Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Quick Reviews 

Cthulhu Tales by various, from Boom Studios

After publishing a healthy number of zombie-themed horror comics, it was nice to see an attempt made at slightly more eldritch horrors, something a bit more up my alley scary-book wise. I've been a fan of Lovecraft and his imitators ever since I found a battered old paper-back collection of his short stories, the only English language book I could find in a German hotel my family once stayed at. Actually, come to think of it, that sounds almost like the set-up for a Lovecraft story in the first place.
The trick with a Lovecraft mythos story, though, is getting the tone of incomprehensible cosmic dread and horror just right, and not many writers are up to the task. If you doubt me, go and watch pretty much any film adaptation of a Lovecraft story. And in the particular case of this comic the results are a little more uneven than has been the standard for Boom's anthologies. Several stories suffer from a paradoxical mundanity, a slightly too easy acceptance of things that are supposed to be driving characters insane. It also seems that doing a "funny" take on Lovecraft's work is harder than it sounds.
A truly stand-out piece is John Rogers's and Andy Kuhn's quality time, which branches out from the strictly Lovecraftian base and into the world of Robert Chambers's King in Yellow. Chambers's mythical play is a symbol of corruption disguised as innocence, and Rogers and Kuhn recreate that in an effective and chilling manner.

Talent by Christopher Golden, Ton Sniegoski and Paul Azaceta, from Boom Studios

This book has a strong potential to be an engaging mystery comic. Nick Dane is the only survivor of a plane crash. After being unconscious in the water for sixteen hours, he finds that he has the memories and abilities of other people who were on the plane. The government suspects he's a terrorist, and a secretive religious organization is trying to kill him. It's a very high-concept work, with strong similarities to many of the mystery-driven episodic television shows that have become popular of late. This first issue also does an excellent job of establishing the core premise of the series without getting bogged down in heavy exposition or stretching out the story to fill a trade paper-back. Azaceta has a somewhat blocky style, reminiscent a little bit of Jock's to my mind, that makes very good use of shadows and abstract figures to accent the mood and tone of the story. This will definitely be a series worth keeping an eye on.

Wasteland by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten, from Oni Press

The "post-apocaplyptic" film genre was one of my favorites as a kid, and it's a genre that, when it appears in comics at all, usually involves talking animals or alien invaders. So it's quite nice to see Johnston and Mitten going the tried and true eco-disaster route in their take on the subject. Plus, it has mutants. You pretty much have to have mutants in your post-apocaplyptic saga. It's a rule somewhere, I think.
The first issue starts out with a quick and dirty and nearly wordless action sequence, and rapidly moves onto the plot from there. There's not a lot of time for exposition or anything other than brief character introductions and personality sketches before establishing what looks like a central mystery for the book and finishing up the book with a large siege of an outpost village. There's barely any time for even basic exposition, which really does work in the book's favor, as any attempt to slow down the plot to have the set-up explained to the reader would come off as forced and unnatural.
Johnston is a writer I've come to trust, particularly when he works in the little explored genres. Mitten is an artist new to me, and while I don't immediately warm to his style, I can't find any specific flaws in it either. This is also a series that will be worth keeping an eye on.
You can read more about the setting of Wasteland and read the first half of this issue at the official web-site.


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