Matthew Sturges/Luca Rossi/Werther Dell’Edera (Vertigo, 2011)
House of Mystery Vol. 7: Conception
I’m still enjoying the old-school Vertigo feel of the series. It finished its monthly run in October. According to Amazon I’ll have to wait until August for the final collection. This arc follows Fig as she and the House explore her relationship to the Conception. Meanwhile her family (father, brother, and grandfather) and her former lover Harry are trying to do the same thing, culminating in a fateful meeting on the home planet of the Conception. The story line ends in a cliffhanger, but it clearly is moving towards the series conclusion. The trade paperback concludes with the second House of Mystery Halloween Annual, which is a lot of fun. It follows a group of cursed Trick or Treaters as they travel through the various Vertigo series, including a surprise reprise of Mike Carey’s Lucifer.
Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips (Icon, 2011)
Criminal Vol. 6: The Last of the Innocent
The latest installment of this creator-owned noir crime series is excellent as always. It centers around Riley Richards, a self obsessed man from a small town who married into the local rich family. He has regrets about most of his life choices, plus a large gambling debt. When he catches his wife cheating on him he decides that murdering her would provide him a way out. He arranges things to provide him with an alibi, while framing the former friend who he caught with his wife. In the aftermath of the crime he covers his tracks by a series of other arranged murders. In many ways Riley is the most monstrous of any of the lowlifes portrayed in the series: a cold-blooded sociopath. The conclusion came as a complete surprise to me, which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t read it. Probably the most notable story telling technique is the interpolation of Archie-style comics for the flashbacks. This works surprisingly well: I was afraid it might come off as a gimmick. And the innocence it portrays provides a stark contrast to the story’s real-time events.
Mike Mignola & many others (Dark Horse, 2011)
B.P.R.D.: Being Human
The B.P.R.D. saga has become increasingly complex, so this collection of early adventures is a refreshing change. “The Dead Remembered”(illustrated by Karl Moline & Andy Owens) features Liz Sherman as a teenager, shortly after the tragic accident that killed her family and sent her to live with the BPRD to learn to control her fire-starting power. She goes on a field trip with Professor Bruttenholm, where she helps solve a ghost problem. “Casualties” (illustrated by Guy Davis, originally available only as a digital story) shows Abe Sapien dealing with the agents he lost on his first mission as team leader. In “Being Human” (illustrated by Richard Corben) Roger the homunculus goes on his first mission with Hellboy. Finally, psychic empath Johann Kraus’s “origin story” is told in “The Ectoplasmic Man” (illustrated by Ben Stenbeck).
Bill Willingham/Mark Buckingham/Steve Leialoha/Eric Shanower/Terry Moore (Vertigo, 2011)
Fables Vol. 16: Super Team
The Fables have taken refuge in Haven after the failure of their previous attempt at containing Mister Dark. He is gradually weakening the magical wards that Flycatcher has erected around his kingdom. So how are they preparing for the inevitable battle? By forming a super team, led by the powerful witch Ozma. It’s all Pinocchio’s idea (he’s the resident comic book fan). The logic is that generations of comic readers believe that a super team always beats the bad guy. I don’t think the logic really holds up. The famous Fables like Cinderella and Snow White are nearly immortal because their stories are alive in the Mundy world. For the same power to work on the Fables super team, they would have to actually be the X-Men and the JLA, not just analogs of them. But maybe I’m over thinking. It’s a fun concept that gives Willingham and Buckingham an opportunity to play with super hero tropes and costumes, culminating in a fantasy battle between the team and Mister Dark. In the end the battle is joined by the North Wind, making the team’s preparations unnecessary. It’s a convincing end to the Mister Dark saga, if a bit abrupt. One interesting loose end left back in Fabletown is Nurse Spratt, who Mister Dark transformed into “the fairest in all the land,” as he had promised. We also learn what Bufkin (the monkey defender of Fabletown’s lost business office) has been up to (with guest penciller Eric Shanower), and developments in the Empire’s old Imperial City, still sleeping under Sleeping Beauty’s spell (with guest artist Terry Moore).