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A dead girl in a bathtub; men wearing sunglasses and dark trench coats; and firing a gun by holding it sideways: These were the three tropes that could be reliably anticipated in nearly every student project twenty years ago when I was in film school.

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There was a certain type of film-bro who salivated over Fight Club and Pulp Fiction and those swaggering macho symbols. (My Film II final was a fantastical retelling of the life of Robert Frost. It won an award. So there.) Over the years I’ve come to develop an appreciation for those silly over-the-top depictions of masculinity as a sort of camp that speaks a language I don’t fully understand. I don’t think that’s the intent — the sideway-gun guys probably didn’t mean to be funny — but if they’re enjoying their filmmaking in one way and I’m enjoying it in mine, hey, everyone’s happy so what’s the problem?

Alas, there wasn’t much pleasure to be wrung out of a similarly macho comic book this week, which adapts classic nursery rhymes into modern-day crime stories. Not even a familiar ludicrous swagger could save this outing; but fortunately, two other books this week offer a more surprising take on old tropes.

Thanks as always to Phoenix for sorting through this week’s new releases!

BUCKHEAD #1

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A year after his father mysteriously vanishes, teenager Toba Adekunle catches strange glimpses on his first day of school. A haunted-looking house, a hidden computer lab, odd experiments — what’s really going on in the suburb of Buckhead, Washington? It’s up to Toba and his friends to get to the bottom of things before sinister forces close in on them — and maybe rescue his missing father along the way. A rapidly-paced mystery with wonderful, expressive line work, Buckhead is a great entry into the “suburban kids stumble across a terrible conspiracy by the adults” genre. Toba’s a great hero, pulled between fun teenage moodiness and dangerous curiosity; his pack of friends are similarly distinctive. (Though this issue shows our main characters meeting and becoming inseparable with implausible speed, I’m willing to forgive that so we can get to the plot twists as quickly as possible.) I’m delighted by the hints of African history and Afrofuturism, and eager to see those supernatural and sci-fi notes expand as the gang of friends dives deeper into the small town’s seedy underbelly. A particularly timely tale given Twitter’s current interest in contemplatable orbs.
Rating: 🔮🔮🔮🔮🔮 (5/5)
Writer: Shobo. Art: George Kambadais. Lettering: Jim Campbell. Alt cover: Simangaliso Sibaya, Natalia Nesterenko, Koi Pham. Logo: Julian Crab.

DAISY ISSUE #1

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There’s something amiss in a small town, where a household of children read fervently from an unsettling religious tome filled with giants, angels, and gore. What’s going on in that house, and what’s the connection to an out-of-town cop obsessed with solving the mystery of her son’s disappearance? Daisy’s opening is thick with mystery and disquiet, and a couple of Hitchcockian surprises that promise a five-issue run full of twisty intrigue. Readers with a religious upbringing will recognize some notes, but the Biblical references are unobtrusive, and even without any knowledge of their meaning, they heighten the creative creepiness. My one complaint: The religious excerpts run a bit long, and ask that the reader absorb a bit more allegory than it seems like we need — at least for this first issue. But the sinister small-town setting, the secretive locals, and most of all the WEIRD WEIRD kids establish an excellent setting for this puzzling, perhaps-supernatural mystery. The art pairs well with the story, with plenty of shadow in which unknown threats might hide (distracting us from the threats right under our noses).
Rating: 👼👼👼👼 (4/5)
Story and art: Colin Lorimer. Colors: Joana Lafuente, Anita Wu. Lettering: Jim Campbell.

MOTHER F. GOOSE ISSUE #1

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A collection of concepts that would have worked just as well as a handful of witty illustrations, Mother F. Goose promises to “ruin your childhood” with mafia-themed stories based on classic children’s tales. There’s a torturer named Hickory Dickory (a doctor); three blind assassins who dress as mice for a BDSM session; three fat casino owners whose vaults are knocked over in a heist orchestrated by a criminal who goes by The Wolf. Each translation from nursery rhyme to gory shoot-em-up is conveyed in fragments, narrated in voiceover by two detectives named Jack and Muffit, and I wouldn’t call them “stories” so much as a string of tortured premises. The “not the Mother Goose you know” gag is a fine vein to mine, one that Neil Gaiman’s spent large portions of his career excavating. But this book does nothing to plumb any deeper meanings to these timeless archetypes. So what that the casino owners are adapted from the three little pigs, is that supposed to add anything? Instead of a story, we’re served a fragmented gritty-crime montage that struggles to connect the fairy tales together and adds up to little more than references glued together with copious blood. The illustrations, lettering, and layout meet but do not exceed the needs of the project. You know what? I think my childhood will be just fine.
Rating: 🐁🐁 (2/5)
Writer: Frank Tieri. Artist: Joe Eisma. Alt covers: Amanda Conner, Robert Hack.

ALSO: NEW OLD BUFFY, SNOW WOLF, and HAWKEYE WHO?


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Also of interest this week is a new take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, featuring an older, wiser (?) slayer. Between the Snow and the Wolf is a very pretty Ghibli-style hardcover about a magic snowy forest. There’s a handful of new Marvel and DC books: The Marvel Voices series continues with Comunidades #1, and there’s a spinoff of the new Hawkeye series if you’ve been enjoying that. (Have you? I haven’t met anyone who’s watching it.) Also of interest to superhero fans is World of Kingpin, which is pretty much what it sounds like; and a comedy series called One Star Squadron that satirizes DC characters.