Last week was yet another great week for comics about superheroes coming back from the dead and averting the apocalypse, but in the off-chance that you’ve been in a mood for some new series that are a little less “KRAK! POW!” and more “What’s really important in life?” then these are the new books you should read.
Image: Dark Horse Comics
It’s always fascinating to read a comic book that’s written by someone who clearly loves the medium even if they themselves aren’t known for working in it. More often than not, the… foreignness of their comics writing voices adds something like a difficult to describe flavour into the mix of things.
That’s very much the case with Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts, which he co-authored with veteran journalist and Joel Rose. As a series, Hungry Ghosts is styled after the Japanese game from the Edo period Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, where participants would gather to tell scary stories about supernatural beings in order to summon them and frighten other players in the process.
Hungry Ghosts opens on a clear, dark night in Montauk, New York as a group of wealthy socialites are finishing up with a fantastic meal and the host of the evening has called the kitchen staff into the dining room to make an announcement. To celebrate the wonderful feast they have all just participated in, the host explains, everyone is going to play a game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, and Hungry Ghosts begins spinning its tales of mythic demons and food. Both of the gruesome fables told in Hungry Ghosts #1 – “The Starving Skeleton” and “The Pirates” – revolve around food (or at least the consumption of sustenance) and highlight the way that so much folklore from around the world is tied to the things we eat. Hungry Ghosts isn’t likely to actually scare you, but it might just make you want to really dig into the cultural history of your next meal to gain a new appreciation for it. (Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Vanesa Del Rey, Jose Villarrubia, Paul Pope)
Imagine an alternate universe where the ultimate celebrities are dimension-hopping bounty hunters and the most famous bounty hunter of them all is like a cross between Joan Rivers and Joan Crawford, with a healthy splash of Judy Garland thrown in. Now imagine being the daughter of that bounty hunter and working your entire life to get out of your mother’s oversized shadow.
That’s the general gist of Vertigo’s Motherlands and, as odd as it sounds, the premise totally works once you dive into the world Si Spurrier and Rachael Stott establish in the first issue. Like her mother, Tabitha Tubach works as a retriever – a licensed hunter who tracks down fugitives who hop into other human-populated dimensions in order to skirt the law. Unlike her celebrity mother, Selina “Scarlet Sylph” Tubach, Tabitha’s something of a washout who commands little respect in her field, though she isn’t nearly as preoccupied with dreams of fame.
The two are inspired to team up with one another for an unimaginably large bounty that neither of them could snag on their own – a bounty for a family member who’s very close to them. Even though Motherlands is filled to the brim with all kinds of sci-fi wonder and mayhem, you can tell that the mother/daughter relationship at its centre will end up being the most compelling part of the book. (Si Spurrier, Rachael Stott)