Single Minded 3/26: Christmas in March with Krampus

I really should quit while I'm behind, but here we go with the books from the week of 3/26!

Krampus 4
Written by Brian Joines
Line Art by Dean Kotz
Color Art by Ron Riley
Published by Image Comics

Caught by Doc Holliday, Krampus is in a jam while the Santas are in disarray. But when the avenger of the naughty is give a chance to regain his old job, everything changes in the fourth issue of this unlikely sleeper hit.

I wrote about the first three issues of this series awhile back, and now the plot threads being dangled before the reader are starting to come together. Another failed agent of the Santas played them like 12 drummers drumming and with the power he's gathered, it's time to make his move. The question is--will Krampus side with him or not? That's left up in the air as the issue ends.

The jokes here still remain strong, with Krampus' Batroc accent leading the way, followed closely by Doc Holiday's singing undead horse crooning "Monday" at poor Krampus while he's tied up. The rogue agent's reindeer are named things like "Judas" and "Arnold." There's just enough of these to be silly without taking the whole thing and moving into farce territory, especially since it's now time for the big reveal. Joines makes clever use of historical politics in this section, which is a really nice touch.

Riley's colors do a lot to bring out the best in Kotz's linework, which relies heavily on reaction shots. The evil red shades of the betrayer's lair contrast against the blue of the Santa's home as well as with the desert in which we meet Krampus and Holiday to open the story. Kotz's character placements really draw the reader's eye to just the right spots in the story, too.

Krampus is a well-done comic that's keeping the spirit of the season going--you know, trying to kill the people who you want to replace. This is highly recommended if you haven't tried it yet.

Furious 3
Written by Brian JL Glass
Illustrated by Victor Santos
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Furious learns a key to her powers while the mysterious killer reveals her name in a third issue that didn't quite work as well for me as the first two.

Most of this issue is a tug of mental war with a man who could easily be in the headlines today--a men's rights activist type with a grudge against women he can only satiate by abusing and killing them. It's really painful reading as he draws out the torture of Furious, who finds out that self-confidence is one of the keys to her invulnerability. The problem is not the subject, though it makes for a tough read so much as the length of time we dwell on it here. It feels like the subject goes on just a bit too long, and when combined with the murderous nature of the woman who might just be Furious's dark side, it makes for a really rough read.

Santos' artwork is still very strong, depicting the claustrophobic nature of the man's trap quite well. His use of small panels over top of larger ones, allowing for close-ups among establishing shots is extremely effective. I also like the coloring choices here, with dull blue-gray images of Cadence's father mixing against the bright reds, purples, and yellows of Lark herself. That shading works well when the blue of Furious' outfit contrasts with the browns and dark reds of the rubble surrounding her. There's also some great reaction shots at dramatic moments, which are also brought out by the coloring work.

I still like Furious, and I'm curious as hell as to what's going on with that other woman, but I'm hoping the next issue is a bit less oppressive to read.

Deadly Class 3
Written by Rick Remender
Line Art by Wes Craig
Color Art by Lee Loughridge
Published by Image Comics

Marcus and his only friend at the assassins school bond over buildings while they plan cold-blooded murder of a tainted soul in an issue of a series that still has growing pains.

Though there's more action this time, opening with a rooftop chase sequence and ending with Marcus making a fatal choice that will alter his life forever, this one is still dragged down by Remender's desire to pack as much discussion of how hard life is for Marcus, his friend, and the homeless vets on the street. He's exorcising the demons of the Reagan 80s, but that doesn't make for compelling storytelling. After awhile, another set of lengthy dialogue about something horrible gets to be tedious instead of interesting.

Fortunately, Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge are still extremely compelling in their visuals, using the same tricks of coloring and shading that I've enjoyed enough to keep reading. There are some awesome process pages in this issue, showing Craig's thumbnails and how he moves from what appear to be digital pencils to digital inks. Unfortunately, the art in the main body of the comic are often shunted down to the bottom of the panel so Remender can have his extensive speeches. Combined with there only being so many ways you can have two people talking, it makes one wish the art pair would get a chance to really open up and shine.

Deadly Class isn't something I'd recommend for the plot, but it's still worth it to linger over the artwork and effects.

Ghostbusters 14
Written by Eric Burnham
Line Art by Dan Schoening
Color Art by Luis Antonio Delgado
Published by IDW

An old friend finds she's still afraid of ghosts--and her past relationships--as periodic haunting events continue to keep the Ghostbusters running in circles in the second part of the Mass Hysteria arc.

Another of IDW's solid licensed comics that is probably a bit underrated brings in a guest star of sorts to help celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the original movie.* It's a nice touch, both because Dan Schoening does such a great job of making the characters look just enough like their movie star counterparts while giving them his own style that her appearance isn't distracting. You'll know who it is immediately, but that's okay, because we're supposed to.

Burnham's got another epic story up his sleeve here as seemingly unrelated events start to come together, from bleeding rain to floating vehicles. There's just enough confusion going on to cause mayhem, but the rampant destruction hasn't started yet. As befits a story such celebrating the length of the property, Burnham starts to link everything back to where it all began, though saying more would ruin the impact.

With Schoening providing his usual caricature linework that gives Burnham plenty of room for broad comedy or ghost-related exaggeration and a plot that's got plenty of mystery, this remains a book fans of the characters definitely should be picking up.

Tomb Raider 2
Written by Gail Simone
Line Art by Nicolas Daniel Selma and Juan Gedeon
Color Art by Michael Atiyeh
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Something is very wrong with the world around Lara Croft, as deserts flood and those she's called friend continue to go slowly mad. With killers looking for secrets Lara doesn't even know she has, things look bleak indeed in the second issue of this series.

While the art didn't get any better--in fact, it actually got worse--Simone's ability to create an intriguing plot that involves ruthless killers and strong female characters shine through, making this one just good enough to keep reading. Moving out from some of the maudlin rumblings of the first issue, Lara here is on the move, riding a wave, risking her life to save her friend Jonah, and foiling a creep all at the same time. That's more what I was expecting when this series began. The idea that Lara's "archaeology" would finally catch up to her is a really nice hook, and the idea that she may have hidden something from herself is a cool twist.

Unfortunately, however, someone is asleep at the switch in the art department. Selma either isn't reading Simone's scripts or he's ignoring them, as once again the visuals don't match the dialogue. Lara is told to drop a weapon she already lost control of in the prior panel. That's just inexcusably sloppy. Selma's panels are devoid of life and action, and the inks are so thin, it's nearly impossible to tell they've been anything but traced across the pencils. It's just a really bad looking comic.

That's a shame, and Simone deserves better. Unfortunately, I don't see that changing, so if you want to read this one, you're going to have to deal with the poor art. On the bright side, it looks like Simone is in fine form, and seeing where this one goes will be worthwhile--at least for the dialogue and plot.

Godzilla Rulers of Earth 10
Story by Chris Mowry and Matt Frank
Line Art by Matt Frank
Color Art by Priscilla Tramontano
Published by IDW

Godzilla goes after two humanoid monsters in another bash-fest that's the hallmark of this incarnation of Godzilla in comics.

There's really not a lot to say beyond that, honestly, and now that I've accepted that, I'm enjoying this series more than I had at the start. This time around, it's Godzilla versus Sanda and Gaira, two siblings who were kept in China but are now free and ready to make Australia their personal wrestling ring as the latest two going after Big G. It's a total mismatch and only the intervention of humans stops the fight before Godzilla stomped the pair of overgrown yeti but good.

Mowry and Frank insert a little bit of their ongoing alien invasion plot into the end, but the main human work is trying to make Lucy an interesting character. Unfortunately, she's merely a scientist with a link to the monsters, so there's nothing we haven't seen time and time again. The writing team just isn't pulling far enough away from the typical Godzilla story script to make the humans more compelling.

The draw here is watching Godzilla fight things, and after taking so many issues off primary art duties, Frank definitely improved here. The fight scene between Godzilla and the two giant siblings is far easier to follow this time around, which was a major complaint I had before--if you're gonna make a monster bash book, I need to be able to follow the fights. The action is still done mostly through medium perspective panels, leaving too much of the creature bodies outside the borders, but it didn't require going back and forth to figure out who was winning. The idea of blinding Godzilla was a nice touch, too.

Overall, this is summer movie-as-comic book, and how much you like it will depend on how much that appeals to you. I'll keep this in rotation, but I hope the next series brings more complexity to the table.

*Oh God, that makes me feel old. I ain't afraid of no ghost, but I sure am of all my gray hairs...