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Hellboy adventures tied together in a nice red bow

This week's comic review: Hellboy Vol. 8: Darkness Calls, Studio Space, Tim Sale: Black And White – Revised And Expanded, Justice League Of America: The Injustice League, Bomb Queen IV: Suicide Bomber, Batman/Grendel and JLA Presents: Aztek: The Ultimate Man


Hellboy Vol. 8: Darkness Calls
Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo
Dark Horse Books
$19.95 US (Paperback)
**** (out of five)

It’s been over 40 years since Hellboy took Baba Yaga’s eye — and she’s finally ready for a little payback.

The eighth volume of Hellboy sees the big, red occult investigator falling prey to group of witches and ending up in the realm of the powerful witch, Baba Yaga, where she’ll stop at nothing to exact vengeance for the wound she suffered back in March 1964.

Tying together many characters and plot threads from past Hellboy adventures, Darkness Calls also breaks new ground as the first Hellboy miniseries not drawn by series creator Mike Mignola. Instead, talented Briton Duncan Fegredo, whose work shares a comfortable kinship to Mignola’s, takes over the art duties, while the creator focuses on the script. While the result may not be quite as pure a “Mignola Hellboy” experience as readers are used to, Darkness Calls fits nicely into the character’s ongoing mythology and it is sure to pique the interest of fans.

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Studio Space
Joel Meadows, Gary Marshall
Image Comics
$49.99 US (Hardcover), $29.99 US (Paperback)
**** (out of five)

Once upon a time there was a little boy who got turned on to comics.

He loved them so much that when he got older he worked really hard, got his big break and is now read by thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of fans.

That little boy’s name is Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon, Dave Gibbons, Adam Hughes, Joe Kubert, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Alex Ross, Tim Sale — well, you get the point.

In Studio Space, these comic book icons, and about a dozen more, talk about how they fell in love with the genre, how they got their big break, how they prefer to work and, best of all, about some of their most beloved pieces of art.

Packed with rare sketches, black-and-white originals, splashy colour pages and eye-catching portraits of the creators in their work areas, Studio Space is an outstanding intimate look at the people behind your favourite books.

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Tim Sale: Black And White – Revised And Expanded
Tim Sale
Image Comics
$39.99 US (Hardcover)
**** (out of five)

Tim Sale has been a household name for comic book fans for about a decade now.

While some of us were lucky enough to notice this diamond in the rough when he was working on projects like Grendel in the early 90s (and even fewer of us who caught his earliest work in the mid-80s on series like MythAdventures and Thieves World), it was 1994’s Batman: The Long Halloween that really catapulted Sale into the spotlight.

Since then, his resume reads like a solid chunk of a “Top 100 trade paperbacks to own” list, including: Batman: Dark Victory, Superman For All Seasons, Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Grey, Catwoman: When In Rome and, most recently, the smash-hit TV show Heroes, where he supplies the prescient art of Isaac Mendes.

Now fans can get a taste of how Sale’s career began, slowly built up and then soared to mighty heights in this new revised and expanded edition of Tim Sale: Black And White (now featuring colour).

From his early art schoolwork to his latest Heroes pieces, from simple pen sketches to jaw dropping inked and painted work, this book is stunning and a true treat for comic book and art aficionados.

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Justice League Of America: The Injustice League
Dwayne McDuffie, Ed Benes, Mike McKone, Joe Benitez
DC Comics
$22.99/$19.99 US (Hardcover)
**** (out of five)

The Secret Society of Supervillains never did work out so well.

First off, it wasn’t really all that secret and the one time they all decided to work together, the heroes fended them off in one issue.
Perhaps what they needed was a more business-like approach.

Now let’s see… which villain might have the kind of acumen needed to get the most out of a collective of ne’re-do-wells?
How about, Lex Luthor?

Luthor, Superman’s No. 1 baddie, gathers up some of the heaviest hitters in the DC Universe, dubs them Injustice League Unlimited, and takes aim at the newest incarnation of the Justice League in this second collection of the new series — and they aren’t messing around.

Are even the combined might of all the forces of good gathered for the pending wedding of Black Canary and Green Arrow enough to stop them?

Well, yeah, but you’ve got to read it to believe it.

Veteran DC animation writer Dwayne McDuffie finally gets his crack at penning the original JLA and he gets things started with a bang alongside an all-star group of artists including Ed Benes, Mike McKone and Joe Benitez.

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Bomb Queen IV: Suicide Bomber
Jimmie Robinson
Image Comics
$14.99 US (Paperback)
*** 1/2 (out of five)

No more Ms. Nice Queen.

After having her reign as leader of the crime-ridden New Port City threatened by nefarious government agents and a handful of superheroes and having her home, and more importantly her cat, destroyed, Bomb Queen has decided enough is enough.

She’s taking the battle to the rest of America and she’ll shake the foundations of the Image Comics’ universe to do so.

The only catch is that BQ may not be acting entirely of her own will. Something very dark is happening in New Port City and if the Queen isn’t careful, she might just find herself with a one-way ticket to Hell.

As with every volume so far of Bomb Queen, Jimmie Robinson delivers gratuitous sex and violence in delightfully funny and shocking doses in volume 4.

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Batman/Grendel
Matt Wagner
Dark Horse Books/DC Comics
$19.95 US (Paperback)
*** 1/2 (out of five)

One is really good and one is kind of rough.

No, we’re not talking about Batman and Grendel. More specifically, we’re talking about the two Batman/Grendel miniseries by Matt Wagner finally collected in one volume recently by Dark Horse Books and DC Comics.

The first four-issue mini, circa 1993, brings Bruce Wayne as the Dark Knight into conflict with the original Grendel, Hunter Rose in a wonderfully conceived and executed tale of contradictions and similarities. The second mini, released in 1996, tied into both the first crossover, as well as events in Wagner’s ongoing Grendel series and featured the menacing, Terminator-esque Grendel-Prime battling Batman in more of a straight action-adventure series.

In reflecting on these series 15 and 12 years later, the original holds up as a very special work, showing Wagner at his creative best as both a writer and artist, while the second just doesn’t seem to rekindle the same magic.

Either way, it’s still great to have these adventures back in print for anyone to read.

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JLA Presents: Aztek: The Ultimate Man
Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, N. Steven Harris, Keith Champagne
DC Comics
$22.99/$19.99 US (Paperback)
*** (out of five)

Neil Gaiman once told me than he’d gotten to a point in his career where putting his name on a book was a little bit like printing money.

It seems he’s reached a status as a novelist and graphic novelist that people don’t question the subject matter anymore, they’ll buy anything that’s associated with him.

This same syndrome can quite eaily be applied to JLA Presents: Aztek: The Ultimate Man.

Collecting a somewhat obscure, short-lived series from 12 years ago doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless the star character is undergoing a renaissance or its creators have reached Gaiman’s lofty status.

Well how’s this: Aztek was written by the dynamic duo of Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman) and Mark Millar (Wanted).

The only catch is that this isn’t their best work — far from it actually.

The adventures of Uno, a warrior trained for 20 years and sent out into the world with a high-tech suit and helmet to prevent the coming of an ancient monster are decent, if fairly standard fare. And just when things do take a turn for the interesting the series is cancelled and you have to go buy the JLA: World War III trade paperback to find out what becomes of the hero.

Still, fans will no doubt scoop this book up since Morrison and Millar may just be catching up to Gaiman’s lofty heights in the money-printing industry.

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