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 December 5, 2012.
Hellboy in Hell #1
What it’s about: First, let's play catch-up: Shortly after finding out that he's a direct descendant of King Arthur, Hellboy was killed when Nimue—the famous “Lady of the Lake” from Arthurian legend—ripped his heart right out of his chest. Now Mike Mignola has returned as the writer and artist behind Hellboy in Hell, a new series covering the character's journeys in the afterlife as he arrives at the outer banks of damnation in the opening pages.
In this first issue, Hellboy squares off against some familiar foes, wanders around a dark abyss, and receives guidance from an otherworldly spirit in an homage to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. There's even a great little scene where Hellboy witnesses a puppet show rendition of A Christmas Carol that hints at what to expect from this title moving forward.
As usual, Mignola fills this installment with Gothic action, a loaded atmosphere, and a little humor along the way. In terms of story, Hellboy in Hell #1 is an onslaught of exposition and action that is used to set up the series as a whole, rather than attempting to tell a complete story itself. And as the saga's first chapter, this issue works to get us intrigued for what is to come.
More impressive than Mignola’s script is his artwork. Bringing his trademark heavily-shaded style that blends German expressionism with pop art, Mignola absolutely nails every page here. His figures are appropriately grotesque and Gothic, while his backgrounds look like the lovechild of Jack Kirby and Fritz Lang. Unlike the homogenized pin-up art that saturates many high-profile comic books, this is a mainstream title with a truly unique vision that you won’t find anywhere else.
Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm #4
What it’s about: In the debut issue of Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm, the moon is destroyed and the ape and human civilizations are thrown into virtual Armageddon. Two issues later, society is broken and lawlessness rules the land. It’s ape against man, ape against ape, and everyone for themselves in this action-packed miniseries.
What to expect this month: The chaos continues as Earth is hurdled further into anarchy and destruction as flooding and fires have overtaken ape cities everywhere. As violence reigns, ape society begins to turn on itself as the population grows more desperate. But nothing is as it seems as Dr. Zaius makes a shocking discovery about Brother Corvin, who turns out to be a part of the mutant society from 1970’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
For Planet of the Apes film buffs, this issue is a love letter to the movies that also expands the universe of the classic series. Writers Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman perfectly blend the social commentary that the Apes universe is built on, while also simply putting out an entertaining read. They've created a believable ape world that shares some of the very problems that we see in our society every day, which serves to add to the impact of the chaos going on around it.
Damian Couceiro's art also serves the story well by bringing the classic Apes mise-en-scène to the page. The fashion, architecture, and character designs are all recreated nicely here for this story. We just wish that Couceiro would widen his scope and not depend on so many multi-panel layouts. A splash page or full-page spread would do a lot to really bring the scope of the story into focus. Still, for any Apes aficionado, Cataclysm is a solid read that helps enrich the mythology.
What it’s about: With DC pumping out close to a dozen superhero team-up books and Marvel slapping the word “Avengers” on nearly every title it can get its hands on, the thought of another group of superheroes joining forces isn't all that enticing. But when something as good as Masks comes out, we put our prejudices aside.
Produced by Dynamite Entertainment, Masks puts pulp heroes from the Golden Age like the Green Hornet, the Shadow, and the Spider on one team to fight off political corruption. Really, the plot is as simple as that.
However, while the story may seem a bit thin, this issue is completely painted from cover to cover by the legendary Alex Ross. Anyone who knows Ross’ work knows what he can bring to a book, and in Masks we see him mix 1930’s nostalgia with cinematic action and seamless storytelling. He's the Norman Rockwell of comics, and his talents are on full display here. From the opening pages, Ross brings a mythic presence to heroes like the Green Hornet and the Shadow by illustrating them less like masked vigilantes and more like Spandex-clad gods. The detail here is impeccable. Ross gives everything a nostalgic feel, right down to the architecture and fashion.
The script by Chris Roberson follows that Golden Age feel as well. This isn’t about complicated continuities or complex social commentary—Masks is a simple story of good rising up against evil. The heroes are unwavering in their dedication to justice, while the crooked politicians and policeman are completely evil without a single redeeming quality. This is a gorgeously painted throwback to the comic book industry before it became a billion-dollar business. It’s a simple, yet effective, story with some of the best art you’ll see all year. Even if yo've never heard of the Shadow, the Spider, or the Green Hornet, you’ll still likely find something to root for here.
Written by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)