Short Cuts 34: Kill or Be Killed – Volume Three; Snotgirl Vol.2 – California Screaming; East of West – Volume 7; The Hellblazer Vol. 2 – The Smokeless Fire; Lucifer Vol. 3 – Blood in the Streets

Kill or Be Killed: Volume Three
Ed Brubaker (Writer), Sean Phillips (Illustrator), Elizabeth Breitweiser (Colorist)
Image Comics, 2018

Brubaker makes a bold choice to begin this volume. The setting is the Russian brothel that opened the series. Except this time Dylan tells us that the whole series so far has been a flashback. He relates how he had given up his vigilante activities–even sent a letter to the newspapers saying he was moving on to another town–and gotten back together with Kira. When he accidentally overhears a Russian asking about her, he knows that they have not forgotten that he killed one of their own. So that’s what brings us to the opening. And from there Dylan escalates his war with the Russians. At the same time he learns more about his father. Turns out he had another son from his first marriage. That son was seeing horned demon hallucinations before he committed suicide…

Snotgirl Vol.2: California Screaming
Bryan Lee O’Malley, script; Leslie Hung, art; Rachel Cohen, colors; Maré Odomo, lettering
Image Comics, 2018

The continuing adventures of Lottie Person, professional fashion blogger. The focus shifts more to her blogger friends. Cutegirl has a twin sister no one knew about. Caroline has someone who may or may not be her brother. Virgil keeps popping up–and it appears that he was in the background in the first collection as well. It’s not clear what his agenda is; he gives off a kind of Evil Ex-Boyfriend vibe (from O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrimseries). And Charlene wakes up from her coma. The mystery allergy drug that dominated the first arc is barely mentioned, until almost the end of this arc. I have to say that I have a better perspective on this world than I did when I read the first volume. The press corps at the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival in Haiti in January included a couple of fashion writers (one was from Teen Vogue). They behaved a lot like these characters: always a carefully orchestrated look, lots of selfies in front of visually interesting backgrounds to use in their blog and social media postings, etc. Having said that, I’m still convinced that I am not the target audience for this series. I just don’t care enough about these characters to see what happens next.

East of West: Volume 7
Jonathan Hickman, writer; Nick Dragotta, artist; Frank Martin, colors
Image Comics, 2017

The first time stamp in this collection says “2066 The Apocalypse: Year Three.” Nobody ever said the Apocalypse has to take place quickly, I guess, although I always pictured it as something sudden. There are some big events here; so while it is not climactic, it certainly is building towards one. Archibald Chamberlain (currently President of the Confederacy) makes a series of moves that show just how dangerous he is–he’s also still quite a deadly shot in a gunfight. He arranges a truce with the Kingdom of New Orleans; kidnaps Governor Bel Solomon of the Republic of Texas; and double-crosses Madame President Antonia LeVay, the President of the Union, hastening her impending downfall. The Endless Nation loses its Chief Narsimha; Wolf becomes the Living Word after eating Ezra Orion and then succeeds his uncle Narsimha as Chief. The Nation was about to attack the Union when the armed insurrection orchestrated by Chamberlain solved the problem for them. Mao of New Shanghai escapes Chamberlain’s assassination attempt, but she still faces a refugee crisis–and that’s before Chamberlain survives her retaliatory assassination attempt, and strikes at New Shanghai’s military assets. Chamberlain is just about everywhere. Through all of this we barely see Death and Babylon, so that is a major story line that will have to wait for the next volume. To be fair to Hickman, some of the feeling of slow storytelling in this series is due to the sheer scope of it.

The Hellblazer Vol. 2: The Smokeless Fire
Simon Oliver, writer; Davide Fabbri, Philip Tan, José Marzán Jr., artists
DC Comics, 2017

The Rebirth Hellblazer series continues, this time with a revolving group of artists. John Constantine and the telepath Mercury have come to Paris to visit an old man named Jacque Henry, the only person Constantine knows to have beaten a djinn. Henry’s back story in the Arabian Desert in 1936 is woven through the narrative. Their attempt to visit Henry becomes fraught with complications: first with a group of criminals who steal the old man’s journal just before they arrive; then by Misabel Lefebvre, a shady antiquities dealer who Constantine has tangled with before; and finally with the djinn Marid (who is allied with the London power broker Clarice). The story also involves Papa Midnite, and werewolves. Plus Mercury may have made a deal with the djinn Adnan. Constantine finally sacrifices himself to save his friends–and appears to die, but gets better. We are promised a conclusion back in his native London. As in the previous arc, Oliver writes John mostly in the classic style. He gets by mostly on attitude and wits, although he does cast a couple of spells (including a flying sneaker, which gets points for humor and creativity).

Lucifer Vol. 3: Blood in the Streets
Richard Kadrey, Holly Black, writers; Lee Garbett, Marco Rudy, Ben Templesmith, artists
Vertigo Comics, 2017

The conclusion to the second Lucifer series is mainly the work of new writer Richard Kadrey and continuing series artist Lee Garbett. The first issue in the collection is a holiday issue, a strange mix of a Krampus story and “Secret Santa” with art from Ben Templesmith (whose horror artist credentials make him a perfect match for the series). The title arc picks up with the story arc established by previous writer Holly Black. There were several unresolved story lines at the end of the previous collection, and they are all resolved by the series conclusion. Lucifer enlists the aid of a magician named Arabelle Crane–who has something of a female John Constantine air about her, including wearing a trench coat during her first appearance. The story says she and Lucifer have a history, but I don’t recall seeing her before. Mazikeen sorts out the Hell situation (we even see her without her mask at one point) while Lucifer takes on the new god in the Silver City.

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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