Yeah, it’s been an Image-centric weekend over here. My backlog of their titles just keeps piling up for some reason. I still have the third volume of “The Fuse” to tackle at some point, and I swear I’ll get around to doing either a podcast or a review of the third volume of “The Fade Out.” In the meantime, here are my thoughts on three recent first volumes of series with varying degrees of promise.
Skottie Young’s “I Hate Fairyland vol. 1: Madly Ever After” is about an awful woman named Gert who has been stuck in a fairytale wonderland for the past 27 years because she can’t find the key to take her home. So she takes out her frustration on all of its inhabitants in endlessly violent and gory fashion. It’s clear that Young wanted to do a series where the cutest of cute suffers the bloodiest of bloody fates and you can see that drive in every single panel. Whether Gert is firing a cannon at the face of a narrating moon, suffering the indignity of turning into a Type-19 diabetic tumor, or just plain butchering anyone who gets in her way, the art radiates the kind of maniacally crazed energy you only see when a creator is fully invested in what they’re doing. Really, Young’s art is utterly phenomenal and it’s worth checking out the series for that reason alone. (Also, a note to Adam Warren: If you don’t want to actually have your characters swear in your comic, then this is how you MUFFIN’ HUGGIN’ do it.)
However, this first volume of “I Hate Fairyland” is also about a little girl who was sucked into a fairytale wonderland against her will and became a monster in order to cope with the fact that she was never going to be able to find her way home. That’s the kind of synopsis that creeps into your head after reading the opening pages that show you how Gert wound up in Fairyland in the first place. Beyond that, there’s no real acknowledgement of the underlying problems regarding our protagonist’s mental state because it’s clear that Young wanted to do a series about a woman trapped in a little girl’s body who goes around and murders all these cute little creatures. I’ve got no problems with that, but it’s clear that the writer/artist didn’t have the guts to make his main character completely unsympathetic and made a halfhearted attempt to soften her just a bit. It doesn’t work and ultimately renders his series readable so long as you don’t give any thoughts to what makes Gert tick. So just focus on the pretty, pretty pictures here…
There should be little doubt that after “Whiteout,” “Queen & Country,” runs on “Detective Comics” and “Punisher,” and co-creating “Gotham Central,” Greg Rucka knows how to write a good procedural story. He applies all of that experience here to police work and witchcraft in “Black Magick vol. 1: Awakening.” Rowan Black is a detective with the Portsmouth P.D. and also a witch. In fact, we’re introduced to her during a ceremony for the Fall Equinox when she’s called away for a hostage situation at a local diner. The hostage taker has asked for Rowan by name and when she goes in to speak with him, he reveals that he knows about her other life as well. Old and familiar forces are gathering against Rowan and her coven, and now they have to prepare themselves for war.
On one level, this is a satisfyingly professional piece of work. While Rowan faces personal and professional conflicts because of her status as a witch and a detective, having these two worlds collide doesn’t feel out of place in Rucka’s hands. He understands that both of her professions are bound by rules and those are made clear as we go along. All of this is rendered in lush black and white art from Nicola Scott (with well-placed color assists from Chiara Arena) that expertly blends the mundane with the spooky. It’s good work from both creators, so I’m wondering why I wasn’t more involved with this volume than I was. Maybe it’s because in embracing such a professional approach Rucka has also given us something that feels a bit formulaic in spite of its subject matter. Even the comedy relief involving the cell phone interrupting the wiccan ritual in the beginning feels stale. Had I encountered this a decade ago when such genre hybrids were less common, it’s possible I would’ve enjoyed it more. I’m not about to write it off as the creators do good work here, and maybe that last-page reveal could take it into more bizarre and interesting territory.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the first volume of Linda Sejic’s “Blood Stain” was about a down-on-her luck college graduate who winds up going to work for a mad scientist. After all, that’s how the story is described on the back and reinforced by the amusingly sinister front cover. Is that what happens here? Well, eventually. Sejic takes the long (LONG) way around to that point as we said graduate, Elliot Torres, spends most of the volume hashing out her personal situation with her sister, taking on a variety of other jobs for comic relief, actually getting good at one of them before she loses it, and doing two phone interviews with Dr. Vlad Stein before accepting the assistant position he offers, and then flying and driving out to his place.
All of this means that if you came in expecting to see the wacky hijinks that ensue when Elliot starts working for Dr. Stein, then you’d better be prepared to wait until vol. 2 rolls around. What we get here isn’t bad as Sejic (wife of “Sunstone’s” Stjepan) can craft funny dialogue like her husband and serves up some nice art as well. Unfortunately she tends to press things a bit too far in the direction of wacky at the expense of her protagonist’s credibility. Witness all of those failed jobs as an example. I’m honestly on the fence about whether or not I’ll be picking up vol. 2 to see what happens when this series actually starts to dig into its premise.
That being said, come back tomorrow for when I write about a manga that has a similar problem and how its publisher dealt with it in a very smart way.