Over on the Twitter, we're posting reviews of new issues. The idea is that the review has to fit into one screenshot of our phones and that screenshot is the review that gets posted. It's a fun way to approach single-issue reviews. You can follow us on Twitter (@FromCovToCov) to see them when they're posted or every two weeks, we'll be collecting them and posting them here as well! But instead of doing the screenshot of from our phone, we're posting the original text here.
Here's what we have this week:
- Hellboy and the BPRD: Night of the Cyclops
- That Texas Blood #14
- Aquaman:Andromeda #1
Click on the header link of each review to see more preview art from the book.
In Night of the Cyclops, there’s a cockiness and a solidness in the character and in the storytelling that has been largely missing for a while now. Hellboy just sounds right in this tale as he takes on Greek myths. With these one-shot stories, Mignola and his co-creators use the opportunity to put his character into an unfamiliar situation. Hellboy usually deals with Northern European legends and myths so placing him in a Mediterranean milieu is unsteady ground for the character, giving Hellboy and us a new thing to explore.
Since Hellboy in Hell ended years ago now, the character and the title have felt a bit meandering as it seems like Mignola has kept the series going more out of obligation than any desire to tell more stories with the character. While there have been some good comics out of it, the assembly-line-like output in recent comics has missed the spirit and soul of Mignola. Joined in the writing and storytelling by Olivier Vatine, Mignola and Vatine capture the right voice for the character— that sardonic-in-the-face-of-danger cockiness that leads to high adventure.
But this isn’t a story that Mignola could have drawn. It requires a classical lyricism that his baroque designs and shadows wouldn’t have done justice to. Vatine’s clean curves create a dreamy atmosphere. WIth fauns and Greek goddesses, Vatine’s artwork signifies that this is something out of the norm for Hellboy. It’s not a world of shadows and dragons but about curves, forms, and goddesses. Vatine is a welcomed addition to the Hellboy creative team, bringing in a sense of expanse to this world that’s normally tight and constrained. With the team of Mignola and Vatine, Night of the Cyclops offers a return to the character we know while giving us a glimpse of the stories that can still possibly be told.
Kicking off the second main arc of their series, Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips deliver an issue that’s all about the pacing of the story. If the first arc was described in terms of being Coen brothers-like, this issue opens with an homage/riff on horror movies, particularly slasher films. Patti Doyle, a recently returned daughter of this Texas town, sits in the cold dark, watching SIlence of the Lambs. And understandably, she’s a bit freaked out by Hannibal Lechter. Condon and Phillips are working completely in tone and pacing here, crafting a scene that perfectly sets up what’s going to happen. This is the setup of a slasher moment; you can practically feel what’s going to happen and are still not disappointed when it happens that way. The tone is the story in these opening pages.
But that extension of the tone continues through the story, as most of the issue picks up on the following day in this sleepy Texas town. Condon and Phillips find a pace that allows all of these characters to live in the moment. Patti that night was in that moment. And the next morning, Lu, Sheriff Joe Bob, and his deputy Willy have their moments as well, whether it’s dealing with an election or getting a phone call that none of them are prepared for. Condon and Phillips allow their characters to live in the moment, to be part of it but also wrestle with it. And by allowing the characters these reflective moments in the comic, they allow us, the readers, to have those moments as well. When a call comes into the sheriff’s office, we know what it is; we don’t need to be told what someone found. We get to be part of these characters’ stories and experiences.
That Texas Blood #14 immediately pulls us into the horror and then makes us sit with it, trying to digest what is happening in this Texas town.
Aquaman is barely in this issue and that’s probably a good thing. The most we see of him is in a small, coastal Russian fishing town for a handful of pages out of this whole issue. We’re told that over the years he’s shown up in this village to help work on the boats and the nets. He never goes out to sea with the fishermen but stays on the land, working with his hands to make and mend things, “knowing that it’ll break and weather and fall apart, and he’ll have to do it all over again.” We’re told that part of him yearns for this “weightlessness.” For an Aquaman comic, Ram V and Christian Ward do so little with the character but say so much about him. It’s a simple statement but defines the character so succinctly in ways that so many others have failed to.
Even as we see Aquaman in this peaceful moment, Ram V and Ward make us experience the weight and pressure that he’s seeking refuge from in the rest of the issue. Ward transports the reader to a different world where you can feel the pressure of the ocean and the world pushing down on you. As something from space crashes into the deepest ocean depths, Ward’s artwork puts us in a different mindset as the blue hue over most pages puts us at the bottom of the ocean, with all of that pressure focused on a small group of soldiers, scientists, and explorers who may be in a possible first-contact scenario. Ward draws and colors each page to focus us on how isolated these characters are. This is a very remote comic as Ram V’s writing seeks connections in the very things and situations that are isolating all of these people from each other and from the larger world around them.