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Hugh Likes Comics: I Walk With Monsters

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I Walk With Monsters #1
Written by Paul Cornell
Drawn by Sally Cantirino
Colored by Dearbhla Kelly
Published by Vault Comics

The Skinny: Hunting monsters, both supernatural and human

Jacey and David hunt monsters in rural America. Jacey grew up with her brother Jace on a farm, and they both knew what their father did with the hands who came to briefly stay and help out. That was until Jace was sent away to stay with “An Important Man.” Now, she searches the backroads and dark underbelly of the heartland, searching for a clue to what happened to him. David’s story is more complex.
Paul Cornell’s dialog is a treat here. It has a simple elegance that works really well to convey character. Jacey snaps with defiant boredom while in the clutches of a serial killer, and the short, rote dialog between her and David in the next scene quickly conveys that they have been at this a while. The extraordinary has become routine. And when that all falls apart, the flashback scenes deliver very effective menacing dread.
Sally Cantirino’s art with Dearbhla Kelly’s colors create a moody and oppressive atmosphere. Figures face the reader and challenge their notions of comfort and security. With a palate of browns and dark yellows, they evoke an endless autumn, a dark and dying world.
I Walk With Monsters gives an intriguing glimpse into a world of monsters, serial killers, and rich, deep characters. You can find it digitally through Comixology, or in print at Your Local Comics Shop.

Hugh Likes Comics: We Only Find Them When They’re Dead

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We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Simone Di MeoColored by Mariasara Miotti
Lettered by AndWorld Design
Published by Boom! Studios

The Skinny: A weird and beautiful space opera about small business and giant corpses.

In the distant future, mankind has scoured the galaxy clean of resources. Pushed to the edges of a depleted galaxy, they find space’s last mineable source of minerals, metals, and even meat: Dead Space Gods. But the competition between fleets of ‘autopsy ships’ is fierce, and heavily regulated. As corporate entities dominate the market and push out independent operators, Captain Georges Malik and the crew of the Vihaan II struggle to stay afloat under the watchful eye of a zealous enforcement officer.
We Only Find Them When They’re Dead is a sad, beautiful, and imaginative high-concept space opera of the sort that only really works in the comics medium. Ewing’s script is tight and economical, bringing the four-person crew to life in just a few pages. But Di Meo’s art with Miotti’s coloring is the real star here. There is a breathtaking use of light and shadow in this book. The characters seem to float right off of the page, and the space scenes do an excellent job conveying both the enormity of the titanic corpses and the tiny, cramped vessels that carve them up for parts.
We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #1 is the start of something massive. I can’t wait to read more, and I highly recommend you check it out. Find it at Your Local Comic Shop, or digitally from Comixology!

Hugh Likes Comics: Commanders in Crisis

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Commanders in Crisis #1
Written by Steve Orlando
Drawn by Davide Tinto
Colored by Francesca Carotenuto
Lettered by Fabio Amelia
Published by Image Comics

The Skinny: An ambitious start to a fascinating new indie superhero series.

Commanders in Crisis is an ambitious new indie superhero comic that doesn’t aim simply to tell a story so much as to create a new universe. It introduces and follows the five titular heroes, who are a team along the lines of The Avengers or Justice League, although there is a bit more going on with them than it first seems, and the real twist of the book is at the end, so it won’t be spoiled here. I will say that Orlando and Tinto have created a compelling cast of characters with a huge burden to shoulder. Commanders feels like a crossover event for a line of comics that doesn’t exist.
One of the spots where ‘Big-2” crossovers tend to fall apart is that the action demands too much of the book’s page count, with splash pages and punch-ups pushing out character and story moments, making the plots feel rushed and the characters feel off. This is a well-paced book that gives us everything we need about these five characters in one short fight and a sequence of two-page vignettes following them through their off-hours. With five new heroes that don’t seem to fit neatly into their expected archetypes, Orlando and Tinto do a great job establishing who these heroes are and what they’re doing. I particularly like “Sawbones,” who is just the right mix of interesting powers and 90’s parody.
The other big pitfall for a story like this is the dramatic irony of knowing the status quo can only be shifted so much in a big superhero universe. The good guys are going to win the day, in the end, and while there may be a heroic sacrifice, they’ll only be off the board for so long. By establishing a whole universe, the creators are in the unique position of being able to take the story in any direction they want. There is a sense of possibility here that I haven’t felt in a Superhero book since Stormwatch.
Commanders in Crisis #1 is a gleaming gem of possibility. If you love superheroes, but are looking for something fresh that isn’t steeped in eighty years of continuity, This is a book to check out. You can find it at your Local Comics Shop, or snag a digital copy from Comixology!

Hugh Likes Comics: The Ludocrats

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The Ludocrats #1
Written by Keiron Gillen and Jim Rossignol
Drawn by Jeff Stokely
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Clayton Cowles

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The Skinny: Weird for weirdness’s sake.

The Ludocrats #1 was delayed for nearly two months due to Diamond Distrobution’s shutdown over Covid-19, and I still wasn’t ready for it. The book reimagines the madness commonly found in aristocracy not as the unfortunate products of inbreeding and a system of hereditary wealth and power coupled with the intrigues that go with such, but as a purposeful system of government. And it goes all in with the concept.
The book opens with an epigraph: “We tried to imagine a better world. We failed. Instead, we did this.” Followed by one of the two main characters, Baron Otto Von Subertan, that he isn’t technically naked if he’s covered in blood. The other, Professor Hades Zero-K, remarks that by showing up to another important function sky-clad, he’s becoming predictable. And the book goes on from there without letting up its pace or frantic energy.
The book is helped enormously by Jeff Stokely’s art, colored by Tamra Bonvillain. The pages are crammed full of silly, wonderful, blink-and-you-miss them gags, such as a wedding attended by such diverse guests as a robot reading a newspaper and a sack of wheat, which the backmater assures the reader is both sentient and ‘the most emotionally intellegent being in the known universe.’
The pages reward careful study, but don’t detract from the manic pace of Gillen and Rossignol’s delightful script. This is a deeply weird comic, but it presents itself exactly as it is, without a hint of irony or self-consciousness. Deadpool wishes it could be this over-the-top.
The Ludocrats #1 is a strange and wonderful gem, and I’m not precisely sure what’s happening, but I can’t wait for the next issue. You can find it at your local comics shop. Call and see what their safe pickup options are. Or, enjoy digitally via Comixology!

Hugh Likes Comics: Test

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Test #1
Written by Christopher Sebela
Drawn by Jen Hickman
Colored by Harry Saxon
Lettered by Hasan Orsmane-Elhaou
Published by Vault Comics

The Skinny: Aleph Null is a test subject on the run. But what is he running towards?

Laurelwood, USA is the town where They are making The Future. Runaway professional test subject Aleph Null is on his way there, as soon as they can figure out what state it’s in, and evade the corporate recovery teams on their trail. But Aleph is a self-surgery junkie with schizophrenic tendencies, and possibly an actual cyborg.
Test is a difficult first issue to wrap my head around. We get flashes and stutters of reality as Aleph wanders their way through a warped and twisted American heartland. The story plays in to the unreality, showing Aleph’s journey in disconnected panels over two distinctly different narrations. One is Alpeh’s semi-lucid narration as they make their way to and observes Laurelwood. The other are reports from the corporations they escaped from, detailing their mysterious past and trail of violence.
Hickman’s art does a great job of framing the story. Everything feels a little off and unreal, and the reader can never be completely sure what is happening, and how it connects to the narration. Everything feels a bit off, in the best way for the comic. Saxon’s colors assist tremendously in setting the mood.
Test #1 is a post-modern medical thriller that is the kickoff to something great. You can find it digitally on Comixology, or in print at your local comics shop.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Invisible Kingdom

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Invisible Kingdom #1
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Christian Ward
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
Published by Dark Horse Comics

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The Skinny: The captain of a space freighter and a religious initiate each make a startling discovery in the first installment of this gorgeous space opera.

Invisible Kingdom follows to seemingly unconnected space opera stories. The first follows freighter captain Grix as she and her crew are forced to make a crash landing on a desolate moon. The second follows Vess, a novice member of a religious order called ‘the Siblings of Severity.’ The book switches from one point of view to the other, seemingly at random, but using visually rhyming panels to transition from Grix to Vess and back again, and the reader doesn’t really understand the relationship until the end of the first issue, but when it all comes together, it works beautifully.
Wilson’s story is, for lack of a better word, very human. Confined to the point of view of the two protagonists, we only get teasing hints of the world building. Grix is trying to hold her ship together after Lux, the monopolistic shipping company she and her crew work for, fails to do her ship’s necessary maintenance. Vess faces ridicule both inside and outside the order she joins due to her heritage. Both parts of the story feel lived in and real as a result.
Ward’s talents are on full display here as we are treated to a world of floating monasteries and neon alien cityscapes. His design work is impeccable, and does so much heavy lifting for the story, as the arch of the inside of a ship’s hold echoes the dome of a floating monastery.
Wilson and Ward are both superstars of the current comics generation. Wilson co-created the groundbreaking Ms. Marvel, and Ward illustrated 2017’s critical smash Black Bolt. Invisible Kingdom has the potential to be truly great, and this first issue doesn’t disappoint. You can find it in print from your local comics shop, or digitally from Comixology.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Calamity Kate

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Calamity Kate #1
Written by Magdalene Visaggio
Drawn by Corin Howell
Colored by Valenitna Pinto
Published by Dark Horse Comics

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The Skinny: A recent divorcee moves to California to start over in the high-stakes world of professional monster hunting.

Kate Strand’s life just fell apart. After going through a messy divorce and withdrawing into her shell, she’s ready to reinvent herself. And she’s going to do it by becoming the world’s greatest monster hunter, much to the chagrin of her former best friend and single-parent Vera, whose couch she’s going to be surfing on while she does it.
Visaggio has stated that this is an almost biographical story, dealing with her own divorce and the self-destructive urges that came with it. While the monsters may be metaphorical, who hasn’t been tempted to leave their messy lives behind and start again rather than face a scarier reality, even knowing that you’re carrying your problems with you?
The thing I love about this issue is the manic sense of tension that pervades every panel. The focus is less on the cool monsters than it is the consequences Kate is running from. This is best expressed in an early sequence where Kate asks Vera if she can stay with her until she gets back on her feet, and they are interrupted by a bunch of monster skulls toppling out of her duffel bag.
Howell’s art and Pinto’s colors sing. Howell does both great expressions and pleasantly scary monster designs. Pinto’s dark colors are a perfect tonal match. Even on a bright, sunny, morning, there is the pervading sense of impending catastrophe.
Calamity Kate #1 is a bold new first issue to another deeply personal story from a rising star in comics writing. You can find it digitally through Comixology, or grab a physical copy at your local comics shop!
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Hugh Likes Comics: The Long Con

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The Long Con
Written by Dylan Meconis and Ben Coleman
Drawn by E. A. Denich
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Published by Oni Press

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The Skinny: The Comic Con at the end of the world

What happens when The End of the World happens during a major Science Fiction convention? Five years ago, a cataclysmic event destroyed the city of Los Spinoza, and, presumably, the Los Spinoza Convention Center, home to Long Con, the world’s largest and greatest comic convention. But what makes a better bomb shelter than 600,000 square feet of Brutalist concrete? When evidence emerges that something survived, struggling reporter Victor Lai, who barely escaped from the Long Con minutes before the disaster, is sent back in by his editor to investigate.
The Long Con is a delightful look at the apocalypse through the lens of pop culture fandom. It’s a clever microcosm of fans, some of whom are literally eating each other once they get cut off and have to figure out how to survive. The book seamlessly shifts between the last day of the convention and Victor’s return, with his friend Dez guiding him though the twin mazes of Convention culture and the survivors. Meconis and Coleman’s wit is sharp, Denich’s designs are charming without being too cartoonish, and Robado’s use of color is spot on. The past is a riot of bright colors, and the future is just the right touch of grimy.
The story weaves in a third layer, a fictional Star Trek-inspired media property called “Skylarks” that does a lot of great storytelling work and a delightful piece of parody all on its own.
The Long Con just released its fourth issue, and you can find it on Comixology or at your local comics shop. I highly recommend it.