Luna Park

Written by Kevin Baker
Art by Danijel Zezelj
160 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Often, when reading a book I find myself starting to compose a review in my head. How I’m feeling about the book, what I think of its progression, and so on. Every now and then, though, a book comes along that confounds those expectations. That is certainly the case with Kevin Baker and Danijel Zezelj’s Luna Park from Vertigo. I thought I’d sussed out the book by the halfway point, knew how I felt about it overall. And then, not once but twice, the book pulled the rug out from under me. And with each instance, my opinion of Luna Park rather radically changed.

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Hellblazer #261

Written by Peter Milligan
Layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by Stefano Landini
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

It’s nice to see that Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Stefano Landini’s run on Hellblazer is still going strong. When the run first began, it was certainly moving over some familiar territory. What I hadn’t expected to see, though, is an extended riff on the idea of what happens when John Constantine loses and then frantically tries to make things right. It’s the sort of story that normally would have truncated itself by now; Constantine screws up, mopes for an issue or two, and then it’s soon forgotten. Here, Milligan lets Constantine’s mistakes continually hover over his head. Maybe it’s that Milligan is letting the character feel his age, understand that he’s at the point where he can’t stop walking away from his errors? Or perhaps Milligan just thought it would be interesting to explore the idea a little further than most writers on Hellblazer have gone. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Milligan and company are also taking Constantine out of his normal confines of Great Britain, although admittedly in the case of his destination of India, it’s a former British colony. Still, they’re using it well; there’s a sharp comment or two about the stereotypical ideas that people carry around towards the country and its spirituality. On the down side, Milligan’s also going for the stereotype of the seedy human trafficking underbelly of India, which just goes to show that it’s impossible to break away entirely from some perceptions. Still, with Camuncoli and Landini drawing the book so beautifully, it’s hard to get too worked up over the idea. How they aren’t super stars in comics is a mystery to me. At the end of the day, Milligan, Camuncoli, and Landini are an excellent reminder of why Hellblazer can have over 260 issues and still tell new and fresh stories.

Shield #3

Written by Eric Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa
Pencils by Marco Rudy, Eduardo Pansica, and Greg Scott
Inks by Mick Gray, Eber Ferreira, and Greg Scott
40 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I’ll admit it, after the lackluster The Red Circle mini-series, I was ready to write off the newly-licensed group of characters owned by Archie Comics. After three issues of The Shield, though, I find myself glad that I gave it another chance. The lure to get me to read some more was due to Eric Trautmann as writer than anything else, and Trautmann has not disappointed. He’s using The Shield as a book about a military man in a world of super-heroes, and it’s something that works far better than it should. His missions are orders from the higher-up, and his methods are slightly different than what you normally see from super-heroes.

At the same time, Trautmann makes sure not to fall into an obvious trap, and does his best to keep the character likable. (I’m not sure what it says about society today that it seems almost expected to have a military character in comics end up unlikable.) Add in some beautiful art by Marco Rudy and Mick Gray (plus an assist by Eduardo Pansica and Eber Ferreira), and this has turned into a well-crafted and entertaining book. Even the parade of DC Universe guest-stars moving through the title hasn’t annoyed me like I’d feared; Trautmann’s done a good job of picking the right characters to appear here.

Even the second feature starring Inferno by Brandon Jerwa and Greg Scott is working out better than I’d have thought. Inferno was the most nebulous concept from The Red Circle mini-series, but Jerwa uses that to his advantage—think The Fugitive with amnesia—to create a conspiracy thriller. This is actually the issue where it’s finally clicked into place for me; Scott’s moody art (which I loved on Gotham Central) makes the Neutralizers sufficiently creepy, and the ever-moving target of the main character is starting to turn out some good stories even with the shorter page count. If you’d been turned off of The Shield from The Red Circle, go on and give it another chance. It’s an enjoyable, solid book.

Dark Entries

Written by Ian Rankin
Art by Werther Dell’Edera
216 pages, black and white
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

When is a crime novel not a crime novel? Reading Dark Entries, one of the first two books in Vertigo’s new "Vertigo Crime" line, it’s easy find yourself asking that question. So far as I can tell, Dark Entries ended up in the Vertigo Crime line (instead of being branded as a Hellblazer graphic novel) by virtue of writer Ian Rankin, best known for his Inspector Rebus crime novels. Considering his name on the cover is three times the size of artist Werther Dell’Edera’s, it hard to not figure out what’s going on. Hopefully this bait-and-switch tactic won’t backfire for Vertigo Crime; while Dark Entries is firmly a horror story in terms of genre, it’s also an entertaining read.

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Showcase Presents: Eclipso

Written by Bob Haney
Art by Lee Elias, Jack Sparling, Alex Toth
296 pages, black and white
Published by DC Comics

On a recent trip to run the New York City Marathon, I brought a couple of comics with me to pass the time traveling between NYC and Washington DC. In many ways, the perfect summary of Showcase Presents: Eclipso was how I referred to the book whenever someone would ask what I had in my hands. At first my response was, "It’s a reprint of comics from the 1960s about a Jekyll and Hyde sort of supervillain." By about the halfway point, the phrase, "It’s rather silly," usually got added into the previous statement. And by the end? I’d say in my most deep, dramatic voice, "Eclipsoooooooooo! Hero and Villain In One Man!" Trust me when I say that the more you read of Showcase Presents: Eclipso, the harder it is to take it seriously.

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House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1

Written by Mark Buckingham, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Matthew Sturges, Matt Wagner, Bill Willingham
Penciled by Michael Allred, Mark Buckingham, Giuseppi Camuncoli, Amy Reeder Hadley, Luca Rossi
Inked by Michael Allred, Stefano Landini, Jose Marzan Jr., Kevin Nowlan, Richard Friend
48 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Years ago, Vertigo published an annual collection of short stories connected to comics in their line, titled Winter’s Edge. With the House of Mystery Halloween Annual, it looks like that tradition might be coming back to life. It’s a strange mixed bag this time; a framing story set in House of Mystery, but otherwise a mixture of stories about existing series, previewing a new series, and a flashback to a series that’s long gone. In some ways, it’s the quintessential Vertigo experience.

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Doom Patrol #1

Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis
Penciled by Matthew Clark and Kevin Maguire
Inked by Livesay and Kevin Maguire
40 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I love the Doom Patrol. Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol was one of my favorite comics back in the day, John Arcudi and Tan Eng Huat’s revival never got the attention that it deserved, and now that I’m reading the original run of the series, I’ve fallen in love with it too. Keith Giffen’s resurrection of the title, then, had me both intrigued and worried. When done properly, Doom Patrol can be a really fun and clever book. But it’s easy to take a misstep with the basic concept of outcast/freak heroes (the number of failures along those lines is staggering), and without the weirdness, there’s not much point to the book.

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Greek Street #1

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Davide Gianfelice
40 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

How well do you know your Greek plays? Sure, everyone’s familiar with the basic Greek myths of Zeus, Apollo, Herakles, and Perseus. I’m talking about the the dramas, though; ones starring Oedipus, Agamemnon, Medea, Cassandra, or Ion.

No? Well don’t worry, Greek Street is still going to be extremely accessible to you, coming across as a rival family drama with a crime undercurrent moving through it. But for those who are familiar with some Greek works, though, there’s a nice extra punch to Peter Milligan’s new series.

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Hellblazer #256

Written by Peter Milligan
Layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes by Stefano Landini
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

It’s hard to believe that Hellblazer had to get all the way up into the 250s before Peter Milligan became its new regular writer. Milligan was one of the pre-Vertigo writers whose book Shade the Changing Man became one of the Vertigo launch titles, and his contributions to the Vertigo line have continued ever since then. We’re several issues into his run on Hellblazer, and I think what’s made me the most pleased so far is that Milligan’s managed to mix just about everything I like about the book back into the title all at once.

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Showcase Presents: Doom Patrol Vol. 1

Written by Arnold Drake with Bob Haney
Art by Bruno Premiani and Bob Brown
520 pages, black and white
Published by DC Comics

Of all of the Showcase Presents books from DC’s low-cost black and white reprint line, the one I’ve been looking forward to the most has been Showcase Presents: The Doom Patrol. I’ve heard so much about Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani’s original run on the characters that it’s been a must-read in my mind. But as someone who never read Doom Patrol until Grant Morrison’s revamp of the team in the late ’80, I couldn’t help be a little worried. Was I setting myself up for disappointment?

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