It’s been a rough few weeks at Oni Press, a comics publisher that’s released some of the best comics and graphic novels of the last two decades and is now going through a round of layoffs. The company’s also pulling out of Comic-Con in San Diego next week; they face accusations of nonpayment from some creators, and there’s been a noticeable decline in new releases as Oni marks its 25th year in business. It’s rough to see hard times at the company that released award-winners like Scott Pilgrim, Black Metal, and Grey Horses, so here’s hoping things get back on track soon.
In the meantime, this week sees the release of some more-than-usually-strange titles from other publishers. Flavor Girls, Above Snakes, and Haunted Universus are all extremely specific and weird – each in their own bizarre way. You’re likely to hate two of them and love the third, but which ones you hate and which one you love will vary wildly from person to person.
Thanks as always to Phoenix for sorting through the new releases!
A mysterious hostile alien force has invaded Earth, and it’s up to a team of magical color-coordinated young women known as The Flavor Girls to stop them. Issue 1 introduces the violent conflict and presents a young lady named Sara who’s studying to become a peacekeeper, until mysterious magical forces pluck her from obscurity and decide that she shall be the fourth member of The Flavor Girls... despite the fact that she has absolutely no combat experience whatsoever. It’s a fun, fast-moving story that mixes punch-em-up alien battles with powerful-woman bonding in the story’s quieter moments, plus a touch of mysticism. Fans of Sailor Moon will find the book particularly familiar, which is a tough bar to reach. Flavor Girls is full of heart and charisma, but stories like these all live in the shadow of the Sailor Scouts. Readers who want more of the same – sparkly costume transformations, spunky students, graceful battle maneuvers – will find exactly what they want. Those looking for a fresh twist might find themselves flipping ahead to see if something new happens.
Rating: 🍍🍍🍍🍍 (4/5)
Story & Art: Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. Colors: Eros de Santiago, Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. Alt covers: Jake Wyatt, Davi Go. Logo: Marie Krupina. Designer: Madison Goyette. Editors: Allyson Gronowitz, Dafna Pleban.
Publisher: Boom! Studios.
A luridly-neon western, Above Snakes is the tale of a lonely gunslinger out to avenge his wife’s death at the hands of a ruthless gang of outlaws. The twist: he’s being led across the landscape by psychedelic hallucinations – or maybe they are mystical visions that only he can see? The writing nails the tone of hard-boiled classic western films, with tough-guy dialogue and hardscrabble no-nonsense frontierspeople. Plot twists are appropriately grim also. But the talking vulture and bright blotchy color suggest that our hero is venturing into a world where traditional western rules may be upended. Another odd element that’s hard to get used to: the lettering stylises the letter “i” with a circle instead of a dot on top, which ordinarily wouldn’t be so distracting, but it’s so cutely out-of-place in this genre it calls attention to itself every time it appears. “She was my wife,” the main character grimly sneers as he shoots a man in one panel, and the colors and little circle over the “i” in “wife” seems to dare the reader to interpret his tone of voice. Is he gruff and angry, as the line art suggests? Experiencing a psychotic break, as the garish pink-blue-yellow-purple colors suggest? Or freakishly giddy, as the cute lettering suggests? I kept re-reading certain sections, trying to suss out their meaning, and the fact that this exercise didn’t bore me suggests that this book is, if nothing else, novel in its approach.
Writer: Sean Lewis. Art: Hayden Sherman. Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.
Publisher: Image Comics.
The art in this book is so scratchy, scrawly, and covered in shadow that it almost totally obscures its subjects, and you could say the same of the deeply oblique writing. A little over a century ago, a strange man built a garden of eternal youth in the heart of London, and it has become a vortex of occult activity, drawing the attention of a sinister group of paranormal assassins. I think? Each page is woven with strange, uninterpretable images (is that collection of lines a firework or a dandelion or a ghost?) and poetic, impressionistic poetry (“our lips pillow a scarlet fright”). It’s all very beautiful, but more bewildering than narrative. But to be fair, bewilderment and curiosity are not necessarily bad things, and the book’s gorgeous shadows are effective at producing a sense of unease. It’s a bit like settling into an H. P. Lovecraft story, without having to continually wince at all of Howard Phillips’ racism. If your preferred state of mind is disorientation and a sense of dread at the likely encroaching of unseen evils, well, it’s your lucky day.
Rating: 💀💀💀💀 (4/5)
Producers: T.P. Louise, Ashley Wood. Covers, art direction, and logo: Ashley Wood. Editorial director: Chris Ryall. Coordinator: Gregory Prout.
Publisher: Image Comics.
ALSO: THE MANDELORIAN AND GAY PORN
Also of interest this week is Impact Winter, a prelude to an Audible series about a world without sunlight. Marvel has a bunch of issue-ones for your consideration: a faithful retelling of season 1 of The Mandelorian; a Daredevil story by Chip Zdarsky; the kickoff of Eve of Judgment; and Hellfire Gala presents the new X-Men team, which is as good a jumping-in point as any they’re going to give you. There’s also a thick, meaty, throbbing compilation featuring the explicitly gay artwork of Gengoroh Tagame, including a new story. And on the far opposite end of the gender spectrum, Voices that Count is a beautiful compilation of comics by women that explore the meaning of femininity and gender.