Welcome to a brand new year, which I assume we all hope is packed full of brilliant comics. January is traditionally a slow month for single issues, there’s very little in terms of new titles and the majority of stories tend to just tread water, waiting for a big relaunch, or another event to come along.
Joe Hill’s Wraith is not that. This month sees the third issue of the mini-series released, but this is a comic that is not in any way treading water. It’s great to see Joe Hill doing more comics work, the son of Stephen King is a great writer in his own regard, with both novels and comics work winning major awards. His last series for IDW, Locke and Key is quite rightly regarded as one of the best horror comics of the modern era, and Wraith, subtitled ‘Welcome to Christmastown’ only just falls short of that accolade itself. A prequel/spin-off to his 2013 novel NO54R2, Wraith tells the story of some convicts who, having escaped a prison van, are helped by Charlie Manx. Manx is the villain of Hill’s novel, and those who know the book will find a number of moments in the series slightly repetitive. For those new to the universe of NO54R2 though, Wraith is likely a great introduction. For both audiences, the important thing is that Wraith tells a great story well. At its best it is brilliant and tense, at its worst it is a solid comic.
Fans of Marvel UK have been rejoicing this month with the return of a ton of their favourite characters, from Captain Britain to Pete Wisdom, in the brand new (and utterly baffling crossover/event) Revolutionary War, beginning with Revolutionary War Alpha #1 (although there is no issue 2) and written by a ton of great writers including Dan Abnett, and Alan Cowsill. Marvel UK has, and let’s be honest, never been all that great. Even when writers such as Paul Cornell and Warren Ellis brought their touches and flourishes to the cast the comics were never more than good. Revolutionary War is not good. At best, it is a functional superhero comic, and at worst it’s downright boring. The plot is packed full of overwrought exposition as the writers attempt to cater for audiences who may not have all the knowledge of previous readers. However, where comics like Daredevil can bring readers up to speed without losing any of the depth of characterisation that keep long time readers going, Revolutionary War stutters and stops dead in its tracks. The art, from Rich Elson is also not so strong, with confusing layouts and rushed panels. Plus, despite the dedication to explaining everything, the ending appears out of nowhere and likely means nothing to audiences who are new to all of this. Fans of the characters will no doubt buy the entire series to keep the line alive, but this is not what Marvel UK deserves, not by a long shot.
Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips announced this month that they have signed an exclusive five year deal with Image Comics. It comes at a time for the two of them when they couldn’t be in a better position to do this. Their collaborations are all works of brilliance, from Criminal to Incognito, but the best thing they’ve done together is Fatale, which concluded its penultimate arc this month. Brubaker loves to write pulpy stories, grindhouse crime comics, but manages to make them both emotionally engaging and smart, something which is usually missing from the mix. Fatale tells a lot of different stories, but at the core of each is Jo, or Josephine. She’s the classic femme fatale, but fed through a Lovecraftian prism. Seemingly immortal, or perhaps constantly being reincarnated, she winds up in several different eras, and finds that no matter what, men are hypnotised by her, seduced and willing to do anything for her. It’s the stereotype taken to the extreme, and the supernatural overtones are exquisitely drawn by Phillips, who excels at this. Brubaker’s writing is Chandler-esque but never obviously so. This penultimate arc was perhaps the best yet, focussing on the Seattle grunge scene in the 1990’s, and very much autobiographical in tone. It makes one extremely exciting to see what the duo does next.
Finally, this month sees the first of many, many new series’ from Image comics. From Rick Remender, and artist Wes Craig comes Deadly Class. The series comes with a great high concept which boils down to essentially, ‘Harry Potter for assassins’ and whilst this first issue is almost all set-up, it is by no means just expositionary and dull. Remender, as always, hits this first issue out of the park, although at times does flirt awfully close to some of the initial issues of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. The lead character is a homeless teen, hunted by unknown assailants until he is rescued by a group of misfits. That is, to an extent, the first couple of issues of Morrison’s series, and comprises most of the first issue. But that isn’t a problem. The results are different enough, and Remender’s dialogue is fantastic. His narration is punchy and smart, and Wes Craig’s art is brilliant. This is highly recommended, and certainly the best new series to come out so far this year.
Next month, I’ll be taking a look at some of the brand new All New Marvel Now titles, as well as trying to work out exactly what All New Marvel Now actually means.