Trade Pile: Deadman, Judge Dredd & Step Aside Pops!

Another day, another pile of trades! This time around I’ve got a very cool haunted house story starring a longtime DC scare characters, a comic adaptation of a film I haven’t seen and a trip to Mega-City Two  drawn by one of my favorite artists working in comics now!

In the last Trade Post, I mentioned finding a place called Ollie’s with awesomely cheap trades. The last time I was there, I came away with this copy of Deadman: Dark Mansion Of Forbidden Love by Sarah Vaughn, Lan Medina and Phil Hester. Boston Brand is one of those characters that I’ve always loved in guest spots — especially back in the day in Batman comics — and have a strong affinity for his costume. But, I don’t think I’ve ever read a solo story of his! In an interesting twist of fate, he’s not really the main character of this excellently titled story!

Instead, we’re initially introduced to a woman named Berenice who’s living in a mansion that her boyfriend’s eccentric uncle left to him in his will. She doesn’t have much to do while he works on his book aside from exploring the house, hanging out with her non-binary friend Sam and going to auctions and antique shops. That is  until her talent for seeing ghosts reveals not only a dark entity in the big old house, but also Deadman who gets trapped there!

With another spirit revealed, she and Deadman explore their situation while Berenice goes out into the real world to try and figure out what’s up with this increasingly haunted house. Sam also gets wrapped up in these supernatural shenanigans as we get to experience a very cool Gothic horror and romance all rolled into one with a more modern sensibility that kept making me think of Guillermo del Torro’s Crimson Peak. Along similar lines, the art team on this series did an incredible job of building an enormous house like this that felt like I’d been there. The mood  always felt perfectly Gothic with some positively ectoplasmic ghost scenes. I’m super glad I picked this book up and if you’re looking for a very different  kind of horror comic, then you should too.

I don’t often buy comics based solely on the artist, but I did exactly that with Judge Dredd: Mega-City Two City Of Courts by Douglas Wolk and Ulises Farinas. I started following Farinas’ work on his website, which was always a treat when I went through RSS feeds for Casting Internets posts. It may have been a while since I checked in, but I got excited when I saw this particular book, which I believe was his first crack at the character who he’s drawn several times since.

Judge Dredd is one of those characters that I like without having much experience with. Aesthetically he looks fantastic and I know of his long history in the U.K. with 2000AD, but you could probably count the number of his comics I’ve read on one, maybe two hands (though I do have a fondness for Stallone’s Judge Dredd and Dredd is fantastic). But, I feel like I have the basics: he’s the judge, jury and executioner of law in Mega-City One, a post-apocalyptic, well, big city.

This book embraces part of that, but, as you can tell from the title, actually takes place in Mega-City Two which used to be LA. As such, you’ve got a lot more Hollywood craziness and a very different approach to how crime is handled. In other words, it’s a big, bright world that Farinas renders with Geof Darrow-level detail that had me staring at every page! It’s possible I got so obsessed with the art that I missed more than a few story details which came across pretty fast. As it turned out, from reading the backmatter, Wolk put in a ton of research and made all sorts of nods to Dredd stories from the past, which is rad. However, it would have been nice to let new readers like myself know, in the first issue, that the whole thing takes place before his first actual appearance. Even with that complaint, I’ll definitely be keeping this one so I can stare at it, and absorb more of the details, over time.

Finally, I was strolling through the comic aisle of a library that’s nearby, but not the one I usually go to. It’s possible I went a little crazy with the stack of books I borrowed, one of which was Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection! I can’t say when I first heard about Beaton and her online strip Hark! A Vagrant, which showcased her wonderful sense of humor along with a deep knowledge of history, literature and comics! What more could you want?

So, when I saw one of her Hark! collections, I immediately snatched it up and had a wonderful time! Though this book doesn’t feature many recurring characters, it does give a great sense of how Beaton sees the world and uses her favorite bits and pieces to bring humor into the world. Even when I had no working knowledge of the subject, like Liszt or even Wuthering Heights (which I know I read in college, but don’t remember much of), I still had fun. Of course, when she got to Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and Lois Lane, I was super excited!

But Hark! isn’t just about putting a fun spin on existing people and characters. It’s also about coming up with fun characters, as in Peasant Comics, or having all sorts of fun with existing artwork from the Victorian era. For the latter, Beaton takes post cards and other artwork and uses it as a prompt for gags. I got a real kick out of those and can’t wait to read all her other books!




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