Tuesday, November 30, 2010

War is Boring

Written by David Axe
Art by Matt Bors

David Axe is a war correspondent who has written a number of books and one other graphic novel before putting together War is Boring, his account of his journey through a number of different conflict zones, and the realizations he came to about himself, warfare, and human nature.

Axe's central tenet, that war is boring, didn't get as much exploration as I expected in this book.  In fact, the speed with which he dispatches major conflicts often gives the opposite impression; war is only boring because he tells us it is, he never shows it.  Which is not to say the book isn't good - I found it quite enjoyable and a pretty gripping read.

Axe portrays himself as a pretty difficult person.  He's only happy when he's covering war zones, and like an addict, keeps looking to increase the level of his experience with each new assignment.  He bounces through places like Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, and Lebanon before challenging himself to go to Somalia, a region so dangerous his previously risk-adverse publisher refused to pay for his trip.  In each of these places, Axe feels a momentary sense of satisfaction, but it quickly fades once he returns home to 'normal life'.  Eventually, he ends up in Chad, looking to cover the Darfur region of Sudan.

What I found both interesting and frustrating about the book was the way in which Axe didn't really go into much detail about any of the places or conflicts he was bearing witness to.  The implication is that these places don't matter beyond the visceral experiences they can provide him.  I would have been interested in learning a little more about each place, but I can understand why the decision was made to keep the book lean in terms of details.

This is an interesting read, with an interesting premise.  The art is serviceable and decent, if not spectacular.  I am curious to give Axe's other book a try.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Above and Below

by James Sturm

I like historical novels and comics quite a bit, so I figured this collection of two stories would be worth a look.  I hadn't realized these two stories, The Revival and Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight, with another story, make up the hardcover book James Sturm's America.

The first of these two stories is focused on a revival meeting that happened in Kentucky in 1801.  This meeting brought a large number of pilgrims, pioneers, and kooks into the area.  Sturm tells his story mainly through the actions of one particular couple, but he does an interesting job of portraying the variety of people swept up in the movement at the time.  It's an interesting little story.

Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight is more involved, as it tells the story of a failing coal mine in Idaho in 1886.  The mine was always marred with violence (the story opens on a group of miners attacking and killing a group of Chinese who had taken over the property), and when the nicer of the two owners is killed in an accident, things turn from bad to worse.

As the mine has not been making much money, the workers have not been getting paid.  Soon, the town is swept up in rumors of strikes, hidden gold, and the promise of bettering oneself through direct and violent action.  It's a cool story, and Sturm establishes and builds up his characters in a very short space.  I liked this story better than the first one.

Scalped #43

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jason Latour

There's nothing too surprising in finding out that the newest issue of Scalped is, once again, excellent.  This month we get a 'done in one' issue, featuring art by Jason Latour, and focusing on Wooster Karnow, the sheriff of White Haven, Nebraska, the town outside the reserve where most of Scalped takes place.  We've seen the sheriff before, but we haven't learned too much about him.

The issue opens with him regaling a couple of local boys with stories of his Vietnam glory days, although he's interrupted by a US Marshal, in town to hunt down an escaped fugitive.

The rest of the issue is an exploration of Karnow's character.  We learn very quickly that he's full of crap about just about anything he's ever claimed, and the arrival of the Marshal, who is the real deal, sends him into a kind of despair.  It's an interesting character study, and it appears to be leading to some sort of confrontation with Red Crow at the very end of the book, showing that it may have some relevance to the long-term Scalped story.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

DMZ #59

Written by Brian Wood
Art by David Lapham

This issue finishes off the 'Collective Punishment' arc, which has consisted of one-off stories focusing on different inhabitants of New York as the American army rains down missiles on the city.  With this issue, we turn the camera back to Matty Roth, the usual main character of this title, as he holes up in a bomb shelter with a varied cross-section of the city's inhabitants.

Now, Matty has become an increasingly controversial person in the city, what with his involvement in Parco Delgado's mayoral regime, the fact that he procured a nuclear bomb for Parco, and was the person who set off the current hostilities by acting rashly.  He bribes his way into the shelter with the materials that Liberty News gave him, and proceeds to spend the night with this group of New Yorkers.  He meets a former Central Park ghost (they were a radical environmental militia), one of Parco's drivers, a deaf music student, and a rich jerk.  Basically, your typical crowd.

The issue has Matty being all introspective and navel-gazing again, which is what he really excels at, but it is a good issue none the less.  The ending is pretty poetic, and it is kind of nice to check in with Matty again, as much as I prefer the stories without him.

Part of what makes this issue interesting is Lapham's artwork.  He brings a different level of realism to peoples' expressions than regular artist Riccardo Burchielli brings to the table, and this helps to get a sense of the silent majority of rooms' feelings and opinions about Matty and their situation.  I know there's not much left to this series (and really, NY can't take much more), and I look forward to seeing how Wood is going to wrap this all up.

Jar of Fools

by Jason Lutes

I know it's bad that I hadn't ever read this book until just now, but sometimes that's the way things go.  There are so many great comics being published that I end up missing things that I know I'll love.

I used to read Lute's Berlin, until the delays between issues irritated me to the point of giving up on the series.  I always figure that I'll go back to it one day when it's all finished.

Jar of Fools reads like a Paul Auster novel.  It features a cast of characters who meet up more or less by chance, and simply coexist for a while.  The protagonist is a failing alcoholic musician who has never gotten over a break-up with his girlfriend, which came shortly after the death or suicide of his brother in an escape artist trick involving a river, a ball and chain, and a straightjacket.  His mentor escapes from an old-folks home, and comes to live with him just as he loses his apartment.

The pair take up with a confidence man and his daughter, who live in their car under an overpass.  The magician's ex-girlfriend ends up in a lot of trouble because of the con-man, and all of these people end up together trying to navigate life.

The book is not very tightly plotted; stuff just sort of happens as they go about their lives (or try to), and the beauty of the comic lies in their interactions with one another and the way in which they try to improve their situations.  It's a very lovely book on all levels.

As an aside - have you noticed the fixation in indie comics with power lines?  It's a recurring theme in this book, although I'm not sure why.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Skullkickers #3

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats

Skull Kickers continues to be a lot of fun, although this issue doesn't seem to cover as much ground as the first two issues did.  This one seemed to be over pretty quickly, although a lot of the issue was taken up with two scenes - one a strange, perhaps portentious vision brought on by a pot of poisoned stew, and the other a large fight scene involving reanimated corpses.

Zubkavich uses a few of the quieter scenes in this issue to help build up the relationship between the two protagonists, neither of which have been named yet.  I like the dream/vision sequence, as it helps guarantee that there is a plan for this series, because so far the plot feels a little random.

Huang's artwork, paired with Misty Coats digital colouring is really beginning to grow on me.  I know that a lot of new Image series are getting a fair deal of attention when they come out, but I hope that the sales on this book are healthy enough to grant it a reasonable run.

Wake Up!

by John Legend and The Roots

I've been giving this a lot of play in the last couple of months.  I love the Roots, and while I've never bought a John Legend album before, I can appreciate his talent.

What I like about this album is that Legend and the Roots have selected a number of older songs they deemed deserving of an update for the 21st century.  They talk in the liner notes about the optimism they felt at the beginning of the Obama administration's tenure in Washington, and while most peoples' (perhaps too lofty) expectations have not exactly been lived up to, there is much of that moment echoed in these songs and tracks.

This is a very soulful and funky disk, and while the title song gets on my nerves a little with its overly-earnest message, the rest of the album is just about perfect.  Few of the songs stand out to me as individual pieces - 'Hard Times', 'I Can't Write Left Handed', and 'Little Ghetto Boy' are favourites - but the overall aesthetic of the album is very effective.  I love the Roots.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Walking Dead #79

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

So now that the TV show has started, is it going to become necessary to establish Walking Dead bonafides with every review?  For the record, I've been with the book since around the 7th or 8th issue, and therefore feel pretty qualified to say that the comic is perhaps better than it's ever been.

I hope that the TV show is bringing new attention to the book - comic stores could definitely benefit from 'civilian' interest in a title that is easily bought from the beginning, and which isn't trying to flood the market with hundreds of confusing and nearly-identical mini-series and trades in advance of a media release (*cough*Marvel*cough*).  New readers to the Walking Dead can get caught up in a number of handy different ways, and they shouldn't be disappointed.

Of course, if they pick up this issue, they'll only recognize perhaps three or four people, and will be confused as hell.  But for us long-time fans, this is another stellar chapter.  After the gun play of the last issue, a number of walkers have shown up around the gates of the Community, so Abraham leads a team outside the walls to try to clear things out a bit.  It's nice to have an issue of Walking Dead that's about the zombies again - it's been a while, and I think we periodically need something like this to happen to remind us of the real threats out there.

While this is going on, Aaron returns to the town, after having made an unsuccessful attempt to bring in a new recruit.  He and Douglas have a chat about leadership, while various other members of the Community go about their lives.  This issue feels like it's a lead-in to the next big arc, "No Way Out", which starts next issue.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feeding Ground #1

Written by Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski, and Chris Mangun
Art by Michael Lapinski

Although the story in the first issue of Feeding Ground can be a little hard to follow in a few places, it's an interesting debut from a trio of creators I'm unfamiliar with.

Feeding Ground is set in a Mexican border town, and appears to be centred on a coyote (a man who helps people cross the border illegally) who seems to have some sort of connection with Blackwell, a military contractor-type company with ties to a farm that has taken over large parts of the region.  There are some things going on with the coyote's family back in Mexico - his wife has had a run in with someone who appears to be from a drug cartel, and his daughter has had a strange thing happen to her along the fence that involves blood and dogs, but it's unclear.

There are also many hints that something strange is going on in the desert.  One of the pollos - the men that the coyote helps cross - is running around naked and cutting into his flesh at one point.  I think this is supposed to be a werewolf comic at some point, but the creators are keeping that close to the vest here.

Okay, so it's obvious that things weren't very easy to understand from re-reading what I just wrote, but I'm still intrigued enough to read the rest of this series.  The art is a little stiff, but the character work is lovely, and reminds me a little of Francesco Francavilla.  The monochromatic colour scheme works well at suggesting the washed out feel of the desert.

This issue is thick and heavy, with 28 pages of story, which are then repeated on the flip side, but in Spanish.  I don't know if they are going to be continuing with this gimmick, but it's kind of interesting, especially since it didn't become an excuse to jack up the cost of the book (which is a good buy at $3.95).  Check this out - it's flawed, but it's almost much more earnest and clearly a labour of love than a lot of the books on the stand.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Olympians Vol. 1: Zeus King of the Gods

by George O'Connor

I read George O'Connor's first graphic novel, Journey into Mohawk Country, and was pretty unimpressed, despite the fact that the subject matter is right up my alley.  When I saw reviews for Zeus, the first of his Olympian graphic novel series, I never realized that it was by the same creator; he has completely changed his style and approach for this book.

In these books, O'Connor is retelling the classic Greek myths for a more modern audience.  In many ways, he's borrowing a few pages from Lee and Kirby, envisioning these deities as the first superheroes, although he stays true to the essence and look of their sources.

This volume deals with the creation of the world, and the way in which Zeus led his brothers and sisters to overthrow the Titans.  There's plenty of action, and a pretty quick-moving plot.  There are a few places where O'Connor has played with the characters' motivations to make them easier to relate to and understand, but for the most part, he's gone for a faithful portrayal (although I'm not sure why he leaves out the rivalry between Zeus and his siblings).

Artistically, he's come a long way.  I feel like the art is a bit of a mix between early Mike Mignola and Michael Avon Oeming, if that makes sense.  He really works at portraying the differences in size between the Titans and the Olympians, which I thought made the battle scenes pretty effective.  My favourite character design would have to be for the Hekatonchieres, the hundred-handed creatures that guard Tartarus.  They have hands coming out of their fingers, in a very fractal design that I thought was cool.

While I enjoyed this book, I thought that it was too short for the full hardcover treatment - the story was only 66 pages, with some back matter used to round things out.  I would not have been happy to pay full price for something so short.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Girls Vol.2: Emergence

by the Luna Brothers

I really like the way that the Luna Brothers set up their long-form, finite comics series.  The Sword was great, and it got me to look into their back catalogue, of which I think Girls might be their most impressive work.

The story is kind of simple, a strange naked girl is found on the side of the road in a small, isolated town.  The man who finds her sleeps with her, and the next day, there are more naked girls being hatched out of eggs in his bathroom.  There is also a giant sperm in a corn field that shoots lasers, and an invisible shield around the town (that was all in the first trade).

This trade opens with the townspeople stuck on a bridge that is falling apart (since it has been bisected by the invisible shield).  The survivors hole up in a nearby house, while some of the men (the Girls attack women on sight) try to find their way out through the northern road.

What elevates this series far beyond its straight-forward science fiction plot is a few things.  For one, there is a liberal use of naked women, which can't ever be seen as a bad thing.  Most importantly though, is the incredible character work the Lunas put into this series.  The people of this town mostly don't get along, and as they are placed under more stress, relationships and manners get strained beyond the breaking point.  It's wonderful to watch these characters take cheap shots at one another, and at times things escalate into open warfare.  The character dynamics become more interesting than the plot.

Of course, the Lunas never let things go very long before we are reminded of the precariousness of everyones' situation, as attempts to contact the outside world fail, and the Girls attack.  The series really builds on a sense of suspense and confusion.  Normally I'll spread a book like this out over a couple of days, but I read this in two sittings, since I found I couldn't put it down.  Definitely recommended.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Good Things

by Aloe Blacc

I'm a little surprised that I haven't written about this album yet, as I've been playing the hell out of it for months now, but there's something about it that defies easy description for me.

I loved Blacc's last album, Shine Through, although the two things are such different creatures as to almost be from completely different artists.  Shine had a very Latin vibe to it, and still featured Blacc rapping on a few tracks.

Good Things is more of a soul album than anything else.  Blacc sings on each song, and his hip-hop roots are completely absent.  The songs are about financial need, and the mainstays of R'n'B, love and relationships.  This has been described as a political album, but that's not really the case after the first few tracks.

The album opener, 'I Need a Dollar' is a catchy anthem, but my favourite songs are 'Femme Fatale' (which reminds me a little of Mayer Hawthorne), and 'Mama Hold My Hand'.  Aloe Blacc is an artist undergoing a transformation, one that I look forward to seeing the end result of.

Weekly World News

Written by Chris Ryall
Art by Alan Robinson

When I first saw this mini-series being solicited, I thought it might be an amusing read, but I didn't bother picking it up.  After reading and enjoying Chris Ryall's Groom Lake, I thought it was worthwhile to track down some of his other comics; then I found this trade at a very low price, and snatched it up quickly.

I've never read the Weekly World News, except for headlines at the grocery store, and so don't know if the character of Ed Anger is a real pseudonym used by the paper, or if it was invented for this comic.  Regardless, this book tells Ed's story, as he wages a one-man war against WWN mainstay freaks like Bat Boy, the Manigator, the Ph.D. Ape, and a Communion-style alien. 

The comic is meant as a satire of the current American right-wing media, as Anger blames Obama for many of the country's ills.  In that, the book is occasionally funny, but I found it mostly predictable and bland.  Perhaps an artist like Ben Templesmith (who worked on Groom Lake) would have been able to elevate the material, but Robinson's art doesn't do much to add to the level of discourse.  I did find that the comic was fun to read, but by the time we learned that the big threat spoke French, I felt like I could have written the book myself had I spent three weeks watching Fox News.

The Sixth Gun #6

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

I'm very excited to see that this title is going to have a life beyond this conclusion to the first arc.  With a title like The Sixth Gun, the sixth issue seems like such a natural place for the story to end, but I suppose that sales are good enough that Bunn and Hurtt are going to continue their tale in an on-going format.

This issue is almost entirely taken up by the battle between Sinclair and his friends with General Hume at The Maw, the General's place of power.  Over the last couple of issues, Sinclair has been collecting some of the mystical guns usually used by the General's men, so we get a great fight between the General's animated corpses and Sinclair's mud golems.

Each page of this issue is laid out in a double-page spread, which makes for a nice widescreen look to the fight scenes, helping emphasise their importance.  I think this book has the nicest looking work I've ever seen from Hurtt, and I feel that the story has really gelled nicely.  I know I'll be staying with this title for as long as it lasts, and encourage others to give it a chance if you aren't reading it already.

Northlanders #34

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

Metal, the arc that concludes with this issue, has to be the strangest story Wood has told in Northlanders to date.  While he has danced with the supernatural in some of his stories in book before, they have always been told in the context of the characters perceiving a new thing in mystical terms.

This is the first arc that has ever moved from historically verifiable and plausible plots into the fantastical.  Prior to this issue, it was quite believable that Erik, the protagonist and berserker murderer of Christians, was quite simply insane and was imagining the supernatural elements of the story.  This issue makes it seem that the odd parts of the story were really happening, as Erik has a big fight with Black Karl, who grows in size during their brawl.

Also, Hulda, the goddess that Erik has been communicating with almost since we first saw him, also speaks to Ingrid, Erik's love.  I'm not sure how effective this story was when compared to some of the finer Northlanders arcs, but I did like the way that Wood inverted peoples' usual expectations for this title and made it fresh and unpredictable.  It's been cool to see Burchielli draw something other than a bombed-out Manhattan for a change too.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Esteve Polls

I'm not a big Chuck Dixon fan, but I do like reading the occasional Western comic, and this book was only $5, so I thought it was worth the risk.  Before discussing it at all, I feel like I should include the following disclaimer:  I have never seen he original The Good, The Bad and The Ugly movie, and therefore entered into this book with no knowledge other than the fact that the guy who kind of looks like Clint Eastwood is probably the hero.

It's a good thing that I was able to figure out that much at least, because there is next to no exposition in this comic.  The story that takes up most of the book involves the Man With No Name chasing a train full of gold that is rolling across Mexico, guarded, for some reason I never figured out, but a group of French soldiers.  I'll admit I'm not all that well-versed in Mexican/American history (aside from what I got out of Vollmann), but I had no idea that French forces once worked within Mexican borders.

Anyway, this story was kind of confusing, as the Man kept making and breaking partnerships, and no one seemed to have a clear story.  The other stories that fill out the book are clearer in the way they were plotted, but at no point did this book do anything original.  In fact, had the Man suddenly become Jonah Hex, I probably wouldn't have noticed.  It's like reading the poorer issues from that title.

My biggest problem with this book lay in the artwork.  Polls is quite good at drawing static scenes, but his action sequences were very hard to decipher at times.  Also, I noticed that depth was an issue here - at a couple of times, two characters have a conversation about a third that he apparently can't hear, but in the artwork, it looks like they are all standing together.  There was a lot of shoddiness like that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Morning Glories #4

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

The last issue of Morning Glories provided a number of hints as to what this series is really about, but this month's issue plays things very close to the vest again, with lots of vague allusions to something by the staff at the Academy.

What really made this issue work was the focus on the students' personal interactions again.  Casey has a plan to try to rescue Jade from the Nurse's Office, but in involves gathering the rest of the 'glories' together.

Spencer lays out the way in which the kids join up, and then gives them a lot of time alone together in the basement, where they are able to talk as they make tear gas out of kitchen ingredients (including a large case of wine that doesn't seem to be necessary in a boarding school).  The four kids don't really get along or like each other, but they are trapped by their circumstances into having to get along, and perhaps build a level of understanding of one another.

My favourite part of the book would be when one of the kids waxes nostalgic about the Bloor Cinema, a Toronto cultural landmark that played an important role in my teen years as well.  The end of this comic was not unexpected, but it does make me very interested to see how events play out next month.

Kill Shakespeare #7

Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger

This issue served as a bit of an eye-opener to me with regards to how this series has been progressing.  I've found myself more and more wrapped up in the story, as Juliet has begun her rebellion, and Hamlet has become more and more involved in the events of the world, but I haven't been giving much attention to the art since the series started.

Now, with this issue, I'm coming to really appreciate the work that Andy Belanger is doing on this title.  Kill Shakespeare is frequently compared to Fables, and one source of that comparison would be the way in which Belanger is starting to design his layouts.  Many pages in this issue are framed by stage curtains, in a manner that reminded me of Mark Buckingham's work on Fables.  There are a number of inventively-laid out pages in this issue, as Hamlet and company watch (and participate) in a play put on by some traveling actors, and later, as Hamlet and Juliet revisit their pasts in a strange, hall-of-mirrors like environment.

This has been an interesting series, and it deserves the praise it has been receiving.

Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil

Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Richard Corben

It's a one-shot with two Hellboy stories, both drawn by Richard Corben.  So, of course it's good.

The book opens with a strange framing sequence involving a busted up old movie theatre.  Since my first job was at a struggling live theatre, I've always felt connected to run-down theatres, be they for movies or plays.

The first story is a haunted house tale, with Hellboy investigating a building that has somehow compelled a man into committing many murders.  The second story, which is pretty short, has Hellboy dealing with a museum employee that has been possessed by an Egyptian god.

While neither story is particularly groundbreaking or stretches the Hellboy mythos into new territory, both are exceptionally nice to look at, and are well-written.  It was Corben's art that first got me to give Hellboy a chance, and I'm always happy to see him work on the character (or do any other comics for that matter).

Ghost Projekt #5

Written by Joe Harris
Art by Steve Rolston

While this is easily the most perplexing issue of this mini-series, Harris and Rolston bring their post-Soviet bio-warfare supernatural story to a fitting close.

This series began as a very conventional story about an American chemical weapons inspector working in Russia when there is a theft of some strange canisters, and as it continued, became more and more a horror thriller.

In this issue, Harris brings together all of his various plots, but ends up choosing to end the series with a few new surprises, and an ambiguous ending (which steals a little from Raiders of the Lost Ark).  Rolston has provided this title with some great art throughout, and I enjoyed the characterizations.  This is worth picking up in trade.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #5

Written by Matz
Art by Luc Jacamon

It's always nice to be sucked back into the world of The Killer, as dark and bleak as it is.  With this issue, our nameless protagonist starts taking out leaders of the Venezuelan military coup that has ousted Hugo Chavez.  He's doing this on behalf of the Cubans, and goes about the job in a variety of interesting ways.

As the story progresses though, it begins to become clear that he is, for the second time in this series, being manipulated by people who are more in the know than he is, namely his Cuban contact and (perhaps?) girlfriend.

This issue is less philosophical than previous ones, but that helps to support Mariano's assertion that the Killer is currently thinking with an organ other than his brain.  Like usual though, this issue is filled with beautiful artwork (I love the way that Jacamon layers shadows and has light penetrate through foliage).  The sniper sequences are perfectly laid out.  I look forward to the conclusion of this series.

The Secret History Book Twelve: Lucky Point

Written by Jean-Pierre Pécau
Art by Igor Kordey

It's been quite a series of treats this week with so many overdue Archaia titles dropping at the same time.  This latest issue of The Secret History continues to impress, but I have a big complaint about this issue, which I feel I need to address before I can talk about the comic itself.

My issue is that Archaia has dropped the quality of the cover stock.  That in itself is not so much the problem, but they've gone with the type of cover that is easily marked with fingerprints on the black surfaces, which is most of the cover.  My copy was covered in prints, and although I was careful in reading it, I added more than a few.  I'm not all that particular about keeping my comics in hermetically sealed environments, but I do like to keep them looking attractive, and that didn't happen with this one.  Okay, rant over.

The comic itself is pretty good.  The Secret History is an exceptionally complicated title, and so it's hard to keep on top of everything when there are delays of many months between issues.  The story is still set in the Second World War, as the different Houses jockey for position.  With this issue we get the full story of the Battle of Midway, learn one of the true goals of the Holocaust, and get to see some bombers blow up a dam, while quoting Star Wars (a really nice touch, I thought).

This is a very cool series, which really should come out more often.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Okko: The Cycle of Air #4

by Hub with Emmanuel Michalak

There aren't many comics out there like Okko.  It's a Medieval Japanese comic told in a French style, with plenty of busy small panels, and unpredictable events.

This issue, which wraps up the third series, or cycle, deals with the final confrontation between Okko, his friends, and Kubban Kiritsu, the monster hunter who almost murdered Okko a couple issues back.

The fight scenes are very frenetic and visually interesting, if sometimes hard to follow.  Hub's artwork is gorgeous, but I did find a few pages to be overly detailed and difficult. 

Elephantmen #28

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medelin and Marian Churchland

It's always nice to see a new issue of Elephantmen.  This is mostly an action-filled installment, as Hip Flask, Ebony Hide, and Janis Blackthorne fight a bunch of recently activated Crocodile Elephantmen in a slaughter house.  It's a pretty good action sequence, which becomes funnier with the introduction of the Mappo Simms - repurposed androids originally designed to provide sexual pleasure. 

Medelin is showing himself to be a capable artist on this book, and it's nice to see Starkings actually wrap up a plot thread or two, as that's not something that happens all that often with this title.

My favourite part of the book would be the unexpected short back-up story featuring Miki, with art by Marian Churchland.  Not much happens in the story - I just really like Churchland's art, and am always really happy to see some of it.

The regular back-up story, Charley Loves Robots, is still cute, but not as charming as its first chapter was.

Side b: The Music Lover's Comic Anthology

Edited by Rachel Dukes

This sequel to Side A, which I read a couple of weeks ago, gives more of the same great short comics pieces, influenced by music, and addresses the few shortcomings I found with the first volume.

Like its predecessor, this volume is filled with stories and strips that examine the effects that music has had on their creator.  Many of these pieces speak to the loneliness of adolescence and the way in which identification with a particular musical genre or subgenre can provide someone with a network of friends or a sense of belonging and understanding.  These stories are often touching and very honest.

Also, there are stories which detail the Proustian aspects of music, in the way in which particular songs or albums become touchstones in our lives, or act as mnemonic devices, allowing us to return to treasured memories or eras of our lives.

Most of the creators in this book are unknown to me, or are members of the underground scene that I don't usually spend much time reading about.  There are some bigger names in this book as well.  Brandon Graham provides the introduction, and some of the pieces feature creators like Ryan Kelly, Jim Mahfood (how can you have a book like this without him?), and Rob Guillory (who probably wasn't a big name when he drew his bit).

This is a pretty cool project.  Check it out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


by Matt Kindt

I really enjoyed this graphic novel.  Aside from a short in a Myspace Dark Horse Presents collection, I'd never read any of Kindt's work, although I have picked up a couple of his books since getting this one.  He has an unusual style for Vertigo - it's much more indie, although they are increasingly moving in that direction - and is a very good writer.

Revolver is about a man, Sam, who jumps, every night at 11:11, to a different world, where things are in bad shape.  In our world, Sam is a bit of a loser - he's stuck in a dead-end job at a magazine, working for a woman he hates.  His girlfriend works there too - she got him the job - and he hates her empty materialism as much as he hates his job.

In the other world, avian flu and terrorist attacks have crippled the United States.  Many people are dead or just missing, and Sam ends up working with his boss on a newsletter which they distribute freely to try to help people.  In this world, Sam has had to kill to protect himself and his new friend (who he still hates in the regular world).

In a very short time, it becomes clear that life in the other world has more value to Sam than his regular life does.  He learns things in the normal world, and then applies that knowledge to the ruined one.  It's interesting how closely they mirror one another, while being so vastly different.  Eventually, Sam learns that he is not the only person who can jump in this way, and the book becomes even more interesting.

Kindt uses different colour schemes to indicate what world we are in, and each page has a CNN-style news-ticker scrolling across the bottom.  This doesn't add much information, but we can quickly tell from the level of triviality in the stories which world we are in.  Statistics involving flu deaths or the destruction of Seattle?  Bad world.  Information about a mindless celebrity?  Ours.

Revolver raises some interesting questions about the value of our lives in our modern world, and is also a pretty gripping read.  Recommended.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

iZombie #7

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred

I somehow managed to miss this comic when it came out last week, which is a shame, because I, Zombie is becoming a favourite title.  This issue launches a new story arc, with Gwen having trouble finding a new brain to eat, since someone has been stealing bodies from the morgue.

While she spends a lot of time worrying about the effects of going without for so long (it affects her memories of her life), Ellie hangs out with Amon, and Scott makes a new friend.  Horatio and Diogenes square off against the vampire sect, and Galatea, a new character, is introduced.  There's no sign of the grandfather chimp, who I was looking forward to seeing again.

Roberson has filled this comic with a large cast, and I admire the way that he is able to give each of them something to do with each issue, and still find the space and time to advance his plot.  Allred's work is always divine, and this issue is no exception.

The Unwritten #19

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross with Vincent Locke

With the last arc finished, and the interlude issue out of the way, Tom and his friends seem to be in the position of having to refocus and move the comic in a new direction.  They are 'walking the map', whatever that means, as Tom continues to follow the path that his father, Wilson, had left for him.

This brings Tom to Massachusetts, specifically to Herman Mellville's home, for reasons that have yet to make themselves clear.  Tom bones up on his Moby Dick, while Lizzie makes a surprising move, and Savoy figures out why he hasn't been feeling well.

Meanwhile, Pullmann, the Cabal's assassin and black ops operative, has a strange and portentous conversation with a Gepetto-like character.  I'm not sure where this section is supposed to lead, but it seems that, with Callander dead, there needs to be a new public face of the Cabal.

I like this series a lot, but I sometimes can't help feeling that Carey is just taking us around in circles some of the time, as much of this issue seems familiar.  I got a kick out of seeing Vincent Locke doing the inks on a few pages - he's an artist I've always admired but whom we haven't really heard from in ages.