Quick comic comments: Oni previews

An Oni Press preview pack came in the mail the other day, and there’s lots of interesting stuff that should appeal to a variety of tastes.

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In The Damned, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt have concocted a slick fusion of gangster drama and supernatural horror. Prohibition-era gangsters answer to demonic dons, and a shaky peace treaty among three of the leading families is about to go up in smoke. A key player in the alliance has disappeared, and Big Al Aligheri puts down-on-his-luck Eddie on the case.

Of course, he has to resurrect Eddie first. Eddie’s run of bad luck is a little more extreme than average. Thanks to a curse, he can’t really die, though there’s no shortage of people who want to put that curse to the test.

What follows structurally is a fairly standard tour of lowlifes – hit men, sub-bosses, molls, and hookers – with the occasional demon thrown in for variety. The demons fit right in, and Bunn and Hurtt are actually rather cautious in the way they embroider the mob story with supernatural elements. Given the similarity of motive among mobsters and devils (profiting off of people’s baser instincts and weaknesses), the fusion is a natural one.

Bunn has a good ear for the tough-guy vernacular of his cast. The construction of the story is solid, and there are some nice twists in the 48-page first issue. Hurtt’s illustrations hit the right notes along the way.

I’ll never be a fan of mob drama. Watching horrible people do horrible things for profit isn’t ever going to be my cup of tea. But the suggestion in The Damned that the devil is literally making them do it helps things go down easier.

(The Damned comes to comic shops Oct. 18. A 23-page preview is up at Oni’s web site. According to Bunn, the book is initially planned as a five-issue mini-series with the possibility of a subsequent ongoing, depending on reader response.)

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I picked up the first issue of Local when it came out, and while I was intrigued by the idea behind it, the actual comic seemed a little slight to read in individual chapters. Brian Wood’s script was fluid, and Ryan Kelly’s art was appealing, but as a comic, it didn’t seem like quite enough.

The sixth issue doesn’t do anything to change my opinion, but it doesn’t diminish my level of interest in a potential collection either. I’m a sucker for graphic novels with a strong sense of place, and Local certainly has that.

But wow, is the lead character tough to like. In the two issues I’ve read, the pattern seems to be that Megan comes to a new city, makes bad choices, and leaves when she’s alienated enough of the people around her to make staying intolerable. That’s kind of a tough sell for me, though Kelly’s detailed and evocative art goes provides plenty of diversion.

(Local 6 comes out this week. You can find out a lot more about the title at its blog.)

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I didn’t need a preview to be excited about the third installment of Scott Chantler’s period adventure, Northwest Passage. For those who haven’t been following along, the book is set in colonial Canada with competing forces trying to chart the future and secure the trade of Rupert’s Land. A small band of colonists and explorers is struggling to reclaim their fort from ruthless invaders.

Chantler packs the book with action, and he layers it with plenty of interpersonal conflicts. Everyone in the large cast of characters gets a moment to shine as the tension builds. Twists and turns pile up without ever derailing the story. And Chantler’s art is as snappy and stylish as ever. All of the elements come together to make a tremendously entertaining comic.

But Chantler also leaves enough plot points unresolved to promise equally entertaining sequels. The story that concludes is satisfying in its own right, but it’s definitely left me wanting to see more of these characters and their world.

(The third volume should be out soon, though I can’t find a precise date. I hope Oni puts together an attractive omnibus edition of this, because I think librarians would go nuts for it.)

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Okay, maybe those weren’t exactly quick comments, were they?

3 Responses to Quick comic comments: Oni previews

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey David,

    Thanks for your continued support of NORTHWEST PASSAGE. Glad you’ve been digging it, and thanks for helping to get the word out about all three volumes as they’ve appeared.

    – Scott Chantler

  2. David Welsh says:

    No problem! It really has been one of my favorite books of the year.

  3. […] terrific historical adventure, Northwest Passage. I’ve already reviewed the hell out of this series, so I’ll link instead of repeating myself. (Page […]

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