Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More comics of the mini- persuasion

Elsewhere: I reviewed Immortal Weapons #1 at Comics Bulletin. That was a fun comic.

News/press release regurgitation: Viz informs me that the anime adaptations of two of my favorite manga series, Nana and Honey and Clover, are available to watch on Hulu (links: here and here). That's pretty cool. I haven't watched any Nana, but I'm curious to do so just to see how they handle the music; will it live up to what I hear in my imagination when reading the comic? As for H&C, I watched some of that series on fansub back before the manga was ever translated, and I loved it. It's a great adaptation, really funny stuff with some nice animation, good voice acting, and lots of funny comedy. At least, that's what I remember; it's been a few years. If you're curious about either of the series, I recommend giving them a watch. Can't hurt, right?

And now for some reviews of comics which were recently sent to me:

Brian John Mitchell of Silber Media was kind enough to send along five comics that definitely live up to the "mini-" prefix; they're each about 1.5 x 1.75 inches, and something like 40 pages long, which makes for a good little package. Here's what I thought of them, ranking them from worst to best in my estimation:

Lost Kisses #9-10
By Brian John Mitchell (?)

I think Mitchell was the creative force behind these, although there are no writer or artist credits on either of them. But he wrote all the others, so I think I can safely assume he wrote these two, and also did the art, which is limited to stick figures. Unfortunately, the writing matches the crudity of the artwork, being a series of self-involved diary-style musings on life and relationships. None of it is really all that compelling; Mitchell comes off as full of himself and kind of a jerk. Maybe it's supposed to be a bit transgressive and confessional, but it's mostly just uninteresting, and not all that easy to read to boot, since it can be hard to tell whether you're supposed to read the word balloons or the captions first on each page:

I hate to start out on a negative note, but I thought these were pretty poor, more appropriate for a blog or something, with the images being pretty much unnecessary. I wouldn't bother complaining about them, but the differential in quality between these and the other minis is pretty notable. I figure it's best to save the positive stuff for later, and luckily, all the others minis are quite a bit more interesting:

XO #5
Written by Brian John Mitchell
Art by Melissa Spence Gardner

This series is apparently about a young hitman, but this issue seems to function as the first part of a sort of origin story, in which he discovers his capacity for murder while simply trying to maintain his drug-dealing career. It's fairly effective, although the character is sort of a cipher, seeming to move through his life without emotion (although his internal monologue tries to argue otherwise). Maybe it's the art, which is occasionally effective in its cartoony figure work and features some nice toned shading rather than crude, simple linework, but can also be a bit stiff:

It's a decent little slice of a story, but not as compelling as it could be; I don't feel like I need to find out what happens next (or before). And the caption-based narration gets a bit grating, but maybe that's just reading a repetition of Mitchell's tics all in a row. He does better:

Worms #4
Written by Brian John Mitchell
Art by Kimberlee Traub

The Silber website describes this series as "surrealistic horror/sci-fi", and that's pretty appropriate. Even though this is the fourth issue, it's pretty easy to follow, with a one-sentence recap on the first page introducing us to the main character's plight, in which she is trapped in some sort of asylum and being experimented on. It's weird, but pretty effective, with strange details blending with crude, abstracted art to make for a compelling narrative that pulls the reader right into the tale:

It's a quick taste of the story, but it's enough to get the reader on board with its disturbing milieu, making us wonder what's going on and what will happen next. This is one that I'll have to try to keep up with.

Just a Man (#1?)
Written by Brian John Mitchell
Art by Andrew White

This western story is the gem of the bunch, telling a simple, effective story of violence and revenge; it seems like a Clint Eastwood movie along the lines of Unforgiven. The main character is a simple farmer who is quick to respond when his family is harmed, but it's an ambiguous ending; was the right man brought to justice (if you can call it that)? Or did he make a hasty decision based on rage and despair? Although it's not indicated on the comic itself, this is apparently the first issue, so we'll probably find out the answers, but it would be perfectly fine if the story ended here, leaving the reader wondering as to what really happened.

Andrew White's art is probably the element that really brings the story to life here, giving a scratchy, dirty feel to the setting, as if dust and sweat are covering everything we see:

It's definitely the best-looking of these books; I'm interested in another issue, but I'd be even more interested in seeing mitchell and White continuing on to a different story, just to see what else they can do.

Lost Kisses aside, these are some pretty good little comics, a nice use of the small space they've set out. If you're interested, you can purchase them at the Silber Media link above, and you can also view or download electronic versions of some of them as well. Give them a try and encourage a developing talent!

The Colorblind Art Teacher #2
By Mark Teel

I don't know if Mark Teel lives up to the title of his minicomic series, but if he's an art teacher, his work is pretty crude. I kid! As the husband of an art teacher, I know that you don't have to be a great drawer to teach people about art, and it's obvious that Teel knows how to tell a story. In this issue, he uses his simplistic figures to relate the tale of taking his young daughter (two years old is my guess) to swimming lessons and getting frustrated at her refusal to participate very much because she is scared. But this also brings up the memory of his own childhood, and the way his own father basically bullied him into jumping off the diving board. It's an amusing juxtaposition, although it ends kind of abruptly, and Teel does seem a bit harsh, but that is certainly a believable reaction to obstinate children and the frustration they can cause.

As mentioned, Teel's art is somewhat crude, with characters kind of being more-detailed stick figures (or, since that's kind of unfair, low-detail cartoons), but he gets a good bit of expression out of them, slumping postures and frantic motion combining with big heads and easily-read facial features:

It's a pretty nice little read; I'm curious to check out Teel's other work. If you're interested, you can see more of his work and order issues of the series at his blog.

By the way, if you're interested in having your minicomics (or regular-style comics, or graphic novels, or whatever) reviewed here, feel free to email me at the address on the sidebar.