This week’s lead review for Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1, the next entry in the anthology series from IDW Originals. Plus, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!
Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1
Writer: Che Grayson
Artist: Kelsey Ramsay
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Scott Snyder’s Dark Spaces anthology line returns with Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1. Written by Che Grayson with art by Kelsey Ramsay, colors by Ronda Pattison, and letters by Shawn Lee, the first issue plants the seeds for an eerie historical thriller. Teenager Cheyenne Collins and her mother, Rebecca, move to St. Augustine, Florida in search of a fresh start, only to find terror. Simultaneously, disgraced big-city journalist Jean McKnight looks to rebuild her name, starting with a puff piece about St. Augustine’s impressively long history. This issue quickly establishes the norm for each of its leads, and then instantly breaks that consistency. This disruption of order creates instant tension.
This book does an excellent job of blending atmosphere and character work. The opening pages use heavy shadows and frightening imagery to immediately put the reader on edge. That suspense translates smoothly into ease as each character and their daily lives are introduced. It’s even easier to become attached to someone when what came before was a literal monster, and then there’s also the underlying fear that the monster is out to get them.
Ramsay and Pattison create an incredible tone with the art. There’s a level of roughness, with jagged, thick black lines populating much of the panels that create a real feeling of grime. Particular shades, like red, blue, or the pink of Cheyenne’s hair, punch through the shadows on the page. Life in St. Augustine is presented as rather banal and mundane, full of all the regular cruelties of life, and the art reflects that well with typical settings and mostly normal people. Yet personality still shines through in the quaint but slightly off-putting town.
There’s a feeling of something bubbling just beneath the surface maintained throughout the issue. The entire cast of characters feels genuine, and the situations they find themselves in feel real, even with the threat of the supernatural lurking in the background. With Dark Spaces: Good Deeds #1, Grayson and the rest of the creative team deliver a methodical, tense first issue.
Elvira in Monsterland #1
Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Kewber Baal
Colorist: Walter Pereyra
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Elvira in Monsterland #1: If you’ve enjoyed David Avallone’s Elvira titles at Dynamite Entertainment, get ready to love his latest. The premiere issue of Elvira in Monsterland is a spoopy, pop culture pinnacle of Monster Kid entertainment.
Interdimensional Spacetime Cop Agent Grant drops in on our favorite comely Queen of Cinematic Shivers as she’s watching a classic horror film, one in which a lonely Transylvanian count greets his guest from London and prepares to make a real estate transaction. Instead of the children of the night chorus howling Renfield to sleep, Vlad the Impaler appears onscreen and recruits Bela for his pan-dimensional Vampiric Army.
Vlad and Elvira have met before. The undead Voivode of Wallachia, the inspiration for Dracula in his many fictional forms, had his nefarious plans upended by the Mistress of the Dark during a previous miniseries. Now Vlad’s back, and worse, he’s acquired an artifact allowing him access across a motion picture multiverse. Now he’s enlisting vampires from movie and tv show alternate realities, rallying an undead force for purposes unknown. All fangsters are up for grabs and Elvira must cross a celluloid megaverse, outmaneuver Vlad, and save the world from being drained one neck at a time.
Avallone’s clever handling leads huntress and quarry across horror movie landscapes from classic to cultish. Along with 4th wall shattering details horror fans will recognize, he’s dropped in plenty of double entendre humor and topical satirical swipes.
Artist Kewber Baal delivers a fetching and tasteful Elvira. His renditions of familiar horror film celebs and characters border on miraculous, especially considering how maneuvering around copyrighted and Universal-ly protected imagery is key. Balance that against the estates of actors who also license likenesses and you’ll appreciate the subtle crafting both scripter and artist have done.
Think of it as a fast-paced and humorous WandaVision. The result is a first issue tapping horror film history in a fun, fannish way. Its wide-ranging eras will leave you eagerly guessing which movie- or TV-scape Elvira interacts with next. For providing that level of horror host delight, Elvira in Monsterland should be on the monthly pull lists of Monster Kids young and old.
Wednesday Comics Reviews
- Arcade Kings #1 (Image Comics): Anyone familiar with the Fighting Game Community [hereafter, FGC] can spot a series targeting their demo almost immediately. All too often, FGC-targeted books range from licensed work like Udon’s Street Fighter series to cameo homages in Scott Pilgrim and Seedless! Few and far between are new IP entering hallowed FGC territory to set up shop, but I believe what writer/artist Dylan Burnett brings to the scene is fresh and strong enough to survive today’s direct market. C’mon, Arcade Kings has hints of Super Pro K.O.!, Space Flying Tiger Driver, and Star Impact wrapped into an immersive-easy atmosphere beset with punch conflicts to invest in! In Dylan Burnett’s 40-pg opening wallop, the book starts with a manga-like lower panel count before growing into beat-heavy layouts dense with moments that liven the world, though this can compact motivations into base worries. What really brightens Arcade Kings’ world is a four artist color team consisting of Walter Baiamonte and Sara Antonellini with assists from Simona Iurato and Sharon Marino. Each and every page is painted with such intent, you can easily see how a large color team can impact Burnett’s shonen battle hatched inks. Every page has flats, shades, and highlights, but beyond using gradients, texture packs, or glows, Team Arcade Kings added keylighting, underglows, and reflected light to every panel with respect to a scene’s designed color mood! Magnificent work! Likewise, Andworld Design impacts every moment with loud, bombastic sfx that are sometimes baked into the action a la Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin. Honestly, there’s an entire catalog of graphical looks in the sfx alone, so whoever at Andworld Design was responsible [Deron Bennett himself?!] deserves their flowers. Beyond being dense with content, the only downside to Arcade Kings’ opener is the wait till the next one, so let’s run it back! —Beau Q.
- Chilling Adventures Presents: Jinx – A Cursed Life #1 (Archie Comics): The latest one-shot from the Archie Horror line, Jinx: A Cursed Life #1 by writer Magdalene Visaggio, artist Craig Cermak, colorist Ellie Wright, and legendary letterer Jack Morelli tells a single story about Satantic possession in a little town called Riverdale. When the Devil possesses Jughead, Archie trades a guitar to Jinx (rumored to be the daughter of Satan) in order to convince her to help his best friend out. Building on continuity from the Jinx: Grim Fairy Tales one-shot, this engaging issue resists shoring up the body count – a hopeful development for those of us who are dreaming of another ongoing Archie Horror title. Possessed Jughead has an interesting aesthetic (topless, with his trademark “S” carved right into the skin of his torso), the issue is filled with interesting and unusual panel layouts, and the rockin’ reveal that comes at the climax promises more musical mayhem from Jinx’s corner of the Archie Horror universe. Finally, we all know that Satanism is inextricably intertwined with Archie Comics (for just one example, the original Archie run ended at 666 issues). However, perhaps thanks in part to Visaggio’s Catholic background, we also get to see a good representation of (an attempt at) an exorcism – it actually doesn’t really go that well. I guess sometimes you have fight Satanism with Satanism, am I right? 22 Skidoo on down to your LCS and secure your copy of Jinx: A Cursed Life #1, and if you missed any of the earlier Archie Horror one-shots, mark your calendar for 8/23/23, when the Archie Horror Presents: Chilling Adventures Vol. 1 TPB will be released. —Avery Kaplan
- Disney Villains: Maleficent #1 (Dynamite): In Dynamite’s latest outing in showcasing the villains of Disney’s greatest films, the Sleeping Beauty sorceress, Maleficent, takes center stage in Disney Villains: Maleficent #1. Written and illustrated by Soo Lee, with letters from Jeff Eckleberry. Readers get a story showing how even the mightiest villains have a flaw in common those they see as beneath them will take advantage of: their arrogance. And when Maleficent herself is humiliated in such a way, she’s not one known to take that lying down. Her anger and power presented front and center in this comic do well to remind us all why she rules and why those in her realm fear her. —Bryan Reheil
- Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hyperborea #1 (Dark Horse Comics): The first issue of writer Mike Mignola and artist Jesse Lonergan’s four issue miniseries Miss Truesdale and the Fall of Hyperborea sees the creative team work to explore the identity of the titular character while looking at the past and who she is in the present. Lonergan’s art works well to carve out the mood of this story as well as controlling the pacing in interesting ways with the choice to have black panels to provide a beat of sorts between moments or words that make the reader linger. Letterer Clem Robbins moves the reader from panel to panel with smart lettering choices, especially with the way a chant has been handled, really integrating into the pages in fun ways. Mignola and Lonergan paint the picture of a warrior, a champion of the people, and a woman with power, all disadvantaged by men with power, making their lives harder as the story sets up to explore more about Miss Truesdale. —Khalid Johnson
- Star Trek: Echoes #1 (IDW Publishing): In this intriguing first issue, writer Marc Guggenheim, artist Oleg Chudakov, colorist DC Alonso and letterer Eckleberry deliver a sci-fi action story that pulls from plenty of Star Trek continuity while standing on its own thanks to an intriguing premise and excellent execution. Set between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, this tale capitalizes on the tension created by canon’s dictation that after being reinstated as the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise to deal with “The V’Ger Crisis,” Kirk is destined to reluctantly return to the rank of Admiral (which does not come with a chair). In addition to heavily pulling from the movies – including the uniforms, which only appeared onscreen in TMP – this story also features a significant callback to a specific seminal episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and a “call forward” to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Furthermore, this issue features juicy parts for more than just Kirk, with nearly every Enterprise bridge crewmember getting a chance to have a nice moment (including Doctor Chapel). I’m looking forward to the next issue of this series, and am already curious if the timeline will allow for the introduction of Saavik, an underrated and underutilized character who debuted in Khan and eventually becomes the captain of the first U.S.S. Titan. —Avery Kaplan
Read more entries in the Wednesday Comics reviews series!