Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It Came From the Back Issue Bin! #17: Catching up with the modern classics series and Free Comic Book Day 2011

American Vampire #1-5
Writers - Scott Snyder and Stephen King
Artist - Rafael Albuquerque

American Vampire is a surprisingly complex tale that weaves together two storylines, one taking place in the 1920s Hollywood and the other in the 1880s Wild West. The 1920s Hollywood story introduces us to our sympathetic protagonist Pearl who’s trying to make a name for herself and takes a wrong turn that becomes deadly. The other protagonist, Skinner Sweet, the American vampire, comes to her rescues and turns her, allowing her to extract her revenge against the European breed of vampires running Hollywood.

I know you’re probably tired of vampires, but this is actually a pleasant, refreshing take on the genre. It introduces a new breed of American-made vampire that doesn't have all the same weaknesses or powers as the European breed.

The 1880s Wild West origin of Skinner is written by Stephen King and I was surprised how quietly this happened. I expected much more promotion from DC comics. However, the series seems to be doing quite well and word of mouth is spreading.

A hardcover is available reprinting issues #1-5, as well an introduction by Stephen King and bonus character sketches and variant covers. Volume #2 reprints issues #6-11 and continues the story of Skinner and Pearl.

I Zombie #1-5
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Michael Allred
You might recall that I reviewed the first issue last year and of course it wasn’t enough to get a real taste for this series. Now, after reading five issues, I still find it a bit difficult to describe. Gwen Dylan, a zombie grave digger, must eat a brain to keep from going crazy. However, when she does, she’s flooded with the person’s thoughts and is compelled to resolve any open issues that person might have had to make their thoughts go away.

It’s a bold mix of urban horror and fantasy with a murder mystery and a tinge of romance thrown in to the mix. Roberson’s story is great as is the rag-tag of characters that accompany Gwen on her adventures. Allred’s art is a clean and smooth as it has always been.

If you’re up for something wacky and different, this is your book. If you’re up for a fun story that involves a zombie, a ghost, a were-terrier, a coven of vampires, and monster hunters, you’ve come to the right place.

The first trade paperback was released a few months ago and reprints issues #1-5 as well as a bonus story from The House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1.

Godzilla - Kingdom of Monsters #2
Writers - Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh
Artists - Phil Hester/Bruce McCorkindale

Issue #2 continues Godzilla’s origin and deals with his rampage through Tokyo.

I was left wondering after reading issue #1 why this series had the subtitle of “Kingdom of Monsters”, but this issue starts to explain that premise by introducing a few other giant monsters, appearing around the globe.

There are a few storylines that are being juggled here and seem to be building up to some kind of possible battle between these monsters. I get the feeling that the story is just taking too long to develop. However, a sub-plot in this issue proved to be gripping and heart-wrenching as a father of two kids presumed lost in Godzilla’s carnage tries to extract some revenge.

Free Comic Book Day 2011 was on May 7 and there was a couple of stand out FCBD editions of a few horror books. If you didn’t make it to your local comic book store for FCBD, drop by today, I’m sure they have a few free issues left overs.

Baltimore - A Passing Stranger
Writers - Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Artist - Ben Steinbeck
If you haven’t read Golden and Mignola’s Baltimore book, go out and grab a copy now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Okay, you’re back and you’ve read it, right? Here’s the spoiler free review of this FCBD issue. A Passing Strange is a lovely self-contained story that really gives you a taste of this dark, moody story and the recently published Dark Horse miniseries, Baltimore - The Plague Ships. It introduces you to the mysterious and driven Lord Henry Baltimore, a World War I era monster hunter. Well worth hunting down, in fact, go out and pick up the miniseries as well!

Criminal Macabre - Call Me Monster
Writer - Steve Niles
Artist - Christopher Mitten
If you’re a fan of Steve Niles, you’re probably a fan of his noir hero Cal MacDonald, the smart-ass, tough-as-nails supernatural investigator. Similar to the Baltimore story, it’s a great self-contained story that introduces you to MacDonald and really gives you an idea of what Criminal Macabre is all about. Niles excels at short stories, delivering a satisfying tale, solid characterization, humor, and an all-around good time. Oh, yeah, the art’s great in this story, kind of a hybrid between Frank Miller and Keith Giffen.

Elric: The Balance Lost
Writer - Chris Roberson
Artist - Francesco Biagini
Of the FCBD horror offerings this issue was the weakest. The story seemed a bit too contrived and forced. Keep in mind, this issue was meant as an introduction to Elric and the entire Moorcock multi-verse, which is a daunting task. The series does show some potential, so I’m willing to suspend any judgment based on this preview. The concept sketches by Francesco Biagini are worth the price alone, oh wait, it’s free! These sketches hint at the rather broad scope of where this series might be heading. So, it definitely has me interested and I’ll be picking up issue #1.

--Jason Shayer