Above Snakes Vol. 1
Sean Lewis, writer; Hayden Sherman, artist; Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, lettering
Image Comics, 2023
Above Snakes is a supernatural Western, a rare genre indeed. The most recent example is writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt’s The Sixth Gun; before that, there was the Vertigo version of Jonah Hex. The protagonist is named Dirt, and his mission is to avenge his wife’s death at the hands of the Above Snakes Gang. His partner is an imaginary vulture named Speck, who mainly wants blood–which Dirt’s activities supply, intended or not. He gets his main object of revenge in the first issue, but continues on to help the world. That turns out to be pretty messy: the vulture falls in love, he rescues a couple of people who get killed because of it, and he finally learns the identity of the true author of his wife’s death. After getting his final revenge, he declines the offer to go on as the spirit of Western justice. This collection really does look like The End (as the final panel says). Sherman provides pretty simple visuals, but his characterization is solid, and his colors can be downright psychedelic.
Golden Rage Vol. 1
Chrissy Williams, words; Lauren Knight, art; Sofie Dodgson, colors; Becca Carey, letters/design
Image Comics, 2023
From the start this is clearly a dystopian tale, set in a world where old women have been abandoned on a remote island, useless to society. The story opens at night on a beach, with two groups of women violently fighting each other. Jay, the protagonist, doesn’t look very old–her hair is not gray, for example–but there must be a reason she is there, which will be revealed in time. It turns out she stopped being useful because she has early menopause, so apparently, it’s all about childbearing. The island has a complex society of its own: there’s the Red Hats, who are trying to maintain power; the Dead Women, who look after the fallen; and The Witch, who used to be in charge. Next, we learn that Jay was part of the administration that sent the women to the so-called “retirement centres,” and she thinks they are all about to be liquidated (whatever that means, but it surely can’t be good). With no way to escape the island (except for one small boat), at least the threat brings the women together. This first arc ends very much with a cliffhanger. The art team employs a rough style, but one suited to the story: certainly, the individual women are recognizable. The storytelling is a bit erratic (the Golden Girls quotes that end each chapter are a nice touch, though).
Creepshow Vol. 1
Paul Dini, Chris Burnham, Erica Henderson, Francesco Francavilla, Kyle Starks & others
This is a classic EC Comics-style horror anthology based on the Shudder TV series of the same name developed by Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead. It contains ten stories, originally published in five individual issues, narrated by a ghoulish character in the classic style. As always, the results are a bit of a hit and miss. The collection starts out strong with “Take One” by writer and artist Chris Burnham and colorist Adriano Lucas, a tale of Halloween trick or treat gone horribly wrong. When a group of kids ignore the “Take One” sign on a bowl of candy bars they face retribution by the murdered home owner, shot in the head and wearing a bathrobe, just like the local legend has it. One of them hopes to escape retribution because he only bent the rule a little bit, but no dice. David and Maria Lapham’s “The Gorgahmorahh Tree” (with colorist Trish Mulvihill) tells the story of an ancient oak tree with a mysterious connection to a young girl named Daphne. When the tree takes her family, she burns the tree and the family house down, but her remains are never found. Francesco Francavilla is the writer and artist (along with L. Marlow Francavilla) of “Hair,” about a small-town barber and the large hairy creature he has befriended, along with the usual local wildlife like raccoons and possums. But the small critters certainly do not account for the disappearance of several local hunters. The collection also includes stories about social influencers, vampires, and a cursed lucha libre wrestling mask, among others.