Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Wesdnesday Review: Worlds, Worlds, Worlds

Happy Wednesday - this week, some of the year's best, all wonderful science-fiction at that.

Resident Alien 2: Suicide Blonde #1 (Dark Horse)
Harry, the doctor of the small town of Patience, is looking at the body of a young woman lying dead in her own filth in a hotel room, an apparent suicide. Harry is assisting the police in their investigation - he helped catch a murderer once before, and as the town's only doctor he also doubles as a forensic expert, of sorts. But there's more going on, and what appears to be a suicide may be a murder. And the girl, a unknown stranger in this small town, may have connections to the mayor. As Harry looks at her body, we get his narration that opens the issue: "There are less than a million inhabited worlds in the known Universe. Life is so rare, so precious..."

Resident Alien 2: Suicide Blonde #1 marks the return of Harry Vanderspiegel, one of comics' best and most compelling new characters. (Confusingly, this is the second part of the story after the initial chapter serialized in Dark Horse Presents, but you can dive in here.) Harry is a stranded extra-terrestrial, roped into being the doctor of a small town. He uses telepathy to mask his appearance, and his powers help him in his reluctant investigation. He knows the girl is not a suicide, that she was pregnant, and that the Mayor, despite his connection to this stranger, is not responsible. With his firebrand assistant, they go off to Seattle to follow a lead, all the while in the background the U.S. Government tightens its dragnet following their own leads in search for this stranger, far from home. Once again, Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse deliver a fine, even elegant murder mystery noir with a subtle sci-fi bent grounded in wonderfully executed straightforward character drama. What a fantastic comic.

Prophet 39 (Image)
Most of the time - well, all of the time, who am I kidding - I haven't the foggiest idea what the hell is happening in Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and Giannis Milonogiannis's Prophet. I just know that I always like it. It's always a profoundly weird, often almost hallucinogenic science fiction somethingorother loosely based on, of all things, Rob Liefeld's stuff. (Whatever.) Today's Prophet 39 puts whatever overarching story they've been doing to the side (not that I would have noticed) and goes for a multimillennium chronicle of one of the Prophets (the ten thousand year old Diehard) in an astonishing jam-issue one-shot featuring a dozen great alt-creators smashing our brains against the wall. In twenty pages Graham and crew look at episodes from Diehard's truly epic life as friends die and empires fall and loves are found and lost and Diehard lives a hundred lives. Wow. And how. A veritable masterpiece of concise psychedelic scientification, if we fire something into space as a final ark with examples of the comic artform on it as the Earth is crumbling around us, this should be on that boat.

Oh, and they throw in Graham's script and breakdowns in the back, just in case it wasn't already awesome enough.

Avengers 19 (Marvel), Manhattan Projects 14 and East of West Volume 1 (Image)
Jonathan Hickman's big ole Marvel superhero event thing Infinity continues, this chapter in Avengers 19 with Lenil Yu. We're back in space splitting time between the captured Captain Marvel and crew and Captain America pow-wowing with the Galactic Council. This issue is all tension and plot, an expansive space opera written in conversation and betrayal. There's a lot of dialog in this issue, and sparse but explosive action, but it never gets bogged down thanks to Hickman and Yu's superb execution. We learn a ton about the Builders and their motivations, and Captain Marvel, even in captivity, shines. Everyone wonders aloud what the hell makes those bloody humans so special and then shit hits the fan in the (slightly silly, sure) final panel  Hickman is effortlessly juggling a lot of storylines in Infinity, between way outer space and Earth drama, and each chapter nicely ups the stakes and moves the whole enterprise forward.

Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra's Manhattan Projects 14 came out today, as well. A most different kind of sci-fi nigh-on space opera, Kennedy's other shoe drops as the various Manhattan Projects come under Oppenheimer's noose. But even cooler, just to outdo himself, the first trade paperback of Hickman and Nick Dragotta's East of West came out today, and it's really one of the best comics of the year. About the Four Horsemen, a conspiracy, and a tripped out sci-fi western alternate history America, East of West is stylish and completely riveting, and worth thrice the price at just ten bucks.

Also worth checking out this week: Sidekick 2 from Joe's Comics was some more vicious fun playing with the whole sidekick idea, Walking Dead 114 nicely sets up Skybound's functional equivalent of an event for next month, Jeff Smith's superb dimension hopping noir thriller RASL came out in a glorious full-color hardcover omnibus, and Marvel finally put back into print the inimitable Jim STERANKO's complete seminal Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. run.

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