With a range including Marvel, Image, Titan, and Dynamite, here’s the recap of February 2019 for comic books.
Best Issue: “Die” #3 by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans
On the one hand, we have the crazy concept of a steel dragon working for the Prussian forces during a fantastical take on World War I. That in and of itself would lend itself to crazy stories, and Stephanie Hans’ pencils and colors utilize a dark color palette that emphasizes blood, fire, and steel, working well with Kieron Gillen’s script to show that while this idea is amazing on paper (and also to watch in action), it is nonetheless absolutely horrifying and a way of showing that a fantasy war is just as hellish as the real deal.
On the other hand, we have a more subdued look at trench warfare with the party’s dictator Ash, demonstrating the humanity of supposed “non-player characters” and the nasty nature of their deaths in the trenches. Perspective and word choice work together to fulfill what the team leader makes clear by the end: “Do you think I need the voice to make someone feel miserable here?”
Best Writer: Tim Seeley (“Shatterstar” #5, “Hack/Slash vs. Chaos!” #3)
In terms of “Shatterstar” #5, the conclusion to the character’s eponymous miniseries comes through with intense emotion all around, from the question of how to kill what is essentially a god to the very real possibility of everything falling apart now that we know the tenants (and to a degree Shatterstar himself) are not safe. Much like prior issues, Seeley skewers the televised torment common of Mojoworld that had been brought to this new realm, but also brings in startling elements of realism to lethal effect.
For “Hack/Slash vs. Chaos!” #3, the emotional impact is even greater, but with some more variety. Due to the nature of both included worlds, the darkest aspects of the crossover are tinged with black comedy. When they fall away, when a hunter becomes a monster in all but form, becomes just what they had fought against for so very long, readers are left unable to turn away as they beg for said person to stop and think as they drive their way further down into villainy with every step along their path, knowingly or not. The use of the crossover also allows Seeley to bring together other elements that he had used in the past in order to drive readers toward his other stories, with connections to his earliest work on “Hack/Slash” as well as his more recent projects on “Chaos!” and “Alice Cooper vs. Chaos!,” adding on elements that both work as small nods to earlier work to make a fan smile while pull together disparate elements and as intriguing lore elements to entice potential newcomers to one universe or another.
Best Artist: Juan Ferreyra (“Killmonger” #4)
Soft pencils and colors mesh into horrific, brutal combat to show the sheer savagery of Bryan Hill’s script with relatively low “level” foes such as mundane mercenaries and relatively weak antagonists when compared to many other comics from Marvel released around the same time. All of this soft artwork ends up clashing intensely against the more defined lines of speech bubbles from letterer Joe Sabino, further emphasizing how different the style truly can be for these relatively “street level” stories. The way in which Ferreyra utilizes Michael B. Jordan’s likeness to give a reminder of his iconic portrayal in 2018’s Black Panther adds to the sympathy.Continued below
The best of the artwork definitely comes in when Ferreyra is paying attention to facial expressions. While the far-off looks are good, the close-ups of sheer rage, despair, satisfaction, and more is strong enough to induce similar feelings in the reader, making them want for Killmonger to succeed even as, logically, it would amount to the villain’s completion as a character instead of any possibility of turning back.
Best Video Game Tie-In: “Bloodborne” #9
The most important thing about any adaptation can be a mixture of tone and accessibility. Do the makers understand what they are adapting enough for those familiar with it? Are they able to bring others in with a similar reaction to the returning fans? In both respects, the tale of the rise of Eileen the Crow does a good job of being artistically, intentionally confusing, adding to the horror and nausea by leaving those just joining in wanting more. The artwork uses random panels to show her darting focus, the script uses half-finished, repeated sentences to show disconnection of mind in the eldritch horror that is Yharnam, all leading through Eileen’s recurring question of “When am I?”
It is a good kind of confusion, one that encompasses the experience of both the character and the readers. What is going on? Is Eileen completely insane? Who is she chasing? All of these questions and more arise, leading into this third arc of the “Bloodborne” ongoing comic series.
Best Crossover Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment (“Vampirella vs. Reanimator” #2, “Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep” #1, “Vampirella/Dejah Thoris” #5, “Barbarella/Dejah Thoris” #2, “Hack/Slash vs. Chaos!” #3)
Tales following a descent into villainy such as “Vampirella vs. Reanimator” #2 and “Hack/Slash vs. Chaos!” #3 work very well, each in very different ways. While one was inevitable and is held up by the very intriguing art style in equal measure, the other is far more tragic and horrifying even as the dialogue indicates that it could be considered awesome at the same time.
On the other hand, we have various other genres, ranging from the ridiculous to the fantastical and back again. Ash Williams and Elvis “the King” Presley team up in Las Vegas to fight mummies in “Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep” #1, which is at once internally very serious and, to readers, completely hilarious (not to mention, interestingly enough, educational). Dejah Thoris, much like Vampirella, had two different collaborations, one with Vampirella herself in a science fiction interstellar adventure between Barsoomians and Drakulon vampires in “Vampirella/Dejah Thoris” #5, and the other in 1950s and 1960s style spy fiction on Earth through “Barbarella/Dejah Thoris” #2.
Together, these various stories all work marvelously, and with such a plethora, such a variety, it’s pretty amazing that they all came out so close to one another.