It’s Wednesday, and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (and preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Godzilla in Hell #1
Written by James Stokoe
Art by James Stokoe
Colored by James Stokoe
Lettered by James Stokoe
All I had to do was read the name of this miniseries to realize its brilliance. This is the sort of pithy high concept that explains itself. It could at least be argued that this is the most original thing that has been done with the character officially since his original creators married him to an alien-invasion plotline in 1968’s Monster Zero.
Hearing that James Stokoe was handling it only fueled the intrigue. I’m not familiar with the rest of Stokoe’s work, but his one-man creative force earlier created a superior comic in IDW’s Godzilla franchise, Godzilla: Half Century War.
If you appreciate the promise of the premise and the potential of the author, I can assure that you will not be disappointed by this book. But it is an utterly bizarre read. It starts with Godzilla plummeting down an impossibly vast crevasse, presumably after some off-screen defeat. Thinking about what an unsettling, alien experience this must be for a 55-meter tall monster will produce a similar one in the reader, and the sense of empathy with Godzilla is quickly forged.
This is a dialogue-free experience, with the only text presenting as various English messages that seem to grow out of the substrate of Hell itself. These serve the purpose of communicating to the reader, but they also are shown to exist as part of Godzilla’s world, though he does not understand them and sometimes does not perceive them. There are no human characters whatsoever, another first for a Godzilla story. It’s worth asking exactly what Godzilla could possibly represent without humanity visible as his creator and foil. We don’t reach any clear resolution in this first issue, but I suspect Stokoe may answer this question in his own way by the end.
So what is Hell, then? As presented, it isn’t radically different from other pop-culture presentations of the place—underground, with everything red-tinged, dusty, and storming. Like many other recent depictions, it incorporates a bit of the surreal goriness of Lovecraft and Carpenter. Godzilla is stalked by a demon(s?) that tempt him and then envelop him in teeth and muscle. It reminded me no small amount of this notorious fanwork.
But make no mistake—this is a classical Hell, which I think betrays the point of this exercise. There is a kaiju-sized hint that Godzilla’s ascent, or descent, has something to do with the Seven Deadly Sins, and the beast pointedly demolishes a Hellish symbol that dates back to Dante. Hell wants Godzilla, but I don’t believe it can get what it wants. Godzilla, when used properly, is like the Hulk. He is emotion without malice. He is rage without hatred. He is pure, and therefore incorruptible. The impossible vastness and savagery of Hell is a physical challenge for any single character, even one as horrendously powerful as Godzilla. But ultimately Hell cannot defeat Godzilla, not in any meaningful way, because of that purity. At least that’s what I think, and what I think Stokoe thinks. But I look forward to seeing more of this struggle chronicled.
– Patrick Stinson
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
Written by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Walters
Illustrated by Brooke Allen
Colored by Maarta Laiho
Lettered by Aubrey Aiese
Lumberjanes now has two Eisner Awards under its belt, and it’s easy to see why. This series, full of diverse, wacky young women who battle monsters, reference nineties movies, and use the names of historical women as exclamations, has the guts and heart of a winner. There are lots of secrets in the woods surrounding Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiquil Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Young Ladies, and recent issues seem to have been building towards the biggest mystery of all: what the heck is up with all the magic? It all seems linked to camp leader Rosie, Abigail (a hunter of mythical beasts), and Nellie (a bear woman). Years and years ago (no telling how long exactly but the flashbacks are in sepia, so, pretty long), when Nellie was cabin leader for a young Rosie and Abigail, something went horribly wrong on an outing, and now Abigail is hunting down every last monster in the woods, not caring what apocalyptic consequences her actions could create.
This is the most action-packed issue yet, and the artwork does an amazing job setting fast-paced, nail-biting sequences. Brooke Allen’s illustrations have been consistently wonderful, and in this issue you can definitely see her talent for drawing emotion, as well as humor. She even revisits with gusto my favorite bit: Ripley’s propensity for turning a hug into an extreme sport. Her adorable, emoting Lumberjanes and mythical creature designs are a perfect fit for Stevenson and Walters’ quippy writing and magical realism.
One of my favorite things about this series is that every character is interesting and important. The Roanoke cabin girls have recently teamed up with a friend from the neighboring boys’ camp (and his kitten which was supplied by Ripley when she had what was basically the Phoenix force [aka, another reason you should be reading this series]) who is not differentiated in the group dynamic according to his gender. And in this issue specifically, the adult characters are really shining as their backstories begin to tie in to all the magical happenings. Everyone is both admirable and relatable, even Rosie as she wields an axe and rides a bear up a mountain.
I actually pity middle school-aged me for not being able to experience Lumberjanes at that age, but I feel #blessed that I get to read it now. This comic has not lost steam since its incredibly successful first issue, and I can’t wait to see where else the story takes us. Hopefully summer will never end for the Roanoke cabin.
– Sarah Register
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
Big Trouble In Little China #13
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Joe Eisma
Colored by Gonzalo Duarte
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
I haven’t been keeping up with the further adventures of Jack Burton, but with a new creative team I figured I’d check in and see how the Porkchop Express is doing. Placed in some kind of stasis in 1986, Jack has been a roadside attraction at a Middle America gas station for close to twenty years. Woken from his slumber, he heads to San Francisco to seek out his friends to find that a lot of things have changed while he was sleeping. Fred Van Lente has had some experience putting new spins on eighties material before (G.I. Joe), and he seems like he’s having a ball here. One of the more fun continuity flips he does here is establish that this comic is about the “real” Jack Burton, and the movie was just an adaptation of his life (”Hey, they got Snake Plissken to play me! I love that guy!”). Another addition is Jack’s pursuers. While he may be done with the eighties, they certainly aren’t done with him, with a group of eighties archetype bounty hunters searching for him at the behest of what appears to be a collector of items from that greatest of decades.
Taking over on art, Joe Eisma (Morning Glories) keeps up handily with the bizarre concepts Van Lente throws at the book. Eisma’s spare, animated style gives the book the feeling of a Saturday morning cartoon that got out of control. He does a great job at illustrating the rat-a-tat dialog that Van Lente puts down and it all serves to echo the feeling of the movie.
I’m really taken with the new direction of this comic. Bringing Jack into the modern world is a great spin on the character. While there’s still a ton of eighties nostalgia in the book, moving it to the 21st century allows it a lot more room for growth, both in story and character, as it moves forward.
– Jason Urbanciz
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)