Kicking off the title’s second storyarc, “Black Lips,” “The Anchor” #5 begins with a slight jump forward as the eponymous hero (also known as Clem) is working with the US military to hunt down and kill the various monsters from Hell that break through to Earth, while his soul still battles against the forces of Hell there. In fact, the opening scene where Clem fights a lava monster is a great introduction to the character and concept of the series.
In many ways, this issue follows the pattern of previous issues: Clem fights a monster, kills the monster, eats its heart, and gains some lost memories in the process. Throw in a few scenes in Hell and an appearance from the mysterious bandaged man that has a speech impediment of some sort and it’s a pretty typical issue of “The Anchor.” While the story advances, especially at the end, the series feels like it’s treading water for the most part. Hopefully, the plot twist at the end of the issue will shake things up a little.
However, even when this book is simply ‘treading water,’ it’s still an entertaining read. Phil Hester’s slow reveal of Clem’s past is intriguing, and his interactions with Hofi are sweet. The Clem/Hofi relationship isn’t much different from other ‘mysterious strong man with poet heart/spunky young woman’ relationships, but Hester writes it very well and makes you care despite having seen it before in other stories. The added support staff for Clem add a few fun pieces of dialogue as well, giving the series a sense of stability and direction it didn’t have completely so far.
Given the concept of a hulking brute fighting demons and Brian Churilla’s blocky style of art, comparisons to “Hellboy” and Mike Mignola are inevitable, but somewhat misguided. The similarities are superficial as a closer inspection of Churilla’s art shows that his style differs quite a bit from Mignola with softer, rounder line work. His style is a little more simplistic and fluid, particularly when depicting the human supporting cast. In some cases, Hofi looks too cartoonish because of their soft, fluid style, but that also makes Clem stand out more. Churilla uses the differing looks of the two to create some dynamic, interesting visuals, aided by the soft colors of Matthew Wilson.
Not only does “The Anchor” #5 mark the beginning of the second story arc, it also ships on the same day as the first trade, which collects the first four issues of the series. It may be somewhat stagnate for the beginning of a new story arc, but that also makes this issue a great jumping on point for new readers.