I'm joining you live from Conquest Comics in New Jersey, my local shop, and getting a gander at their books as they emerge from the boxes, and there are many boxes this week. In fact, it's a tidal wave of releases today, it's a tough choice what to read first, that is if you're not waiting in line trying to get a DC lenticular cover (I'd bank on the supervillains being the most interesting, and apparently those are selling out first so people feel the same way). But when you're just looking for a solid read without the crazy bling, there are a host of worthwhile titles to grab. September is looking good for comics so far…
God is Dead, by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa, and Di Amorim, is one of the biggest launches from Avatar Press lately (who own Bleeding Cool if you weren't aware) in a season of big releases, and is definitively ambitious. In the wake of massive elemental catastrophes, leaving millions dead through various simultaneous events all over the world, the "second coming" descends, only it's not quite what the Vatican may have expected. But it's not just the Vatican. Various nations are reporting "actual mythological beings" have arrived, inspiring fanaticism and pleas for deliverance. It's a cogent reminder that most mythologies and religious histories have very violent roots, often less celebrated in college courses and the average mythology book at a major chain bookstore. The comic does a worthy job of presenting a simple "what if" that's been posed in many ancient texts. Assuming that gods are good, of course, is a mistake. It'll remain to be seen whether the citizens of Earth pose any resistence to this deific invasion or whether the gods themselves have any plans for alliances or intra-pantheon vendettas to see just who would come out as victor. The artwork is rewardingly detailed for fans of cultural and religious history, and, of course, thrives on images of mass destruction without getting repetitive about it. It's cinematic in many ways, and has plenty of energy to keep the series rolling as it answers some of the questions posed in Issue #1.
Baltimore: The Infernal Train brings the return of one the most grim and taciturn vampire hunters ever conceived (and they usually are grim, so badassery rises to a new level with Lord Baltimore), written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, with art by Ben Stenbeck and colors by Dave Stewart. The story focuses on a younger Baltimore, only 2 years into his Haigus-hunting quest as terrified folks continue to seek havens from the plague sweeping Europe, this time in Budapest, where they are building walls to keep the horror out. Baltimore's pithy reflections on his "fate" alone are worth the read, considering himself a "puppet" in the hands of a supreme being who he dubs a "bastard" at this point in his life. Citizens celebrating the "end of the world" by plague-dances and puppetry add some color to this otherwise revenge-driven semi-tragedy, and Mignola and Golden are, of course, quite a home with theatrical homage. When an enigmatic "purifyer" arrives by a train seemingly fuelled by infernal fires, and she's complete with creepy glasses by the way, the story really heats up. Baltimore's at his best when prying into the motives of popular social movements, and this time his suspicions are far more well-founded than even he knows- yet. The Infernal Train looks to be a particularly well-crafted 3 issue arc, and one for readers who are looking for interesting twists in Baltimore's adventures. Stenbeck's art and Stewart's colors continue to dazzle with extra touches in detail and contrasting colors to lift the stark monochromes of Baltimore's world. Once again a Baltimore series delivers, setting itself apart from previous arcs with intriguing new concepts and visual flair.
Black Mask Studio's Twelve Reasons to Die arrives in its third installment of explosive violence, conspiracy, and era-jumping mobster history. Ben Templesmith does some splendid cover art for the issue, with details that cast the story in its own archetypal elements: religion, physical violence, and the shadow of sullied souls. This issue's written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon, with art by a variety of illustrators as per Black Mask's community ethos (led by Breno Tamura and Gus Storms), and we get a few answers on just what that lurking, truly eerie fencing mask symbolism has been hinting at all along. Attempting to teach Anthony Starks some "rules" is a dangerous game, given that he's previously wiped out an entire syndicate on behalf of his less than deferential partners, the DeLuca Family. The tension between the inter-related DeLucas and Starks, the only non-family member of the team, not to mention that he's constantly talked down to for being an African American, is boiling to a fever pitch. The art in this issue is particularly strong and toes the line between indie styles and some of the more noir artwork you'll see coming out in books like Dark Horse Presents. Color choices stay alluringly retro, particularly in part 2, which follows the previous issues' pattern of jumping into modern day, following Michael Migdal's investigation into the increasingly horrifying impact of the mysterious record's music, for the second half of the issue's narrative. Migdal's experiences in a nightclub lead him to question his own sanity, and whether he's been drugged, as seemingly impossible carnage keeps breaking out. 12 Reasons is moving boldly into wilder territory, and that keeps the narrative fresh, bringing mobster tales into the weirder aspects of the fantastic in a compelling way.
Other noteworthy comics this week are the collected volume of Luther Strode in its second installment (Image), Trillium #2 (Vertigo), Chew #36 (Image), Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3 (Marvel), and Infinity #2 (Marvel). And all those DC things that I'm sure you already know about. That's all from me this week; I have to go find a wheelbarrow to take all my comics home this week and read the rest until all hours of the night.
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 taking pre-orders for their Metallic Harley Quinn exclusive.
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.