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The Darkness 108 The Darkness #108
Published by Top Cow Productions
Written by David Hine
Illustrated by Jeremy Haun
$2.99, 32 Pages

Jackie Estacado's world continues to fall apart.  After expelling the Darkness from his body, the artifact formed itself into a doppelganger.  At first, it was confined in Jackie's basement, only able to come out at night.  Now it's grown more powerful and it's looking to take over.  It's free to move around in the light and it makes it all the more terrifying.

Meanwhile, the ancient one that has possessed rival mob boss Balakov isn't as dead as we were led to believe.  I'm happy about this because we had just found out he was something more than human and then Jackie shot him in the face a bunch of times and he dropped dead.  Fortunately, he's not going down that easy.

As if all this wasn't enough to make Jackie's life miserable, he finally finds out that his daughter Hope is sick with some sort of horrible disease.  It's pretty clear that this is caused by the Darkness, but it's taken so long to manifest itself in a way that anyone else can see it.  Now Hope looks like a weird polygon-faced creature.

Since the Top Cow Rebirth started, each issue of The Darkness is like watching cracks form in a pane of glass.  Every month brings a new crack and that beautiful window is starting to look pretty hazy.  I'm getting anxious to see it break because I know it's coming.  Jackie's world is crumbling and he's doing all he can to hold it together.  There are too many pieces though.  They're falling through his fingers and there's nothing he can do to stop it.

Moving this along artwise is Jeremy Haun.  His character designs are alright but his monsters are like something out of nightmares.  Balakov's abdomen has exploded, creating five tendrils of flesh that swirl about like a gory octopus.  It's something that can make you queasy just thinking about it.  He shouldn't be alive based on how he looks.  Hope's new look is a little weird.  It's like she came out of a video game from the early '90s.  Her face is made of a bunch of sharp angles. 

This issue marks the first time in this run that we hear the thoughts of another character outside of Jackie.  We get thought boxes from the doppelganger and Balakov.  Letterer Troy Peteri set this up very well.  Jackie's boxes are grey with blue writing while the Darkness has the opposite.  It's a subtle effect, but it works very well to set them up as two sides of the same coin.  Meanwhile, Balakov's boxes are blood red with white, ragged letters.  It's like his mind is just as rough and painful as his body is now.



Overall: Fourandahalfstars



Baltimore The Play 01

Baltimore: The Play One-Shot
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Illustrated by Ben Stenbeck
$3.50, 25 Pages

After seeing Lord Baltimore seek vengeance on the elusive vampire Haigus for several comics, we finally get a peek into the life of the bloodsucker.  We've only ever seen Baltimore's perspective, which is admittedly biased.  Haigus is responsible for turning Baltimore's family into vampires, forcing the Lord to take up arms against them and put each one down.  In this one-shot, The Play, we follow Haigus for a change, as he finances a production in the plague-ravaged city of Verona, Italy.

The theater is entranced in a love triangle between Haigus, the director, and the muse of a lead actress who seems to be manipulating the others to do her bidding.  The result is death and fire.  Women, am I right?

The Play felt a bit disjointed and more than a little strange.  I can tell exactly where it lost me too.  It was when authors Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden revealed that the director had Edgar Allan Poe's head in a jar.  He talked to it and it talked back.  There was no explanation given as to why Poe's reanimated noggin was there like something out of Futurama.  Admittedly, it was kind of cool, but I would have liked some more information as to what was going on and why. 

Ben Stenbeck again delivers some great art on Baltimore.  One of the main performers in the play is a skeleton pirate, clad all in red.  Even his skull of a face is red.  It's very creepy because I couldn't tell at first if it was a man in a costume or an actual monster.  Stenbeck manages to tell so much in each panel.  When Baltimore first arrives in Verona, each section of the city his visits is in ruins.  The plague has torn through it and left a decrepit husk.  You can see all this history in just a few images.  No text is given, nor is it needed.



Overall: Twoandahalfstars




Bprd 1948 2 B.P.R.D.: 1948 #2
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Max Fiumara
$3.50, 25 Pages

More monsters are found in the desert as Professor Bruttenholm searches for answers.  There's more lurking in this place than the surface.  The local soldiers are getting antsy. 

I'm a little confused by this issue.  The scientists are genuinely surprised that hideously deformed creatures have showed up after they were testing nuclear weapons in the area.  Could they be linked?  Gee, I don't know.  Granted, this is set in 1948, but seriously?  They know enough that radiation can mess you up but can't put two and two together about the monsters?

I've found I'm actually more interested in the tidbits we're getting back at the B.P.R.D. headquarters with a young Hellboy trying to fit in.  He's like a lovable little kid with red skin and horns.  President Truman is coming for a visit and he wants to meet Hellboy.  This looks like it'll be fun.

I'm going back and forth on how I feel about Max Fiumara's art.  The monsters look top notch and this month we get a few new ones including purple bear-sized rodents and what looks like a man that's been crossed with a sloth.  The facial features on the human characters throw me off though.  They often look deformed with odd shaped heads.  This can work in some panels though, as the style fits with the time period, but it is often distracting.



Overall: Threestars



Frankenstein Alive Alive 2 Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #2
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Steve Niles
Illustrated by Bernie Wrightson
$3.99, 30 Pages

After what feels like forever, the story of Frankenstein's monster continues.  I really dug the first issue about a displaced monster just looking for a way to die, so I was pleased to see more.  Of course, his attempt to kill himself didn't work.  His body, encased in rock, was dug up years later and transported to the home of a local professor.  The rock breaks away and there he is, born again.  The professor and the monster become fast friends and for a time, the beast forgets what he is. 

Author Steve Niles is making this creature human, which is more than Dr. Frankenstein ever did.  Unfortunately, his appearance can't be changed and he's reminded of this when he meets the professor's wife and her eyes are filled with fear.  He has no place in this world.  When he says that he didn't ask to be born, he's right.

The legendary Bernie Wrightson totally nails this issue.  His art makes the book worth the wait.  It's downright gorgeous.  There's such intricate detail in every panel.  There's a scene in the professor's laboratory where there are tons of beakers and other equipment bubbling away.  Everything is presented very clearly.  Wrightson cuts no corners in his work and Frankenstein Alive, Alive! is no different. 

I want more from this comic but unfortunately a good third of this issue is dedicated to a reprint of the original work from Mary Shelley.  This is a nice bonus but completely unnecessary. By now everyone knows the story of Frankenstein.  This comic is a continuation of the classic novel, so going back and reading it, especially without the benefit of Wrightson's art, is a disappointment.  I would have rather had those remaining pages dedicated to more of Niles' story.



Overall: Threeandahalfstars



Judge Dredd 01 Judge Dredd #1
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Nelson Daniel and Paul Gulacy
$3.99, 24 Pages

Judge Dredd makes his return to America in this new series from IDW.  I admit, I haven't had much exposure to the character.  I might have seen the Stallone movie ages ago, but I don't remember it and from what I understand, that's a good thing.  Dredd is the judge, jury, and executioner for criminal scum in Mega-City-One along with a few other Judges.  He's the most feared though, so if you're breaking the law, you'd better hope he's not the one that you run into. 

This issue starts out with a robot revolution of sorts.  Various droids and other mechanical devices start to rebel against their masters.  It starts slow but grows until people start to get injured.  Dredd is called in when some looters try to make off with some goods from a local shop.  These guys are bad news and flat out behead the owner, so it's more than just taking a TV or something. 

Author Duane Swierczynski gives a great introduction to the character, establishing his rules and code of ethics.  It happens in an organic way without the need for thought bubbles or narration.  The criminals explain it in short bits of dialogue.  They recognize Dredd and realize what kind of shitstorm they're in for.  Things escalate quickly as the Judge is not afraid to use deadly force.  He moves on to high explosive rounds without a second thought.

Nelson Daniel drew this first issue and definitely captured the toughness of Dredd.  He pulls up on a massive motorcycle and starts dealing out the sentences right away.  My only issue with the look of the character is that it's so similar to the other Judges.  It makes it difficult to tell which one is Dredd when they're in a firefight.  There are no discernible markings on him.  I guess you could just look at the one that's being the most violent. 

There's a backup story also written by Swierczynski included.  This tells another tale featuring Dredd that's in the same vein as the main plot with the robot revolution.  A shop droid is acting up and not doing what she's told.  This allows a customer to make off with some goods and the shop owner has to take matters into his own hands.  Paul Gulacy's artwork gives the backup a larger than life look, which is funny considering the shop owner is a little guy.  His expressions and mannerisms are big and exaggerated despite his small stature.



Overall: Threeandahalfstars



Clone 01 Clone #1
Published by Image Comics
Written by David Schulner
Illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp
$2.99, 32 Pages

Everybody changes with time.  It's just how life works.  You start out one way and your experiences change you into the person you grow up to be.  Over the course of your life there will be several different versions of yourself.  You're an innocent child, a rebellious teenager, a carefree college kid, a lost twenty-something, a family man.  David Schulner's first comic, Clone, takes this concept and turns each aspect of one man into an actual person...and they're all trying to kill him.  Luke Taylor's life is about to get a whole lot more interesting when versions of himself from the past and future, as well as parts he didn't even know lived within him, all start to converge at once.  It's bloody and his pregnant wife is in danger.

Clone is like a tension-filled sci-fi thriller.  It's a heady concept, but it's really interesting.  The whole idea is forcing Luke to ask himself if he is really the man that he wanted to be.  Or it's making him have to shoot and punch people that look just like him.  Either way, it's really cool.

This is all brought to life by artist Juan Jose Ryp.  I've dug his work on previous comics, but his work on Clone looks like he's stepped up his game.  Ryp has a great attention to detail.  Everything from the freckles on Luke's wife's face to the laces on her shoes are rendered with great care.  It makes the comic really beautiful to look at. 

This is a great introductory issue with a lot of weird ideas thrown about.  It sets the stage for what looks to be a really exciting comic. 



Overall: Fourstars



Comeback 01 Comeback #1
Published by Image Comics
Written by Ed Brisson
Illustrated by Michael Walsh
$3.50, 32 Pages

I still haven't seen Looper.  I really wanted to, but I just didn't get around to catching it in theaters.  The film about a time traveling assassin looked really awesome.  Comeback is going to have a hard time avoiding a comparison to Looper based on the premise alone, but it's definitely standing out a bit.  Time travel exists in the future.  Instead of going back and killing people, a corporation has developed a business that saves friends and family members.  If you're loved one died in a horrific car crash, they go back in time and save them from the wreck.  They don't prevent it though, so history won't change.  The person is secret whisked away and a new identity is developed for them and the client.  This is something that's only being done by the super rich.

But what happens when the people responsible for these saves start to lose it?  All that time travel can really take a toll on someone.  Plus there are consequences to this.  The technology can mess with your mind but it can also accelerate disease.  Comeback opens with a man traveling into the future only to fall into a bloated mess of boils.  It turns out that he had a tumor and the machine gave it a jump start in a big way.  It's creepy.

Michael Walsh's artwork is a little rough around the edges.  He reminds me of an early Sean Phillips or Michael Gaydos, which is definitely not a bad thing.  It can use a little cleaning up though.  Walsh keeps the panels simple and clean.  He focuses on the characters and leaves the background details muted and out of the way.  I think he did the cover too as there's no mention of a specific artist for it.  I love the design of the cover.  It's simple but very stylish.

There are a lot of questions brought up in this first issue of Comeback.  There's just enough to keep me interested.  I want to find out more about all the players and how they work together in their next job.



Overall: Threeandahalfstars



Pick Of The Week

The Goon 43
The Goon #43
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Eric Powell
Illustrated by Eric Powell, Kyle Hotz, and Mark Buckingham
$3.50, 25 Pages

Holy shit, I love The Goon.  Let me set the stage for this issue:  Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities (another comic written by Eric Powell) guest stars as they pick up the Ossified Baby of Nuremberg in a poker game.  It's a creepy stone baby but it's alive.  It'll stay in this state as long as they feed it a bottle of milk and goat's blood every Halloween.  Otherwise, things get ugly.  Years later, the troupe ends up in the Goon's neighborhood amidst the trick-or-treaters and a few kids take off with the baby. 

The result of this baby-napping is terrifying but also hilarious.  The child grows to giant proportions, absorbing people and random stuff along the way.  It ends up being this painful-looking, lumpy abomination that the Goon has to punch really hard. 

The art is varied in this issue.  The first part, where Billy wins the stone baby, is drawn by Kyle Hotz, the artist behind the Billy the Kid comic.  Then it fast forwards a few years ahead and Powell picks it up.  The styles are very different, but both are very well done.  Hotz captures the skeevy nature of the Kid and his traveling freak show while Powell has a classic look that harkens back to a simpler time when you could solve your problems with violence. He also draws monsters like no other.  That baby is friggin' creepy.

The ridiculousness of the Goon's adventures doesn't end there.  This issue also includes the finale to the backup strip "The Bog Lurk That Lurked Like a Thing! A Bad Thing!", drawn by Mark Buckingham.  The Goon and Frankie are up against the huge bog lurk and a giant robot.  They take them out in increasingly bizarre ways including distracting them with a bomb and hitting them with a sewer kid tied to a rope.  It's like a Looney Tunes episode but with more violence.

You should read this comic if for no other reason than to see an elder Billy the Kid scream "Eat Lead, ya durn cannibal baby!"  Seriously, where else are you going to see that?



Overall: Fivestars



Revival 5 Revival #5
Published by Image Comics
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Mike Norton
$2.99, 32 Pages

The small town in Wisconsin is still struggling to come to grips with the dead people that have returned to their lives.  Dubbed "Revivers", they cannot die.  Wounds heal quickly like Wolverine, but this is starting to affect their minds.  Meanwhile, the fake demonologist Blaine Abel is trying to get information on Satan and his henchmen. 

Abel is a weird character.  He's part con man but also part believer.  When he sees one of the white creatures that has been roaming the area, he's convinced that it was sent by Satan.  This is just part of the religious imagery that's brought in this month in Revival.  Abel is currently holding reporter May Tao captive, tied to his tow truck like a crucifix.  Em, a Reviver, confronts one of the creatures and reveals she has an angel's wings and halo on the back of her sweatshirt.  It's subtle and doesn't bog down the story.

We also get a bit of an idea of what's going on with those white things.  I think they're ghosts, specifically of people that lived in the area.  I don't know if they're behind the other people coming back to life, but Em's interaction with one of them could mean that the Revivers were brought back to wrap up their unfinished business.  It would be a strange but interesting way to do it. 

Regardless of the reasons, Revival pumps up the action as Abel chases Em and May through the wilderness on snowmobiles.  He's got a wrench and he wants to beat the devil out of them. 

Artist Mike Norton kicks ass on this book.  His characters look normal, like you would see them in any average small town.  It makes the events of this issue so much more shocking.  From the snowmobile race to the inevitable crash and the white "ghosts," they're all instantly relatable because I feel like I know all of these characters (or at least facsimiles of them) in real life.  The creatures are downright disturbing though.  They remind me of adult versions of the  ghosts from Princess Mononoke, as if their after lives didn't turn out the way they planned, so they're twisted and distorted as a result.  It's creepy.



Overall: Fourstars



That's it for this week's edition of Funny Book Splatter.  Sorry for the delay, folks.  I still want to hear what you thought of the week's comics so hit me up in the comments!


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About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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