Mr. Vertigo Reviews 8: B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth Vol.2; Northlanders Book 6; DMZ Vol. 11; Are You My Mother?

Mike Mignola/John Arcudi/Guy Davis/Tyler Crook (Dark Horse, 2012)
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth Vol.2: Gods and Monsters

Guy Davis’s last arc as B.P.R.D. artist was the opening three part story “Gods.” It features a group of refugees in Texas, on the run from the monster onslaught. But they have an advantage: a young woman named Fenix who is apparently clairvoyant. She keeps them on the move ahead of danger. Her talent attracts the notice of the U.N., who send a B.P.R.D. team to investigate. After saving the group from subterranean monsters, Abe Sapien talks to Fenix alone. She promptly guns him down, an act witnessed by Andrew Devon, who later does not reveal what he knows. Clearly Fenix and Devon both distrust Abe’s motives in this fight. In the second arc “Monsters” we catch up with Liz Sherman, living in a trailer park and trying to forget her actions at the end of the frog war. All of her neighbors have been possessed by monsters, and are no longer truly human. She narrowly escapes. And the final scene is yet another shocker in the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. universe. New artist Tyler Crook fits in well, with a style that is compatible with Guy Davis’s without imitating it. This collection concludes with an especially extensive sketchbook section. There are cover studies by Ryan Sook, monster designs and other sketches from Guy Davis, variant cover designs by Francisco Francavilla, and character designs and sketches from Tyler Crook.

Brian Wood/Simon Gane/Matthew Woodson/Marian Churchland (Vertigo, 2012)
Northlanders Book 6: Thor’s Daughter and Other Stories

The latest collection opens with the three-part “The Siege of Paris,” illustrated by Simon Gane. It’s the longest story in the book, so normally the collection would take its title from it. The warrior Vikings here are soldiers in service of their king, and the siege they undertake is much closer to modern warfare than the tales in previous Books in the series. The focus is on Mads, the commander of the siege force, and Abbo the monk who writes down his story. Mads wants a pitched battle where his superior numbers will carry the day, but instead finds he must wait while political machinations grind slowly. In the end he takes the initiative to remove a major physical impediment to the siege. He loses an arm in the process, but is rewarded with retirement on a rich plot of land nearby. It is a bittersweet ending for a career soldier. The second story, “The Hunt,” is a single-issue tale illustrated by Matthew Woodson. It follows a hunter as he tracks a deer further and further North, an obsessive act which he cannot justify consciously. It’s one of the most striking stories in the entire series to date, and would have been my choice for the cover and title of the collection. But perhaps it’s too much a character piece for that distinction. Finally we have the title story, another single-issue tale. The title character is a young woman who finds herself suddenly an orphan. Her father was the leader of the settlement, but he seems to have made no succession plans. Can she step up to the challenge of leadership and retain her status?

Brian Wood/Riccardo Burchielli/Shawn Martinbrough (Vertigo, 2012)
DMZ Vol. 11: Free States Rising

The penultimate DMZ collection opens with an interesting two-part prequel story, illustrated by guest artist Shawn Martinbrough. It partly explains how New York City became the DMZ: the initial staging area for the gathering Free States forces was in northern Minnesota. Odd to wait this late to tell this part of the series setup, but welcome just the same. The remaining four parts of the title arc put Matty Roth in the middle of the invasion of the DMZ by United States forces, called back from various overseas wars. His role is to serve as unbiased observer, but soon he finds himself involved in unanticipated ways. When he has his reunion with Parco Delgado he is given proof of the U.S. government’s fault in the Indian Point nuclear disaster. Matty must finally choose between revealing the truth or helping to bring about true peace more quickly by not revealing it. His choice concludes the war and this volume, leaving the rebuilding of New York City for the series conclusion.

Alison Bechdel
Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

Bechdel’s acclaimed Fun Home was a memoir largely devoted to her father. This one focuses on her relationship with her mother, making it more of a companion piece than a sequel. The two books are structured similarly, each organized into seven chapters. It is telling that Fun Home’s chapter titles are taken from literature, while Are You My Mother?s come from the field of psychotherapy. In many ways Bechdel is telling the story of her years in therapy. The narrative is dominated by scenes of her in therapy or thinking about psychological concepts (I was a psychology major as an undergraduate, and I sometimes felt as if I were back at college). Contrast this with the family stories that dominated the earlier memoir. The first section is crammed full of her self-doubt as a writer and lots of Virginia Woolf quotations. It’s never a good sign when a memoir begins with talk about how hard it was to write. The narrative makes it clear that Fun Home was also a therapeutic exercise in many ways–Bechdel now wonders if it wasn’t as much about her coming to terms with her mother as it was about her father–but like all good memoir it was fascinating because it told good stories. And no matter how unusual Bechdel’s family life was, the stories made it seem universal. For many of the fans of the earlier book I expect that some of the most interesting material in Mother will be that dealing with the process of writing Fun Home. While I am happy that Bechdel has come to terms with her  mother, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this book lacks the universal appeal of the earlier memoir.

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About marksullivan5

Librarian, Jazz musician, comic book fan
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