THIS WEEK: Basketful of Heads #6 is the penultimate issue of the first Hill House title, and it delivers a fell swoop of campy ’70s slasher escapism that just feels so welcome right now.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Joe Hill
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Deron Bennett
There’s a lot to like about Basketful of Heads, which launched last year as the inaugural title for DC’s Hill House horror comics imprint. First and foremost, there’s the artwork by the Italian illustrator Leomacs, which just so perfectly captures the sort of campy, ’70s slasher movie vibe that this story is steeped in, from its setting on an island primarily known as a summer getaway to its on the nose title. That brings me to the second quality of this book that I really really like — it’s a comic called Basketful of Heads, and it is 100 percent a story about a basketful of actual heads. Severed heads that bicker amongst each other, at that.
This is excellent work all around, speaking to what monthly comics do better (in my opinion) than any other medium — they give creators a lower threshold of investment for creations, which in turn enables the greenlight for ideas and concepts that are over-the-top, absurd, and just plain fun to write, draw, read, experience. That’s certainly what we get here with Basketful of Heads #6. We get characters who are now just heads in a basket. We get more heads lopped off, and we get new threats who (we can probably safely assume) will also head up on the business end of a head lopping after a dramatic struggle.
That’s really been the ebb and flow of the entire series. Our protagonist gets put into a new dangerous situation against a new antagonist. Dramatic struggle ensues. Head gets lopped. New head gets added to the basket. It’s a simple beating heart that serves the larger narrative of this comic well, and we get more of that larger narrative again in this issue. See beside being about a basketful of heads, this is also a story of small town corruption, of cops versus robbers, and of a young woman swept up in it and doing her best to chop her way back out with a magical ax.
Writer Joe Hill (for whom the Hill House imprint is named) does a great job of making the pattern entertaining, of writing to the campy ’70s slasher vibe Leomacs builds into the art, and of pushing forward the story. At times in this issue, I felt like an end was coming up, but I was relieved to find the plotting was giving itself a bit more runway to plot a bigger finale. We’ll talk more about this in the next section, but I’d have to put the conclusion of Basketful of Heads among the things I’m most looking forward to when life stabilizes and the comics industry finds its way to bring these stories back into all of our lives.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Brad Walker
Inker: Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Detective Comics #1021 was a perfectly fine Batman comic. It featured some pretty standard Batman-ing, some great (if not familiar) character work around Two Face and the dichotomy of his faces, and it was brought to life by one of the best teams to have worked on Detective Comics #1021 of late — artist Brad Walker and Andrew Hennessy. Is it a comic I’ll remember in the years (or even months) to come? Most likely not, but it was a fine way to spend about 20 minutes, especially with all that’s going on in the world. It was a nice bit of superhero escapism, cadged in characters and ideas I’ve been escaping into for the better part of my life.
It occurred to me while reading this comic, however, that for the first time in my life, I’m not entirely sure that there will be a new issue of Detective Comics coming next month. To be fair, there have been months without Detective Comics in the past (I think). But those have (to my memory) always been deliberate or promotional, or the result of a delay in work…in other words, they’ve been caused by the actions of comics folk, doing familiar comics things. I’ve never really wondered whether Detective Comics (and even Batman, really) would be on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
After finishing this month’s story — which ends with Two Face unloading a whole bunch of bullets on Batman and an editorial promise of “Next: Joker in the Deck!” spelled out in ghoulish purple and yellow font — there’s no iron clad certainty that April will bring the continuation of this. There’s not a whole lot of certainty for any of us in what April will bring at the moment, with the coronavirus pandemic confining us to our homes as public health officials at the highest level warn that this could take longer to stop than any of us realize. Diamond Comics Distribution — the sole distribution outfit for basically the entire monthly comics industry — is not taking new product in from printers, the company has announced.
The smoke certainly hasn’t settled on this much at all (DC may announce it’s still going to sell product digitally during the crisis by the time this post goes live on Wednesday morning, in fact…we just don’t know yet), and there will always be people making comics and other people buying them. What form that takes, however, might now be evolving. There will be something, though, and I don’t think it will be all that different from what we have now. People will rally together, the industry is small and close-knit — we’ll be there for each other and we’ll get through it. Still, the very future of Batman’s ongoing stories being put in question (even if temporarily) really speaks to just how thoroughly American life is being upended by this deadly and serious threat, far deadlier than even a team-up between Two Face and The Joker, and it should be treated that way. End of digression.
- So, Batgirl #45 with its artwork by Carmine Di Giandomenico is a well-illustrated comic, but what really makes it wonderful to look at is the color work by Jordie Bellaire. Great stuff. Oh! And Batwoman appears in this one…here’s hoping she sticks around in this title for a while.
- Action Comics #1021 wraps up what’s been an odd arc for this comic, with it working in part to remind us Leviathan is still a big thing for Superman while also crossing over with the Legion of Doom/Justice War stuff from the wider DC Universe. The best part, though, is the brief Connor and Clark interaction, which if solicits are to believed will be the entire focus of next issue…once it gets to us.
- Ram V. as co-writer has really brought a nice new almost-poetic sensibility to the writing in Justice League Dark. I’d personally cut him loose and give him this title solo. Hell, I’m such a fan of the guy’s work (These Savage Shores, especially), that if I were at DC, I’d push to sign him exclusive, like now.
- Apparently in Batman/Superman #8, they undid the destruction of Kandor? Jeez, that was quick! This comic is a nice read (Nick Derington artwork!), but it leaves the city in a pretty weird place, with like half of them crazed from the Lazarus Pit and now in space with Zod…I think? I like Kandor intact; and I thought its destruction was well done. I’m not really so excited about the half-dead in between space idea, though. Here’s hoping this one gets clarified at some point (relatively) soon.
- Hey, Wonder Woman #754 was a good read! While I’m excited for the new big name creative team of Mariko Tamaki and Mikel Janin, but it’s a shame writer Steve Orlando never got a chance for a prolonged run with this character. All his work on this book was strong. With top-tier art, I think he really could have told some nice stories.
- Finally, regardless of what happens with DC Comics, or the wider industry, or even the wider world for now — we’ll be back here every Wednesday with the DC Round-Up. Granted, we might do something like rehash some of our favorite stories from DC history, but nonetheless, we shall persist. Here’s hoping you’ll come back to join us throughout this this crisis on our real earth!
- Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!