Heart in a Box (TP)

Dark Horse

Release Date: (in trade) 9/16/15

Words: Kelly Thompson

Pictures: Meredith McClaren

The Sitch:

From the Dark Horse description:

When the Man with No Name breaks Emma’s heart, she wants to die. But you never die from these things; you just want to. In a moment of weakness, she wishes her broken heart away and a mysterious stranger–who may or may not be totally evil–obliges. But emptiness is even worse than grief, and Emma sets out to collect the seven pieces of her heart spread across the country, a journey that forces her to face her own history and the cost of recapturing it, and leads inevitably to a confrontation with the Man with No Name himself!

The Confession:

It’s a simple enough concept. Obviously, Heart in a Box is a metaphor for life and heartbreak. This is all a given. What isn’t a given is how heartfelt and sincere this story is. Thompson has created a beautiful story that at once is painful but heals more than anything. I must confess that I love when these seemingly small fantasy stories get inside the core of my feels and force my usually cynical and dead heart to start beating again. That’s magic. Thompson is my new storytelling crush.

McClaren’s art has a bit of a Manga influence. She has a gift with depicting human emotion, the eyes in particular are very expressive. I love how, though a bit cartoonish in a good way, her character designs are super real, too. Her use of color is harmonious, flowing and changing with emotions in the same way sadness and joy flow in and out of our own personal real life stories. She makes the passage of time look almost tangible. It really is a beautiful book.

Heart in a Box is the kind of book you want to cuddle up with on a Sunday morning. I also would love to buy several copies of this book to give to friends for when some inevitable heartbreak comes along. Life happens. Why not make it a little more beautiful by getting this book for yourself or someone else?

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Death Head #1

Dark Horse

Release Date:  7/15/15

Words:  Zack & Nick Keller

Pictures:  Joanna Estep

The Sitch:

Niles and Justine Burton are on a “babymoon” camping trip.  They expect to find some peace away from their stressful lives before their third child arrives. What they find instead is a scary close call in an abandoned village that hides an ancient evil. As Niles and Justine are just beginning their journey into horror, their two children back home are dealing with the creeps themselves. Creepiest detail I failed to mention:  Death’s head is covered with a plague doctor’s mask.

The Confession:

The Keller brothers can weave a good and creepy tale.  I enjoyed this read and can easily see it as a screenplay of an equally creepy film adaptation. This first issue does more character development than it does the frightening, although that doesn’t mean it lacks for tension. The family members are easily and quickly relatable, even likable. The parents have an easy and funny banter that encourages the reader to root for them when things get scary. I’m more partial to the kids at home than the parents, maybe because more time seemed spent developing them. There is the angsty older sister Maggie who refuses to comply with the rules or the nuns wielding them and the sweet bullied younger son called Bee. Death Head itself doesn’t have to do much of anything yet but be creepy. I’m intrigued to see how this story will unfold.

Estep’s art is a creepy kind of good. Her style gives off a dark, shadowy feel that only adds to how well she can create tension. She also knows how to show emotion through facial expressions and body language. There is a clean realistic look to the book making the story all the more CREEPY with the final, full page body shot of Death Head being a solid finish to this first issue.

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If you are looking for a new favorite horror story, this may be the one.

Ei8ht #1

Dark Horse

Release Date:  2/18/15

Words:  Rafael Albuquerque & Mike Johnson

Pictures:  Rafael Albuquerque

The Sitch:

A lone chrononaut, Joshua, is dropped into and trapped in an inhospitable dimension in time known as the Meld.  He has no memory of who he is or why he has been sent to the Meld.  The scientists who sent him can give him no feedback on how to proceed.  All he has is a static riddled voice of a stranger and his own gut to guide him to his destiny.

The Confession:

Strange worlds, time travel, and unreliable narrators make for some excellent reading. Everyone enjoys a good mystery because the unknown is scary interesting.  Albuquerque and Johnson have built a captivating world to explore in their new collaboration, Ei8ht.  Not unlike Albuquerque’s work with American Vampire, character development is not just an important dimension of the story, it gives impressive depth to this epic sci-fi mystery thriller.  The non-linear structure of the book, on top of an already unreliable narrator, makes for surprisingly quick and fluid storytelling.

The art speaks for itself.  Albuquerque is a known constant for incredible work.  I love American Vampire for its vicious beauty.  Depicting a world of his own creation is far from disappointing, the landscapes are breathtaking and the emotion in his facial expressions are no less amazing.  The way the words and pictures in this book compliment each other is perfection.

This is one of those no-brainer reads.  Go get Ei8ht now if you haven’t already.

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Lady Killer #1

Dark Horse

Release Date:  1/7/15

Words:  Joelle Jones & Jaime S. Rich

Pictures:  Joelle Jones

The Sitch:

Lady Killer is a new miniseries introducing the character Josie Schuller.  She is the picture perfect 1960’s housewife who can balance many hats, the wholesome homemaker, the wife to an unobservant husband, the mother of two perfectly precocious girls, and the deadly assassin.

The Confession:

Oftentimes in comic book stories, it all comes down to the execution.  There have been stories depicting the typical Joe or Josie in a not-all-is-as-it-seems environment, only to turn that world upside down.  I personally love a good dichotomy story.  Lady Killer wins as a classy, fun, dark comedy, action/adventure story.  It’s a bit campy.  I love camp.  I especially love the Kill Bill-ish feel mixed with a little Mad Men.  Watching Josie switch effortlessly between her seemingly safe and idyllic suburban household and vicious killer assassin for hire is pretty entertaining.

Jones not only can weave an entertaining story with tons of potential, she can draw some sweet lines.  I would buy this book for the art alone.  I love her style.  It is so detailed you are pulled instantly into the different time of the 60’s when women were certainly not imagined to lead a double life, let alone one so vicious.  The pages of Josie infiltrating a woman’s home to sell Avon, quickly turning into a vicious fight to the death was outstanding.  I love the little bit of the fight ending and Josie realizing she’s got a bit of gore on her perfectly pressed dress.  Kudos to detail.

If you like these kinds of stories, especially ones centered on a strong female lead, get this one on your pull list already.  There is no disappointment here.

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Also, you can go to Bleeding Cool for a little Q and A with Jones and see her awesome pin- up poster advertisements she did for fun before the narrative evolved.   Someone needs to make those into a calendar ASAP and just take my money now.  It’s too hard to pick a favorite but today, I choose this one:

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Sundowners #1

Dark Horse

Release Date:  8/27/14

Words:  Tim Seeley

Pictures:  Jim Terry

The Sitch:

Meet the Sundowners, a support group consisting of superheroes who have sworn to protect humanity to the best of their super abilities.  Are they the real deal or are they just super crazy?

The Confession:

This is one of those selections that I knew nothing about and grabbed on a whim.  It’s kinda nice to be pleasantly surprised by something that isn’t from Image.  Seeley pens a refreshing take on supes that is engaging and quite funny.  The narration is solid from start to finish.  The introduction is interesting enough to hook the reader and the development at the end shows promise in the issues to come.  I enjoyed how the members of the group were introduced.  Led by Dr. Shrejic, the doctor responsible for diagnosing “sundown syndrome” in the first place and a bit of an unhinged character himself, the members speak up in group, talking about what is on their minds while, on the side panel, the reader is privy to the doctor’s notes on said individual.  That is some funny stuff.  If you are looking for some intriguing flawed characters, look no further.

Terry’s art is consistent and gives each character a unique look to go with their unique personalities.   It’s a bit dark and gritty, rough-ish but not in an incomplete way.  Maybe ‘manic’ is the word I’m looking for…. which is probably on purpose since the sort of unhinged look is in step with the unhinged vibe of the characters.

If you ever doubted the sanity of someone who could easily slip into another personality while slipping on a costume you may want to give this one a read.

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The Witcher #1

Dark Horse

Release Date:  3/19/14

Words:  Paul Tobin

Pictures:  Joe Querio

The Sitch:

While traveling the edges of The Black Forest, monster hunter, Geralt, meets a fisherman, Jakob, who seems to attract the following of some strange creatures, one of which is his dead and murderous wife.  After Geralt saves Jakob from a water monster, the two share a meal and some stories, establishing enough of a bromance to join each other in the daunting task of escaping the forest’s clutches.

The Confession:

I had no idea there existed a game of the same name before I read this book.  It’s just as well because I think this book can stand on its own as a decent horror fantasy story.  I can’t say Tobin has nailed the voice of Geralt because of the no prior knowledge thing, but the voice he does create is pretty solid and intriguing.  Geralt is the stoic, driven-for-a-good-reason type of guy, driven by what I don’t yet know but it must be something good and horrible.  Jakob is also well fleshed out, the dead wife never saying anything but always watching him thing is pretty horrible on its own and has the makings of even more possible horrors yet to come.  In only a few pages the reader is quickly drawn in, sympathetic to the characters and invested in what happens next.

Querio’s art is perfect for that subtle, creeping approach to the horror of a story.  The scenery is worth lingering in.  It’s dreary, twisted, and full of dead things.  His forest hag is just the right kind of creepy.  How he depicts facial expressions and action give even more weight to the character development already depicted in Tobin’s words.  Querio’s style brings an awesome sense of mood to the pages.  Again, I don’t even know what the game looks like but if it’s anything like this book I’d be interested in giving it a try.

If you are looking for a good horror fantasy read with some equally good horror fantasy images, I found a book for you.  Just take a gander at this beauty:

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1

Dark Horse

Release Date:  3/19/14

Words:  Christos Gage

Pictures:  Rebekah Isaacs

The Sitch:

Following the game changing finales of BTVS Season 9 and Angel and Faith, Season 10 opens with a reunion of sorts for The Scoobies.  Buffy and the gang are cleaning up the mess of the almost zompire apocalypse side by side with non-zombie vampires and a whole new set of rules.  This first issue of the “New Rules” arch is a refresher as much as it is a tease for what to expect this season.

The Confession:

I’m really trying to be objective here, but I give up.  If you are a true Buffy fan, this is already a no brainer – go get it already.  Put it on your pull list before you regret it.  If you are new to the Buffyverse or the Whedonverse you can comfortably jump on here where the rules have changed… but you won’t get all the feels that go along with it.  The story itself can engage the noobs well enough, but ultimately, I would strongly urge a start at the beginning for full effect.

As I am a fan, I got the feels.  Gage knows his stuff, he knows these characters and the world they live in.  The dialogue is perfect.  Each Scoobie’s voice is spot on, as is the plot development, how the big bads are foreshadowed and handled and what each character brings to the story.  More so than Season 9, Season 10 is more in touch with the Buffy we fell in love with, feeling familiar and new at the same time.

Isaacs has already proven herself with Angel and Faith.  She has a knack for drawing the likenesses of the characters that we expect, what we want and deserve.  She has their mannerisms and movement down cold.  Dan Jackson provides the colors, giving Isaacs work its full capacity to shine, showing visual depth, boldness of style, and beauty.

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So yea, let’s put this one in the file marked DUH.  Go get your Buffy fix on.