Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Eduardo Risso's Tales of Terror: I didn't find this all that scary--wait, what was that?!? AAAAAAAHHH!!!
I guess this is the closest I get to a Halloween special here. Thanks, folks, tip your waitress.
Quickly: my review of the second volume of Kurohime is up at MangaLife. Enjoy, but stay here for the scary stuff (unless you're really freaked out by boobsocks, in which case you should go over there).
Eduardo Risso's Tales of Terror
Written by Carlos Trillo
Art by Eduardo Risso
Eduardo Risso is best known in the United States for his work illustrating Vertigo's 100 Bullets, but he has had quite a career in Europe and his native Argentina. This volume collects eleven short stories, all written by Risso's frequent collaborator Carlos Trillo. While the anthology has a "horror" theme, the stories cover a variety of lurid subjects, from gangland murder to ghosts and monsters to crime and revenge. They seem to be inspired by the EC Comics stories, often featuring an ironic twist or revelation. It makes for an interesting tapestry of death and despair, tied together with Risso's excellent shadow-filled artwork.
Really, that art is the big selling point here; he's the one with his name on the cover of the book. If he wasn't involved, the book probably wouldn't have a chance of being published in the U.S. But I for one am glad to get a sampling of a favorite artist's foreign work. And it's exquisite stuff, full of violence and gore, convincingly acted out by unique characters in Risso's unique style. Whether he's depicting action through the point of view of the characters:
Shocking us with scenes of brutality:
Depicting awesome monsters:
Using shadows, silhouettes, and negative space to define a the mood of the environment:
Exaggerating characters in a humorous (or scary) manner:
Or just plain blowing my mind with his abilities to convey information so simply:
That panel just amazes me, the way Risso defines the woman's legs using only some zig-zag lines, but still making them look sexy. Wow. I'm calling it my current favorite panel.
Of all the stories, I think my favorites are the ones involving monsters, like a swamp creature or a mummy, or even Frankenstein's famous creation. There are a couple duds, but they're never uninteresting, simply due to the amazing visuals. Dynamite's printing is nice, although the paper is a bit too shiny; something closer to newsprint would have emphasized the pulp atmosphere. And, for some reason, no titles are listed for any of the stories, even though they each have a title page with a "chapter number". That was weird, and annoying, since I would have liked to look up information about when and where they were originally published.
But any complaints are minor; overall, this is an excellent book for fans of Risso's work, or for people who like these sorts of stories. If it sounds like your type of thing, I encourage you to check it out.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Okay, here's what I really wanted to talk about:
That's right, it's my current favorite panel (I haven't done that in a while!), from Casanova #10, a really good issue of one of the best monthly comics that's currently being produced. This issue is a sexy romp through a freaky cinema-based murder cult, and holy cow, does Fabio Moon make Zephyr look hot in that panel. I love the way her feet are arched to show off her legs like that. Yowza! Damn good comics.
And another excellent panel:
That's from Glister #2, the newest issue of Andi Watson's all-ages series. This one is great, with Glister's home, the shape-changing Chilblain Hall, getting upset when a guy from the town calls it an eyesore and leaving to go on vacation throughout the world. There's some great stuff in the issue, but I think that panel has my favorite joke.
Okay, I think that's it for today, unless the mood strikes me to write about something or other (like the political metaphors in 28 Weeks Later, which I just watched). So long!
New comics this week (Wednesday, 10/31/07):
Biff Bam Pow #1
A new ongoing(?) series from Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, involving interstellar boxing, or something like that. Looks like fun.
I got a review copy of the first issue of this series, and it was interesting. I never wrote anything about it for some reason. Maybe if I get this second issue I'll think of something to say.
Black Summer Alpha
Wait, wasn't this in Avatar's solicitations for January? Weird. Anyway, it's a combination of the #0 and #1 issues, if you missed out.
Jack of Fables #16
In which Jack tries to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I think. This is a really fun book, and I just can't bear to drop it and wait for the trade.
Mouse Guard Winter 1152 #2
Ooh, cool. The first issue of this second miniseries was nice-looking, and I'm always interested to see where this is going.
Special Forces #1
Awesome! This is probably going to be my highlight of the week; I love Kyle Baker. This is his Iraq satire, about a mentally disabled guy joining the army. I can't wait to read it.
Big Questions #10
You know, I don't think I actually own any of Anders Nilsen's comics, even though I really like his art style. I plan to get Dogs and Water sometime soon, but I should try to check this out too.
Immortal Iron Fist vol. 1
If you missed out on the beginning of this awesome series and didn't want to spend $20 on the hardcover, here's the paperback version for only $14.99. Sweet.
A gangster-type graphic novel from Image, written by Felipe Ferriera and Ivan Brandon, with art by Rafael Albuquerque. Might be worth a look.
Perry Bible Fellowship Trial of Colonel Sweeto HC
Also sweet: this collection of Nicholas Gurewitch's hilarious webcomic. This is probably the funniest comic strip currently being produced; Gurewitch has such a bizarre sense of humor, and he plays with expectations and shared stories so well. If you haven't read the online strip, I recommend checking this out. Hell, I've probably read all the strips it collects, and I don't think I'll be able to pass it up.
A graphic novel written by Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson, with art by Jason Shawn Alexander. Seems to be a teen horror/thriller story. Might be worth checking out.
This is an excellent story by Andi Watson and Simon Gane. I read the original miniseries, which my wife picked out on a trip to the store. It's good comics.
Slow News Day TPB
And here's another Andi Watson comic, for those who want to get caught up on his stuff. Like me; I've never read it.
This looks really interesting; it's a reprint of a wordless woodcut graphic novel from 1954 about the U.S. atomic bomb testing in the southern Pacific. You can see a preview at the book's page on Drawn & Quarterly's site.
Complete Persepolis TP
A combination of the two parts of the amazing series, probably released as a tie-in to the animated movie version of the story. I've only read the first part, and I don't own it, so I should probably pick this up sometime.
Uno Tarino The Latest Art Of Ashley Wood SC
I would probably check this out if I could afford to buy art books by all my favorite artists. But I'm not made of money.
Translucent vol. 2
This manga series looks interesting, but I still haven't picked up the first volume. I've read some good reviews, so it looks like it will be worth getting at some point.
Parasyte Vol 2 GN
I enjoyed the first volume, so I'll try to keep up with this one.
D.Gray-Man Vol 7 TP
I have this volume at home; I received it as a review copy, but I haven't read it yet. I have no idea how well I'll be able to follow it without having read the first six volumes.
Kurohime Vol 2 TP
I also got this for review, which should be showing up on MangaLife any day now. It's a weird series, kind of like an old-West magical-gunslinger version of Pokemon, but with ridiculously-proportioned main character. I'll link to my review when it's up for more details.
Gon vol. 2
I like Gon. He's cute and feisty. That is all.
Ooh, and here's the manga release of the week. I'll be snapping this up if I see it anywhere; it looks really good. It's about a serial killer, I think; one of Tezuka's adult-oriented books. I can't wait to read it.
And that's it. I'll probably have something tonight, so stay tuned!
Friday, October 26, 2007
Awesome: The Indie Spinner Rack Anthology
Written and Drawn by A Whole Bunch of People (that's what the title page says)
As seems to be the custom when reviewing anthologies, I feel like I must mention that such books are always a mixed bag, with some good material, some poor material, and often a whole bunch of mediocrity. In this case, I think the good outweighs the bad/meh, making a nice sampler of the indie scene (that is, the somewhat "mainstream" indie scene, which I would categorize (possibly incorrectly) as separate from the more "artsy" indies from publishers like Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly). As the title indicates, this mix of stories formed from the community that has sprung up around the Indie Spinner Rack podcast, and thus many of them seem to be in-jokes about the show's hosts. Not being a listener (nothing against them; I just don't really listen to podcasts), these stories didn't really do anything for me, which was too bad, at least in the case of Nick Bertozzi's strip about the hosts getting ready for a show. But most of the material is pretty accessible, and in the best case, the stories provide a good example of what the creators are capable of, spurring the reader on to search out more of their work.
I don't generally like to dwell on the poorer works, so I'll mostly be skipping what didn't appeal to me, but I felt I did have to point out the awful series of strips by Neil Swaab. His crude art serves only to highlight the lack of humor in his lame stories that try so hard to offend. His character, Mr. Wiggles, is a teddy bear who, get this, is a total asshole. Wow, that's creative. In the strips, the bear and some bald guy do stuff that is supposed to be hilariously excessive, like punching nuns, kicking rabbis, and peeing on clowns. Haw haw! In a couple other strips, Swaab interprets the secret language of women, with insights like: when women say size isn't important, they really mean that you have a small penis! Oh snap! You told them, Swaab! And most offensively, one strip features Mr. Wiggles' "Shake Your Baby Workout" for single mothers, with the oh-so-funny idea that those welfare queens can solve their problems by killing their children. He gives a disclaimer here, letting us know that he's trying to be offensive, so we shouldn't take him seriously, that scamp. The thing he doesn't realize is, offensive humor should try to be funny rather than just strive to piss people off.
Okay, enough negativity. What's good in the book? Josh Cotter, creator of Skyscrapers of the Midwest, has a nifty little story called "Ubiquitous 3", which involves a giant robot, squid-like parasites, and jetpacks, with some nice panel layouts and a weird atmosphere:
I haven't read Skyscrapers, but this makes me want to check it out.
Matt Kindt, creator of the amazing Super Spy (review coming soon!), has a selection from his work-in-progress, The Misery Index. This is a group of real-life stories that describe true misery, and are "100% true". The stories here feature experiences like a dad inadvertently hurting his daughter, a child rejecting a gift given to her, and a boy watching a friend unwrap a completely inappropriate birthday gift. Kindt has a nonrealistic, cartoony style, but he captures emotion very well, and the way he conveys the misery here is extraordinary:
After reading this (and Super Spy), I'm very interested in anything he does, and can't wait for a full-length version of The Misery Index. I just hope it isn't too depressing.
Even though his characters are very simple, he makes them very expressive. I'm going to have to check out his Zig Zag one of these days.
Jamie Tanner, author of The Aviary, contributes a story called "The Accommodations of Old Man Small", about a weird old guy with a moving, shapeshifting house, and it's quite nice, with a sort of Rick Geary-esque style, with maybe a dash of Jason:
Josh Finney and Kat Rocha have a creepy little story called "Post Mortem", with photoreferenced art that effectively sets the mood for a supernatural thriller:
I don't know if this is part of an ongoing series, but if so, I certainly wouldn't mind checking it out.
I probably don't need to go into too much detail about Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunleavy's "Crime, Oh Man Does It Pay!", since they're pretty well known for Action Philosophers. This is the first story from their new series, Comic Book Comics, which will tell stories about the history of comic books. It's about the book Crime Does Not Pay, which kicked off the gruesome crime genre made popular by EC Comics which eventually brought about the wrath of Frederick Wertham. It's a fascinating bit of history, and a good indication of the sort of stories the new series will contain. I can't wait to read it (and also Action Presidents, their other forthcoming series. Those guys are busy!).
Bernie Mireault gives us a story featuring meetings between a bunch (all?) of his recurring characters: Dr. Robot, Bug-Eyed Monster, The Jam, and Snuuger Dü. They meet in a fanciful manner by following "storylines" which are laying around on the ground and going through portals:
It's cute and goofy. Mireault really should do more comics; he's got a unique, cartoony style that I would love to see more often.
Sarah Oleksyk does a nice fairy tale story called "The Enchanted Stag", which has some really good artwork; I especially like the figure work:
The ending is marred by what appears to be a bestiality joke (maybe I just have a dirty mind), but it's still rather nice. I'll have to try to seek out more of Oleksyk's work.
Keith Champagne and Dev Madan contribute a story featuring Frank Neil Stein, Monstertown P.I. It's a lot of fun, featuring the titular monstrous fellow working out a relationship dispute between a certain spinach-loving (or spinach-addicted, actually) sailor man and the skinny gal who left him for a big bearded bloke. It's fun and enjoyable, with a sort of pathos; Frank has a rich inner monologue, but he can't communicate outwardly in anything other than grunts and groans. Dev Madan's artwork is really good, mixing noir-ish shadows with a cartoon sensibility:
Beautiful stuff. I don't know if this is an ongoing series or a one-off, but I would love to read more of Frank's adventures.
Jesse Post and Ben Towle contribute a fascinating little historical tale called "The Gates of the Garden", about the British Empire's use of diplomacy to aid the formation of a certain Middle Eastern nation. The events may have had some repercussions in the present; who knows? Even though it's only four pages long, it's really interesting and informative. One of the best parts of the book.
Joseph Lambert has a nice story about the artistic impulse and the way our inner impulses sometimes unleash themselves unpleasantly:
It's quick, but it's quite enjoyable. He's one to watch.
Roger Langridge is a pro at short, cartoony stories, and his "The Ballad of Silvertooth Johnson" is a great example of his skill. It's a poem about the titular traveling songsmith, accompanied by wonderfully expressive artwork, and it's hilarious, both in pictures and words. The story is about how Silvertooth tricked the Grim Reaper and is now immortal, roaming the land performing his songs. I love the curving panel borders and the Mad Magazine-style art:
Wonderful stuff. He's another creator who should do more work.
That's it for the stuff I really liked and thought was worth sampling here. There were plenty of others that were good, or at least interesting. Chris Schweizer did a nice two-page superhero-ish story. Liz Prince has a cute one-pager about a make-out session gone wrong. Robin and Lawrence Etherington have a strip that seems to be a preview of their upcoming series Moon!, which appears to be about a futuristic alien TV station. Their artwork is really expressive, with tons of little background details, but the story is kind of slight, only serving to introduce the oh-so-wacky cast. Maybe the regular series will be better. Al Columbia provides a really disturbing one-page horror strip that I didn't understand. I would like to read more of his work. Richard Tingley contributes a nice short about a man laying a dead badger to rest. Sam Hiti's "The Golden Deer" looks like a bit of Indian (as in the country India) folklore, and it's nicely-illustrated, but I don't understand it at all. Cameron Chesney's one-page story of his grandfather trying to learn to ride a horse as a boy is quite nice. He's another one to watch. Steve Hamaker adds a cute, cartoony story with his characters Fish 'n Chips. Robert Goodin shows off a flair for expression in a creepy story about ducks encountering something murderous. Kazimir Strzepek has what I think is an excerpt from The Mourning Star, which looks nice but confuses me because I don't know who the characters are. That's a book I really want to read though. Nakiesha Koss, Fred Chao (Johnny Hiro), and Dylan Babb do a short and sweet bit about rock and roll and crowds. And Hanvey Hsiung and Gia-Bao Tran contribute a really beautiful-looking story that I don't understand at all which seems to be about alien water towers providing awesome water to a city.
So that's what I thought about the book. It's definitely a nice package, and it's not too expensive ($14.95). Plus, the proceeds go to a student at the Center for Cartoon Studies. I would certainly recommend it as a sampler of some of the indie talent currently producing comics. Now I just need to get my hands on some of these creators' longer works...
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Clockwork Girl #3 - I think the first issue of this is supposed to be out, but I have yet to see it. It looks nice, so I would probably pick it up if I had the chance.
Black Summer #6 (of 7) - Judging by the cover (which probably isn't a great idea), it looks like the series will be all-out action in these last couple of issues. I hope Ellis starts to do something (more) interesting with the series soon, or I'm going to get tired of it. We'll see.
Doktor Sleepless #7 - Ditto for this series, although it's been pretty decent so far. Maybe my expectations are just high for Ellis. By the way, what the hell is going on on this cover? It looks like the characters are floating or hanging in some sort of open room filled with Leonardo Da Vinci flying machines, but there don't seem to be any wires holding them up. It's rather weird. Anyway, I'll be getting this, unless Ellis somehow turns me off the series completely between now and January.
Gravel #0 - This is a new ongoing series by Warren Ellis (who seems to dominate Avatar's output these days) and Mike Wolfer, detailing the adventures of the main character from their Strange Kisses/Strange Killings series of miniseries. I don't know if I'll get it or not; I've kind of liked the miniseries that I read, but I'm not too enamored of Wolfer's art. His characters are kind of stiff, and he doesn't do facial expressions all that well, but he delivers where it counts: in the disturbing, disgusting violence and gore. Since that seemed to be the main point of the previous books, it might be worth reading. I guess it will depend on how much I'm in the mood for nastiness.
Apocalypse Nerd TPB - I haven't read any of the issues of this Peter Bagge miniseries, but it's probably pretty funny, knowing Bagge. Can anybody tell me if it's worth getting?
Blood+ volume 1 - I liked the Blood: The Last Vampire "movie", but I haven't been able to get into the Blood+ anime series when I've seen it on Adult Swim. It's very confusing; I guess you have to watch it from the beginning, like it's an actual story or something. So I suppose I could check out the manga.
Color of Rage - A one-volume manga from the insane, awesome Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub), with art by Seisaku Kano (with whom I'm not familiar). It has to do with a black man and a Japanese man escaping a slave ship in medieval Japan and going on the run while chained together. Sure to have lots of sex and violence. I'll probably want to buy it if I see it.
Empowered volume 3 - Hey, more of Adam Warren's awesome sexiness! I really like this series, but it's not coming out until March. Dark Horse just likes to let us know early when stuff is coming. This volume has an epic-length ninja fight, according to Warren; I can't wait.
The Goon #21 - This title doesn't show up often enough. Get a move on, Eric Powell!
MPD Psycho volume 4 - Volume 1 was crazy and cool, but I haven't had a chance to read the second one yet. This one promises more depravity, judging by the strategically-placed "parental advisory" sticker.
Al Capp's Complete Shmoo: The Comic Books - Al Capp's L'il Abner is awesome, but I haven't read any of this comic book spinoff. Shmoos are pretty cool though. I would love to check this out, but like all Dark Horse archive volumes, it's too expensive for me.
Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite #5 (of 6) - Cool. I really like this book. I don't know if I'm the last person to find out about this, but in the letter column of the most recent issue, the said that they have plans to continue to publish more Umbrella Academy miniseries after this one is finished, which I think is great news.
Snaked #2 - I just reviewed the first issue of this series, and it's interesting, if not great (yet). I would be willing to check out future installments.
Therefore Repent! GN - Ooh, I'm excited to read this. It's sci-fi author Jim Munroe's look at a post-rapture world with magic and stuff. Looks really cool. Art by Salgood Sam, whom I've only seen on that vampire pirate book that Image was doing for a while (I forget the title, but it was written by Rick Remender). I'll definitely get this one.
Wormwood: Calamari Rising #2 - I don't know if I'll get this or not, but I dig the crazy "slave Leia" homage cover by Ben Templesmith. Cheeky bastard.
Solicited without images:
Duo Stars #1 - A comic about street racing by Ashley Wood. I don't really care about that scene, but I'll buy pretty much anything Wood does.
Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now #4 - This issue adapts the story "Nimby and the D-Hoppers", which I don't think I've read. It's written by Dan Taylor, with art by Dustin Evans, and a cover by Ben Templesmith. I'll probably end up getting it.
Rex Libris #10 - All right, it's always good to get another issue of this book about the adventures of an immortal, tough-guy librarian. Looks sweet.
And I think that's everything. Maybe I should start doing a separate post for Dark Horse again, if they're going to have this many books that interest me. We'll see what happens next month. And hey, why isn't Oni releasing solicitations anymore? I would have included them here, but I can't find any information online about their January releases. Huh. Oh well, that's it for now. I might have a review up tonight, depending on how much I feel like writing it. Later, gator.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Random comics thing: my wife watches Beauty and the Geek, and I occasionally join her if I'm not doing anything else. It's not usually worth talking about, but tonight's episode had the "beauties" and "geeks" creating superhero personas, designing costumes, and presenting them at the San Diego Comicon to some comics creators. The interesting thing is, those creators were Eric Powell and Dwight T. Albatross of The Goon, Brian Lynch of some Angel comics, and Chris Ryall of IDW Publishing. The funny thing is, none of those creators are known for working on superhero properties (I know, Powell has done some Superman, and maybe some other stuff, but he's known for The Goon). Weird. Feel free to discuss this among yourselves.
Okay, on to the real post:
This issue sees more of the same stuff from the ongoing series, and what seems to be becoming a standard monthly feature: the first chapter of an upcoming series. This preview is an interesting one, so I'll start with that:
By Kiyo Fujiwara
This series is notable (to me, at least) for combining what seem to be two incompatible genres: shojo romance and yakuza (gangster) stories. The main character, Sachie, is taken in by her grandfather after being orphaned, and it turns out that he's a yakuza leader, with a group of roughnecks living in the house and apparently running organized crime schemes all the time. While this seems like a serious subject, it's mostly played for laughs (so far), with the gangsters acting as a sort of Greek chorus and providing goofy background gags when they try to protect Sachie from harm. The main romantic plot looks like it will be coming from Rakuto, a handsome young gangster who gets assigned as Sachie's bodyguard. There's some standard drama about how other students at school view their relationship, and other wacky goings-on involving a guy trying to put the moves on Sachie and getting the crap scared out of him by her gangster buddies; it makes for an interesting setup. Most yakuza stories (judging from movies I've seen; I haven't really read any yakuza-based manga) tend to be about honor, focusing on the macho aspects of organized crime; it might be interesting to get a look at the lifestyle from the viewpoint of a young girl that is more involved than she wants to be. Of course, the series will probably just focus on romantic silliness, but it has the potential to be pretty interesting.
Oh, I should probably say something about the art. It's perfectly appealing, with little to distinguish it from any other shojo manga series. Nothing too flashy, but it gets the job done. I guess that's all I have to say.
By Matsuri Hino
There's lots of big, emotional stuff in this chapter, with Yuki making a deal with the devil in order to save Zero. But can she sacrifice Kaname, and maybe become a vampire herself to do it? Whatever; I say get on with it already. It's all buildup, with the evil Maria Kurenai/Shizuka Hio plotting and manipulating in the midst of the senior prom (or its vampire equivalent). Oddly, the best moment of the chapter probably comes when a shy girl approaches Zero and asks him for a dance, only to get the brush-off. It's a cute little bit that stands out in the midst of all the angst and drama. Oh well, maybe the plot will pick up next month.
By Yuu Watase
As the series nears its end (hopefully; I'm not sure how much longer it's supposed to last), Watase actually seems to go in the direction I was hoping last month, at least at first. Kronos Heaven is still trying to get Night back, so they send a series of robots to apprehend him in increasingly goofy fashion. Watase is quite skilled at comedy, and she uses a hilarious technique here, with Night being threatened on one page:
Turning to the next page reveals the threatening robot lying in a heap, having been defeated while the page was being flipped:
This gag is used more than once, and it just keeps getting funnier.
In other goings-on, Riiko finally chooses between Night and Soshi (hint: one of them recently displayed a lot of valor and bravery, so who is the obvious choice?), and the reason for Night's malfunctions is revealed: without his ring that tells him what emotion Riiko is feeling, he can't process her signals and overheats. That makes for a strange status quo. We'll see how the series goes after this point, but the best one can hope for is probably a few laughs before the end (which, rumor has it, is quite unsatisfying).
By Mitsuba Takanashi
Well, my hopes about Nobara's unorthodox training don't exactly pay off here, but there's potential for wackiness in the future. She's been sent to Central Sokai University to learn how to be a great attacker, but when she gets there, she finds that the school's team isn't interested in her; instead, she's going to be trained by Ryo, a womanizing beach bum who got cut from the squad for being too short. It's all about triumphing against expectations, in true sports-movie fashion. We've all seen it before, but it's presented enjoyably enough here. The twist is that Ryo will be teaching Nobara to play volleyball on sand, with the help of his team of goofy misfits that include a couple other surfer dudes, a straight-laced accountant type, and a flamboyantly gay wacko who gives Ryo kisses and comments on Nobara's flat chest. I'm not so sure about where this is going, but who knows, maybe Takanashi will manage to make it entertaining. At worst, the training story should only last a few chapters before Nobara can get back to the team and lead them to victory in what will hopefully be some tense, exciting games. And maybe angst about Yushin, the boy she has a crush on; this wouldn't be much of a shojo series without that sort of thing. Ah well, it should continue to be readable.
Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time
By Tohko Mizuno
Oh boy, this series is going to be hard to bear each month. It's a tiresome bunch of fantasy clichés ripped straight from a generic Japanese role-playing video game (fitting, since it's based on such a game). This chapter actually introduces some intriguing concepts into the mix, but I doubt they will be used in any interesting manner. Namely, our heroine Akane seems to be caught between two factions: the humans and the demons. The humans seem like the good side, but they appear to discriminate against the demons because they look different (racism!); that is, they have different-colored hair and eyes than the humans. On the other hand, the demon lord who summoned her into the past is caught up in judging people by what clan they were born in (classism!). Plus, he seems very sinister, so he's almost surely the bad guy. In any case, the whole thing seems pretty incoherent and pointless, with a plot that makes little sense and art that is hard to follow. Here's an example; in this sequence, what is the point of the flower-filled panel gutters, other than to look pretty?
I know flowers and other pretty imagery are something that show up as a mood-setter in shojo manga, but they don't seem appropriate here at all.
Maybe this series will eventually cohere into something readable and engaging, but it seems to be spinning its wheels defining an uninteresting world so far. I'll keep reading as long as it's included in Shojo Beat, but I expect to complain fruitlessly as long as it runs. Take that!
Honey & Clover
By Chica Umino
Have I mentioned that this series is awesome? Because it is. At this point, the series is still concerning itself with humorous character-defining stories, and that's fine with me. The heavy emotional stuff can wait until later. The two chapters in this issue see the gang going on a picnic with Professor Hanamoto and Hagu-chan, with predictably wacky results. Actually, the interesting thing is that the wackiness is pretty low-key and less over-the-top than one would usually see in manga stories. It's mostly limited to Hagu falling into the water and borrowing Takemoto's shirt (which looks like a dress on her) and Morita setting off all their fireworks at once.
In the second chapter, Takemoto has dinner with Hanamoto and Hagu, and he and Hagu share a bonding experience when she shows him her dolls and the clothes she made for them. It's pretty cute, especially his reaction when he volunteers to build a wardrobe for her doll clothes and she insists on a rococo, Versailles-style construction. It's all really charming stuff, with cute, expressive art and some great comedy that comes from the oversized reactions that everyone has to each other. Good times; I'm always excited to read a new chapter of this series, and so far it hasn't disappointed.
By Hinako Ashihara
Oh, the drama. Drama, drama, drama. That's the main thrust of this series, but luckily, Hinako Ashihara knows how to deliver it effectively and when to let up and throw in some humor. This chapter sees Ann and her friends at the summer camp where we left off last month. The drama here comes from the mean girl who tormented Ann before; this time she steals Ann's precious hourglass and sends her off on a wild goose chase in the forest at night, in the middle of a big thunderstorm. Can Daigo and Fuji find her before it's too late? It's a pretty exciting finish, but Ashihara tops it off with a somewhat humorous resolution that provides a nice relief to a dilemma set up in the last chapter; it seems perfectly formulated, like a mathematical equation resolving just right. In the end, it leads to a nice, sweet moment (which is spoiled by the cover of the issue), putting a nice cap on a good story. Ashihara certainly knows what she's doing here, and she does it really well. She also delivers some really pretty artwork, like this scene of Ann and Fuji looking at fireflies:
That's some beautiful stuff. I really can't recommend this series enough; it's better than I could have hoped for when it started.
And that's all for this month. I didn't post as many images as usual, mostly because I didn't think there were many images that grabbed me. Or maybe I just didn't feel like it. Anyway, more next month!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Potter's Field #2 (of 3)
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Paul Azaceta
When I looked at the first issue of Potter's Field, I likened it to a TV series, similar to police/crime procedurals like CSI or Cold Case. Well, if that issue was the pilot episode of the series, this second installment is like the first part of a two-part season finale. It works okay, but it might have been better if we had had several interstitial episodes to get the audience used to the concept, and maybe introduce some recurring characters other than the protagonist. Maybe Mark Waid and Boom! are testing the waters to see if a series like this will sell, but I would think it would have more appeal if the stories had room to breathe, setting up a status quo so readers will be more shocked when it is disrupted.
That said, it's still a pretty good episode, with John Doe going about one of his usual investigations, only to get caught up in the manipulations of organized criminals. Waid does a good job of keeping readers guessing as to what will happen, with the machinations of the plot falling into place quite satisfyingly and still ending on a cliffhanger that leaves one eagerly awaiting the resolution in the final issue.
Paul Azaceta continues to deliver a gritty atmosphere, defining his characters very well and contributing a dynamic action sequence. I still really like the "action lines" he uses to show movements or reactions; they stand out starkly against the more realistic images, adding a unique feel to the art. It's a nice package; really, my only complaint is that it isn't a longer series. Maybe Waid and company will continue with a sequel if it sells well; I think comics could use more variation in the material that is published, and the crime genre seems quite natural. Now the publishers just need to get this into the hands of people that will like it...
This review was based on a complimentary electronic review copy provided by the publisher.
New comics this week (Wednesday, 10/24/07):
BLACK SUMMER ALPHA
This is a repackaging of the first two installments of this series, the #0 and #1 issues. Only $2.99, which isn't a bad deal. It's been a fairly good series so far, but nothing that has me trying to convince people to pick it up. Yet.
DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #3
I could probably say the same thing about this other Warren Ellis series. Interesting sci-fi stuff, but nothing that has me praising it to the heavens. Yet.
I'm digging this one though. I love this book, and I always get excited when a new issue shows up. Keep it up, Fraction and Moon!
I dug the first issue of this book, so I'm on board for this series for the foreseeable future. Fun all-ages stuff; the book that probably finally has me on board the Andi Watson praise-wagon (what the hell does that mean?).
Another book from Red 5 Comics. I still haven't got my hands on Atomic Robo or Abyss, but I might get them soon. This one seems to be one of those sci-fi stories with people fighting dinosaurs and what not, which is always a fun premise. I would be willing to check it out if I saw it in a store. Here's the official page, where you can find previews and stuff.
POTTERS FIELD #2
I thought the first issue of this series was decent, and I've already read a review copy of this second issue, so I should have a review up sometime soon, I expect.
I don't think I've actually read anything by Jhonen Vasquez (Johnny the Homicidal Maniac), but he's fairly popular, and he seems to have a goofy, morbid sensibility. This book seems to be about the difficulty of working with a collaborator, in this case Jenny Goldberg. It's 48 full-color pages for $5.95 (or is it $8.95? I'm seeing conflicting reports). Might be interesting. More information available here, and I liked the strange, uninformative description of the book here.
JACK OF FABLES VOL 2 JACK OF HEARTS
Have I mentioned that I like this book? I may have; it's hard to remember. In any case, if you're a fan of Fables, this is a highly entertaining offshoot. This storyline sees Jack go to Las Vegas and get involved in games of chance, with zany results. Good times.
KILLER VOL 1 HC
Didn't this come out a few weeks ago? I never saw it, so I didn't even get to decide whether to get it or not. If I see it, I might consider buying it. Also, issues #5 and 6 of the series are supposed to come out this week. Weird.
SPIRIT VOL 1 HC
This series is a lot of fun, but I don't know if I would recommend paying $25 for a hardcover version of it. Maybe there will be some extras or something, but it would probably be better to wait for a cheaper softcover version. It's still pretty good though, with some excellent Darwyn Cooke art and writing.
Red Menace TP
Isn't this that Wildstorm miniseries about Cold War-era superheroes or something? With Adam Brody as one of the writers? I never read it; was it any good?
Cromartie High School Manga Vol 12 TP
This week's manga series that I'm way behind on. In fact, I don't think I've even bought a volume in like two years. I never see it in stores, or I might consider it; if I'm buying manga online, I'll probably go with something like Dragon Head, MPD Psycho, or Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. But someday I'll probably try to get caught up on this one.
Pictures Of You GN
A graphic novel from Alternative Comics, by Damon Hurd and Tatiana Gill. Apparently, it's a prequel to their book A Strange Day, which I haven't read. It looks nice.
Powr Mastrs Vol 1 GN
I've never read any of these Picturebox books from the wacky Fort Thunder collective, but I always hear raves about how good they are. I dunno, the art doesn't really appeal to me, but I feel like I'm missing out on something here. If I ever see one, I might pick it up, but it's probably the sort of thing you need to special order. Maybe someday I'll get to read one of them and see what all the fuss is about.
And that all. Not too much this week, it seems. That's okay; I just spent more than I probably should have on the new book by my favorite film critic, Vern. I don't even like Steven Seagal, but I read pretty much everything Vern writes, and I wanna support him financially. So there goes some comics money for the month. Whatever; I've got plenty to keep me busy. Stay tuned tonight for more reviews or something (I hope). Maybe I'll even be able to get my scanner working; that would be awesome.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I think the thing that bugged me about the story was the description of the game's action like it was virtual reality, with the players engaging in acrobatic battles that are too "realistic" to actually happen in computer games, while they are described as sitting in a chair, looking at a computer screen, and operating a mouse. This works okay in prose, since you can mentally picture a possible future in which game graphics have progressed to the point described. But the comic doesn't have the luxury of imagination; it has to show the reader the game's action. My flip-through revealed that writer Dara Naraghi chose to cut between Anda watching her computer screen and a representation of the game's action, with the game looking like a fantasy comic filled with orcs and magic and whatnot. That's probably the only choice you can make when doing the comic, but it just doesn't work like it does in prose. So I decided not to get it.
Hopefully, future issues won't have this problem; next up is "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth", followed by "Craphound". The former is another story that I thought was so-so, so I'll have to decide whether I want it after a look at the art. But the latter, judging by the art samples I've seen, is a lock. I'm all over that one.
So, yeah, I just felt like getting that out there. I might have a review up tonight, depending on whether I can get my damn scanner working. Later.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
By Rutu Modan
Rutu Modan's new book is a fascinating look at life in modern-day Israel, but rather than focus on the big political picture, it's a story about people and relationships, illustrated in a sumptuously colorful Tintin-esque style. The main character of the story is Koby, a taxi driver in his twenties who is approached by a young woman named Numi who knew his father and wants Koby's help identifying what might be his body. A recent bus station suicide bombing left a corpse that could not be identified, and she thinks it might be Gabriel (Koby's father). It quickly becomes clear that Koby does (did?) not have a good relationship with Gabriel, since the latter was something of a deadbeat, walking out on his family and rarely staying in touch with them.
Koby is reluctant to help at first, since he doesn't really believe his father is dead, but Numi drags him along, slowly getting him more interested in the search. And while the mystery is compelling, it gives way to a study of these two characters and their attempt to connect with each other. Koby seems to try to cut himself off from others (although he feels obligated to take care of his aunt and uncle) in order to avoid being abandoned again. Numi, on the other hand, seems to have trouble in relationships because she is not good-looking in the conventional sense. We learn that her family is rich, and her mother and sister are both pretty and glamorous, so she feels inferior to them and possibly ashamed of her upper-class background. She had a romantic relationship with Gabriel, a much older man, and she's trying to get some sense of closure after losing him.
It's fascinating watching these characters try to form a relationship, and a big part of that is Modan's deceptively simple artwork. The characters are drawn in the Franco-Belgian "Clear Line" style, with little definition to their features other than dots for eyes and the outlines of their nose and mouth. But Modan makes great use of these parts, assembling them into affecting, emotional displays that seem completely natural. And the body language is also really, really well done; whenever Koby frustratedly lights a cigarette, I almost forget that I'm looking at a drawing. But she also uses some really nice impressionistic techniques as well, especially in a scene of Koby and Numi swimming, where splashes of water become splotches of blue color pouring across the page.
Backgrounds are also very nicely done. They are often drab-looking, with simple grey filled with a dark, monochromatic color scheme; this technique pushes the characters to the front and emphasizes them over their environment, but upon inspection, there are a lot of nice details filling out the scenes. I especially liked the odd memorial at the site of the bombing, with photos and candles placed on a Coca-Cola shelving unit and flowers on the ground or taped to the wall of the building. As a whole, the art is really beautiful, with bright, arresting colors that define the characters and environment and don't let you look away.
I'm very impressed by the emotional punch that the story packs even though it doesn't directly engage the political conflicts of its setting. While the idea of living in a country where people aren't sure which bombing you're talking about when you mention a tragic event is so foreign to Americans, it's not these political matters that draw you in to the story; it's the characters and their relationships. Near the end of the book, there's a fantastic moment, when [SPOILERS] Koby and Numi become intimate and she jokingly compares him to his father. He freaks out, naturally, but the remarkable thing is how real the exchange feels. Numi is still coming to grips with the end of her relationship with Gabriel, and while she is growing closer to Koby, she still feels the connection to his father and doesn't want to let that go. Koby, on the other hand, is finally beginning to care about somebody after keeping people at arm's length for so long, but the last thing he wants is to be reminded of his father's actions, or face the possibility that he might do something similar [end SPOILERS].
In the end, the truth about Gabriel and his fate becomes less important than the journey to find it. Modan gives us some indelible characters that manage to connect under the most unlikely circumstances. She even succumbs to the impulse to end with a happy, romantic gesture, and I can't fault her for it. People need to be able to connect with other people, even in the harshest environments, and when we get to know such distinctive characters, we want the best for them.
So, please, read this book. It's one of the best comics works to come out this year, among many other bits of greatness. While it's Modan's first book-length graphic novel, it probably won't be her last; I can't wait to see what she delivers next.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Ms. Modan definitely showed a love of comics, talking about how she got into making them herself. She's from Israel, which she said is just about the only country on earth where neither Superman nor Tintin ever became popular. So she was fairly unfamiliar with comics until she was introduced to the underground alternative comics of the 80s, like Raw. She was especially influenced by the works of Art Spiegelman and Charles Burns, and she said that after half an hour of reading these comics, she knew that was what she wanted to do with her life. She began by self-publishing anthologies along with other Israeli artists, and Exit Wounds is her first full-length book. It came about when Drawn & Quarterly approached her to write a book-length graphic novel. She was trepidatious about the idea at first, since she had previously only done shorter works, but she accepted. She had second thoughts though, because she was worried that they were expecting an Israeli Persepolis, but D&Q's publisher Chris Oliveros assured her that she could write whatever story she liked, as long as it was uniquely Israeli, and not something that could happen just anywhere (I think she certainly succeeded on that front).
She said that the inspirations for the story were a date that she went on after which the guy never called her, and she was worried that something had happened to him. Also, she had heard reports of a bombing in which one of the victims was unidentifiable, and nobody came forward to "claim" him, making her wonder what sort of person wouldn't have anybody that missed them.
When questioned about the (non)inclusion of political material in the book, she stated that while she has political opinions (as does everybody), she does not like to include them in her work, because most people's political opinions are not very interesting (she's definitely not American!). Rather, she tries to present experiences from a particular point of view, which is something interesting that everyone has.
When asked about feminism, she stated that in fiction written by men, she thinks the main female characters tend to be "the most beautiful woman in the world". But when written by women, the most beautiful woman is usually a secondary character like the sister or best friend. She tries to present her female characters in a non-traditionally beautiful manner, as exemplified by the character of Numi in Exit Wounds.
I asked her about her influences, since she said Tintin was not popular in Israel, but her art seems to be influenced by Tintin and the European "Clear Line" style. She said that the professor who taught her about comics was Belgian, and he was from that school of art, and it was also the style that fit her best. But since comics don't have much of a history in Israel, it was remarkably freeing for her to be able to choose any direction in which to develop.
After the question-and-answer session, she stayed to sign books for people, breaking out her art materials. She did a nice sketch in my copy, with paints and everything, but my scanner is acting up, so I can't show it off right now. I might update tomorrow if/when I get it working.
UPDATE: I finally got around to scanning it:
I also took a few pictures. Here she is sketching in a book:
And since somebody offered to take my picture with her, I sat opposite her and pretended to be the interviewer:
I'm such a weirdo.
So that was the event. It was a good time, and I'm glad I made the trek into the city for it. I just finished reading Exit Wounds today, so I hope to have a review up tomorrow. Watch for it!
Teen Titans: The Lost Annual - Holy crap, it's the Bob Haney/Mike Allred annual that's been sitting on the shelf unpublished for so long! Maybe Allred's recent bitching about it not being published convinced DC to finally release the damn thing. Good for them. I don't really care about the Teen Titans (although the summaries of Haney's stories that I've read in places like Chris Sims' Invincible Super-Blog sound delightfully insane), but I'll buy pretty much anything Mike Allred does.
The Spirit #14 - Sergio Aragones' (and Mark Evanier's) first issue, with artist Mike Ploog. Am I the only one who hadn't heard Ploog was the artist? Is that for more than just this issue? Should be interesting. Nice cover, by Jordi Bernet.
Countdown Special: The New Gods - Looks like another reprint book, in which DC demonstrates why their books used to be interesting. This collects Mister Miracle #1, Forever People #1, and New Gods #7. Nice cover by Ryan Sook, but I'd rather just get the next item on the list...
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus volume 4 - I still need to pick up the second volume of these awesome, awesome comics. I think this is the last one, with the closest thing Kirby ever got to a conclusion to his epic saga. I can't wait to read it.
Crayon Shinchan volume 1 - Hey, it's Crayon Shinchan! I've watched a few episodes of the show on Adult Swim, but I've never read the comics. While the show is pretty funny, this will probably be even better, since crude drawings aren't as strange when printed as they are when animated, and I won't have to be annoyed by dubbed voices. It's win-win!
Dokkoida!? volume 1 - This looks like an enjoyable series, with kind of a superhero vibe. And probably plenty of comedy and whatnot. I might get it.
The Programme #7 - I guess this is the only Wildstorm book I'm interested in these days. Unless you count Ex Machina, which a) doesn't have a new issue coming out in January, and 2) I'm getting in trade anyway. But I'm enjoying this so far; I hope it doesn't start sucking or anything. Judging by the cover, it looks like Russia is getting its team of supervillains together. Should be fun, if you like genocide.
Army@Love #11 - There are other series that I'm getting in trade that I could have mentioned (DMZ, 100 Bullets), but I'll stick with this one, since I love the cover.
Fables #69 - And I have to mention this one every month, just to point out James Jean's invariably beautiful covers. By the way, this issue is part 9 of "The Good Prince"; when is that story going to end so they can collect it (and I can read it) already?!
Jack of Fables #19 - And it looks like I'm sticking with this series in monthly form. It's just too enjoyable to drop. I'm digging Brian Bolland's covers; this one mixes creepy and funny especially well.
Northlanders #2 - More of Brian Wood's Viking series. I can tell the next couple of months are going to see me mentioning this and saying, "I'll have to wait and see if it's good when the first issue comes out". I get tired of that. So I'll only mention it in the future if the cover is really awesome. This one is pretty good, which is surprising, since it's a variant by Andy Kubert. Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading the series. That's all.
Y: The Last Man #60 - OH SNAP FINAL ISSUE! That cover is going to haunt me until the damn book comes out. Doesn't portend a happy ending, does it?
Ultimate Human #1 (of 4) - Ultimate Hulk vs. Ultimate Iron Man, in an Ultimate Miniseries by Ultimate Warren Ellis and Ultimate Cary Nord (Ultimate Conan). Might be interesting; I do like Ellis's work on various Ultimate stories. Maybe. But probably not.
Spider-Man: With Great Power... #1 - I don't know if this is an ongoing or a limited series, or what. It looks like yet another of those tiresome stories of Spidey's early days, written by David Lapham and drawn by Tony Harris (who should be working on Ex Machina, dammit!). The cover's kind of clever, with the crossed arms, but that's the only positive thing I can say about it. Count me out.
Silver Surfer: In Thy Name #3 - I have no intention of buying this, but I wanted to point out the cover by Paul Pope. Pretty cool.
I could also have mentioned books like Iron Fist, Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin, Omega the Unknown, Metal Men, and maybe some others, but I just did. That's all for the big two. Man, they're doing less and less to get my interest (or money). It's getting to the point where I might stop doing the weekly pilgrimage to the comics shop. Wow.
Okay, that's enough of this silliness. I don't expect to have anything up tonight, since I'll be out late at the aforementioned Rutu Modan event (by the way, Exit Wounds: really good, so far). So see you tomorrow!