Friday, April 30, 2010

Stumptown #3

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Matthew Southworth

This is a pretty good week for over-due Oni books.  The third issue of Stumptown is decent, although I'm not sure if I found it as good as the first two.  Dex, our hard-luck PI has found Charlotte, the girl she's been looking for, but she's with Isabel.  Immediately after this, they also run into the two thugs that attacked her back in the first issue.  Things don't go well for Dex...

With this issue, we do finally learn the real story of what's going on between Charlotte, Isabel, and her brother Oscar.  No one believes that Dex is working for Charlotte's family, hence the reason why she has been met with so much distrust.

The writing is this book is really good, although this issue didn't feel as dense as the first two.  As well, Southworth's art looked a little rushed in comparison to the previous installments.  There are some stunning pages though, such as the double-page spread set at Mount Tabor.  This book continues to be very interesting and worthy of a lot of attention.

Wasteland #28

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Christopher Mitten

Currently, Wasteland is doing a Rashoman kind of thing, where each issue follows one character over a period of about six months, giving the reader little snippets and glances into what that character is up to.  Recent (which is an increasingly relative term with this book - more on that soon) issues have featured Yan, the former aide to Marcus, and Jakob, the new High Disciple of Newbegin. 

This issue shines its light on Skot, the town's Primate and Marcus's right-hand man.  Skot is secretly a Sunner, a member of the persecuted religious class in the city, and he's been working against Marcus and his people for some time.  This issue shows his partnership with Golden Voice, the rebel singer, and helps to explain the thinking behind the attack on Disciples.

As a story-telling technique, this is a very interesting one.  I believe it would be working a lot better if the books were coming out of a more regular schedule.  This is only the third issue of Wasteland to be released in the last eight months.  This erratic schedule is making it hard to follow the story.  I'm sure, when read in trade, this arc is going to stand out as one of the best of the series, which is high praise indeed.  For now though, it's kind of hard to follow...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez

by Slug and Murs (with Aesop Rock)

I could have sworn that I reviewed this album months ago, but apparently not.  The second Felt album was a huge favourite of mine, it having come out right around the same time that I'd discovered Atmosphere.  There's a different chemistry at play when Slug collaborates with Murs; they both become more playful and light-hearted.

This time around, the pair are joined by Aesop Rock on the beats (and he appears on one song).  If I had my choice, I'd prefer to see Ant handling the production, but this does work out pretty well, even if a couple of songs sound like they belong on None Shall Pass

The album starts off just fine, but really picks up steam in the middle through to about the seventeenth track (this is a long one folks).  There are a couple of truly annoying songs on here - 'Get Cake' and 'We Have You Surrounded', but the rest of the album is quite decent.

Aside from the rather infectious 'Henrietta Longbottom', there aren't too many memorable tracks on this album.  I blame the consistent sameness of AR's production.  At the same time, it's still a quality album.


by The Whitefield Brothers

My first exposure to the Whitefield Brothers was through their album 'In the Raw', and while I liked it as background music, this album is miles above it in terms of quality and vision.

Earthology opens with a call for "joyous joyful exaltation" before sliding into a seventies-style funk piece.  From there, the album remains quite mercurial, shifting tones, moods, and styles a couple of times before finishing.

The Brothers have invited a few rappers to appear on the album. 'Reverse', with Percee P and MED, is a funk remix off of the Percee's last album, and I think the track works better than the original Madlib version did.  'The Gift', featuring Edan and Mr. Lif would fit nicely on Beauty and the Beat, but also works great here.

The rest of the album is strictly instrumental, and that's where the Brothers and their accompanists really shine.  Tracks like 'Safari Strut', 'Alin', and 'Breakin' Through' update older African melodies.  'Sem Yelesh' is a thoughtful piece grounded by a terrific saxophone.

Right in the middle of the album, they have place 'Ntu', a cool percussion-only piece, which serves to cleanse the listener's rhythmic pallet before diving into 'Pamukkale', my favourite track on this album.  This piece could have been the opening theme to an African spy show, like a Mission: Impossible type of thing, set in Lagos or Nairobi.

The album closes out with a pair of lovely pieces, 'Lullaby for Lagos' and 'Chich'.  This whole album is a very cool project, and one that I've had on pretty steady play for the last couple of months.

Myspace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 2

by many people

I mentioned when I reviewed the first book in this series how much I enjoyed the original Dark Horse Presents, and I was very pleased to hear that it is set to return soon.  It was a reliable source of new ideas and creators, as well as short stories from established series or properties.  I didn't always love what was in it, but I usually found something positive in each issue.

This volume of the Myspace on-line revamp didn't work for me as well as the books I remember.  I found that most of the stories in this book were facile and shallow, and they did little to encourage me to pick up related titles, or seek out some of the creators.

There was still a fair amount to like in this book, such as Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá's brilliant 'Wonder Twins Activate'.  I know I'm a huge Moon and Bá fan, so it's no surprise that I would single this story out for praise, but it's a very cool story designed to help explain their collaboration process.  In contrast, Bá's 'Umbrella Academy' story (with Gerald Way) did nothing for me.

I also liked John Arcudi and Steven Young's 'A Going Concern' which is basically Jonah Hex played by a cockroach, but I couldn't figure out what the hell his horse was supposed to be, and it made me hate the story by the end of it.  Gilbert Hernandez's 'Manga' was cute, but short.

Lately I've been working my way through the Mignola-verse, so I was pleased to see a BPRD story by Arcudi and Davis, and while it was good, it was fairly inconsequential.

By far the prettiest and most impressive art in the book belongs to Francisco Ruiz Velasco, with 'Legion of Blood', a flying-alien version of the first world war.  I hope this is something that is going to be developed into a longer project, as it was quite good and visually stunning.

The final piece that impressed me was a Conan story (normally I hate Conan) written by Tim and Ben Truman.  What made this special is that it had artwork by Marian Churchland (read Beast), with lettering by Brandon Graham!  It's a very cool-looking story.

One story that seemed to have a lot of potential but then quickly lost me was the Hobo Fet story by the Matkinson Brothers and Jon Adams.  There was a lot that could have been done with this story, but it fell flat.  Another disappointment was the two-page Rex Mundi story.  Nothing happened, and it just served to remind me that I miss this title.

Anything else in this book doesn't really feel like it's worth mentioning.  There are some things that I know people like - Milk & Cheese, Steve Niles - but it left me cold.  I have Volume 3 on my reading pile - I hope it's more consistently good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Secret History Book 5: 1666

Written by Jean-Pierre Pécau
Art by Leo Pilipovic

I'm enjoying this book still, but I find myself liking it more for its potential than for what I'm actually reading.  The idea of four immortal beings meddling with the totality of human (okay, European) affairs for centuries is not exactly a new concept, but it is a sound one.  That it is being handled with such meticulous research and care should make it much better than it is.

This issue has two immortals fighting against zombie creatures in the basement of the Hellfire Club, with the help of Isaac Newton, who has phosphorus guns.  How can that not be straight up incredible comics?  But it's a little dull.  There is a little too much emphasis on showing how well researched everything is, and the author has kind of forgotten to let the characters drive the story.  Each of the Archons, with the exception of the vampiric Dyo, are ciphers, and it's too late in the story for them to not be developed beyond simple labels like 'the angry one'.  (Maybe they should just wear coloured rings?).

Anyway, it's still an impressive comic because of the scope of what Pécau is trying to achieve.  The art is not as good as it was under Kordey or Sudzuku, but it's manageable.

The Hellboy Project: Hellboy Vol. 4: The Right Hand of Doom

by Mike Mignola

My little 'Hellboy Project, where I read a story or chapter of a large story every day, in the order in which they were originally published, is coming along quite well.  I find myself looking forward to reading the next piece of the larger story Mignola has been weaving for the last fifteen years.

This book is a collection of short pieces, with one longer piece (Box Full of Evil).  The stories are divided between Hellboy's early and middle years, before coming up to the present-day.

Many of the stories come from Mignola reworking old traditional stories, including both Japanese and Norwegian folklore.  These are always of more interest to me than the stories that seem to revolve around Hellboy's demonic origins or his 'true purpose' on Earth.  While those are good too, I find I prefer the stories where he is just who he is, and we don't have to worry too much about backstory.  I get the feeling Hellboy prefers those stories too.

It's interesting to watch as Mignola developed into a more self-assured author, and I like how many of the stories in this book paid careful attention to architecture and statuary.  I have also noticed how often Hellboy or other characters fall through floors in these stories.  I think I would be very cautious walking anywhere, had I had half the experiences Hellboy has had.

Monday, April 26, 2010

For Whom the Cell Tolls

by Nathaniel Rich

About fifteen years ago, I read a particularly vivid article in the New Yorker about Mad Cow Disease, and despite the fact that I hadn't eaten beef in about seven years at that point, I managed to convince myself, while reading it, that I was displaying symptoms.  Last night, while reading this article in the latest Harper's, I got a sharp headache on the left side of my head, further proving to me just how susceptible I am to good writing.

Rich has spent about a year immersing himself in the research, myths, and fears surrounding electromagnetic radiation, particularly that emitted by cell phones and other wireless technology.  And it's some scary stuff.  While there are no conclusive studies that prove a connection, it is anecdotally very clear that the recent spike in instances of brain tumors has happened at the same time that cell phones have begun to blanket the Earth.

The best part of this article comes at the beginning, where Rich reports on the data from a variety of studies.  He has helpfully organized it so that one statement negates the next; proving that no one really knows what's going on, just that EM radiation is problematic.  He does a great job of providing the reader with a variety of viewpoints, and profiles some of the earliest crusaders in the fight against cellphone towers.  As usual, Europe is ahead of North America in setting standards and guidelines, which also causes concern.

I would have been happier if there was more useful information to help readers prevent unnecessary exposure, such as the suggestion that wireless routers shouldn't be kept in the bedroom.  This article is required reading for anyone who has a child that wants their own phone.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Into the Wind

by Bei Bei & Shawn Lee

I picked up this album on the strength of Shawn Lee's two collaborations with Clutchy Hopkins, both of which I enjoyed, and on the strength of the Ubiquity label, which has been pumping out some nice music lately.

This time around, Lee collaborates with Bei Bei, who plays the Guzheng, a Chinese string instrument that is about 2000 years old.  Working together, they create what the folks at Ubiquity call an "uplifting, genre-bending sound clash, [which] recalls the afro centric [sic] harping of Dorothy Ashby and hypnotic spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane."

The music does move all over the map, from what sounds like traditional Chinese music with a nice ambient beat, to more straight-up R'n'B, or funk.  Lee provides vocals in places, and two tracks feature the always amazing Georgia Anne Muldrow, who herself has recently released work with this label. 

Into the Wind lacks the weirdness of a Clutchy Hopkins disk, but instead focuses on lovely pieces of music.  A very nice album.

Star Wars Legacy Vol. 1: Broken

Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons

I've avoided Star Wars comics since about the second Dark Horse series, as I'm not usually a fan of licensed comics, except where the original creators are involved (ie. Farscape, Firefly/Serenity).  Recently though, this comic was featured in Brian Cronin's A Year of Cool Comics column at the Comics Should Be Good blog, and it piqued my interest.  I saw this first volume (I believe there are eight so far) on Ebay, and quickly made the purchase.

I should have expected I'd enjoy it - John Ostrander is one of my favorite comics writers, with his Suicide Squad being one of the best superhero (okay, villain) comics I've ever read.  I also really liked his runs on Firestorm and The Spectre.  Duursema has always been a capable artist as well, so I wasn't too worried diving in to this.

And the book is really quite good.  The story is set about 125 years after the original Star Wars movies, and the Empire has returned, although just as it begins to consolidate power across the galaxy and wipe out the Jedi, the new Emperor is betrayed by his Sith allies (shocking, I know), and they take control of things.  During the final battle between the Empire and the Jedi, before they are betrayed, we are introduced to young Cade Skywalker, the descendant of Luke, who is still a Padawan.  He watches his father get killed, taps into the Force to revive his own master, and then appears to sacrifice himself so his friends can escape.

Of course, Cade is not dead, he just spends the next seven years getting increasingly bitter and working as a bounty hunter. When we rejoin our cast of characters, we find Cade hunting down scum with a couple of semi-trusted allies.  We also find Darth Krayt, the Sith Lord, still hunting for the former Emperor, Roan Fel, and Sazen, Cade's old Master, is looking for him.  It doesn't take long for them to all meet, along with Marasiah, the Imperial princess, and some Imperial Guards, as well as a small squad of Sith lords who are heavily tattooed.

This volume is all about the set-up, so it's no surprise that a lot of time is spent on fleshing out some characters and their relationships to one another, although there were a few particular items that needed further explaining I felt, such as why Imperial Guards appear to have Jedi powers and lightsabers, but are not Jedi.  Maybe this has been explained somewhere else in the Dark Horse Star Wars books, I don't know.

Ostrander has set up his cast along the usually accepted Star Wars lines: Cade is an interesting mix of both the Luke Skywalker and Han Solo archetypes, while Marasiah is clearly filling in for Leia (ie., needing to be rescued a lot).  Thankfully, there are no annoying droids or furry creatures yet, so my annoyance level is kept to a minimum.  There are a lot of characters with tentacles coming out of their heads though - I don't understand why.

I will definitely be hunting down the rest of the trades for this series.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Secret History Book 4: The Keys of Saint Peter

Written by Jean-Pierre Pécau
Art by Leo Pilipovic

I'm finding, as I'm getting closer to historical eras I'm more familiar with, my enjoyment of this title is going up.  Perhaps some more exhaustive footnotes or endnotes explaining some of the historical context would have been helpful; I don't know if that was done for the collected edition.

This issue has Nostradamus, a servant of Aker's House of the Sword, traveling with a group of  Swiss mercenaries to discover the identity of the person creating Ikons, symbols which represent the same powers as the Runestones, in Rome.  Of course, war is breaking out, as is plague.  The maker of the Ikons, Cellini, works with Nostradamus to fight off Dyo's soldiers, and there is the usual mayhem.  Add to this the possibility of a fifth Archon existing, and things start to heat up even more.

The art in this issue is handled by Leo Pilipovic, an artist I am unfamiliar with.  He works in what I've come to recognize as the standard French style, and the art is consistent with the issues that have come before.

The Pink Panthers

by David Samuels

It has become increasingly rare for The New Yorker to print long-form articles, but this one, clocking in at 19 pages, is one of the longest ones I've read in a while.  In it, Samuels explores the Pink Panthers, a loosely-organized group of diamond and gem thieves, mostly believed to be operating out of Serbia and Montenegro.

These thieves have hit multiple jewelery stores in places like Italy, England, France, Japan, and Dubai over the years, and while many have been caught, many more remain free.  Samuels tries to nail down the organizational structure of the group, but this task seems to be impossible.  In all likelihood, the thieves do not have a hierarchy, but operate more like cells, with decentralized groups acting independently.

Like some of the best crime reporting, Samuels re-creates the circumstances of many of the crimes, digs into the past lives of many of the lower-level operatives who have been caught, and travels through some unappealing Balkan regions.  This article is a fascinating read, made all the more human by Samuels's growing affection for some of the players.

American Vampire #2

Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

While vampires are as over-played as zombies these days (probably more, thanks to Twilight), American Vampire is a very good comic.  I like the way that each issue is split into two stories, the first set in 1925 and featuring Pearl, a newly-turned vampire; while the second is set before that, and is slowly filling in the back-story for Skinner Sweet.

The element that has garnered the most press and attention for this book is that Stephen King is writing the second story, in his original comics debut.  His writing feels natural here, as he provides the backdrop to the main story, and works at developing Sweet's character.  In the first issue, I found I enjoyed Snyder's half of the book more, but now I'm pretty evenly torn between the two.  Snyder has saved most of the set-up for his story to this issue, as Pearl 'changes' and has to learn what those changes entail for her.

What makes this book move from good to amazing is Albuquerque's art. The entire book is gorgeous, with the Stephen King story getting a more textured, burnished approach.

Highly recommended.

Joe the Barbarian #4

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy

There's not a whole lot to say about this title at this point.  It continues to be an exciting story, as Joe continues to flip back and forth between the real world and the fantasy world where he is the prophesied 'Dying Boy', and the target of Lord Death (horrid name).

This issue does give us a little more exposition about Joe's strange value in this world, this time coming from a group of animal skull wearing science monks who take vows of cowardice.  See, that's why I like this series.  Morrison is really just playing around here, and letting his creative juices flow all over the place.

The art, as usual, is stunningly good, and this series continues to be a lot of fun.  I'm not sure why it's a Vertigo series, as it's not really a 'mature readers' title so far as I can tell.  If anything, it's a little more young adult than anything else.

Air #20

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by M.K. Perker

Blythe continues her pilot's test, having completed her first mission, and is now sent out on her second - to examine the plane that the writer Antoine de St. Exupéry died on.  There is definitely a literary theme going on as Blythe works through these missions, as she must examine the remnants of authors who either flew or wrote about flight, as HG Wells did.

It is interesting that Blythe is not interested in reading the book that Wells wrote about her, and when she speaks with St. Exupéry, she is not all that surprised that he knows her already.  Blythe takes a couple more steps towards independence and self-determination when she argues with her boss, and demonstrates that she is no longer happy allowing others to set the agenda.

While this book can be a little slow moving, I have been enjoying it quite a bit.

Black Man's Cry

The Inspirations of Fela Kuti

Is it too early to have a favorite cd of 2010?  I know almost nothing about Fela Kuti and his music, having only been exposed to it in the last few years by way of hip-hop artists that have sampled his work, but I have a great deal of esteem for this wonderful album compiling other peoples' covers of Fela's hits.

Egon, the funk historian emeritus and leading force behind Now-Again Records has searched far and wide for these recordings from the 70s, with three new tracks.  Represented on this disk are other Nigerian bands that covered Kuti's work, as well as Caribbean groups, and the North Americans who have led the revival in afro-funk.  Egon has written a highly-detailed essay outlining the history of the different covers, when and where it is known.  The disk comes with a small booklet bound into the cardboard cover, and the whole package is a classy, sophisticated affair.

It is the music that makes this thing great though.  The pieces here are all very funky, but they vary in their delivery and style.  There are three different versions of the title track, and I would be hard pressed to name a favorite.  I find this entire disk to be uplifting and incredibly beautiful.

Resurrection #10

Written by Marc Guggenheim and Ray Fawkes
Art by Justin Greenwood and Ray Fawkes

Guggenheim is sure taking his sweet time in telling this story; each issue has some significant events taking place, but the addition of the Resurrection Tales in each issue cuts back on the length of the main story by quite a bit.

This time around, we see a little more of the people that have been changed by the alien virus, and we get Bill Clinton finally doing some questioning of events (not that he wonders why he was locked up for so long).

I have been liking this book, but it's beginning to make me feel a little like I'm watching Lost circa seasons two through four - like it's time to explain something (although the fact that I'm still watching Lost does prove that I'll be patient for a while yet).

The back-up by Ray Fawkes is a cool little story about people auctioning off Bug possessions and photos, and the types of people that want to buy them.  Fawkes is taking a Dean Motter kind of approach to the story, and it looks pretty great.

DV8: Gods and Monsters #1

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Rebekah Isaacs

I vaguely remember reading the first two or three issues of DV8 in its original run (because of Humberto Ramos, who I was really feeling at the time), but what drew me to this revamp was Brian Wood's name; he's one of the few writers I will buy unconditionally. 

I have no recollection of who these characters are, and Wood gives us nothing in the way of recap, choosing instead to open the story with one of the characters, Copycat, being interrogated on a Carrier (the Authority's?  I don't know) about some stuff that happened on a planet.  She begins to tell her tale, of how she fell out of the sky on some primitive planet, right into the middle of a battle between two groups of barbarians.  Her teammate, Frostbite rescues her, and goes on to tell her how the same thing had happened to him and the rest of the team, and how they have split up and are being worshiped by different factions on the planet.

Most of this issue is set-up, and doesn't really read like a typical Brian Wood comic.  There is enough here to give some hope for future issues, and Rebekah Isaacs's work is nice, if kind of standard for the Wildstorm line.  I don't really know why the decision was made to resurrect these characters from whatever limbo they were languishing in, or if this story is in the same continuity as all that World's End nonsense that is happening in the other Wildstorm titles.  My intent is to stick with this for a bit, and see if Wood does something impressive with it.

Battlefields #5

Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Carlos Ezquerra

Here's another strong issue of The Firefly and His Majesty, the follow-up to the earlier Battlefields story The Tankies.  Our tank crew is now hunting the King Tiger that they learned about last issue, and it has become somewhat personal for the Sergeant in command.  We finally learn why he hates Tigers so much, and what is driving his contempt for the German tank crews they have come across.

There is also some very nice character work involving the rest of the crew, and their German enemies are given some screen time as well.  Ennis usually personalizes both sides in these conflicts, which adds a lot of depth to his story, except for the Obersturmbanfuhrer, who he leaves a right scary bastard.

Most of this issue involves men sitting in and around tanks talking, and yet Ennis maintains a degree of suspense and foreboding throughout.  Ezquerra's art is spot-on, and I like the reference to one of Ennis's earlier War Story tales, Johann's Tiger.  I never thought of these books as having a continuity before, but I like the idea of Ennis weaving together some of these different stories one day.

Okko: The Cycle of Air #1

by Hub, with Emmanuel Michalak

This issue marks the beginning of the third volume of the Okko stories, after the Cycles of Water and Earth, the second of which I enjoyed enough to continue with the characters, despite having never read the first volume of the story.

This time around, Okko and his crew are traveling in much nicer places, as they journey to a castle to help a young girl who has been afflicted by some strange fright.  As usually happens when Okko journeys through places, he runs across a few people looking to kill him, including a guy who lives on a bridge whose father Okko killed years before.

The story involves wind spirits, old rivalries, drunk monks, and Hub's usual unconventional methods of providing exposition (this time largely coming from a conversation between two old people at a noodle hut).

Hub's art is always beautiful, if cramped when squeezed down to fit the pages of an American comic, and I have been enjoying the ways in which he uses Japanese culture and mythology to ground his stories in a fantastical, and unfamiliar world.  Hopefully this volume will maintain a regular schedule...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Elephantmen #25

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by too many people to list here

Elephantment has reached 25 issues, and to celebrate, Starkings has brought in a pile of artists to each draw a single splash page picture.  There are some of the usual Elephantmen crowd, like Moritat, Ladrönn, Szymanowicz, Burnham, Churchill, Churchland, Cook, and Steen.  There are also appearances by artists that are some serious up-and-comers, like Brandon Graham, and Shaky Kane, and some pages by well-renowned veterans like Gibbons, Erskine, Guerra, Grist, Portacio, Rouleau, Sale, and Scioli.  The art throughout the entire issue looks fantastic, and it's very cool to see different interpretations of the same characters time and time again.

As for the story, it's been written as the perfect jumping-on point for a new reader.  The focus of the issue is on Hank Gruenwald, the executive director of the Information Agency, the organization that Hip Flask and Ebony Hide work for.  Most of the issue is recap from Grunwald's perspective, and it runs right up to the most recent events (remember, this series is often non-linear, so it's nice to see the order in which events were occurring), as well as provides a hint of things to come.

On the flip side of the comic is a five-page preview of Ian Churchill's Marineman comic, which looks to be a Sea Devils sort of thing.  I have not been a fan of Churchill's previous work, and the cover looks a little too much like an issue of the Ultraverse's Prime, but this thing looks fantastic on the inside.  Churchill is taking a more cartoonish approach to things, and his description of No-Limits Free-Diving makes the sport seem very interesting (I only learned of this sport a few months ago when the New Yorker ran an incredible article on it).

This comic is well worth picking up for it's great art, and I encourage anyone who has been curious about Elephantmen to use this book as a good excuse to try it out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Tale of One Bad Rat

by Bryan Talbot

I remember reading this series when it was originally published by Dark Horse back in the early 90's, and I still have the original issues in a box somewhere, but when I realized I could add the trade to another purchase on Ebay for a dollar or two, I felt the need to read it again.

I haven't read much of Talbot's work.  I've yet to check out Grandville, Alice in Sunderland, or Luther Arkwright, and re-reading this book tonight, I have to wonder why I've deprived myself.  This guy is incredibly talented and nuanced.

The Tale of One Bad Rat is all about Helen, a young British girl who has run away from home to escape the abuse she's been suffering at the hands of her father for years.  She has all the classical signs of an abused child - lack of trust, fear of physical contact - and her only friend is a pet rat.

Helen has always had a strong like for (or fixation on) the work of Beatrix Potter, who she shares many qualities and circumstances with.  As the book progresses, Helen leaves London for the countryside, and faces down her fears and demons.  The book does transcend the typical 'survivor's memoir' types of stories that have become so fashionable in the fifteen years since its publications, and gives us an interesting story, made all the better with Talbot's art.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Written by Rick Spears
Art by Rob G

This quick little graphic novel is basically Spears and G doing Sin City.  The book is in black, white and lurid red, and tells a noiresque story of a man who doesn't really matter (in his own estimation) who lets himself get sucked into some major drama involving a prostitute and her pimp.

John Dough (ok - that's a little heavy-handed) makes his money by being a police line-up filler - one of the guys that fill in the other four spots on the line-up - and by selling his blood.  He's about as anonymous as you can get.  One day, while having a smoke outside the station, he meets a prostitute that has been getting smacked around by her pimp.  She seduces him, and he decides to argue her case with the pimp.  Predictably, things start to go seriously wrong at this point, and Dough finds himself in the middle of a pretty sticky situation.

As is frequent in Spears's work, the writing is quite intelligent.  He's playing in a well-established genre, but he manages to do something pretty unique on the last page.  Much of the story is told in large silent panels that help to establish Dough as a quiet everyman and nobody at the same time.

Rob G is a good artist.  This is a pretty minimalist book, and his style serves that aesthetic quite well.  It's much more stripped down than his more recent work, like on the duo's wonderful Repo.  These two work very well together.  I liked Repo a great deal, and see their Teenagers from Mars as a masterpiece.  It's true that Dead West didn't work for me, but that is their only misstep in my eyes.