Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen
Helen Mullane, writer; Dom Reardon, artist; Matthew Dow Smith, layouts artist & title page illustration; Jock, cover & page 3 illustration; Lee Loughridge, color artist
This starts out looking like a typical YA story: the title character (who goes by “Nissy”) is spending the summer with her mother and younger brother in a remote cottage in Northumberland. She would much rather be in London with her friends, and spends most of the opening scenes in a grand teenaged sulk. But things take a weird turn when her brother and friends find a dead body in the woods, clearly the result of some kind of ritual murder. A seemingly innocent neighbor (who Nissy has a crush on) eventually reveals himself as a mage using the sacrifices to summon the ancient gods of Britain. When the gods appear they are displeased: by killing NIssy’s mom and threatening her he has inadvertently spilled blood from a long line of witches. After a brief Wild Hunt, the fairy queen exacts vengeance and offers Nissy a place in her court. After hearing that her father and brother cannot come because they are not fae, Nissy declines, and the final scene is her comforting her brother. I could easily imagine this as a Vertigo OGN: it occupies a similar space of magic and horror. Dom Reardon is a British artist mainly associated with 2000AD. He has a style both realistic and impressionistic, which I could imagine on Hellblazer. The book is full of lush landscapes (as well as gruesome horror), and includes very creative panel design.
Andy and her team spend this arc in search of the head of a large human trafficking operation. But the story alternates with Andy’s history, going all the way back to the beginning. She has seen a lot of violence in her six thousand years, and the old friend who turns out to be the head of the slavery operation is out to remind her. Noriko was lost at sea hundreds of years ago, and was presumed dead. Instead she remained underwater, drowning and reviving thousands of times before finally getting free. In the process she lost all empathy for humanity, and became resolved to punish people rather than help them. This places her in direct opposition to Andy and her crew, so she has kidnapped their old teammate Booker to force a confrontation (she has also been repeatedly drowning him, as a bit of poetic justice). When it’s over, Andy confesses the dark parts of her past to the others, and declares herself too tired and disgusted with humanity to go on. They leave without her, and when Noriko comes for her the next morning she goes along. Rucka promises one more, final arc. It will be fascinating to see how he resolves the conflict, and which of these nearly-immortals will survive.
The second installment of this series is very much an “out of the frying pan, into the fire” situation. Having revealed that the dominant religion (Renunciation) and the ubiquitous mega-corporation Lux are actually in cahoots to gain total control, the Lux pilot Grix and young acolyte Vess expected to start a revolution. They and the crew of the Sundog became hotly pursued renegades instead. After a stop at Vess’ home planet Rool for fuel, they head out to the Junk Rings. There things go sideways fast, as a salvager ship (pirates, basically) tricks them and seizes the Sundog. The crew’s escape and retrieval of the Sundog is an exciting adventure. Then they escape from a Lux ship that wants to capture them, and head out to deep space…where they are contacted by a Renunciation ship, offering to help them start a revolution. Lots of action here, although it lacks the broad sweep of the first arc. A graphic novel is promised as Vol. 3, concluding the series as it had always been intended. A lot to resolve in the space of five issues: count me in to see how Wilson and Ward manage it.
The Black Barn got blown up in the previous volume, on the assumption that it would stop the demonic Smiling Man from jumping from one reality to another. But it appears that instead of constraining him, the loss of the barn set him free. The explosion has also scattered the group of heroes to different worlds, each with its own version of Gideon Falls. They are all hellish places, full of violence, death, and those damn cockroaches that signal the proximity of the Smiling Man. Everything leads back to Danny’s house, where he faces a very strange homecoming.