Refrigerator Full of Heads
Rio Youers: writer; Tom Fowler: penciller; Tom Fowler & Craig A. Taillefer: inkers; Bill Crabtree: colorist
DC Black Label, 2022
This entry in the Hill House Comics line is a direct sequel to Joe Hill’s Basketful of Heads (DC Black Label, 2020). Most of the action takes place on Brody Island, where June Branch had wielded a Viking axe with the magical property of leaving the head sentient for anyone beheaded with it. June wound up with the titular basketful of heads, before throwing the axe into the bottom of the bay and escaping the island.
This installment again finds the island hosting a large group of unsavory characters (bikers this time). They are seeking not only the axe, but an entire set of cursed Norse artifacts. They kidnap June from New Jersey and bring her back to the island, convinced that she is the key to finding the axe. And their orders come from a mysterious boss, who is revealed to be one of the bad guys from the first story (thought to be dead).
The big climax is an amazing battle between June and the big baddie, with both of them employing the Norse artifacts to great effect. There is shape-shifting, and a disembodied shark’s head still in full chomping mode: very surreal. The story concludes with a little coda that sets up a potential third installment. Tom Fowler’s cartoony art style really sells the story, and the collection concludes with his character designs.
Deadly Class Vol. 12: A Fond Farewell, Part Two
Rick Remender, writer; Wes Craig, artist; Lee Loughridge, colorist
Image Comics, 2022
Deadly Class finally concludes here. SPOILER ALERT: I have avoided some plot details, but had to reveal several important points. The starting year is 2008 (21 years since the series’ 1987 beginning), and the central actors are Shabnam and Brandy Lynn. Brandy is a right-wing contender for President, and Shabnam is her partner and campaign runner. Their former classmates were never on their side, but the situation has devolved into open conflict. Deaths had been more of a threat than an actual occurrence during the series (which is a bit ironic given that so much of the action takes place at a school for assassins). But they come quickly in this final arc.
Helmut (who has paired up with former classmate Petra) is lured into a trap. Attempting to assassinate Shabnam (who is revealed as a thoroughly evil person, involved in aiding Russian oligarchs), he is lured into a trap and killed with poison gas. Maria is suffering from ill health, and is married to Marcus, who is attempting to make it as a novelist. As he leaves a failed book signing, we see that the couple is being watched by Brandy and Shabnam. It is evident that they intend to erase all history of their connection to King’s Dominion, which could threaten Brandy’s political ambitions. Zenzele and her husband attempt to report them to a pair of newspaper reporters, but they are dubious of their ability to substantiate her story.
The year is now 2020. Saya (who is running an illegal drug manufacturing organization) chooses not to help protect Maria and Marcus: next thing we know Shabnam has murdered her. In 2023, after three years in hiding, Maria and Marcus spring their trap. It’s like a perfect storm. They trick Brandy into killing Shabnam, then just as she emerges from that room television news breaks the story of her whole racist and murderous past: Zenzele’s tip panned out. She is charged with domestic terrorism and multiple counts of murder. The police break in to arrest her, conveniently also catching her red-handed in Shabnam’s murder.
So, against all odds, the series concludes with a happy ending for Maria and Marcus. They have two kids, a happy marriage, and Marcus’ writing career has taken off. The reporter who announced the news about Brandy mentioned that Zenzele and her husband were safe in witness protection, so two more of their former classmates survived the purge as well. It is satisfying in a way that comes as a complete surprise, while still providing lots of the violent action that the series was known for.