Lantern City #1
(Paul Jenkins / Matthew Daley / Carlos Magno; BOOM! Studios/Archaia)
Lantern City has been one of my most anticipated books of the season, ever since attending the BOOM! Studios panel at this past WonderCon, and the comic features both Paul Jenkins (Fiction Squad, Spawn) and Matthew Daley (co-creator of Lantern City). I’m happy to report, it doesn’t disappoint.
Influenced by the popular steampunk movement, Lantern Cityis set in a steampunk world that — from beginning to end — pops off the pages. The art by Carlos Magno (Robocop, Hellraiser) is gorgeous, to say the least. In fact, his linework has some of the most detail I’ve witnessed in a lont time. The premise is as follows: Sander Jorve a member of the lower, and often oppressed, class that makes up Lantern City simply wants to provide for and keep his family safe. But with the looming of revolution in the makings he is soon swept up into a cause that is far bigger than himself. So far, it does nothing too new but, instead, does a grand job at painting a new picture on a familiar genre. Equal parts Star Wars, Bioshock, and everything Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, this story is hard to put down. The ending alone is enough to warrant following this series through the next few issues just to find out how things might pan out, if you weren’t already sold on the artwork itself.
– Dana Keels
Baltimore: The Cult of the Red King #1
(Mike Mignola / Christopher Golden / Peter Bergting / Dave Stewart; Dark Horse Comics)
I’m always excited when a comic appears that’s more my style, and Baltimore: The Cult of the Red Devil King #1 is that. This impressive first of five issues follows a lineage of occult and demonology, with slight hints of war.
Fans of Guillermo del Toro’s direction will be blessed with all of those classic Hellboy elements; a comic that reminds me of a mesh between the video game Wolfenstein, with accents of Captain America villains Red Skull and Hydra, to which they both pay homage to the occult/vampire themes of yesteryear. Surely, Mike Mignola‘s story and Christopher Golden‘s script does a fine job at pulling in new audiences, captivating just enough ground work in achieving the background villain’s atmosphere. You follow, now, not only as Lord Baltimore does, but a whole cast of characters (there’s enough noob knowledge spilled out on Harish, Judge Rigo, and Sofia). Despite the ensemble, the roster never distracts from the matter-at-hand, and it feels like the writers are only shelling out enough backstory not to overwhelm. Peter Bergting (Dark Sun, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror) provides just the right vibe for the Hellboy saga, with sketches that are neither too detailed or too plain. But it’s Dave Stewart‘s colors that pop out, as the (often times literal) sea of reds are blindingly impressive and shading sets the perfect distinction between eras. Look kids, The Cult of Red King #1 is devilishly delicious.
– Richard Zom
(Warren Ellis / Declan Shalvey / Jordie Bellaire; Image Comics)
The creative team of Marvel Comics’ acclaimed Moon Knight, writer Warren Ellis (Planetary, RED), artist Declan Shalvey (28 Days Later), and colorist Jordie Bellaire (Pretty Deadly), comes together as the transhumanist triumvirate to create Injection, a new Image Comics sci-fi drama series about a disturbing pre-apocalyptic world– the unpredicted outcome of The Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit. We begin with The Unit (Maria Kilbride, Robin Morel, Simon Winters, Vivek Headland, and Brigid Roth) scattered and individually approached by suits from The Ministry of Time and FPI (Force Projection International). And, if the names of these organizations don’t make hairs stand up and skin crawl with images of John Hurt’s pained face in 1984, Shalvey’s stern lines and Bellaire’s dull tones, except for the injections of the fantastical that our protagonists walk into, will do the trick.
Even though the five genius protagonists are introduced in the first issue, only a few are mentioned with greater detail. Kilbride seems to be the main focus of this ish, as the leading member who brought The Unit together– now held up at Sawlung (“Giving up the ghost”) Hospital. Question is, what “ghost” is Kilbride trying to give up? Quickly, she goes from being tube-fed to wanting her “sandwich”: assigned to find a missing person and asset to the organization. Despite this surplus amount of exposition, Ellis’ confusion and curiosity still makes me continue Injection; the comic succeeds in making this critic want to know exactly “where this is all going” in a rather positive way. On a side note, the Injection team has stated in recent interviews that sandwiches will be a significant thing in the series. Killbride’s hungry– so, someone, please get on that.
– Lisa Wu
(Phil Hester / John McCrea; Image Comics)
Mythic #1, by writer Phil Hester (Green Arrow, The Black Terror) and artist John McCrea (Hitman, The Boys) is a compelling introduction to the sort of world explored in other comics like Hellboy, or the more recent Deep State (although that one seems more concerned with aliens, like The X-Files).
Off the bat, the story starts off with an action set-piece, as there is an attack on lowly phone-store worker, Nate, by a disguised ape-creature, and his eventual introduction to Watterson and Cassandra, members of a global team of specialists who keep mythical and supernatural monsters and creatures — and the world — going. McCrea’s art is dynamic and colorful, and his panel layout keeps the action moving at a brisk pace. Hester has a deft hand at mixing exposition and character development, and adds a few fun twists to keep the story from devolving into “boring professionals doing everything perfectly and not breaking a sweat”; at a field excursion, our three heroes set up a mini bar as they’re trying to figure out how to break a drought. While each of our main human characters seems to have a secret power of some kind (Watterson’s closes the book, and it’s a bit of a surprising twist from what I was initially expecting), and the preview ends with a black-and-white print of the first few pages of the next issue. It’s a fun book, and just profane enough, making the characters much more real without being depressingly gritty for the sake of being so.
– J.L. Caraballo
(Ed Brisson / Brian Level / Jordan Boyd; Image Comics)
To say that the ending of Mantle #1 has a twist might be a bit of a misnomer. The punches are telegraphed from the start of the book, but the expected-unexpected still has a great reveal. The plot breaks down like this: You have a bored punk rocker tripping on mushrooms and looking to smoke weed on his friend’s dime. He and his girlfriend bail on a wannabe band in a dive club in a dirty town. Then, lo! Pink magic lightning strikes him and he wakes up puking with a rag-tag bunch of heroes standing over his body. The book is like SHAZAM! and Captain Marvel in some dank alternate universe with blue-hues and rain. It seems like writer Ed Brisson (Sheltered) can barely hold on to his lunch at times. He has no time for any of that superhero nonsense, either.
“I swear to God that if you say ‘But Superheroes aren’t real,’ I will reach up your shit hole and rip out your trachea,” says Necra to the new host of Mantle. “You’ve got your origin story, so let’s not waste any more time, OK?” It’s not just the explanation of who Mantle is and what he can do. The person as the host for the power doesn’t matter so much. There’s been more than a hundred hosts for the power in the last 50-years. So, yeah, Brisson beats the reader over the head with the foreshadowing. Colorist Jordan Boyd really brings artist Brian Level‘s (Lazarus, Quantum & Woody) pencils to life. The book is colored with a muddy greys, blues and greens. It makes the warmer and lighter colors pop. That pink lightning really looks out of place. So much of superhero stories is that there is a savior, a messiah, the One. The Mantle’s hosts are not that. They are disposable. They are ordinary. They aren’t special. There isn’t much hope. It’s a fun read, and it can only get better if that tone can be maintained. But, that message can also get exhausting. Time will tell.
– Matt McGrath