This week’s Haul reveals what happens: when a monkey loves a spoon; a merc-for-hire is ambushed; a hero fights a monster; and a group of superheroes gather to fight the Nazis. But really, I think the monkey and spoon say it all. So, here goes:
Solo #3 (DC Comics)
Solo is the quarterly anthology that celebrates a different artist with each issue, with the first two issues exploring the art of Tim Sale and Richard Corben. But this issue is all about Paul Pope, one of my favorite creators. There are five stories in this issue: one is a retelling of the Greek myth of the Minotaur, in which a bloodthirsty Theseus travels to Minos to slay the monster; the second is a new origin of OMAC, the one man army of the future, as he tries to stop an assassination; the third is about a child who orders a “life-sized monster ghost” from a comic book ad; next is one day in the life of a corner in NYC; and finally, a Batman and Robin tale where the dynamic duo take on the Joker.
Of course I liked this. Pope’s stories are always interesting, and it’s difficult for me to pick a favorite in this anthology. But if you pressed me on it, I’d have to say that the first story, “The Problem in Knossos,” combined my appreciation of Pope’s artwork with my fascination with Greek mythology, thus making it my favorite. Most of the tales in this book are infused with a heavy dose of irony, which is a good thing, at least for these kinds of short stories. Pope’s artwork is amazing – his characters are stylized but they seem real in their movements and expression. The one example that stuck out the most was the look on Theseus’ face at the end of the first story – just chilling, and a nice commentary on who the real monster in the story is. Pick this up – Paul Pope is a creator who should be sampled by everyone. (5/5)
Battle Hymn #1 (Image Comics)
The United States is looking for an edge against Germany during World War II, and the government gets the idea that a team comprised of various superheroes who are used to working alone is the key to victory. Proud American is a glory hound more interested in public relations than actually fighting. Johnny Zip is a showman who rigs contests so that he appears faster than he really is. The British super-agent known as the Mid-Nite Hour has his own reasons for being on the team. The Artificial Man is not even human – he’s just an atomic-powered robot who might be sentient, or maybe not. And then there’s the alien-like creature that lives under the sea.
This issue is pretty much set-up as we are introduced to many of the heroes who will join Watchguard, but writer B. Clay Moore does a good job telling us a lot about these characters in the brief moments they appear. His dialogue is on-target, and often funny — I really liked the introduction of the Proud American and the scene where Winston Churchill orders the Mid-Nite Hour to join the team. Artist Jeremy Haun has improved a lot since his days as the artist on Paradigm (he was quite good there, but a little too dependant on photo reference). His characters look good and his storytelling is fluid – his Churchill looks a little off, but that’s probably my only quibble with the art. This issue makes up for the sparseness of plot with some nice character vignettes, and I’m looking forward to more Battle Hymn. (4/5)
Grimjack: Killer Instinct #2 (IDW)
John Gaunt and the one surviving member of his assassination team, Fangs, are on the run from deadly wraiths, who have the ability to tear people apart, but can’t be touched. A harrowing chase through Cynosure leads first to Methane Alley and then to Romeroville, with the wraiths hot on Gaunt’s tail. The only thing worse than the wraiths are the zombies that inhabit Romeroville, and they have an appetite for live flesh that not even the wraiths can satisfy. And John is pissed – he’s absolutely convinced that someone in the Cadre set his group up for extermination.
In an age where most comics use deconstructed storytelling as an excuse to drag out what should be one comic into six issues of boring talk and unnecessary repetition, it’s nice to see someone like John Ostrander who can tell a lot of story in a short space. My plot synopsis above doesn’t even cover half of what happens in this comic – so much is going on in Cynosure that sometimes it seems like it’s a little too much. But I like that kind of comic. Timothy Truman’s art is just as good as it was in the first issue – he’s definitely back in the groove, particularly in the scene where John Gaunt and Fangs are backed against a wall with a horde of zombies descending upon them. Good stuff. I really like it when the creators’ enthusiasm oozes from a comic. (5/5)
Monkey & Spoon (AdHouse Books)
And finally, Monkey & Spoon. A toy monkey has fallen in love and married a spoon with stick-on eyes and arms. Jacko, the monkey, and Isabelle, the spoon, are having problems in their marriage – Jacko’s not paying attention to his wife and Isabelle isn’t communicating with her husband, with disastrous results. When Isabelle’s warning about a wayward thread on Jacko’s body goes unheeded, the monkey’s stuffing begins spilling out. Now the two, who were separated by resentment moments earlier, must try to overcome their differences in order to save Jacko’s life.
Writer/artist Simone Lia does a really good job of showing us what’s been going on in Jacko and Isabelle’s lives – the silent treatment that Jacko endures from Isabelle is well-illustrated through his seething anger and the clink of the dishes as she serves him dinner. I’m not sure I buy the resolution to the story – it seemed a little too nice and neat, but that’s probably just the cynic in me speaking. Having a monkey star in her comic isn’t the only similarity that Lia has to James Kochalka (Monkey Vs. Robot) – her art style is also similar, although I prefer Kochalka’s smoother, thicker lines. Lia’s art is cartoony and somewhat crude, but it serves the story well enough. At first I didn’t care for this comic, but I’ve re-read it three times today, and each time I read it, I appreciate it more. Maybe in a few months I can give this a 4 out of 5, but today it’s just a (3/5).