In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on September 19, 2012.
Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum
What it’s about: Lobster Johnson is slowly becoming our favorite side character in the Hellboy universe. Lobster's latest one-shot, Caput Mortuum, is the most exciting and energetic mainstream superhero comic to hit shelves this week. For those who don’t know, he's basically a pulp superhero throwback from the early 20th century who fights crime with nothing but his wits and guile. In the world of Hellboy, the public thought he was nothing more than a comic book character, but little did they know of the masked vigilante's real-life adventures.
In this story, Lobster arrives on the scene where a zeppelin has been taken over by German terrorists, in the wake of World War I. In just under 30 pages, writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi tell a complete story with a ton of action and suspense in a way that reminds us of how the medium was decades ago. Caput Mortuum brings us back to a simpler time when the good guys always won and the bad guys were always German, for some reason. This is the type of comic that most of us grew up dreaming about in our heads. Fans of genre movies like Indiana Jones and The Rocketeer should find a lot to love here.
Coupled with the fresh plot is Tonci Zonjic's art; Zonjic is so underutilized in comics that it’s almost a sin. His action scenes provide a cartoonish flare for the script, yet his facial expressions and body language are nuanced enough to tell a story. All of this takes place in a cinematic world that also manages to throw in the type of heavily-shadowed atmosphere suitable for a vigilante like Lobster Johnson. This issue doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it become a farce; instead, it’s a satisfying read that doesn’t require an audience to do anything other than have a good time.
Peter Panzerfaust #6
What it’s about: Re-imagining the adventures of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys as part of the French Resistance during WWII, Peter Panzerfaust retells the legendary story with a unique slant that is undeniably entertaining, but with an emotional core that elevates the book into something more. The book's first story arc introduced the characters to their first bit of tragedy; now, the plot thickens as the boys try to rescue one of their own.
What to expect this month: Starting off with a heartfelt reflection on how the older generation views the youth of today, writer Kurtis J. Wiebe juggles various tones in Peter Panzerfaust #6 in perfect harmony. Though this story is set in the backdrop of a violent war, the characters never quite lose their youthful charm as they hatch an ingenious plot to break their friend Felix out of Nazi control.
The whole scheme has an air of playfulness around it as Wiebe manages to get as much humor and wit into the planning and execution of this rescue as possible. This gives the whole book a tone and flavor of the old WWII serials and adventure stories, as opposed to a bleak, realistic look at the war. That’s not to say that the war isn’t taken seriously because, as Gingras elaborates on early in the story, the tragedies that the boys faced irrevocably changed them. But the whole point of Peter Pan is the retention of childhood innocence, so a little light swashbuckling in the midst of major combat is one of the book’s major charms.
Peter himself remains a side character in this issue as we concentrate more on Gingras’ story – he’s basically our entry point into the plot. This works to keep a bit of mystery around the enigmatic Peter, as well as give us a more grounded character to latch onto. This world is brought to life by artist Tyler Jenkins, whose grasp on backgrounds and scenery make us feel like we’re right in the middle of Nazi-occupied France. We suggest picking up the trade paperback of the first five issues of this series before hopping on with this issue, but we assure you that it's completely worth it.
Penguin: Pain and Prejudice – Softcover
What it’s about: With all of the commotion and hype given to DC’s New 52 when it came out last year, Gregg Hurwitz’s Penguin: Pain and Prejudice flew woefully under the radar for most fans; fortunately, the series is now getting a second chance in this softcover collection. The premise of the book is simple: Hurwitz uses a series of flashbacks to clue us in on what turned the Penguin into one of Batman’s greatest foes. It’s a formula that has been used countless times in villain origin comics, but Hurwitz injects this cold-blooded morality tale with so much ugliness and malice that it’s sure to stick with you well after you finish reading it.
Here, Oswald Cobblepot’s early struggles as a portly youngster introduce ridicule from bullies and even members his own, mostly vile family. The only constant he has in his life is his loving mother, who becomes an integral part of the story as Oswald’s childhood progresses. As Hurwitz tells us this story, he also alternates to a present day storyline where we see the Penguin at the top of the criminal heap. His mean streak is a stark difference from the child we see early on, but as the story unfolds, you witness how one version slowly evolves into the other.
In the present we see Penguin try to eliminate his foes and competitors in brutal fashion, while also trying to woo his new blind girlfriend, who he takes to much as he did his own mother. These themes run deep, and at no point does this book resemble a superhero comic; however, that’s also what makes it work so well. From having Penguin kill off rival mobsters to slaughter members of his own family, Hurwitz gives the character an edge that will make you forget about the silly Burgess Meredith version of the character from the '60s. This new Penguin is a stone-cold sociopath with real gravitas and a volatile personality.
Adding to this story is the Szymon Kudranski's art, for which Kudranski manages to squeeze every last vile drop of atmosphere out of his pencils. There's a nightmarish quality to his illustrations that visually recalls Tim Burton’s Batman style more so than the recent comics. Pain and Prejudice is a twisted tale of revenge and abuse, both physical and mental, that paints a clear picture as to how a human can be consumed by darkness and hatred. It’s such a deep read that you won’t even notice that Batman barely is pretty much a non-factor.
Written by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)