Anybody who starts with the fourth issue of a series is kind of stupid anyway, but I can’t help but think of at least one poor soul out there who picked this one up without seeing the rest of this series. Maybe they just liked California? Anyway, this poor person would have opened up the comic and seen (on the very first page!) a giant tentacled monster with one eye hovering over a house, a disembodied head bouncing around trying to stay away from the monster, a surprisingly calm family sitting down at a table while the monster smashed the table around them, and the disembodied head bashing into one of people at the table. If this poor soul didn’t spontaneously combust and they made it to the next few panels they would see the head bashing into a few more people at the table and those people vanishing after being struck. At this point I would only hope that they’d stop and go back to read the rest of the series, but hypothetical people can be stubborn. Oh hi, those were spoilers, kind of, for the rest of this series. But they were mostly from the first page of this issue so it’s OK to talk about them. This issues concludes the California saga, and after this one I’d say it’s safe to call it a “saga.” Once again I wish we lived in a world where something like this could be collected and released to wide acclaim, making Rob a wealthy man. But we’re stuck with this world for now, so you should maybe go back and get past issues for this series if you haven’t already. The rest of this issue deals with the horrible monster getting loose in the real world, the missing 200 townspeople, the key to defeating this monster, and the strategies of fighting an invisible monster. It’s a pretty damned great conclusion, all things considered. I loved the creepy teeth in that creature and how they seemed to go on forever, and life continuing to go on as usual so quickly after things wrapped up was nicely done as well. It seems like I’d already declared an older series of Rob’s as my all-time favorite of his (which makes me feel especially stupid for not remembering the name of that series, but it dealt with amusement parts (or my brain has just completely shut down on this topic)), but this one would have to be a close second or third. If you just read the first issue you’d have no idea that things would end this strangely, and that’s exactly how such comics should be done. Check it out and enjoy, and if we all wish hard enough maybe this could magically become a big summer blockbuster movie.
In this issue: shit goes down! There, I’m experimenting with shorter reviews, what with everybody using Twitter and willingly confining themselves to 140 characters per message. Eh, that’s cheating, as I’m assuming people come here to get a little more detail out of their reviews. What’s that? You say it’s mostly just to kill time at work? Fair enough. It’s impossible to say that this is Rob’s strangest comic, because there’s quite a competition for that title, but it’s steadily gaining on his other entries. In this issue Billy confronts Jake in the basement of the church and gets the barest glimpse of what exactly is happening. But when Billy wakes up the next day he discovers that everybody except for the preacher at the other (otherwise abandoned) church has disappeared, he has to go back to his friend from the first issue for advice. And that is when shit goes down. My policy against spoilers has rarely hurt more, but if you think that cover is a rare abstract Rob Jackson cover, nope. That happens in the book, even though you most likely have no idea what’s happening just by looking at it there. Things are “to be continued” again, although I’m guessing from the pace of the story that he meant to say “to be concluded,” but what do I know? This is another impressive series from a man who has built up his own personal library over the last 8 (or so) years, and you should damned well be reading it.
Well, this has gone from being a bit like “Grapes of Wrath” to being a lot closer to something from H.P. Lovecraft. And they go together much better than you may think! In this issue we see a tiny bit more of what’s out there in that forest, the whole family is finally together in California (with a few mysterious stops by Jake along the way), the water that was so suspicious gets made into communion wine, Billy gets a job where he sees a few more suspicious things, and a cellar is uncovered in an old mansion. See, this is there it gets tricky, as I don’t want to tell you anything past “buy this already,” and that failing has dogged me through 11+ years of writing these reviews. So join me as I try, once again, to thread that needle! The story is building up nicely, and the next issue (which Rob was nice enough to include with this one) promises to finally start revealing some of the mysteries. The last few pages, where ____ gets to the ____, were creepy as hell and set up the next issue perfectly. And those creepy glimpses of the _____ in the forest were done very well. So, like I said earlier: buy it already!
Spoiler alert: we never get to see California. This one starts off a lot like “The Grapes of Wrath,” with a family losing their farm and heading out to California in search of better times. They get into an accident on the way (well, an accident on their part; the truck that runs them off the road doesn’t seem to care about them one way or the other), the dad hurts his ankle and is unable to work, and one of the sons ends up taking a job to pay for repairs. While this is going on another one of the sons has taken to wandering off constantly, into the creepy local woods, and generally seems to have trouble concentrating or helping the family. This daydreaming son (Jake) somehow gains the ability to heal people, so he heals his dad and convinces the family to keep on going to California, leaving the other son (Billy) behind so that he can keep paying off their debt. Jake gets noticed by some religious folks in California, the family earns enough money to pay off their debt and get Billy back, and I’m on the verge of describing the whole book to you. We do start to see some very brief hints of what might be happening in that creepy forest, learn about the very human problem that also exists in those woods, and generally have things nicely set up for the next issue. Out of how many issues? Who knows, but Rob has proven in the past that he’s more than capable of juggling a few different series at once. Worth a look, and Rob has already made enough interesting/ridiculous/fantastic series that I’m on board with whatever he wants to try. And yes, I’ll be here to point it out if the whole thing goes off the rails…