Rude Chapbooks 04.02.12 | Hawken: Falcon Raptor

Hmmm. Maybe a coupla typos there? In any event, this week our columnist waxes rapturous over the sagebrush psycho saga of Hawken #3. Also reviewed: Angel & Faith #8, Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures #1, The Mighty Thor #12, and The New Deadwardians #1.


Even to someone whose interest in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (alas) largely waned awhile ago, the work of writer Christos Gage and artist Rebekah Isaacs on a Dark Horse spin-off remains compelling, as Angel & Faith #8 reaffirms; indeed, the series has quite fulfilled the promise it showed on premiering late last summer. Gage continues to probe the scarred psyches of the eponymous protagonists with customary skill; one can almost hear David Boreanaz and Eliza Dushku voicing the dialogue. This latest arc not only extends Angel’s efforts to atone for an especially heinous act and Faith’s (tentative) rapprochement with her estranged father, but also reintroduces the vampiric Drusilla, portrayed on television with a preternatural mix of creepiness and sexiness by Juliet Landau. Isaacs, furthermore, has secured a place among the mainstream’s top artists, with nonpareil portraiture (a necessity in a comic of this sort), effortless-seeming staging and choreography, and “Goldilocks” detail—neither too much nor too little in both foreground and background from panel to panel and page to page, issue after issue.
Most impulse buys, in whatever circumstance, disappoint, and sad to say, despite a nifty cover designed by Jeff Powell and illustrated by Scott Wegener and Ronda Pattison, Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures #1 (oxygen!) does just that. By and large, to descend to cliché, the Red 5 debut’s reach exceeds its grasp. It comprises a quintet of four-pagers (all written by Brian Clevinger), two of them the opening chapters of serials and a third a reprint, and despite serviceable visuals from five separate artists, including Reed Gunther’s Chris Houghton, the release feels diffuse even by the forgiving standards of comic books. Only one, “The Revenge of Dr. Dinosaur,” succeeds, by dint of its sheer goofiness and the megalomaniacal focus of its exophthalmic antagonist. (N.B.: Yuko Oda illustrates that tale, and readers “of a certain age” will doubtless find themselves wondering about some sort of familial connection to the veteran EC and DC letterer of that surname.) In short, although variety may be the spice of life, a spice rack does not a meal make.
When it bowed in mid-November, scriptwriter Benjamin Truman and artist Timothy Truman’s black-and-white weird Western from IDW Publishing earned a cackling-mad recommendation from “Rude Chapbooks,” and damned if the insane thing doesn’t still inspire borderline-lunatic old-school funnybook bliss. In Hawken #3, the title character—a geezer grizzled enough to make both Rooster Cogburn and the Man With No Name wet themselves—rides farther along his vengeance trail, which leads through a Chinese matron’s period-Arizona convenience store (that is, a combined saloon, opium den, brothel, and eatery). Unknown to Hawken, shadowing him is a former protégé, the human rattler Sombre, and still haunting him is everyone he’s ever slain—including a mariachi trio that serenades him at one point and that Hawken evidently dispatched solely for tone deafness. Rude, crude, and obnoxious, Hawken delivers a bimonthly blood-and-thunder jolt of narrative white lightning more electrifying than a dozen spandex-based concoctions plucked at random from the week’s releases. Still very much recommended with glee. If only comics shops throughout the land slotted more depravities as delicious as this!
Following an unprepossessing debut that foregrounded Odin (the most tedious Lee-Kirby character ever) far too much and a crossover with the emetic Fear Itself “event,” writer Matt Fraction’s Scandinavian supersaga for Marvel may at last have righted itself. The Mighty Thor #12 concludes an arc wherein, through mystic means, the troll warrior Ulik has replaced ol’ Goldilocks—“killed” during the aforesaid “event”—in the perceptions and the memories of everyone but poor “Kid” Loki, as part of an invasion of Asgardia. The climax commences with old-fashioned Marvel sensawunna. As Loki gasps, “Thor…?” a lightning bolt splits the sky. Wide-eyed, Sif murmurs, “Beloved.” Volstagg exclaims, “The Odinson!” Freyja coolly smiles and remarks, “Our boy.” Then Thor points Mjolnir at Ulik. “You there. Troll,” growls the god of thunder. “Remove yourself from the presence of my mother.” And the battle is joined. From breakdowns by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson’s visuals constitute the main failing here; although one of the mainstream’s finest inkers for three decades, Janson has never wholly blossomed in any other capacity. So it goes.
After disappointing launches last week and the week before, The New Deadwardians #1 restores confidence in Vertigo by prompting something beyond indifference. Set in an alternate London in 1910, Dan Abnett’s script counterposes vampires and zombies—respectively “the Young” and “the Restless,” Scout’s honor—and stars boater- and spats-clad Scotland Yard Chief Inspector George Suttle, one of the former. More specifically, following a zombie incursion into his own lodgings, Suttle investigates the enigmatic murder of another vampire involving none of what a forensic pathologist calls “the three causes”: “impalement of the heart, decapitation, incineration.” A crisp read, albeit scarcely heavyweight or watertight. Much of the pleasure of this eight-parter’s debut derives from the ligne claire visuals of I.N.J. Culbard, who’s previously collaborated with Ian Edginton on four Sherlock Holmes graphic novels (most recently The Valley of Fear in 2011). Comics aficionados who missed those highly recommended Conan Doyle adaptations, which Diamond somehow may have failed to solicit, themselves should investigate The New Deadwardians to acquaint themselves with Culbard, one of today’s most promising younger talents. | Bryan A. Hollerbach

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