Staff Picks – Week of 24/10/2018

Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (30th Anniversary Edition)
Neil Gaiman (w), Sam Kieth, Mike Drinberg, Malcolm Jones III (a)
DC / Vertigo

Chief says: Reissued this week on glossier paper, Neil Gaiman’s horror goth masterpiece recurring dream fiction is well worth another look. It’s hard to believe given the fictional complexities later volumes strived for that the opening salvo in this early Vertigo hit has a quite the simple plot. As pitched to film producer Jon Peters it goes something like this: Sandman, the master of dreams, is imprisoned by a cult seeking to capture death. He escapes and seeks out a series of artefacts to regain his power. That it took Peters 3 HOURS to understand that simple storyline says a lot about the book and a lot about Hollywood.
It’s interesting to note that The sandman himself is rarely the focus in the early days if this book. It’s the people he meets on the way, the effect he has on their lives and indeed, deaths, that lingers with you. He’s a catalyst, really. The ball that starts the mousetrap moving, eventually ensnaring you in it’s gilded cage of fantasy and intoxicating powers. Like the Sandman himself, reading this will leave you with the feeling that you’re underneath a glass bowl, being looked at. You don’t just read this book. This book reads you. What follows as you go on down the path is a story, one of many, that slowly show you the cost of dreams. Yours, mine, everyones. Ultimately, you have to decide if it’s price you want pay. The language of the book is flowery and a little elliptical, but if you were a Vertigo fan in the 90’s, that’s what you got every month! The art is suitably black, scratched on to the paper like a dream you can’t quite recall and McKean’s covers are still unmatched by anyone else from the era. This isn’t the best of the Sandman’s volumes (that honour belongs to Volume 3, Dream Country) but it is great fuel for the nightmares to come, however. A shared consensual dream for anyone who wants to be haunted.

Lodger #1
David & Maria Lapham (w), David Lapham (a)
Black Crown / IDW

Adam says: Black Crown continues to sprawl out across genres as Shelly Bond welcomes masters of crime, David and Maria Lapham, of ‘Stray Bullets’ fame.
This first issue establishes a strong intrigue with a teenager on the trail of a travel blogger, encountering a murder or two along the way, of course. There’s more at work, but we’ll leave it there for now.
The craft on show in ‘Lodger’ is stellar, as expected. Laid out in an eight-panel grid, with strategic deviations, David Lapham’s inky black and white cartooning alternates between spacious panoramic shots and a menacing small town claustrophia. The script meanwhile offers concise dialogue and, barring one unnecessary stereotype early on, the overlaid narration works effectively to dislodge the reader from the action depicted in such a way that a second story begins to take shape.
Another strong, different offering from Black Crown.

X-Men: Black – Juggernaut (2018) #1
Robbie Thompson (w), Shawn Crystal (a)
Marvel Comics

Scott says: X-Men Black, five one-shots shining a light on a range of X-villains, is continued this week with a focus on everyone’s favourite antagonistic stepbrother turned raging demon-infused freight train, the Juggernaut. The three preceding issues, focusing on Magneto, Mojo and Mystique, have all been enjoyable jaunts, if not a little disposable. With Juggernaut, the disposability has been disposed of, as we’re treated to a pulsing experience for Cain Marko that lays the foundations for ol’ Jugsy to be more and attempt more in the Uncanny future for all X-characters.

Robbie Thompson’s writing is efficient and to the point, with a generous sprinkling of trailing ellipses followed by a bolded affirmation (see: ‘…is ME’, ‘…UNSTOPPABLE’, ‘…is RAGE’). But, unsurprisingly, the real highlight of this issue is Shawn Crystal’s art. Crystal melds dynamic fight sequences with dark, broody inking. His Juggernaut, all piercing eyes and teeth-clenched grimace underneath bolts and sheet metal, is expressive in a way I’ve never seen him before.

Thompson’s pacing and Crystal’s chaos reel us in immediately to a story that gives us a climax with repercussions that move this character forward – something not fully actualized by the three preceding issues – and a great aftertaste.

Oh, and that Apocalypse backup story? After a less-than-riveting entry in the Mystique one-shot last week, this week’s chapter moved the story forward significantly with some wonderful visuals, leaving me very interested in next week’s finale.

Space Academy 123
Mickey Zacchilli (w/a)
Koyama Press

Will says: Space Academy 123 is a charming collection of stories that were originally published as on ongoing web series. They depict the humorous and heart-felt tales of an array of lovable characters attending school in space. Such stories follow recent graduate Donna Summer, who is assigned her new job as the principal of the Space Academy by the Grand Father Computer, against her wishes to be a space chiropractor; her new teaching colleagues Robot Teacher #3, Robot Teacher #5 and of course Robot Teacher #8; and their students, arrogant Ashley Forgiveness and the nihilistic Shandy, to name a couple. Endearing diaristic accounts against the backdrop of sci-fi craziness, Space Academy 123 is an absolutely heart-warming read and a joy from start to finish.