OK kiddies, it’s been a while. This whole “real life” thing sure eats up a lot of time! (Apparently babies need things like “attention” and “food”) But I’ve been able to carve out some time by giving up sleeping and showering, so here are some highlights from the past couple o’ weeks:

Dream Thief #1 (Dark Horse): “What would you do if you woke up in a strange room and didn’t know where you were, or what you’d done the night before to get there?” This is the question, rife with metaphysical implications and narrative possibility, that writer Jai Nitz asks, repeatedly, in the first issue of this promising new miniseries. Or rather, his lead character, John Lincoln, does. Lincoln is an unrepentant  philanderer, thief and all-around lowlife, enlivened by Nitz’s ear for snappy, noir-ish dialogue (John may be heartless, but at least he’s funny). Following his own worst impulses, John comes into possession of a mystical aboriginal mask. The mask somehow connects him to the recently murdered, whom he then seemingly avenges while he’s still asleep. Needless to say, when John wakes up, he finds himself in all sorts of interesting situations. Nitz has created a tightly structured narrative that keeps looping in on itself, heightening the sense of intrigue and possibility. Equally impressive is the way Nitz and artist and letterer Greg Smallwood employ the graphic language of comics in telling their story; insert panels that also function as x-rays, “see-through” sound effects that don’t cover up the action, but rather, emphasize it, and giant punctuation utilized as panel design. Smallwood grabs you not only with his moody drawing style, but with his bold overall aesthetic; this is a great looking book. Moreover, the design smartly reinforces the repetition in the story, as the lead character keeps awakening to new, ever-more-unnerving situations. It’s like Inception, by way of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, with a little bit of The Mask thrown in. These are all good things. If you passed it by the first time, go back and give it a second look.

page from Dream Thief #1

Revival #10 (Image): This has always been a middle-of-the-stack book for me; solid, workmanlike, mostly dependable entertainment, but only rarely exceptional. It’s the type of book I read but rarely feel the need to write about (right alongside titles like Clone, Wonder Woman and Helheim, to name a few). In fact I nearly dropped this comic a couple of months ago after a particularly uninspired installment. Well this issue makes me glad I stuck around. In the past, the various strands of Tim Seeley’s narrative (involving the sudden return of some recently deceased folks in a small town) threatened, at times, to get away from him. Some threads seemed extraneous, or just plain uninteresting, taking precious panels away from exploring the more fascinating aspects of his story. This time out, however, all the pieces click. Seeley performs a hell of a juggling act, cutting and intercutting the various fragments in a way that finally feels cohesive in both mood and plot, with all the pieces moving toward one purpose. The dialogue, which occasionally veered toward the ham-handed in the past, is believable and engaging (that last line!). Seeley is ably abetted by Mike Norton’s reliably strong (and in one instance, memorably grotesque) visuals. As they expertly send their unknowing players careening toward each other, Seeley and Norton have created a feeling all too rare in horror: genuine suspense.

Regular readers of this space (all eight of you) probably won’t be surprised though, that my favorite book of the past couple of weeks was Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake #5 (kaboom!). I’ve been raving about Natasha Allegri’s mini-masterpiece pretty much from the start. This has less to do with my general captivation of the Adventure Time franchise (no, really) than with the innovative way Allegri is playing with it. Simply by switching the genders of the main players in the fairy-tale land of Adventure Time, Allegri has allowed herself room to play with and subvert any number of tropes from familiar sources such as Cinderella and Rapunzel, not to mention that modern staple of girls’ movies: the makeover. None of this comes across as an overt paean to ‘girl power’. That part’s understood. Instead Allegri’s light touch sacrifices none of the action, violence and thrills of the yarn while simultaneously reminding us of the charm of sugar, spice and everything nice.

Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake #5

What tickled your fancy the past few weeks?

Turning Pages,