This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is Where Monsters Lie #1, a new (hilarious) book from Kyle Starks, Piotr Kowalski, and team. In addition, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s and finales from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!
Where Monsters Lie #1
Writer: Kyle Starks
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Joshua Reed
Cover Artists: Piotr Kowalski & Vladimir Popov
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
What if the world’s most notorious serial killers all lived together in a gated community, away from the prying eyes of the authorities who’re out to stop them? It’s the sort of high concept that practically begs for further exploration, and Where Monsters Lie, the new miniseries from writer Kyle Starks, artist Piotr Kowalski, colorist Vladimir Popov, and letterer Joshua Reed, sets out to do just that. The first issue of the series introduces readers to the residents of Wilmhurst in glorious fashion, just in time for everything to go wrong.
Starks is no stranger to books with large casts of oddball characters. Previous titles he’s written like Assassin Nation and The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton have focused on groups of assassins and movie stuntpeople, respectively, and the dynamics between the different large personalities represented within. Where Monsters Lie is no different, as Starks quickly establishes the hierarchy of responsibility in the community and the role each member of it plays. A community meeting introduces all of the residents effectively, the combination of Starks’s dialogue and Kowalski and Popov’s visuals immediately telling readers everything they need to know about these characters. There’s a lot of setup to do here, and the creative team does it efficiently and effortlessly before getting into the meat of the issue: community politics and the interpersonal relationships between murderers.
Where Monsters Lie stars a cast of, well, monsters, characters who are terrifying and who commit horrific acts of violence within the issue’s first few pages. The juxtaposition of those characters with a domestic, neighborhood setting is absolutely hysterical, as community leader Zel scolds a serial killer dressed as a clown for violating HOA rules by leaving his trash cans visible outside, and verbally spars with another resident about having an unexpected visitor that could throw the balance of the whole neighborhood out of whack. There’s no shortage of laugh-out-loud moments in this issue, made all the funnier when you consider who these characters are and what their hobbies are.
The success of the horror and the comedy of this issue is due in large part to the strength of Kowalski and Popov’s artwork. Kowalski’s linework beautifully captures at once the horrific nature of the characters and the absurdity of their living situation, which is driven home by Popov’s colors, green lawns and bushes and a bright blue sky surrounding characters who would be much more at home in the dark. Beyond the opening violence there are a lot of dialogue-heavy sequences in this issue, and Kowalski and Popov’s storytelling abilities are more than up for the task of keeping those pages visually interesting and compelling.
Where Monsters Lie #1 is a fantastic start to the series from a creative team playing to their strengths and executing remarkably. The cliffhanger that closes the issue is sure to shake things up for the series in an entertaining way going forward, and it’ll be interesting to see how things play out over the course of the next few issues. If you’re looking for a comic that’s a lot of fun, extremely dark, and just all-around really well done, Where Monsters Lie is it.
Blood Tree #1
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Maxim Samic
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: Image Comics
A winged corpse plummets out of the heavens and into the middle of fifth avenue calling the St. Patrick’s parade to a halt and spurring Detective Azzaro into investigating the source of the mutilated corpse in Blood Tree #1 by Peter. J Tomasi, Maxim Samic, John Kalisz, and Rob Leigh.
This first issue establishes familiar procedural story beats – visits to the coroner’s examination table, interviews with witnesses and others associated with the investigation, the power dynamics of police bureaucracies, and the intersection between political power and policing in America – but what makes Blood Tree #1 a title worth sticking with is Tomasi’s ability to flesh out the richness of the characters’ lives in the brief interactions they have with one another. Investigating the location from off of which the corpse was launched, Azzaro and his partner engage in benign banter. Returning home from a political dinner, Azzaro and his wife express their gratitude for one another and plan an amorous liaison. These are characters with interior lives and relationships that existed before the pages of Blood Tree #1 ever opened, but I’d wager that the established certainties of Azzaro’s life, the stability of his life at home and in the station, may be what’s at stake as the series continues.
A unnamed figure injects an unconscious woman with a psychotropic drug and a second angelic corpse is delivered into the story. The domestic setting of the opening, which establishes Azzaro’s easy rapport with his son as the two flush a dead goldfish, bookends the end of the issue with Azzaro and his partner watching their son bury another fish in the back garden. Here it’s remarked upon that, while morbid, young boys do grow out of their fascination with death and its rituals, although perhaps not so for the unnamed antagonist who fills in the names of the two deceased “angels” on the branches of a white tree. Serial killer or religious zealot? What motivates this strange and dramatic disposal of bodies? What might Azzaro lose in his pursuit of answers? Blood Tree #1 is a strong opening from a surehanded creative team, a recognisable procedural structure with an intriguing mystery, that will hopefully bear fruit.
Wednesday Comics Reviews Quick Hits
- Almighty #1 (Image Comics): Almighty promises a violent road trip with the goal of getting a girl home as writer/artist Edward Laroche presents a dystopian American wasteland through some breathtaking landscapes and gnarly images of violence and its aftermath; his use of spot blacks creates a weight and mood that are complemented by the warm colors of Brad Simpson and the letters of Jaymes Reed. This first issue sets up layers of intrigue around the girl and her potential savior Fale as they begin their journey, offering moments of vulnerability and humanity amidst a world that seems so devoid of it; a welcome juxtaposition in what looks to be a bloody adventure. –Khalid Johnson
- Black Tape #1 (AWA Studios): AWA’s Black Tape premieres with a bang as loud as the last show that rock and roll legend Jack King played before his mysterious death, leaving his wife Cindy to pick up the pieces. Written by Dan Panosian with art by Dalibor Talajić, colors by Ive Svorcina, and letters from Steve Wands, Black Tape offers a look inside the music industry after the death of a major talent leaves the opportunity for a big payday if they can just convince the grieving widow to sign over the rights. In the midst of dealing with conflicting and greedy interests and her husband’s sudden death, Cindy discovers a dark secret about her late husband that is sure to change everything she thought she knew about him. Ending on a climactic cliffhanger, Black Tape sets the stage for what is sure to be a (eternally) damned good time. –Bryan Reheil
- Breath of Shadows #1 (IDW Publishing): A horror story wrapped in night terrors of addiction and sacrifice to the cult of celebrity gives this title from writer Rich Douek, artist/colorist Alex Cormack, and letterer Justin Birch its soul. The soul most at risk belongs to Jimmy Meadows, lead singer and master lyricist. His band, The Shades, are on the downward side of multiple chart-topping gold records and on a deadline for catching rock in a bottle once more. Pressure to deliver from their label as well as from Jimmy’s bandmates does nothing to keep the junk out of Jimmy’s veins. Perhaps a process of ending addiction, written by another creative spirit equally conflicted, will provide the solution. Shamanic rituals and hallucinogens, though, could instead be a conduit for living nightmares, not dreams. IDW’s Breath of Shadows #1 blends the allure and dangers of chemically enhanced mid-1960s rock and roll with the horror novel mystique of an author whose work may be more chronicle than creative writing. The introduction of a large cast with conflicting goals is handled smoothly in this premiere. Tragic Summer of Love vibes loom over every page. If the chills and era of films like Rosemary’s Baby appeal to you, this new horror offering deserves a needle-drop onto its opening track. –Clyde Hall
- Tales From Nottingham #1 (Mad Cave Studios): I don’t have many nice things to say about the issue. However, I can find some good in almost any story where Catholic crusaders play an antagonistic role, so I will take a tip from my therapist and begin this blurb with what the tie-in issue for David Hazan and Shane Connery Volk’s Nottingham series did right. First, 2018 Ringo Award-nominee Justin Birch is a dynamic and experienced letterer who uses a variety of word balloons and fonts to help guide the reader through Hazan’s lengthy and detailed text. Second, while this type of historical fiction isn’t for me and feels different from the main series, I think some readers will enjoy the comic’s basis in real historical events (learn about Richard I and Conrad of Montferrat before diving in by clicking on the hyperlinks). Now to the bad, and the ugly: (1) While I enjoy Luca Romano’s coloring, I think this book would have looked amazing in black and white, especially with its heavy use of inks and crosshatch-light style (not sure if that’s thanks to Romano or Volk, but I dig it); and (2) where are the female creators? This story centers on a woman of color, and well, a woman on the creative team would have added to the storytelling. –Rebecca Oliver Kaplan
- Young Hellboy: Assault on Castle Death #4 (Dark Horse Comics): In this finale, Hellboy fever-dreams himself on an adventure with Lobster Johnson, during which he is called the Red Crab. It’s amazing. This is the second Young Hellboy comic, and the one is just silly enough while still cohering to the shared universe. I love these books. More Young Hellboy adventures ASAP, please. –Zack Quaintance
Wednesday Comics is edited by Zack Quaintance.
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