Monday, August 31, 2009

This week, Marvel's releases impress me for once

Links: Anders Nilsen has organized an auction to benefit advertising in favor of healthcare reform, and there are some really cool items up for bid, including various paintings and original art by people like Ivan Brunetti, Chris Ware, Jeffrey Brown, Souther Salazar, Lilli Carre, Daniel Clowes, and others. I can't afford most of it, but I might see if I can snag one of the lower-priced items. If nothing else, give them a look; there's some great stuff there.

I like this post on the official Vertigo blog that shows Brian Bolland's process creating a cover for Jack of Fables.

I wanted to point out this post by Tim O'Neil about the Ann Nocenti/David Aja story in Daredevil #500. It's a really good piece of criticism, and it spotlights a really good story that might get passed over in favor of flashier stuff. Check it out.

And here's the weekly roundup; it's a busy one this week. Yikes.

New comics this week (Wednesday, 9/2/09):

Agents of Atlas #10

Jeff Parker, still going strong (for now). Word is, this series is getting cancelled, or going on a sort of hiatus as it gets relegated to backups in Incredible Hercules or X-Men crossover series. Hopefully it'll be back soon enough though; it's just about the best thing Marvel's publishing right now. This issue sees more fighting with Jimmy Woo's ex, with art by Gabriel Hardman, the best of the rotating creative team, and Paul Rivoche. Read it!

Boys #34

Ennis and McCrea (or whoever) keep things rolling. As I always say, I'm waiting for this story to end so I can read the collected version, and I'm even more eager after digging the previous volume.

Daring Mystery Comics #1

This is getting monotonous, but here's Marvel's latest anniversary celebration book, although they seem to have run through the well of recognizable creative talent, not to mention characters. This one is by David Liss and Jason Armstrong, and it stars some character named the Phantom Reporter. Still, it looks like it could be all right. Maybe give it a look?

Fall Out Toy Works #1

Ooh, it's the Fall Out Boy comic! Apparently Pete Wentz got jealous of Gerard Way's success with Umbrella Academy and decided to do his own. Of course, he didn't actually write it, and rather than trying to do something unique, he just did some thing related to his band. Sounds lame, but it is written by The Wintermen's Brett Lewis, so maybe something interesting will come out of it.

From The Ashes #4

Bob Fingerman continues to wander the post-apocalyptic landscape. Fun times?

Greek Street #3

Peter Milligan continues to take the names of mythological characters and do something or other with them. Dunno if I'll bother keeping up with this one. Maybe it'll be worth some bargain bin searching in a few months.

I Am Legion #5

The Humanoids thing with John Cassaday art is still going. I do want to read the collected version of this, so let's get it done already.

Immortal Weapons #2

Part two of the Iron Fist spin-off, with this issue focusing on Bride of Nine Spiders. It's written by my man Cullen Bunn (The Damned), with art by Dan Brereton, and I expect it will be good. Apparently, it's the only installment of the miniseries that isn't an origin issue. Interesting.

Incognito #6

Brubaker and Phillips finish off their superhero noir (for now; I think they've announced a follow-up for sometime next year), so they can finally get back to doing Criminal. I've been waiting; not that this has been bad or anything, but I prefer my crime stories to be spandex-free.

Invincible Iron Man #17

Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca keep going with the deconstruction of Tony Stark; this has turned into a very interesting story arc. This issue is a good one; I love how Fraction is showing Tony's mind crumbling as more and more of it gets erased and he gets dumber and more forgetful. It's actually painful to read. It should be cool to see how he manages to come out on top here; this is definitely bringing a character to his lowest before (presumably) building him back up again.

Irredeemable #6

Mark Waid keeps doing the evil Superman bit, and it's still not bad. If you refuse to stray away from the superhero genre, this is worth checking out.

Mystic Comics #1

And hey, Marvel has another anniversary book coming out this week. This one is a bit more high-profile, I guess; David Lapham is writing and drawing it. It stars the golden age version of the Vision, who was a supernatural, ghostly character or something. Also, a couple of backup reprints by Jack Kirby from 1940 and 1941! Neat!

Northlanders #20

Brian Wood and the Vikings, go! This starts a storyline that is actually a sequel to the first story, bringing us up on what happened to Sven after he moved away from Orkney. Davide Gianfelice is back on art, and I bet it'll be good, as this book seems to continue to be. I'll read it eventually.

Rawbone #4

Jamie Delano keeps going with the nasty piratical action. I don't know if I'll bother to read this once it's collected, but it's tempting.

Strange Tales #1

Ah, here's the big release for the week, the long-awaited Marvel indie book, featuring tons and tons of cool creators, including Nick Bertozzi, Paul Pope, Molly Crabapple, Junko Mizuno, Dash Shaw, James Kochalka, Johnny Ryan, Michael Kupperman, Peter Bagge (with his long-shelved "Incorrigible Hulk" story), Nicholas Gurewitch, and motherfucking Jason. Holy shit, that a lot of awesomeness to cram into 48 pages; it's totally worth the five dollar price tag. I've already taken a peek, and I love it; I'll pay money for it even though I have an electronic review copy. Don't miss out on this, people!

Sweet Tooth #1

It's the debut of Jeff Lemire's ongoing Vertigo series about a guy with antlers trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic American landscape. Sounds like kind of a departure for Lemire, but I bet it will still be good, and it should be interesting to see his work in color. Don't let me down, Lemire!

Torch #1

In less-interesting Marvel releases, here's the thing that apparently revives the golden age Human Torch and brings him into the modern Marvel universe, or some crap like that. Yawn. Alex Ross is apparently spearheading the project, which means lots of overly-reverent worshipfulness of the character and blah blah blah. I advise ignoring it, but I doubt many will actually do so.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2

Bendis and Lafuente continue with their relaunch (of sorts) of this book, and it will probably continue to be decent. Maybe people will still read it, even.

Wednesday Comics #9

Weekly newspaper reading appears, but it's almost over. Superman is threatening to become interesting, but I bet he'll go back to whining soon enough. Batman is still cool, Kamandi is still gorgeous, Metamorpho is silly fun, Hawkman is still awesome, Metal Men are increasingly lame, Teen Titans still suck, Sergeant Rock needs to kill some Nazis, Supergirl is still cute, Wonder Woman is still adventurous, Deadman is still neat, Flash is still not bad, and Green Lantern still bores me. Oh, and Paul Pope is still super-cool. I like this series a bunch.

Young Liars #18

I think this is the final issue of David Lapham's acclaimed-yet-unread Vertigo series; I've heard it's weird and cool and batshit insane, so maybe I'll try to check out the collections or something. Maybe.

Absolute V for Vendetta HC

Ah, absolute editions, you continue to be overpriced and unnecessary, and yet you still continue to come out, and people continue to buy you. I guess the draw here is that the books are really big, so the art looks nice all blown up? And there are usually some extras of some sort, but for something like this, is there really all that much to add? I dunno, I'm probably just cheap, but why spend 100 dollars on an oversized version of something you can get for less than $20 in paperback, and probably not that much more if you must have a hardcover? You people have too much money to spend, dammit.

Absurd Adventures Of Archibald Aardvark Vol 1 Bullets Booze And Beelzebub TP

I've seen issues of this series here and there, and it looks interesting, but I've never actually read it. It appears to star an old-timey cartoon character (literally; he's a washed-up old actor who used to star in cartoons) as he has violent adventures saving various holidays like Christmas and Easter. It might be all right, but I haven't heard all that much about it, so maybe it's not really worth the attention. Anyway, it's written by Dara Naraghi, Dwight L. MacPherson, and Grant Bond, with art by Bond. Here's the character's Myspace page, if you want more info.

Amulet Vol 2 The Stonekeepers Curse

Kazu Kibuishi! I really liked the first volume of this series, and here's part two, featuring more kiddie adventure, monsters, and robots. I bet it's good, and if nothing else, it will look amazing.

Batman Gotham After Midnight TPB

I don't know how good this 12-issue series was as a story (it was written by Steve Niles, and I for one can take him or leave him), but the art by Kelley Jones was pretty awesome, judging by all the samples I've seen. It's at least worth a look, if only to see what sort of craziness Jones came up with, like the Bat-Unicycle, the pipe-organ-like Bat-Computer, or a giant Bat-Robot used to fight Clayface. Good times.

Cars Rookie TPB

This is the collection of the first Boom! miniseries tying into the Pixar movie, giving readers a look at Lightning McQueen's early days racing on dirt tracks. I haven't read it, but it certainly looks nice, and I bet kids who are fans of the movies will enjoy it. Yes, supply your brats with endless licensed product! That's the American way!

Cat Burglar Black GN

Richard Sala! Here's his new book from First Second, and it looks really nice. A cute girl doing thiefy stuff; what's not to like?

Cosmic Odyssey TPB New Printing

I've never read this story by Jim Starlin featuring Jack Kirby's Fourth World characters (and probably other DC people), but I think it's supposed to be pretty good? On the scale of people trying to live up to Kirby, anyway. It's got some early art by Mike Mignola, so that's probably interesting to look at.

Dead Irons HC

This supernatural western series from Dynamite looked like it could be good, but I haven't really heard anything about it. It's written by James Kuhoric (have I read anything by him? I have no idea), and the art by Jason Shawn Alexander is probably the strongest selling point. Maybe I'll check it out, given the chance?

DMZ Volume 7 War Powers TPB

And here's another volume of a series that I like a lot, just in time for me to get further behind on my reading. I sure dug the previous one; I'll get right on this.

Hulk Gray HC

This is one of those color-coded miniseries by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale that oh-so-tiresomely explores the past of various Marvel characters; at least, that's my impression; the only one that I've actually read was Daredevil: Yellow. I think Loeb is a pretty terrible writer, but Tim Sale tends to bring out the best in him, and even if he doesn't, the art is always pretty stellar. I'm sure there have been earlier editions of this collection, but this one seems to be the fancy hardcover style that Marvel likes to overuse. If you want to spend the money on it, go ahead, but I'll glare at you behind your back.

Incredibles Family Matters TPB

Another Boom!/Pixar book, this one written by Mark Waid, since he knows about superheroes or something. It's supposed to be pretty good, I think? It's a perfect series for comics, so I'm sure Boom! will have more coming soon.

Katman TP

A kids' (young adults'?) graphic novel from Kevin C. Pyle, the creator of Blindspot, this one seems to be one of those teenage coming-of-age things about a kid hanging out over a summer and forming a relationship with an artistic girl. Probably pretty good? Pyle is a good cartoonist, and I imagine he can capture the emotions of a young relationship pretty well. This will be one to look out for.

Lords Of Misrule HC

This was apparently a fantasy graphic novel and miniseries from the early 90s, written by Dan Abnett and John Tomlinson, with art by Peter Snejbjerg and Gary Erskine. Radical is collecting it and adding painted color by a French artist named Jean. Sounds interesting; maybe worth a look?

Magic Pickle And The Creature From The Black Legume TP

Scott Morse! I haven't read any of this kids' series, but it's supposed to be quite enjoyable. Plus, the pun in the title makes me laugh. Another one to watch for.

Nocturnals HC Vol 02 Dark Forever and Other Tales

Another volume of Dan Brereton's series. I've never read any of it; I should try to remedy that.

Rebel GN

IDW is publishing this translation of an 80s graphic novel from Spanish artist Pepe Moreno, who is probably best known for Batman: Digital Justice. It appears to be one of those Heavy Metal-style nasty urban future stories; I haven't read enough of those, so this might be one to check out.

Secret Science Alliance And The Copycat Crook HC

Wow, lots of notable kids' books this week; this one is by Eleanor Davis, which automatically makes it worth seeking out. It's about three kid inventors who have to stop an evil scientist who has stolen their designs. I like Davis a bunch and I'm always interested in more of her work, so yes, I'll have to look for this one too.

Stitches HC

This autobiographical graphic novel by David Small has been getting a lot of attention, so it's one that I'm definitely going to have to try to read. I guess it's all about his terrible childhood, so it sounds nice and depressing. Good times.

Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics HC

Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly put together this collection of a bunch of old kids' comics, and I bet it's pretty good reading, containing artists like Carl Barks, John Stanley, Sheldon Mayer, Walt Kelly, and Basil Wolverton. One to check out if you see it.

Trouble With Katie Rogers Vol 1 GN

Hey, this looks like it could be one of those vaunted "comics for girls"! It's about a young woman living in New York and working in the fashion industry, and it's got a nice design and art style and everything. Of course, it's still written and drawn by a guy, but that doesn't automatically preclude it from being decent. Like just about everything else I mention this week, it could be worth a look. Here's the official site for more information.

Wind Raider TP

Like the last entry, this book is from Ape Entertainment, and I haven't read it. I might be inclined to check it out though, since even though I don't know the writers, I like the work of the artists, Micah Farritor (White Picket Fences) and Gabriel Hardman (Agents of Atlas). It's about some martial artist types that can control wind, I guess. Yeah, I might give it a look.

Wonderful Wizard of OZ HC

Marvel has this collection of their adaptation of the original novel (rather than the movie) by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, and it might be one to read. I glanced at the original issues when they came out, and damn, they look nice. Gorgeous art; hopefully it reads well too.

Zomnibus GN Vol 01

This is a weird sort of themed collection from IDW, containing several zombie comics that aren't really related to each other. They include Feast!, Eclipse of the Undead, and the complete Zombies Vs. Robots. The latter is by Ashley Wood, and what I've read of it is quite enjoyable, but I don't know about the other two. Still, it's a decent amount of content for $25; if you're not completely sick of zombies, you might consider it.

Honey And Clover Vol 7

On the manga front, Viz has the latest volume of this excellent series, which contains the last of the material that was serialized in Shojo Beat. Or maybe not the last of it; new material starts in volume 8, but with the magazine being cancelled, that volume might have the last chapter or two that they ran. Anyway, I love this comic, so I recommend people read it. That is all.

NANA Vol 18

I love this comic too, but I am very very behind on it. I'll get to this volume eventually. I hope.

Ninja Girls Vol 1

It's a new series from Del Rey, about a lost prince aided by, well, ninja girls and hoping to regain his kingdom. Probably not very historically accurate.

Pumpkin Scissors Vol 5

This military-themed series is supposed to be good, but I've never read it. Maybe someday, but if volumes keep coming out, who knows when I'll get the chance to start.

Sand Chronicles Vol 6

Another Shojo Beat series that I really like, and it's the same situation as Honey and Clover; new material starts next volume. Catch up while you can!

Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei The Power Of Negative Thinking Vol 3

I keep hearing that this book is hilarious (if also loaded with impenetrable cultural references), so I've gotta try to read it. Someday.

Silent Mobius Complete Edition Vol 1

I haven't read this sci-fi manga from Kia Asamiya, but it's kind of one of the classics of translated manga, isn't it? Maybe I should check it out sometime.

Tegami Bachi Letter Bee Vol 1

People seem to be talking about this series, but from what I've read in Shonen Jump, it doesn't really grab me. It's kind of interesting, I guess, with some detailed art and a bizarre premise, but I'm not all that impressed. But if it's your thing, I won't judge you.

And that's all, for this staggeringly busy week. Oy. More posting to come, I expect.

Friday, August 28, 2009

'They literally threw me out of medical school for my "electro-organic" approach to forensic medicine! But!--Now!--'

It's all about man not being able to control that which he doesn't fully understand in today's Fourth World Panel, from Forever People #9. Actually, I'm going to cheat again and use three panels, although they're not sequential:

That's a mad scientist who, having stolen New God technology from the Forever People, uses it to awaken his own personal Frankenstein monster, which immediately goes on a rampage. It's as though man shouldn't tamper with cosmic matters (like, say, Mark Moonrider's Megaton Touch, get what I'm saying?) lest he unleash powers beyond his control! Why, even supernatural forces can't match up against the cosmic:

That's Deadman, who has apparently joined the title due to editorial mandate, but Kirby makes good use of him, and hopefully will continue to do so in the next issue or two, as he joins the team to search for his murderer. He's a good character to interact with the Fourth World, bringing mystical, magical forces into play that seem like they will still be below the level of Kirby's cosmicness.

Also of note this issue is a funny scene with Big Bear:

He's quick becoming my favorite of the Forever People, possibly because he's the only one with much of a personality beyond "cosmic do-gooder". He's got a love for human culture and history, and he has that "gentle giant" thing going on. Kirby gets some good humor out of him kind of just bemusedly taking whatever attacks humans deal out, and then effortlessly defeating them. Good times.

Next: "The Bug"!

I can't let this post pass without mentioning that today is Jack Kirby's birthday; he would have been 92 if he was still alive. The more I read his work, the more I marvel at his amazing creativity. I think Tom Spurgeon's post for today, which simply collects a bunch of his amazing imagery, sums it up best. The range of ideas and stories he told over his career is astonishing; just scrolling through those pictures kind of blows my mind at everything he did so well, from crazy ideas to explosive action to fully-realized characters. He truly was the King.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ikigami: Death sucks

Elsewhere: I reviewed the "lost" episode of Dollhouse for the TV of the Weak column at The Factual Opinion.

This is cool: Bryan Lee O'Malley will have this nifty Scott Pilgrim poster for sale at PAX, and hopefully available online afterward. I might have to order one.

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, volume 2
By Motoro Mase

I'm still not sure what to think of this series, but it's definitely an interesting one. As we saw in the first volume, the main stories mostly focus on the reactions and decisions of people who know they are going to die, with occasional appearances by Fujimoto, the ostensible main character, to question the morality of the system. In the two stories here, he gets dumped by his girlfriend for always being so morose about his depressing job, causing him to basically threaten to turn her in to the secret police as a "social miscreant", which would lead her to be forcibly reeducated and possibly executed. Orwellian! Later, he seems to have gotten over his misgivings about the system, and he's even impressed by the positive effect a psychological counselor has when a victim becomes upset. But all was not as it seemed; she wasn't being completely honest about her methods. Oh, those totalitarian regimes! Why can't they be based on truth and decency?

As the series progresses, it should be interesting to see Fujimoto continue to question the system, but for now, the series is all about the victims, who are, of course, never deserving of death. Sometimes there's a bit of mystery as to who is going to be targeted for death, as in the first story, which sees an aspiring commercial director abusing drugs to keep his energy levels up. His girlfriend is upset about the abuse, and keeps confronting him about it, but he doesn't listen, choosing to put his career above both their relationship and his own well-being. So which one of them will get marked for death? And will he be able to sacrifice his own goals to be with her? It ends up being an interesting, sad tale, as he learns about how much she really loves him and how it must have torn her up inside to see him destroying himself.

The second story is probably even better, as we see a young screw-up working at a nursing home finally get a sense of purpose when a senile old woman mistakes him for her long-dead husband. He couldn't seem to do anything right, so being able to help her makes him finally feel worthwhile. But his impending departure seems to crush her, so he has to give her some tough love in a very Japanese-seeming scene that emphasizes self-reliance rather than depending on others. It's striking, touching stuff, seeming to reflect the attitude of a nation that had to pull itself back together after being devastated by war.

It's kind of melodramatic stuff, but Motoro Mase makes it work with his detailed realizations of the settings. He's good at giving the characters realistic expressions and filling up the pages with mundane details that really bring the stories to life. And he's got a great sense of pacing too; the first story sees an excellent moment in which the young couple is arguing about the guy's drug addiction, and after she calls him on his failings, he slaps her. A scene of small, mostly background-less panels gives way to a detailed double page spread that seems to freeze the moment as the reality of what just happened sets in:

Mase does that kind of thing really well, and when dealing with such highly emotional stories, he's pretty good at hitting readers right in the gut. I don't know if this sort of thing is for everybody, but if you want to see people struggling with deep subjects of life and death, you could certainly do worse.

'He's tranquilized--but conscious! Now to prepare him for "psycho-merge!"--The mind "Hook-up!"'

Awesome! That word is inescapable when discussing Kirby, and Mister Miracle #8 is no exception. In fact, I couldn't decide on one selection for today's Fourth World Panel, so here's two of them, reflecting the twin plots of the issue. First up is Barda breaking up a fight for dominance among the Female Furies:

That follows an incredible double page splash of all the Furies battling with each other as a way to determine a new leader, but Barda shows up and stops them cold instantly. You can tell that Kirby liked her as a character.

And for the other panel, we see Mister Miracle's foe for the issue, the Lump:

There's some pretty fascinating psychological stuff going on in this issue, as Scott is transported into the Lump's mindspace, the Id, for a battle. I don't know enough about Freudianism to know how well this matches up to his theories, but it's thought-provoking stuff, with the Lump being a realization of that primal part of the psyche that can shape itself into whatever form it pleases but is primitive and ugly enough that the rest of the mind seems to loathe it. Or that's how it seems to work here, anyway. It's pretty wild, showing that Kirby's cosmic craziness doesn't just extend to the stars, but within our very minds and psychological makeup. Deep, maaaan.

There's some other cool stuff this issue, like the various Furies wrecking Granny Goodness' shit, with one of them using her (furious) feminine wiles to seduce a guard with some drugged cosmic ale. And there's also the appearance of Tigra, Orion's mother:

We saw her briefly in "The Pact", but she's still hanging around, and maybe she's going to join the good guys. This story does end with Scott and Barda free and in leadership of the Furies, so who knows what they're going to do next. I can't wait to find out.

Next: Deadman joins the Forever People!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Remake: A good one, I think

Elsewhere: I review Fantastic Four #570 at Comics Bulletin.

And: Lucius Hammer writer Brian Williams responds to my review of his comic, making me consider issues about race. It was enough to make me consider if maybe some unconscious racism went into the review; is the idea of a black man getting a college degree and living morally preposterous? I hope that's not where I was coming from, and Williams' defense of his work makes me even more curious about the eventual comic. I'll be watching for it.

Another link: Smith Magazine, having recently finished their "Next-Door Neighbor" series, has launched a new webcomic called "The Pekar Project" (here's the first installment, in which Harv discusses art theories with Robert Crumb over the phone), in which a rotating art crew illustrates stories written by Harvey Pekar. I don't know if I especially like Tara Siebel's art on the first one, but hey, it's still Pekar. These should be good.

By Lamar Abrams

Well, this is just silly. Actually, scratch the "just"; it's silly, and gloriously, purposefully so. In this slim volume, Lamar Abrams brings a weird, cartoony world to life, creating an Astro Boy-like kid robot who acts like a real child with those powers might. He's flighty and spontaneous, prone to whining about being bored, showing off, goofing around, and arguing as much or more than he is to actual crimefighting. It's pretty hilarious watching him cause havoc all over his strange world, which seems to be populated by other robots, strangely deformed freaks, and even the occasional normal person. And not a whit of logic; the stories have a childlike flow to them, bouncing from incident to incident and joke to joke, barely stopping to take a breath along the way.

The aforementioned robot boy goes by the name of Max Guy, and he sometimes fights villains in chapters like "Vs. the Guy that Stretches" or "Vs. the Cat Thing", but just as often, he gets in arguments with his pal/roommate Cardigan (who is either also a robot or just has a metal head), sits around playing video games, or hangs out with other robot/mutant friends. The stories often have a sort of stream-of-consciousness, anything-can-happen feel, with weirdness just crashing in for the hell of it, or Max's "Max Blaster" raygun zapping things and turning them into other things nonsensically:

As that page illustrates, the dialogue is also pretty stilted, but comedically so, as if it was poorly translated from another language. It's done in a way that humorously adds to the strange vibe, rather than just sounding dumb. How Abrams manages to hit that balance is a mystery; being surreal and nonsensical and still funny is obviously not as easy as it would seem, as any number of awful webcomics can demonstrate.

Abrams also demonstrates a nice grasp of pacing, often cramming a bunch of small panels on one page and still telling a clear story. And the art visibly improves over the course of the book, going from kind of sketchy and rough (but still laid out well and easy to read) to thick-lined and dynamic, with some really good uses of grey tones for shading. The comedy, however, is consistent throughout, with each new page delivering a laugh-worthy moment, like Max's reaction to a kid on fire:

Or Max not being happy about a drill-handed girl that Cardigan picked up (and by the way, Abrams is great at drawing cute girls):

It's pretty ridiculous stuff, but always funny. Yes, the laughs often come from disbelief at whatever bizarre silliness that happens, but it all seems to make at least a little bit of sense within Abrams' world, and that's all that matters. Attempts to explain or understand (such as the entire contents of this review) would probably just muddy things further; just read and laugh, and hope that another volume eventually comes along to make it happen again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Nonsense! I'm superbly fit to rule the earth! I have the means to carry out this dream--and smash all who stand in my way!"

The source of today's Fourth World Panel, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #148, mercifully ends Kirby's tenure on the title; one suspects he was ready to move on, since this story is another one like that thing about the tiny monster planet that doesn't really have anything to do with the New Gods. But it's still pretty enjoyable though, especially in the depiction of the villainous Victor Volcanum and his crazy old-school getup:

There's also plenty of nifty Kirbytech, and some cool, smashy action. I especially like this depiction of Superman being blasted by some robots (and his verbal response):

And the way he takes them out is amusing, if kind of dumbly staged:

What, were they all standing in single file?

But this story lacks the spark of the New Gods stories, that cosmic drive and attitude of incomprehension at the scale of events. It's just a "Superman vs. mad scientist" tale, albeit one with Kirby style. He does seem to take this opportunity to offer his take on Superman's attitude though, and it's interesting, if kind of easy compared to the lame, suicidal response:

I dunno, maybe Superman just wasn't much fun for Kirby when he had his godly, space-faring playground to work with elsewhere. It's still fun to watch him blow shit up though.

Next: The Battle of the Id! Awesome!

This week, I don't get all that much of a break, do I?

Let's see if I can muster up the motivation to post more than once this next week...

New comics this week (Wednesday, 8/26/09):

28 Days Later #1

Boom! Studios has this ongoing series which acts as a sequel to the film, following (at least one of) the characters in the time between the movie and its sequel. I don't know if that matters, because nobody from the first film showed up in the second, right? Still, they're both pretty good movies, and writer Alex Garland is involved in this in some capacity (he's in the credits, that is), so it could be good.

Batman and Robin #3

It's the last Morrison/Quitely Batman book, for now. After that, Phillip Tan comes on board, in what promises to be an attempt to compete with Tony Daniel for poorly realizing Morrison's scripts. So this is the last one I'll be getting for a while, I suspect. But I really dug the first two parts, so I bet this will be good. More artistic onomatopoeia, please.

Batman Widening Gyre #1

In less-interesting Batman news, here's the latest Kevin Smith-written miniseries, sporting an annoyingly dumb title and the promise of "geek-bait guest stars galore". I guess he's competing with Jeph Loeb for definitive Batman stories now. Skip it, says I!

Boys Herogasm #4

Ennis gives us more porn-tastic supes. Even fans of the main book don't seem to like this, but I'll probably read it anyway.

Cerebus Archive #3

More old Dave Sim stuff, including stories submitted to Charlton Comics, complete with rejection letters. If you really need to see some cartoonist archaeology, here you go. I'd be happy with more new stuff, myself.

Citizen Rex #2

Gilbert and Mario Hernandez, continuing with the sci-fi wackiness. It's times like this that I regret being a trade-waiter.

Dark Reign Sinister Spider-Man #3

Bachalo. He's the reason to read this, although it's kinda enjoyable anyway.

Detective Comics #856

Batwoman keeps fighting the Mad Hatter's daughter, or something, and trying to seem interesting beyond J.H. Williams' art.

Fantastic Four #570

New creative team! This starts Jonathan Hickman's run on the title, with Dale Eaglesham providing the art. I'm hopeful that he'll have some good ideas, but given Marvel's track record for taking interesting creators and dullifying them, I'm not especially optimistic. We'll see how it goes; I should have a review up at Comics Bulletin tomorrow.

King City #1

The relaunch! Brandon Graham managed to rescue his series from Tokyopop, and now he's re-releasing the first volume in pamphlet format, to be followed immediately by the unpublished second volume. I'm not sure which issue will see the new material start to appear, but I'll be paying attention, because I don't want to miss out. I loved this story when it first came out, so if you missed it then, don't do the same this time around.

Muppet Show Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #2

Roger Langridge continues to rock the puppet funniness. I've been reading the first miniseries, and this is some great stuff. People, don't pass this one up! It's funny!

Runaways #13

The new creative team is still doing their thing. I'm liking it so far.

Secret Warriors #7

Jonathan Hickman takes over this series here, going solo as the writer (the previous arc was co-written by Brian Michael Bendis, although I think he just did the plots). The book took an interesting turn after a few issues, switching from being about Nick Fury's underground team of superheroes to seeing him raise a new army of "Howling Commandos" to fight Norman Osborn and Hydra. We'll see if Hickman can keep doing anything worthwhile here; chances are, the series will get cancelled before too long anyway.

Spin Angels #1

This is Marvel's latest translated French comic from Soleil, about a team of spies and assassins working for the Vatican. Could be neat, but like most of these things, probably too expensive at six bucks an issue.

Unknown Soldier #11

African violence! I picked up the first trade of this series last week, but who knows how long it will be before I read it. I do want to get to it though; this series is supposed to be darn good.

Wednesday Comics #8

Still going with the large comics and whatnot. I liked Metamorpho last week, and the Flash was especially interesting. Wonder Woman is getting better too. And Hawkman fights dinosaurs! This series is pretty sweet.

AD New Orleans After the Deluge GN

I think this book came out last week, but I neglected to mention it. It's Josh Neufeld's journalistic comic (which was originally serialized online) relating various people's stories about living through hurricane Katrina. It's supposed to be very good; I'll have to try to get my hands on a copy.

Colodin Project GN

I'm not sure exactly what this comic is about (something involving a mass panic because "special" people have been moved to some sort of hidden lair?), but it looks nice, and might be interesting. Here's the official site, where you can see some impossible-to-read preview pages and watch a fairly unhelpful trailer. I'm intrigued, at least, so that's something.

Color Of Heaven TP

The final book in Kim Dong-Hwa's trilogy about his mother's sexual awakening (or her romantic history, if that grosses you out a bit less). I liked the first volume quite a bit; now I need to read the other two.

Immortal Iron Fist Prem HC Vol 05 Escape From The Eighth City

This was a pretty darn good story, seeing Danny Rand and his fellow Immortal Weapons trapped in a jail dimension and fighting lots of monsters. I liked it, so if writer Duane Swierczynski lost you with his first story arc, I suggest giving him a second chance here. Of course, the book is now on hiatus, but it might be coming back eventually.

Jennifer's Body HC

This is based on a movie that doesn't sound like something I would want to see (Megan Fox is a murderous, demonically-possessed cheerleader! Yay!), but I like the talent on hand in this adaptation/tie-in, which includes Jim Mahfood, Nikki Cook, and Ming Doyle. Rick Spears writes, Boom! publishes, maybe it will turn out okay.

Killer of Demons TP

I was not aware of this series when it originally came out (or I just forgot about it), but it might be enjoyable. It's by Christopher Yost (eh) and Atomic Robo's Scott Wegener (yeah!), and it's about a salaryman (to use the Japanese parlance; we should try to get that term accepted here in the West too) who is, well, a killer of demons. Unless he's just crazy or something and is a serial killer, ha ha. Sounds like good times; I'll have to check it out.

Muppet Show TPB

Did I mention that Roger Langridge is awesome? Here's the collection of his first miniseries on the muppets, a four-issue thing that saw a different character spotlighted in each issue while still piling on the hilarity. It's excellent, full of great cartooning and funny gags aplenty. Read it, if you haven't already.

Prayer Requested TP

This book from Drawn & Quarterly sees artist Christian Northeast illustrate various found prayers, in ways that seem to mock the writers but still remain kind of poignant. Interesting stuff; you can see a PDF preview here.

Stuffed GN

Nick Bertozzi! I've been hearing about this book from First Second, about two brothers who inherit a taxidermied African warrior and try to figure out what to do with it, and it's definitely something I want to read. Written by Glenn Eichler, art by my man Nick. I hope it's good.

Toy Story Mysterious Stranger TPB

In addition to the Muppets, Boom! also has this collection of a recent series about Woody, Buzz, and the gang. I haven't read it, but I did think the art was nice. Maybe kids will like it? Recommendation, it's what I'm good at!

Crayon Shinchan Vol 9 TP CMX Edition

The horrible children keep coming.

Gantz TP Vol 06

As do the blood and speed lines.

Gurren Lagann Vol 2 GN

And the fan service. The cover of this volume bothers me, which is weird, because I really liked the anime. Maybe the boob shots aren't as egregious in animation, while print seems to linger on them for too long. Or maybe I'm a hypocrite. Anyway, I don't know if the manga version of this is any good, but here it is.

Ikigami Ultimate Limit GN Vol 2

Death, of the institutionalized variety. I just finished reading this volume, so expect a review soon. It's not bad. Here's what I thought about the first volume, if you must know.

Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu Vol 1 TP

Junko Mizuno! Here's her new book, a sure-to-be-cute bit of weirdness about a shapeshifting alien who gets with lots of earth women. I bet it's funny and strange and full of striking designs.

Summer Of The Ubume TP

Not a comic! This is a translated novel from Vertical, about a fake exorcist that has to solve a mystery about a dead pregnant woman. Sounds interesting. It's the first of a series, and it might be worth a look for people who are interested in all of Japanese culture, not just the words 'n pictures variety. Does that include me? I dunno.

I guess that's about it. More posts coming! Don't go away!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oishinbo: I smell something fishy

That's a dumb title.

Oishinbo A la Carte: Fish, Sushi, & Sashimi
Written by Tetsu Kariya
Art by Akira Hanasaki

This volume of the popular foodie manga features less of the edible nationalistic fervor that was found in the sake volume, and more of another aspect found in so much Japanese fiction: the father/son conflict. Yes, that's a prevalent theme, and aside from the main subject of the manga (food, natch), the series almost seems built around it, regularly pitting protagonist Shiro Yamaoka against his jerk of a father, Kaibara Yuzan. It can be pretty amusing to see the two of them face off over culinary knowledge and matters of gourmet honor, and luckily, this volume is full of that sort of thing. Ah, resentment-fueled family conflict; is there anything more amusing?

Not every story here pits Shiro against his dad; we get to see him perform his usual schtick of insulting somebody about their cooking and then having to demonstrate his superior knowledge in order to save his employers from losing face. The devil is in the details though, and it's pretty fun to see the way writer Tetsu Kariya comes up with new variations on this theme. One story sees a rich businessman showing off his fish-preparing skills only to get a put-down from a truth-speaking little kid. Shiro backs him up though, showing how the freshness of a fish has to do with more than just how long it's been since it was killed. Other stories see him save an orphanage from being repossessed through the use of a fried fish head, convince a cook to get over his ugliness and help out his mentor, and use flounder to show a youngster that it's okay to go to his second-choice college. And we get to see plenty of hilariously outsized reactions to delicious food:

And just as many detailed depictions of the dishes themselves and the ingredients and techniques that go into making them:

But for the best stories, the father/son stuff is where it's at, and where this volume really delivers. One story sees mean old Yuzan putting down Shiro's taste and mocking his statement that a low-class fish like a chub mackerel could be the best sashimi he's ever tasted. So of course Shiro has to show him, going on a fishing trip to catch just the right mackerel and prove its worthiness. Amusingly, Yuzan can't admit he was wrong, and finds something else to criticize instead:

But Shiro doesn't always get the best of his father; in fact, he loses more challenges here than he wins. One story sees the two of them competing to make the best sweetfish tempura for a mutual acquaintance, and Yuzan's experience comes out ahead. While Shiro does the legwork to get the absolute best ingredients, Yuzan aims to tweak the man's nostalgia, serving him fish from his hometown and evoking childhood memories. And a later story raises the stakes, with the men competing in a salmon challenge that pits their respective menus (Ultimate and Supreme, formed for competing newspapers) against each other. Shiro's raw salmon dish leads to a lengthy discussion about the dangers of parasites, and even though it was delicious and proven safe, the risk is too great, leading to a loss against Yuzan's presentation of skin and belly fat (which sounds gross, but the tasters seemed to like it). It ends up being a fascinating discussion of the pursuits of gourmet dining:

And a final story delves even further into the reasons for Yamaoka's project, and by extension the series itself. He loses confidence in the purpose of putting together the Ultimate Menu after witnessing an old man who seems to gain the strength to stay alive after eating a certain type of delicious sushi each year. This reverence and gratitude towards food seems to be the opposite of what Shiro and company are doing; he feels that they are just showing off. And he feels so strongly about it, he's willing to cancel his wedding banquet (which was to be a showcase for the Ultimate Menu), in effect calling off the marriage. Drama! With this sort of dilemma, his fiancee, Yuko Kurita, has no choice but to consult Yuzan for advice on how to convince Shiro otherwise (she has to use leverage to get any help from him though), leading to another interesting discussion of culinary philosophy and showing him how the work of cooks is something worthy of being saved for posterity.

It's some really interesting, informative stuff, full of personality and goofy characters, but not coming off as a frivolous lark. The themed volumes are a perfect way to release this series, giving a glance at the long history of the ongoing story and letting us watch as the themes develop and mature. It's easy to see why the series is so popular and continues to come out after so many years. Hopefully we'll get many more volumes to come on this side of the Pacific.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wizard Chicago 2009: Even more stuff

First: I contributed a couple short reviews to Tucker Stone's all-star guest vacation version of Comics of the Weak over at The Factual Opinion. Fun!

Then: Check out these Matt Weigle illustrations for 1984 that Sean T. Collins shared. I guess it's for a Spark Notes thing on the book, but I can't find anything about it elsewhere, so Collins' blog looks like the place to see it.

Finally: I get around to talking about more comics I bought from the people who made them, across a table:

Cursed Pirate Girl #1-2

This comic is very much worth seeking out, just to marvel at the art. And marvel is what you will do, since it's mindbogglingly detailed, dense with line upon line illustrating everything from strands of hair to scales of fish to wrinkles in clothing to the fanciful curlicues and lettering that border panels. The time taken (not to mention the skill required) to lay all this visual information down on paper is beyond mortal comprehension; Jeremy Bastian seems to be a god among men, or at least an obsessive-compulsive freak whose mind requires him to dump all this information from what must be the truly wondrous insides of his cranium. Just look at the beautifully baroque imagery that he brings to life, and (if you're like me) despair at ever being able to draw more than a stick figure:

That's actually kind of a poor description of the comic, sounding like an incomprehensible mishmash of imagery poured out on paper. In actuality, the book is anything but; while Bastian meticulously lays layers of ink onto the page, he sacrifices nothing in the way of storytelling, giving plenty of visual and verbal wit to the story of a young girl who encounters plenty of bizarre people and magical creatures on her journey to reunite with her pirate father. The first issue actually concentrates on a different character, the tiny, doll-like daughter of the governor of a Caribbean island colony who comes across the title character and is smitten with her piratical lifestyle after hearing about her adventures. But the governor is not pleased with the influence of this young tramp, sending one of the local toughs to get rid of her. This doesn't work out so well, due to the spell that protects Cursed Pirate Girl (which is the only name she is known by, so far). The second issue switches to CPG's perspective, as she ends up going on an undersea adventure to find her father, encountering plenty of strange, fishy creatures, including a pair of dueling, armor-clad swordfish and a giant, motherly octopus monster, before emerging in a sort of magical pirate land in hopes of figuring out which of the local ship captains might bear her genetic material. The third and final issue (which, given the intensive amount of work Bastian must complete, probably won't appear for quite some time) will presumably solve this mystery, and maybe usher in a bit of conclusion, although an open-ended quest that sets CPG on the high seas in search of more adventure would not be a poor way to go out either.

It's all a rather fantastical, magical tale, but there are some hints here and there that there may be more going on, especially when we get a hint of CPG's squalid living space under a dock, where she scrapes by while dreaming of one day finding the father that abandoned her. Perhaps the entire magical quest is simply a dying fantasy, giving the entire comic a dark flavor and adding some weight to the fluffy escapades. That explains the more grounded first issue, which shows her dispatching some bullying kids who make fun of her ridiculous stories, as if the dreams that she's not just an abandoned orphan are what gives her strength to get by. Other fantasticalities could be explained as the larger-than-life perspective of the young governor's daughter, who is sheltered enough to be fascinated by the dirty, nasty world outside her window. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it, which is entirely possible.

Maybe it is all just a fun fantasy, but Bastian does seem to be sneaking in some dirt around the edges of his vision. Whatever the case, it's a messy, delightfully weird bit of magic and swashbuckling adventure. There's nothing else like it out there, and it's well worth searching out and diving into Bastian's strange world. The next issue can't arrive soon enough.

Sakura and the Spider

Points for ambition. That's the prominent reaction to this book, in that while it's far from perfect, creator Melissa Erwin is attempting to tell a good story using some fascinating artistic techniques. She's not completely successful, but what she has come up with here in the first volume of what promises to be an ongoing series of graphic novels is strikingly unique, a beautiful fusion of calligraphic Japanese artwork and modern computer coloring. While it appears to have been created digitally, the linework takes the appearance of elegant brushstrokes, and the coloring gives the look of parchment covered with glowingly bright tones:

The problems begin with the story itself, which is a bit of inter-family intrigue common to samurai movies, although with some anachronistic touches, such as the fact that Nozomi, a woman, is a fierce warrior and the head of her clan's security, which wouldn't have been possible in medieval Japan. The plot involves a wedding that is intended to calm a brewing conflict between clans, with a faction within one of the participating groups planning to take violent action to stop it. It's kind of hard to figure all this out though, with characters being somewhat difficult to distinguish from each other and incidents rushing to conclusion before readers can catch up to what is going on. And the visual storytelling itself doesn't help; a complete lack of defined panels leads to scenes that overlap on top of each other on several pages and a difficulty in following action, or even understanding in what order images are meant to take place. The dialogue also leaves something to be desired, mostly consisting of attempts at badass proclamation and the use of wrong-sounding words and phrases like "asshole" and "Why do I let you live, anyway?" It's certainly unfortunate, given how nice the book looks.

And that's what redeems it, especially in the potential for growth in future volumes. Erwin's figures are lovely and fluid, and they're places in some beautifully-realized settings that nicely mix art styles from old Japanese illustrative prints with a more modern look. And while those layouts can be hard to read at times, the moments when they work are quite astonishing, making the backgrounds and characters flow organically across the page:

So no, it's not perfect; far from it, in fact. But the good outweighs the bad, for those of us who are willing to be generous, and hopefully Erwin's talent will continue to develop. She's certainly a creator to watch.

Written by Victor Carungi
Art by Jeff Blascyk and Antonio Brandao

This indie crime book might not look like much at first, but its unassuming exterior hides a nice little tale of violence and revenge, with a liberal sprinkling of guilt and ruminations on hiding or living up to your true nature. Not bad for a black and white comic that sees lots of screaming faces, pointed guns, and walls decorated with brains.

The story follows one Jonathan Kincaid, who lives up to the titular description as a meek bank manager who gets caught up in a robbery scheme when some criminals force him to help them out in exchange for getting his brother out of jail. Things don't go as planned, of course, and the result is a lot of bloodshed, betrayals, twists, chases, narrow escapes, and the requisite awakening of Jonathan's violent side. Interestingly, that last part happens fairly quickly; rather than stringing readers along for most of the book with whining until he finally snaps and realizes his badass potential, writer Victor Carungi has him take the initiative at almost the first chance he gets, and he directs his own actions from then on, rather than just following the more experienced criminals. And lest this seem like a ridiculously easy transformation, flashbacks to Jonathan's childhood reveal a suppressed nature much more in line with the actions we see him taking, along with a need to make up for past mistakes that makes what he does believable. It's a nice bit of character work, making what could have been a nonstop gunfest much more deep than expected.

Carungi's artistic partners do their best to make everything come to life, and while they occasionally provide some bits of awkward facial expression, they manage to deliver some good scene-setting and a great deal of gunshot-derived blood splatter. The first two thirds or so of the book are illustrated by Jeff Blascyk, and he has an interesting style similar to some of the artists who regularly work for Avatar, with a hint of Tony Harris's curled lips:

While the opening pages are a bit rough, with a lot of penciled shading and awkward movements, he improves over the course of the book, eventually ending up with some nice, clean outlines and a lot of blood, dirt, and grit. But Antonio Brandao, who finishes off the story, takes that dirtiness and really amps it up, giving everything a Carlos Ezquerra-like messiness that still gives the action a lot of movement and expression:

It ends up being a nice-looking little book, with a lot of shooting, gore, and death. That's what you want to see in a crime comic, right?

With this book, Carungi looks like a talent to watch, having shepherded a vision onto the page over the course of a number of years, as he details in the book's backmatter. He worked hard to make this comic happen, and the care taken really shows. Hopefully he has more than one book in him, because if he continues to develop his talent and work with collaborators so well, they could really take things to the next level and turn out something special (or even more special; not to downplay the quality of this current work). Here's hoping they won't disappoint.

Monday, August 17, 2009

This week, I keep buying comics

Link: Check out these Jack Kirby trading cards, presenting concept art from some animated show in the 80s, I think.

The latest "issue" of Dark Horse Presents is out, and there's another "Giant Man" story by Matt Kindt. I also like this story by Matt Sundstrom. Good stuff.

Missed it: Looks like Tokyopop is finally getting around to releasing some of the OEL titles they have sitting around. That's good, even if it's just posted online, since at lease people will be able to read them. I'm not all that interested in most of them, but one of the titles is Gyakushu!, which is awesome, because I really want to find out how that series ended (here's my reviews of volume one and two, if you're interested). Hopefully I'll even be able to buy a print volume of it someday.

New comics this week (Wednesday, 8/19/09):

Atomic Robo And The Shadow From Beyond Time #4

Aw, man, I still haven't read #3. I loves me some Atomic Robo, and this miniseries is as good as all the others, from what I've seen. Read it.

Daredevil #500

Marvel's latest big anniversary issue, although who knows if it's legit or not (not that it's really worth caring about). This one marks the end of Ed Brubaker's run on the series, which I haven't read, so I don't know how it is. I guess it's all right? Being a number divisible by 100, it's a big issue, with extra stories by Ann Nocenti, David Aja, and "others". Plus, lots of variant covers, some of which will be nice to look at on the stands, especially Geof Darrow's. Ah, the modern comics industry and the wealth of stupidity it has given us. I'll be forever grateful.

Days Missing #1

Here's the under-the-radar book of the week, a new series from Archaia by Phil Hester and Frazier Irving. It has to do with a supernatural being having removed various days throughout history from spacetime, or maybe just from memory. But now they're being revealed, with presumably shocking results! Sounds interesting, but what really sells it for me is the presence of Frazier Irving, one of my favorite artists. I'm still waiting for him and Simon Spurrier to finish Gutsville though...

Ex Machina #44

Still mayoring. I knew this series was going to end fairly soon, but I guess #50 will be the final issue? That's coming soon, barring any delays. I do like this series; when's the next collection coming out?

Jack of Fables #37

I like this one too, and I'm kind of excited about it again now that I read that last trade. The next one's not until October, I think, and then I can get excited about the crossover collection. Yes, Fables, I'm hooked.

Monsters Inc Laugh Factory #1

It's the latest Disney/Pixar book from Boom!, and it's probably as nice-looking and kid-friendly as the others, acting as some sort of sequel to the movie. I should try to read some of these and see how well they work.

Poe #2

And speaking of Boom!, here's another one of their series, and I haven't read it. Which is ridiculous, since they send me PDFs of all their books. I really need to dive into some of these and see how good they are. Anybody want to offer an opinion? Anyone? Hello? (I always resist making a "Beuller?" joke here, but maybe this week it would be appropriate).

Swordsmith Assassin #1

And another Boom! book, but I actually did read this one. Here's my review, over at Indiepulp. It's pretty good, methinks.

Viking #3

This book is one that I want to like more than I actually do. The art is gorgeous, and I love the oversized presentation, but it's too damn hard to follow for some reason. I have trouble telling characters apart and following the plot, and that's a shame, since a good, bloody romp through the frozen north is a can't-miss concept. Maybe it'll get better; I'll probably be unable to resist buying it anyway.

Wednesday Comics #7

Hey, this series is good, amirite? I'm not sure what there is to say from week to week, although I could complain about the board game in Metamorpho that was substituted in lieu of a strip last week, or comment on the nifty vertical presentation of the Wonder Woman installment. Whatever; I'll just keep reading.

We Kill Monsters #2

I would not mind reading this comic. It looks good. That is all.

Astonishing X-Men Prem HC Ghost Box

The first arc of Warren Ellis tenure on the series, and it wasn't bad. It'll probably read better in collected form, rather than sporadically appearing on shelves whenever an issue is finished. Still, it's really only an okay story; I wouldn't recommend it for non-X-Men fans anyway. If you must read it, you should probably wait for the trade.

Black Is For Beginners GN

I can't find a whole lot of information about this one, but it appears to be a graphic novel about witches for a young adult audience. The thing that makes it notable is that Barbara Kesel is one of the writers (joined by Laurie Stolarz, with Janina Gorrisen on art). Maybe worth a glance, if you can find it.

Complete Essex County HC
Complete Essex County TP

Ah, here's the big "indie" release of the week, collecting all the previous volumes in Jeff Lemire's series of interconnected stories of Canadian small-town life. I hear nothing but good things about these, but I still haven't read them, although I only have mysef to blame. One of these days I'll get to them, and hopefully they will live up to the hype.

Dark Entries HC

The first book in the Vertigo Crime label, a black and white graphic novely by Ian Rankin, with art by Werther Dell'Edera. It's not too far off the Vertigo beat though, since it stars John Constantine, and it has something to do with reality TV, which might be a bit too "relevant". Still, I've heard that it's pretty good, so I'll try to check it out, given the chance.

Eerie Archives Volume 02 HC

Dark Horse keeps collecting series like this in expensive volumes that I can't afford to buy. I do want to read them at some point though, so I should search my library's catalogue. Good stuff here, with contributors like Gene Colan, Neal Adams, Steve Ditko, and Frank Frazetta. Here, have a teeny preview.

Filthy Rich HC

And it's the other Vertigo Crime book, this being the one I'm more interested in. It's by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos, and it seems to be more of a classic noir, with a doofus caught up in a complicated world of rich old men and femmes fatale. It's gotten at least one bad review, but I'm willing to give Azzarello a chance, since I really dig his crime writing, and the samples of the art that I've seen look really nice. Don't let me down, Azzarello!

Hexed HC

I mentioned that I'm bad about reading Boom!'s releases, and here's an example. This magical series looked interesting and featured some vibrant artwork, but I never got around to reading it. I might still do so, but if anybody else out there read it and wants to let me know what they thought, please do so.

Kindling James Jean Poster Book

Not comics! But James Jean's art is beautiful and awesome, so here's a chance to get a bunch of it (collected from his gallery exhibit in New York) to hang on your dorm room walls. Who knows, maybe it'll get you laid.

Lava Is A Floor HC

A cute-looking kids' comic from Image about two monster kids pretending to be humans. Sounds like fun.

Marquis TP Vol 1 Inferno

Guy Davis! I've never read this series, but it looks really cool, and Davis is a pretty great artist. Maybe this is my chance to check it out.

Middleman Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse GN

Hey, I didn't know this was coming out! It's the next Middleman book, although it seems to follow the TV series rather than the comics, picking up plot threads from the show and finishing everything off rather apocalyptically. The show was quite good, so I expect this will be fun as well, even if the art is by Armando Mendoza rather than Les McClaine. Maybe I'll even get my wife to read it; she loved the show. Comics: everybody likes them, sort of!

Requiem Resurrection Vol 1 TP

I don't know if I've ever seen a Heavy Metal trade collection before. How about that. This one collects a story by Pat Mills and Olivier Ladroit about a Nazi being resurrected as a vampire in the afterlife. I like Mills' work on Marshall Law, so maybe this will also be a good read. And maybe more European stuff can get collected by Heavy Metal as well; that would be nice.

Shrapnel Aristeia Rising TP

Radical has this trade collection of their series about a gritty interplanetary war throughout the solar system. I never read the series, but it seemed interesting, so maybe I'll give it a look. Maybe.

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen HC

I read a few of the issues of this series, and it was pretty fun, if also pretty lightweight, not really living up the the comedic legacy of the show that birthed it. Still, there are some decent gags and some nice artwork, so it's not a waste of time or anything. How's that for a recommendation?

Ultima Thula GN

This graphic novel from Arcana has to do with a town being sucked through an interdimensional portal to another planet, forcing some soldier guy to defend everybody from aliens or something. That's not a bad concept; it could be kinda cool.

Unknown Soldier TP Vol 1 Haunted House

This Vertigo series has been getting some acclaim due to writer Joshua Dysart's meticulous research into the African conflicts that it comments on. Having read the first issue, I knew that it was something that I wanted to read, and now here's my chance. From what I hear, this is pretty powerful stuff, full of real-world drama. I hope I heard right.

Wet Moon GN Vol 5

I still haven't read any of Ross Campbell's series, and here's another volume to add to the pile. I have heard that this is pretty good, so hopefully I can get to it at some point.

X-Men Misfits Vol 1 GN

This might have already come out, but who knows? It's the "manga" version of the X-Men, taking a shojo sort of approach to the characters and focusing on the interpersonal drama and school setting. Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier write, and somebody called Anzu draws. I wouldn't mind giving it a look.

Naoki Urasawas 20th Century Boys Vol 4 TP

Man, just as I get caught up, another volume comes out. I'll get to it eventually (although I'm also trying to get caught up on Pluto...); I love Naoki Urasawa's comics, and this series promises to continue to blow me away.

Ooku The Inner Chambers Vol 1 GN

Viz's other big release at the moment, this Fumi Yoshinaga alternate history is supposed to be quite good, looking at a feudal Japan in which women are the prominent gender. This is one that I definitely want to read.

Parasyte Vol 8 GN Del Rey Edition

And finally, here's a release that I think already came out, but I don't think I've seen it on a release list yet. The final volume of the series about a kid with an alien hand; I'm still way behind, but I'll get caught up sometime soon, I hope.

That's everything? Probably. I've got more writin' to do, so you'll probably see more from me in the next few days. The comics, they keep coming.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

George Sprott: I might complain, but I'm not as old as he was

George Sprott (1894-1975)
By Seth

I obviously haven't read enough of Seth's comics, because this is one very good book, and I would certainly like to experience more of the same. Similar to Chris Ware, Seth has a somewhat clinical approach to his storytelling, although it's far from cold or unfeeling. On the contrary, the point of this story seems to be to examine the life of the title character, with most of the content coming from "interviews" with people he associated with or the memories that went through his head in his last hours. Described as such, that sounds somewhat boring, but it's anything but. Rather, it's a fascinating look into the forces that shaped the entirety of Sprott's life, along with a great example of character building on Seth's part; by the end, Sprott feels incredibly real, to the point that readers might wonder if the book is non-fiction.

We learn early on that Sprott was a local TV host for the last few decades of his life, but it's only a few pages before we discover the rest of his history, with the notable part being his time as an Arctic explorer, which gave him the content for his show, "Northern Hi-Lights". As one of the interviewees states, the trips were of limited scientific value; he was more of a "gentleman explorer", there to hobnob with the natives and take films of the snowy landscape to be shown over and over on his show. In fact, the more one reads about Sprott, the more useless he seems; did his life have any positive impact at all on the world? The question is debatable, but even though many of the interviewees call him a bore or seem to think he was a pompous blowhard, they all seem to have some affection for him, as do various TV viewers, attendees of his lecture series, or, most significantly, his beloved niece. In the end, the cumulative effect of the lives he touched has a powerful result, making him seem an essential part of the human fabric.

Seth's narration is also a notable aspect of the story, adding a contemplative, apologitic voice to the scenes of exposition, starting with a pre-title-page spread of a fetal Sprott floating in an amniotic void and contemplating life both before life and after death:

Other scenes see the narrator apologize for not having enough information, insufficiently delivering details to the reader, or speculating on Sprott's feelings even while he seems to be privy to his thoughts and memories. It's a fascinating device, and one that definitely adds to the mood of the book, while emphasizing Seth as a presence in the story.

And he's certainly worth noticing, especially for the elegant artwork that captures so much nuance in a few simple lines:

I love the way the emotions of characters are captured so well through slight variation in expressions that are cartoony yet still communicative. And there's a great grasp of gesture and movement, easily shifting between realistic depictions and rounded simplifications of the human figure:

The pages themselves are beautifully designed and laid out, each one (for the most part) working as a single unit to tell part of the whole, which makes sense, given that they were originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine. The additions for this collected edition consist of sepia-toned flashbacks to points in Sprott's life, occasional near-abstract spreads of icebergs and such scenery, and a bravura fold-out sequence that works as a sort of barrage of memories that flash before Sprott's eyes in his last moments:

It's poignant, affecting stuff, especially the persistent guilt that continues to plague him after he impregnated and abandoned an Inuit woman on one of his expeditions.

The thing is, everything works together to present a believable portrait of a man and his life, and even though we realize that we've only seen a glimpse of his life and personality, we feel like we know him intimately, even though he's a fictional character. That's the real power of Seth's storytelling here, and he's amazingly good at it. The end result of the book is the feeling of a friend gained and lost, probably similar to being a viewer of his show, or possibly a documentary about the life of a minor celebrity, with the addition of being privy to some of his inner thoughts. It's the kind of experience that only comics can provide, and when a creator like Seth is steering you through it, you can't go wrong.