Hannah Means-Shannon, senior New York Correspondent for Bleeding Cool writes;
I’m at Conquest Comics in New Jersey today, my local shop, to check out some of the titles coming out this week in real time, including Dexter #2 from Marvel, Bloodshot 0 from Valiant, Judge Dredd #10 from IDW, and Batman ’66 #2 from DC. It’s a kind of psychedelic spread of titles this week, but there’s a surprising continuity in titles I’ve picked up today as characters pursue mysteries and keep the readers busy trying to stay ahead of the game.
Dexter #1 from Marvel, written by the author of the original Dexter novels Jeff Lindsay started off with some strong characterization and an emphasis on “extras” in terms of things we didn’t know about Dexter’s life for fans of the show. Dexter’s narrative continues in #2 as a guiding force, presented in red captions, which suggests his calming monotone consistent with the books and show. The plot that kicked off in Issue #1, Dexter’s encounter with a former high school bully Steve Gonzales turned local Miami mover and shaker with the caveat that he knows far too much about Dexter’s formative years. Or as Dexter refers to Gonzales, “an old nightmare”. This issue has the added spark of bringing in Debra to decide she’s not a big fan of Gonzales either, which creates a comic effect for readers, who know that Dexter is internal gleeful about this. Deaths keep piling up around Gonzales’ “mission”, and there’s an increasing sense that sharks, both Dexter and Gonzales, are slowly circling a tricky situation and deciding how to proceed.
Like some of the larger plot arcs in the show, the development and build up toward a showdown between two psychopaths (though it’s not clear yet whether Gonzales is one, however even Dexter acknowledges there’s something “not right” about him) creates steady build in plot adrenaline for the reader. This issue is a little less visually flashy and moody than #1, but it actually steps up in storytelling to make for a strong read. Dalibor Talajic’s artwork settles in to a similar calming, surface-oriented tone as Dexter’s monologues, and the match, and balance developing between the art and the story style is impressive. Dexter the comic has justified its comic aspirations as more than a translation of the character to exploit a hot IP.
Bloodshot 0 is a comic that should be the super star attraction this week. Valiant have been proving their salt in increasing ambition and steady successes in the past year, and getting New York Times Best-Selling author and artist on MIND MGMT (Dark Horse), Matt Kindt, involved is just icing on the cake. Getting him to provide the long-awaited origin story of one of Valiant’s most intriguing characters was kind of a stroke of genius, particularly since Kindt grew up reading Valiant and has long wanted to see a version of this story told. Matt Kindt provides a cover worthy of poster art, or a fine art print, really, and one that will not soon be forgotten, as well as writing the issue. Chriscross provides the interior art and Moose Baumann the colors. The cover suggests the lay of the plot, with multiple versions of Bloodshot in differing iterations toting high powered weaponry. The cover’s background color, a punchy gold-yellow is not something you see often from Valiant, as well as the unusual mandala- design provided by Kindt. It raises the status of the mythology behind Bloodshot to give the cover an almost mystical slant in terms of composition.
Kindt picks up on the mythology he wants to emphasize in the story through symbolic language. The narrator comments on the first page “everything comes full circle”, tying into Bloodshot’s own iconography. Bloodshot’s early days are the subject of the narrative, a time when he revelled in “collateral damage” and as a super-soldier had no intrinsic conscience, making him an “animated Frankenstein’s monster”. The book has an interesting way of presenting the laborious process of perfecting a manageable version of Bloodshot, layering the tweaks and epochs of his alteration, more or less creating a new version of him from the old each time. The great experiment, to create a Bloodshot with a “soul” is a fascinating read and teases out the questions about a character like this that readers might forget to ask in a haze of his explosively active role in Valiant stories. Bloodshot 0 is a must for Valiant fans and the Valiant-curious.
IDW’s Judge Dredd series, written by Duane Swierczynski (who is a prolific crime novelist among other things), and drawn and colored by Nelson Daniel, is in many ways a more stripped down version of Dredd storytelling that nevertheless jumps off into entertainingly imaginative directions, backed up with strong visual energy from Daniel. Starting off with the discovery of a severed Judge’s head is an immediately interesting move for Issue #10, and delving into the strong “precognitive” storylines always associated with the Dredd universe is another good choice. Fun-house carnivalesque settings with a violent edge give Daniel plenty to play with in this issue, and also give him the chance to take in the full scope of a wide ranging color palette that pops. Not every Dredd story pits the Judge alone against a tide of unfriendlies, but the ones that do are particular page-turners, and moving Dredd through a series of near-hallucinatory landscapes in the “mirrored madhouse” he’s investigating also makes for an appealing read. Placing Dredd in a “spooky amusement park” surrounded by side-show freaks is a suggestive thing, and creates a tension between whether Dredd is the “normal” one here or, in fact, is a freak among freaks himself. Time for a little psychoanalysis on Issue #10, left, of course, to the reader to ponder.
The advent of the Batman ’66 series from DC has prompted strange ripples in pop culture, including a line-up on Pop Vinyls coming out this autumn from Funko, collector dolls in toy shops, and even a sudden explosion in t-shirts and other fan paraphernalia. The lead story in the comic, written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Ty Templeton, is “inspired by the classic TV series” and its covers present radio-like previews of interior events like the voice over for the show. In Issue #2, we learn that “It’s sub-zero for our heroes” as the Penguin “teams up” with Mr. Freeze. But the book is not all homage, bringing in cultural references that may be tongue-in-cheek but also reassure the reader that this is a book for our times alongside its emphasis on campy costumes. Climate change pops up, of course, in this issue about snow and ice, featuring an iceberg “drifting from the Arctic Circle” into Gotham harbor.
Even though the accentuated action scenes are meant to reference the dayglo combats of the TV show, there’s a remarkable amount of violence in the initial storyline. The art is idiosyncratic, with bold, comic-strip like lines provided by Templeton, and Wes Hartman’s colors only emphasize a sense of confidence that carries the story well. The celebration of language, alliteration, and one-liners is part of the charm of the book, and fans will get that in spades through Parker’s careful craftsmanship. The second story in the book “Chandell’s Chanteuse”, drawn by Jonathan Case, takes us further into the psychedelic and balances with the first story to present the two sides of the TV series: the action and the wacky elements. Hartman’s colors here, again, do not disappoint as Batman bashes a nightclub and goes into his own psychedelic spin. The series is astonishingly unfettered in what kinds of stories it can tell, and with so much inspiration to draw from, it could continue to be entertaining and celebratory for a long while yet.
Other titles to check out this week include Creepy #13 featuring emphasis on the disturbing aspects of small town life, Masters of the Universe, where She-Ra gets more of a spotlight, Lobster Johnson finishing up his “Scent of Lotus” case, and of, course, the various Marvel titles tying into the Infinity event including Avengers and New Avengers. Hopefully you’ll be picking up your titles from a local comic book shop to keep these guys in business and support weekly comics production. That’s all from me this week, and happy reading.
Special thanks to Conquest Comics in New Jersey. You can find their Facebook page here. They are currently dominating POP vinyl collectibles with their White Phoenix exclusive and taking pre-orders for their Metallic Harley Quinn exclusive.
Hannah Means-Shannon is senior New York Correspondent at Bleeding Cool, writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org, and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress. Find her bio here.