After reading the upcoming issue #9 of the so-called Nix Comics Quarterly, it’s my grave duty to report the continuation of a disturbing trend I first glimpsed in the previous publication. While Ken Eppstein and his merry band have once again delivered a mag chock-full of obscure rock references and inscrutable name-dropping, there’s also enough crossover potential here that it’s only a matter of time before NCQ is no longer our dirty little secret.
So you can’t get enough of these superheroes? Eppstein and Mchael Neno’s recurring character The Vicar has enough monster-killing machismo to go toe to toe with any of the Big Two’s heavy hitters – and he does it all without scuffing his black leather jacket. In love with Lovecraft? Christian Hoffer and Andy Bennett return to the nameless horrors of “a world ruined by digital music” with a new parable of the dangers of vintage media. Hell, there’s even something here for Beatles fans.
Thankfully, the new Nix Comics Quarterly, featuring a cover by acclaimed Cramps album artist Stephen Blickenstaff, hasn’t entirely forsaken its dirtbag DIY roots. I must commend artists Jude Vigants and Matt Wyatt (who each contribute to this ish’s ‘Bus Stop Ned’ strips with Matt Miner and Eppstein respectively) for their punk-rock disregard for such qualities as “three-point perspective” or “mise en scène.” These short pieces are based on real-life conversations overheard on public transportation, and I’d like to think that young savages Jude and Matt scribbled these out in the back of a Columbus classroom with all of the attention (or lack thereof) that such attempts at “comedy” deserve.
However, some of the other contributions show worrying signs of more intensive deliberation. For instance,
opener ‘Verna’s Somnambulant Adventure’ by Eppstein and the way-too-talented Gideon Kendall (right) is a short-length shrieker in the EC vein, in which the combined powers of a full set of “rare bootleg Haitian Beatles dolls” create quite the headache for young Verna.
Kendall’s style has more than a touch of Neal Adams’ toughness and fondness for gothic tropes, making the strip’s surprising denouement that much more satisfying. I’d love to see more of his work in a future issue, if someone like DC doesn’t tempt him away with oodles of Harley Quinn-stamped dollar bills first.
‘Hellhounds on My Trail’, an Eppstein and Pat Redding Scanlon joint, is also a memorable contribution. Ana Tatsura, self-proclaimed “Queen of Sin,” is approached by a handsome stranger at a midnight crossroads, but things don’t exactly go as planned. Scanlon’s stylized art is white-hot, and the punchline will leave you howling.
In my review of issue #8, I wrote that the “combination of Eppstein’s subdued pacing and Neno’s gorgeous layouts make [Vicar strip] ‘Only in Dreams’ one of this issue’s standouts,” even going so far as to compare Neno’s work to early Los Bros Hernandez.
Perhaps, then, I have only myself to blame for the fact that this issue’s follow-up, ‘Whispers from the Alley’ (left), is even better – regardless of the fact that the Vicar himself only appears in two panels. The rest of the strip is focused on band-member Alberto’s worrying conversation with a demonic canine. The Hernandez comparison (to Jaime in particular) is once again apt: Eppstein manages to cultivate a sense of oppressive dread in only a few lines of dialogue, and Neno’s horrific visualization of the pit-born pooch recalls a similar sequence from ‘Ghost of Hoppers’.
As if that weren’t enough, the issue is rounded out with a Vicar pin-up by Rich Trask and another episode of ‘Did It Really Happen?’. However, the latest edition of this once-proud investigative series into rock’s mythical history features none other than Stan ‘The Man’ Lee and heavy metal warrior Jon Mikl Thor. At this point, how can the movie studios not come knocking?