The Secret History of D.B. Cooper #1
Story, Pencils and Colors: Brian Churilla
How would I sum up The Secret History of D.B. Cooper #1? Easy. Kill Bill meets Inception and they go on an acid trip. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Perfect place to plop in one of the most mysterious criminal figures of the past 40 years, right?
I love comics and this issue serves as a great example of how they are a storytelling medium unlike any other. There are things you can do in comics that you simply can’t do in books or movies.
The majority of this issue takes place in two places: the real world, and a place I’ll call Acid Adventureland (“A theme park coming to a back alley near you!”). In the real world, we have a fat, bald Russian sitting behind a desk in a dimly lit room somewhere inside The Kremlin. In Acid Adventureland we have D.B. Cooper, his one-eyed teddybear buddy, fighting a monster with a samurai sword.
It’s only as both stories simultaneously unfold that we begin to realize they’re connected. Brian Churilla leaves subtle clues to guide the reader in making the necessary connections. We’re forced to jump between stories, sometimes as rapidly as every other panel. In a book or a movie that could feel jarring and messy, but it works beautifully here. When the events of the real world and Acid Adventureland finally collide the payoff is worth the wait.
Right off the bat Churilla’s art reminded me of Eric Powell’s early work on The Goon, which is one of the most beautifully drawn comics on the market today (feels funny calling drawings of zombies and mutant lizards getting their faces punched in “beautiful”). It’s an interesting coincidence that the creators of both The Goon and The Secret History of D.B. Cooper do double duty on the story and art.
I liked this first issue a lot, partly because I have absolutely no idea what direction the series is heading. There are a lot of ways you could go in the psychedelic world Churilla has created here. I’m excited to learn more about Cooper himself and the strange place he calls home.
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Conan the Barbarian #2
Story: Brian Wood
Pencils: Becky Cloonan
Colors: Dave Stewart
Here was my basic thought process when considering whether or not to jump onboard for the latest iteration of Conan: “Hmmm… I need more badasses with swords in my life. Oh, hey there, Conan the Barbarian.”
Having never read any of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories, or the previous comic adaptations, I had zero expectations or preconceived notions about the character or the world in which he lives. OK, in the interest of full disclose, I’ll admit I had one small expectation: that Conan’s level asskickery and badassery be similar to that of Jesse Ventura à la Predator.
Thankfully, the goods measured up and then some in this comic. The events of this issue in particular, which focuses on a knock-down, drag-out brawl on the high seas, demonstrates Conan’s proficiency with a sword as well as hand-to-hand combat. His narration and display of “the three basic principles of bow [and arrow] mastery” was a fun part of the story and showed that while Conan may come off as young and brash, he’s a skilled and intelligent warrior.
Becky Cloonan’s art perfectly complements Brian Wood’s Conan. We get a close-up on Conan as he explains the feeling of “battle calm” he gets as he single-handedly slaughters the evil Belit’s crew. The look on his blood-splattered face tells you all you need to know about Conan. He's a wolf. He's battle-tested.
And man, while Cloonan’s pencils are deserving of praise, I’m so glad Dave Stewart is coloring this comic. He’s so good at creating a distinct mood for a story and pulling you in through it. The bright orange backgrounds during the height of the battle give the scene an intensity and momentum that simply wouldn’t be there if the background was the blue sky or gray ocean.
I’m excited to see where this comic goes and whether it will begin building toward a longer story arc versus a series of minis. I do like the idea of Wood adapting some of Howard’s original Conan stories like he’s done here in issue #2 of The Queen of the Black Coast. Either way, with the creative team Dark Horse has assembled for this book, I’m in it for the long haul (or until Conan goes soft, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars