(Spoiler Alert: Yuko Shimizu is a Boss Artist)
When Matt passed me this issue, he remarked on the great quality of the cover and as we exchanged cash for comic we briefly admired it together- two comic fans enthralled at the artistry many people consider absent in the medium. Yuko Shimizu’s cover (pictured below) works wonderfully outside the context of a comic, but after I read this issue and looked at it again I was further impressed with Shimizu’s ability to distill the issue’s theme and narrative into the image of a pair of hands emerging from the stomach of a large dead rabbit hung by its leg with a piece of blue ribbon. Wonderful stuff that functions as a reminder that some comics are worth reading issue by issue because I feel the potency of individuals covers get lost for me within larger collections where I often skip pass them quickly in my hunger for more story, more laughs, more boom.
This issue starts us off prior to issue one of the Apocalypse storyline and after the defeat of the Leviathan where in the opening pages we’re treated to what the rest of the gang did while Tom journeyed back to the ‘real’ world. Having not read the majority of the main series, I was unfamiliar with the swearing anthropomorphic rabbit that emerges from Hades along with the gang only to transform into a human by the second page. Quickly its established that the rabbit/guy, named Pauly, doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Wilson Taylor with whom I learned he once shared a cell with in Hades. Over the rest of the issue we’re shown Pauly’s solo journey after the gang abandons him, leading to some of the most gorey pages yet in this series.
Continuing the comic’s theme of storytelling, we learn through Pauly’s narration and Peter Gross’s art that the living stories that have manifested in the world have lost much of their purpose in the absence of humans. This leads to the rampages we’ve seen throughout the series so far, and some gruesome imagery as Pauly encounters zombies, dog-humans, fairies, and combusting American Civil War soldiers. Pauly soon arrives at a tower where he meets the Collector, a kindergarten teacher prior to the apocalypse, whose desire is to collect one of every type of human as she believes it is her duty to do ala Noah, but rather than species she’s interested in acquiring ‘Optimists. Optometrists. Poets. Perverts. Muslims. Detectives. Belgians. Children. Thieves. Clowns. Amputees.” Although I hadn’t read any issues featuring Pauly (other than his brief appearance in issue four shown again this time from Pauly’s perspective), Mike Carey does a commendable job of conveying his collapsing psyche despite his tough demeanor. This makes it interesting to experience with Pauly the type of horrific stuff that occurs in a world where there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to anything.
In conjunction with Carey, Peter Gross’s depiction of Pauly shows how worn out he’s become in this new world, lining Pauly’s face with wrinkles to an extent normally only reserved for hundred year old mages in one panel then drawing a chilling being Pauly calls a ghost fish that hangs out with the Collector. What most stuck out to me about this issue though was Chris Chuckry’s use of color throughout that serviced the story perfectly, using watercolors in dream scenes set in the Hundred Acre Wood stand-in Willow Bank, washed out blues and reds in the apocalyptic landscapes, and a more natural color scheme once Pauly has finds reprieve with Tom and the others. I especially liked a scene set during Pauly’s time with the Collector where he goes on a raid and ends up killing a bunch of Keebler-looking elves whose high contrast primary colors stood out against the dreary and starving humans.
As can be imagined, a man like Pauly, addled by his own thoughts doesn’t function well in company, and the last few pages show that despite his absence so far, Pauly’s sure to play into the climax of this comic.
Read this comic if you could use some fine art on your wall, or if you’re into seeing a stitched up mouse in a bonnet.