I spend too much time talking about movies and games, so this month I am doing something different. I go through bouts where I get absorbed into comic series. This month I thought I would share some of my favorites. The items in this blog post will take you to the first volume of the series in Mead’s collection.
The Black Monday Murders is a blend of noir mystery and occult horror. The gist of the series’ story is that bankers are being murdered in horrific, cult-like ways. As Detective Dumas follows the clues, he discovers that there is a world of magic schools hidden behind international banking. The premise tickles my fancy, but what has stuck with me is the use of color and shadow. The art is surreal at times, but somehow the color and shadow ground it. I feel like this one, in particular, is the hidden-ish gem of this blog post, but I have to do my due diligence to mention this series is on hiatus. The artist and co-creator, Tomm Coker, had to step away due to some health concerns, so this series currently stops after volume two.
I’m not good at favorites, it’s part of the reason that I like that I get to format my posts as lists, so I have a list of favorite superheroes that is always in some state of flux. John Constantine has been in my top five consistently since I discovered Hellblazer. Something about his snark makes him charming, something lacking from Keanu Reeves’ depiction of him (I still have a soft spot for it though) but around in aces in Matt Ryan’s. I also appreciate that magic in the Hellblazer comics has some kind of consequence. The magic that Doctor Strange and Zatanna wields comes off as a “get out of jail free” card. If there’s an issue, magic it away. With Hellblazer, sometimes the magic will be worse than the problem which warps John Constantine into an antihero.
I like the Hulk. He’s a “Jekyll and Hyde” pastiche. Nerdy scientist gets hit with inhuman doses of radiation, turns into giant gray (later green) rage monster. Outside of a few personas like Joe Fixit and Doc Green, the Hulk never quite approached the sinister cunning of Hyde in the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Immortal Hulk is different. In the past, it was assumed that if you kill Bruce Banner, that’s it. Fade to black, no Hulk. The Immortal Hulk, though, plays on how Bruce Banner has died a few times in the comic. That wasn’t (just) comic nonsense, that’s one of his powers. The Hulk won’t stay dead. He’ll come back over and over, and he has a taste for vengeance now. This take on the Hulk leans into the horror of knowing there’s another consciousness in yourself and the body horror that is inherent to the series.
This entry might count as cheating depending on your view of the comic. Some people weren’t pleased about the prequel comics or the sequel that merged the Watchmen universe into the main DC Universe. I’m in the camp that the prequels weren’t necessary, but I do like the idea of Doctor Manhattan being bored as an explanation for all the recent retcons. That said, I view the sequel as more of a parallel universe situation because I’m not sure if anyone can quite match the gritty, existential quality of Moore’s work.
I can’t remember at this point whether I saw the movie first or read the comic first. I had read occult superhero comics before, mostly Ghost Rider, but those weren’t things I knew as “real” as a mythology nerd. Hellboy was the first comic that blended real mythological figures I knew, Lovecraftian weirdness, and violence into a sloppy slurry that had no right to work but turned into something delightful. The art is the other reason I like this series. Mike Mignola’s art uses shadows in a way that I haven’t seen others use to such haunting effect. Other than Hellblazer, this is the longest series on the list as this spun out into B.P.R.D.