Harbinger Volume 1: Omega Rising: written by Joshua Dysart; illustrated by Khari Evans and others (2012): Enjoyable reboot of the early 1990’s Valiant line’s entry in the telepathic superman sweepstakes. Joshua Dysart keeps things moving while also supplying quite a bit of background and characterization, along with a likeable protagonist who does one truly awful (but understandable) thing early and then tries to make up for it ever afterwards.
Thankfully, there’s an emphasis on the science-fictional and political aspects of the whole ‘secret race of telepaths’ concept, with more traditional superhero battles taking a back seat. The art, mostly by Khari Evans, is clean and straightforward, and he seems to have a nice command of panel-to-panel continuity. Recommended.
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom: written by Mark Waid; illustrated by Chris Samnee (2012): Waid and Samnee try their hands at what I think is the first multi-issue Rocketeer storyline since late creator/writer/artist Dave Stevens’ second Rocketeer serial of the late 1980’s. Waid captures the breezy, 1930’s pulp quality of Stevens while adding a couple of new characters to the cast.
Waid also brings in yet another established pulp character to the Rocketeer’s world without ever quite naming said character due to copyright concerns (Doc Savage and his assistants Monk and Ham appeared this way in the first Rocketeer adventure, with the Shadow and his associates following suit in the second; Disney replaced Doc Savage with Howard Hughes for the 1991 Rocketeer movie). Here, it’s Doc Savage villain John Sunlight. Also dinosaurs. Samnee’s art reminds me more of Steve Rude than Dave Stevens, but that’s fine — it still looks pretty good, and pretty much period-appropriate. Recommended.
Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo: written by Joe R. Lansdale; illustrated by Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman (1993): Long-time horror and Western writer Joe Lansdale’s first outing on DC’s Western anti-hero Jonah Hex is a lot of grimy fun, with Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman supplying suitably gritty, violent visuals.
Looking to avenge the murder of a fellow bounty hunter, the disfigured Civil War veteran fights what may or may not be a supernatural threat hiding within a travelling carnival. Can the boss of the carnival actually animate the dead, or are his tricks explainable through rational means? In any event, Hex finds himself stuck between Apache raiding parties, a bounty on his head for a murder he didn’t commit, and what appears to be Zombie Wild Bill Hickok.
The Truman/Glanzman art team is squarely in the tradition of Hex’s longtime illustrator Tony deZuniga without being imitative, and as this miniseries was aimed at adults, they’re allowed a lot more leeway to depict violence and its consequences. Jonah Hex himself is, as always, oddly noble. He may have started life as a knock-off of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, but he’s his own character now. Recommended.
Tomorrow Stories Volume 2: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Melinda Gebbie, Kevin Nowlan, Jim Baikie, Rick Veitch, Hilary Barta, and others (2000-2002): One of two books in Alan Moore’s ABC Comics line of the early oughts that resurrected the anthology title, with this one leaning more heavily on comedy and pastiche than the other (Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales). Kevin Nowlan’s art on the Jack Quick series won him an Eisner Award for art, and it is a heckuva performance from an artist who doesn’t do that much pencilling.
The different strips that appeared over the course of 12 issues tended to be parodies and/or homages to either very specific antecedents (Moore and Rick Veitch’s Greyshirt is a stylistic homage to Will Eisner’s Spirit both in writing and in visuals) or more general comic-book and pop-culture sources (Jack Quick parodies ‘smart kid’ strips and books, The First American parodies patriotic superhero strips, Splash Brannigan homages both Plastic Man and the Mad comic book of the 1950’s). The Cobweb, with its sexually adventurous female crimefighter, spreads a wider net, allowing for everything from 19th century woodcuts to fumetti with talking action figures. Recommended.