A paranormal cozy and a bunch of comic books read

DEAD EYE: A Tiger’s Eye Mystery by Alyssa Day is an urban fantasy/cozy mystery in which a woman with I See Your Death When I Touch You powers inherits a pawn shop in a town of supernatural residents and has to cope with a)someone dumping a corpse on her floor and b)the late pawnbroker’s weretiger nephew who finds her inheritance a bit … suspicious. A fun read but the mythos was murky, partly because it’s a spin-off from a previously established universe.

Screenwriter John Ridley’s OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE has a great hook, looking at the superheroic age from a minority perspective — Black Lightning, Mal Duncan, Renee Montoya, Katana — but flops miserably in execution. Rather than a comic, each character gets to narrate their autobiography with the various artists providing illustration, so there’s really no dialog or action. Ridley also spends far too much time on stuff I already know (Katana’s time in the Outsiders, for instance) without giving it the fresh perspective the concept suggests.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH: End of the World by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds has another great concept wrecked by execution. Conspiracy theories have the power to alter our consensus reality if enough people buy in — there’s a great moment where a Sandy Hook mother sees her kid alive on video, proving he was a “crisis actor” — and the eponymous government branch is dedicated to preventing that. Only the leader of the conspiracy-mongering Black Hats warns the new-recruit protagonist that the department’s real goal is shaping reality for the benefit of American hegemony. Unfortunately Simmonds art is both ugly and bad — there’s a crucial reveal early on where I had no idea what the protagonist was looking at — and the story spends too much time just discussing various conspiracies (and not always accurately). I Won’t bother with V2.

Novelist Sarah Kuhn does much better with SHADOW OF THE BATGIRL illustrated by Nicole Goux. This out-of-continuity graphic has Cassandra Cain (Kuhn says in the introduction that she identified with Cass as one of comics’ few Asian-American superheroes) walk away from her life as her father’s assassin, hole up in Gotham City’s library and learn from paraplegic librarian Barbara Gordon about a hero who defended the city — Batgirl! I enjoyed this one.

I also had fun with two separate series of JUGHEAD’S TIME POLICE. A 1990s Archie Comics one-shot introduces Jughead to January McAndrews, a 29th century member of the Time Police and a descendant of Archie’s. January arrives in the past because Jughead’s about to save a man’s life and some time criminals plan to prevent that, altering history. Fortunately they’re way out of their depth battling the legendary hero Jughead (a running element of the stories is that Jughead will grow up to become an iconic legend).

Apparently this did well enough to launch a series of time-travel stories in which someone equips Jughead’s beanie with thought-operated time-travel capabilities, making him a valuable Time Police asset; in various stories he and January (who have a romance going) deal with threats to the stability of the time stream, though not always by approved Time Police methods). This was a lot of fun; Rich P. Margopoulos provides most of the writing with various artists contributing (the cover is by Gene Colan).

The 2019 series by Sina Grace and Derek Charm (which I was sure I’d already reviewed, but apparently not) has the same starting point but goes in a different direction. After January recruits Jughead it turns out there’s another Jughead counterpart manipulating everything, and before long we get a glimpse of the Archie multiverse including Jughead as zombie, little kid, broody Riverdale character and Jughead as Captain Hero, his secret identity from the mid-1960s.

LEAVE IT TO CHANCE: Trick or Treat by James Robinson and Paul Smith was the follow-up to V1, Shaman’s Tears, and has Chance Falconer once again defying her father’s directives to stay safe, instead battling evil everywhere from Chinatown to the private girl’s school Falconer sent her to. Smith and Robinson wanted to write an all-ages, girls-friendly comic and they succeeded admirably.

HELLBOY: The Bones of Giants by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Matt Smith and Chris O’Halloran has Hellboy and Abe running into an old enemy scheming to raise a frost giant army in revenge — and when Thor’s hammer turns up, it winds up grafted to Hellboy’s stone hand. Not classic, but good monster-smashing fun.

#SFWApro. Covers by Trevor Von Eeden, Gene Colan and Paul Smith, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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