What's not to love about that, am I right or am I right?
Anyway, this... SHE WOLF #1 All by Rich Tommaso Image Comics, Inc., $3.99 (2016) She Wolf created by Rich Tommaso She Wolf © 2016 Rich Tommaso
The slightly creepy theme (from my more than slightly creepy self) this week kicks off with Rich Tommaso's teenage werewolf comic. Pretty straightforward stuff you'd think, teenage werewolf comics; but you'd be wrong. Maybe. I mean she might be a werewolf, she might not, and if she is, well, she might have been bitten by one, or maybe a shape changing spell went wrong. Or she just doesn't like dogs and, uh, wait her boyfriend was a ...no, wait now she's fighting her priest but...maybe not. This hallucinatory narrative uncertainty is intentional, I would guess given that Tomasso's comic is a visually resplendent wonder indeed. You don't get the skill to draw something as phenomenally vital as this unless you know what you're doing. Of course, whether you want to let the reader in on what you are doing is another thing altogether.
Now as we have all noted on numerous occasions, I am terrible when it comes to colour in comics but even I can see that colours here are some kind of spectacular you'd do well not to miss. At first I thought the colour coding of scenes was the key (red for dreams, blue for night, various for daytime reality) but everything starts to get blurry, and reality and fantasy are all mucked about, and you soon don't know which end is up. Which, you might hazard should you be able to rememebr that far back, is what being a teenager is like. (The way I remember it is this: being a teenager is A!W!F!U!L!). Tomasso certainly draws his heroine as a true to teenhood gawky flail of elbows and knees, like a young Laura Dern; in gangly contrast to the smooth swoosh of movement personifying the animal identity. Then there's the great scene where the Principal is reassuring our heroine, but she can also see a black and red doppleganger Principal whose every word drips mistrust and belligerence. Yeah, adults say they want to help you but they LIE because they HATE you! Man, it's a great scene. But then there are a few of those here. More great scenes in one comic than most series manage in toto. Tomasso's cartoony style may bely the horror, particularly in a viscerally unsettling dream sequence, but this lends everything a kind of comedic undercurrent. Or maybe it's a comedy with a horrific undercurrent. I don't know, but what I do know is I'm sticking with this one because Rich Tomasso's SHE WOLF is VERY GOOD! AAAAARrrrrrrrrrrrroooOOOOOOOOOAAAAOOoooooHHHH! WEIRD DETECTIVE #1 (of 5) Art by Guiu Vilanova Written by Fred Van Lente Coloured by Mauricio Wallace & Josan Gonzalez Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot ® Dark Horse Comics Inc., $3.99 (2016) Weird Detective ™ created by Fred Van Lente & Guiu Vilanova Weird Detective ™ indebted to the work of H P Lovecraft Text and illustrations of Weird Detective ™ © 2016 Fred Van Lente & Guiu Vilanova
Standing in stark contrast to Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows reverent and stately paced dark hymn to the majesty of HP Lovecraft, here we have Van Lente & Vilanova's somewhat more modern take. Mash-ups are still modern right? Because what WEIRD DETECTIVE ™ is is HP Lovecraft smushed up with the detective genre, hence the title. It's a lot of fun, whether it's more fun than PROVIDENCE I don't know, because anyone who measures fun is someone who isn't having any. Personally I had fun with both, just different kinds. WEIRD DETECTIVE is plump with cliches, but that's because the detective genre is filled with cliches rather than due to any lack on Van Lente's part. Van Lente in fact proves pretty smart at playing with the conventions and part of this smartness is displayed in his clever sense of humour. The scene where Greene watches TV detectives to get tips on behaviour almost buckles under all the referencing (Lovecraft, Rockford Files, Martian Manhunter, etc) but is instead impressive in both its levels of humour and intelligence. This undercurrent of drollery prevents things becoming too rote or too unpleasant. Because some of the book is pretty gross, there's the standout death by toilet but there are quieter horrors at play too. And all the horrors are derived from the Lovecraftian mythos and blatantly so. You won't be scratching your spade-like chin with this one trying to figure out the links, because the links come fast and blatant as Owen Smith's strings.
I liked Vilanova's art, although it takes a dip near the middle of the book but swiftly recovers. His real world is realistic and his creatures are unpleasantly convincing. Let's face it, it takes no little talent to make unsettling some of Lovecraft's creations, which essentially resemble an overcooked carrot, some ping pong balls and a brace of drinking straws. The action is nicely done with a particularly good fall from a high place but Vilanova also keeps the quieter scenes interesting, such as the parts where our weird detective communicates with his cat through slight twitches of his facial muscles. Although any conversation with a surly cat is by definition interesting, I guess. WEIRD DETECTIVE is clever, funny, gross and GOOD!
MIDNIGHT OF THE SOUL #2 (of 4) Art by Howard Victor Chaykin Written by Howard Victor Chaykin Coloured by Jesus Arbutov Lettered by Ken Bruzenak Image Comics, Inc., $3.50 (2016) Midnight of the Soul created by Howard Victor Chaykin Midnight of the Soul © Howard Victor Chaykin
Lycanthropy and Lovecraft are creepy but the creepiest of all must be my fawning over the work of Howard Victor Chaykin. Occasionally some luckless naif will have the temerity to question why I like the work of Howard Victor Chaykin quite as much as I do. He, they often persist, always makes the same comic. This, and here is where their lucklessness comes in, spurs me to anecdotal reminiscence thusly: It was the 1990s and far too many people were taking Paul Weller seriously. One day I had a visitor who upon entering traversed the floor with the healthy, male clutter of batch (crispy tissues, ragged jazz mags, suffocated ashtrays, the glutinous residue of alcoholic frolics, etc etc) to the bookshelves.
Despite the variety and fine taste on show said visitor was evidently puzzled, breaking their silence with, “You have an awful lot of Elmore Leonard here.” I conceded the truth in this observation, yet couched within my tone was my evident uncertainty as to why precisely that might be so remarkable. “But doesn't he just write the same book all the time?” came the withering parry. “Yes”, I said “but it's a good one.” Then I started searching for a vein. (Not really.) VERY GOOD!
Remember: Stay on the road. Keep clear of the – COMICS!!!