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!

Anyone Else Excited About DC’s First Wave Books?

I’m not sure what it is about this pulpy noir pocket universe that DC’s got brewing with First Wave, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. It started with the Brian Azzarello-written, Phil Noto-drawn Batman/Doc Savage Special 1-shot which was both beautiful and a ton of fun to read. I’m no fan of Doc Savage, not because I dislike the character, but because I haven’t been exposed to him. I tried reading Tom Strong who takes more than a few plays from the Savage playbook and never got into it, but I did really like the pulpy stories in the Lobster Johnson mini series from Dark Horse and the Orson Randall stories in Immortal Iron Fist which were also inspired Savage. The aspects of those two stories that I really dug were the heroes’ network of helpers and of course, that’s something Savage brought to the table and show up in the special.

See, the idea is to take badass, powerless characters like Batman, Doc, Black Canary, The Spirit, the Blackhawks, Justice Inc. and Rima The Jungle Girl and tossing them up against some crazy villains while keeping the books and characters securely rooted in the pulp/noir/crime playground. And don’t think of this as your regular Batman, this is some pure Golden Age Batman goodness with him packing heat and firing on anyone who messes with him. If the list of characters above left you scratching your head, check out this link which has scans of character sketches and descriptions from Batman/Doc Savage. After the 1-shot kicks things off, we’ll be getting into the First Wave miniseries in March which will be written by Azz and drawn by Rags Morales who hasn’t done much of interest or real quality lately, but the pages they’ve been posting over on DC’s The Source have looked pretty fantastic, just check out this page starring a giant robot. Then in March the empire expands with two ongoings: Doc Savage written by Paul Malmont with Howard Porter art and The Spirit by Jason Starr and Scott Hampton with Justice Inc. backup stories. Now, I don’t know anything about these writers other than the fact that they’re crime novelists, but I’m hoping they’re good at this whole comics thing. I’m sure some people don’t want another universe to keep track of, but at least this way it’ll be easy to ignore them if you don’t like the books or just don’t care. Frankly, I prefer this course of action to shoehorning outside characters into the established comic universe like DC did with the Red Circle and Milestone characters. I’m looking forward to seeing Azzarello doing what he’s really good at, telling complex, fast paced and absorbing stories with badass characters. 100 Bullets is one of my favorite comics of all time, but his other superhero stuff hasn’t been so great (except Doctor 13, which is amazing), so I’m hoping he’ll be able to play to his real strong suit with First Wave. After that? Who knows? I don’t know much about the characters, but something about this project has me really really intrigued and excited for some hopefully great comics.