There’s nothing better in the heat of summer than to hear the familiar tune from the Ice Cream Man. Also, Archie and the Bright Knight team up for a rollicking good time. Can the same be said for stories of magic, rocketships, and massacring ancient clans? Let’s find out!
Ice Cream Man #5 (Image Comics)
(w) W. Maxwell Prince (a) Martin Morazzo (c) Chris O’Halloran
Arguably the best issue of this series, Ice Cream Man #5 is less concerned with terrifying readers with traditional horror sensibilities. Yes, the script from W. Maxwell Prince does enable Martin Morazzo to create sickening imagery, but they only serve to accent the narrative theme of the issue: the mundane futility of everyday life. It is a well-worn topic with a fresh spin that only a few books can truly offer.
Titled “Ballad of a Falling Man,” the issue interweaves the stories of two individuals and their very different paths to the bottom of an office building. The first, Bill, is the titular Falling Man. Having jumped from the rooftop, his story sees him confessing his sins out into the ether as he approaches the sidewalk below. While it is indeed an interesting and unique storytelling perspective, it pales in comparison to the journey taken by the issue’s other lead, Vanessa.
As her office is engulfed by traditional horrors, an unseen narrator delves into her deepest fears. Fear that her life has no meaning. Fear that it’s being wasted as an office drone. Fear that her dream creative project will never be finished. This is all very relatable, as many have said something along the lines of “I’m going to write a book” and then never do (yours truly is guilty of this). The terrifying situation she finds herself in forces her to confront her personal shortcomings and determine if they’re worth fighting for. Based on her actions, Vanessa’s response is an emphatic “yes.” Although the book doesn’t offer any readers anything in terms of an epilogue, the journey from start to finish is as satisfying as they come.
Archie Meets Batman ‘66 #1 (Archie/DC)
(w) Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci (a) Dan Parent (i) J. Bone (c) Kelly Fitzpatrick
Since DC acquired the rights to produce comics based on the 1966 Batman television series, they have paired the Bright Knight with a number of era-appropriate characters. They’ve teamed up with the Green Hornet, went international with Steed and Mrs. Peel, gone undercover with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and swung into the 1970s with Wonder Woman ‘77. Now, Batman ‘66 is brought head-to-head with a comic property that is the king of crossovers – Archie.
If you’re a fan of the 1960s Batman show, get ready because all the heavy hitters make an appearance here. While mostly the lineup from the 1966 movie, Jeff Parker and Dan Parent also throw Batgirl and Bookworm in for good measure. However, the real treat is the Batman ‘66 debut of Poison Ivy. Parker’s script gives her a very similar personality to Catwoman, but being one of the few Bat-villains with actual powers allows him and Dan Parent to be creative. Like most of this Batman’s enemies, her henchman are a bunch schlubby men. But the twist of how she recruits them is both unique to her character, and fitting for this incarnation.
There’s one big negative to this issue – Batman and the Riverdale crew never actually meet up in this issue. There’s a lot of legwork done to set up their meeting, and readers are introduced to a slew of characters, but those looking for Batman and Archie to share a page together will have to wait until issue #2. For now, readers will have to just sit back and enjoy what amounts to a solid Batman ‘66 story.
Euthanauts #1 (IDW Publishing)
(w) Tini Howard (a) Nick Robles
To call Euthanauts #1 a science-fiction story is like calling a hotdog a sandwich. The components are there, but it doesn’t quite fit the bill. Rather, the story by Tini Howard and Nick Robles comes across more as a supernatural tale as it tackles the concept of death and the afterlife. The issue opens with what appears to be a cult community’s version of a funeral. Yet later in the issue, there are the rocketships and astronaut suits. This smashing together of genres results in a story is seemingly directionless, yet engrossing.
Euthanauts follows Thalia Rosewood, a death-obsessed employee of a funeral home. That is, until she has a run-in with Mercy Wolfe. What follows from their meeting is equal parts horrifying, trippy, and engaging. While Howard’s script deserves credit for setting the story’s framework, it is the art by Robles that brings it to life. What really sells it are the characters. None of the characters in this book are particularly attractive, which is something even indie titles struggle with. But the characters in Euthanauts look like those you might see walking down the street or at the grocery store. This provides a hook for readers to buy into the story.
Unfortunately, once you get past the concept, there doesn’t seem to be much substance. But that is a consistent problem found in nearly all first issues. Thankfully, the concept is indeed great, and the great uncertainty as to where the story could go works in the book’s favor. There are seemingly limitless options for Howard and Robles. The genre mishmash, mysterious story, and engaging characters makes for a surprisingly good first issue.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour #1 (BOOM! Studios)
(w) Ben Acker & Ben Blacker (a) M.J. Erickson (c) Brittany Peer (cvr) Jonathan Case
By bringing their acclaimed radio play/podcast to the comic medium, Bens Acker and Blacker have put together this week’s most enjoyable comic issue. From the sing-songy prologue to the tongue-in-cheek banter between characters, the writing nothing short of fantastic. Ditto for the artwork by M.J. Erickson and Brittany Peer.
Though 1% exorcists Frank and Sadie Doyle are the stars of the issue, the story actually centers on a disgraced former news reporter. Having lost his career, he follows the Doyles in the hopes of reviving his career. While his story provides a necessary entry point into this world, every time the issue checks in on him it feels like a let down. Not because it’s poorly written or illustrated – that’s far from the case. Rather, it’s because of how damn entertaining the Doyles are.
The manner in which the Doyles are written is enough for me – who has never heard of TAH until this comic came out – to binge listen to the entire show in a day (for the record, I haven’t yet, but I will). They are delightfully written. Though they are pompous, they are not rude. In fact, their insistence on maintaining decorum even in the face of grave danger is what makes them all the more endearing. Most of the best comics are considered as such for their approach to serious subject matter. However, Thrilling Adventure Hour #1 makes the case that well crafted comedy can be worthy of the same praise.
Clankillers #1 (Aftershock)
(w) Sean Lewis (a) Antonio Fuso
Since its formation, Aftershock has built a reputation as an Image alternative for high-profile creators to gather and develop the weird and offbeat projects close to their hearts. Super Zero, Fu Jitsu, Insexts, and Animosity are all books that have found acclaim and helped build Aftershock’s high-profile reputation. Their latest book, Clankiller, will not be one of those books.
Sean Lewis’ script cannot seem to get out of its way. Though Antonio Fuso delivers brilliant artwork, there is no clear narrative to give it structure. There appears to be some form of Celtic mythology, which I learned more from the solicitation than the actual comic. In fact, that’s pretty much the case for most of the storytelling elements. While most first issues do have an inherent flaw in that they have to dedicate valuable page space to setting up the story, that set up helps the reader buy into the narrative. Without, you get get a bunch of good looking images with nothing to tie them together. That’s what Clankiller #1 delivers.