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Top of the Hump: Best Comics 5/3/23

Kyle Starks dominates this Wednesday's pull box with three - all killer, no filler - issues.

It should be no secret that we’ve always been marks for Kyle Starks comics. The cartoonist has appeared twice on the podcast, once discussing his most excellent original graphic novel, Old Head, and another talking about a comic you’ll see in a moment celebrated below. As a writer, Starks is having a moment. This Wednesday will see not one new Starks book or two new Starks books, but three new Starks books! And each one is an absolute banger well worth your time and money.

The two of us fought over who got to champion what. Since Brad recently wrote lovingly about I Hate This Place, it was Lisa's turn this week, and Brad took Where Monsters Lie. We then collaborated on the third Kyle Starks book hitting shelves on 5/3/23, Peacemaker Tries Hard. Added bonus, Starks is stretching his talents across multiple publishers, giving us a chance to recognize Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment, and DC Comics.


Brad's Pick: Where Monsters Lie #4

Image Credit: © 2023 Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Kyle Starks

Artist: Piotr Kowalski

Colorist: Vladimir Popov

Letterer: Joshua Reed

Variant Cover (See Above): David Rubin

In I Hate This Place, Kyle Starks and his pals throw in every kind of horror movie nasty. With Where Monsters Lie, Starks and artist Piotr Kowalski are a little more focused, simply satirizing every slasher movie killer that's ever graced the bloody silver screen. Amongst the Wilmhurst residents, we have stand-ins for Leatherface, Michael Myers, Jigsaw, Cujo, and many more.

As with all Kyle Starks comics, humor slathers everything, but this final issue truly hammers home the horror. The cops have stormed the castle and are already ground meat before panel one. Our final boys, Linus, and Detective Hayes, get paired with two particularly gruesome opponents. If they escape their predicaments, they'll undoubtedly be different people on the other side of them. The future possibilities for this comic's characters are its most compelling element. Where do any of these folks go from here? Nowhere good. Unless you're the reader, then it's all good.

Where Monsters Lie crams a lot of ick and anxiety into its four issues. The chase within is unrelenting and utterly compelling, as silly as it is stressful. The comic is also a promise; many more dark delicacies await readers if enough of us pick up this series. Starks and Kowalski are a fun pair, perfectly complementing each other, joyously grinding through genres and tones. More, please.


Lisa's Pick: I Hate This Place #8

Image Credit: © 2023 Image Comics

Writer: Kyle Starks

Artist: Artyom Topilin

Colorist: Lee Loughridge

Letterer: Pat Brosseau

Spoilers for last month's issue - please only read further if you're caught up on I Hate This Place #7. Gabby charged through the portal and is now on the other side. What she finds there spins this comic on its head, inviting a genre into this kitchen sink comic we were not expecting. With the introduction of this new element, a flurry of new worries swarms through this reader's head. Plotty, plot, plot-plot shenanigans are upon us, but Kyle Starks always zags when you expect a zig.

Most importantly, I Hate This Place keeps Gabby and Trudy's relationship front and center. The world's ending is terrible enough, but we're happy as long as Gabby and Trudy control their end. Issue seven also allows Artyom Topilin to play in ways we have not previously experienced in the comic. The acting remains top-tier, but we now have new types of faces to watch this artist work. It's damn delightful.

And have we done enough here at Comic Book Couples Counseling to worship Lee Loughridge's colors? Month after month, Loughridge wows with a bold, badass, and beautifully emotional spectrum. I couldn't imagine I Hate This Place in black and white, as Loughridge's colors frequently sell the comic's dread, excitement, and monster movie horror.

Right now, I Hate This Place is the comic I look forward to the most every month. Its ending is in sight, and I don't like it. If (and I sure hope it's not an "if" I have to stress over too much) Gabby and Trudy make it out of their apocalypse alive, I would love to see their adventures continue in some fashion. We would both be perfectly satisfied to see those "Gabby and Trudy Before the Ranch" cartoons that climax every issue expanded into a proper graphic novel.

Final rating: five out of five pies.


CBCC Bonus Pick: Peacemaker Tries Hard #1

Image Credit: © 2023 DC Comics

Writer: Kyle Starks

Artist: Steve Pugh

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Letterer: Becca Carey

We've dabbled very little with Peacemaker. He may have popped up here and there in the comics we've consumed, but he's never been the focus of a book in our pull box. Until today.

Peacemaker Tries Hard #1 doesn't require much from you, thankfully. If you've seen the HBO Max series, you're good. You get his deal. If you haven't, you'll figure it out by page two. He "loves peace. So much." 'Nuff said.

The first issue is an aggressively Black Label book, layering thick profanity with crisp but barely gratuitous violence. Our hero gets the call from Amanda Waller. Some terrorist scumbags need blunt, brutal attention. Peacemaker is happy to oblige while contemplating the mysteries of a muscle cake recipe. By the end of the first issue, he's got a new puppy and one who immediately falls into dastardly peril. Peacemaker Is itchin' to go full-John Wick. We can't wait to see him do so in issue number two.

Kyle Starks and Steve Pugh make a great team. Starks brings his Sexcastle energy to a character who was seemingly halfway there, while Pugh contains it inside a meaty DC Comics superhero aesthetic. Pugh exaggerates the expressions and movements a tad, producing just the right amount of cartoonish glee. Peacemaker Tries Hard carries the bravado of an eighties action movie as well as the self-awareness that so many of those flicks lacked.


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