Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Michael Cholak, Owner of Yesteryear Comics, for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles at the best discounts possible. For a limited time, new customers can enjoy a promotional 25% discount on new releases, valid until September 30. After September, customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa, or find them online at www.yesteryear-comics.com
Godzilla: Half Century War #1 (IDW): James Stokoe kills this! Shortest review in history? Maybe. It’s hard not to fall in love with the staggering level of detail that he gronches into this story about a regretful soldier recounting his tale of battling Godzilla in a Japanese harbor in the 1950’s. I’ve never really been into straight monster books, Dan Brereton’s terrific Giant Killer notwithstanding, but I think part of the reason this works is that Stokoe grounds it in an accessible level of humanity, and it’s also steeped in the atomic paranoia of the era that permeated the culture. While the story strikes a balanced tone between balls out action, manga influenced fun, and meaningful gravitas as these soldiers manage to do what little good they can in the face of insurmountable odds, let’s face it, most people are here for the art. You really can get lost in these panels, where sound effects merge with lettering, a sea of millions of small lines where brilliant coloring pits olive drab fatigues and Earth tones against the clash of fire and smoke and pure energy coming from the monster. I want to say again, the story’s good too as these guys are drafted into the AMF – that’s the Anti-Megalosaurus Force to you – but the art’s just immaculate. Stokoe could draw anything and I’d buy it. Grade A+.
Punk Rock Jesus #2 (DC/Vertigo): It’s not just the literal story of the second coming of (a cloned) Jesus, but the story of a security guy seeking redemption, a young mother pushed toward falling apart, a media whore company man, a tough doctor with problems of her own, and a couple other strongly developed characters who comprise this ensemble cast that seems to operate so effectively without much screen time for its ostensible and titular protagonist. Yeah, the problem with Jesus, real or imagined, is not so much the guy himself, but how the world reacts to him. I enjoy the way that security needs intersect with corporate goals and how that clashes with the people involved. I also enjoyed the politics lesson surrounding Northern Ireland and the Protestant and Catholic clash, reminding me of that Queen & Country: Declassified run that first paired Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten. It’s almost like Sean Murphy is some secret Howard Chaykin prodigy, the aesthetic sometimes bearing that type of imagery and concern with social issues. Murphy’s style is a visual assault full of forced perspective shots and wispy intricate lines that depict the danger with any form of extremism, liberal or conservative. I’m not sure if the art is quite as lovely as the full color Joe The Barbarian, but extra points if you can spot the little Calvin & Hobbes lurking about. Grade A.
Conan The Barbarian #7 (Dark Horse): The balance of emotional power shifts here as Conan shows Belit where he’s from, ostensibly to clear his name from a marauder, but perhaps secretly to put himself on even footing with her by placing her on his turf, and allowing her to trust him with her life this time around. Becky Cloonan returns and does a bang up job in a wide range of environs, from the delight of Conan seeing his desert flower experience Cimmerian snow for the first time, to the harsh mother that we assume helped temper Conan’s personality and his future relationships with women. That special thing I sometimes talk about happened to me while I read this issue. I forgot I was reading a comic for review and just got so engrossed and swept up in it that for the first time I no longer heard Brian Wood doing a convincing Robert E. Howard impersonation, but felt like I was just hearing the source material, an original treatise without the prism of time or another writer’s voice laid over it, examining the price of the sacrifices we make for love. Grade A.