Saturday, July 7, 2012

DC/Vertigo head into paranormal territory with latest series

All images courtesy Warner Bros.
BY DAVID BERCK

Once upon a time, DC Comics and its Vertigo imprint announced the release of five new titles with some distinctly paranormal overtones. Now that we're about three months into each title, let's see how they're faring, shall we?

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child (Vertigo)
Writer: Selwyn Seyfu Hinds (former editor in chief of The Source)
Pencils: Denys Cowan (The Question)

The Voodoo Court of New Orleans is in complete disarray. It seems the queen, daughter of the in/famous Marie Laveau, is dead. Even at this point, we can't be certain of her death or the circumstances surrounding it, as much of the story has yet to be told. What we do know is that the delicate peace between the supernatural creatures in NOLA is in danger of completely falling apart because there is no current queen. We know the loup garou and a witch hunter have been sent after the direct descendant of the first voodoo queen and that the world is not as it seems, even for the petty gods, werewolves, vampires, houngans, and witch hunters that inhabit the Crescent City.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is the best series of the five titles so far. Hinds has blended the history and atmosphere of New Orleans in a wonderful way and is slowly revealing the hidden world Dominique is only now discovering. There is magic, voodoo, blood, gore, history and politics all smartly woven together with more to come. Denys Cowan's artistic style compliments the setting and story very well. If there is justice in the world, this title should stick around for a bit. If you're not into collecting individual issues and are patient, at least do yourself the favor of picking up the collected volume when it's released.

For the collector: Unless this series finds its way to the silver or flat screen, you probably won't see a huge increase in value. However, there was a variant cover for the first issue, though it was only of the 1:10 variety. The regular number one issue can still be found for cover price with the variant currently hitting between $5 and $10 with some lucky people winning for as little as $.99 on eBay. A total bargain for cover price.

Fairest
(Vertigo)
Writer: Bill Willingham (Fables, Jack of Fables)
Pencils: Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman, The Invisibles)

If you've read Fables, you know the basic premise: Take characters from age old tales, ascribe more personality to them and spin more yarn. Due to the popularity of the original series, Fables, Fairest was likely the most highly anticipated of the releases and it does not disappoint.The stories in this series will revolve around the female Fables (Fables are what the characters from folklore call themselves. Think of it being like a mutant or green lantern), but does not throw them into Fabletown (a.k.a. New York City), instead concentrating on the historical background of the women Fables. Like Fables, Fairest takes a new twist on popular fairy tale and fabled (duh) figures and offers up new characteristics and fleshed out personalities. Of the promised characters slated to appear in Fairest, the first story arc deals with Briar Rose and the Snow Queen along with Ali Baba and a precocious imp thrown in for good measure. You see, being a thief, Ali Baba finds this imp who knows everything. Said imp tells AB that all he has to do to get all the riches he wants is to kiss the girl. The problem is there are two of them ... laying side by side ... sleeping. Trouble and hilarity ensue. In the future, we can look forward to seeing more about Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Thumbelina, Snow White and more. If you like fairly tales with a twist (don't bother denying this if you make a habit of watching Grimm and/or Once Upon a Time), give Fairest a looksee.

For the collector: There were two variant covers for issue #1, one of which, you'll probably have to dish out around $10 to $15, there are plenty of listings for higher amounts right now and that's down from the "regular" initial price of $35 being asked for by some sellers.. The 1:10 variant looks to be going for between $6 to $8. As with other comics and media formats, spinoffs rarely do as well, much less surpass, the original series. Still, Fables has a legit cultish following, so consider stashing these somewhere if you have them.

Saucer Country
(Vertigo)
Writer: Paul Cornell (Demon Knights, Action Comics, Doctor Who)
Pencils: Ryan Kelly (New York Five, Northlanders)

What does a divorced Hispanic governor from ... wait for it ... New Mexico, who has just announced her candidacy for President of the United States, her ex-husband who sees bunnies, and a suspended Harvard professor of folklore who sees a naked couple who claim they're from Pioneer 10 everywhere have in common? They're all currently in Saucer Country.

Described, by Vertigo, as a cross between West Wing and The X-Files, this is another story that could be absolutely formulaic and unimaginative once you get passed the initial set up. However, the series has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. In three issues, there's already been a typical abduction scenario, post-abduction hysteria and self-doubt over incidents thrown in. Add to that a professor who believes in UFOs and alien abductions but doesn't quite know what these terms actually mean and you've got enough personality, twists, and interesting support characters to keep your interest piqued. Unless you're really tired of aliens, give this one a try. Even if you are tired of aliens, give this one a try.

For the collector: Like the other series, issue #1 is still going for cover price and there was a 1:10 variant. If the variant cover auctions are any indicator, this series isn't doing all that well. Some are selling for as low as 99 cents, but most seem to be selling in the neighborhood of $5 to $8. Unless this series really catches on, which would be a shame if it doesn't, don't look for this one to do much in terms of value. Come in for the story and don't be surprised if this doesn't develop a cult following.

New Deadwardians
(Vertigo)
Writer: Dan Abnett (Resurrection Man, Punisher, 2000 AD)
Pencils: I.N.J. Culbard (At the Mountains of Madness, The Hound of the Baskervilles)

What are the two most overplayed supernatural creatures in pop culture right now? Correct! So why have yet another comic with vampires and zombies? Mostly because you have a very good writer putting them in a unique world along with an interesting story. You see, in turn of the 20th century London, you have the leaders of society volunteering to become vampires to combat zombies who seemingly came out of nowhere. The vampires cling to their moral niceties in order to keep society moving along. However, when a vampire is murdered (redundant much?) it sets off a rare investigation dealt with by the main character, Inspector Suttle. All sorts of mystery and nastiness are promised. Could there also be some sort of social commentary thrown in for good measure? That remains to be seen but you won't have a long road to hoe with New Deadwardians, as it is slated to be an eight issue mini-series.

So far, the plot has taken its time in developing, but that's at least partially due to Dan Abnett having to catch us up on the history of this alternate world. He's definitely taking a chance with creatures we're overly familiar with at this point, which may have something to do with the limited run the series is scheduled for. Whether or not Abnett is able to keep readers interested in a murder mystery within a vampire society desperately clinging to its social structure remains to be seen. The plot certainly does not seem fast-paced and that may also be a purposeful reflection of the slow, steady struggle of the upper class who have turned vampire as they resist their more base urges in favor of what is certainly a more sterile than debauched existence.

For the collector: Again, there's a 1:10 variant cover. This one is drawn by Cliff Chiang, most notable for his current work on the new Wonder Woman series. Most eBay auctions seem to end between $5 and $10 right now. With its slow pacing, most comic readers will likely lose interest in this series, so don't expect the value to go up much. Also, it's another vampire/zombie comic which will just turn some people off automatically due to market saturation. This might be more interesting to read if/when a collected volume is released.

Night Force
(DC)
Writer: Marv Wolfman (Teen Titans, Amazing Spider-Man, Crisis on Infinite Earths)
Pencils: Tom Mandrake (Firestorm, New Mutants)

Some people have developed a nervous tick when hearing the term, "re-imagining," but that's what this third series of Night Force has been tagged as in some circles Marv Wolfman is taking up his own series again after a 16 year break between the second series and this mini-series that's running up until later this year.

Certainly, Baron Winters is still present, but he's looking to assemble a new team to operate from his mysterious Wintersgate Manor. The only problem is that if you're unfamiliar with the concept of Night Force, you're thrown into the middle of things without much explanation or exposition of who Baron Winters is and how he operates. Even after three issues (of 7), we can't be sure about what the Night Force is supposed to be other than a group being gathered together by the Baron to do battle for him. The aforementioned Wintersgate Manor is able to draw people to it by having regular doors open up only to lead into the manor where the shadows move and may even attack.

The only other thing we know is that the Baron is gathering a Night Force together in order to combat a mysterious group that controls the world's elections and politicians whether or not those being controlled realize it. Oh, and the group also has some sort of strange breeding program going on that involves certain bloodlines. Whatever is going on, Marv Wolfman has four more issues to wrap up this third series of Night Force. The biggest challenge may be making the action coherent enough for people who don't want to revisit the previous series that were released in 1982 and 1996.

It's certainly confusing, but Tom Mandrake does a wonderful job with the art and the characters are well written. It's just that if you're not up on what Night Force was in the past, you'll likely be floundering around wondering what the heck is going on here.

For the collector: Marv Wolfman is a fan favorite and an icon for DC and other companies and Tom Mandrake's art is wonderful, so some fans will buy this series based on Wolfman's name alone. Unfortunately, there isn't much else to raise the value of this series. Even the original 1982 series #1 issue can be found online for about a dollar. This is one to collect if you're a fan, not an investor.

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