A couple months ago, I noticed that Humble Bundle was selling a batch of digital comics from BOOM! Studios. They’d been on my radar for a little while, since they produce (most of? all of?) the Adventure Time comics, which are kind of a thing at my workplace these days, plus Lumberjanes by the lady who does (and just finished) Nimona. I also happened to stop by their booth at Phoenix ComiCon and ended up taking home an armload of books. So I pitched in for the Bundle to see what other fun things they had.
I only got around to reading them at my Vegas convention (what else would I do with my downtime?), and obviously only got around to reviewing them right now. But don’t let that be a mark against them, because there was some great stuff.
I already mentioned Lumberjanes, so let’s start there. It’s a comic about a girls’ sleepaway camp, sort of like a Girl Scout camp except (dare I say?) more awesome, and follows five girls who stray into the woods and find adventure, hijinks, hidden temples, yetis, possessed boyscouts and other weirdness.
I love the art style here — it’s quirky and allows for varied character shapes, appearances and behaviors, while still being clear and colorful. The story is basically a mystical summer-camp adventure romp, and makes for goofy fun with a teensy bit of character exploration. It was originally meant as a miniseries, I believe, but has been picked up as a continuing series, so I see a lot of merit badges in my future.
(Seriously. There is one called Pungeon Master. I need it.)
Keeping to the quirky side is the 8-issue series The Midas Flesh. Its central conceit is that the Greek myth of King Midas, who was granted a golden touch by the gods, was true — but extended to anything that touched what he touched, or anything he breathed, et cetera. The opening action sees the entire planet turned to gold, then fastforwards into the future, where a spacefaring empire (of humans — no, I don’t know where they came from if the world is all gold, just go with it) has quarantined Earth as the still-occurring gold plague that it is.
Until a trio of angry freedom-fighters manages to get past the cordons and locate the body of King Midas…
It’s an odd setup, and the final issue’s explanations and conclusion hit a certain nerve I have about divine intervention — but considering that the central conceit is that there are Greek gods and they can grant this kind of wish, it’s not off-key for the story. And I enjoyed the unusual trio of freedom fighters, shown above on the cover: two women and a dinosaur-type alien, all with good reason to hate the imperial regime. But can pursuing a weapon of mass destruction really be a good idea if it infects everything it touches?
(Psst. The answer is no.)
And while the frame-story of The Midas Flesh is quirky, the action — as the freedom-fighters struggle to control the flesh and keep it away from a military man who wants to use it himself — can get pretty dark.
Continuing in that vein is Six-Gun Gorilla, which was included as a single file in the bundle so I don’t know how many issues it was, or if it was just a long one-shot.
This sci-fi story follows a convicted criminal who has been mounted with a camera and biometric sensors, then sent out onto a wasteland planet to film the ongoing struggle between the planet’s settlers and the star-faring human civilization that originally placed them. The protagonist and his many (and short-lived) compatriots serve as proxies for viewers back home to experience the war — and also the frequent deaths, since all the camera feeds are compiled into a reality show that commentates on the constant ‘eliminations’.
The hapless protagonist manages to survive the first rush, and stumbles across a dying man with a secret — and also a gun-toting gorilla. When the show executives back home review the footage, they realize that the protagonist has seen too much — but so has the audience, who get drawn into the protagonist’s search for explanations. Do the executives really want to call a hitman down upon the first real story they’ve ever shown?
I really liked this entry, both for its weird setup and for the reality-tv-vs-cohesive-narrative subtext. (Well, not always subtext.) It has a few sentimental moments, but mostly it follows the protagonist trying to figure out why he has a gorilla, why someone would put a hit on him while he’s already in the middle of a war-zone as a condemned man — and what the purpose of the war truly is. It’s a good story even if you’re not in it for the gun-toting gorilla.
Moving on, the next item is Suicide Risk, which I also bought in hard-copy form from the Phoenix ComiCon booth. It’s the one I’ve read the least of, as there were only two issues in the Bundle, but one I plan on continuing.
The basic premise is that superpowered people have started appearing — but most of them are villains, with nearly no superheroes and a high attrition rate for those who stand up to them. Some who start as superheroes even end up switching sides, for no known reason. Law enforcement is incapable of coping with all the superpowered criminals — not to mention those villains who just feel like wreaking havoc — and after a disastrous encounter, our cop-protagonist is at a breaking point.
So he decides to find out what is causing these superpowers, and get some himself — no matter this will do to his family, his job, or his mind.
As I said, I haven’t gotten far into it, but I like the concept; I’m a sucker for superhero deconstructions. It’s interesting to see the perspective of normal people in this suddenly-super world, and if there’s some influence causing the good-intentioned supers to go bad, I’m intrigued to see it. Guess I have to go buy some more.
Equally on the dark end is Day Men. This one tackles a subject I don’t usually like — vampires — by following a mortal: the titular Day Man, who serves as a gofer and daytime butt-kicker for an American clan of vampires. Unfortunately for our protagonist, there are tectonic shifts going on in the vampire world as the clans strive to undermine each other but also to find the source of the ‘fang trade’ — a black market operation that deals in ripped-out vampire fangs.
Day men don’t tend to live long even in peacetime, but with intrigue brewing between — and beyond — the clans, and his own benefactors in the cross-hairs, how long can any mortal last?
Let me just reiterate again how much I hate vampires. I mean, I played the World of Darkness games but I always shied away from Vampire: The Masquerade, I gave up on vampire novels in my early teens, and vampire movies are either meh (if they’re action) or gag (if they’re romance). But like Suicide Risk, this title hooked me because it’s about an underpowered hanger-on; the day man can hold his own in a fight with other day men, and he’s pretty clever, but go toe-to-toe with a vampire and he’ll end up in shreds. He gets his chance to shine, though (Pungeon Master!!), because when the other clans begin to turn on his benefactors, mobility and flexible thinking become key.
Though he might be digging his own grave.
Anyway! Good comics! Go read ’em!