Once a month the amazing staff at 8th Dimension Comics selects a pile of the best new releases for us to peruse and judge.
Rose Canton was a somewhat silly Golden Age Flash villain with a split-personality and plant powers. In the New 52 DC Universe, she's a teenage girl just sprung from an insane asylum that uses her sexual and violent alternate personality to avenge the murder of her father. Tom Taylor manages to really pull out the tension on a story that is more than a century old, and gives the whole Jekyll and Hyde plot a pretty solid foundation.
Of particular note is the way that Rose and "Thorn" keep in touch via Facebook, adding a whole new level of cooperation into what should be opposing sides. Rose & Thorn is a dark, hot, blood-soaked Grindhouse ride that proves the non-Vertigo DC Universe still has some real edge.
Rating: 7 of 10
Valiant is certainly making a name for itself lately with a string of really first-rate books. Of those, Harbinger is at the top of the list. A troubled young man with psionic abilities finds himself recruited into an organization determined to use such gifted individuals to save the world. Or so they say. The man, Peter Stanchek, is anti-social to the core, and soon breaks out of the institution in order to find his former travelling partner Joe. The book reads like the darkside of the X-Men, and offers an incredibly sad and realistic look at what superheroes in the modern world would likely resemble.
Rating: 8 of 10
At the end of the Avengers comic fans were screaming, "Holy shit! Thanos!" and movie fans were going, "Who?" Well, Marvel has come to your aid re-releasing some of the best moments of the Mad Titan in small, cheap one-shots. It's easy to forget just how brilliant and deep a character Thanos is. On one hand he is a brutal, cold dictator with awesome power that sets himself up as a god. On the other he is a lonely man desperate for the love of his chosen bride, Death, and also a strangely nuanced and honorable character. The Thanos Quest is like reading the entirety of Sandman condensed, and is as equally brilliant as that iconic book. Now is the time to rediscover one of the finest characters in the Marvel universe before he takes center screen in the Avengers sequel and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Rating: 9 of 10
Image is in no way fucking around these days. I've spotted the poster for Mind the Gap at 8th Dimension but never asked about it. It's an fantastic book that follows the mystery of a young, rich girl's mysterious near-fatal pushing accident on a subway. Now in a coma, her boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks is accused of the act while shadow forces align to pin the crime on him. #5 gives us a look into Dane Miller's tragic trailer park life that he fled into the arms of the beautiful and wealth Elle Peterssen. Even jumping into the middle of the book you get hooked on the cruel way fate is playing with two young lovers, and it makes you root for them ore than any superhero.
Rating: 8 of 10
Remember what I said about Image being great! Grant Morrison's Happy! will be one of the comics people will look back a decade from now and say was a landmark. Nick Sax is a former cop fallen on hard times who takes a brutal one-man war on crime to the mafia in a big way. Unfortunately, he ends up shot, in the hospital, and at the mercy of corrupt cops and a torture squad until help comes in the unlikely form of his daughter's imaginary friend Happy the Horse! It sounds silly, but the silly cartoon aspect meshes perfectly with the hard-nose brutality of the comic in a way that is simply magical. If you've never listened to the advice in this column, listen now; Buy. Happy!
Rating: 9 of 10
Here I deviate from the role of reviewer to make a comment...
It was two years ago that I was introduced to Gary Watson and the world of After Twilight, a world where Texas is a theocratic splinter state that holds its citizens in thrall with Biblical literalism, torture, and fear. It all started with a short film that was as brilliant in conception as it was hampered by its budget. Determined to continue the tale, Watson turned comic publisher.
Now the saga is at an end... or at its current end. I've talked with Watson a great deal over the last two years, and though he is always quick to point out that his work is fiction, not a condemnation of popular religion, sometimes I fear that his world is closer than I'd like.
Our state, of late, has used Gospels where law books and scientific study would've been more appropriate, and there is an awful lot of hate wearing the mask of the Loving God. It's a scary time to be alive here, a time when faith and force intertwine against "impurity" like a perversion.
After Twilight is not the best book in the world, but for the people of Texas it is one of the most important. It is a burning bush, a cross in the sky, and we ignore it at our own peril.
Rating: 10 of 10
Doop? Well, uh, he... All right, hold onto your butts.
At one point there was a superhero reality show and the cameraman was basically Slimer, but they called him Doop and he more or less had whatever superpower was then required. The turn of the century was a weird time for mutant comics, OK? Just go with it.
Anyway, Wolverine knew that Doop was more than he appeared, and now employs him at the Jean Grey School in order to thwart unconventional threats before they ruin the school with no one the wiser. He is very, very good at this job. In one issue he...
1. Stops a league of Nazi bowlers. 2. Bangs a city councilwoman into voting against closing the school. 3. Sets Sabretooth on fire. 4. Bludgeons a nun posting negative things about the school on a message board. 5. Beats Satan in a contest for the souls of the students with a wicked funk bass solo.
Frankly, any issue of Wolverine and the X-Men outside of the endless Avengers vs. X-Men crossover was going to get a good score, but Doop just nailed it perfectly.
Rating: 8 of 10
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Soooooo.... I'm a bad parent intent on turning my young daughter into a repository of geeky pop culture that will alienate her for years. She knows there are 11 Doctors. When I ask her what we say to the God of Death she replies in a cute, smiling stammer, "Not today!" I just went to check on her and she's asleep clutching a stuffed Cthulhu. This is not good parenting, folks, and if you'd like to join in then I highly recommend Ian Thomas' little kid's book about the Lovecraft Mythos.
Told in a perfectly readable children's book style a young boy seeks his pet among the biggest names in strange tales history. Cthulhu, the Deep Ones, the Mi-go, they're all here and rendered in loving detail by Adam Bolton's unmatachable art. It's never too soon to mess up a kid for life, and this the best book to do it with. Way better than Baby's First Mythos.
Rating: 7 of 10.