Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quickies

Elsewhere: I reviewed Marvel Boy: The Uranian #1 for Comics Bulletin.

Link: Colleen Frakes has a new comic called "Basket Ogress" in progress, which you can see here.  Looks good.

And here's another cool-looking webcomic: Steve Bissette's "King of Monster Isle".  Sweet!

Non-comics talk: I just watched a movie that I really liked, but seems like something that appeals very narrowly to my sensibilities, so I have no idea if anybody else will enjoy it.  It's called Visioneers, and I think it was a straight-to-DVD release from 2008.  It stars Zack Galifianakis as a desk drone working for some sort of society-controlling corporation that appears to limit everyone's desire to express themselves or think independently in an attempt to increase productivity.  The result is a surreal, sterile environment where people kind of twitch their way through their days without experiencing anything resembling real emotions, and people have started to explode from the stress of suppressed feelings.  It's bizarre as all get out, and full of weird details, like the way the company founder mispronounces "chaos", or Galifianakis' brother showing up as the leader of a religious cult based on pole vaulting.  It's also very slow-paced, allowing its setting to unfold over a long time, so you only slowly realize how strange everything is.  There are a few bits that are kind of on the nose, like the founder confessing that he would like to remove emotion altogether and turn people into cogs in his machine, or Galifianakis' wife (Judy Greer, in one of her more understated roles) complaining about being numbed into complacency by lattes and TV shows.  But it's a pretty damn unique bit of social commentary, and I dug it.  Who knows if anybody else will though.

Shorter reviews, hopefully:

Prison Pit, Book One
By Johnny Ryan


Maybe it's a generational thing, a group of comics creators of similar ages and backgrounds all working at the same time, but the "Dungeons & Dragons" comic seems to be a growing genre of late, with Alex Robinson's Lower Regions probably being the prime example.  And here's Johnny Ryan with his take, and it's as over-the-top and bodily-fluid-obsessed as you would expect if you're at all familiar with his work.  There's pretty much nothing to the comic except a tough, nameless bruiser being thrown onto a prison planet and fighting a succession of other psychotic freaks, until the volume ends with the promise of more to come (which might or might not be true; in what seems to be a never-ending parade of guts-n-gore, there could be ten more installments or there could be none, with little difference either way).  It's amusing enough for what it is, but that seems to be an especially well-drawn version of the contents of a fourteen-year-old's notebook, scrawled on wide-ruled paper while bored in study hall.  And sure, it looks great, whether Ryan is depicting prehensile intestines enveloping our "hero" in a suffocating cocoon, limbs being severed by a torrent of sharpened pus, a desiccated skeleton nailed to a cactus, an armored body made entirely out of semen, or a full-page depiction of a barbed penis.  But what's the point, seems to be the question, if one decides to fret about such things.  Worries like that are pretty silly though; Ryan seems to be enjoying himself here, and those who share such memories of role-playing adventures will probably feel right at home.  Even as a less-nostalgic outsider to such a scene, it's fun to see what sort of depravities will spurt forth from Ryan's imagination next, but as nice as it looks, it's lacks the satirical bite of his Angry Youth Comix.  It's fun for what it is, but what it is isn't very substantive.  Of course, neither is most of the entertainment we crave, so it's probably best to either enjoy it or move on.
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Grandville
By Bryan Talbot


Ah, but here's some solid genre entertainment that everyone can (or should) enjoy!  Of course, that genre (alternate-history furry steampunk conspiracy espionage action-adventure, perhaps?) doesn't really exist outside this book, but if Bryan Talbot wants to kick-start it, more power to him.  Like most all of Talbot's work, this has the appearance of something laboriously crafted down to the last brush stroke and dab of (virtual) paint, and it ends up being riotously entertaining, a grand jaunt through a weird alternate Victorian-era Europe populated by animal-people (and the occasional human).  The protagonist is a badger named Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard, and his investigation into the apparent suicide leads him to uncover a conspiracy that goes all the way to the highest levels of power in France (which has conquered England in this world), and then take it on near-singlehandedly in one quite-awesome action setpiece after another.  There's a little bit of Sherlock Holmes here, and probably some other influences from various European comics (cameo appearances are made by a character from Maus, Omaha the Cat Dancer, Spirou, and Tintin's Snowy, who actually gets a significant role in the plot), along with a bit of post-9/11 political commentary, but all that matters is that it's a fast-moving, tightly-plotted, surprisingly violent yarn set in a gorgeously-detailed environment that's bursting with life.  There are already hints of a follow-up, or possibly even an entire series of LeBrock's adventures, and there's little that would be more welcome.  Bring on the sub-human uprising, says I.