Moro Rogers’ City in the Desert is an immensely charming series. I’ve previously reviewed the first two books for Fanboy Comics, though I missed out on the third when it released alone. Now, though, the whole trilogy has been brought together in one nice volume, as it should be, given that the books previously left off on such cliffhangers that waiting between them could be agonizing. This is the tale of Irro, the last monster hunter in the city Kevala, which is, as you’ve probably guessed, in the desert. He’s accompanied by Hari, his moody, not-quite-human assistant, and Bok, and ox/robot/thing that is never quite explained (though he doesn’t really need to be). Kevala’s establishment clearly is more bothered by Irro these days than they are gratified by his presence, and Irro, for his part, takes this in somewhat misanthropic stride. Things start to change with the arrival of strangers from the north, and Irro and Hari find themselves the city’s last line of defense against potentially catastrophic changes.
The Wicked + The Divine is one of those books that I want to recommend to everyone within earshot but have a really hard time describing quite what it’s like. At first blush, I thought of nothing so much as Preacher, with the religious overtones and sometimes in-your-face crudeness and violence, but that comparison feels tenuous at best. There are notes of Grant Morrison, too, particularly The Invisibles, in that the book feels irremovable from London counterculture. Previous work from writer Kieron Gillen may make a better comparison, but I am sadly only personally familiar with his Marvel work, whether Young Avengers or Darth Vader – this is ignorance I should probably fix. The Wicked + The Divine is brilliantly of its time and, while recognizably an Image book in that way that Image books are, feels so oddly singular that I can’t readily remember reading anything quite like it for a while.
One of the nice things about comics, as a medium, is that sometimes they can get pretty adventurous in the interest of fun or experimentation. Even in the mainstream, you’ll get things that no one would approve as a film or television project, and this is where we tend to find crossovers - a well-worn comic tradition that has, by now, extended not just to characters within a shared universe but to really anything that makes even a little bit of sense. IDW, in particular, has used this method for a variety of miniseries over the last few years, leveraging their catalog of popular franchises into a raft of so-crazy-it-just-might-work ideas.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hit television just as the school year started in 1993. I was seven. As with many of my cohorts, I was taken with the show; the novelty of live-action combat scenes, martial arts, giant robots, and a pattern of big-plot events kept us completely enthralled for years. Power Rangers was met with the sort of fervor previously reserved for the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For my generation, Power Rangers is a staple of our childhood, even if we didn’t like it. New Power Rangers series are still getting made, updating the villains, the costumes, the Zords, and the cast with each new season, and for those who, like me, have had two and a half decades to get nostalgic for the original incarnation, there’s a theatrical reboot scheduled for 2017.
The Last Fall (written by Tom Waltz and with art by Casey Maloney) is a war story. It takes place on the desert world of Krovin which is being invaded by the neighboring planet Merkonia. The basis of this conflict, so far as the Merkonites are concerned, is a religious one, but a valuable mineral resource and an impending ecological disaster (which some Merkonites discount as “eco-bullshit”) suggest otherwise. The allegory here is fairly transparent, but maybe that’s not important; sci-fi war stories have a long history of drawing parallels with some real-world conflict readers can relate to. Besides, the skin placed on these modern themes is interesting enough. I was immediately interested in exploring this world that is openly driven by faith and faced with a regrettably insurmountable (and inherently scientific) disaster.
Though he preferred to be known for his graphic novel work – volumes which essentially created the concept of a “graphic novel” – arguably Will Eisner’s most influential contribution to mainstream comics came in the form of The Spirit. First appearing in 1940, and then off and on for the subsequent decades, the strip lent some legitimacy to sequential storytelling, a form at the time overrun by mass-produced strongmen, hastily scrawled crime parables, and countless long-forgotten masked crusaders, all without losing the fundamental entertaining quality of the pulp detective story. This second edition hardcover, collecting stories originally published in the late 1990s, returns to print a who’s who of comics talent contributing their own tales featuring Eisner’s enduring characters, and boy, is it ever an entertaining ride.
There is something indefinitely powerful about myth. Myth implies that our world is full of secrets, more fantastic than meets the eye. That’s why, I suppose, our fiction builds upon it so often. Midnight Society: The Black Lake, written and drawn by Drew Edward Johnson, whose work can be found throughout the publications of Marvel, DC, and others over the last two decades, is a part of that tradition, and one that tantalizingly suggests a bigger, fantastic picture than can be contained in a single volume.
One of the trickiest things about reviewing comics, I find, is trying to rate books that are only a part of a larger, as-yet-unfinished work. So often, beginnings are justified by what comes next; choices that, at first, seem odd become clearly intentional once more of the story is revealed. Such is the case with Southern Cross.
One of the many things that the original Star Trek gave to television was the term “bottle episode,” after the idea of a ship in a bottle to describe those episodes that took place entirely on the Enterprise. These episodes were often cost-cutting measures; the sets were already built, they often involved few, if any, guest cast, and so they could be produced cheaply and quickly relative to episodes that required elaborate sets, location shooting, or several guest stars. Though comics do not normally have to worry about such things, one could argue that is part of the peculiar charm of John Byrne’s New Visions, since he has to rely on the photo materials he has to work with.