Staff Picks – Week of 07/02/2018

Demon V.4
Jason Shiga
First Second

Thomas says: Bloody Nora! I . . . I mean . . . I’m not . . . I don’t know what to say about this book, about the death toll and what the final page seems to suggest/allude to. I loved it though and it was definitely a great way to end the story but . . . wow!

Swamp Thing Winter Special
Tom King & Jason Fabok, Len Wein & Kelley Jones
DC Comics

Adam says: One of those hefty 80-page specials with a pretty hefty price tag to go with…

This Swamp Thing special marked itself as a hot book long before it hit stands. Last year’s stop-gap issue Batman #23 by Tom King and David Finch was a definite highlight in which King deftly conveyed that he grasps the character of Swamp Thing, especially tonally – and also offered a distinct voice for the creature from The Green.

King’s story here with Jason Fabok is a lovely, spacious mood piece. Nothing overly complicated, just a touching story which allows the reader to extrapolate away towards bigger, more metaphorical and philosophical reflections. Alongside the likes of David Finch, Fabok is undoubtedly one of the best conventional superhero artists currently working at either Marvel or DC. To see him in a more meditative mode, with some gorgeously expressive and heart-rending character work is a real delight. The strip is also coloured with expert wintry consistency by Brad Anderson.

The second story in this issue comes from Swamp Thing’s co-creator Len Wein and fellow veteran, artist Kelley Jones. Introduced with a brief, loving note from editor Rebecca Taylor, this strip sees Jones working from what was Len Wein’s final and unfinished Swamp Thing script. The plot was completed, but Wein didn’t have the chance to do a firm pass on the story’s dialogue before his death late in 2017. What results is a poignant, silent story with a couple of choice Gotham City cameos. Though intended to launch another mini-series, this short strip, with the still-powerful Jones’s gracefully poetic artwork, this remains a fitting final issue for departed industry hero, Len Wein.

The two stories in this one-shot are a wonderful showcase of different generational talents crafting stories which complement one another, but with distinctly different execution. Where Fabok skews realistic, Jones’s expressive work is more overtly cartoonish – and yet entirely consistent within itself, sustaining the mood of the piece perfectly. Similarly, just as King allows for an expansive and thoughtful reading, Wein left behind a precise and focused down-to-swamp narrative.

All in all, these two stories comprise one excellent 80-page special from DC this week.

Amazing Spider-Man #795
Dan Slott & Christos Gage (w), Mike Hawthorne (a)
Marvel Comics

Liz says: This week’s issue of Amazing Spider-Man ticks all the boxes for me: it’s a fun little done-in-one story that brings in current Sorcerer Supreme/God of Mischief Loki, who summons Spider-Man to Bleecker Street to ask him a favour. In exchange, he offers to turn back time and give Pete his old life back (specifically the part where he was the billionaire C.E.O. of Parker Industries). Given the notorious Parker luck, it’s not hard to guess that things don’t exactly go as planned… not for Pete, at least! This is the sort of issue you could easily pick up and enjoy even if you haven’t been following the series. However, it does end with a massive reveal and cliffhanger that will make you see red… literally!

I Hate Fairyland #16
Skottie Young (w,a)
Image Comics

Rebecca says: Truly a dark comedy fantasy comic, yet completely contrasted with stunning vibrant illustrations. The heroine Gertrude fell into Fairyland as a ten-year-old and for the last 27 years has been striving to escape. Now, Gert is a forty-year-old woman, still stuck in her eight-yearp-old’s body, and still trapped in a maddening world of Fairland. The artwork is so cute and despite Gertrude’s annoyance, I find myself liking her quirky and misanthrope disposition.

In this story, after dying Gertrude finally escapes Fairyland, but she can’t catch a break, and now faces hell – literally. There, she is taunted by the Devil, whom cruelly tricks her into believing she is finally granted her freedom and can go back home. But of course there is no ‘happily ever after’ for Gert, and the monsters unravel before her eyes. However, the Devil wasn’t done, and further punished Gert by sending her back to the place she has been trying to break free from for decades – Fairland. Another challenge for Gert, and going back home seems like even more like the impossible dream.