I recently decided to look again at Hickman's early standalone tales, save for Nighty News / Pax Romana because I remember those a bit too well. (Might revisit them when Frontier has come out next year)
A Red Mass for Mars
I remember not being too taken with this first time around, this time? It worked better in that I liked the notion of civilisation being upheld by an incredibly uncivilised, despotic individual. An individual for whom a last, unwinnable battle save by him fighting to the death would represent that which he could never refuse and so it proves. This was also Hickman's first collaboration with Bodenheim.
The Red Wing
This one still isn't a complete success for me but I still really like the central idea of a time war, even if the entire story eludes my grasp completely. Pitarra's art is excellent too. He and Hickman would go on to do the rather too bleakly cynical for my liking, Manhattan Projects.
This is the story that was most improved for me. On the one hand it has Hickman's signature design aesthetics all over it, but on the other it was his first real collaboration with an artist, in this case Ringuet. What I missed first time round was a very dark strand of gallows humour, coupled with riffing on superheroes. There's some very funny (and equally bleak) jokes here. It has the same density as Pax Romana and Nightly News, so like them it does an awful lot with the space it has. I enjoyed this quite a bit more this time around.
And now a new one:
For a time, like their most recent collaboration, The Dead and the Dying, some would have wondered if this would ever be finished. It certainly went up in the air for quite some time, but such is the benefit of reading the trade that none of that matters.
A 7-issue story, this is a step up in ambition for these standalone tales. And what is it? Well, it's certainly a genre-splicer, throwing in pieces of noir, corporate warfare, espionage and gangsters into a blender and hitting max setting. Bodenheim's art is generally excellent but it's the clever use of colour and black and white that really sets this one apart. Hickman too seems to be experimenting with taking his fractured style a few steps further, so the reader gets all manner of story puzzle pieces thrown at them, and then, issue by issue, the image begins to coalesce.
Like his other books there's a distinct design aesthetic to the structure and chapter headings and end pages too.
I found this to be an excellent mystery read, though overall it defies easy categorisation. That said, I got it for a bargain cost of £2.93 so I can't really be that harsh on it. Definitely worth a look if you're after something different.
And now? Now The Black Monday Murders: Volume 1: Mammon beckons....
EDIT: Knew there was something I forgot! @njerry my copy of Spirits of the Dead has arrived! Damn, it's a nice book, I don't mind paying £13-14 for a volume like this. Looks to be an excellent read too. Thanks for the tip-off.
Talking of Corben, anyone read his Rat God?