Short Cuts 46: Gideon Falls Vol. 3 – Stations of the Cross; Monstress Vol. 4 – The Chosen; Black Hammer – Streets Of Spiral; Lobster Johnson Volume 5 – The Pirate’s Ghost and Metal Monsters of Midtown; The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

Gideon Falls Vol. 3: Stations of the Cross
Jeff Lemire, writer; Andrea Sorrentino, art; Dave Stewart, colors
Image Comics, 2019

This installment centers around Father Burke. He had already become deeply involved in the mystery of Gideon Falls, but now he appears to be central to the story. It opens with him in the barn, with the One Who Smiles in the Dark (the red eyes and smiley face we have seen before).  The priest follows his quarry, and immediately finds himself in alternate worlds. He first finds himself in a Wild West version of Gideon Falls, then a 19th century town. At this point he starts to make a map to keep track of the worlds he has travelled to (he labels the second “Frontier,” and the third “Steam”).  Then there is a world where religion is outlawed, and one where he is called “Bishop” by the people there, who claim he asked them to wait for him, in “the village near the center.” He meets an older version of Dr.  Xu, and sees a machine he does not recognize, but had built.  Long-missing Danny is back home (grown to adulthood), but thinks he is Norton Sinclair. And when he visits his father in the hospital his father becomes the new doorway for the dark spirit from the Black Barn. Still confusing, but the shape of the narrative is starting to really take shape.

Monstress Vol. 4: The Chosen
Marjorie Liu, writer; Sana Takeda, artist
Image Comics, 2019

The big event in this arc is Maika meeting her father. She doesn’t trust him, or the coalition he is building. Her connection with the Ancients gives her a special insight. But the fate of humanity still seems up for grabs. Maika also reconnects with Kippa and Master Ren, and learns things about their true roles in her story. As always the narrative is visually striking, and the political connections are complex and confusing. Somehow the series keeps drawing me back in, even though I’m not really sure I understand it.

Black Hammer: Streets Of Spiral
Jeff Lemire, writer/creator; Dean Ormston, creator; Emi Lenox, art; and many others
Dark Horse Books, 2019

It’s kind of amazing that Black Hammer has been around long enough to generate a miscellaneous collection like this. It collects: Black Hammer: Giant Sized Annual, Cthu-Louise, World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia, and material from Free Comic Book Day 2019. The Annual is the most substantial story by far. It shows Colonel Weird visiting several events important to the heroes (courtesy of the Para-Zone), illustrated by a wide range of guest artists. Cthu-Louise tells the story of how she finally finds a home (she has to kill a bunch of her classmates first, so there’s that). The Free Comic Book Day story is a brief look into the world of Madame Butterfly. The Encyclopedia is exactly what it sounds like. I’ve never been a fan of these–from either DC or Marvel–so I’ll confess to skimming through a lot of it. But it’s impressive that this world is deep enough to warrant the treatment.

Lobster Johnson Volume 5: The Pirate’s Ghost and Metal Monsters of Midtown
Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, story; Tonci Zonjic, art; Dave Stewart, colors (Metal Monsters of Midtown)
Dark Horse Books, 2017

The pulp adventures of Lobster Johnson take an especially fantastical turn in this collection, which compiles two three-issue miniseries. The title characters of “Metal Monsters of Midtown” are giant robots straight out of a steampunk story (or perhaps Martian war machines from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds ). They are apparently indestructible, and their purpose is mysterious: for example, they break into a bank but do not take any of the money. Turns out the source was a mysterious secret Chinese cavern, full of machinery thousands of years old, and they have been remote controlled by a group of missing industrialists. “The Pirate’s Ghost” is almost as weird: it features a fake ghost and ghost ship…but also an apparently real ghost (at least, one character thinks so). The reporter Cindy Tynan winds up as a hostage in a plot to lure the Lobster out to save her. But the real repercussions come in the form of permanent changes for some major characters. Cindy leaves New York to take a job in television news (the coming thing) in Chicago. And gangster kingpin Wald–as well as his henchman Isog (the spitting image of actor Peter Lorre)–make their final exits. Artist Tonci Zonjic does a wonderful job on the character designs–human and robot alike–and there is extensive sketch material included.

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
Gerard Way & Shaun Simon, script; Becky Cloonan, art; Dan Jackson, colors
Dark Horse Books, 2014

I’m a big Becky Cloonan fan, so I’ve always intended to get to this miniseries. Way had already established himself as a comics writer with The Umbrella Academy, but I hadn’t read that either (until recently). I also haven’t heard the My Chemical Romance concept album Danger Days or seen its music videos that explore this world, so for me the book has to stand on its own. The setting is a post-apocalyptic California. The Killjoys were a rebel band that are an inspiration for the desert-dwelling punk nonconformists that shelter the Girl, who is the sole survivor of a legendary rescue mission from the tyrannical corporation Better Living Industries. If this sounds like a stereotypical battle between conformity and non-conformity, youthful freedom and elder convention, it should. There’s not much subtlety in the storytelling, although there is plenty of extravagant surrealistic visual invention to make up for it. Throughout the story the Girl is treated as someone special, but there is no demonstration of why that should be until the climax, when she pulls out a mystical/super-heroic power. Apparently Gerard Way fans love this, but I can’t recommend it to anyone else.

 

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