Some more hot off the presses/hot out of the laminator library comics
Hellblazer v18 - The Gift
This is the end of Mike Carey’s run on the title. I’ve read some/most of that run in the original trades around when they came out and quite liked them. This left me rather underwhelmed. Partly because it follows on from a story I hadn’t read (where Constantine lives 40 years in a day and fathers three demon children), which is often a tad disorientating, but mostly because of the art. Aside from a fill-in by Frazer Irving (which is unusually poor) and one by Giueseppe Camuncoli (which is decent but a stylistic leap from everything else) the art’s provided by Leonardo Manco. He reminds me of Livio Ramondelli on the Transformers comics, in that he seems more interested in creating atmospheric murk rather than telling a story. There are far too many points in here where it’s not entirely clear what’s happening because Manco’s just produced panel after panel of “atmosphere” rather than clearly told the story. I get the want to make a horror comic like this look horrific, but as Camuncoli’s issue shows, you can still tell a horror story while having clear visuals.
Doctor Strange v5
This is the volume straight after Jason Aaron’s run (which I’ve not read yet) and a tie-in to Secret Empire (which I’ve also not read and probably won’t). So the odds aren’t good for it and yet… I really loved it. The main body of it at least, which is Dennis Hopeless doing a story of Strange stuck in New York, which has been covered by the Darkforce and filled with monsters. He ends up teaming with Spider-Woman, Ben Urich and Kingpin to take out Baron Mordo, who has claimed the Sanctom Sanctorum. And I know that doesn’t really sound like a good premise, but it really works. Hopeless dials back on the traditional fustiness of Strange’s manner, throwing in a bit of the dickhead approach Cumberbatch has in the movie, which makes his interaction with Jess and the others flow nicely. But there’s a still a sense of him being apart from the usual super-hero crowd, with his pragmatic attitude towards Kingpin. It works really well. I also love the new approach to Strange, with his magic diminished and having to rely on magical items (which I assume was part of Aaron’s run). I love magical trinkets and gimmicks like that and I think they often work better than Strange throwing up some hand-signs and doing some rhymes. There’s some inventive stuff in here.
And yet, this is all outshone by the artwork by Niko Henrichon, which is absolutely gorgeous. It’s clear and readable and yet still has this magnitude of detailed line-work creating monsters and creatures that are gruesome and well-lived. Coincidentally, it ends up being a perfect counter-point to Manco’s failings on Hellblazer.
There are a couple more issues written by Transformers’ John Barber, which are ok, but nothing to write home about. I wish Hopeless had done a full run with Henrichon, because it would have been great.