Transfusion #2 (IDW) – Finally, we get the second issue to Steve Niles’ and Menton3’s surrealist vampire and robots series from IDW. The vampire clan is still traversing the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the future, searching for any last remnants of human blood they can find. This issue is rather interesting as it illustrates, quite intimately, the suffering, determination, and sacrifices of the inhumans in a deeply human perspective. The cold, blood hungry monsters here are the artificial machine constructions that haunt the dying world, not the vampires, which creates a unique dichotomy for the survivors. This impact is brought home all the more so by Menton3’s unworldly art, as he paints a world just as cold and hopeless as the story would suggest. His stark and ethereal style lends itself to the characters and the story so well that it is hard not to get caught up in the book, and in this issue we get to see more of the artist’s prowess at rendering lush, textured characters, rather than the swift and violent action that was more pronounced in the first issue. Although to be clear, the blood is still spilled here and its bright contrast on the near monochrome panels catches the eye in stark splendor. I have to recommend this book to just about anyone, whether they are fans of post-apocalyptic tales, art appreciators, or people who have a craving for vampire on robot action. This is a beautiful book and a fun read, so pick it up.
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #2 (Image) – The doctor of dark arts is in some trouble. A mysterious spell caster has infected him with a disease he is unable to cure himself, offering a vaccine in exchange for an invaluable artifact essential to Vincent Marrow’s work as a surgeon of the supernatural. The majority of this issue follows Marrow and his assistant, Eric Gast, to a travelling market of underworld magical goods and services as he seeks help in not only curing himself, but uncovering the identity of his extorter. The story illustrates the doctor growing quite desperate about his understandably bleak situation, culminating in a summons of help to a cast of beings that would make Clive Barker smile. Equal to the story, Lukas Ketner’s art is as fun as ever, especially when he gets to play around with the magic market, sketching out all sorts of questionable trinkets and widgets of witchery. I have to say, I’m really enjoying the new six issue arc format that Seifert is scripting. The more stand-alone feel of the first series was a good read, but devoting the next volume to an extended story is really opening the world up and allows for a more engrossing experience. It’s a fun read, and I definitely recommend it to comics readers in general, regardless of whether you read the first volume (but if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and pick up the trade).
Black Beetle #0 (Dark Horse) – Collecting three chapters of Francesco Francavilla’s Black Beetle from the pages of Dark Horse Presents #11-13, this zero issue contains the full Night Shift story. In 1941, the museum in Colt City receives the collection of a recently passed on tycoon, which includes a long-lost Egyptian artifact. Unfortunately, the Führer Adolf Hitler himself has his eye on the artifact for his own dark intentions, and he sends a squad of secret soldiers to retrieve it. Little do they know, vigilante mystery man, Black Beetle, also has his eye on it and is going to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. For anyone who wants to make Lobster Johnson comparisons, go ahead, because there are plenty to be made, but in all fairness the Claw of Justice himself is little more than an homage to the pulp crime fighters of the dime novel era, and that’s exactly what noir-savant Francesco Francavilla is doing here. The character, story, and art style is wholly in reverence to the pulp era that the book is set in, and it does it justice. Granted, you won’t get much depth of story, or anything you haven’t read before, but that’s not really the point. The point is to be a quick, fun read that gives you a sense of adventure and mystery, which these chapters do well. The book looks good too, with a simple, straightforward style and a dark color scheme that again, lends itself quite well to the noir feel. Overall, the book is good for a quick and fun read, especially if you like the pulp style, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what comes next for the Black Beetle.
Number 13 #1 (Dark Horse) – The world has come to an end (I know, it happens a lot), brought on by a disease that mutated the population that wasn’t somehow immune to it. The two groups, ‘fecteds’ and ‘munes’ fought each other, naturally, and left the world a wasteland of rubble and scorched earth. Years after the ‘end of the world’, a group of young fecteds are roaming about and come upon what appears to be a boy with great power but no memory. After helping them survive a deadly encounter, they decide to bring him with them, but unbeknownst to them another group has caught wind of him and are coming to reclaim their lost weapon. You won’t get much else as far as setup in this first issue, in fact only a mere page is devoted to a quick and generic explanation of society’s demise, but I get the feeling that you won’t really need any history lesson for this book, just accept things as they come. Which is how most of the script for Number 13 pens out, events and dialogue are a ‘take as is’ affair, questions of origin are a formality only, and the people who do actually know anything explain things in a cliched movie villain sort of way, explaining out loud both to themselves and everyone around them their motives on current events. The art is simple and gets the job done, though I had a hard time feeling any appropriate level of gritty survivalistic sense with such whimsical and fantastical cast of characters, but then again we get enough super-dark post-apocalyptic stories that some color and light-heartedness can be a welcome thing. I wasn’t left with too much of an impression from the first issue alone, but I will be looking out for the next issue, if nothing more than for a casual read.