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Coffin Bound
Written by Dan Watters
Drawn by DaNi
Colored by Brad Simpson
Lettered by Aditya Bidkar
Published by Image Comics

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The Skinny: This tale of Action and Philosophy feels like how you remember 90’s Vertigo Comics.

Izzy Tyburn isn’t just going to die. She’s going to unlive. Living in a wasteland of philosophy and barbed wire, she has become the target of the unstoppable assassin known as The Eartheater. But rather than take the fight to the killer, she’s going to destroy her own existence first.
Coffin Bound is a comic about the ways we face or avoid entropy. It is intensely philosophical, and has a 90’s Vertigo vibe, which is not surprising, considering his other recent work is the relaunched Lucifer book from last year. The story features a figure whose head is a vulture skeleton, a strip club where the dancers don’t stop at their clothes, and an assassin who refers to himself, at length, as a ‘psychopomp.’ It is quite good, but it leans much more towards philosophers than action.
DaNi’s art also feels very reminiscent of 90’s Vertigo. There’s a particular panel of her lighting a cigarette which feels straight out of Sandman. I had a great sense of nostalgia for the period in reading the book, whether that was planned or not.
Coffin Bound is the start of a strange and Existential road trip that will feel almost nostalgic to longtime Vertigo Comics fans. You can buy the first issue from your local comics shop, or get it digitally from Comixology.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Canto

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Canto1

Canto #1
Written by David M. Booher
Drawn by Drew Zucker
Colored by Vittorio Astone
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Published by IDW

The Skinny: A boy with a clockwork heart ventures into a dark world in this grim steampunk fairytale.

Canto’s people live in chains. Denied freedom, identity and even hearts, they toil for cruel masters bigger and stronger than themselves. But Canto believes in two things: A fairytale about a boy who saved a princess, and the girl who gave him his name. When she is injured by the cruel slavers, he’ll do the only thing he can to save her: Leave the confines of their labor camp and bring back her heart.
A sinister but none-the-less charming steampunk fable, Canto #1 opens with a familiar fantasy theme, but plays it expertly. Booher and Zucker’s steampunk fable starts on all the right notes for a great series. The story flows around the gaps in the characters’ knowledge, the questions that Canto will have to find the answers for. It is also doesn’t flinch away from the horrors of its world.
Zucker’s designs are doing a lot of great work here. Canto and his people are little clockwork knights, and their is brutal and violent without being gory. They don’t have or lose blood, but Time. It’s a clever and occasionally devastating use of metaphor that works well on the page. The designs are all funhouse mirror, with the squat, dwarfish slaves and their towering, bestial masters. Even Canto’s face looks like a mask. Astone’s moody colors are dark but also deep and rich. The art and colors are what really elevates the story.
Canto #1 is an excellent start to a story that looks to take a critical, or at least subtextual eye the tired quest motif. I can’t wait to see how far it goes with its material. You can find it digitally through Comixology, or pick up a physical copy at your local comics shop!

Hugh Likes Comics: Crowded

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Crowded Vol 1: Soft Apocalypse
Written by Christopher Sebela
Drawn by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt
Colored by Triona Farrell
Published by Image Comics

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The Skinny: A contract bodyguard has her work cut out for her protecting her latest client from crowdfunded assassins.

In a future where anything can be crowd funded, and the gig economy has taken over, even assassinations can be crowdfunded. But when wild girl Charlie’s finds herself with a million-dollar bounty on her head, her only hope may lie in bodyguard for hire Vita. If they don’t kill each other, anyway.
Equal parts action movie, dystopian thriller, and buddy comedy, Crowded is a wild ride.But the character work is what really sets the writing apart. Sebela delivers a lot of depth to these characters with very simple strokes. He takes stock tropes like the world-weary bodyguard and transforms them into deep, complex characters that you come to care about. Even the villain of the arc, slimy livestereaming assassin Trotter, is if not sympathetic, complicated in his motivations.
Stein’s art, with inking by Brandt, is expressive, bold and easy to follow. Farrell’s colors are a mix of glaring digital neons and the grays and browns of urban decay. The art really sells the story, which walks a fine line between goofy action and cyberpunk horror.
Crowded juxtaposes over the top action sequences with the very real cyberpunk horrors of a rising gig economy, omnipresent digital surveillance, and collapsing American infrastructure. As ridiculous as it all seems, it is a frighteningly plausible near future.
Crowded: Soft Apocalypse collects the first six issues of the comic, and is available from Comixology, the usual digital retailers, or your local comics shop.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Conan the Barbarian #1

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Conan the Barbarian #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Drawn by Mahmud Asrar
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Published by Marvel Comics

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The Skinny: A perfectly CROMulent return to comics for the archetypal antihero.

With much fanfare, Conan the Barbarian has returned to Marvel Comics, and his first effort back is pretty good, I think? I should begin this review by saying that I’m not very familiar with the Marvel run that began in the 70’s and added so much to the character’s mythos. I am more well-read on Robert E. Howard’s original short stories, however.
And this comic, to me at least, is good. Aaron tells a nice little Conan story that doesn’t stray from the path of a Conan story. Conan kills a dude for reasons, meets a sexy lady that ALSO kills people and is super into him. Conan sleeps with her even though it is a SUPER OBVIOUS TRAP, and cuts his way out of trouble after the trap is sprung. Aaron’s signature here is in tying King Conan and Barbarian Conan together. It is reminiscent of writing on Thor, contrasting the brash youth with his scarred older self. It works well, and I’m onboard to see where he goes with it.
Asrar’s art is downright gorgeous, all rippling muscle and larger than life figures that can’t be contained by their panels. Matthew Wilson’s coloring is also outstanding, bringing a brightness that echoes the 70’s origins of the comic. The art team has big shoes to fill here, as the comic opens with a double-page collage of Smith and Buscema art.
The comic also includes a serialized prose novella as backup material, written by John C. Hocking, which feels very much in the vein of the original, but it is a bit too early to tell.
Conan the Barbarian #1 is a return to good old fashioned sword and sorcery, with a simple plot and bold and bloody art that leaps off the page. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t push too far beyond it, but if you’re looking for a simple fantasy adventure for adults, you can find it at your local comics shop or in digital from Comixology.

Hugh Likes Comics: Abbott

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Abbott #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Drawn by Sami Kivela
Published by Boom! Studios

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The Skinny-A black woman reports on a series of bizarre killings with occult significance while battling institutional racism in ’70’s Detroit.

Abbott is a remarkable comic, with a remarkable first issue. Its most impressive flourish is the sense of place, and its tension, that Ahmed and Kivela bring to the page. They do a standup job of bringing the powder keg of 1970’s Detroit to life. Enter Elena Abbott, a match if there eer was one. A reporter for the Daily Press, she is an unyielding force for truth in a city reluctant to face its own demons. Abbott is under pressure from her bosses and the police after she reported on the killing of a child in police custody. When she investigates a series of gruesome killings with occult significance, she becomes the target of a killer who may bring down both Detroits.
Abbott #1 is a master class of a first issue. In a few scant pages, we’re introduced to the complex world of 70’s Detroit, Abbott, her few allies, and her numerous enemies. Kivela skillfully leads the eye, and colors by Jason Wordie provide a gritty, evocative palate. The panels are interspersed with the text of Abbott’s articles, only giving the reader snippets of phrases. It is an efficient trick to build the world and also raise the tension on the page.
Abbott #1 is the start of a brilliant new series. Pick it up digitally from Comixology, or find a copy at Your Local Comics Shop!

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Hugh Likes Comics: Fence

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Fence #1
Written by C. S. Pacat
Drawn by Joanna The Mad
Colored by Joana Lafuente
Published by Boom Studios

Fance

The Skinny: The by the numbers sports comic calls to mind “Yuri On Ice,” but is coy in the first issue.

Fence is the story of scrappy young fencer Nicholas Cox. He’s from the wrong side of the tracks and hasn’t had the best training, but he’s got raw talent. He also has the luck to face fencing prodigy Seiji Katayama in his first tournament bout.
“Fence” is a teen sports comic about, obviously, fencing, that dutifully hits the story beats it needs to in the first issue without much fanfare. We get a lot of the main character’s back story, a very nice competition sequence, and a last page setup for the series, and it all works. The comic has a very pure shonen sports manga vibe to it. It reminded me most strongly of “Yuri on Ice,” but the text doesn’t feel completely committed to the idea yet. Although based on the queer fantasy trilogy that are C. S. Pacat’s breakout work, one shouldn’t be surprised.
Fans of this subgenre will find plenty to like, though, and Joanna The Mad’s art is clean and expressive, lingering on emotional scenes notes. Her figures are fluid and dynamic, and Joana Lafuente’s colors bring them out well.
Fence #1 is now available from Comixology or your local comics shop. Time will tell if this sports manga inspired book will stand out from the crowd, but this is a solid, if not surprising, introduction.

Hugh Likes Comics: Helena Crash

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Helena Crash #1
Written by Fabian Rangel Jr.
Drawn by Warwick Johnson Cadwell
Published by IDW
Helena Crash
In the future, coffee is illegal. Highly skilled courier Helena Crash has the goods, but will a delivery to Rojo, the city’s second most powerful mob boss, cost her her life?
Helena Crash is a weird and wonderful Sci-Fi adventure comic for fans of Samurai Jack and Tank Girl. It’s a fast and breezy look into a smog-choked future filled with delightfully designed robots and mutants. Building this grim pulp future with coffee as the macguffin is a brilliant choice for an all-ages take on the sub-genre.
Rangel’s script is spot on and does just enough to let the art do the talking. Cadwell’s style is sketchy and has the perfect middle-school-notebook tone to match the action. The designs are all real winners, from a mutant punk with a blowfish for a head, to Rojo’s wolfman bodyguard. There’s always something cool to look at on the page.
Helena Crash has zoomed her way into my heart. You can find her in your local comics shop or on Comixology.

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