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Welcome to another addition of The Haul, with more fun pinch-hitting action from me. A couple of great books this week balance out a couple of weaker ones – so enjoy:

Bite Club #6

Bite Club #6 (DC Comics)

The writing team of Howard Chaykin and David Tischman wrap up their vampire mafia story with the final issue of this limited series. Leto has left the Church to become the leader of the Del Toro crime family, Eduardo and Danny have a few loose ends to wrap up, and Victor has bought out Pharma-Tech, the company that’s going to make the Del Toros rich…and legit. All of the pieces are in place for the two most unlikely characters to make their power play.

To be honest, this was a disappointing ending to what was a promising story. Too many double crosses, including the improbable one at the end, really diluted what was a great story about family and relationships in addition to criminals and vampires. The art, though, was impressive – David Hahn is a name to look out for. His clean style is a cross between Philip Bond and Javier Pulido and he brings a very cinematic feel to the comic. Too bad the story couldn’t deliver in this final issue. (2/5 for this issue; 3/5 for the entire series)

The Walking Dead #10

The Walking Dead #10 (Image)

Surprisingly, there are no zombies in this issue of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s zombie comic. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any danger or excitement. Rick’s son Carl has been accidentally shot and Tyreese must prevent him from taking out his anger on the shooter. The cast continues to grow with this issue, but that just means there are more people to be killed by the zombies. There are some great character moments in this issue – Allen dealing with the death of his wife; Tyreese trying to keep his daughter from fooling around with a dangerous guy; and Glenn vocalizing his frustration at being left out of the pairing off of couples.

There are no big action sequences in this issue – it’s definitely a break for the survivors, but tension still permeates every page of this book, whether it’s fear of what may come next or horror at what has already happened. Kirkman does a masterful job of showing us what each character is going through, and still manages to propel the story along at a fast pace. Adlard’s art has really grown on me with this book – I still miss Tony Moore, but Adlard is a master of shadows and emotions, and issues like this really showcase that ability. With its intricate characterization and suspenseful endings, The Walking Dead continues to be one of the best monthly comics on the shelf. (5/5)

Ultra #2

Ultra #2 (Image)

The Luna Brothers’ (Jonathan and Joshua) attempt to merge the worlds of superheroics and Sex and the City comes off a bit better with this issue. To be honest, I almost didn’t pick this up, but decided to give them another chance. I’m glad I did. Ultra fights some bank robbers (yawn) and then has dinner with friends where she unexpectedly meets the possible guy of her dreams. Maybe. But she sure as hell isn’t going to mention anything about that to her friends.

Though the dialogue still has some clunkers (Death Toll: Unknown. Fear: Everywhere.), I enjoyed the interplay between the three superheroines in this issue. And the conversation between Ultra and her possible true love really rang true in places, particularly the “I’m clearly making an ass out of myself” comments. I’ve said that before. The art by Jonathan Luna is a bit uneven in places as faces sometimes change from panel to panel and it can be difficult to differentiate some characters. But he has a really good handle on figures, and his panel construction is good as well. Much better than the first issue, and I’ll probably be back for more. (3/5)

Deicide #1: Path of the Dead

Deicide #1: Path of the Dead (DC/Humanoids)

Agon the hunter and Beluch the lion-headed warrior team up to hunt down the cruel god Madorak in Carlos Portela and Das Pastoras’ epic action-comedy. Agon’s love has been sacrificed to Madorak and he sets off on a journey to reclaim her soul. He is soon teamed up with the savage yet inept Beluch and they travel across the land, getting into some crazy adventures, most of them the result of Beluch’s screw-ups.

I found myself laughing out loud at some of the situations and dialogue. It’s strange how Portela juxtaposes the humor in this book with some outright horrific scenes of violence – very Tarantino-like. The pitter-patter dialogue between Agon and Beluch (and sexy demon-on-a-leash Hettia) is classic and well-written and Pastoras’ art is gorgeous. I can’t wait for the next volume. (4.5/5)

The Hollow Grounds

The Hollow Grounds (DC/Humanoids)

Another entry in the new publishing alliance between DC Comics and European graphic album publisher Humanoids, Luc and Francois Shuiten’s The Hollow Grounds is a confusing piece of comic book work. There are at least three stories in this collection, and all deal with love and lust and loss. The first part consists of six stories that are all very short and don’t make a lot of sense, so that’s all I’ll really say about them. The second part is the story of a hollow planet that has no men and how the women react when outsiders visit their world for the first time. The final story follows the adventures of Nelle (a character from the second story) as she searches another planet for her friend Olive.

Beautiful art by Francois Shuiten is wasted on three confusing stories that are full of wild and interesting ideas but little narrative power. I really wish that some of those ideas had been explored and expanded and that there had been more of a plot behind them, but I still enjoyed some of it, particularly the last story. If you’re interested in eye-popping visuals and hallucinatory imagery, then you might enjoy this. (2/5)

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