Monday, November 30, 2009

One Bad Day

by Steve Rolston

This is a fun little book from the artist on The Escapists and Queen & Country. Rolston tells the story of Marie, a typical downtown Toronto 20-something, who is out with her best friend when she happens to see an old friend from high school. As he crosses the street to greet her, he is hit by a car, and badly injured.

Marie and friend take him to the hospital, and then later discover that they are being followed by some creepy bald guy that looks like Mr. X. From there, Marie's life is turned upside down, as people with guns start chasing her, and a whole lot of bad things begin to happen (including having to go to a party for her cousin from Scarborough).

This is an enjoyable and quick read. Rolston's art is as great as usual, and the choice to use pale green ink instead of black gives the book a unique look. I'm predisposed to like it because it's a very Toronto piece of work, but I would like to see more from Rolston in this vein.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Unknown Soldier #14

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Pat Masioni

In this issue, Dysart and guest artist Masioni finish off 'The Way Home', having Moses bring young Paul to his village. Once there, Moses finds out that Paul was not completely truthful with him, but at this point, Moses has tied his own redemption into Paul's survival, even to the point of his undergoing an Acholi ritual to purify himself.

As with the previous issue, this comic attempts to confront the consequences of war on the general populace, and does not shy away from the more difficult aspects of it. It wasn't as finely tuned as the previous issue, but it was still a damn fine comic.

Northlanders #22

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Leandro Fernandez

This is another very strong issue of Northlanders, as the settlement seals themselves in, and the inhabitants slowly start to adopt a siege mentality, made worse for Hilda and her child by Gunborg's attempts to extort provisions from them.

Wood is developing this story slowly, with plenty of time to explore the characters. Hilda demonstrates great strength of purpose in this issue, and we start to see how she is perceived by other people in the settlement.

Fernandez's art looks very good here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crate Digging: Golden Gunn

by Bond

I like this now way more than I did when I first got it. If I remember correctly, this came with the Reaver's album, which I proceeded to play the hell out of, while this little gem got over-looked.

Playing it now, I can really appreciate Bond's production. About half of the tracks here are instrumental (or at least as instrumental as Bond gets, as he constantly samples from news broadcasts or other spoken sources), while others are remixes of tracks he had done with Backwoodz mainstays like Super Chron Flight Brothers, Vordul Mega, Keith Masters, Hasan Salaam, Akir, and more.

What I liked best would be the instrumentals to 'Low Tide', a song that appears as part of a medley track on the end of the first Super Chron album. On here, without Woods vocals, the sampled song plays longer, and it's a nice piece of music.

I would love to see a Bond solo album right about now...

Chew #6

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

This was to be my 'make it or break it' issue of Chew. I liked the first five, but couldn't decide if this was a title I wanted to sign on to for the long haul or not. There were hints of greatness, but enough juvenile gross-out humour to turn me off in most issues.

Well, with the first issue of the 'International Flavor' arc, I'm adding Chew to my pull list. The book has improved quite a bit in terms of pacing and character development. I think having Colby, Chu's partner from the first issue, move over to the FDA and become his partner again is a wise choice, especially now that he's all Robocop. The buddy cop set-up helps ground the book a little, and balances out Chu's uptight character.

I also like the way the story this month is centred around some real detective work, and not Tony's powers, even though they do appear in a couple of places. It gives the impression that there may be some real longevity to this series, instead of it being a one-joke wonder.

I Am Legion #6

Written by Fabien Nury
Art by John Cassaday

While, this title has shuffled to its perplexing confusion, making me wonder why I don't trade-wait things like this. Really, this has been a good story, but the long delay between issues, the fact that each issue is half of the original French volumes, and that the story features such an abundance of similarly-dressed characters, this book would read way better in one sitting than in the format I chose to purchase it in.

I like the way the book attempts to tie itself back into real WWII events at the end, and the way the author portrays Churchill. Most of the rest of the comic was lost on me, I'm sad to say. Maybe I'll read the whole thing in the summer and have a different opinion....

Days Missing #4

Written by Matz
Art by Hugo Petrus

Ever since reading Eduardo Galeano's 'Voice of Fire' trilogy some fifteen years ago, I've had an interest in South American history, specifically with regards to relations between the European conquistadors and the indigenous peoples. Ten years ago or so, I read Bernal Díaz's 'Conquest of New Spain', a first-person accounting of his time in Cortes's army.

I didn't really expect that an issue of Days Missing would coincide with this interest, and so this issue was a very pleasant surprise. In this issue, the Phantom Stranger attempts to correct the injustices Cortes heaped upon the Aztec, although things don't exactly work out as expected.

It's a good little tale. Matz, the writer of the superb 'The Killer' does a good job of handling this story, and Petrus's art works quite well, in a Dennis Calero kind of way. I've been enjoying this title mostly because of its rotating roster of creative teams, although I do look forward to next issue, which brings back the duo of Hester and Irving.

Beasts of Burden #3

Written by Evan Dorkin
Art by Jill Thompson

This title is one of the best things on the stands right now. This issue is a perfect example of how to write a one-off comic.

The Orphan, the only cat to ever be accepted by the Wise Dogs, is convinced that Dymphna, another cat who I assume the gang met during one of their earlier appearances, is still alive and in trouble in the Burden Hill sewer system. He gets geared up, and travels into the tunnels with another cat, The Getaway Kid.

This being 'Beasts of Burden', they do of course run into trouble with rats, and their rescue plans don't work out exactly the way they wanted.

The fact that I never read the earlier story with Dymphna did not in any way make it difficult to understand everything I needed to know about these characters and their relationships, which is such a nice thing to come across when one is used to reading continuity-heavy comics.

As always, the art here is absolutely gorgeous. Thompson has outdone herself yet again. I'm very sad that there is only one issue of this series remaining, but I hope to see it return in some form or another.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Last Resort #4

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo

This is a book I've been enjoying quite a bit. Gray and Palmiotti have been having a lot of fun with their disaster/zombie B-movie mash-up, and this issue is no exception.

The characters figure out what's going on, and hatch a plan to make it through the night, while the scientists provide exposition as to what caused the virus to spread, and the military brother guy makes plans to help rescue his sister.

There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about this book, but it does have a lot of nice character moments, and enough tongue-in-cheek humour to make it a very enjoyable read.

Criminal: The Sinners #2

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

This new arc of Criminal is shaping up to be as tightly plotted and perfect as the previous ones. Tracy is trying to figure out the information Hyde wants, and we, as readers, get a little more insight into who is going around killing 'connected' individuals. Also, Tracy runs into an old friend, who, for her own reasons I suppose, decides not to tell him that there is a person from the military looking for him.

It's hard to gush over this book. If you've been reading Criminal, you already know how good it is. If you haven't been reading it, you really should be.

The Photographer

by Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefèvre

From the first time I saw this gorgeously-designed book, I knew I wanted to read it. I'd enjoyed Guibert's 'Alan's War', and I had more than a passing interest in the subject matter. I figured I'd enjoy the book, but was instead blown away by it.

'The Photographer' tells the story of
Didier Lefèvre, a French photographer who was hired by Medécins sans frontières (MSF) to accompany a group of doctors into Afghanistan in 1986, with the purpose of documenting their work. Due to the war with the Soviet Union, Lefèvre and company, including a large number of mujahideen fighters, must cross into the country on foot and through treacherous mountain passes, often at night to escape Soviet detection and bombing.

Once in Afghanistan, the team set about treating local villagers, both for typical ailments and for war wounds. Later,
Lefèvre decides to return to Pakistan alone, and in this section, the book becomes quite harrowing, as he has to deal, in incredibly poor Dari, with lazy guides, bad weather, and racketeers.

The book consists of many of
Lefèvre's photos, surrounded by Guibert's comics. It is an incredibly effective approach. In some scenes, it reads like fumetti, but for most of the book, the photos, which capture the landscape in all its rugged beauty (and the people in theirs') compliment the story to a great degree, adding a touch of realism to the whole thing.
Lefèvre is an incredible person, but the doctors of MSF come across as the true heroes of the book, especially Juliette, who leads the expedition. She is able to command the respect of the men she comes across, even entering into a brotherhood alliance with one powerful Afghani wakil. Her strength, flexibility, and determination are what makes everything seen in the book possible.

The one thing that this book does not shy away from is the sheer difficulty of life in Afghanistan at that time.
Lefèvre is pushed to the limits of what his body can handle, and it is clear that Afghanis are some of the toughest people on the Earth. I work with a number of Afghani children (and their families), and this book has provided me with some insight into their character and development.

This graphic novel also brought to mind William Vollmann's first book, "The Afghanistan Picture Show", in which he chronicles his time with the Mujahideen. Had
Lefèvre come across Vollmann on a high mountain pass, I would not have been surprised.
This beautiful book is highly recommended.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Born Like This


I'm not sure how to approach this album, which is the reason why I haven't attempted to write about it before now. I bought this when it first came out, played the hell out of it for a few days, and then promptly forgot it. Doom's first album in years could have easily dropped in 2004. Aside from a very ill-advised autotune hook (on 'Supervillainz'), there is nothing on this disc to show that time has moved forward.

Doom is spitting the same fire he always does, except now it seems like his flow has become monotonous, and his puerile jokes even more puerile and inconsequential (I'm looking at you 'Batty Boyz').

Beat-wise, there's not a lot to be excited about either. There are a few recycled beats ('Lightworks' always sounds good, but again, it's 2009; 'That's That' uses a favourite Special Herb, and 'Angelz' was like my favourite song of whatever year it first came out), and others that just sound like the standard Doom fare. Jake One understands Doom's aesthetic, and provides four decent tracks, although I like Madlib's better. The villain rounds out the production himself, except for one other Dilla joint.

The thing about this album is that individually, many of the songs are very strong. Arranged together, as they are here, they tend to cancel one another out, and become a little boring.

In terms of guest shots, Raekwon and Slug both provide killer verses, although Slug gets a little drowned out in the mediocrity of the people he shares his track with (who the hell is Mobonix? The Lego Moby?). I was hoping for a lot more from this album, but then, I think that's how people generally feel about Doom these days, so I shouldn't be surprised.

I will give full props to whoever designed the album art. It's clearly the same people who do work for Jneiro Jarel, and it looks great.

The Stuff of Legend Book II

Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Art by Charles Paul Wilson III

The second issue of this unique new title is a lot darker than the first. The group of toys, now leaderless, are lost in The Dark, searching for the boy that owns them. They come across a town - Hopscotch, and are drawn into the strange games of its mayor, who is more or less the guy from the Monopoly board.

For such a fantastical setting and concept, the authors pay a lot of attention to characterization. Percy, the piggy bank who betrayed his comrades in the first issue really has to make some decisions in this installment, and his true character begins to shine through. The other characters reveal a great deal about themselves through their actions.

The art is incredible throughout the book. This is a very exciting new series, and deserves a lot of attention.

Hellblazer #261

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini

I've been unable to make up my mind about Milligan's run on Hellblazer. Some issues have been fantastic, while others have been lackluster. This new arc sends John to India, because he's still looking for ways to resurrect Phoebe, and feels that a fellow Englishman there has a way to 'purify' his soul enough to get the job done.

Milligan seems to be on more familiar ground here, establishing a number of new characters and potential plotlines. There is a Bollywood movie mogul with a connection to an old English spirit, as well as a couple of police detectives who are investigating a string of murdered girls.

There is more than enough to keep me intrigued for this arc, and Camuncoli and Landini are always good.

Underground #3

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Steve Lieber

This issue of Underground is just about perfect. The two rangers are being chased through the cave by the bad guys, and most of the issue has them fighting while tied to ropes and descending into a giant cavern. The scene is a technically difficult one to show in a comic, and Lieber manages in such a way that the action is not only clear, it is palpably exciting. Were this a made into a movie, I doubt the director would be able to create the same sense of tension and suspense.

The choice of printing a comic that is mostly set underground in the dark is a wise, if at first less than obvious one. The few pages set above ground are a sharp contrast to the monochromatic cave scenes, giving the reader the effect of having to wait for his eyes to adjust.

This is now my favourite comic being published.

Air #15

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by MK Perker

In this issue of Air, Wilson turns the spotlight onto Amelia Earhart, as she tries to help Blythe, who is quite ill from the over-use of her medication. As the issue unfolds, we see a little of Earhart's backstory; specifically how she became involved with Sky 1, the floating city.

This is another good issue of a very dependable comic. I find it a little strange how Earhart has become a character here at the same time that she has been receiving more mainstream media attention, making me wonder if she's going to be the new zombies.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cowboy Ninja Viking #2

Written by AJ Lieberman
Art by Riley Rossmo

This is a fun title, but it's hard to follow. I'm not sure if that's the fault of the script or Rossmo's art. The concept is a difficult one to portray - the protagonist and antagonist both house three separate personalities in their heads, but it's actually the other scenes that become confusing.

There's a strange quality to the plotting. Devices seem to come along to fit the convenience of the plot. CNV has to fly coach to Japan because he can't take Ghislain's jet, but then he shows up almost as soon as they get there. I think an editor might have come in handy....

I saw this week that this title has switched from being a mini-series to an on-going book. I'm not sure that there is enough within this concept for that to work....

Viking #4

Written by Ivan Brandon
Art by Nic Klein

Image's version of Northlanders returns with a pretty violent issue. The guys make their attempt to kidnap the Lord's (King's?) daughter, and as with most plans in stories like this, things don't go as they expect.

As with previous issues of Viking, it's the art that's the big draw here, as Klein uses different styles on the same page, and generally puts together a beautiful package, even if in places the storytelling can be a little hard to follow.

The Eternal Smile

by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim

I really enjoyed Yang's "American Born Chinese" earlier in the summer, so when I saw this at a reduced price at Word on the Street a couple of months ago (I need more time to read), I figured it was a safe buy.

The Eternal Smile is made up of three unrelated stories. They are all very well done, but I'm not sure that they really belong in the same book. The first two, by Yang, have a young-adult feel to them, while the story by Kim is much more mature in tone and content.

In 'Duncan's Kingdom', Yang is riffing on the old CBC series "The Odyssey," which I realize might be a spoiler for some. Duncan wants to be hero and marry the princess, but he can't keep himself from being entranced by a bottle of cola, with interesting consequences. Like in 'American Born Chinese', Yang pulls out a nice little twist at the end, and delivers a subtle and compelling story.

The second story can be summed up as 'Scrooge McDuck as a frog on the Truman Show'. It's a cool concept, especially in the way in which Yang plays with themes of faith, but I felt like it was aimed a little younger than I'm used to.

The story by Kim, "Urgent Request" is another subtle piece of storytelling. Sad, lonely Janet responds to an e-mail from a 'Nigerian prince' looking for money to help funnel millions into the US. She strikes up a correspondance with this prince, and enters into a rich, imaginary life with him. This story is touching and sad, and although Kim's tiny four-panel to a page format bothered me in the beginning, I grew to appreciate how he played with layout later in the book.

All of these stories hold up quite well on their own, but I still feel that they don't work that well together. As individual (longer) pieces in an anthology like Popgun, they would be some of the stand-outs in the book.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fight For Tomorrow

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Denys Cowan and Kent Williams

Fight For Tomorrow was Brian Wood's first comic for Vertigo, and if feels much less polished than his later offerings. The thing is, it feels less thought-out than some of his earlier work for AIT/PlanetLar as well. The core concept is sound - Cedric is a young man who was abducted as a child and forced to fight in illegal boxing matches until he escaped with his girlfriend, who is now missing. Cedric returns to the illegal fight scene, and discovers that she's gone back there too, starting off a huge battle for revenge and her freedom.

It's the execution that's the problem. There are too many scenes that ring false - mostly revolving around the Big Sister and Little Brother (the names drove me nuts) that live in a Buddhist temple in New York that take Cedric into their family and help him with his fight.

I think my problem with it all is that Wood is playing with Kung Fu revenge movie archetypes, but he's playing it realistically, instead of going over the top as he did in his Couriers graphic novels. This type of story has to be camped up a little, or it just seems false - especially since Cedric leaves a trail of bodies behind him, but the police are never involved (even if they were just seen to be receiving pay-offs).

It is nice to see Denys Cowan's art again, although it's a lot scratchier than I remember, and in places hard to follow.

This is not Wood's best work. What is missing the most from this comic is the strong sense of place his other titles - Local (obviously), Northlanders, and DMZ all have as their centers. It is a good action read though....

The New Yorker

Nov. 2, 2009

I've managed to fall way behind on my magazine reading, and as such, I've noticed I haven't been writing about any "Things I Like" in the magazines I've read. So, in capsule form:

The Good Cook by Barbara Demick

I've mentioned before my on-going interest in North Korea as one of the strangest places on Earth. In this article, Demick tells the life story of Song Hee-Suk, a woman who raised her family under the Kim regime. It is an incredible story, as she recounts Song's relationship with food in the 'good years', and then as famine gripped the country. Her story is harrowing, especially when one takes into account that she generally believed the propaganda fed to her, at least until she defected to South Korea. This is a fantastic article.

Unmasked by Chris Ware
This four-page comic has convinced me to start reading Ware - now I need to find some inexpensive editions of the Acme Novelty Library on Ebay or something. In this short piece, a woman visits her mother on Hallowe'en. She is contemplating leaving her husband, although she says nothing of this to her mom. The older woman, however, intuits that something is up, and reveals that her husband had had an affair, something she didn't discover until after his death. It's a powerful piece of work. Also, Ware's cover to this issue is gorgeous.

While the Women Are Sleeping by Javier Marías

This is a creepy little story told by a man on vacation to a Spanish island with his wife. On the beach, they are intrigued by another couple, a much older man who spends his entire day filming his younger, beautiful wife. Later, the two men share a conversation by the swimming pool, wherein the photographer holds forth on the topics of obsession (which he refers to as adoration) and murder. It's a chilling story, well told.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Unwritten #7

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross

I think I'm nicely hooked now into this comic. Before, I was somewhat undecided, as I didn't much like Tom Taylor or care about his story, but with the revelations hinted at in this issue, I find myself increasingly interested.

I don't want to give much away, but Tom's meeting with the Frankenstein monster reveals a fair amount, as does his later re-telling of the Song of Roland.

Also of interest is the boldness of Tom's enemys' next move. Carey has been careful to set this story in motion, and while that made the first arc a little unsatisfying, I can see how it is paying off now.

Fables #90

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Andrew Pepoy

There are a lot of great moments in this, the penultimate chapter of the 'Witches' story arc. Bufkin is leading his troops in slow battle against Baba Yaga, making good use of their relative invisibility to the witch. Ozma makes her play for power, and sends a spy to learn about the Dark Man. Gepetto has plans of his own, it seems, and King Cole happily discovers the solution to the Farm's cash flow problem.

In all, this is a very strong issue. This title has floundered a little since defeating the Adversary, but feels to be back on track now. Buckingham's art looks a little rushed in places here though - see the war council meeting at Bigby's house.

Supergod #1

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Garrie Gastonny

I think that Warren Ellis has become a genre, just like Jack Kirby has. In twenty or thirty years, people will be publishing comics in this genre, similar to how Joe Casey's Godland mines (and improves) deposits of psychic Kirby.

When other people do start writing in Ellis-ian styles (pay attention Matt Fraction), certain things will have to be present: experimental rockets, alternative histories, and irreverent characters. Those are the essential building blocks. From there, creators will have the freedom to add any number of supplemental story elements - space mushroom spores which create gods (which require of their subjects much masturbation) - that make absolutely no sense on the surface, except that they lead to creative, individualistic comics.

It's interesting to me that, right at the same time that Ellis's work becomes almost routine in its set-up and execution, he begins to dig into some very big topics, such as humanity's need to create god-figures for itself. This comic opens with a British man explaining through a bluetooth device, the history of mankind's efforts to create a super-being, and how incredibly wrong this has all gone. It's a clever comic, adequately drawn by Gastonny. I do look forward to seeing where this is going to go.

DMZ #47

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ricardo Burchielli

There's a lot more madness going on in the DMZ, as Matty continues to hunt down Trustwell cells in the city, while the rest of the world calls for Parco's head. The government now has Matty's father as their spokesperson, in an attempt to distance the public from Matty's choices, and our mysterious pirate radio broadcaster continues to express the views of the people of NYC.

This is another strong issue of a series that's been getting better and better lately. I'm still not sure where Matty is going these days, or what is driving him, but I have a lot of trust in Wood that it's going to be interesting.

The Walking Dead #67

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

Here's another example of why The Walking Dead has been in my top-five favourite comics list for the last few years. This is another incredibly well-written issue, picking up a few weeks after the events of the last. Rick and Carl get time to have a pretty serious father-son discussion, which only strengthens their bond. As well, we see that food is getting scarcer as winter approaches, and learn that Eugene has been keeping secrets from the group.

As the people get closer to Washington, I imagine that things are going to change quite a bit. Where before the zombies were pretty spread out, it's safe to assume that they would be much denser in an urban setting. This should give Adlard a chance to draw some pretty interesting scenes.

Red Herring #4

Written by David Tischman
Art by Philip Bond and David Hahn

A lot of things get cleared up in this issue, such as the truth behind the alien invasion, and we learn a lot more about Red Herring's intentions, if not yet his motivation. Damorge wants a divorce, and Maggie gets her nails done.

Tischman has set up a very interesting story in this comic, and by keeping things so close to the vest, he has kept the readers wondering, while still maintaining interest in the storyline.

No one could pick this series up in the middle and have a clue what was going on, but I'm sure this will read quite well in trade. (I still wish Bond was doing full pencils, and not just lay-outs, but I like Hahn's work in this issue much more).

B.P.R.D. 1947 #5

Written by Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart
Art by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon

I'm still squarely on the fence about this title. I have loved the art throughout - Bá and Moon are favourites of mine and they did not disappoint here (bring on Daytrippers!), but the story came across as very disjointed. Perhaps a lot of that is due to the fact that I'm pretty unfamiliar with the Hellboy-verse - I'm sure there are a lot of nods to things that happened later in the continuity - but this was not the most accessible entry point for a new reader.

Now, there were a lot of individual elements in this issue that I did like. The character of Ota Benga is an interesting one, and I liked the way his exorcism was portrayed as taking place on two different levels. I just wish there had been a little more to tie the whole series together for me - I feel like I don't know why this story was told.

Resurrection #5

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Justin Greenwood and Brandon Graham

Usually when I write about this comic, my focus is on the main story, which I enjoy quite a bit. This issue, however, the back-up is the main event, as Guggenheim gives us an odd little story about some writer who has waited out the alien invasion in a bunker outside of Helsinki, along with some old rich men and six Argentinian girls. This back up is drawn by Brandon Graham, making it automatically the best comic that came out this week. Graham is in full-on Moebius mode here, showing us wide open spaces and a subdued, pastel palette, and his work is fantastic.

In the main story, we get more of President Clinton, as his protectors and our usual heroes try to get him out of town in the face of the rabid road agents. There is betrayal and back story; all the things that make this such a good comic.

I've been enjoying this volume of Resurrection quite a bit. It seems more decompressed than the first volume did, but the story is moving in new, and unexpected, directions.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Spirit of Apollo

by N.A.S.A.

'There's a party, and and we're all invited. Not just some of us, But each and everyone.' It's not just the chorus to the George Clinton/Chali 2na collabo on this disk, it's pretty much the album's theme.

Sam Spiegel and Ze Gonzales, two dj's representing the two American continents, have assembled a very mixed bag here. They've pulled together a virtual Live Aid hip-hop album, with tons of artists contributing to their electronic, hip-hop themed endeavour. This cd is the musical equivalent of the first day at a new school, where you get paired up randomly with people that you might get along well with, or not, but have to spend some time working together.

Thus, we get tracks featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, and Z-Trip, or Spank Rock and MIA. At times, it works wonderfully, while at others, the different styles are just a little too jarring. The high point of the album for me has to be the song 'Spacious Thoughts', which features Kool Kieth and Tom Waits. It's not the best track here by any stretch, but the concept is pretty damn cool.

This album has more successes than failures, and I imagine many of the tracks here will become favourites as they appear randomly on my ipod.

Rapture #5

by Taki Soma and Michael Avon Oeming

Okay, I think I'm ready for this comic to be over. I usually enjoy Oeming's work (except for Mice Templar), but this title has dragged on a little too long. The art in this is wonderful (especially the water-colour pages), but I've had enough of the characters, and their inconsistent behaviour.

This issue finally shows the reunion between Gil and Evelyn, but Gil gets all moralistic (because Evelyn attacks the psycho kid that ate his fingers last issue), storms off, and then becomes a cold-blooded killer himself. I find it hard to believe in these characters now, and am more than a little sick of them.

I do like the Klimtian cover though....

Phonogram: The Singles Club #5

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie and Dan Boultwood

I think that this volume of Phonogram has hit on the winning formula: eschew plot and focus on characterization. In this issue, the spotlight is on Laura Heaven, who was a bit of a wallflower in the first issue, and hasn't really been seen since.

Now we get a lot more insight into her character (which isn't all that nice), via a string of quotes from Long Blondes songs (which mean nothing to me).

It's a nice, well-packaged little story. The back-up works well too. It's nice to see another issue of this - I hope that the remaining two aren't too far away...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Written by Rob Vollmar
Art by Pablo G. Callejo

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this project. I enjoyed Vollmar's writing on 'Inanna's Tears' (at least, as much as was ever published), and so I figured I'd give this a try.

This is a very gothic graphic novel, telling the story of Lem Taylor, a traveling bluesman of the American south. Taylor and his partner get hired on at a juke, but his partner is led astray by a woman, resulting in the murder of a prominent white man in the community. Taylor is dumped into a whirlwind of events, as he flees the area, and hooks up with a small band of wanted Natives.

Vollmar's script depicts the people of this time in a number of different lights. He doesn't fall back on complete stereotype or cariacture, instead creating well-developed individuals.

The art, by Pablo Callejo, looks like a series of woodcuts. His thick lines and liberal use of black ink add a certain gravity to the proceedings, and help make this a story for the ages. It's definitely a good comic.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Strange Arrangement

by Mayer Hawthorne

This is most definitely a unique project. Hawthorne's debut cd sounds more like 50s pop than anything else, but it rolls with a much more modern sensibility, even when it is trying to sound retro. The songs on here, dealing with relationships mostly, have a nice feel to them.

If this makes me think of anything in particular, it's Amy Winehouse. Partly for the way in which both artists were embraced by hipsters, but also for the way in which they try to update an older sound.

This is a fun album, and one worth owning.

Days Missing #3

Written by Ian Edginton
Art by Lee Moder

This is another pretty decent issue of this series. I think the choice to have different creative teams working in different time periods is a wise one - each issue seems fresher that way.

In this issue, the Steward is finally differentiated from the Phantom Stranger in my mind. There is more science than magic at work here, as the Steward intervenes at the Hadron super collider, working to keep his own existence secret.

The drama is a little light, and the science a little confusing, but Lee Moder's art is very nice. I'm eagerly awaiting the next issue, which is written by Matz, of The Killer fame.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Crate Digging: Late Night Cinema

by Blue Sky Black Death

This is a very nice cd. I'd forgotten how nice it was. Blue Sky Black Death eschew their hip-hop roots on this album, instead creating an instrumental techno/ambient album that floats nicely through the room.

Part of the concept here is that this could be soundtrack music, although to what film I'm not sure. I visualize scenes of people walking away from a break-up through the rain, most likely in Paris. Really, it's best not to dwell on such things, and better to just enjoy the music.

Sweet Tooth #3

by Jeff Lemire

Sweet Tooth is easily the most non-Vertigo book that Vertigo is publishing right now. And I think that's its strength. Lemire is taking his time setting up the story here, as Gus and Jeppard continue to travel to the Preserve, stopping to recover from the events of last issue. Gus finds an abandoned house with food (which seems a little unlikely at this point), and later the pair walk through a town which still has at least one inhabitant.

I like the way Lemire is keeping Jeppard and his motives shrouded in mystery. It's hard to tell what the man is up to, and that is what is giving me the impetus to keep reading.

In all, an excellent comic.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Greek Street #5

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Davide Gianfelice

It's just more of the same really. The plot is moving pretty slowly here, as Eddie meets the Menons, the Fureys crash around a bit, and the dead lady finds one of her sisters.

I'm interested, but need to see a lot more soon, or I may be jumping off this title.

The Mighty #10

Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne
Art by Chris Samnee

It would seem that there are only two issues of The Mighty left before the book is canceled. I'm not surprised to hear that - this type of book is a tough sell in today's market, and I am pleased to see that the writers will have enough space to bring the story to a proper close (at least I hope so).

The Mighty has been an interesting book from its inception. This issue finally gives us Alpha One's true history, and explains what he has been up to all along. It's not exactly what I expected.

As usual, the writing in this comic is very tight, and the art is excellent.

Stumptown #1

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

I'm very happy to see Greg Rucka returning to a creator-owned title, and while Stumptown doesn't quite feel up to the level of Queen & Country yet, it's off to a very strong start.

Dex Pairos is a mostly typical Private Eye. She's in debt, and has a hard time finding jobs. The owner of the casino she owes to offers to erase her debt if she can find her missing granddaughter. From the start, this case attracts a lot of attention from menacing thugs, and from one of the richest men in Oregon. The usual private eye stuff ensues.

What makes the title interesting is the attention to Oreganian detail. The artist, Matthew Southworth, writes in the back about his efforts for authenticity, and while I can't speak to his success (having never been to Portland), the book carries a strong sense of place, like an issue of Local.

At this point, Dex feels a lot like a Jessica Jones character (helped by the fact that the art reminds me a little of Michael Gaydos), although one who cares for a mentally-challenged younger brother. More will be needed to distinguish her from the legions of private eye characters out there, but like I said, the book is off to a good start.

Jonah Hex #49

Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Cristiano Cucina

I'm glad to see that the 'Six Gun War' arc has come to a close. I've enjoyed this story, but I think that I prefer the single-issue format for Jonah Hex. This story has been pretty good, although the ending has left me a little disappointed. Instead of leaving the door open for a sequel, I would have preferred to see a more finite conclusion.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Age of Bronze #29

by Eric Shanower

In his text piece, Eric Shanower mentions that he receives very little feedback for the single issues of his sublime Age of Bronze, and that this format is not being read in large numbers. This is a shame. I can understand why people prefer to read a complex book like Age of Bronze in trade - the sheer number of characters and sub-plots to keep track of can be daunting, especially given the length of time between issues.

I know that I prefer to read it as each issue appears. First, I see each new issue as a treat, and a rare one at that. Secondly, I feel it's important to support the individual-issue format. It is still the way I'd rather read any comic.

As to this issue - it's a lot looser and more experimental than the usual issue of Age of Bronze. The issue opens with a couple of songs, which provide a framework to check in on a number of the different characters. He also uses dream imagery in a way that is new to the series. From there, the rest of the issue becomes a montage of battle scenes, interlaced with more domestic scenes of life in Troy and in the Achean camp. In this way, he's able to push us through many months' worth of events, while still being able to develop ancillary plots, like the growing love between Troilus and Cressida.

In all, this is a very strong issue of Age of Bronze, and a nice surprise in this week's pull file.

Light Brigade

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Peter Snejbjerg

Of late, Peter Tomasi has been tearing up some of the smaller corners of the DC Universe. His Green Lantern Corps has been consistently good, and I've really enjoyed his The Mighty. I heard good things about his Nightwing run, and have started to see his name attached to more and more upcoming projects.

I originally ignored Light Brigade when it came out because I didn't know his name, and as much as I'm a fan of Peter Snejbjerg, I didn't want to risk getting a prestige book written by an unknown quantity.

This is basically further proof that, even after years and years of buying comics, I don't know what I'm talking about. This is a very good title. Tomasi blends elements of Lucifer and Grant Morrison's Zauriel character with Sgt. Rock and a touch of The Eternal Warrior. It's a pretty good fit.

The story is about a fallen angel, and evil angel halfbreeds attempting to use the chaos of the Second World War to ignite an angelic sword. Standing in their way is a small band of American soldiers, under the command of an immortal Roman Centurion. It has all the makings of a good action comic, but what makes this title worth reading is the nice character work by Tomasi, especially on Chris Stavros, an infantryman who has just learned that his wife has died, and who has lost all faith in God. This character's arc is the most interesting part of the book, especially as his faith remains lost even when speaking to angels.

Snejbjerg's work is as brilliant as his work always is. He makes the fantastic aspects of the story fit perfectly alongside the mundane. I don't understand why this guy isn't appreciated more - he's incredibly talented.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crate Diggging: Razah's Ladder

by Blue Sky Black Death and Hell Razah

Among the artists who populate the hip-hop sub-genre of "pseudo-Biblical, street prophet, slightly pretentious, Wu-affiliated rap", none compare to Hell Razah. He exemplifies this genre, and shows more lyrical versatility than many of his compatriots, except perhaps for Killah Priest.

On this album, a collaboration with the production duo Blue Sky Black Death, Razah gives more of what he's best at. A quick glance at the list of song titles on the album ('Halos', 'Project Prophecy', 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Poor Righteous Dreams', and others) give a clear indication of what the listener is in for - Razah's reaching for a higher level of discourse on this album, but still spitting at street level.

BSBD provide some very nice beats on this album. They are able to channel that Wu sound, but add their own stamp to it. This is a solid album, with guest appearances from some of the usual suspects: Shabazz the Disciple, Prodigal Sunn, and a couple of the Non-Phixion boys.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Larry Marder's Beanworld Volume 2: A Gift Comes!

by Larry Marder

I continue to be very grateful to Dark Horse for publishing Beanworld (not to mention continuing the series with the next volume!). I would say I own half of the comics collected in this handsome book, but I haven't read them in years, and not ever in sequential order, over a short span of time.

Read this way, not long after Volume 1, it becomes easier to see the 'Big Big Picture' for this series. Marder's story is more obviously about environmental balance than before. The Beanworld has been sent down a precarious path, and it is both interesting and entertaining to see how this is affecting its inhabitants.

This volume has a much wider scope than the earlier one. In addition to caring for and educating the Pod'l'pool Cuties, the Beans have to deal with problems caused by thieving Goofy Service Jerks, Mr. Spook's broken fork, and the break-out of Heyoka, the upside-down bean. As well, Beanish continues to visit Dreamishness, although his secret is discovered. Mr. Teach'm comes on the scene, and a lot of the characters' backstories are revealed.

As usual, Marder's simplistic drawings are a big draw to the book. His work appears primitive, but it quickly becomes apparent that it is anything but. He has clearly invested a lot of thought into the Beanworld, and its place in the Big Big Picture, and this project remains a 'most peculiar comic book experience'.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beep Tape

by Koushik

When I think of Koushik, I think of warm, organic beats with layered samples and a very psychedelic sensibility. With this instrumental album, he instead serves up thirty very short electronic tracks, as austere as his previous work is lush.

This is a very minimalist offering, although within these tracks he does demonstrate a wide variety of styles, including some very nice old-school hip-hop.

There's not a lot to say about a project like this. It doesn't fit well within his growing oeuvre, but you can't blame an artist for trying something new. Some of these tracks cry out for a talented emcee, while others stand quite well on their own.

Tons of producers are releasing albums like this these days, but I think more thought is needed before such a project is sent out into the world. There's not enough here to merit repeated listening.