Breath of Bones #2 (Dark Horse) – Breath of Bones is horror scribe Steve Niles latest mini-series through Dark Horse, along with Matt Santoro and Dave Wachter. The three part story follows a small Jewish village in the Wehrmacht’s path during WWII; they have already sent all the young men off to fight in the war and are defenseless against the approaching army. A wounded Allied Air Force pilot crash landing nearby doesn’t help their chances of being left alone. After an unfortunate first encounter, one of the old men directs the building of a giant clay creature (ie, golem) in a last-ditch effort to aid the villager’s escape. Niles and Santoro’s story isn’t an overly involved one, but it is a quaint read for its folklore feel, which you couldn’t tell from the covers that would have you believe that this is a hero/monster action title even though the creature in question doesn’t make an appearance until the last few pages of book two in a three book series. The pace is a little slow, but it works since this is a story about the characters and not the action, and it also gives the art a chance to come to life a little more naturally on the page. Speaking of which, Dave Wachter’s art looks pretty good in its black and white presentation, which is fitting because his pages look as if they could fit easily between the covers of many a classic horror comic anthology. While not offering much meat to chew on, Breath of Bones is more than readable book and deserves to be checked out, especially by readers of Dark Horses other horror offerings, such as Creepy and Eerie.
Judge Dredd: Classics #1 (IDW) – Following up with what we were given a taste of on Free Comic Book Day, IDW is beginning a regular monthly series of collected notables from the Dredd catalog, titled Judge Dredd Classics. To put an extra shine on the stateside reprints, Charlie Kirchoff has been brought on to color the pages. The first story to get a re-showing is ‘Block Mania’, part of the ‘Apocalypse War’ arc. The citizens of Mega-City One live in a constant state of anxiety and claustrophobia due to the overcrowding, and thus the city is prone to flare-ups of violence and destruction. These generally come in the form of block-on-block riots, or ‘block wars’, where the denizens of one neighborhood choose, quite at random, another neighborhood to vent their aggression on by obliterating them entirely. Behavior like this tends to be noticed, which means the big guns of the law are their to intervene, cue the main man and you have a fairly ass-kicking comic book. John Wagner and Alan Grant, writing under the combined pseudonym of T.B. Grover, wrote a well paced, engaging, and dynamic script. Between the over the top chaos in the streets and the caricatured premise, this story line epitomizes the tongue-in-cheek tone of the classic comic, one that could often be as allegorical as it was satirical. Charlie Kirchoff’s coloring of Mike McMahon and Ron Smith’s art is done with a classic aesthetic in mind and looks like a natural treatment. There are a few panels here and there that appeared a bit too clean and polished with the application of colors, sort of like a late 90’s Marvel book, but for the most part you could easily read the issue front to back and not even consider the colors as being a new addition. With the multitude of Dredd collections, reprints, and spin-offs, currently streaming out of IDW there is certainly no shortage of punk-fragging material to be picking up, but even if you are a bit choosy Classics is definitely one worthy of a few dollars.
Order & Chaos #1 (Indie) – Available this week through Comixology is the first issue of Order & Chaos, an independently published comic from creators Fred Boulos and J.C. Grande. The book is about an American mercenary hired by a Middle Eastern general to help overthrow the local dictator but once the chaos starts, its magnitude calls into question the mercenary’s true intentions and just who he is trying to help. It sounds like there should be more to the story than that, that it develops as an element into a grander story arc, and I surely hope that it does so beyond the first issue. As it is, the script is devoid of much life, and is carried along by a narrative which ultimately slogs itself through a juvenile and monotonous soliloquy on chaos that reads somewhere between pedantic and pretentious. The main character is presented in a way which questions whether he is a protagonist or antagonist, an ambivalence which I’m sure is meant to be the crux of the order/chaos concept being battered at here, but he fundamentally fails at doing so by being an annoyingly over dramatized blowhard. While this trait, along with his penchant for blowing things up could very well be a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the American mercenary ideal, the fact remains that you can not easily or effectively convey a narrative concept when delivered by a belligerent man-child whose expletive-dependant dialogue appears to be scripted by a junior high school student, much less have it taken the least bit seriously. On the plus side of things, the art, courtesy of J.C. Grande is more than serviceable, and finds its way along even when following sometimes disjointed and undefined action sequences. Order & Chaos is not a terrible comic, in fact it would actually be worth the read as a simple action title were it not for the price point of three dollars. With the amount of material on digital platforms that can be found much more affordably, and considering the quality of some of that content, it is a cover price that simply is not justifiable for the average reader. I’ll give the second issue a chance, especially if the cost is reevaluated, but I’m not sure if I should be holding my breath.