Lobo: Highway to Hell

Written by Scott Ian
Art by Sam Kieth
64 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I have fond memories of the original Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, and Simon Bisley Lobo mini-series being published. I ran out and bought every issue as they showed up, with its ode to too much violence and general insanity. While the character has been subjected to diminishing returns over the years (although even at the height of Lobo’s over-use, he seemed to always get a good deal in L.E.G.I.O.N.), I’ve never found myself actually flinching away from the character. Any good will I had built up towards the character thanks to 52, though, is now gone courtesy Scott Ian and Sam Kieth.

Lobo: Highway to Hell is a two-issue mini-series that manages to shoot its credibility on the first page. How else can you talk about an opening line of, "Head feels like Motorhead is raping it," after all? Between that and mentions of the television show Lost (no, really), it’s the first sign that something is slightly off. From there we get unfunny jokes stretched out into dozens of pages, and an entire second issue where Lobo in Hell is supposed to be funny, but it’s really just the reader in Hell because the issue never seems to end. Kieth’s heart doesn’t appear to be in this either; I understand that sometimes Kieth deliberately devolves his style, but Lobo: Highway to Hell looks like it was drawn on a napkin more times than not. This comic is embarrassing for DC Comics as a publisher. Don’t fall into the same well of regret that I’m currently floundering in. If you haven’t made that mistake already, avoid this book.

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.

Lenore vol. 2 #1

By Roman Dirge
32 pages, color
Published by Titan Books

Back in the day, if Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (and its spin-off Squee!) was title that SLG Publishing was best known for, Lenore was certainly right behind it. Roman Dirge’s stories of a cute little undead girl mixed sick humor with mind-crushing puns as punch lines; it was sort of like sitting next to two people each trying to out-gross the other, but in this case Dirge was the only one playing. Now, after several years of silence, Lenore is back and from Titan Books, and it’s nice to see that some things haven’t changed.

Dirge still follows the old pattern that I remembered in the past; Lenore moves through life in a slightly oblivious fashion, runs into an unexpected (and most likely deadly) obstacle, and ends up defeating it without really trying. All, of course, to the frustration of whomever she’s up against. That’s what we get here, as Lenore has an encounter with the man who originally attempt to embalm her. It’s funny and I chuckled in all the right (or should that be wrong?) places, although at the end of the day Lenore was exactly like I remembered its old run of stories. I think it actually works better as individual comics than a collected edition; the chances of the joke getting old are far less in short doses. Lenore may not set the world on fire, but it makes me laugh and at the end of the day that’s a good thing.