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Hugh Likes Comics: Lake of Fire

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Lake of Fire #1
Written by Nathan Fairbairn
Drawn by Matt Smith
Published by Image Comics
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“Lake of Fire” is Aliens with Crusaders instead off Space Marines, and it’s perfect.  Set in a remote village in the French Pyrenees in the 13th Century, a crashed space ship releases monstrous aliens that the people of the time can only conceptualize as demons.  When a team of errant crusaders come to the village to root out heresy, they come face to face with the terrifying creatures.
What I find most interesting about this concept is how asymmetrical the understanding of the characters is.  Fairbairn and Smith do an excellent job making clear the nature of the ‘demonic’ threat in the opening sequence, with a huge panel of the massive ship passing overhead before crashing in the mountains.  Conflict between highly advanced and pre-enlightenment societies isn’t a new concept.  ‘Star Trek’ made a lot of hay out of it over the years.  But this is an intriguing perspective.  The reader perspective follows the superstitious humans rather than the Xenomorph-like aliens, which really increases the tension.  They have absolutely no idea what they’re up against.
Fairbairn’s story is well researched and detailed without getting too bogged down in historical minutia.  The action is well paced and the characters are well developed.  The interplay between the greenhorn knight and his friend and the more seasoned knights and noblemen was interesting, and it kept the story moving.
Smith’s art is less realistic than I would have expected, but he has a great mastery of expressions.  The page layouts are a bit cramped, with lots of small panels.  This also helps keep the story compressed and tense.  Colors by Fairbairn are vibrant and atmospheric.
Lake of Fire is a heck of a good read to tide you over if you’re still waiting for the next George R. R. Martin book.  You can find it on Comixology, or on the shelves of your local comics shop.

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Hugh Likes Comics: The Wicked + The Divine

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The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1: The Faust Act
Written by Kieron Gillen
Drawn by Jaime McKelvie
Published by Image Comics

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Gillen and McKelvie are my all-time favorite team of comics creators.  Yes.  Even above Stan and Jack.  Deal with it.  I was impressed with their urban fantasy indie-pop black and white opus “Phonogram,” and their run of “Young Avengers” was my favorite comic of 2013.  So when they announced “The Wicked + The Divine,” I knew right away that it was going to be right in my wheelhouse.  But I slept on it, knowing that it would be there when I wanted it the most, and that graphic novels would be a better choice than single issues, for me.  This week I finally took the plunge.  And I was entirely right.
Every ninety years, twelve gods return to earth, incarnated as teenaged pop stars.  They spend the next two years inspiring humanity, then they die.  And the cycle repeats.  It’s called The Recurrence, and it’s happening right now.
Laura is a fanatic.  She’s seen every god that has appeared so far.  And when Luci, this incarnation of the Prince of Lies as filtered through the Thin White Duke, takes a shine to her and invites her backstage, she becomes enmeshed in the affairs of beings that are equal parts divine being, celebrity, and terminally-ill teenager.
The Wicked + The Divine is another moonshot high concept of a comic from Gillen and McKelvie.  A strange mix of pop culture and religious iconography, it is constantly shocking, melancholic, and larger-than-life.  McKelvie’s clean, gorgeous line work is once again perfectly suited, with a whole class of post-modern deities to accompany his work on Marvel’s Young Avengers.  Matthew Wilson’s colors once again provide a rich partner to McKelvie’s art.
The Wicked + The Divine vol. 1 is available in trade from your local comics shop or digitally from Comixology.  It’s a hell of a good read.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Wayward

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Wayward Vol. 1: String Theory
Written by Jim Zub
Drawn by Steve Cummings
Published by Image Comics
wayward
Rori Lane isn’t your typical teenager.  The daughter of an Irish engineer and a Japanese seamstress, she moves to Japan to live with her mom after her dad ‘didn’t work out.’  Before she can settle in, she begins to have visions of glowing red thread, and is soon drawn in to the dangerous hidden world of the Yokai, or Japanese monsters.  But she isn’t on her own.  She makes friends with other mythological denizens: An energetic cat girl, a classmate laboring under a curse, and a mysterious homeless boy with untapped powers.
Cummings’s art is gorgeous, and dispenses with pop-culture cuteness.  The Yokai in this book are by turns tough, terrifying, and absolutely disgusting.  There are no fuzzy-wuzzy kitsune mascots, and the kappa have a taste for human flesh, not cucumbers.  The gore is a little brutal at times, but the grown-up monster designs do a great job of just how deep and dark the well they they’ve stumbled into is.
The detail in the art is quite appealing as well.  Having worked as a English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, I noticed lots of little details in the background art that made the Tokyo of the book come alive.
“Wayward” is one of those odd little books that is too adult for YA based on the fact that the teenaged characters act a little too realistically.  Rori is foul-mouthed and psychologically damaged in ways that would make Katness Everdeen crap her pants.  Her mother is loving, but busy and at times distant.  Rori’s real teenage problems fitting in to a new environment are a nice parallel to her supernatural adventures.  While too much for youngsters, this is an excellent, but serious fantasy adventure for older teens.  Parental discretion advised, of course.

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