart, or whoever is bearing the emerald ring – will act as a typical costumed crime fighter. But the comic’s universe also plays host to sprawling space operas, as entire armies of Green Lanterns (not to mention Red Lanterns, Blue Lanterns and more) do battle across untold numbers of alien planets with the fates of whole galaxies at stake. The franchise owes at least as much to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman saga as it does to the superhero genre.

On top of this, the Green Lantern titles also have a distinctly macabre element. The series has given us Kevin O’Neill’s Bosch-meets-Bacon imagery in “Tygers”, the undead Black Lanterns and the 28 Days Later-inspired Red Lanterns.

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Review: Sunglasses After Dark: Full Blooded Collection by Nancy Collins and Stanley Shaw (2015)

Sunglasses After Dark: Full Blooded Collection

Sunglasses After Dark: Full Blooded Collection
IDW, 2015 (containing material from 1995-1997)
Writer: Nancy Collins
Artist: Stanley Shaw

Review by N Emmett.

Adapted by Nancy Collins from her 1989 novel of the same name, Sunglasses After Dark was a victim of circumstances. Its six issues were published between 1995 and 1997 by Verotik, a company that garnered infamy when one of its titles was seized by Oklahoma police as an obscene publication. Although Sunglasses After Dark was aimed at a relatively mainstream readership, comic shops opted to play it safe by treating the comic as strictly under-the-counter material.

This hardback collection aims to make up for the poor treatment that Sunglasses After Dark received nearly twenty years ago. Artist Stanley Shaw has recoloured the series from scratch – partly for copyright reasons, as the rights to the original full-colour art are tied up with Verotik – while Collins has taken the opportunity to tweak some of her writing. In her words, the comic now “reads less like the adaptation of a novel and more like a graphic novel.”

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Review: Tom Sutton’s Creepy Things (2015)

Creepy Things

Tom Sutton’s Creepy Things
Yoe Books/IDW, 2015 (containing material from 1973-1977)
Artist: Tom Sutton
Writers: Tom Sutton, Joe Gill and Nick Cuti

Review by N Emmett.

In the 1970s, some twenty years after having all but killed off horror comics in the US, the Comics Code underwent a much-needed process of liberalisation. The orgies of decay and dismemberment that characterised 1950s horror comics were still out, but creators were once again free to depict gothic subjects such as vampires and werewolves that were explicitly banned by the original Comics Code.

Amongst the publishers jumping in to the revived genre of the horror comic was Charlton, purveyor of such titles as Ghost Manor, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, Haunted (later Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library), Monster Hunters, Ghostly Haunts and Haunted Love: Tales of Gothic Romance. The Charlton horror comics have not been widely reprinted, but Tom Sutton’s Creepy Things aims to redress this with a handsome celebration of one of the publisher’s writer-artists.

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Review: Howard Nostrand’s Nightmares (2014)

Haunted Horror 2

Howard Nostrand’s Nightmares
Yoe Books/IDW, 2014 (containing material from 1953-1954)
Artist: Howard Nostrand
Writers: Various

Review by N Emmett.

The notorious horror comics of the 1950s were spearheaded by EC Comics, a publisher with a distinct ethos. While very macabre, EC’s horror stories were tempered by a good dose of humour: we always knew that the artists and their cackling “ghoulunatics” were only playing around, as is to be expected from the crew that brought us Mad Magazine.

EC had many imitators, and their attempts at horror comics can be sampled in the pages of Haunted Horror. Although scarcely any less absurd than EC’s offerings, these works generally avoided the conscious humour of their model and instead played their horror straight. There was a major exception to this, however, an artist who based his career around emulating EC’s patented black comedy as closely as possible: Howard Nostrand.

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Review: The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (2014)

The Wake

The Wake
Vertigo, 2014 (collecting material from 2013-2014)
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Sean Murphy

Review by N Emmett.

A young marine biologist named Lee Archer is roped into a shady assignment in an illegal undersea rig. She is tasked with studying a bizarre specimen being held there: from the midsection down it has the tail of a fish, but its upper portion resembles a finned humanoid. Was this the inspiration for the mermaid of legend?

It soon turns out that the captured “Mer” is not the only member of its species to live in the area. When the rig finds itself under attack from an entire shoal of the creatures, Lee and her comrades must act fast to avoid perishing at the depths of the ocean.

The Wake collects all ten issues of the Vertigo series by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, a remarkably thoughtful and ambitious entry in the attacking-monster genre. The central figures of the Mers have a number of precursors, from Lovecraft’s Deep Ones to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but Snyder has a specific legendary being in mind: the siren.

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Review: Haunted Horror Volume 2: Comics Your Mother Warned you About!, edited by Craig Yoe, Clizia Gussoni and Steve Banes (2014)

Haunted Horror 2

Haunted Horror Volume 2: Comics Your Mother Warned you About!
Yoe Books/IDW, 2014 (containing material from 1952-1956)
Editors: Craig Yoe, Clizia Gussoni and Steve Banes

Review by N Emmett.

Haunted Horror Volume 2: Comics Your Mother Warned You About! continues the thread of the previous Haunted Horror. Once again, it skips the well-known titles of EC – extensively reprinted elsewhere – and instead give the underdogs of fifties horror comics their time in the sun.

For those unacquainted with the likes of Web of Fear and Weird Terror, the beauty of such works is that even when they are bad, they still tend to be worth a look for their sheer strangeness. Comics aficionados will appreciate seeing lesser-known works by such legendary illustrators as Steve Ditko, but those of us who like things off-kilter may be more interested in Myron Fass’s “The Thing From Beyond”. This surreal tale is more laughable than creepy, not least in part due to the fact that the main character’s trousers appear and disappear between panels.

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Review: Magical Girl Apocalypse (Mahō Shōjo obu ji Endo) by Kentaro Sato (2014)

Magical Girl Apocalypse

Magical Girl Apocalypse (Mahō Shōjo obu ji Endo)
Seven Seas, 2014 (containing material from 2012)
Writer/artist: Kentaro Sato

Review by N Emmett.

Kii Kogami is in the middle of an exam when, suddenly and without warning, his high school is attacked by an odd little girl in gothic lolita clothing. One by one, the mysterious girl picks off the teachers and pupils using an array of supernatural powers and reanimates her victims as zombies.

Kogami is one of a tiny handful of pupils who manage to escape the school. To their horror, it turns out that murderous magical girls are committing similar atrocities all over the country. Is Japan facing a magical girl apocalypse?

Written and drawn by Kentaro Sato, Magical Girl Apocalypse Volume 1 certainly offers an odd twist on the zombie apocalypse genre. It harks back to the pre-Romero days of zombie fiction, when walking corpses were expected to have a magician of some description controlling them. In this case, the sorcerer is a homicidal magical girl.

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Review: All-New Ghost Rider Volume 1: Engines of Vengeance by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore (2014)

Ghost Rider

All-New Ghost Rider Volume 1: Engines of Vengeance
Marvel, 2014
Writer: Felipe Smith
Artist: Tradd Moore

Review by N Emmett.

Robbie Reyes is a young mechanic struggling to make ends meet in a crime-riddled Los Angeles neighbourhood. When a group of thugs make off with the wheelchair of his little brother Gabe, Robbie takes a desperate measure: he steals a car from his garage in the hopes of earning enough money to get Gabe and himself to safer climes. Robbie’s joyride ends with him being shot dead by some mysterious armed men, who were after a stash of pills that happened to have been hidden in the car.

Robbie does not stay dead for long, however. A spirit named Eli possesses his body and resurrects him, giving him the ability to transform into a skull-faced Ghost Rider in the process. While Marvel’s previous Ghost Riders favoured motorbikes, this one sticks to the stolen sports car as he uses his supernatural gifts to tackle criminal gangs and stick up for the underdog.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the drugs stashed in the car were created by the mad scientist Dr. Calvin Zabo, who has a Mr. Hyde-like alter ego named, erm, Mr. Hyde. It was Zabo’s  mercenaries who killed Robbie, and so the new superhero has already found his very own archvillain.

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Review: The Memory Collectors by Menton3 (2014)

Mars Attacks

The Memory Collectors
IDW, 2014 (containing material from 2013-2014)
Writers: Menton3, Ben Templesmith, Ben Murphy and Jason Mote
Artists: Menton3, Tony Moy, Ben Templesmith and Christopher Mitten

Review by N Emmett.

When it comes to sultry supernatural anti-heroines battling against demonic evils while retaining the poise of a cheesecake model, comic readers are spoiled for choice. Witchblade, Lady Death, Darkchylde, Lady Demon, Purgatori, Chastity, Tarot, Mantra and – perhaps the grandma of them all – Vampirella all belong to a genre dubbed the Bad Girl comic, a cycle that had its heyday in the nineties but remains popular enough to continue into the present day.

But despite its bankability, the genre is something of a pariah amongst a large chunk of comic readers. Bad Girl comics, the argument goes, focus less on telling stories and more on enticing heterosexual male readers with the sight of breasts and buttocks – often at the same time, thanks to the Exorcist-like spines possessed by many a Bad Girl.

But does this have to be the case? Writer-artist Menton3 clearly believes the answer to be “no”, as his comic The Memory Collectors makes a concerted effort to inject some poetry into the Bad Girl genre.

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Review: Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Original Daily Cartoons 1929-1930 by Robert Ripley (2014)

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Original Daily Cartoons 1929-1930
IDW, 2014 (containing material from 1918-1930)
Artist/writer: Robert Ripley

Review by N Emmett.

Believe It or Not By Robert Ripley – or Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as it became known – started out as a feature in the funny pages. It is now a multimedia brand that encompasses books, museums, films, television series and more.

More specifically, it is a brand that has taken on a distinctly grotesque aspect. The annual Ripley’s Believe It or Not! books are packaged as carnivalesque alternatives to the Guinness Book of Records, with body modification enthusiasts leering from the covers and all manner of lurid facts within. A recent series of children’s novels, Ripley’s Bureau of Investigation, is based around a junior X-Files scenario of teenagers investigating various monsters and creepy goings-on. And the director formerly attached to a proposed film about Robert Ripley is the man in Hollywood most closely associated with the tongue-in-cheek macabre: Tim Burton.

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