Short Cuts 11: The Sixth Gun–Days of the Dead; Black Science Vol. 3–Vanishing Pattern; Swamp Thing Vol. 6–The Sureen; Deadly Class Vol. 3–The Snake Pit

Sixth Gun Days of the DeadThe Sixth Gun: Days of the Dead (Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt & Mike Norton: Oni Comics) collects the five-issue miniseries spin-off. It’s a prequel, a sort of origin story for Roberto Vargas (a priest of the Sword of Abraham) and Jesup Sutter (an agent of the Knights of Solomon). Their respective secret societies are directly opposed to each other, but the two men wind up working together to prevent an ancient god of the dead from awakening and coming into our world. The god would obscure the line between the living and the dead–another version of The End of the World as We Know It, the apocalyptic event that is always in the background of the main series. It’s a colorful story, complete with an evil necromancer, ghosts, and resurrected dead. Drake Sinclair plays a small but significant role. Series co-creators Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt share writing duties, and they found a very sympathetic artist in Mike Norton (Revival).

Black Science 3Black Science Vol. 3: Vanishing Pattern (Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera & Moreno Dinisio: Image Comics) opens with a near-miraculous resolution to the last collection’s cliffhanger: Grant McKay gets rescued, so he can help some aliens repair their dimension-leaping Pillar. He surreptitiously repairs a portable Pillar instead and rejoins his family. The arc then spends the rest of the time on one planet (with the occasional flashback filling in more of the back story on these characters and their complicated relationships). The planet is suffering from a horrible plague which the team brought with them: this is the first warning sign that their inter-dimensional travels are having a serious impact on reality itself. Grant manages to undo the damage, and while he is busy with that quest the team takes the opportunity to…squabble among themselves, mainly. For a small, seemingly-unified group there certainly are a lot of different agendas. They finally pull things together and jump. But there’s a new cliffhanger: the world they just left is visited by another dimensional traveler, who promptly releases some mysterious energy blasts that appear to be engulfing the entire planet. This seems unlikely to be good news. This series continues to deliver that sci-fi serial excitement–as it goes on I’m increasingly reminded of Remender’s earlier Fear Agent series. That series used space and time travel, and had a similar “out of the frying pan into the fire” storytelling dynamic. One odd thing I noticed while looking for cover images: there are cover pictures on the Web that clearly give the collection title as “Vanishing Point.” I don’t know if those were early mock-ups or the title changed.

Swamp Thing 6Swamp Thing Vol. 6: The Sureen (Charles Soule, Jesus Saiz & others: DC Comics) is the penultimate collection of the New 52 series. This arc centers around another major new addition to the mythos created by Charles Soule. The Sureen are an ancient order who live to serve the avatar of the Green. The question of why we’ve never heard of them before is sensibly raised by the current Swamp Thing, and the answer is something along the lines of “new avatars would find their existence confusing and tempting.” Tempting, because the Sureen have a ritual which can transfer the avatar’s spirit back into a human body. Long story short, Dr. Holland spends a good deal of time in a human body–but it turns out that he was tricked into it by false Sureen. When he ended the Parliament of Trees in the last collection, he brought two members of the Parliament back into the world with him, known as the Wolf and Lady Weeds. What they lack in god-like powers them make up for in spite and guile. Ultimately much of this arc is about their power struggle. Almost incidentally there is yet another addition to the mythos in the course of the story: the Grey, the world of the fungus, which has its own avatar. The story also manages to involve Vandal Savage and a brief crossover with Aquaman. And the final page introduces another new element, a strange character who introduces himself “We are a Calculus. There is a better way.” This series increasingly became not only “anything can happen” but “everything you know is wrong.” So who knows where the final arc will go!

Deadly Class 3Deadly Class Vol. 3: The Snake Pit (Rick Remender, Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge: Image Comics) jumps right into an ongoing crisis. At the end of the previous collection, the group from the school for assassins had just jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. Having narrowly defeated the serial killers whose house they invaded, they were immediately confronted by a vengeful family. Hard to hide a recently severed head. so another great battle/chase ensues. In the end they mostly escape–losing another classmate in the process–and even think they have gotten away with it, by blaming everything on the first classmate who died during the operation. Of course nothing in this series is that simple. Main protagonist Marcus finds himself betrayed and friendless, spiraling into drug-fueled paranoia. But that’s nothing compared to the final school convocation, in which he and his friends are publicly labelled as rats, to be targeted by their entire freshman class. After quite a few narrow escapes this arc finally shows that the “deadly” in the title applies to the students as well as their victims. The loss of Maria definitely demonstrates that even major characters are not safe.

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