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Editor’s Note: This edition of The Haul combines two weeks’ worth. There’s no explanation other than I had some trouble uploading the first, and so held it off to combine it with the next. My apologies to Mr. Muenzler. (SW)

Welcome to this week’s NBA Playoff edition of the Haul.  Okay, so this has nothing to do with the NBA except I’m writing it during timeouts of the Rockets-Mavericks game.  So… on to comics:

Solo #4  (DC Comics)

Solo is the quarterly series that spotlights a different artist each issue and lets that creator tell any story they want to.  We’ve already seen superb installments from Tim Sale, Richard Corben and Paul Pope, and now it’s Howard Chaykin’s turn.  Six stories:  1) Jazz artist Firestone Cooley wakes up from a two-week bender in Paris only to find Nazis marching down the street, and it’s a race to the Swiss border; 2) Dr. Upchurch has a unique way of keeping his wife faithful; 3) Bob Smith and Ned Van Zandt have watched the West go from wild frontier to Hollywood and butted heads the entire journey; 4) two former spies who were enemies in their previous life are both after the secret formula of a mega-selling soft drink; 5) a white supremacist and his family must face the truth of their lives; and 6) Chaykin himself gives us an autobiographical tour of why he’s no good writing horror comics.

There are four really good stories and two that are just okay, but even the just okay stories spotlight the genius of Howard Chaykin’s storytelling skills.  With a deft hand and an eye for detail that amazes me (check out the cover, and you’ll see what I mean), Chaykin is at the top of his game in this comic.  My favorite story is the first one:  Firestone Cooley’s perplexed reaction to the spliff-smoking Nazi is great, and the underlying message hits home at the same time – no matter how monstrous a person or group of people’s deeds, they are human just the same as you and me.  I was cool to the stories about the homicidal gene-splicing doctor and the two ex-spies, but I admire the skill used in creating them.  Verdict:  Another great issue of Solo.  (4/5)

 

Jon Sable, Freelance: Bloodtrail #1  (IDW)

Grimjack is back.  Nexus will be back soon.  So why not Jon Sable, another stalwart of the 80s indie comic scene?  Jon Sable uses his skills to help those in need, even if it means there’s no reward when all’s said and done.  This issue starts off with an explosive rescue of a kidnapped young girl whose father is set to testify at the trial of Two G’s Goranovic.  Following a bender that lands Jon in the slammer, he’s sprung by his old friend Sonny so he can make a TV appearance as author B.B. Flemm.  And now Sable’s old friend Jacob Inyati is in New York, as an ambassador targeted by an assassin. 

I’ve never read Jon Sable before, but I’m a huge fan of creator Mike Grell’s work, and I’ve heard from others how good the old Jon Sable series was.  So what did I think?  I liked.  There seem to be three different plots running concurrently (the mob boss, the ambassador assassin, and Sable’s relationship with his girlfriend Myke) but it’s not confusing and it flows quite well.  Grell’s art is dynamic, from Sable’s entrance in the warehouse at the beginning of the issue to the one where a seething Jon Sable tells off his old friend.  He eschews the standard panel structure and uses whatever panel size and shape fits the tone of the story.  Excellent comic, and I’m looking forward to more, in addition to the reprints of the original Jon Sable series.  (4/5)

 

Red Sonja #0  (Dynamite Entertainment)

Seeking to capitalize on the popularity of Dark Horse’s Conan the Barbarian series, Dynamite brings us their 70s revival, Red Sonja.  Red Sonja originated in Marvel’s original Conan series from the 70s, and became popular enough to spawn a movie in the 80s.  In this special preview issue, Sonja enters a nameless town where all she wants is some brew and grub.  But the townspeople have their own plans for the barbarian woman, and the barkeep Jessa will have to choose who to help: the woman who has treated her kindly, or the people who berate her every chance they get.

Writers Michael Avon Oeming and Mike Carey give us a preview that is lacking in any sort of draw.  There’s no real conflict; I mean, there’s a battle, but there’s no reason behind it, other than the town needs someone for their sacrifice.  The script tries to evoke the language of hither yore, but it only served to irritate me — much too flowery and lacking real substance.  As for the art, Mel Rubi draws a nice-looking Sonja most of the time, but his other characters run the gamut from exceedingly well-drawn to amateurish sketches.  I shouldn’t do this, but I can’t help but compare this to Dark Horse’s superb Conan series, and in that comparison, Red Sonja falls flat.  (2/5)

I am convinced that the NBA Playoffs cause heart attacks.  Absolutely certain.  You cannot change my mind on this.  I could feel my chest tighten halfway through the third quarter of the Rockets-Mavs game Thursday night.  One more silly turnover; one more blown defensive assignment; one more missed open jumper, and – blam – my chest explodes.  These are the kind of comics that do the same thing, but in a good way.

 

Deadworld #1  (Image)

Deadworld has apparently had 50 or so issues come out in the past, but I’d never heard of it.  But I’m on a zombie craze lately, mainly due to the excellent Walking Dead and Remains series, so anything that’s zombie gets a look from me.  It seems the world has been overrun by zombies, and a group of teenagers in a school bus are trying to make it to Safe Haven, the possibly mythical refuge for the survivors of the plague.  Standing between them and Safe Haven is an army of zombies and their leader, the Zombie King – who incidentally talks, and I don’t mean in a “I need brains…” kind of way.

Writer Gary Reed dumps us in medias res with little to no explanation of what the hell is going on.  It works.  We feel the panic, the horror, the bewilderment that envelops the survivors.  If I have one complaint about the story, it’s that I don’t really have a handle on any of the characters, and thus I have no true emotional attachment.  Hopefully by the time they start dying, I’ll care.  Vince Locke handles the art, and he does a good job.  His art is a little more sketchy for this kind of book than I would prefer, but I’m never lost as to what is going on.  My only confusion comes in trying to distinguish some of the characters.  But his zombies rock, particularly the gruesome Zombie King.  Can’t wait to see what happens next.  (3.5/5)

 

Sea of Red #2  (Image)

I really enjoyed the first issue – would the second one build from that, or would it be a scoring drought in the second quarter that lets the other team back in the game?  (I know, I know — enough of the basketball metaphors!)  Anyway, in this issue, vampiric Marco Esperanza lies at the bottom of the sea, tied to a sunken wreck, feeding on whatever fish happen to swim near enough to take themselves out of the evolutionary morass.  So what happens when moody film director Joel Cameron is filming an undersea documentary and comes across the rotting Marco Esperanza?  If you guessed mayhem, you got it.

I have no idea where this series is going, but I am enjoying the ride.  Story-guys Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer pick up right where they left off last issue with no let-up.  These guys know what they are doing, and they do it well.  The script this time around has some humor in it, particularly Joel Cameron’s lines.  But there’s still that beastly ferocity, particularly when Marco goes crazy for the pitcher of blood.  His demand for “More!” is chilling, and I have a feeling his “more” is going to end up being more than just a pitcher of blood.  Kieron Dwyer supplies the layouts and Salgood Sam pencils, inks and colors from those layouts – at the end of the comic there’s a very informative section that shows how this process works.  The washed-out art is beautiful, and there’s not a beat missed in the storytelling.  Why can’t more comics be like this?  (4.5/5)

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