Saturday, February 19, 2011

It Came From the Back Issue Bin! #15: Hellboy and more...

by Jason Shayer

Hellboy - The Sleeping and the Dead #1-2
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Scott Hampton

Let me get this out of the way right now. I’m a Mignola-drawn-Hellboy purist and have been disappointed that all we’ve been getting from Mignola in terms of art have been covers. With that said, Hampton’s art is quite nice. He’s no Mignola with his light and shadows, but there are several stunning pieces in this book. However, with this story, I really don’t have an issue with the art...

This tale starts off rather straight-forward with Hellboy taking down a vampire, but things get complicated and interesting when his actions turn out to have some unintended consequences.

The first issue really slows down the pace of the story, almost to the point that I abandoned it. I didn’t see the need for so much exposition. In fact, the second issue’s recap is far more effective at setting the stage without a dozen pages of dry exposition. This story should have simply been a one-shot. It’s a great story, don’t get me wrong, but the pacing was off and probably turned off a lot of readers.

The Last Zombie #2
Writer: Brian Keene
Artist: Joe Wight
Some of you may recall I reviewed the first issue and didn’t exactly have anything flattering to say about it. However, being a fair reviewer, I thought it would be good to check out issue #2 (especially since I’m a big Keene fan). I’m glad I did. It was nice to see that the story moved along at a bit more of a brisk pace. As Keene explains in the prologue, this is “a story about the living”. It’s not hard to draw parallels with The Walking Dead and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This issue is building some characterization and I’m looking forward to see where this will go.

The artist seems to be finding his groove as there are some genuinely creepy panels. The lettering with that lack of vertical bar on the letter “e” is still annoying as hell. But, despite that, I’ll be picking up issue #3.

The Cape #1
Writer: Jason Ciaramella (based on Joe Hill’s short story, “The Cape”)
Artist: Zack Howard
I almost wrote this issue off thinking it was a tie-in to the new TV series “The Cape”, but upon closer inspection, it was based on the works of Joe Hill. So I picked it up. And I was impressed. The story is a straight-forward adaptation, but it’s the art that really shines.
The narration and dialog seemed stretched thin, but it did amplify the art and gave it a powerful presence in the storytelling.

The story ends with a disturbing full-page panel that’s quite a payoff. As well, it hints that this comic will have a sequel. This issue impressed me enough to see where they can go with this and perhaps it will give the writer a bit more of an opportunity to make an impression.

1985 - Marvel Graphic Novel 017 - The Revenge of the Living Monolith
Writer: David Michelinie
Artists: Marc Silvestri/Geof Isherwood

I’ve always loved the title of the graphic novel as it has a fun 1950s feel to it. And its bold cover showcasing the might of the Living Monolith as he crushes one of the Twin Towers with people fleeing about like scattering ants.

The idea for this graphic novel apparently came from Jim Owsley “I wanna do ‘The Monster That Trashed New York”, something on a big scale, like those old ‘50s monster movies. We’re gonna call it - are ya ready for this? ‘The Revenge of the Living Monolith!’”

As with any great fiction, a sympathetic character is a great way to make readers care about your story. In this graphic novel, Michelinie makes the villain, Ahmet Abdol, the mutant better known as the Living Monolith, a wonderfully sympathetic character and the way the story is constructed, Ahmet is the protagonist. Leveraging mutant hysteria and tragedy, you feel totally justified for Ahmet as he assumes the mantle of the Living Pharaoh and makes his latest bid for power.

His daughter Fayah betrays her father and turns to the Fantastic Four to help stop her father’s latest mad scheme. However, to spoil things, it’s a ruse meant to help the Living Pharaoh capture the Fantastic Four. Using the cosmic energy stored in the cells of the Fantastic Four, the Living Monolith transforms himself into the massive giant known as the Living Monolith. The She-Hulk (at that time a member of the FF) gathers a handful of heroes to take on the Living Monolith.

This wonderful 80-page story reads like a cross between a James Bond movie and the Fantastic Four. With a lot of great action scenes and great twists and turns that keep you flipping pages. Michelinie adeptly handles all these classic Marvel characters like Spider-Man and Captain America amid all of that action.

The art and colors are absolutely stunning and keep in mind this is from 1985 when comics were printed on paper that was barely above newsprint in terms of quality. The inks by Geof Isherwood are also worthy of note, giving the finished product a Bernie Wrightson feel to it. And the lettering by several of Marvel’s finest of the 1980s, like Joe Rosen, Rick Parker, and John Morelli, is also worthy of some praise especially the way it complements the action in the panels.

--Jason Shayer