Here we go again with Confessions of a Comics Shop Junkie, in which I attempt to point out, in often rambling fashion, various offerings of a sequential graphics-type nature that I think might be worth your time to check out, or in some cases, avoid- many of which will still be on sale at various booksellers, both online and real-world, near you.

Script: Mike Mignola; Art: Richard Corben
Dark Horse Comics, $3.50

One of the best things about the whole Hellboy thing is how adaptable the big guy is to pretty much whatever mythology you (or Mignola, to be more precise) want to insert him into- African legends, Norse mythology, European superstitious and religious beliefs, Arthurian legends? Why sure! So it’s a natural that eventually Mike would get around to Mexican wrestling of the Lucha Libre variety, most certainly legendary in some circles and a religion in others, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. And, in the best grindhouse cinema tradition, not only do we get masked wrestler adventure, but masked wrestler adventure that works in ghosts and vampires and the living dead and all that neat stuff, mostly light in tone, an homage to a hundred and one movies starring Santo or the Aztec Mummy, like the walls of an abandoned adobe building that HB and Abe Sapiens find themselves stuck in. After seeing a picture of Hellboy on the wall, he proceeds to tell the tale of how he threw in with a trio of monster fighting luchadore brothers, and how it came to a tragic end, short and sweet. Mignola proves once again that he is the best voice for his character; his dry style just suits it more. He’s fortunate again to have the great Richard Corben providing art; Corben is right in his element depicting massive brawls between bulked-up masked men and shambling creatures, and his Hellboy always has the right mix of charisma (a must for any depiction of HB), dynamism, and a touch of humor. Another outstanding addition to the stack of worthwhile Hellboy one-shots, and I do hope they visit this world again. Now, what I really want to know is, if  they do, why not team HB up with Rena TitaÁ±on?

Script: Cullen Bunn; Art: Brian Hurtt
Oni Press; Free as the air we breathe and officially on sale in July

Ooh, a supernatural Western! I love a supernatural Western. I shall attempt to be objective in my assessments here, though, have no fear. Bunn and Hurtt’s The Damned: Three Days Dead, a tale of gangsters with a supernatural twist, was one of the best things I read in 2006. I still patiently await the collection of its followup, Prodigal Sons- I foolishly decided to trade wait on it, and thusly have not been able to sample it. On to the matter at hand, after teasing this for what seems like at least a year, The Sixth Gun has finally made its debut as arguably the star of Free Comic Book Day as Oni has shrewdly made the first installment its loss leader representative, and to be honest, I don’t see how anyone could read this, enticed by the price point, and not want to pay for the privilege. It’s just that good, and word of mouth testifies to same.

The titular object is the McGuffin that sets a number of plot threads in motion; a shady lady sends some Pinkertons after it, and another mysterious (and not-very-nice) fella named Drake Sinclair is seeking it as well, but it’s in the possession of an dying old man and his caretaker daughter…and when daughter has to use the demon pistol in self-defense it becomes bonded to her after her father’s death- which means no one else can wield it without getting burned by hellfire . Meanwhile, a group of supernatural riders liberates the still-living corpse of the man who once owned the gun, and he wants it back- setting up this issue’s cliffhanger. Bunn has concocted a quite involved and engaging little treasure hunt, filled with interesting, charismatic characters and cleverly conceived situations. Hurtt is every bit as sympatico with Bunn as he was in their previous collaborations; he has a knack for expressive figures and compelling layouts, and really seems to have stepped up his game, given such a premise and script. This one is one to watch, you guys.

Script: Chris Roberson; Art: Mike Allred
DC/Vertigo, $1.00

I have gone on record as saying many times in the past that I, for one, am so very fed up with zombie-related comics and movies- I just don’t think there’s very much that’s new or fresh that can be done with them, at least that hasn’t been done already ad infinitum. But I doubt many share this opinion; zombies are more popular than ever- witness the long-running and inexplicably popular Walking Dead series from Image (I read the first 15, felt like it was spinning its wheels and going nowhere, and bailed…obviously they moved on from there), the equally inexplicably popular Marvel Zombies and its endless spinoffs, and the whole dreary Blackest Night event, or recent films like Zombieland (which I will admit to wanting to see, haven’t yet) or 28 Days/Weeks Later. So, whether I like it or not, the living dead is here to stay, and now Vertigo steps up to present us with this, which reminds me a lot of Bridget Jones Needs Brains!

Our protagonist Gwen, a lovely lass with white hair, lavender skin (something which none of her co-workers and friends, who have normal skin tones, seem to notice), and a penchant for helpfully narrating the events we see before us, works as a gravedigger in what the DC house ad hype page describes as an “Eco-friendly cemetery” (I didn’t see that mentioned in the actual story, but I may have overlooked it- anyway, it answers one question I had: how could she, or other zombies, for that matter, eat brains that were saturated with embalming fluid?), which conveniently supplies her with nutrition since she’s a zombie, y’see, and has to eat cranial matter or she’ll become a shambling, mindless monstrosity. When she eats said brainmeat, she also gets the memories of the donor, which helpfully provides us with the plot direction for, I assume, the next few issues. She has buddies, in best “Scooby Gang” tradition- a nerdy were-“terrier” (dunno what the fuck is up with that, he’s only shown with a dog head in one panel; if that’s what he’s going to look like, that’s a bit silly), and the ghost of a young lady who apparently died in the mid-60’s (a time period that artist Mike Allred has a well-established affinity for) that she maintains an ongoing conversation with. I’d say there may be a connection. Anyhoo, she eats some guy’s brain, gets his memories, including a look at his murder, and after she’s done with the hallucination, resolves to solve the murder. And we’re off! Roberson is yet another young writer with whose previous work I’m unfamiliar; I like the offhand, yet dryly presented, quirkiness he brings to what appears like will be a sprawling cast (especially if her gravedigger coworkers get any face time), and he rarely lapses into a Pushing Daisies-type cutesiness.

Of course, Allred is an old “friend”; I was right there, buying Madman #1 waaay back in 1992, when his somewhat stiff yet earnest retro stylings were new and keen and Madman was unique and fresh; he topped it somewhat with the engaging Red Rocket 7 but after that went on to repeat himself endlessly until I had had enough and I bailed on the most recent Madman run. He’s a talented guy, and I like his art for the most part, despite its sometimes-clunkiness (X-Factor/Statix may have been his finest hour), so I’m happy to see him out of Snap City and doing something else. Even though I don’t care if I ever read another zombie comic, this one looks to be different enough to be worth watching, and hey, for a dollar, what the heck!

THE GUILD #’s 1, 2
Script: Felicia Day ; Art: Jim Rugg
Dark Horse Comics, $3.50

Young lady violinist, with doormat tendencies and the requisite neglectful slash emotionally abusive delusional wannabe rockstar boyfriend, seeks solace for her unhappy existence from the normal channels- medication, psychiatry, etc.- finds it in a Worlds of Warcraft internet game. I know absolutely fuckall about online role playing games; I’d be amazed if the level of interaction (sitting around in a tavern drinking, for example, conversing mic-to-mic) really occurs the way it’s depicted here. I’ve watched people play a few times in the past, and it mostly seemed like wandering around and killing things, but I freely admit it’s been a while and I didn’t spend all that much time watching either. Anyway, this repurposed “webshow” feels like it should be aimed at teens, a candidate for a Minx imprint book perhaps, but instead it gives us Cyd, who seems to be in her early twenties, apparently a professional musician…but she’s mousy and meek and lets everyone walk all over her, so naturally she will find her path to self-actualization via online sword-and-sorcery play and the sense of community it brings. Which says something, I think, about the way people relate to each other in the ‘Net world, and without having read any of the pre-release publicity (yeah, I should do my due diligence, I know), I’d hazard a guess that it perhaps says something about the author as well. Who knows.

Main point of interest as far as I’m concerned, anyway, is the art of Jim Rugg, last seen giving us the wonderful Afrodisiac after having earned a lifetime of comics blogosphere goodwill via his turn on Street Angel. While his work here is mostly solid, he doesn’t really seem to be on top of his game; many panels look hastily done and many poses look stiff and awkward, always a Rugg sore spot anyway…but overall he tells the story well, and seems to be enjoying the scenes within the game, which he renders with a softer, more painterly style. I wish this were a little sharper and more clever, and a little less obvious, but it’s an interesting enough premise and we’ll find out how it all works out come the release of #3 on May 26.

That’s all I have for this week; thanks for reading, and RIP Frank Frazetta, surely a man among men and artist among artists.

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