Taking a break from New York Comic Con coverage to examine the best of the weekly haul of comics from October 16th, 2013!
Book of the week: Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine #1
What a wild and strange trip it has been for this creator owned series by Dan Jolley and Drew Johnson. Back in 2004, “Bloodhound” graced comic book shelves on behalf of DC Comics, offering a very different series than what most of their traditional superhero or Vertigo books offered. Drawn by Leonard Kirk with inks by Robin Riggs and colors by Moose Baumann, it offered a series with a simple premise yet excellent execution. Hulking ex-cop, ex-con Travis Clevenger, a.k.a. “Clev”, wound up getting out of prison to help FBI agent Saffron Bell with tracking down a superhuman criminal. Thrown in jail for the death of his partner, despite being set up by dirty cops, Clev was often hated by both crooks and lawmen alike, but he used his time in jail to become as huge as a pro-wrestler via the weight room. Having a “knack” for profiling superhuman criminals, Clev and Bell would go on to tackle powerful criminals outside the areas where traditional DC superheroes roamed. The series lasted ten issues, with one of those issues being a crossover with “Firestorm” and thus not counting towards the series own continuity. Thus, with nine issues Jolley managed to tell three arcs, which at the time was considered revolutionary. Unfortunately, DC did little to promote the series and it was cancelled in 2005, left to become a cult favorite of back issue bin hounds. On a personal note, it was a series I always remembered, and I listed the series in my “best 725 comics of the decade” article at the end of 2009 (which was my first year as an Examiner).
Fast forward eight years, and now the series has found a home at Dark Horse Comics. Some secret contract deals allowed Jolley to eventually pluck his series from DC Comics ownership, so long as subsequent reprints and newer stories made no mention to DC characters (i.e. no reprint of that “Firestorm” crossover issue). As Dark Horse seeks to craft their future while mindful of the upcoming loss of their “Star Wars” license as well as Image Comics’ rise as a creator ownership haven, they have been allowing many creators to continue old series with their publisher as well as relaunch past characters. Their editors have wisely organized the complete reunion of the entire creative team behind the original run of “Bloodhound” for a five part mini series with ambitions for more.
This issue operates as an eleventh issue of a series, which might seem a bit dismaying for some as this series has been off the grid for almost a decade. There is a recap of the basic premise behind the front cover, but there is no in-story flashback or summary of the previous series, which may be offsetting to some newcomers. Clev is in Georgia having a visit with his ex-wife Trish and his daughter, while his partner/”handler” Bell is having a timely debate with a friend about self defense and weapons, with “superhumans” being switched in for “guns” in the debate. Unfortunately, yet another superhuman criminal runs amok about the area, leading to a massive attack which kills a lot of people. Leaping into the fray over the protests of local cops, it is soon up to Clev to try to talk down a living earthquake. The story ends with Dr. Bradly Morgenstern upping the ante by offering super powers to anyone who asks…for a price.
Fans of the old series will find themselves in familiar territory. Kirk’s artwork remains as crisp and smooth as ever, flanked by great colors and inks by Baumann and Riggs. The story captures both Clev and Bell well and sets up their series’ premise effectively enough that new readers should be able to follow the story and hopefully be inspired to grab the trade collection of the previous nine issues Dark Horse is soon publishing. As usual, Clev solves the problem with a combination of keen, sharp wits and knuckles of steel, and it is nice to see the swear words not “bleeped” by text. Offering 22 pages for $3.99, this is considered “extra sized” compared to many “big two” comics at such a price. In addition, the letters page has added a segment where Clev himself offers advice to people, which is equally hilarious. Mixing in one part “Sin City” with another part “Criminal Minds” with a pinch of “Heroes”, “Bloodhound” remains a unique and entertaining, as well as “butt kicking”, addition to any comic fan’s pull list. It was a crying shame that this series was overlooked back in 2005; it would be an even worse shame for history to repeat itself.
Batman Beyond Universe #3: DC Comics’ anthology reprint of their digital-first “Beyond” line of comics continues to offer thrills and chills based loosely on their animated universe from the turn of the century. Kyle Higgins continues to expertly pick up where Adam Beechen left off with the main “Batman Beyond” strip, flanked well by Thony Silas’ art and Andrew Elder’s colors. Terry McGinnis – the Batman of 2040 – is dealing with a disaster which has caused the murder of Gotham’s newest mayor and a massive breakout at Arkham Asylum. Seemingly attacked by the Batman family of the past, he finds himself engaged against an alliance of some of his worst foes, as well as a new one, the electricity controlling Rewire. As Terry and the middle aged Dick Grayson fight to save everyone, commissioner Barbara Gordon works behind the scenes to piece the mystery together, as the over the hill Bruce Wayne refuses to retire during a crisis. The artwork is terrific and Higgins has captured the voices of the series so well, one can almost hear the electric guitar music of the cartoon playing as the panels are read. Rewire may seem a generic choice for a new villain, but it is good that Higgins is looking to create new rogues rather than use old ones from the cartoon or just pluck off standard DC Comics figures from the past. In the second strip of the tome, Christos Gage and artist Ban Coello have constructed a “Justice League Unlimited” story around their most well known member, Superman. Having been lured into the Phantom Zone via the mysterious loss of his powers, he’s now at the mercy of Jox-Ur, who was the “Superman: The Animated Series'” answer to General Zod. Can Superman defeat Jor-Ur and his son as they attempt to kill the rest of the League with Superman’s own robots and cause a Phantom Zone break out? The action is a bit straightforward, although Gage always juggles a large cast well and captures the voices of his characters whether they have a big or small role, and this run proves no exception. As always, this package continues to offer a respite for DC Comics fans seeking both nostalgia and quality in their comics.
Invincible #106: Mark Grayson and Atom Eve have an awkward dinner with the parents in this amusing issue of Robert Kirkman’s long running superhero epic, drawn as always by the ever talented Ryan Ottley and colored by John Rauch. A visit to Mark’s parents home on the moon leads to a clash of ideals between Nolan and Eve, as well as a chance to see if the son is stronger than the father via an arm wrestling match – even if the cover does ruin that surprise. Meanwhile, Battle Beast is recruited for an assassination mission by Allen, which may not quite be what Nolan wanted. Considering some of the action packed issues from last year missed the mark quite a bit, a return to a slower and steadier progression of the plot has allowed this series to see an upswing in quality, even if it may not quite be at its prime for some.
Superior Spider-Man #19: The finale of Dan Slott’s current arc pitting the “superior” Spider-Man (Doc Ock possessing Peter Parker’s body) against the time spanning plots of Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’Hara) come to an exciting conclusion with not only works on its own as a standard over the top cross time caper, but as an installment in the larger subplot revolving Ock possessing the body of the hero he essentially murdered. Growing more and more unstable, Spidey-Ock is forced to try to prevent all of time and space from exploding due to the machinations of Ty Stone alongside the rest of the Horizon Lab techs after foolishly knocking Miguel out. Once coming to, Miguel once again has to decide whether it is worth it to preserve his timeline if it means allowing the ancestor of his enemy to thrive and create the harsh world where Miguel hails from – where corporations like Alchemax run everything. In the end, the era of Horizon Labs seems to end as the rise of Alchemax becomes official, with Miguel trapped in the past against his will. Above all, this arc has seen the hint of some long overdue comeuppance for the increasingly unstable and dangerously egotist Ock. Despite obviously acting like a cheap 1950’s villain, Carlie Cooper is convinced figuring out how “Spidey” funds his toys is the only way to show that something is obviously wrong (on a world where Jackal still makes clones and shapeshifting aliens who could fool all of Marvel’s heroes’ tech invaded only about two years prior). Fortunately, her subplot comes to a head this week. The biggest development is a two page sequence that suggests in trying to access Peter’s memories, Ock may have psychically resurrected the “soul” he has tried so hard to destroy. That sequence is just a sample of the terrific artwork provided by Ryan Stegman and colorist Edgar Delgado for this arc. While the long term premise continues to rely on many characters and fellow heroes being incredibly naive, this arc has been an upswing in terms of providing a heroic counterpart to Ock as well as progressing the overall series forward.
Stay tuned for more reviews for comics from this year’s New York Comic Con!