Hellboy: Darkness Calls #2 (of 6) — Writer: Mike Mignola; Art: Duncan Fegredo
Best book of the week. Fegredo continues to do a great, spooky job on the art (one assumes Mignola is looking obsessively over his shoulder, especially because the end product is so close to Mignola’s own style, and that can’t be fun for Fegredo, but the result is one nice-looking book). The plot looks back to lots of previous Hellboy continuity, too, so it’s a treat for longtime fans, and it really seems as though this storyline will move the character forward; when an independent creator promises “big changes” for his own creation, the odds of a permanent payoff are a lot better than with a corporate-owned property like, say, Captain America. Fans of all the current horror/zombie crap out there should check out this book, to see what genuinely eerie, high-quality gothic storytelling looks like.
The Boys #7 — Writer: Garth Ennis; Art: Darick Robertson
Starting a new storyline within the bigger overall continuity, so there’s more setup than actual action. The obsession with sex (or, rather, sexual dysfunction) is worrisome, because it can so easily go over the top and fall into just parody (and then we don’t care about the characters), but so far Ennis has been able to balance on that tightrope. Points for the two comic-book store goombahs; you just know that at least a couple of stores in NYC have owners exactly like that, and they’ll make your own comic store people look all the better in comparison.
The Punisher Presents: Barracuda #4 (of 5) — Writer: Garth Ennis; Artist: Goran Parlov
Lots of action, as various characters get set up to meet bad ends, and the stage is set for a bloody, bullet-riddled conclusion next issue. Still fun, and as the action intensifies Parlov uses an interesting “wide-screen” art layout, where each page is divided into four or five stacked horizontal panels, each stretching all the way across the page; it’s an effective way to put a lot of information into each shot, and move the story along quickly and with maximum effect.
Usagi Yojimbo #103 — Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai
Usagi never even appears in this issue, the first of two parts about a Buddhist priest, a healer, who wrestles with a mysterious illness and the question of whether “evil” is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. Thoughtful, and by turns charming and suspenseful, it delivers the usual well-told Sakai story.
Fallen Angel #16 — Writer: Peter David; Art: Kristian Donaldson
The conclusion to a three-part episode about Lin, the current Angel’s predecessor (and, nudge-nudge-wink-wink, a character very similar to Linda Danvers, the title hero in David’s long run on Supergirl). Donaldson’s art has a flat, manga-influenced quality that makes it better at the conversations and character interaction than the big action sequences, but that plays to David’s strengths anyway, so it works out OK. The story itself adds some interesting history to the story of Bete Noir, although it doesn’t so much end as stop, with an “and then they walked away” ending.
Ultimate Fantastic Four #42 — Writer: Mike Carey; Art: Pasqual Ferry
Another Marvel title with the Silver Surfer on the cover this month — gee, you’d think they were expecting a movie or something. Anyone picking this up hoping to be thrilled by, say, an actual appearance by the Surfer won’t find anything until the last page, though — although that one shot is suitably cosmic, offering a vision — and size– of the Surfer not seen before. Carey never mentions Warren Ellis’s Ultimate Galactus story from last year, so whether there’s going to be a connection to that is unclear; since this issue is all setup, we’ll have to wait to see if the overall story’s effective.