For our latest round-up of mainstream digital comics from the awesome guys at the Paradox Comics Group, they take a look at Kill Or Be Killed, Southern Bastards, Hulk, Hawekeye and Black Hammer.
KILL OR BE KILLED #5
Publisher: Image Writer: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
Matt C: Just how far do you take a journey with an unreliable narrator before you start believing what he’s saying is the absolute truth? There’s clearly something very off about what Dylan Cross is telling us here – and what he’s telling us we’re seeing may not be the whole story – but there’s something undeniably compelling about his monologue, the hard truths he picks up on are illuminating but also disconcerting, because we could be sympathising with a murderous maniac who’s imagining a demon is telling him to kill people (and remember who we’re getting our info on their misdeeds from?). I could be way off base with the assumptions I’m making here, or I could be totally on the money, but that’s part of the brilliance of this series, that at this stage it’s possible to interpret what’s going on in different ways. That’s scripting par excellence and with Phillips and Breitwesier matching Brubaker’s narrative ingenuity with some phenomenal artwork, it’s pretty much flawless. Which is kind of what you except from these guys, but it still takes your breath away when they do it so often.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #16
Publisher: Image Writer: Jason Aaron Art: Jason Latour Price: $2.99 from ComiXology
James R: Down in Craw County, things are beginning to fall apart for Coach Boss. In an attempt to turn around the fortunes of the Running Rebs, he resorts to some drastic and downright unsportsmanly conduct with the most dangerous member of the Rebs’ next opponents. If you’ve been reading Southern Bastards from the start, this issue packs a double hit – not only do Coach Boss’ actions make for a magnetic read, but how they mirror his own childhood trauma makes it harrowing. Aaron paints a picture of a man wholly corrupted and lost, and it’s magnificent. Jason Latour’s art is phenomenal as always, and it’s great to see him bring a new character to life in the shape of Colonel Quick McLusky (and his monkey!) Still one of the best books being published, Southern Bastards continues to give the opposition no quarter.
Publisher: Marvel Writer: Mariko Tamaki Art: Nico Leon, Dalibor Talajic & Matt Milla Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
Stewart R: Congratulations to Tamaki here for building on the promising debut, delving further into the mental health issues of Jennifer Walters and holding back on the superheroics. Through two issues there have been conversations, interactions, musings and anxious mental wobblings, but barely a punching or pummelling in sight. The relative instability of depression is summed up perfectly here as Jen accomplishes much and enjoys her day to day life until the most unexpected of situations thrusts her into a PTSD episode and causes peripheral trouble for her as a result. Tamaki and Leon are really selling Jen’s fear of ‘hulking out’ as she attempts to pacify the anger that is trying to escape her and the anticipation on seeing just what type of personality She-Hulk might manifest when the transformation eventually happens is building all the time. Two issues in and Hulk is an essential current Marvel title.
Publisher: Marvel Writer: Kelly Thompson Art: Leonardo Romero & Jordie Bellaire Price: $3.99 from ComiXology
Matt C: Clearly the creative team have hit the ground running here. An impressive debut is followed by an exuberant second issue that captures the spirit of the recent volumes of Hawkeye perfectly so it feels like a continuation of what’s come before rather than a jolting ‘new direction’. That’s not to say the creative team aren’t making this their own, because Thompson has blatantly got a bead on Kate Bishop – how she operates, how she interacts with others, how she can worm her way into the hearts of everyone she runs into – and Romero visually acknowledges the work Aja and Perez have done before without losing any of his own stylistic verve. And of course Jordie Bellaire brings every panel to colourful life, her workaholic tendencies not diminishing her skill one iota. This series is confirming what many of us suspected: Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye doesn’t need the help of her more famous namesake to shine.
BLACK HAMMER GIANT-SIZED ANNUAL
Publisher: Dark Horse Writer: Jeff Lemire Art: Various Price: $5.99 from ComiXology
James R: This was the book that I was most looking forward to this week, and it didn’t disappoint. The Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual is a showcase for some of the brightest talents in the industry to add their slant on Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s perfectly spun superhero tale. This one-off acts as a stop-gap between arcs of the monthly book, but it’s still required reading for us avowed fans of the title. Colonel Weird tracks an unusual creature through the Para-Zone, and in doing so affords us the chance to see each of the story’s protagonists before they became banished from Spiral City. Colonel Weird is quickly becoming my favourite character in the series – like a frazzled Doctor Manhattan, aware of the fixed nature of time and the tragedy of not being able to change the events that shape our lives, and it was great that Lemire chose him as the pivot for this tale. Every artist involved brings their A-game, and it’s a beautiful book to read. Annuals can sometimes feel like cash-ins, or afterthoughts, but this one is an essential read, adding to the Black Hammer mythos, and it’s a joy to see so much talent over 40 pages.