Larry Johnson's Latest Comics!
1. Madame Boogala, #1
Of all of Larry Johnson's characters, Madame Boogala has always been my favorite. Powerful, amoral, condescending towards modern society, yet dedicated to her people and her son, Goomar, she is Johnson's most human character. She also makes a good foil for my characters, so I've co-opted her a few times, with Larry's kind permission.
In her first full-sized appearance, “Spirit of the Wind”, the Madame recounts that time she met the handsome Count Ostropov in some unnamed Slavic country. Based on the costumes in the flashback, I'd venture the scene was set in the 17th Century. The count was a gentleman scientist, of a type not unheard of in those times, fashioning his own Leiden jars.
With her tale finished, a suit of clothes curiously flies by, saying only “wooooo”. It makes Goomar wonder if it's not Stribog, the ancient Slavic god of the wind, personified. Boogala assures him this is something else.
Employing a ritual, the Madame calms the wild spirit and reveals that it wishes them to follow it to BSI, the Brookston Scientific Institute, where so many unusual activities have occurred over the years. However, along the way, the man of clothes flies into a power pole, unleashing a creature of pure lightning!
Instead of “Wooooo”, this spirit says “Zzzzz”. However, Boogala chooses to follow the wind spirit, perhaps because she'd never be able to keep up with a spirit capable of traveling at the speed of electricity. She and Goomar find a skeleton and she channels another vision, that of Dr. Ostropov, a descendant of the man she knew centuries before.
This Ostropov worked and died at BSI. It turns out that the scientist's experiment created the electrical spirit and it killed him. And through some logic that escapes me, Dr. Ostropov has now been transformed into the wind spirit.
Well, the two spirits fight and all is rectified by the end. Well, there's the question of what the two Ostropovs share with one another, besides a name and an interest in converting wind power into electricity. And the question of how Ostropov has the power to destroy the electrical spirit as a ghost when he didn't have that power when he was alive. Do people gain powers by losing their bodies?
I couldn't help but notice, as soon as we see her in a full length panel on Page 2, that Boogala is wearing boots, rather than her usual pumps. It would seem that she's fortuitously prepared to walk around in soggy ground.
Filling out the premiere issue is a reprint of “Boogala's Dance”, in which the Madame takes on an eagle form to trouble Lew Brown. Or is it all a dream?
Despite my little jabs at the logic, this is a great premiere issue of my favorite small press character. I anxiously look forward to seeing more.
2. Tales of the Broken B, #1
In “Dead Man's Revenge” we begin with Clyde Brittle in a saloon of the Old West, telling his buddy, Ernie Malone, about that time he kilt himself a man ten years prior—Lazarus Jones. This flashback comes with enough coincidences that most listeners would raise an eyebrow.
Then Lil, the proprietress shows up and hooks the boys up with her girls.
The next morning, Clyde is shocked to spot a man who looks just like the villain he killed. But the man disappears—like a ghost.
Throughout the book, characters appear who seem to be the ancestors of characters we've seen in Johnson's earlier Madame Boogala and Lew Brown series. There's the lovely Edith Brown, of whom Clyde is particularly smitten. We see businesses named Crowe's and Morphote's. And there's the late Miss Ellie Carbone.
Visiting the grave of Ellie, the boys spot an iron rod that's been hammered into her grave. And that night, who should appear and challenge Clyde to a gunfight, but Lazarus Jones himself?!
As soon as a shot is fired, everyone comes running into the street to see what's happening. In truth, when guns start blazing, people then and now have the good sense to dive for cover. Bullets have a way of missing their targets and finding other targets.
Jones denies that he's a ghost, and he proves it by shooting Clyde's hat off.
Well, it turns out that Edith is the woman whom Clyde saved from Jones, ten years prior. And it turns out that Jones was the father of her son.
In a thunderstorm, Jones returns yet again, to kidnap Edith once more. He takes her to the graveyard, hoping to sexually assault her again. Clyde rides to her rescue, just in time! However, Jones easily beats the bejeezus out of Clyde... and if that's not enough, suddenly the reanimated corpse of Miss Ellie rises from her grave to attack him!
Jones and Ellie are not in cahoots, however. Jones declares Ellie to be, “A failure. That's what he said. Not like me.”
I'm approximately 100% certain that Jones is referring to the vile Morpho who has troubled Lew Brown and Madame Boogala over the years. Although it's not made clear, I also guess that Morpho is performing Herbert West-type experiments on the dead.
And why? No answer.
Why does the friendly in life Ellie Carbone become a ravening monster upon reanimation? No answer.
And the biggest coincidence of all? Why does a bolt of lightning conveniently zap the two revenants, just in the nick of time? Are we to infer this is the divine Hand of God at work?
Although the multiple coincidences might make the reader tear his hair out, it's still an enjoyable comic. I like the characters and the I love the Old West setting. It's an absolutely mythic milieu, and Johnson understands it pretty well.
As a nice capper, Johnson reprints one of his classic “Every Saturday” features, on a theme of life on the cattle trail. It's a nice touch.
The comic is handsomely produced in full color on slick paper and is worth the $6 price.