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5. Trillium #2 (DC/Vertigo): Jeff Lemire trades one flippin’ great gimmick for another in this, the sophomore effort of his so-far fantastic fledgling sci-fi series.  Our star-crossed something-or-others, Nika and William, come together after meeting face to face for seemingly the first time at the end of issue #1; but, not surprisingly, they suffer from intercursus interruptus, which is played up perfectly through Lemire’s clever choice of cutting out one side of the conversation, and then swapping sides and back again, until they find common ground–well, until they find something growing on common ground: trillium, of course!  This device, as vital as it is to the story and the pair’s burgeoning relationship, is merely an accessory–a necklace around the neck of a beautiful woman; and the beautiful woman, in this case, is Lemire’s own stunning artwork, which celebrates both the frustration and the humor present in the situation and the magical connection that’s present even when the right words aren’t.  I’m happy to say: I’ve found my thrill-ium, on Kuka Mama’s temple-ium–and in Lemire’s petal-to-the-metal original vision. (SC)

Trillium #2

Trillium #2

4. Six-Gun Gorilla #4 (BOOM!): “The story…the story we’re told, folks” is layers thick in this issue-laden chapter of the Gospel According to Simon Spurrier.  The visionary and his visualizer, hot-shot artist Jeff Stokely, continue Blue’s blistering journey from zero to hero, even as Jiminy Gorilla ties to convince him to say au revior to his savior complex.  The fourth episode of the genre-bending series kicks off with some sidewalk rabble-rousing before a cheeky sense of Dredd muscles its way into the mix, one that hovers over the whole of the book, especially as Spurrier continues his satiric assault on our infatuation with reality entertainment.  He ironically reviles the voyeur in us and assails our suicidal self-importance–the latter played up in the Mittyesque Blue, whose conversation with the “pseudo-mystical” gorilla about his place in this wild-west world is not unlike the Socratic dialogue in Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael (1992), which, by the way, is between the novel’s narrator and, if you didn’t already know, a talking gorilla.  That heady tète-à-tète is balanced brilliantly by plenty of high-velocity action drawn at a breakneck pace by the supersonic Stokely, who rides horses, stagecoaches, and speed lines all the way to a “classic scene”–a showdown between “the griller” and the well-armed Auchenbran–and a hairy final splash.  Where most minis of late have fallen short of the high expectations established by first issues built upon clever concepts, two-thirds of the way through, this gorilla of a book has evolved into something even more fascinating, with no sign of slowing down. (SC)

Six-Gun Gorilla #4

Six-Gun Gorilla #4

3. Numbercruncher #3 (Titan): Simon Spurrier is on a serious roll with his second book in this month’s Top 5 (the first time that’s happened!) This one’s a fast-paced, perfectly structured tale of a love that will not die, no matter how many times a mercenary angel of death tries to kill it. That said angel is a thuggish, bowler hat-wearing accountant in the ecclesiastical bureaucracy of the afterlife, is the clever underlying conceit.  The literally undying love provides, at first, a through line of hope. But in this issue, Spurrier seems to suggest that the romantic concept of ‘eternal love’ is not only unrealistic, but obsessive: that way lies madness.  Colorist Jordie Bellaire deserves special mention here as she alternates between gray tone and color palettes, visually separating life from afterlife (often in the same panel) over PJ Holden’s manic art. One hopes that Spurrier’s vision of the unforgiving machinery of the universe is mere fancy; but, in presenting such themes against unrelenting race(s) against death(s), the creators have fashioned 22 pages of story that hum like clockwork. (DM)

Numbercruncher #3

Numbercruncher #3

2. Saga #14 (Image): Another issue of Saga, another spot in our Top 5. It’s getting almost pedestrian, really. And that’s the kicker; often our top choices offer some formal aspect, some innovation, perhaps in the concept or structure of the writing, or the design or lay-out of the art, that really sets it apart. But Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples just make it look so damn effortless, month after month. The latest chapter of our favorite sci-fi family dramedy features such earth-shaking events as budding romances, stopping for gas, and the most quietly touching scene between a young girl and her cat that you’re ever likely to read. And the only fireworks on display is the laid-back naturalism with which Vaughan and Staples are able to balance the fantastic with the all-too-real inner lives of their characters. Seamless. (DM)

Saga #14

Saga #14

1. Rachel Rising #19 (Abstract Studio): Terry Moore’s monthly dose of well-honed supernatural horror has risen to the top spot for the month on the strength of this issue’s blast to the all-important past–to this better-than-good book’s Genesis.  Moore sends us back to the black and white world of 17th century Manson and sets an ominous tone as he tempts us with ages-old character and thematic archetypes embodied in the gorgeous forms of the raven-haired Lilith and the innocent “little fawn,” Bryn Erin; he juxtaposes his avatars of death and life, respectively, with a chilling result, particularly as Bryn Erin’s parents, ironic Christian zealots, prove impotent–especially her pitchfork-slash-tri-pronged-phallus-wielding father–against the confident and bewitching power of a different, and certainly more feminine, perspective.  Speaking of perspective: Moore plays with negative space to a positive effect as Rachel–who in 2013 has been poisoned by her friend Carol– opens her eyes to shades of gray, a device that speaks, as we learn upon Rachel’s waking at the end, to Bryn Erin’s inner conflict and the relativism that marks the modern, more enlightened world.  As Rachel’s eyes close once more, we’re thrust back to early Manson and a heartbreaking scene between Bryn Erin and her young love, James.  Yes, there is danger here–nothing more dangerous, however, than the potential for ruinous, story-crushing sap, which Moore avoids with a magical mix of urgent dialogue, intense artwork, and more high-caliber irony.  At that point, a freckled expectation is certainly set, and the page turn doesn’t disappoint.  Perfection rarely does. (SC)

Rachel Rising #19

Rachel Rising #19

The Biggest Dis(appointment): Reality Check #1 (Image) – The concept: A lovelorn schlub with a heroic alter ego. Sound familiar? Ah, but here’s the meta twist – the schlub is actually a comic book creator and the hero is his costumed creation who’s mysteriously come to life! So what we have here are actual comic book creators (Glen Brunswick and Viktor Bogdanovic) creating a comic book about a comic creator creating a comic book about a generic superhero. What it amounts to is a comic book that gazes so intently into its own navel that it threatens to disappear. This might have been forgivable if the characters themselves weren’t so insufferable. I suppose the socially-awkward misfit paradigm is meant to make the lead character relatable to “the average comic book fan”. But playing to that stereotype only serves to reinforce it. Really, comic book fans need to get over the whole “loser” mentality, and books like this don’t help. Even sadder, the supposedly sexycool superhero displays an attitude toward women that is middle-school at best. But wait, maybe Brunswick is using the “writing” of his main character to expose his shortcomings and set him and his caped companion on a path out of arrested development! Yeah, and maybe bad writing is just bad writing. (DM)

Turning pages,

Scott & Derek

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