Short Cuts 31: Injection Volume Three; Descender Vol. 5 – Rise Of The Robots; Curse Words Vol. 2 – Explosiontown; Lazarus – X+66 

Injection Volume Three
Warren Ellis, writer; Declan Shalvey, artist; Jordie Bellaire, colorist
Image Comics, 2017

This installment revolves around an ancient stone circle in Cornwall suddenly revealed by a huge earthquake landslip. Ellis has said that each of the Injection volumes are takes on classic weird British fictions. The previous volume was Sherlock Holmes; this one is Doctor Who. Maria Killbride gets information about weird signal activity, and a murder. She hires Brigid Roth–the team’s informatics expert–to look into it. She discovers a dark history of human sacrifice, with a contemporary historian more than willing to re-enact it in the present. It’s up to Brigid and her new driver/assistant Emma (surprised she’s never referred to as “companion”) to figure out what’s happening. And in the end, to prevent an Injection event. The rogue AI has been influencing events, and a lightening storm threatens to awaken hungry spirits form the Other World capable of decimating the entire population of the nearby village. Afterwards they find themselves on the run from MI5–their former teammate Rob Morel is now working for the British government’s Breakers Yard, and has decided to assert his authority. So we now have a Brigid/Emma partnership, and Rob Morel opposing everyone else. Bring on Volume Four!

Descender Vol. 5: Rise Of The Robots
Jeff Lemire, writer; Dustin Nguyen, illustrator
Image Comics, 2018

For once the collection title is no exaggeration. The Hardwire robot rebellion makes its move, after first apparently destroying most of the UGC fleet (although there is some question about that later in the story). Andy and Eff come out OK (rescued from their damaged ship by the UGC); Telsa is rescued from a watery death; Dr. Quon is seriously injured by Tim-22, who is finally put out of commission permanently. Elsewhere, Driller the robot gets recaptured by the Gnishians. And Tim-21 (our Tim) gets off the Hardwire ship on an escape pod. At the climax the robots do indeed rise to cull the humans–all over the universe. Tim finally meets the legendary Dr. Solomon, who tells him “we have so much to do before the Harvesters arrive.” This is supposed to be the penultimate volume in the series: I can hardly wait to see how it all comes out, especially the central mystery of the Harvesters. I have to mention again how much I love the handmade look of Nguyen’s art. The combination of ink and watercolor looks like seeing the original art on paper: you can even see the texture of the art boards.

Curse Words Vol. 2: Explosiontown
Charles Soule, writer; Ryan Browne, artist
Image Comics, 2018

The novelty has worn off a bit on the second installment, but this is still one of the funnest–and funniest–series around. The politicians have finally figured out that magical battles are really destructive. They want Wizord gone, but he has a counteroffer to take the battle back to his old boss Sizzajee and the Hole World (and there is a hilarious visual that finally explains why it’s called that–I suspect it’s inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series). Wizord tries to convince his ex Ruby Stitch that they should be allies in saving the Earth. But she has other ideas, and surprising support from Margaret (who is trying on a platypus body, and is about to switch to something else). Margaret has figured out that when Wizord recharges his magic he’s not borrowing it: he’s taking it. So this volume is a bit less action-packed than the first, but there are many future story complications set up.

Lazarus: X+66
Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, Aaron Duran, Neal Bailey: writers; Steve Lieber, Mack Chater, Justin Greenwood, Alitha Martinez, Bilquis Evely, Tristan Jones, Michael Lark: artists
Image Comics, 2018

Six standalone stories set in the Lazarus universe. Although fans of the series will be happy to hear that they are not really standalone: they all tie in to the main series to varying degrees. At the least, they require knowledge of the series to make sense; at most, they fill in significant details that will surely have an impact on the main series in the future. We see Forever Carlyle’s candidate Casey go through training for the elite Daggers corps; meet two new Lazari from families we haven’t seen before (they are both just as capable of thinking for themselves and defying orders as the other Lazari we’ve seen); and a journalist on the outs gets what may be the biggest scoop ever while investigating the alleged death of  Jonah Carlyle. These are the first Lazarus stories where Rucka has had a co-writer, and each is illustrated by a different artist. So it’s remarkable how consistent they are–the collection hangs together well, and feels like it belongs with the series as a whole.

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