This week’s main reviews are Our Bones Dust #1 and The Hellboy Winter Special – The Yule Cat #1Plus, 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!

Our Bones DustOur Bones Dust #1

Creator: Ben Stenbeck
Publisher: Image Comics

Review by Bob Proehl

Frequent Mike Mignola collaborator Ben Stenbeck steps out of the horror realm of the Mignolaverse and into sci fi with Our Bones Dust, a four-issue miniseries set at the end of humanity’s time on Earth. On a planet blighted by drought and famine, the last survivors of humanity scrape by as violent tribes, but one feral child attracts the attention of an alien robot cataloging the wreckage of human civilization. Stenbeck’s dystopia makes Mad Max look like the golden days, but his soft linework and the warm pastels of his coloring make even the most violent scenes inviting. Little touches like an old pair of sunglasses or a headdress made out of license plates keep the reader grounded in a future that might not be as far off as we think. 

Our Bones Dust

Stenbeck does an efficient job of building out his world in Our Bones Dust, bringing the reader in through the odd angle of the aliens recording humanity’s demise, and setting the hook fast with the introduction of a feral boy living on the outskirts of whatever is left of civilization. He avoids the sci fi trope of having his far-future citizens speak in weird new slang: the characters here barely speak, and when they do their language is as degraded as the world around them. The alien observers in Our Bones Dust are truly disconcerting, leaving behind any similarity to human shape or function so that when we see the beginnings of a connection between the strange observer and the child, there’s a weird thrill to it.

Our Bones Dust

Our Bones Dust is a promising first issue that takes the familiar concept of an end-days Earth and puts its own stamp on it. What could be a simple mash-up of Mad Max and WALL-E becomes something original, and the horrific twist of the last few pages signals that Stenbeck will be bringing some of his horror background into the sci fi world he’s created in Our Bones Dust.

Yule CatHellboy Winter Special: The Yule Cat #1

Written and illustrated by Matt Smith
Colors by Chris O’Halloran
Letters by Clem Robins
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Ricardo Serrano Denis

By this point, Hellboy has punched nearly every myth, legend, and tradition known to humankind. His winter special comics have proven to be a great excuse to get those few myths who’ve avoided getting a big red knuckle sandwich to the face their due. This year’s edition puts the Yule Cat up for it in a story that captures what makes these specials such a treat: they’re Hellboy stories first and Christmas yarns second. 

Written and illustrated by Matt Smith (Folklords, Hellboy in Love), The Yule Cat takes Hellboy back to 1990. He’s in Reykjavik, Iceland when he learns of certain troubling sightings involving a giant cat that harbors a sinister legend. The Jólakötturinn, or Yule Cat, eats children who failed to work hard enough to have new clothes to wear on Christmas. As it’s come to be expected in Hellboy comics, the mythical creature crosses paths with Big Red and reveals an even uglier side to the folklore it represents. Punches fly and eggnog is consumed.

There’s a very particular thing about the nature of myths and legends in Hellboy stories that’s been a staple of the series since its inception: an interest in portraying the monsters and the magic Mr. Hell faces as close to their founding versions as possible. Whereas in popular culture fairies and elves are presented as fantastical creatures with heroic qualities to serve a particular story, their actual origins point to more complex being that hide evils behind their beauties. Elves were said to be cause illnesses despite being avatars of beauty, while fairies were said to be disgruntled angels that lost their angelic titles. 

Mike Mignola set the standard from Hellboy’s first issue on regarding the treatment of folk tales and how they should be allowed to be bring in every single bit of their wonder and their horror along with them. Yule Cat is no exception. Smith does a great job of capturing this by illustrating the titular legend in a range of styles that comes off more interpretive than definitive. The cat looks regal and even adorable in some instances only to bear its fangs and turn into a dark and deadly creature the next. Smith makes sure every element of its founding story reaches the surface and it makes for a visually stunning battle in the final stretch.

Yule Cat

If there’s one thing that left me wanting, it’s that the final fight sort of just ends. It had a wonderful sense of physicality and choreography, but then it closes abruptly. It robs it somewhat of its impact, though not to the point of ruining it. If anything, it proved that the Yule Cat might’ve had one more comic in them. Since it needed to conform to single-issue length, you do get the sense a few things needed to be sacrificed for it to fit it a singular package. I for one wouldn’t have minded a two-parter. The story’s that good.

The Hellboy winter specials have been some of the best Christmas comics on the stands for the holidays for quite some time now. They do the season justice while also being stories that deepen Hellboy’s lore by not settling on throwaway tales. The Yule Cat is no exception, and it’ll warm your heart just as much as it’ll make you clutch it for fear that a giant cat will come eat you because you didn’t buy new clothes for Christmas.

Verdict: BUY

Wednesday Comics Reviews

  • Bloodrik #1 (Image Comics): Bloodrik #1 is an excellent first issue that gives a solid introduction to the titular main character, an incredibly muscular and veiny warrior that had never struggled to conquer the land and beasts alike and therein lies the challenge. In a bitterly cold snowscape, Bloodrik struggles to find prey as he grows hungry. It’s a story of a stubborn warrior’s survival and it includes a great short story about Bloodrik at the issue’s end. An interesting thing is the lens through which both stories are presented and how this colors the reader’s perception of Bloodrik and how we understand him. This issue showcases Andrew Krahnke’s visual and narrative strengths; from a distinctive visual style to page and panel layouts, each page is compelling to look at, a visual feast boasting tight line work and colors to complement it. Krahnke clearly has a strong storytelling voice and a clear understanding of the comics medium to support that voice. The strength of that comes through here on every page and I would say it is well worth your time. —Khalid Johnson
  • Creepshow Holiday Special 2023 #1 (Image Comics – Skybound): By and large, the Creepshow series of comics have been an opportunity for a variety of creators to indulge in short horror stories with grotesque imagery, shocking twists, and all the other things one loves from reading old EC Comics. Sadly, this holiday special is a bit mixed. The first story, Christmas Man, highlights an interesting idea about a holiday story that turns out to be true with some truly grotesque designs. But the story takes too long to get to the central premise, leading the resolution to feel rushed. Meanwhile Package Thieves, while a much stronger story overall, lacks the visceral imagery to completely pull off the final page reveal and leaves the ultimate conclusion off page in a way that feels unsatisfying rather than unsettling. The first story is by writer Daniel Kraus, artist Jonathan Wayshak, colorist Adriano Lucas, and letter Pat Brosseau. The second story is by writer James Asmus, artist Letizia Cadonici, colorist Francesco Segala, and letterer Brosseau. —Sean Dillon
  • Skeeters #1 (Mad Cave Studios): The buzz over at Mad Cave continues in a literal sense with the release of Skeeters, a horror comedy akin to classic and modern creature feature movies. Written by Bob Frantz and Kevin Cuffe, art by Kelly Williams, and letters by Chas! Pangburn, giant killer mosquitos from outer space terrorize a small town with only the most reluctant and underqualified individuals left to handle the outbreak and save the world. Frantz’s and Kelly’s voice for the characters of Kankakee, Virginia feel as real as any you might find in passing through a similar small town, with each given the exact right amount of dialogue and interaction to learn the right amount about each, properly leaving readers wanting more from future issues. The art and colors from Williams captures the gross and grotesque creatures as they move from victim to victim, blood splattering the panels, with impressive character and creature designs revealed in detailed splash pages. Bringing it all together are the letters from Pangburn. They work in tandem with Williams’ art, elevating it all that much further with the letters possessing their own grossness that pop off the page as the mosquito monsters beat their wings to continue feeding. —Bryan Reheil
  • Time Traveler Tales #1 (Dark Horse Comics): Hey there, Daytripper. Are you looking for a lighthearted romp through time that feels like a modernized spin on golden age comics? Time Traveler Tales with its literalized title and action first, questions never pacing feels reminiscent of early Superman works where the writer, in this case Dave Scheidt, throws us head first into adventure, and swiftly utilizes an incidental character to expound the five Ws; particularly light on emotional depth, but sets up the logistical melodrama about to unfold. Odd choice for the jump-on point to be a seemingly random adventure on Oliver’s journey, but the in media res helps accelerate us into the meat of Time Traveler Tales without too much scene-setting. Where Oliver’s non-twisty tale shines is in the art with Kelly and Nichole Matthews (aka Kicking Shoes) at the helm. With childish whimsy and solid cartooning, Oliver feels fully fleshed out as a design even if he’s a bit wooden as a protagonist. Kicking Shoes uses soft, lower opacity gradients and red shadows to saturate Oliver’s world into a warmer, cozier existence, which overtime equates to a reliance on color backdrops to isolate scene elements and a lessening of background detail as a tool to charm readers. While letterer Joamette Gil does a bang-up job punching colorful sfx into Kicking Shoes’ palette range, I’d wished she used dialogue splits earlier than the book’s midpoint, because some early panels stuff all their dialogue in a single balloon, which is odd given the large amount of negative space present. If a modernized golden age romp through time is up your alley, give it a go! I for one am eager to see when and where we’re off to next! —Beau Q.

The Prog Report

  • 2000AD Prog 2361 (Rebellion Publishing): This week marks the end of the two-part lead story, Judge Dredd: Clanker. And it’s a fun one, written by Ken Niemand, with art by Nick Dyer, colors by John Charles, and letters by Annie Parkhouse. Obviously, there’s the usual ideas about how to approach law enforcement here, but the robot main character(s) also give it a nice layer of questions about AI. That said, what I think is really clever about this two-parter is the captioning of the inner-monologue, which self-edits itself at times to great comedic effect. On top of that, the art looks great and the story hums right along, making for a fun and brief little story that I enjoyed a good deal. As always, you can nab a copy of this week’s Prog here.  —Zack Quaintance

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