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Mysteries are a tough tightrope. Give away too much and you’ve spoiled the reader’s fun; but if you keep the information too guarded, there’s nothing there to hook a reader’s interest. That’s why, I think, so many popular detectives have some sort of character quirk to make up for an occasionally-unsteady hand on the plot: Jessica Fletcher is a wonderful marm, even when the clues don’t fully add up; Columbo is playfully gruff; Dick Tracy has neato gadgets; Sherlock is an asshole except when he’s tenderly kissing John in my fanfiction.

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This week’s new comics straddle a line of revealing very little to giving it all away, but at least two of them find a way to make up for it by giving us something else to enjoy: In one case, an emotionally volatile doctor on the verge of a breakdown; and in another, a detective so adroit at making deductions it feels like he’s making fun of the genre.

Then, alas, there’s an illustrated biography of Leonard Cohen that is not supposed to be a mystery at all, but is so sparse with details that I felt like it was up to me to puzzle out who the hell this Leonard guy is.

Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to sort through the new releases this week! See you out on the streets, gumshoes.

A THING CALLED TRUTH ISSUE #1


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An absent-minded scientist finds her life thrown into chaos when her shadowy employers realize how lucrative her research could be and move to steal her life’s work — and that’s before she gets blackout drunk and wakes up on the other side of the world. An unlikely comedy, A Thing Called Truth has a rambunctious, careening velocity and an emotional level that wavers between “maximum” and “maximum-plus.” Faces are big, bold, and expressive; the world is lousy with exclamation points; and there’s a gasp-inducing plot twist on every page. Some readers may find this much constant excitement numbing; but I welcome a story that wastes no time jumping from one swerve to another. It’s the Run Lola Run of scientist-on-the-lam stories — that’s a genre, right? — and at its core hides a frazzled, burned-out, lovelorn woman who dedicated her life to her work while neglecting to work on her life. In the final panels of issue 1, a weird surprise yanks the rug out from under our heroine and points her in the direction of… well, if not a better life, at least one where she can do even more dramatic shouting.

Rating: 🚗🚗🚗🚗 (4/5)

Writer: Iolanda Zanfardino. Artist: Elisa Romboli. Alt covers: Iolanda Zanfardino, Mirka Andolfo.

NEWBURN ISSUE #1


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A private investigator named Easton Newburn is called in to investigate a shooting, and starts piecing together a labyrinthine plot involving organized crime. Why was he called in? Well, probably because he works fast — hilariously so, and I’m not sure it’s supposed to land as comedy. The moment a character starts talking, Newburn’s like “aha, I’ve solved your riddle,” like how Sherlock Holmes can glance at a woman’s sleeve and deduce that she recently purchased trout from a one-eyed fishmonger in Luxembourg. Newburg races through the paces of a fairly typical mystery like he’s got cheat codes, barely giving the reader time to catch up; unlike the characters in A Thing Called Truth, he has a Joe-Friday-style emotionless detachment that drains the story of its punch. Does he feel anything about the mystery he’s tracking down? It doesn’t seem as though he has any feelings at all, and were it not for all the clever little clue-sniffing moments I’d have found my attention drifting. But our hero’s absurd ability to deduce is a pleasure — as pleasurable as watching the gears spin inside a finely-crafted clock. Fun, for some people, though not exactly habit-forming.

Rating: 9️⃣9️⃣9️⃣ (3/5)

Writers: Nadia Shammas, Chip Zdarsky. Artists: Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub, Jacob Phillips. Alt cover: Tula Lotay.

LEONARD COHEN: ON A WIRE


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I don’t know much about musician Leonard Cohen — the Hallelujah guy — and after reading this book I hadn’t picked up much and didn’t feel motivated to learn more. Featuring illustrated highlights of Cohen’s life, the book zips through his most fertile creative moments, offering brief glimpses at the man with a near-total absence of passion. As depicted here, Leonard (and everyone in his life) speaks with a placid calm that feels almost tranquilized; the characters are so unemotional that the art often looks like drawings of droopy-eyed mannequins propped up in various rooms. Sometimes we don’t even get the room; just a beige tone-on-tone slanted line like the background of a Garfield strip. The snippets of his life feel like an illustrated Wikipedia entry; “here’s a thing that happened once,” the book seems to say, and then I get to the end of the sequence and wonder, “so?” I’m sure Leonard Cohen lived a rich life of adventure and insight. I wonder what that was like.

Rating: 🎸🎸 (2/5)

Writer and illustrator: Philippe Girard. Translators: Helge Dascher, Karen Houle.

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ALSO: HEROS IN LOVE, A TINY DANCER, and OH NO VAMPIRES!

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My friend Josh Trujillo has a new Hulkling and Wiccan story, available to read for free online, and I enjoyed it very much indeed. Steel your nerves for Taking Turns, a graphic memoir about work and life in an HIV care facility during the worst days of the epidemic. Comics and the Origins of Manga is a textbook — with typed words and everything! — and it looks like a fascinating read about Japanese sequential art. Tiny Dancer is a sweet-natured memoir about joining the New York City Ballet. And DC fans may be interested in the new DC vs Vampires; Task Force Z, featuring characters back from the dead; and an Aquaman/Green Arrow team-up in Deep Target. Yes, those all came out last week, but supply chain issues delayed their arrival on shelves. That’s just the world we live in now, apparently!