December 13th, 2023
Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees
The second issue of writer/artist Patrick Horvath's "Beneath the Trees" is as charming and chilling as the first. The sleepy town of Woodbrook is reeling from the grisly conclusion of issue #1. Fear and paranoia strain the bonds of the community; neighbors look at each other with suspicion, wondering who could have done this, and who will be next. None are more vocal than Cherry Gherkins, the local Karen, who is quick to make accusations. While she points the finger in all the wrong places, our principled murderer, Sam, begins to play detective. She needs this indiscreet killer gone before her own crimes come to light. Many scenes and characters in this book will be familiar to anyone who has consumed small-town murder mysteries and serial killer procedurals. There’s the put-upon and implacable sheriff, an unproductive town hall, and the community turning on itself. It’s a testament to Horvath's skill that so many familiar tropes play out as natural and satisfying turns of the story. The Richard Scarry meets Dexter style continues to charm.
Batman: Gargoyle of Gotham #2
The second installment of Grampa’s "Gargoyle of Gotham" finally arrives, and it's worth the wait. The twisted psychology of Bryce Wayne stays front and center as we delve deeper into his past. Grandpa does the impossible and revisits the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne to put a new dimension on the events of that night rather than simply repeat them, dropping pearls and all. While Batman and Jim Gordon investigate the multiple threats to Gotham, tensions are rising on the streets as many question the power and privilege of men like Bruce. The city is becoming a figurative and literal powder keg, furthering our hero's commitment to killing his past self to fully become Batman. Arkham Asylum and its long-defunct children's ward are at the center of this series' mysteries, so Detective Gordon takes a look at some former patients, starting with one Bruce Wayne.
Hill and Ferguson’s "Blade" has the pacing, sense of style, and imaginative set pieces of a great action movie. In this issue, they stick the landing on another trope of the genre: the training montage. After his defeat at the hands of the Adana, Blade experiences being humbled, so much so that he enters the Tomb of Dracula to learn how to be a true vampire. The reader gets plenty of action as Blade’s new mentor puts him to the test, but this issue deserves extra credit for its writing. Making a mentor of Dracula isn’t easy for the daywalker; he is a stubborn student who has an understandably hard time trusting the word of the notorious vampire. Little by little, he is shown how alike he and Vlad, or the living man he used to be, are: warriors killing for a cause, driven by rage and righteousness. Blade looks within himself to see the monster he has always feared, ready to control the dark power rather than be controlled by it. This one ends on another exciting cliffhanger, promising a crossover with one of my other favorite titles in Marvel's current lineup.
Spider-Gwen: Smash #1
Gwen is brought back to her home dimension of Earth-65 in this fun new solo run! Given to us by Melissa Flores, Enid Balam, and Elisabetta D'amico, Gwen’s band, "The Mary Janes," is going on tour, but not without all the complications that come with being a Spider-Person on Gwen’s end. A very enjoyable and grounded story, this issue shows Ghost-Spider getting canceled online, Gwen taking on a hulk variant with the help of a mutant, the pressure of being on tour, and more! It’s great to finally see Gwen getting a break from being dragged across the multiverse, and this debut issue has me excited to follow her new run! The art by Balam and D’amico really sells the energy this run goes for with simple but bold character designs and striking visuals. My favorite moment in this issue was the conversation between Gwen and her dad, who is always ready to offer words of support to his daughter, who he can tell is being stretched too thin. This book was a blast and is an especially good gift for any new Spider-Gwen fans, with “Across the Spider-Verse” releasing earlier this year. So, grab a copy right now!
The insanely talented Jeehyung Lee has delivered ‘Gumaa,’ a wicked urban fantasy with breathtaking visuals. As this is a first issue, it spends most of its time building the world and giving you questions; however, the horror elements and dark narrative are sure to keep your eyes glued to the pages as you lose yourself in the deeply intriguing (and disturbing) story. We follow Marsha, a mother who is hoping to leave her life as a prostitute and addict behind by paying her dues to the people who have enslaved her and rescue her daughter. Set in a city where demon-like entities wander the street, this story offers a bit of everything a horror/mystery fan could want from a series. Jeehyung is a fantastic illustrator, and as much as I enjoyed the writing and ambiance in this book, the art is hands down the selling point. Everything is wonderfully illustrated and does so much to immerse you into the narrative. It’s a world of betrayal, demons, gods, and sinners, and it needs to be in your pulls!
This week is all about the indies! Created by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Ian Herring, and Joshua Reed comes a story with a name to match: ‘Masterpiece’! A thrilling first issue, this story is about a young girl named Masterpiece, codenamed Emma, a wildly successful webtoon artist whose life is flipped upside down as she is kidnapped and informed by a sickly disturbed and infamous crime lord that her parents are the most notorious thieves in the world. And they owe him a fortune. The writing, pacing, and tone of this first issue swallowed my attention, and I found myself growing more and more invested in Masterpiece’s backstory and personal life. The characters introduced are clever, enjoyable, and have a very humanized feel which is only further complemented by the iconic illustrations that Bendis and Maleev provide. The colors by Herring mesh well with the art and almost give a classic-noir feeling to this new groundbreaking title. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and if you love a good crime-mystery, then this should be right up your alley. So, come grab an issue today!