The Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics are back to give you another ear-full of good quality comics talk, and this week the focus is on noir weirdness. They begin with the collected trade edition of Limbo (Image Comics). Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard’s six-issue limited series ran from November 2015 to April of this year, but last week the TPB was released. It’s the story of Clay, a cynical and world-worn detective who finds himself stuck in a strange world whose origins are a mystery. Andy W. and Derek liken this book to a voodoo-infused version of Videodrome, and the guys are particularly struck by by Wijngaard’s neon palette and his occasional metafictional page layouts.
And while Limbo injects more than enough weirdness into its noir, it’s easily rivaled by the Lovecraftian flair of Fred Van Lent and Guiu Vilanova’s Weird Detective #1 (Dark Horse Comics). The first issue in this miniseries introduces us to Detective Sebastian Greene, a heretofore mundane investigator whose recent display of uncanny abilities at detecting confound his partner, Sana Fayez, and their superiors. The strangeness is compounded by a string of unusual crimes that are sure to appeal to fans of the Great Old Ones.
Finally, Derek and Andy wrap up with a more conventional noir narrative, Andy Diggle, Angela Cruickshank, and Andrea Mutti’s Control #1 (Dynamite Entertainment). While this one doesn’t have the genre-bending, otherworldly twists of this week’s other titles, it nonetheless concerns an unfathomable dark region. Not electric voodoo or Cthulhu, but Washington, D.C. politics. At least that’s what the guys gather from this first installment in this six-issue series. As Andy and Derek point out, Diggle is an old hat at this kind of storytelling, and this helps explain why Control is perhaps the most tightly woven narrative they look at this week. And from the information found on the copyright page, this looks like a series with a promise of multiple volumes, something akin to Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal. At least the Two Guys hope.
This week Derek and Andy discuss three recent titles, each of which is part of a larger series. First, they review the third in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s Nemo trilogy, Nemo: River of Ghosts (Top Shelf). The guys begin their discussion by looking at the series as a whole — even placing the trilogy within the larger context of Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemenuniverse — and then exploring the accessibility of the text as a singular narrative. River of Ghosts certainly needs to stand alongside the first two Nemo volumes, Heart of Ice and The Roses of Berlin, but the intertextual demands imbedded in the story (and in the Nemo trilogyas a whole) are far fewer than they are in the League books. Indeed, the three-part story of Janni Dakkar, beginning in 1925 (in Heart of Ice) and wrapping up in 1987, where River of Ghosts concludes, reads more as an adventure tale to be enjoyed than as a literary text to be deciphered. Yet, the Nemo trilogy is still part of Moore’s larger narrative tapestry, and its picaresque quality adds even further dimension to the already substantive League universe. Next, the Two Guys turn to the latest series from Brian Wood, Rebels (Dark Horse). In this inaugural issue, with art by Andrea Mutti, we get a good dose of historical fiction — the New Hampshire Grants become pivotal, and Ethan Allen even makes an appearance — but in many ways it’s familiar territory to Wood. This first narrative arc’s subtitle, “A Well-Regulated Militia,” as well as the introductory premise embedded on the first page, suggest that this series may be similar to Wood’s long-running DMZ in political and cultural tone. Although that one of his favorite series from the past decade, Derek hopes that the allegorical messaging found in DMZ doesn’t become too heavy in Rebels. And Andy observes that perhaps the series will stick more closely to the kind of historically based fiction we find in Northlanders. Yet, despite a little confusion generated by the issue’s central confrontation, a class between colonials and redcoats at the village courthouse, the guys found Rebels #1 a solid read and anticipate the series to come. Andy and Derek wrap up this week’s show with a review of No Mercy #1 (Image), the new series from Alex de Campi and Carla Speed McNeil. What begins as a potentially light or trendy look at youth culture turns darker and more complex as the story develops. As de Campi makes clear in her comments at the end of this first issue, the lives and interactions of young adults are rich enough with drama without the usual genre-bendings or twists found in many contemporary narratives. There are no vampires, no otherworldly visitations, no anthropomorphic engagements. In No Mercy, we can expect to get real people from real contexts, and the story will be driven by their all-too-real desires and limitations. And in this first issue, we see de Campi and McNeil play out this premise to an uncertain, and unexpected, crescendo.
This week on The Comics Alternative, Andy Wolverton and Derek review three more new titles. First, they look at another great book from SelfMadeHero, Frederik Peeters’s Aama, Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust. This is the first of a multi-volume series from this innovative Swiss creator. The Guys discuss Peeters’s skills at world-building and his ability to get inside and flesh out his protagonist, Verloc Nim. Next they take a look at two new #1 issues: David Lapham’s Stray Bullets: Killers (Image Comics) and Jason Starr and Andrea Mutti’s The Returning (BOOM! Studios). They spend quite a bit of time discussing the return of Stray Bullets, starting with the big new Uber Alles edition — which collects the original 40 issues of Stray Bullets, plus the recent conclusion of its last story arc in issue #41 — and then moving onto the new Killer arc. They place the new title in context of the entire series and draw out similarities between it and the earlier comics. Finally, they flip through The Returning, reading it as a different twist on undead narratives. While they recognize the premise as fairly common, they hold out hope that Starr and Mutti will take their mini-series in a unique direction.