October is a golden month for interesting books, and things are really accelerating toward New York Comic Con as well. This week, the weird and occult are taking the lead, which, as a genre fan, means I'm a happy reader. I'm reading live from my local comic shop Conquest Comics today and giving my initial impressions of some books that, frankly, I'm excited about. It's a bonus when a particular week of releases seems to be geared toward your own interests as a reader, and for me, this is one of those weeks. This week I am picking up about twice as many comics as I'm reviewing, so check out my recommended list also.
First off, we have Hinterkind from Vertigo, written by Ian Edginton, with art by Francesco Trifolgi. This is an intriguing new series about animals, humans, and the lack of boundaries between them. The art look on the book is also distinctive, with gorgeous covers by Greg Tocchini and Jae Lee. The whole concept and feel harks back to Tarzan and related pulp traditions, with a touch of Conradian Heart of Darkness thrown in, and the color palette, generally light but punchy with vivid greens and a leaning toward purples, seems thematically appropriate to that tradition. It's not giving too many secrets away to say that Hinterkind is set in a post-apocalyptic world where nature has taken over the big cities, so unlike The Walking Dead, we don't have a wasteland through which humans move trying to prevent their own extinction, but a jungle where survival of the fittest becomes the rule. The premises are well-thought out, the characters are established in a solid way in this first issues, and it has enough savagery to surprise you while lulling you into a false sense of security based on the idyllic visuals. Watch out for a few surprises, too that make this a jungle tale with a twist.
The Witching Hour has been on my radar for a while, a collection of stories with an appropriately Halloweeny theme for October. Anthology one-shots are one of the greatest strengths of Vertigo that I'd be pleased if they explored more fully, particularly when it comes to particular genres. Notable contributors include Cliff Chiang, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ming Doyle, Ales Kot, Mark Buckingham and many more solid comics creators. The variety of art styles and the wildly divergent weird tales are part of the appeal in these "Nine Tales of Divine Horror". Steve Beach's "Daniel" may be the standout story and art of the comic, with a subtle rendering of a creepy kid story worthy of Stephen King. But it's hard to pick favorites when Gerhard Human's art on "Birdie" is so striking and indiosyncratic, "Mars to Stay" takes us into the horror/sci-fi realm like Twilight Zone itself, and Annie Mok and Emily Carroll are likely to scare the shit out of you with their artwork on "This Witch's Work". The anthology includes spiders, multi-cultural concerns and approaches, lots of witches, unsurprisingly, and the return also of The Dead Boy Detectives. Posing a genre approach seems to unlock particular doors in the imaginations of talented comics creators, and they often produce work you'd never see in print otherwise, a great exercise in breaking down unhelpful labels for the types of stories certain artists and writers are expected to create. The Witching Hour is a no-brainer for fans of Vertigo and horror comics, and promises to be as entertaining and varied as it is a mood-setter for the spooky season.
Top Cow publishes the first issue of Bushido: The Way of the Warrior this week, written by Rob Levin, with art by Jessada Sutthi, complete with art direction as inspired by a screen play. It's an unusual book with a media tie-in feel, and taps into the multi-platform appeal of Samurai tales. It opens where you'd least expect it to, with pirates in the 1600's, and a European child adopted into Samurai life. Sibling rivalry, and yes, even Vampires, make for a strong action-based storyline, and the artwork conjures the haunting architecture and hierachical society of feudal Japan. Short explanatory essays about relevant historical elements will keep the reader clued in and add to their experience. Bushido is going to particularly appeal to gamers in its painterly style and the way in which it "follows" particular combatants, but it's a colorful read for Samurai enthusiasts and provides a welcome addition to representing a variety of storytelling modes in comics.
Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight from Dark Horse kicks off with "Bee Vixens from Mars", boasting on the cover that it's "sleazeball tested, pervert approved!". Grindhouse, scripted and lettered by Alex de Campi (Smoke/Ashes), with artwork on this issue by Chris Peterson, colors by Nolan Woodward, and a cover by Francesco Francavilla, is, quite simply, something that needs to exist in comics form. We have our B-movie tradition, and our pulp literature tradition, and while that has inspired many comics, none have so brazenly taken on this envelope-pushing genre tradition as Grindhouse. Thanks to Woodward it has glossy, splashy colors, and thanks to Peterson it has lavish ink work that make the visual experience of the comic not exactly cinematic, which would be derivative, but suggestive that it's establishing a new visual language for this kind of content. De Campi's writing instincts blend elements in a selective miasma that works without overloading us with homage. There's sex, there's gore, there's delightfully improbably events that you accept as readily as you would in a B-film that keeps you riveted even as you laugh about it because that's why you're watching, and here, reading. Excess has its own place in comics, and Grindhouse argues for that, and argues very well. It's a salient reminder that comics should be beautiful, fun, and memorable. Viva Grindhouse. I look forward to where de Campi's storyline will take us as Southern Belles are transformed into "Bee Vixens From Mars".
Dark Horse remembers it's October now by bringing us The Occultist in its first issue, with story by Mike Richardson and Tim Seely, artwork by Mike Norton, colors by Allen Passalaqua, and letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot. Covers by Steve Morris and Paolo Rivera are icing on the cake for this well-selected team effort. "Mild-mannered college student" Rob Bailey becomes the force to be reckoned with known as "The Occultist" through the powers of a magical artifact. Premise accepted and good for the creators for establishing it all in the very first full-page panel of the comic. Fiery-eyed demon babies, collegiate love interests, and a world where magicians are termed "users" establish this offbeat universe without trying to cram too much detail into a first issue. One of the most promising developments for Bailey is his ability to move in a dream-state into the strange interior worlds of others, which only expands the possible breadth of stories the series can contain. Passalaqua's colors are as rich and basic as a cartoon experience, leaving out the over-rendering that often seems stock and trade for gothic-themed comics. But supernatural elements don't have to be excessively "dark" in their artwork to be compelling. The Occultist presents the supernatural as an imaginative spring-board making strange powers, and even stranger adventures possible. For that reason I'd label it an occult-adventure comic rather than a horror comic, and that sets it apart in its own intriguing niche.
This week I'd also highly recommend picking up Trillium #3 (Vertigo), Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #9 ( IDW, as it continues in its 50th anniversary celebration), Fantomex Max #1 (Marvel), and Indie Comics Magazine #7, which is a great way to plug into indie comics production if you don't have any indie shows running in your area (visit their website at IndieComicsMagazine.com).
Special thanks to Conquest Comics in New Jersey. You can find their Facebook page here. They are currently dominating POP vinyl collectibles with their White Phoenix exclusive and now have their Metallic Harley Quinn exclusive in stock.
Conquest Comics will be at New York Comic Con at booth #3004 with comic books, trades, action figures, statues, apparel, as well as limited numbers of their White Phoenix and Metallic Harley Quinn Pops available.
Hannah Means-Shannon is senior New York Correspondent at Bleeding Cool, writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org, and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress. Find her bio here.