Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Alan's War

by Emmanuel Guibert and Alan Cope

Since I was in university, I have had an interest in reading memoirs and novels written by soldiers who had fought in the First World War. The Second World War has not held my interest in quite the same way. I've always felt that writing from that war was more focused on the more modern and mechanized aspects, and that it tends to lack the introspection of a soldier in the trenches.

This project, however, seemed intriguing from when I first became aware of it. Emmanuel Guibert befriended an elderly American veteran, who was a master storyteller. Together, the two of them decided to record the stories with Guibert's illustrations.

The book they produced is very charming and interesting. To be honest, Cope didn't do a lot in the war, if one is reading this to look in on major battles or offensives. He didn't really see combat, although statistically, that's true of most of the soldiers who served. What he did do, is travel around Europe a fair deal, and meet a number of interesting people on both sides of the conflict. He clearly was able to maintain a very strong memory into his last years, as his recollections are detailed and precise in many moments.

Guibert's art in this book is very nice. He has a simple style, and often draws over photographs, creating an interesting effect. Some pages are exceedingly minimalist in their approach, while others are chock full of fine detail. It had the effect of maintaining my interest through the final third of the book, where Cope basically drifts aimlessly for a while after the war, and tries to reconcile himself with religion.

Now, having read this, I'm even more fired up to get my hands on Guibert's newest release, "The Photographer".

Monday, June 29, 2009

How's It Hold Up? Lucy Ford

by Atmosphere

This was my first Atmosphere album, although it must be said that I picked it up after hearing Slug collaborate Murs on 'Felt'; I didn't pick it up when it first came out. That said, this is, to me, the seminal Atmosphere record, and one that I feel deserves to be listened to at least once a year still.

There are a lot of great songs on here. 'Don't Ever Fucking Question That' was an early favorite, although now I think it has been eclipsed by 'Guns and Cigarettes' and 'It Goes'.

I was amused about a year ago to be wandering around Blockbuster and realizing that some movie preview they were blaring across the store made use of the hook for 'The Woman with the Tattooed Hands', minus the line about biting her bottom lip.

What I like most about this album is that I feel as if Slug and Ant (and the odd guest producers) are still trying to find their voice as a group, and are therefore experimenting with their sound in a way that isn't seen again until "When Life Gives You Lemons".

This is a classic album, that holds up remarkably well.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Out There

by The Heliocentrics

It's interesting to me, how cyclical my musical tastes can be. I first started listening to hip-hop in middle school, but became bored of it in the early 90s, and made the switch to electronica - the less dancey the better. As I finished university, I had become exhausted with that genre, and found that there was fertile ground in the underground hip-hop scene.

Lately, I have been finding myself going back to funk and jazz with a slightly electronic feel (like some trance music, played with live instruments). This album more or less fits into that genre for me. It's smooth and easy on the ears, being exactly the type of thing that I have come to expect from Egon's Now-Again label.

I bought this in anticipation of the new Heliocentrics album, with Mulatu Astkake, when I discovered that HMV's $6.99 Stones Throw promotion was still on. It was definitely a worth-while purchase.

Universal War One

by Denis Bajram

When Marvel began publishing American editions of some of Soleil's back catalogue, this was the title that intrigued me the most. Having grown up a Star Wars kid, the idea of a space adventure story, without cutesy creatures or robots, always catches my eye. This book looked a little like the new Battlestar Galactica, in terms of its grittiness, and I was very interested.

That is, until I discovered that each individual issue was $6. I resolved myself to trade wait, but then, all that has come out so far has been a very expensive hardcover edition. Then, yesterday, I found the complete set at a used book store for $9, and happily made my purchase.
This is a pretty good comic. It is set in the far future, when man has colonized most of the solar system. The United Earth Force suddenly has to deal with a large black wall that has cut off half of the system, and is believed to be a plot by the Colonization Industrial Companies. The series focusses on 'Purgatory Squadron', a group of military misfits, all of whom are facing courts martial, but who are also smart and brave enough to deal with this threat.

Bajram does a fantastic job of constructing his characters and his settings. The UEF is depicted as a complex military system, and he has clearly spent a lot of time focussing on the design and functionality of the space ships used. The series runs at a quick, exciting pace, even when it turns into (as all of these types of stories almost inevitably do) a story about time paradoxes.

Bajram leaves the door open for the sequel to be just as interesting.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unknown Soldier #9

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Alberto Ponticelli

This is such a great comic!

This issue puts some of the spotlight on Jack Lee Howl, and how exactly he came to introduce Moses to the group of revolutionaries last issue.

It seems that the plot to kill Angelina Jolie (I mean Margaret Wells) is moving forward, and Moses is getting closer to taking up his role in things. As well, Howl has his own plans for Moses, and offers some insight into his past.

As always, Ponticelli's art looks great here.

Postcards From the Third Rock

by LoDeck & Omega One

This is a bit of a bizarre product. First, there's the album art, which is very reminiscent of mid-90s ambient projects - very Future Sound of London - promising a sound that is nowhere to be found on the disk.

Then, there are the songs themselves. Omega One is a gifted producer - his solo album was very nice when it dropped a couple of years ago. LoDeck is an average MC. He has some nice turns of phrase, but he doesn't switch up his delivery very much, and over the course of an entire album, he just starts to sound monotonous.

The sound here is kind of out of date. I like Omega One's beats - there is a second disk with the instrumentals, as he goes for a dark, Army of the Pharoahs type of sound. Most of the songs aren't too memorable, although 'Still Cambodia', with Jak Progresso, is brilliant. Other guests include Invizzibl Men and C-Rayz Walz.

Northlanders #18

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Danijel Zezelj

I have been a fan of Zezelj's work since he did the art on DC's Congo Bill series about ten years ago. His dark, shadowy work has always intrigued me, and I felt he was a perfect artist to do an arc on Northlanders.

This is a two-parter, featuring a trio of women who have survived a Saxon attack on their village, and have taken refuge in a Roman ruin, which, when the tide is in, is surrounded by water. There are a group of some fifty men waiting for the opportunity to attack them, yet they are resolute in their will to fight.

Wood explores the role of the woman in Viking society with this story, and, as has become the norm in this title, manages to convey a lot of interesting information about that period of history, without slowing down the story or ever being dull.

The Literals #3

Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Art by Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy

The Great Fables Crossover has ended, and ended well. I've been critical of the pace and size of this 'event', but I must say that Willingham and Sturges brought about a nice denouement ("that's French for 'wrapping it up'") that will allow the two regular Fables titles to go about their business as usual.

It was clear from the beginning that Dex would have to appear at the end, and I like his statement that "It's all done with eggs now", especially in light of the most recent text pages in the back of all regular DC titles this week.

Viking #2

Written by Ivan Brandon
Art by Nic Klein

With the first issue of Viking, it was all about the format and the art for me. I read the story, and had to re-read it to really get a full sense of what was going on, and it left me with a number of questions.

This second issue is a much more superior comic. It is still at that inviting size, and is still beautifully drawn and coloured. If anything, the art is much improved in this issue, as it is a lot easier to figure out who the characters are, and in what way the action is taking place.

But it is the story that makes this comic so much better. Finn and Egil are now separate characters to me, and I understand why the grandfather is so frosty towards one of them (even before they return with the news they bear). The sub-plot with the king, his daughter, and his headsman still hasn't connected to the main story, but I can appreciate that Brandon is going for the slow build.

This is a very interesting comic, and I'm very glad to see that, despite similar subject matter, it's not swimming in the same water as Northlanders.

Proof #21

Written by Alex Grecian
Art by Riley Rossmo

This issue of Proof is basically a full-sized story (with the usual Archie Snow back-up and a text-piece). This gives Grecian and Rossmo a little more time to let their Julia story play out (not that she appears in this issue), as we finally get to learn about Springheel Jack, and see Proof/Gulliver begin to drift away from his brother, Gilgamesh.

I still don't understand a lot of what happened between this story and the present day, but trust that all of that information is coming.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rapture #2

by Taki Soma and Michael Avon Oeming

I'm enjoying this new title, but I do find it to be kind of strange. Ostensibly, it's a love story about two people trying to find each other after a not-so natural disaster. Thing is, there are cannibals around, and Evelyn has just been given some powerful spear from some Spectre analogue. Her newfound powers are creating some fame for her, as people are happy to see a 'champion' has returned.

Meanwhile, Gil has run afoul of some bratty kid who also has a powerful spear. And there's some military guy making deals with the cannibals.

In other words, the second issue is still setting up a lot of the premise of the series, and it does have me intrigued. I usually find Oeming's art to be enjoyable, and this series is no different in that.

Oeming and Soma are able to hold a story that could easily spin off the rails together very nicely.

Promethea Volume 2

Written by Alan Moore
Art by JH Williams and Mick Gray

I think reading Promethea one volume at a time is a mistake. The title doesn't really lend itself to six-issue collections, as it doesn't appear to be written in arcs; instead Moore has a large vision of his story, and I feel like it was meant to be read continuously.

This volume mostly deals with Sophie trying to learn about magic as a way of mastering the abilities of Promethea. She pokes around the Immateria with the last of the other Prometheas, has tantric sex with an old man, and spends an issue learning about the Tarot from the snakes on her Cadaceus.

Moore's writing here is exceptionally clever - especially the last issue in the book, but also a little dull in parts. I found that last issue a tough read.

The real strength in this title is JH Williams and Mick Grays' art. This book is visually amazing, as Williams plays around with different styles and approaches, including photography. His inventiveness makes this completely stunning.

I wish this creative team would reunite and do a Weeping Gorilla special....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Crate Digging: 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of...

by Arrested Development

Now this here was a much loved album back in the day. I think I would have been 16 or 17 when this came out, and I remember it got a lot of play from me. I wasn't that interested in a lot of the hip-hop that was out there, but there was something about this cd that I connected to, even though my life and circumstances were very different from those of Speech and his crew.

Listening to this album again today, for the first time in some years, I'm struck by how well it holds up. The music still sounds decent today, with its lively instrumentation, and many of the messages behind Speech's songs still hold true.

The religious content in many of the songs is what originally interested me. Here are people calling out the churches for their inability to affect change in peoples' temporal lives, yet they are clearly believers in a higher power. These guys got a lot of radio play when this album dropped - this type of thing is nowhere to be found outside of college radio these days.

Hellblazer #256

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini

I really can't seem to make up my mind about Hellblazer. I enjoyed Milligan's first arc, but wasn't as impressed by his second. I like the introduction of characters like Phoebe, John's current love interest, and Julian, the Ekkimu to whose skin John is addicted, but I'm not sure that a 'love potion' plot is right for a character like Constantine. I feel that, at this point in his life, he would know better. All the same, I'm intrigued to see how this all plays out.

The art is great. I've liked Camuncoli since his run on The Intimates (now there's a comic I miss), and while he's not as gritty as Hellblazer artists usually are, I feel like his look fits this title nicely, for a change.

I'm sticking with this title through the end of this arc, but am not promising anything past that.

Olympus #2

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Christian Ward

I'm quite enjoying this new title from Image. It has all the trappings of a good buddy/adventure movie, but grounded in Greek mythology. In this issue, the two brothers are made aware of the fact that Pelops, an old enemy, has escaped Hades, and is going after the daughters of Demeter, who are responsible for the different seasons on our world. They split up, to try to reach two of the sisters before Pelops.

The big draw in this book is the art, which is definitely unique. Ward makes use of as many scratchy lines as Leinil Francis Yu, but colours the book with bright, garish colours. It's a great look, even if it can, at times, make the action a little difficult to follow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Young Liars #16

by David Lapham

There are what, two issues left in this series? It sounds like the perfect time to introduce a few new characters, and spend the entire issue focusing on them, yin and yang, and sandwiches, not to mention boobies. This is why I like David Lapham so much.

It's a shame that either a) more people weren't buying this comic, or b), Vertigo didn't give it another six months to turn around (regardless of that fact that there would be no profit-based reason to do something like that).

Lapham either has a huge master plan for this title, or is just totally making things up as he goes along. Either way, this book has never been predictable, or dull. I suppose it was important to show some of the backstory of the town of Browning, but still, this issue was a weird choice.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #3

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie, w/ Leigh Gallagher and Lee O'Connor

I know, when opening an issue of Phonogram, that I'm not going to get more than about half of the musical references, and those are going to be the most common points, as I don't listen to the same music as Gillen and McKelvie (and really can't see them doing an issue on underground hip-hop). Usually it's all good though, although I felt more than a little lost in this issue.

I think the problem is that this issue, unlike the first two, requires some working knowledge of the first Phonogram series, of which I only ever read the first issue (although it's on my list of trades to get someday). I know who David Kohl is, the main character in the first series, but I'm not sure about this Aster girl.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter, because Gillen and McKelvie are so good at writing character moments, that you don't need to know who the characters are to admire their craft - it just helps it all make a little more sense.

Anyway, this is a very good title, and it's starting to look like it's getting itself back on to some sort of regular schedule. The back-ups in this issue are decent - the first somewhat helped me get caught up on the series, and the second is cute.

Air #10

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by MK Perker

I've always found Aztec history to be quite interesting, even though my knowledge of it doesn't extend much past Galeano's 'Voice of Fire' trilogy and a few other random books.

In this issue of Air, we meet Luc, a teen boy studying for the priesthood, and Yaotl, his teacher. They are in Aztlan, back in 1063, long before the Spanish invasion, something they become aware of through the Nahui, or the Fourth, which we've come to know as the Hyperprax device. When Luc looks into the device, he sees Blythe, and her tribulations in the here and now.

This issue is basically Air taking a breather, and providing more context to the concept of Hyperpraxis, and the idea that words came before matter. I'm curious to see how this is all going to fit in to the main story.

Perker's art keeps improving, especially when it comes to depicting character's expressions and moods. Luc is portrayed with a wide-eyed wonder, and Perker adds dimensions to his character.

Soul Kiss #5

Written by Steven T. Seagle
Art by Marco Cinello

This has been a fun little title. Lili has made a deal with the devil, causing her boyfriend to be inadvertently sent to Hell. Then, she made a second deal to get him back out, but has to send ten people in his place. Now, he's come home early, and Lili has some decisions to make.

This title has done a good job of balancing the lighter elements of the plot with the darker elements of the themes inherent in this type of story. I can totally see this working as a decent comedy movie.

The art has time and again reminded me of a garish, later Will Eisner, and looks fantastic. If you haven't been reading this series, it's well worth getting in trade some day.

Jack of Fables #35

Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Art by Russ Braun and Jose Marzan Jr.

This is the penultimate chapter of the Great Fables Crossover, and by necessity, the pace has picked up quite a bit. Snow, Bigby, the Page Sisters, and company are still in a firefight with the Genres, until Bigby, still trapped in the body of a little girl, takes matters into his own hands. Ol' Sam does his best to deal with Kevin Thorne, and Jack Frost arrives to complete his quest.

Most shocking of all, Babe gets two pages, instead of just one (and of course, they are the best two pages in the book).

The finale of this crossover is looking to be pretty interesting - I have had mixed feelings about this whole thing, but I have faith that Willingham and Sturges will be able to pull off an excellent ending.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ex Machina #43

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Tony Harris and Jim Clark

This book definitely has some momentum lately. It feels like Vaughan is building up for a big finish on this title, as Hundred gets ready to deal with the guy in the diving suit, and this 'white box' thing gets more intriguing. As well, Hundred gets told some stuff in a flashback-dream, dropping all sorts of hints about something called the Spectrum (Mitchell Hundred, Black Lantern perhaps?).

As always, the book is gorgeous. I always think of Starman as being Harris's seminal work, but this title has been fantastic from the beginning. I especially like the cover this month.

Elephantmen #20

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Marian Churchland

Continuing the 'Dangerous Liaisons' arc of Elephantmen, this issue looks in to the relationship between Hip Flask and his new assistant, Vanity Case. They go to a diner where Hip has some unfinished business, and run into 'Loudmouthed Jerk #1', who has a thing against Elephantmen.

It's a simple and straight forward story, showcasing Churchland's artwork quite nicely. This issue provides some insight into Hip's nature, but doesn't do much to advance Case's character, except to portray her as slightly ditsy.

Rex Mundi #18

Written by Arvid Nelson
Art by Juan Ferreyra

I've been enjoying Rex Mundi quite a bit lately, even though it has become much more action-oriented and has put less emphasis on the historical and religious aspects of the plot. This issue balances those two things better than the last four or five, as Julien debates religion with the villagers around Lorraine's castle, while also plotting an attack on Lorraine and associates.

This is a taut and exciting issue, with a last panel that hints at an interesting development to come. It's nice to see the newspaper articles return at the end of the book too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Red Mass for Mars #3

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Ryan Bodenheim

This issue starts with a text box saying "Four Months Later." I think "10 Months Later" would be more appropriate, as that's how late this book is. I'm not complaining however, because, as with all of Hickman's independent work, it's really really good.

In this issue, we learn much more about Mars and his history with humanity, and why he left Earth. We also see what is happening with the invading Hun-Du horde, and learn the outcome of last issue's attack plan.

Hickman is a fantastic writer, and this title serves as a strong bridge from his earliest, counter-cultural pieces like 'The Nightly News' and 'Transhuman' to his current work for Marvel. It's a superhero comic, but one with a great deal of intelligence, and an interesting look at the psyche of immensely powerful beings.

The art in this title is also fantastic. Bodenheim's art is improving with each issue (is that why it's so late?), and the colouring by Hickman really stands out. I hope that the final issue comes sooner rather than later.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Crate Digging: The Torture Papers

by Army of the Pharaohs

I remember being very interested in this cd when it first came out. It was a supergroup album, and I usually love those. Also, it was the Jedi Mind Tricks extended family, all coming together on one album. Of course, when I was excited about all that, I just naturally assumed that the production was going to be handled by Stoupe, The Enemy of Mankind, whose sound has defined JMT.

He didn't work on a single track. Not one. There are beats by 7L and by Apathy, and that's as far as this cd goes towards featuring beats by 'name' producers. Some of the other people on here I'd heard of before - Shuko and Beyonder - but the rest were newbies, all trying to emulate Stoupe's barocque, dark sound. Some of them sort of succeeded.

The songs on this are exactly what you would expect from these guys. They are at times dark and violent, and at other times, like on 'Into the Arms of Angels', they do their best to sound reflective and sensitive.

In all, this is a decent enough album. Some of the tracks do stand up perfectly well, like 'Gorillas' and 'Narrow Grave'. The only song I can't stand on here is 'The Torture Papers'. It's not an album that I'll play often, but it's okay to listen to it every few years.

City of Glass

Written by Paul Auster
Adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli

It has been a number of years since I read Auster's New York Trilogy, and I had pretty much forgotten those books, except for the feeling that I had enjoyed them. Recently I came across this comics adaptation by one of my favourite artists, and thought that it was high time to reintroduce myself to Auster's seminal work.

This adaptation is fantastic. Karasik and Mazzucchelli have added so much to what was already a wonderful piece of work. Widowed and depressed writer Quinn receives incorrectly-dialled telephone calls to a 'Paul Auster', and eventually decides to impersonate the man. They are coming from Peter Stillman, a man who, as a child, was locked away from the world by his father in an ill-conceived and abusive experiment involving language and religion. Now his father is out of jail, and Stillman needs Auster's help and protection. Quinn, posing as Auster, begins to stake out the elderly Stillman, following him through the city and eventually speaking to the man. The result is a metaphysical shift in Quinn's life, which at one point involves the real Auster as well.

The story is labrynthine and confusing in places, but this is aided by Karasik's break-downs and Mazzucchelli's art. The two gentlemen take a very inventive approach to the art, packing a lot of imagery into their small, dense panels. Particularly interesting to me was when Quinn was speaking to the younger Stillman, his usual comic art word balloon came from deep inside him, like a tendril of smoke. It helped convey the difficulty Stillman has with language, and the complexity of his situation.

This is a very dense piece of work, and I feel like I will need to return to it again to pick up all of the nuances of its story-telling.

Good Neighbours

by Jonathan Franzen
A neighbourhood can be a very charged place, both the stage and the audience for any number of inter- and intra-familial dramas and disasters.

In this story, Franzen chronicles the rise and the fall of Patty Berglund, a stay-at-home mom who almost single-handedly re-energized the Ramsey Hill area of St. Paul. She was the consummate proto-Martha Stewart housewife, who remembered everyones' birthdays and had never had anything mean or even a little bit negative to say about anyone on the street.

Franzen spends the first part of the story detailing how she was perceived by her community, and then shows how things changed for her as her young son entered into his teenage years, and her carefully constructed facade begins to collapse.

There's nothing groundbreaking in this story - it's the type of thing that happens all the time - but Franzen does an excellent job of writing this. In many ways, the narrative takes on a documentary feel, as different neighbours contribute their understanding of events, and provide their own (sometimes self-serving) spin on things.

This is a great edition of the New Yorker....

The Unwritten #2

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross

I found this second issue of The Unwritten to be more intriguing than the first. Tom Taylor is still trying to figure out exactly what is going on - if he is who he was raised to believe he is, or if he is the son of Romanian immigrants. At the same time, the world around him is going crazy with the idea that he might be the fictional Tommy Taylor, brought to life through magic.

While he digs up people from his past, it would seem that there is some sort of conspiracy or network plotting around him. At this point, I have no idea what their goal would be, but it is only the first issue, and it is this that makes the book interesting.

DMZ #42

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ryan Kelly

Having finished his arc on Northlanders, Ryan Kelly has now come over to the DMZ for three issues, which is fantastic news. Wood and Kelly are an amazing team, and do some of their best work when they are together.

This story arc is concerned with the gas-masked militia that have been seen time and again throughout the course of this series. They live in the Empire State Building, and spend their days attending group therapy sessions, and patrolling the city. The narrator, a former police or other type of first responder, shows us what life is like within this death cult. The story is narrated from a later point, by which he has developed a large amount of disillusionment with the cult.

This issue gives an impression of peeking back into the beginnings of the series, and helping to explain some of the background that has been supporting the entire story all along. It leaves us with a number of questions - most importantly: who is giving the orders in this group, and what is their ultimate goal? I look forward to finding out.

Fables #85

Written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Art by Tony Akins, Andrew Pepoy, and Dan Green

There are only two chapters left in the Great Fables Crossover, and the story continues to somewhat spin its wheels, waiting for the main events to take place in the spin-off books, and leaving the regular Fables title as a showcase for Jack of Fables, perhaps with the intent of helping boost sales on that book.

In this issue, Jack gets spirited away to Bigby and Snow's house after his less than loving reunion with his son, Jack Frost. While there, he hangs out with Snow and Bigby's kids, teaching them poker and a few other less-than-desirable traits.

There is only a small peek at Kevin Thorn, the Big Bad of this crossover, and no sign of Snow, Bigby, Revise, and Gary, who when last seen, were getting close to Thorn.

I have enjoyed the individual parts of this crossover, but I feel that on the whole, it's a pretty disjointed piece of work. It feels like this crossover is as editorially mandated and sales-oriented as a Crisis or a Secret Invasion. I find that these titles work better being separate from each other, and look forward to this ending. I feel a little bad writing all that though, because I do still enjoy these titles, mostly as a series of individual moments right now though.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Resurrection Vol. 2 #1

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Justin Greenwood

I really enjoyed the first volume of Resurrection. It showed a world recovering from ten years of occupation by an alien race, but focused more on the personalities of its individual characters, as one group attempted to travel through their blighted world, and as others attempted to gain control of government, for personal gain.

This new volume has all of those elements again, only in colour. In this issue, we follow a small group of survivors as they argue a lot, get attacked by Road Agents (I've always loved that term), Burns, and eventually find their way to one of the characters from the first series.

I can imagine that new readers might be a little confused by the settings and pace of this book, but hopefully they are intrigued by the story - it's very reminiscent of The Walking Dead to me, only with bug aliens instead of zombies.

The art is serviceable - it's not amazing yet, but the potential is there. It does look good in colour. None of the aliens appear in this issue - I'm curious to see how Greenwood draws them, as they looked quite cartoony in the first volume.

If you haven't read any of this series yet, go get the trade. It's only $6 for the first 6 issues, plus the annual, making it the bargain of the year. It's also a very very good comic.

The Tiger's Wife

by Téa Obreht

I always love the fiction issues that the New Yorker produces twice a year. As much as I enjoy the usual editions of the magazine, these are to be highly anticipated, as they almost always introduce me to a new writer whose work I enjoy.

In this issue, "The Tiger's Wife" is a spectacular first exposure to Téa Obreht. This story tells of a tiger that escapes from his cage during a bombing in Eastern Europe (presumably during the Second World War), and makes its way into a woods near a small village. The tiger ignites the populace of the village, including the narrator's young grandfather, and a deaf-mute teenager, who is married to the town butcher. The presence of the tiger is an exciting thing for the young boy. For the deaf-mute, trapped in her vicious marriage and her inability to communicate, it means much more.

I like that Obreht's story doesn't really end so much as peter out, as the narrator, writing in modern times, is unable to piece together the end of the story.

The Walking Dead #62

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

One thing that Kirkman excels at in this series is embedding almost every scene with a certain level of suspense. This issue shows the gang still reeling from the events of last issue, and moving their way towards the church that the new preacher character lived in.

This group is squabbling more than ever as they become more and more burnt-out from the stresses of living in this world. Now though, some people are hunting them, and it looks like things are going to get worse for them again.

Adlard's work on this series is incredible as always. He does an amazing job of showing a close encounter with these hunters, as Andrea goes into the woods at night to relieve herself, and can tell she is being watched. Those pages are exceptionally tense.

This continues to be one of my top five books every month.

Proof #20

Written by Alex Grecian
Art by Riley Rossmo and Marck Labas

I have been enjoying the 'Julia' arc in Proof, but have found it slow going. Most likely, this is due to the fact that each issue has had back-up stories, slowing down the main story considerably.

In this issue, we learn a couple of hints about Springheel Jack, and see Proof get shot down by the girl he loves. He also has a chat with his 'father', during which, weird lights float through the sky, but I don't know why.
I find this flashback arc to be very interesting, but it is, at this point, raising many more questions than it is answering.

The back-up story features Autumn Song's first meeting with Mi-Chen-Po. This is another quick story wherein very little happens. It does look nice though, as it spotlights newcomer Marck Labas, and has been coloured to a bare minimum, creating a lot of atmosphere.

I'm still enjoying Proof, but I would like to see a nice, wordy issue that clears a few things up, and takes a while longer to read.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Larry Marder's Beanworld Book 1: Wahoolazuma!

by Larry Marder

I have three or four of the original Beanworld series, having discovered them some time in the mid-90s, and immediately falling under the spell of their charm, optimism, and intelligence. They were the perfect antidote to the comics of the day, and I had always wished that there would be a proper collection of these books some day.

This new collection from Dark Horse is better than I could have wished for. It contains the first nine issues of the series, handsomely bound and in a very durable format.

It is very difficult to explain Beanworld to someone who hasn't read it. Basically, it's a series about the beans and their eco-system. They live on an island, and to gather food (Chow), they must dive through the four realities to the land of the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd - inveterate gamblers with one arm, who hoard the Chow, until the Beans are able to reak their rings and steal it from them, leaving behind a Sprout-Butt, which, when given love, turns into more Chow. Then the Beans soak in the Chowdown Pool, until they are fully fed. Sometimes other stuff happens too.

Marder portrays the Beans not as masters of their eco-system, but as key components of its healthy functioning. Everything that exists in their world serves some form of purpose, and their society becomes increasingly complex, as they make new discoveries (art, music, Gunk'l'Dunk) or as other species invade their territory (resulting in Mystery Pods). The environmental message is never far from the surface of these stories, but Marder never preaches, preferring to let the tale unfold on its own.

The art is as primitive as Bean culture, but what at first looks like child-like drawings is actually a rather sophisticated approach to telling the story. Marder's work here is absolute genius. It deserves all the recognition that these new printings can bring it.

All Rebel Rockers

by Michael Franti & Spearhead

Michael Franti is an artist I have respected for a long time. His work in Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy showed me that hip-hop could be a vehicle for much more than what was coming over the radio and television waves at the time, and I have watched the Spearhead side of his career with interest.

This is a pretty standard, high-quality Spearhead album. Much of the production has been handled by Sly & Robbie, giving the album a more islands feel, which fits nicely with Franti's voice and sound.

As usual, these are political songs which wrap Franti's beliefs and ethics in catchy rhthyms, making them easily digestible and enjoyable. There are some very beautiful songs on here - 'Hey World (Don't Give Up Version)' is a lovely indictment of our environment and youth culture. 'Life in the City' chants "One day Guantanamo will fall", giving the album a slightly prophetic feel, seeing as it was released in the tale end of the Bush era.

I've had this album on pretty steadily since it came out in the fall, and I must say that I've never gotten tired of it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Cameron Stewart

I guess there are a couple of ways in which you can look at this comic. One way would be to view it as a surrealistic superhero story that just chugs along following usual superhero conventions, without having to adhere to common sense. Another would be as a metaphor for either the comic industry as a whole or DC comics in general, but to prove such a thing would require careful reading and parsing of these comics, and I don't really care to.

Seaguy is kind of fun, kinda stupid. I think that's about all there is to say about it. I like the art, too....

Captain Blood #1

Written by Matthew Shepherd
Art by Michael Shoyket

Here's a good example of how positive word of mouth can really sell comics. I remember seeing the solicitation for this a few months ago in Previews, and not being particularly interested, but in the last couple of weeks, there has been a fair amount of positive buzz on the internet, and so I decided to give this title a try.

I'm thankful I did. This is a good comic. I am completely unfamiliar with the novel this is based on, nor the movie version(s?). Coming into this with no preconceived notions, I can tell you that this is a very capable pirate story, and one much more readily comprehended than Jamie Delano's Rawbone book at Avatar.

In this issue, we meet Peter Blood, a former soldier and physician who has been sold into slavery in Jamaica for landing on the wrong side of the aristocracy. He is a very intelligent man, and being a doctor, a very valuable slave, even though he rails against his master and the British system in general. When chance arrives in the form of a Spanish attack, he does not hesitate to seize his destiny. The story is steeped in historical detail, without being bogged down.

The art is serviceable. It's a little too unfinished for my likes - a little like reading original pencil work before an inker can get ahold of it, but it still manages to be detailed and illustrates the story nicely. I don't know when the next issue of this is supposed to arrive, but I will be watching for it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Vampires

Written by Becky Cloonan
Art by Vasilis Lolos

Lately I've found myself beginning to get bored with Dark Horse's Buffy Season 8 series. The first few arcs were fantastic, but lately I just haven't been very enthused by what I was reading. The material has been feeling a little stale, and this fantastic book proves that the main title has lost touch.

In this one-shot, some teenager named Jay, who lives in some nothing town in New Hampshire, is completely bored with his life, interested only in a local girl, and in providing himself to the local vampires when they need to feed. Things get a little out of hand (as they sometimes can when dealing with vampires), and Jay finds himself in completely different circumstances. It's a simple, short story, but very well-told.

This new idea, that vampires have become accepted into pop culture, and are in fact even revered, comes from the popularity of the reality show featuring Harmony. That's perhaps the only disconnect in this story - this kid doesn't seem like the type to watch a show like that.

Cloonan does a good job of crafting these characters quickly, and Lolos's artwork is fantastic for this type of story. He really has a feel for the expressions of disaffected youth (so much so that he should go finish Pirates of Coney Island!).

I hope that Dark Horse and Whedon realize that they should perhaps open up the reins of this series again, and instead of keeping their focus exclusively on Buffy and crew, they should explore the ramifications of their main plot in other locales, and with a more indie sensibility, like this book has.

Jonah Hex #44

Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Cristiano Cucina

This issue marks the beginning of a six-book story arc, a first for this title. As such, the writers tell a slightly more decompressed tale than they usually do, taking most of this issue to put a number of key players onto the chess board, but somehow leaving no room for exposition.

It looks as if this story is going to make use of almost every major player from Gray and Palmiotti's series. We see Tallulah Black, Bat Lash, and El Diablo, all of whom we can assume will be Hex's allies in the '6 Gun War'. Right from the beginning, Quentin Turnbull and El Papagayo are set up as antogonists. My only problem with this? I don't remember who either of them are. I have every issue of this incarnation of Hex, and the names are familiar, but I don't remember the stories that featured them, nor do I rememeber why they would go to so much trouble to set a trap for Hex. I hope that subsequent issues will clear this up a bit.

Cucina is a good choice of artist for this story. His work is reminiscent of Jordi Bernet's style, but more realistic - like Bernet mixed with Gulacy. It definitely works for this title. His splashpage of a receeding twister dropping Comanche and horses all over the plains is a strong one.

I'm curious to see how this storyline plays out in Jonah Hex. I've felt for a while that something was needed to shake this book up, and I guess we'll find out if this is it.

The Mighty #5

Written by Peter Tomasi and Keith Champagne
Art by Chris Samnee

I haven't chosen to write about this book before now, because while I have been intrigued by the approach Tomasi and Champagne were taking, I was unsure as to whether or not this was a book I was going to stick with. Now I'm sure.

The first couple of issues focused on Gabriel Cole, who is promoted to Captain of Section Omega, an independent first response force, centred around Alpha One, the world's only superhero. Cole was rescued by Alpha One when he was a child, and he has spent his entire life with a severe case of hero worship. Since getting his promotion, Alpha and Cole hang out a lot, and become friends. It started as an interesting take on Superman-like characters, but became much more interesting at the end of the last issue, when it looked like Alpha One might not be a complete do-gooder, nor completely sane.

This issue has Cole starting to develop his own suspicions, and details the beginning of his investigation into his new friend's past, as he meets up with a couple of former Captains. The writers have been wise to keep this story on the slow burn. It allows us to share Cole's sense of dread and emotional confusion, as he is forced to question all he has ever believed in.

Chris Samnee has done a great job of taking over the art chores from Peter Snejbjerg. He's kept Snejbjerg's sense of design, giving the book a very European look.

I can't imagine that this is a book that is tearing up the sales charts, which is a shame, as it is a very well-crafted and accessible comic. It feels like it should be published by Wildstorm, and not DC, and I hope that it's only being held up against Wildstorm's metre stick when it comes to sales, until it hopefully builds an audience for itself, as I would like to see it stick around for a while.

Farscape: Strange Detractors #3

Written by Rockne O'Bannon and Keith RA DeCandido
Art by Will Sliney

This issue explains the reason why everyone in the universe has gone nuts (without explaining how any disease can travel so far so quickly), and once again, leaves it up to Crichton to fix things. He's aided in this by a couple of familiar faces - namely Grunchlk and Sikozu, both last seen in the Peacekeeper Wars.

As it turns out, the Diagnosian who Moya was travelling to had been experimenting with size-changing, therefore somehow creating a sentient virus that affects peoples' translator microbes, making them all angry. Why do explanations like that make more sense when they were on the Farscape tv show than they do in the Farscape comic? Are there different levels of suspension of disbelief for each media? And why does it seem like comics need a higher level of burden of proof?

Regardless, this continues to be a fun comic. I especially like how the story checks in on Commandant Grazya and Emporer Staleek, to show how the virus is affecting them.

I've enjoyed this Farscape arc more than I did the first (I'm skipping the ones that happen in the past), but haven't decided if I'm going to stick around for the third. I think the art will play the biggest role in that, as these titles seem to suffer from the usual problems of licensed books.... That said, I've been enjoying Sliney's looser style of portraying these characters.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Sword #17

by the Luna Brothers

Things are getting more and more dangerous for Dara as Knossos turns into a giant mountain man (getting himself on CNN in the process), and Malia flies down to Mexico to express her anger at the both of them.

This is another action-heavy issue, with a couple of flashbacks added to both slow down the momentum of the story, and to provide some characterization and development. It's a pretty standard formula for this book now, but it's one that is continuing to work.

This title has fallen off its schedule a little lately, but has been remarkably consistent over the last year and a half, in terms of both shipping and artistic quality. There can't be that many issues left in this story, which is a shame, as its an original and inventive piece of work.

Scalped #29

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by RM Guera

This issue concludes the High Lonesome arc, and is one of the most action-packed and exciting issues of Scalped since Dash first mixed it up with Diesel back in the beginning of the series. This issue returns to the casino robbery first thought up in the beginning of the arc, and mentioned in passing last issue. Dash is forced, against his will, to help rob the place, and circumstances get a little out of hand.

This is a very exciting issue to read, and as always, I really enjoyed Aaron's execution of the story, and Guera's artwork. This continues to be one of the absolute best comics on the market.

This story arc though, was a very strange one. It began by focusing on this issue's villain, and then switched to a couple of 'done-in-ones' featuring Diesel and Nitz, before landing on Officer Falls Down and Catcher for an issue, as many of the series' biggest secrets were revealed. Then it comes back here, to the casino robbery. As parts of the greater 'Scalped' plotline, they were all excellent, but when I think of reading High Lonesome in trade form, I think it will feel very disjointed. At the same time, I'm not trade-waiting Scalped and this story read fantastically in single issues.