Invincible #102 (Image) – Recently in the Invincible-verse, Thragg and his fellow Viltrumites have been hanging out on the moon, playing in a gray zone between good guys and bad guys. Ever since it was revealed that Mark Grayson and his father Nolan were in fact bloodline heirs to the Viltrumite throne, Thragg has not been a happy camper, and has taken a wait-and-see approach for dealing with it since his first attempt on Mark’s life. The grumpy mustachioed ruler means well for his people, but when it comes right down to it, he doesn’t want anyone taking his seat, which means there’s some Graysons to kill. With Nolan now in a polite form of exile on the other side of the moon, it was only a matter of time before some punches were thrown, and that is pretty much what this newest issue is. And those punches get real bloody real fast. Most of the book is one long, brutal fight scene between Thragg and Nolan, with a few obligatory pages of bad-guy-spilling-the-story-to-the-good-guy-before-he-kills-him. It’s a messy sequence, in a good way, with some bloody panels and definite ‘ooo, that’s gotta hurt’ moments. By the end, mustaches are disheveled and eyes are gouged, but there is a good note or two that the issue ends on, including an especially gooey-hearted moment between Mark and Eve on the last few pages that, while obvious is still a touching development. After the Big 100, the Invincible universe is still going strong and there is plenty here to keep readers going whether they’ve been on for the long haul or are just jumping on.
Amala’s Blade #1 (Dark Horse) – We know that Amala is the greatest assassin in Naamaron, she would probably tell you as much herself, but just how good is she? Well when you’ve got a drunk monkey helper ghost with you, you better be pretty damn good. Of course the monkey is not the only ghost along for the ride in Amala’s Blade, she has got plenty of them, one for each of her victims. She’s also got a grisled weaponsmith and his apprentice backing her up, as we are introduced to in the first regular issue of the series which is launching off of a successful jaunt in Dark Horse Presents and the recent zero issue that collected it. After the Behemoth job that Amala took on previously, she is on a somewhat easier mission in this issue, but the forces behind the scenes are setting her up for a job she cannot possibly walk away from alive, which of course is not going to stop her one bit. Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas are certainly not going to be disappointing anyone who enjoyed the initial adventure that introduced us to the likeable killer; the adventure and action in this book is fun and vivid, we even get to see some of the leading lady’s ‘home life’ to get a better sense of the character. The world Mr. Horton has constructed for the series is colorful and rich in concept and history, the steampunk setting may not be wholly original by any means, but it does not feel old or tired here. Rather, it takes on a style all its own with a certain grit and whimsey to it, which has a great deal to do with Michael Dialynas’ lively and chaotic artwork resembling, as Steve Horton aptly puts it “if Moebius and Myazaki had a baby”. For an adventure title, Amala’s Blade is a fun and eye-catching read that finds a perfect balance between slick action and gritty fantasy.
The Mighty Skullkickers #1 (Image) – Who needs a #21 issue when you can have a #1 instead? How about three #1’s in row?! And who needs a simple, one word title when you can have snazzy adjectives that parody other comics? No one, that’s who, so strap in for some dead-dwarf pokin’, ape-smackin’, sword-swingin’ fun because Skullkickers is gonna…um, kick your skull and stuff. For the people who hate fun and haven’t been reading Jim Zub and Edwin Huang’s comedy adventure lately, things are getting pretty real on some island somewhere in an ocean where Rex and Kusia have been stranded. Rolf the dwarf is around too, but he’s an immortal zombie now and went looking for booze. Like I said, you probably should have been reading. Rex has to fight himself, or melon-munching apes are going to eat him, Kusia’s ok because she’s an elf. On the upside, if Rex beats himself up (not really himself, just another Rex) he gets his own gorilla army, which is pretty cool, and he’ll need it because there are some certain squidly hatchlings somewhere that need taking care of, and relying on a reanimated drunk dwarf and an elf with a poetry spewing sword is just plain crazy. Basically, you should be reading Skullkickers, in all of its adjective-recycling iterations. It may not make you smart, probably quite the opposite, but it will make you laugh and that’s a good thing. Plus the Zub’s got a pretty cool blog, so check it out, fun haters.
Haunted Horror #4 (IDW) – This week sees another mish mash of pre-code horror comic reprints in IDW’s ongoing anthology, Haunted Horror. This issue features seven Golden Age scans of single short stories culled from the likes of Voodoo #7, Worlds of Fear #5, Tales of Horror #2, Mysterious Adventures #23, Weird Chills #3, and Adventure in Darkness issues #6 and #11. Mostly standard fare, as this collection series goes, there are a few better ones in the bunch like Goodbye World and Love from a Plant, mixed in with some more sub-par but still worthwhile stories. The nice thing about the hodge-podge of scans is that the editors made sure to have a nice mix of classic horror comic styles; there’s some traditional ghost stories right along side more sci-fi leaning pieces, which makes for a more well rounded read. While the purists out there obviously prefer the straight scans of these lost classics, much like what many other reprint anthologies do, it would be nice to see someone go the extra mile and recolor the stories or just generally clean them up like what we’ve seen in collections from Dark Horse and a few other publishers. Sure, it can be seen as disparaging to the original works, and many collectors feel that doing so diminishes the purpose of reviving the old comics, but giving them new life with a fixed up look does a lot to bring them back to relevance and would breathe new life into the dusty old pages. Regardless, if you are into classic horror comics there is no reason you shouldn’t be picking up this title right along some of the other serialized reprint collections that can be found out there.