Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (9/14/11)

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Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (9/14/11)

Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.


Creepy Presents: Bernie Wrightson
by Bernie Wrightson, Bruce Jones, Carmine Infantino and Others

Dark Horse, 2011
Rating: 8.8

Bernie Wrightson is one of the greats. A pioneer, innovator, master and auteur, Wrightson drew his pencil across comic book publishing like Paul Bunyon heaving his axe across America, both forever resculpting their surroundings into something challenging and new. In the handsome hardcover Creepy Presents: Bernie Wrightson, twelve macabre reprints illustrate what makes the seminal artist an indisputable icon. Darting from pen and pencil latticework, moody tone washes and everything between, Wrightson felt at home with any technique. His rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” howls in dark, stark contrasts like charcoal silhouettes against a sunrise. “Jennifer,” which will be familiar to anyone who saw Dario Argento’s Masters of Horror entry, swims in fluid curves and haunting grays. The near-flawless “Nightfall” shows that Wrightson could manipulate perspective and angle along with his claustrophobic shadows and ghouls. Simply put, the artist transformed gothic poetry into an intoxicating whirlpool of mood and escape. These contributions from the Creepy and Eerie anthologies are timeless benchmarks that helped forge today’s visual landscape. (SE)


by Phil Gelatt and Tyler Crook

Oni Pres, 2011
Rating: 7.6

This hefty tome, rendered in shades of red and black and not light on history, starts off a bit slow, especially considering its premise: the murder of Rasputin. The panels are grungy and full of text. The creators opt for fairly stringent accuracy, going so far as to indicate when characters are actually speaking Russian, which has been translated for your benefit. It all seems a bit like the early parts of Battleship Potemkin, i.e., homework, not fun. But then things pick up. The plot starts to come together. You begin to recognize characters. Flashbacks and thematic threads cohere. And people start running around, scheming, drinking, and chasing each other through the streets. In other words, it becomes more like the good bits of Eisenstein’s magnum opus. Gelatt and Crook have packed a lot into nearly 300 pages, and when you start researching, you realize how carefully they’ve put together their work of historical fiction, which relies strongly on newish theories about the mad monk’s death and never ventures into silly (albeit entertaining) supernatural territory. People betray each other. Simplicity is absent. Everything is painted in shades of gray, which the art seems to reflect. Persist and you will be rewarded with a smart story and a fine tale. (HB)


Heaven All Day
by John Martz

AdHouse Books, 2011
Rating: 7.4

Heaven All Day is in many ways the opposite of Petrograd. It runs a mere 24 pages, and the only words to be found are on the cover and in the colophon, but its sad, lonely characters and its bleak world are often more moving than those in the bigger work. Its jobless robot seems to serve as a commentary on the way we treat the homeless (as less than human), judging their lack of marketable or useful skills, begrudging them the small pleasures on which they waste their few coins. Its single-minded aging inventor is equally alone, passing his days inspecting parts and able to pursue his dream only through persistence and hap. It’s sort of like the depressing version of the Johnny Cash song “One Piece at a Time,” about a man who builds a car by sneaking out each part in his lunchbox from the factory where he works. Martz could flesh out his world a little more (“why?” doesn’t get answered hardly at all), but there is deep feeling in his work, despite the cartooniness of it all. (HB)

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Demon Knights #1 by Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves
Suicide Squad #1 by Adam Glass and Federico Dallocchio
Red Lanterns #1 by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes

DC Comics, 2011
Rating: Demon Knights — 7.0, Suicide Squad — 1.5, Red Lanterns — 6.3

True story: the early 90s Demon series by Alan Grant was the first DC comic I read regularly. I’ve kept up with the demon Etrigan and his immortal human shell Jason Blood ever since, and was excited when I heard Paul Cornell, the fine British writer of fine British comics like Knight & Squire and Captain Britain and MI13, would be writing a new series starring Etrigan as part of DC’s New 52 relaunch. Demon Knights #1 is a team-building issue, introducing its cast of Dark Ages mystical adventurers. It doesn’t quite establish the main thrust of the series, but the medieval setting is different than the standard superhero claptrap and Cornell’s gift for dialogue and concise character development makes this one of the better DC comics of the month. It’s certainly better than the atrocious Suicide Squad #1, which starts with the graphic rat-based torture of a main character on the first page and only sinks further into the mire from there. Suicide Squad turns John Ostrander’s acclaimed 80s series of the same name into an ugly and unwitting parody of “grim and gritty” superhero comics. Also, when did Amanda Waller become a supermodel? Red Lanterns #1 also begins with torture, but it’s hard to take offense between the torturer’s unusually civilized dialogue and the following double-page splash of a feral space cat. I know nothing about the Red Lanterns, but between that opening, the soliloquizing Space Punisher lead character revealing his unrequited love for the corpse that murdered his family and seemingly unconnected cut-aways to a private tragedy in England, Red Lanterns #1 stands out from the Wednesday comic shop glut. (GM)

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