Trade Post: Harrow County, First Wave & Black Widow

Every few weeks I find myself requesting any number of trades from the local library system. They come in in spurts and I get to them as I can. I can’t think of much in the way of connections between Harrow County Volume 1, First Wave and Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, but I enjoyed them all, so there’s that, I guess!

harrow county vol 1Harrow County is a witchy horror comic by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook from Dark Horse. This first book — officially titled Harrow County Volume 1: Countless Haints — compiles the first four issues of the series which follows Emmy, a young woman who comes to realize that her fellow country denizens might want to murder her for being the reincarnation of a witch they killed about 18 years ago.

Packed with characters I want to learn more about, a slowly unfolding mythology and some amazingly creepy art by Crook (whose style reminds me a bit of Jeff Lemire’s, but with a more comic strip shape if that makes sense) I’m definitely hooked and want to find out what else happens to Emmy, her dad and the unusual creatures she’s come into contact with. In a way, it reminds me of a smaller-in-scope Hellboy with a young woman protagonist which adds a new, interesting angle that I’m sold on. Time to see if the second volume is available at the library!

first waveBack in my Wizard days, DC seemed to be snatching up random characters or rebooting old imprints and trying to incorporate them into the DCU with little success. They brought back Milestone and Tangent and also tried to bring the THUNDER Agents into the fold. I actually preferred what they did with First Wave, which mixed classic pulp-inspired characters like Doc Savage, The Spirit and Justice Inc. with non-powered DC folks like Batman and the Blackhawks into a new universe. Things kicked off with the Batman/Doc Savage Special by Brian Azzarello and Phil Noto and then moved into the six issue series called First Wave by Azzarello and Rags Morales.

I wasn’t very familiar with Doc or Spirit the first time I read these issues, but have read a few things since then. I think Azz does a great job of bringing in all these different characters and not only keeping them clear, but also giving them business that works for them. I had a little trouble keeping track of all the balls in the air towards the end, but I still enjoyed the pulp-y quality to the tale which was enhanced by Rags’ art which always excels at capturing facial expressions while also drafting solid action scenes. Reading this made me want to dig up the issues of the Doc Savage and Spirit series’ that launched out of this as well as the Batman/Spirit one-shot by Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone which I remember being a lot of fun.

black widow vol 1 the finely woven threadFinally, let’s wrap things up with Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto. THis is the rare comic that I picked up just to check out the artwork. I like Edmondson and have interviewed him a number of times for Marvel.com and also dig Black Widow as a character, but you just don’t get enough Noto-drawn comics! I mostly see his stuff online and on covers, so getting to really dive into a book that plays to his strong suits — beautiful but dangerous women, great action — was a lot of fun and a treat for the eyes. I especially like how he outlines various elements in a spidery red that draws the eye from object to object.

Story-wise this book focuses on Black Widow’s desire to make amends for the bad things she did in her past by taking on various jobs around the world and using that money to support her victims’ families as well as a web of support around the world. The one-and-dones are a nice change of pace, but I admit to having trouble reconciling an international killer who is also a member in good standing with the Avengers. Then again, that’s probably just be getting too much in my own shared universe-loving head!

Trade Post: Doc Savage The Silver Pyramid, Green Arrow/Black Canary Enemies List & Eclipso The Music Of The Spheres

DOC SAVAGE: THE SILVER PYRAMID (DC)
Written by Dennis O’Neil, drawn by Andy & Adam Kubert
Collects Doc Savage 1-4 (1987-1988)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m excited for DC’s First Wave books, so when I heard about the reprint of DC’s late 80s Doc Savage mini, I was hoping for a story that might tell me why Doc Savage is cool or at least show me. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case with this Silver Pyramid story, the reason? Doc Savage dies in the first issue. Well, kind of. So, what you really get throughout the rest of the three prestige format issues is Doc’s team of helpers–all geniuses in their own right–grousing about how poor his heirs are at replacing him. See, Doc’s son goes nuts and his grandson is a pacifist. But that doesn’t stop the old men charging into battle against the enemy that Doc seemingly died fighting. I won’t give away the twist in case you want to read it yourself, but things change in the end.

I’m not that big of a Andy or Adam Kubert fan nowadays (for my money, Joe’s still where it’s at) so the art isn’t a big draw for me as far as this book’s considered. So overall, this book isn’t really my cup of tea. Maybe if I was a well studied Doc Savage fan–and let’s be honest, there aren’t a ton of them out there–it would be interesting to see how the world responds without him, but as I’m a newbie, taking him out of the picture doesn’t really do anything for me.

GREEN ARROW AND BLACK CANARY: ENEMIES LIST (DC)
Written by Andrew Kreisberg, drawn by Mike Norton
Collects Green Arrow & Black Canary #15-20
Few comics have broken my heart like Green Arrow And Black Canary has. I didn’t really care about the character until Kevin Smith resurrected him and really liked the book through his run, then Brad Meltzer (Archer’s Quest is his absolute best comic book work as far as I’m concerned) and all the way through Judd Winick’s run which saw Green Arrow and Black Canary finally got back together and married! I wasn’t a big fan of how their first wedding ended (that whole story shouldn’t have been a shoe-horned event, but just a good story) but enjoyed his first few issues of GA & BC. But, seriously, what the hell is going on in this book anymore? Can you think of a more hack character than a woman who loves a hero so much that she wants him dead? Even worse? This Cupid broad is still kicking around in GA&BC. GAH! And now there’s all this nonsense with Roy Harper’s adorable daughter getting killed in Cry For Justice (which I still haven’t brought myself to read yet) and losing his arm. And now Ollie’s supposed to be going down another dark path. IT’S BEEN DONE! Check out Mike Grell’s fantastic run on Green Arrow (I went back and bought almost all the issues of Green Arrow’s previous volume). None of this grim and gritty shit is new, it’s just boring. You’re also ruining really fun and unique characters. As my buddy Ben pointed out, Roy Harper was one of the few single fathers in comics, a really good role model in his own way. Thank goodness they took that away from him for some stupid story trying to make Prometheus cool again. Also, the Green Arrow family used to actually be fun to read. They all seemed to get along well and didn’t have all the dark baggage of the Batfamily. Now they just seem even closer to their Gotham counterparts.

Anyway, I should probably talk about this volume. It’s not terrible, but it’s the beginning of the bad. There are references to Winicks’ run (by killing some of the new villains he introduced, way to go, I was hoping for more of Merlyn), but the whole thing just feels like filler. Kind of like just watching the second Pirates Of The Caribbean movie. It’s just filler. Boring filler. I’m sure what I’ve heard and seen of what has come after this collection of issues is tainting my review, but this volume didn’t blow me away and the lack of vision–of at least a truly interesting and progressive vision–is present here and continues to poison one of my favorite comic book families. Wow, I think that was my most negative trade review ever.

ECLIPSO: THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES (DC)
Written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Stephen Jorge Segovia & Chad Hardin
Collects the backup stories from Countdown To Mystery #1-8
I can’t take the title of this trade seriously because of Patton Oswalt’s bit about taking a science class at his liberal arts college aimed at English majors. Makes me chuckle every time, but it’s not as bad as Robin” Tales Of Fire And Madness, which I always say in a voice that sounds something like a cross between Will Ferrel’s James Lipton impresion and his Robert Goulet impression. Anyway, overall, I had a pretty good time with this story. It’s about Eclipso bouncing out of Jean Loring’s body and taking over his original possessed human Bruce Gordon. It does take place during the kind of mess of continuity that was Countdown (though I did kind of like the series when I read it in a few chunks). I thin a lot of these kinds of books benefit from reading them a few years after they came out because it’s easier to figure out where it all fits in. My buddy Jesse has been away from comics for a while, but is currently working his way through 52 which I read when it came out, so it’s easy for him to ask me questions and I can explain things. Unfortunately, I can’t remember every detail, so the incredibly abrupt change from Loring being the host to Gordon seemed to come out of nowhere. I was also concerned when Sturges had Plastic Man becoming a bad guy, but it turned out he was just under Eclipso’s sway, so it ended up being okay.

It’s kind of funny that the supporting characters in this book seem tailor made for me to be interested. I love Plastic Man, then Creeper shows up, the Spectre, Huntress and the latest Hawk and Dove (who I don’t know anything about and it really bothers me, it seems like Geof Johns just said they existed in Teen Titans without ever explaining where they came from, or maybe I just missed that story, but that’s a complaint for another post). Aside from showing how Eclipso went from Loring to Gordon, the book doesn’t really matter (in the sense that any comic matters), but there are a few interesting points. I really liked how Gordon thinks about becoming a kind of super scientist as he figures out how to atomically alter the Heart of Darkness in order to give himself some of Eclipso’s powers in the day time. Compared to Marvel, DC is seriously lacking in the big brain superheroes. The problem is that the Spectre seems to convince him not to do that so he can become yet another superhero (as if there’s not enough of those flying around). That seems like a gigantic missed opportunity. I also liked Eclipso’s new souped up costume he gets for a few pages, but the real draw for this book is Segovia’s art. Man, is it pretty. He’s got a great, ethereal style that would be perfect for any slightly off the beaten track comic, but I don’t think he’s doing much other work and he doesn’t even finish off this series of backup stories. Anyway, it’s a fun enough read, but probably only for the more die hard DC fan who’s interested int he smallest minutiae of what’s going on in the DCU.