Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Veronica and Andy Fish
A school for gifted youngsters is a classic conceit in comic books, the most famous being Charles’ Xavier’s star-crossed institution of higher learning. Hogwart’s, a spin on the old classic escapist fantasy of a school where weird is normal, is another prime example, one which quickly seeped into the cultural lexicon. The school of wizardry is even referenced in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, a time capsule of notable literary touchstones. The solicitation for Evan Dorkin’s Blackwood initially looked like a variation on a theme, which it is, but it’s one that has more in common with H.P. Lovecraft than J.K. Rowling.
The stylized visuals are arresting, as husband and wife team Andy and Veronica Fish create singular characters and faces much in the vein of Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl. Dorkin’s storyline presents us with a creepy, cemetery-strewn small town, dark magic and a sinister plot. Four new students of the non-traditional school are quickly identified as special, exhibiting some Danny Torrance-like trepidation about a certain room on the campus. These four are housed in a coincidentally very Gryffindor-esque attic setting. Halfway in, this four-issue miniseries has answered zero questions and keeps piling the mystery on. The second issue closes with an amazing reveal that the spiteful townies might not be so simple after all, and a whole lot more sinister.
Old Man Hawkeye #6
Writer: Ethan Sacks
Artist: Marco Chechetto
Ethan Sacks’ Old Man Hawkeye builds off of the original world constructed in Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan. Red Skull is in charge, almost all of the world’s heroes are dead, and much of the country is a hellish wasteland. The dire circumstances made for some amazing storytelling, and even if Old Man Logan has effectively wandered off into its own wasteland of forgettable storylines, the original setting still packs a punch. Set several years before Hawkeye and Logan set off on their ill-fated venture, Old Man Hawkeye features a Clint Barton saddled with regret and loss, reeling from survivor’s guilt and his role in vouching for the Thunderbolts, allowing them to enact part of Red Skull’s murderous plan. As his vision begins to fail, he sets off to take out the Thunderbolts and try to make things as right as he can.
Part of what makes this apocalyptic future so compelling is we get to see who survived, and what became of them. Some are hitmen for Red Skull, others have lost their minds, and some, like Kate Hudson, have continued to fight on under the radar. Everyone loves a good team-up, and Hawkeye on Hawkeye action is arguably some of the best Marvel has had to offer in recent years. Marco Chechetto’s kinetic style plays incredibly well with a particularly fast-paced showdown between the ace archers and an angry army of crazed Multiple Man/Venom clones. The arc on this 12-issue mini-series is long, and we know Barton lives long enough to team up with Logan, but the next six issues are sure to be packed with more easter eggs and surprises.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Saga is a book that doesn’t pull any punches. Even beyond the more sensational aspects of Brian K. Vaughan’s universe, which he thought would get them canceled before the fourth issue, Saga hits on a regular basis, and it hits hard. Issue #53 of Image’s cult-classic in-the-making is no exception. One of the unique traits of Saga is that almost without fail, it creates strong and often complex feelings towards the characters. The reader’s relationship with The Will is frought with sympathy as he continues to dwell on the loss of his lover, The Stalk. The irony in this is that most readers likely let loose a huge sigh of relief when she was killed early on in Saga’s storyline. Yet, her character, like so many others, continue to impact the plot. Where other stories recycle sets of tights and find new ways to resurrect, Vaughan cuts characters down, then takes the readers along for the ride as the survivors wrestle with the impact of loss.
Fiona Staples’ excellent illustration is not only in the singular characters created, but in the simplistic snapshot style of her panels. The narrative created weaves seamlessly into the dialogue, and anchors them in memory. Alana in flight, Marko facing off western-style against The Will, the images that play across Prince Robot IV’s face-monitor, even diminuitive Ghus, amusingly overloaded with ordinance and stumbling upon the remains of a missing friend, all so dense with meaning, the little text there is is almost seems superfluous. As the characters in Saga struggle to find happiness, the complexity of that pursuit continues to unspool, wrapping readers up into the story along the way.