Short Cuts 38: Saga Volume Nine; The Black Monday Murders Vol. 2; Curse Words, Vol. 3 – The Hole Damned World; Everafter Vol. 2 – The Unsentimental Education; The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 7- Mothering Invention

Saga Volume Nine
Fiona Staples, artist; Brian K. Vaughan, writer
Image Comics, 2018

This is the last Saga collection before a year-long hiatus: distressing news for fans and comic shops alike, as this series has been one of the best sellers. But the creative team certainly takes things out with a bang. This installment features a great convergence of the forces that have been trying to track the family down. Ianthe and The Will (who she has basically taken prisoner) are hot on the trail. The journalists Doff and Upsher have already found them, and are trying to convince them to tell their story for publication. Sir Robot steps in with a comparable bombshell about the war. Then when all the principals come together, there are two certain deaths–minor characters I suppose, depending on your perspective. The Will gets free, and that leads to the big cliffhanger. It looks like one of the major characters has been killed. But has he? Tune in next year to find out.

The Black Monday Murders Vol. 2
Jonathan Hickman, words; Tomm Coker, art; Michael Garland, colors; Rus Wooton, letters
Image Comics, 2018

I’m not sure if this is the end of a miniseries or if it is ongoing. It certainly could be the conclusion (with some interesting possibilities for a sequel). The power struggle between the rich families escalates into a final confrontation, a terrifying ritual known as “balancing the scales” (which comes complete with one of Hickman’s obsessive diagrams explaining how it works). Thomas Dane the enforcer narrowly escapes death by his own hand–compelled by a command in the arcane ancient language the moneyed elite all speak–and plays a role in the Epilogue. He has found a family member who went into exile, likely an important character if the story continues. The police detective and the professor meet the god Mammon: fittingly enough, he is an actual god who lives in the basement of the Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC. When the detective goes to see the Rothchild CEO, he tells her what he knows–and says he wants in. This came as quite a surprise to me, and would make a sequel very interesting indeed.

Curse Words, Vol. 3: The Hole Damned World
Charles Soule, writer; Ryan Browne, artist
Image Comics, 2018

Action on several fronts in this collection. Margaret has been captured by some black ops government group hoping to get an edge on Wizord. Wizord discovers that Ruby Stitch has not only survived their earlier battle, but she has her magic back–and aims to take over his consulting wizard business. Jacques Zacques has arrived at the Hole World on his suicide mission, but holds off until he can see his children. Little by little the demon Sizzajee recruits him to the motley team of sorcerers (whose numbers keep decreasing). In the end Margaret discovers a shocking secret about her parents, and Jacques (who has been played for laughs as a patsy the whole time) emerges as a possible major driver of the action. Sizzajee is sending him back to Earth, and he is hungry for revenge. Through all of this the action and dialog continue to be alternately hilarious and absurd, as they have throughout the series.

Everafter Vol. 2: The Unsentimental Education
Dave Justus & Lilah Sturges, writers; Travis Moore, artist (issues 8-12); Mark Buckingham, artist (issue 7); Michael Wiggam, colorist
Vertigo Comics, 2017

The second (and final) arc of Everafter features a new Fable: wizard Bobby Strickland, the first human Fable. The Prologue–with comfortably familiar art from Fables veteran Mark Buckingham–tells the story of how young Bobby brought down a warlock in possession of Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged cottage while still a young student of the witch Totenkinder. The “education” of the title refers to three high school students who get their hands on magical objects. When a jock begins his usual bullying, the three nerds react with a show of power that terrorizes the school, slaughtering many of the students. One of them surrounds the school with a magic cube, isolating it in its own pocket dimension. That becomes the central saga, as literally thousands of years pass inside the cube. Meanwhile the rest of the Shadow Players deal with some magical difficulties in the real world, including Texas legends like the Chupacabra and the ghost La Llorona. After the crisis is resolved, the story goes in to fast forward for a rushed conclusion. It laments all of the stories that will not be told, and it’s true: in different times there is no reason why this series could not have gone on for much longer. There was no lack of story potential, or creative talent.

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 7: Mothering Invention
Kieron Gillen, writer; Jamie McKelvie, artist; Matthew Wilson, colourist; Clayton Cowles, letterer
Image Comics, 2018

The story is moving towards its climax, but it begins with Ananke’s origin, nearly 6,000 years ago. In the present, Cassandra and Persephone are stuck in a prison with Jon’s disembodied head. They are beginning to understand the ritual of collecting god’s heads that we saw in the origin scene. As events proceed in the present, flashbacks reveal the ancient power play between Ananke and her sister (who apparently assumes the role of the youngest god in the pantheon at each iteration: she is “The Child”). There is an extended sequence of their final showdown through the ages–a marvelous bit of historical research, but still visually monotonous (followed later by an even more static sequence of black panels as the surviving god tries to do something: hold off the Great Darkness?). Back in the present a pregnant Persephone abandons her child and her godhood. Back to being Beth, she finds there is still something magical about her. There are many questions answered in this arc, but some big questions remain.

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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