It’s Wednesday and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (with preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting
Colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser
$3.50 (print)/$2.99 (digital)
After last issue’s largely Velvet Templeton-less Velvet, this week’s installment finds her back at the forefront in an issue that’s pretty much non-stop tension and action. Brubaker, with the ease of a magician explaining a particularly clever magic trick, walks us through the titular rogue ARC-7 agent’s leg work put into planning a daring assault on her former office. There’s a few really nice details to admire here: Brubaker’s script sells the high probability of failure for Velvet’s desperate plan and introduces a couple of fun wrinkles.
One of these wrinkles, a confrontation between Velvet and one of her pursuers, results in a short-but-sweet fight scene that really exemplifies the kind of beautiful action choreography Epting brings to this book. It’s a genuinely surprising handful of pages that crescendos into what has to be the best use of comic book onomatopoeia I’ve seen this year. The semi-reveal as to why Velvet would go through all this keeps with the book’s refusal to let the reader catch their breath before moving on.
Velvet is a book that, as a whole, looks like it’s going to read like one hell of a James Bond flick on the page. Issue to issue, though, Brubaker and Epting have a knack for loading in enough viscerally satisfying spy movie coolness to keep you buying by the issue.
Tooth and Claw #1
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Benjamin Dewey, Jordie Bellaire (interior colors)
Lettered by John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt
Publisher Image Comics
I’m not usually a fan of “anthropomorphic animal fantasy” stories. Never got into Yojimbo, never gave Redwall the time of day. I’m saying this so you get how cool it is that I’m finding Tooth and Claw an exception.
Given a double-length first issue–super classy by the way–Tooth and Claw #1 sets up characters, layers in a humongous amount of world-building and mystery for skeptics like myself, and creates a memorable story in and of itself. The world is composed of magically fortified cities, set on an inexplicably hostile Earth (?). As ordinary folk like the dog Dunstan try to learn their trades, the great wizards Gharta the boar and Sandorst the owl, among others, try to solve a great conundrum: magic is failing, and the cities will fall within one lifetime.
There are lots of cool things going on here. There’s a sense that the rules of magic, while they are mysterious, are far from arbitrary and form a kind of arcane physics. There are references to ancient gods that all of the beast-folk work to satisfy in their own way, and who walked the earth just a few hundred years prior. Gharta is the breakout character, flummoxing the stratified society with her sheer genius and drive. There’s an intriguing class system between the various beasts that I haven’t wholly decoded, and we are graphically shown the injustice that “higher” animals like dogs and eagles wreak on “lower” animals like bison and boars.
The end of the book builds up to a grand reveal, but doesn’t quite get there. Gharta and her circle of wizards attempt to reach back in time and draw forth the “champion” that brought magic to the world. The beasts argue about which of their bloodlines the Champion belongs to, but we don’t quite see his face at the end. Everyone is rather distracted by the fact that the spell drains the magic out of the Seventeenth City, floating over the landscape, and so it plunges to earth. Looking forward to what these characters get up to after they pluck themselves from the rubble. Best value this month.
Over the Garden Wall Special #1
Written by Pat McHale
Illustrated by Jim Campbell
Additional Colors by Danielle Burgos
Over the Garden Wall tells the story of brothers Wirt and Greg as they journey through a forest with their guide Beatrice, an honorbound bluebird, seeking Adelaide of the Pasture, a mysterious figure who may hold the key to getting home. Based on the animated miniseries (which is based on the animated short, Tome of the Unknown) on Cartoon Network, this tie-in comic shines splendidly all on its own. The peculiar, intrepid protagonists and the randomness of their adventures are reminiscent of Pat McHale’s other creative work in Adventure Time, but with an old school flair.
The art is drawn in the same style as the cartoon, though not as clean and with thicker lines. Character design is charming, somehow a seamless blend of old school animation styles all the way back to Silly Symphonies and the newer trends seen on Cartoon Network. The animal and elemental presence is even reminiscent of David the Gnome, which is probably why the entire comic feels saturated with nostalgia. This is all topped off with a colorful palette that leans sepia, giving a vintage, folktale-feel while contributing to the eerie vibe.
This oversized issue gives enough backstory tidbits to keep the reader intrigued, and manages to fully develop the three main characters whilst sending them on an enchanting and silly adventure. The charmingly hyperactive Greg is a perfect contrast to his distracted, lovesick older brother, Wirt, and it’s fun to watch an exasperated little bluebird attempt to keep them on track while they sail on a giant hat across a sea of grass. With such a quirky cast of characters, it’s almost difficult to pick a favorite (it’s Greg). This is an utterly delightful tale that should be enjoyed in all its available formats.
The Ghost Fleet #1
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Daniel Warren Johnson
Colors by Lauren Affe
Letters by Lincoln Hawk
Military Advisor Phil Kost
Dark Horse Comics
A truck carrying secret cargo is ambushed in the night, leading to a massive vehicular battle as two officers tasked with protecting it are left alone and outgunned. The Ghost Fleet starts off with a slam-bang first issue full of action, with some small hints of what led to this point and where it will go in the future. The storytellers do a great job of introducing us to the main characters Trace and Ward, with just a bit of conversation and some good body language in the art showing us how familiar they are with each other. It really does establish them quickly before the explosions start. Most of the issue is taken up with a huge action sequence during which Johnson does fantastic work capturing the speed and violence of the chase. I also love the color palette they chose for the book, with a lot of deep oranges and purples which contrast great with the few explosions of blood during the chase.
This is a really well done first issue, giving you a huge amount of action, but enough teases to show you how deep the story is and where it is set to go. An excellent debut for a series I’m excited to follow.