Back after a long hiatus, the narrative jumps around chronologically, as it has in recent volumes (the early ones all had a year on the cover, focusing on a single class year at Kings Dominion). The story begins in Phoenix, Arizona in 1991. Marcus is living a dissolute life, and is his usual cheery self: his narration begins “I’ve never felt like I deserved a single success, but I’ve taken total ownership of every failure.” The bloody assassination attempt that closes the chapter shows that he has not left his old life behind. Forward to 1997, with a bunch of the gang relaxing in Lake Tahoe, California…but a flashback to 1989 finally gets to the heart of the matter. All of the classes at Kings Dominion have gathered in the auditorium for the end of the school year. Usually the freshman class are targeted by the rest in a battle for survival, but Marcus has other ideas. Instead of “kill the rats,” he calls to “kill the snakes,” and his supporters begin to wage war–a war which threatens not only the faculty but Master Lin himself. An earlier flash forward to 2001 shows a failing Saya reunited with a very polished looking Marcus (police detective or F.B.I., perhaps?). Lots of possibilities for the next (and final) collection.
Proctor Valley Road is a real road in California that connects Chula Vista with Jamul in San Diego County. Over the years it has been the setting of a number of ghost stories and urban legends. This limited series horror story draws on that background, but with a distinct Young Adult feel. It follows high schoolers August, Rylee, Cora & Jennie, who have organized a “Spook Tour” on the road with their classmates. The year is 1970, and they are only trying to earn enough money to attend an upcoming Janis Joplin concert. But they find themselves embroiled in the true haunted history of the place, which becomes wilder and wilder. In the end they emerge triumphant after finding their strength, and the conclusion finds them ready to defend humanity against the demons of the road. While the expectations for a Grant Morrison project are high for me, this was a predictable ghost story in many ways. Franquiz’s illustrations worked well for the story, but kept if firmly in YA cartoon territory.
This starts out looking like a somewhat predictable YA story. Recently widowed Gil is basically a space trucker, moving goods through a safe, predictable part of space: the charted starways, away from any outer wilds. Safe enough that he brings his son Kadyn along for the ride. But then his ship is attacked by a Space Leviathan–a huge whale-like creature that was previously unknown–and the whole mission goes south in a big way. It is the first of a serious of surreal events that sets the tone for the story. This is a world with creatures that can survive in space: fortunately some of them are kind of cute. Gil finds a succession of ways to survive, while Kadyn manages to not only survive, but thrive. Kadyn seems to be getting all the help he needs from a talking Space Monkey and a Space Dolphin. But he is also manifesting strange powers, which convince the space-faring Zzazteks that he is their missing God of the Broken Moon. The ceremony they begin with him makes him look more like a sacrifice than an honoree, which ends the first part.
The second (and final) installment begins with Gil working to keep himself and the strange old shaman alive. The shaman turns out to have a twisted history, and it involves both the Leviathan and the mighty Quasarro, the hero of the Zzasteks. Kadyn has been manifesting lots of powers, and it’s all because he swallowed the sacred war club Maxaddachootl (which is why the shaman was after him). The ancient hero known as the Son of the Sun manifests and tells him that the club is bonding with him: therefore he must be worthy. The hero asks to be remembered and tells Kadyn to use his power well. We finally get the history of the battle between light and darkness, and how the holy moon got broken. The cosmology is surprisingly elaborate for a tale that mostly presented as a wild adventure. Gil has been taken over by the Darkness, so his reunion with Kadyn is confusing–even more so when the Darkness jumps over to the Space Monkey. All looks lost when the club is broken, but of course the team pulls together and triumphs. It’s that kind of story. Green’s art (cute and scary by turns) and Renzi’s wild colors are what sell it.