One again, I try to get up the reviews of last week's comics before this week's comics come out... what fun!
Legion of Super-Heroes #16 (of 16) (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Daniel HDR, Marc Deering) - And so the final issue of the most recent run of the LSH ends with neither a bang or a whimper, but something in-between, as Levitz finishes off the last of the plot hooks he inherited for this particular run of LSH.
On the down side, our main bad guy isn't really made that compelling; originally, I thought it was supposed to be Krona, but I guess it's actually supposed to be the evil result of Krona's original sin(1) made manifest, which I suppose makes Krona the Evil Baby Daddy. Not that our blue baby threat is ever actually given a name, and if Levitz didn't care enough to do so, then why should I care about him? Oh, and Professor Li still hasn't given an explantion for herself, and will probably show up in the Legion's next incarnation. Guess what? Still don't care.
That said, it's hardly all bad. There is death, of course (and this being the Legion there's a decent chance it will actually stick), as well as redemption. The fight scenes are decent, if not spectacular, and everything is, for the most part, wrapped up in a satisfactory manner (if somewhat rushed). By the time everything is done, the Legion is in a state where Levitz can write them without being hampred quite so much by what previous writers had set up. Given that Levitz's run pretty much defined the Legion, that's not a bad thing. I'm cautiously optimistic about the new LSH run starting next month, even if the short-lived recent run had more than its share of hiccups along the way.
Fables #108 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham) – The first part of the new 'Inherit The Wind' story-arc. As the name implies, this storyline deals primarily with a search for the heir to the North Wind, but Willingham also touches on the aftermath of the Fables' war with Mister Dark, as Rose Red leads a reconnaissance mission into the Farm, as well as Bufkin and his assorted allies continuing to make their way through the dangerous lands of Oz. There's a lot of ground covered without bogging down, the characterization is strong as always, and Buckingham's art continues to delight. As usual, recommended.
Conan: Road Of Kings #7 (of 12) (Dark Horse, $3.50, Roy Thomas, Mike Hawthorne) - The beginning of this mini's second story arc. Okay, I gotta ask... has there ever been a good Conan story that featured a kid in it? It's possible, but I don't think so. There's just something about Conan interacting with young children on an extended basis that seems to draw out bad stories from even otherwise good writers. Not that there's anything especially awful about this issue, but then it's just the set up for the larger story, so there's still five more issues for this to potentially suck. As is obvious, I'm not terribly optimistic about this storyline, but I am willing to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt here, even if the preceeding story arc was moe than a bit uneven in places.
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth vol 1: New World (Dark Horse, $19.99, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis) - Ah, new Hellboy-related goodness, just what I needed. Thank you, Mignola!
The war with the Frogs may be over, but that doesn't mean everything in the Hellboy-verse is back to normal. Quite the opposite, things have gotten worse, with supernatural threats laying waste to entire cities. Amidst all the large-scale carnage, the main story presented her is actually fairly low-key in spots, not unlike some of the earlier B.P.R.D. stories. Contrasting the main story with the larger backdrop makes for an interesting juxtaposition.
Not helping matters for the team is that the current main cast is more fragmented than it's ever been, each pursing their own agendas. It's interesting that, even as the team acquires U.N. funding and theoretically has more resources to draw from, they're actually being stretched thinner and thinner, and could easily implode, from either internal or external pressures.
The story itself by Mignola and Arcudi is quite enjoyable, mixing danger and dread with quieter moments of characterization in a seemingly effortless manner. The art isn't going to appeal to everyone, but for those who would rather have yet more super-slick spandex superheroes, quite frankly that's their loss. The art by Davis does everything that good graphic storytelling should do, creating just the right visual mood while also pacing and structuring the story for best effect.
There's also a wonderful little quote in the back of the book from Mignola:
"One of the things that separates our little B.P.R.D./Hellboy world from some of the other comic-book worlds out there is that when we break stuff it often stays broken, or, if it's fixed, it's just never quite like it was before."
Which sums up succinctly one of the things I love about the Hellboy-verse. It's a world where things actually move forward, instead of navel-gazing backwards in nostalgia. It's a setting where actual, real change can occur, as opposed to the mere illusion of change. The cast are are characters who are genuinely at risk, instead of merely being inconvenienced by false deaths that will be negated within a few years(3). In short, these are stories that have actual impact, as opposed to the watered-down fare we normally get from the Big Two.
Which is why the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. books pretty much represent my favorite comic book 'universe', with only the Astro City books coming close. If you haven't yet experienced Mignola's supernatural-action-pulp epic, start with the early Hellboy collections and work your way through to the most recent stories. It's well worth the effort.
(1) Krona's big sin, for those of you not familiar with the story? Seeking knowledge(2), and defying stodgy conservatism in the process. I despise that part of the Green Lantern mythos. In a more just universe, Krona would be the hero, not the villain.
(2) Yes, I know it's a Biblical allegory. It still sucks.
(3) If anyone in the Hellboy-verse ever did come back from the dead, it would probably be either as a flesh-eating zombie, or a horrible demon. No cheapie resurrections here.