Sunday, February 27, 2011


by Dave Eggers

When I pick up and start a new book by an author I like, I usually know very little about its content going in.  In this case, I knew that the book was about a man who stayed behind in New Orleans when the city flooded after Hurricane Katrina, and that's all I knew.  Because the book is a non-fiction account by Dave Eggers, who wrote the brilliant What is the What, I didn't need to know anything more.

Except, that's only what some of the book is about.  It's what happened just before that water started to recede, and after that, that makes this book, and the life of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, so amazing.

Zeitoun is a Syrian American, who after spending years at sea, settled in Louisiana.  He met Kathy, an American convert to Islam, and together they started both a family and a construction and contracting business.  They owned a variety of properties in New Orleans as well, and it made sense for Abdulrahman to stay in the city while everyone else evacuated, to care for his various business responsibilities, and to look after the family home.  The early part of the book is concerned with establishing the Zeitoun's in the reader's mind, and showing how consistently they behaved according to their personalities.

Once the flood begins, the book becomes gripping.  Zeitoun spends his days feeding his neighbours' abandoned pets, helping to rescue people, and checking on his properties.  He glides through the mostly abandoned city in his canoe, sometimes alone, and sometimes with his friend Nasser.  He manages to keep in touch with his wife, who by this time is in Phoenix staying with friends, through a daily telephone call.  At least, until the day that the calls simply stop, and the focus of the book is solely on Kathy, and her challenges in weathering this latest crisis.

Eventually (after a very suspenseful segment of the book, where the reader shares Kathy's anxiety), we learn that Zeitoun and his friends have fallen victim to the excesses of police and Homeland Security fears during those chaotic days, and the book shifts into a Kafkaesque journey through a broken criminal justice and anti-terrorism system.  This part of the book is incredible, all the more so for the fact that it is accurate and is talking about the United States.

Eggers excels at this type of book.  He refrains from allowing his authorial voice room to roam, sticking to the story and what happened, as it is remembered by Abdulrahman and Kathy, without succumbing to the temptation to editorialise or commentate.  His writing during the flood is clear and beautiful, and he imbues the horror of the situation with such sublime description as to make one want to be there.

This story is very important in the way that it portrays the failings of America to respond to peoples' needs during a crisis, and to maintain human rights.  It is even more important as a testament to the strength of Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, their children, relatives, and friends.

Vietnam Journal

by Don Lomax

I love a good war comic, and Don Lomax excels at the genre.  He is a veteran of the Vietnam War, who began writing about it in comics in the 1980s with his Vietnam Journal series.  This graphic novel, published in 2003, collects some of the issues of that comic, although I'm not really able to tell which ones.  I know that Transfuzion Publishing is currently reprinting the whole series; I'm going to guess that this book contains the contents of the first two of the Transfuzion books, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, Vietnam Journal is about a journalist, Scott Neithammer, called Journal by the troops, who is reporting on the Vietnam war, having embedded himself with a group of front-line soldiers.  The stories in this comic are the standard, grounds-eye view of war tales we've come to expect from good war comics.  Lomax, and Journal, are prone to sentimentality at times (such as in the first story, which talks about a 'lucky' field jacket), but they also never shy away from some of the darker aspects, and decisions, of warfare.

At the core of this book is Journal's respect and regard of the troops.  It's central to how the character interacts with them, and in his willingness to pick up a gun or do anything else necessary to help out when they're in a tight spot.

Lomax's art is dense and detailed.  He has a good eye for military equipment, and for human facial expressions.  This is a very enjoyable read.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Echoes #3

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Rahsan Ekedal

Alright, this title is getting ever creepier, as Brian, the young man who only recently discovered that his father was a serial killer, descends deeper into his own madness.  Brian is pretty certain now that he has kidnapped and murdered a young girl, and made a doll out of her body.  He has no memory of it (at least, he's not admitting to any memory of it), but he knows it has to be true.

He decides to go to the police detective that he met last issue, but when he does, he instead describes a possible suspect that he's fabricated.  When that description ends up matching a brain damaged man that he knew in high school, he begins to go along with the detective, even going so far as to visit the man's house with him.

It's pretty clear that something strange is going on, and perhaps if Brian weren't so confused and lost in his own schizophrenia, he'd have recognized that this cop is really weird.  I feel like there's some sort of conspiracy going on, but I don't know how that's really going to play out.  Fialkov is definitely structuring an interesting plot, and Ekedal's art on this issue looks more finished and polished than previous issues.  This is a very cool little series.

The Mission #1

Written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber
Art by Werther Dell'Edera

With it being such a large comics week, I really didn't need to add an impulse buy to the pile, but Image has been putting out some really interesting series lately that have been flying under the radar, and I've usually enjoyed Werther Dell'Edera's art when I've come across it on series like Loveless and GI Joe Origins, so I thought I'd give this a shot.

The Mission opens on your general everyman character getting a check-up.  He's a guy with a wife and two kids, decent job, blah blah blah.  As he's getting in his car, a strange man approaches him, calling him by name, and telling him that he has a mission to fulfill as part of a gigantic war between good and evil that is being waged invisibly all around us.  His mission is to kill some guy within 48 hours.

His reaction isn't all that different from what yours would be (unless you're crazy - I don't really know who reads this site), and he more or less ignores the whole thing.  Eventually, he's convinced to at least check his target out, and we get swept up into what is more or less a Spider-Man origin retread.  It works though, as I found that I got pretty interested in trying to figure out just what is going on at the end.  Interested enough to pick up the next issue?  Probably; we'll have to see.

The Sixth Gun #9

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Brian Hurtt

This comic just keeps getting cooler with each new issue.  We've been watching Drake Sinclair and his friends keep themselves busy in New Orleans while Drake's been trying to figure out their next move, although now it seems that some of the problems they've been anticipating have come looking for them.

The servant from the swamp last issue brings a number of swamp creatures to the hotel where our heroes are staying to attack Drake and try to get the guns from him.  This leads to a very cool trio of intertwined action series, featuring Drake fighting a panther, Gord a flock of owls, and Becky fights off a giant snake while soaking naked in a bathtub (it's not as anime-lascivious as it sounds though).

As well, we get a surprise betrayal, and some more information on the vault last seen in the Maw, where Drake met Gord and fought the General in the first story arc.  Bunn is setting up a pretty big story here, and I like the idea of there being six books that will be able to help everyone understand the powers of the guns.

Brian Hurtt is doing the best work of his career on this title, perfectly complimented by Bill Crabtree's colours.

Who is Jake Ellis? #2

Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Tonci Zonjic

The first issue of this suspenseful mini-series was amazing, as it introduced Jon Moore, a man clearly wanted by a lot of different groups of people, and Jake Ellis, a shadowy and ethereal figure who seems to be gifted with a limited amount of prescience.  The issue zoomed by, as the two men tried to evade a number of people, before ultimately being captured.

This second issue needed to be more grounded and provide a little more explanation, which it does, while still maintaining a similar level of kinetic energy.  The issue opens and closes with scenes from four years ago, as Jake helps Jon escape from a facility where he is being experimented on in some way.  The words 'remote viewing' are used, which reminded me of The Men Who Stare at Goats, a film that fictionalised the American Army's attempt to use remote viewing and other New Age weapons against the Soviets.

Anyway, the rest of the issue has Jon escaping from French police, and avoiding capture from some Americans and another group.  He speaks to one of the Americans, which reveals for us the connection between Jon and the CIA, and then he and Jake have a little heart-to-heart, which reveals a great deal about their relationship.

Edmondson is writing a very smart little thriller here, and Zonjic's artwork is phenomenal.  This series has been picking up some buzz, and it is very well deserved.  This definitely has it in it to be one of the best mini-series of 2011.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Skullkickers #6

Written by Chris Sims, Brian Clevinger, Ray Fawkes, and Adam Warren
Art by Joe Vriens, Jim Zubkavich, Scott Hepburn, and Jeff Cruz

During a lull between story arcs, instead of putting the book on hiatus (which is happening until May), the Skullkickers team decided to gift us with a fun little anthology issue, made up of four short stories featuring the demon-killing duo.

The first is the best.  It's written by The ISB's Chris Sims, with really nice Sam Kieth meets Simon Bisley artwork.  This is a great zombie warrior woman story that really captures the two characters the way regular writer Zubkavich has set them up.

The same is true for the Clevinger/Zubkavich story.  It's nice to see Zub handling the art for a change; I didn't know he could draw.  The third and fourth stories are weaker, but I really enjoyed the 70s cartoon vibe of Cruz's artwork.

While all four of the stories are just riffs on the basic Skullkickers premise, I hope to see more one-off issues like this one between story arcs.  It's a good way to draw in some new readers (especially if more highly-recognized creators come on board), and reward long-term ones with something fun.

Morning Glories #7

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

Now that the first story arc is out of the way, Spencer's taking a little more time to delve into his lesser-developed characters and their pasts.  From the beginning, this series has kept reminding me of the TV show Lost, and this issue is a perfect illustration of why.

The focus is on Zoe, as she pretends to be angry with Riley for not telling her what was going on a couple of issues back, and storms out to wander the halls of the school.  She discovers a cheerleading team, and makes a new friend.  Of course, this is Morning Glories, so there is more going on than what we see on the surface.  Throughout her story, we see some flashbacks to her days as a cheerleader at her previous school, and her friendship with a girl who was being abused by one of the teachers.  Also, there is some stuff showing her early childhood in India which is a little difficult to process with the information we have so far.  So basically, this issue was like any of the character-based Lost episodes.

I enjoy the way that Spencer is slowly portioning out hints and clues as to the purpose of Morning Glory Academy, but I am having a hard time accepting that so many students would just passively allow all that is going on to happen.  I know that teenagers are highly adaptive, but there is a false note ringing quietly in the background that is starting to bother me.  I hope this is addressed soon.

Kill Shakespeare #9

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

It feels like a while since I've read this book, even though I don't think it's really been that long.  I've noticed that they seem to be soliciting on a bimonthly schedule now, which is fine with me.  It was impressive that they maintained a monthly schedule for as long as they did.

For a while, this title felt like it was treading water a little, but now that we've hit the final fourth of the run, things are really heating up.  This issue has two major events in it.  First, Falstaff discovers that Iago is a traitor, and begins to deal with that.  Most importantly, Shakespeare finally appears, and he and Hamlet have an interesting conversation.  There has been a lot building up to this, and it's interesting to see how the great Will is portrayed.  If you're expecting something like the way Neil Gaiman showed him in Sandman years ago, you'll be disappointed.  This Shakespeare drinks and throws bottles in anger.  It's an interesting depiction.

This series continues to interest me, especially as artist Andy Belanger continues to grow in leaps and bounds.  His approach to layout is increasingly interesting, and works very well with this title.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scalped #46

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by RM Guera

It probably won't come as a surprise, but I still love Scalped.  This issue is just another example of why this series is so good, as the murder of Gina Bad Horse, which happened years ago in our time, is looking like it may finally be solved.  Or at least dealt with by the characters, as it doesn't look like there could be any solutions to what's going on.

Officer Falls Down has been the captive of Catcher for months now, and the crazy old guy has decided to set him free, provided that the Thunder Spirits guide him through a cave of bear traps, trip wires, snakes and spears.  The conversation between these men is interesting, especially what happens when Falls Down decides to give up and let Catcher kill him.  Good stuff.

Most interesting though is the visit between Chief Red Crow and Lawrence Belcourt.  Belcourt is a Leonard Peltier figure in the story - he's been wrongly convicted of killing FBI agents back in the AIM days, and has been sitting in the pen ever since.  He was the last person to ever speak to Gina, and knew who she was going to see when she was killed, and has finally decided to tell Lincoln about it, knowing that Red Crow will take no time to deal with the man.  He also tells Red Crow to take away the protection he'd been paying for.

Lawrence spends the rest of the issue expecting to die, shown in a series of scenes that are incredibly tense and wrought with expectation.  It's pages like these that show how well Aaron and Guera work together, and are the reasons why I love this comic so much.

Death is Silent

by Kno

I'd been looking forward to this for a while (although not as long as I've been anticipating his promised Chico and the Man collaboration with Tonedeff), and this album has not disappointed.

Kno is the producer, and sometimes rapper for the Cunninlynguists, a Southern hip-hop group that has evolved from a joker, novelty act into serious and mature makers of quality music.  Kno's beats, both on this project and for his group are delicate, ethereal affairs, full of morose beauty (and usually sped up Chipmunk-voiced hooks).

He applies the same sensibility here, and creates some very lovely beats (the full album instrumentals play after the songs finish, and can be played on their own and be just as satisfying as the songs).  Kno contributes lyrics to most of the songs, and while he is not as accomplished on the mic as he is on the boards, he holds his own here.

He's joined on this project by fellow 'Lynguits Natti and Deacon the Villain, regular QN5 mainstays Tonedeff and Substantial, and solo artists Sheisty Khrist, Thee Tom Hardy, and Tunji.  It's a nice album, although I feel I have to admit that no single song stands out in my mind.  It's more of a gestalt thing I think...

The New York Five #2

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ryan Kelly

Nothing by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly is going to be bad, but I do feel like there are some flaws to New York Five, even while I find myself easily swept up in the lives of the four roommates and their friends, and swept away by Kelly's artwork.

The problem is one of pacing.  Wood mentioned in his text piece last issue that Shelly Bond rearranged much of the story to make it flow better, but I feel like someone needed to help make it more clear (beyond using the therapist's videos) to see how much time has passed between scenes.  Have the events in this comic taken place over a couple of days, or a couple of weeks?  It's very hard to tell some times.

Still, there is so much to like in this book, as Wood and Kelly chronicle the lives of these girls, and slowly reveal more about them.  We learn what's up with Merissa's crazy brother, and Lona, the stalker, introduces her boyfriend from Vancouver, who finally calls her out on her stalking madness.  Riley, who is pretty much the main character,  comes out pretty badly in this issue, as she starts sleeping with her sister's boyfriend, even as she loses any doubts that he's an absolute creep.

This is an interesting book.

Feeding Ground #4

Written by Swifty Lang
Art by Michael Lapinski

This continues to be a pretty cool comic, as the main characters continue their trek across the border to America, and deal with the strange transformation that their daughter has undergone.  They are detected by the Border Patrol just as a group of werewolves attack, and things get chaotic fast.

And therein lies the book's main problem.  Lapinski's art, which is very good for establishing shots and dialogue scenes, quickly becomes hard to follow in some of the action sequences, and at times, it's not clear at all who is doing what.  Add to that the anonymity of the Border Patrol guys (one of whom seems to waffle in personality), and the whole fight scene, which is a major part of the book, comes off as a bit of a mess.

There's still a lot of reasons to support this book though.  There aren't many horror comics that also interact with social issues.  That, and the fact that this entire issue is printed in Spanish on the flip side, could bring some new readers to the medium.

American Vampire #12

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Danijel Zezelj

How do you take a comic that I'm already enjoying a great amount and make it even better?  You stick Danijel Zezelj on for a one-off issue, that's how.  I love Zezelj's work (and can never understand why he hasn't been given more high-profile work), so this issue is a real treat for me.

The story is set between the events of Stephen King's and Snyder's stories in the first arc, as the book's resident bad ass Skinner Sweets visits a Wild West show in 1919, and discovers that his apprehension by Book is dramatized, and that his old girlfriend is in the show.  This leads to a lot of reminiscing on Sweet's part, and the passing of a few more legends from the Wild West.

Snyder uses this issue to help flesh out Sweets a little more, and to comment on how, even by 1919, he is a man cut off from his time period, as America embraced the twentieth century.  This is the perfect type of issue to use Zezelj on, and the book looks great.

Turf #4

Written by Jonathan Ross
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

Regardless of how late it may be, this is one book that just keeps getting better with each new issue.  From the beginning, Edwards's artwork has been wonderful (one would expect nothing less), but Ross's writing was a little rough at the start, and has only improved with each new installment.

Almost this whole chapter is devoted to lining up the various interested parties in this sprawling gangster/vampire/alien Depression-era turf war, so that the next issue can wrap up the various sub-plots and character arcs properly.  Ross has managed to compress a lot in this series, and this issue in particular.  It would be easy, with so many characters running around, to spend the issue simply moving chess pieces around on the board, but he works in some nice character development, like at the end of the book when Susie, the reporter who has gotten involved in events, takes a moment to phone her mother to say good-bye, knowing that her chances of surviving are not good.

I'm very interested in seeing if Ross can pull off an ending that can be as good as the middle of this series has been.  I also hope that the book comes out sooner rather than later...

Superior Showcase #1-3

by Nick Bertozzi, Mike Dawson, Dean Trippe, John Campbell, Maris Wicks, Joey Weiser, Farel Dalrymple, Jim Rugg, Brian Maruca, Laura Park, and Dustin Harbin

So, here's the thing with a lot of independent cartoonists who have 'indy cred' in certain circles:  they just want to write regular superhero comics.  With a couple exceptions, these are pretty much just normal superhero stories, and don't do much to say anything new or unique about the genre.

The perfect example is the brilliant Farel Dalrymple's story about Hollis, an overweight Batman-type.  If you read this as a Batman story, it would not be even the slightest bit different from how it appears here.  I'm not sure what, aside from Dalrymple's wonderful art, makes things indy.  I'm also not sure why I'm bothered by this, though.  I think I just feel like complaining a little today.

So, to focus on what I liked in this three-issue mini-series.  In the first issue, there is an Ace-Face story that I'd already read by Dawson, and a cute enough Robin-esque story by Trippe.  The second issue had that Dalrymple story, and really, that was about it.

The third issue is by far the stand-out, starting with a cool Street Angel story by Rugg and Maruca.  Street Angel is a cool comic general.  This story has her dealing with a Japanese monster movie creature in a ninja hospital.  It's always fun when she's around...

The best story in this whole series though comes from Laura Park, an artist I am completely unfamiliar with.  Her quiet little piece about young siblings who appear to be raising themselves is understated, evocative, and just about perfect.  It is a very sweet story, and it makes me want to learn more about Park and see more of her work.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seedless Vol. 1

by Corey Lewis

I really want to like Corey Lewis's work.  Glancing at his output, in books like Peng! and Sharknife, he would seem to be a frenetic, hyperactive comrade in arms of people like Brandon Graham and James Stokoe (whose King City and Orc Stain, respectively, are pure genius).  The problem is, he doesn't seem to be able to pull off the interesting plotting and visual thrills that the other two produce on a regular basis.

Instead, his work comes off as simply trying too hard, and emotionally flat (not to mention frequently hard to follow).  So, if that's my opinion, why give him another chance with Seedless, his collected web comic about sentient grapes?  After having read it, I have no idea.  I also have no idea who the audience for this book is supposed to be.  I think maybe it's a kids' comic, but I'm not sure that any of them would like it all that much either.

The story, such as it is, revolves around some seedless grapes.  One of them, named Crazy, is trying to destroy or take over the grape world, and for some reason has journeyed to Earth.  Three other seedless grapes (Crazy can take control of the minds of grapes with seeds) named Dash, Pulse, and Funky (seriously), have come to Earth to stop him, using mechanized Robo-Stomp things.  Oh, and for some reason they are hanging out in the kitchen of a half-android human girl who has an older lesbian stalker (but it's not creepy).

This comic is just about as awful as you can get.  Plot devices are introduced at random, and the dialogue is as bad as the character names.  Apparently this project was designed when Lewis was only twelve, and I suppose if he had drawn it at that time, I'd be a little impressed by everything but the plotting, but as it stands?  No.

Since I like to try to extenuate the positive in my reviews, I will say that there is a very nice pin-up by Brandon Graham in here.  Yah, that's as upbeat as I can get...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Homeless in Sacremento

by William T. Vollmann

In this lengthy article, Vollmann addresses, as only Vollmann can, the issue of homelessness in America today.  He starts the article by discussing the problems he has had with people choosing to camp in the parking lot adjoining his home.  Being William Vollmann, and therefore a soul of heart-breaking gentleness and need for approval, he is reluctant to run these people off his property, or erect barriers to make it harder for them to camp.  Instead, he puts up with having to wash excrement off his doorstep, and the occasional act of minor vandalism, not to mention the threatening presence of the authorities.

From here, Vollmann begins to examine the Safe Ground movement; a concept whereby groups of homeless set up orderly, safe camps in national parks or out of the way places where they hope to remain undisturbed by the authorities.  Again, in typical Vollmann fashion, instead of simply visiting these places, he makes a habit of camping in them, living and eating with the inhabitants on a sporadic basis over many months.

Through his experience, we are given a window on a group of people who defy the usual image of the homeless.  These are not depraved, insane individuals (but for the very rare exception), but are instead people who have slowly found themselves in this unfortunate situation.  There is no pointing of fingers; I expected at least one diatribe against sub-prime mortgages, or the other typical evils of American finance, but this is nowhere in evidence in this article.

What there is, instead, is an abundance of beauty.  Vollmann portrays people at their kindest, and takes pains to also paint a portrait of the natural beauty with which they surround themselves.  There are a few typical Vollmannesque diversions, such as his discussion of the nature of dogs, and how homelessness brings out the best in them, but for the most part, this is a more restrained (and perhaps space-conscious) Vollmann than I'm used to reading.

I believe that much of the first half of this article appeared in his book Poor People, but I enjoyed reading it again, especially in the context of the latter part of the article that deals with Safe Ground.  In all, this is a balanced piece of reporting, that does not pretend to have any solutions for the problem of homelessness.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Content #1

by Gia-Bao Tran

I pulled this gem out of a bargain box, and was interested by Tran's linework, which reminded me a little of Dave McKean's Cages.

The story is about Elin Ohmart, a young man who participates in a psychological experiment involving his dreams.  He's not entirely sure what the purpose of the experiment is, and mostly is there to talk to the pretty woman who is running things.  When he drifts into his dreams though, Elin finds himself talking to his younger self, and their conversation effects some change in Elin's memories.  In short, he realizes that he can change his past, and so he insists on being able to return to the experiment again and again.

Tran paces the story very well, as we see Elin become both more and more obsessed, but also happier than he has been in some time, as he starts a relationship with Stef, the woman conducting the experiments.  It is Elin's insistence that he correct the problems of his past that threaten the happiness he's now found in the present.

Before I read this, I was interested in checking out Tran's new book Vietnamerica; now I really want to read it.

The Apostate

by Lawrence Wright

This has to be one of the best articles I've read in the New Yorker in months.  Lawrence Wright, in twenty-six full pages, thoroughly examines Scientology.  The article is centred on Paul Haggis, a filmmaker who has recently decided to leave the church after some thirty-four years in the organization.

Wright does not limit his reporting to Haggis's story though.  Instead, he digs into the history of the religion, the myths surrounding its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and layer upon layer of hypocrisy and deception.

Again and again, we read stories of Scientologists being assaulted by David Miscavige, the head of the organization.  We also learn about people held in confinement for years on the Gold Base, the headquarters of the Sea Org, the militant branch of the faith (where teenagers sign billion-year contracts to work for slave wages).

Much of what Wright reveals about Scientology is deeply bizarre, even to someone who has seen the episode of South Park where Scientology is eviscerated.  The intergalactic cosmology of the faith is ridiculous, but even stranger is the willingness of educated, talented people, to buy in to this stuff.  At the same time though, Wright makes some of the tenets of the faith, such as the way people can apply Scientology to disagreements and debates, fully credible.

I'm sure that the New Yorker is going to receive a lot of flack from the Church for printing this article, but I feel that in addition to being a stunning piece of reportage, it is important to expose this 'faith' for the cult that it is.

Strange Science Fantasy #1-6

by Scott Morse, with Paul Pope

Somehow this series stayed completely below my radar until I saw the last issue.  Luckily, I was able to get the whole set during a sale at my comics store, as this is one very cool comic.

Basically, Morse is playing around with pulpy strange science stories, with each issue telling a done-in-one story (except for the last issue, which manages to bring all the different issues together).  We get characters like The Headlight, who leads a rebel group of Gearheads, the Shogunaut, G.I Gantic (a soldier who can grow to great heights), and Rusty Irons, a boxer who becomes a Plastic Man knock-off.  My favourite issue is the third, which features the Projectionist, a man with an old reel-to-reel movie projector as a head.

Morse has structured each page with three horizontal panels, with narration written between them.  He is definitely going for a wide-screen look, as his panels are as frenetic and bombastic as his writing.  The art is a cross between Darwyn Cooke and Frank Espinosa, while the writing feels like it may have been written by Stan Lee after a three-day binge on cocaine and poppers.

Each issue also contains a one-page back-up story by Paul Pope, which is in itself very cool.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cyclops #4

Written by Matz
Art by Luc Jacamon

This series feels a little predictable, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless.  Our man Pistoia, who has become the central star of an independent military reality show is becoming ever more suspicious of his corporate masters, but is at the same time becoming ever more complicit in their shady dealings.

He's beginning to question the purpose of the secret mission he was sent on a couple of issues back, especially in light of Multicorps' winning of another UN contract in Argentina (although his assertion that he speaks neither Turkish nor Spanish rings pretty false, as everyone knows a little Spanish).  While this is going on, he's being systematically seduced by a Multicorps press agent, and generally set up for blackmail.

Like I said, there's nothing particularly original or groundbreaking about this book, but the story is being told very well by Matz and Jacamon's work looks great.

Fables #102

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha

I thought this issue was going to continue to look at Blufkin the former flying monkey's adventures in the Greater Oz Area, but apparently not.  Instead, we spend most of the issue in Haven, where it's "six months later", conveniently helping us to avoid all the settling in of the various Fables (farm and country) that had to flee to Flycatcher's land after the events of issue 100.

This issue opens with Bigby being recalled to Haven from some mission to take part in the community's planned attack on Mr. Dark.  It would seem that Ozma is putting together a squad of people who have no fear, and Pinocchio has convinced her to model it after traditional superhero teams (complete with costumes).  He's even taken to rolling around in a wheelchair, to complete the Professor X/Niles Caulder role.

This is a pretty good issue, as it brings readers back up to speed with everything that's been going on, and demonstrates quite credibly why Mr. Dark is a current threat, and not something that can be ignored until later.  I like the way that Willingham is poking fun at superhero books, but maintaining his usual feel for this series.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DMZ #62

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

After a few months of flashbacks and one-off issues, Wood has brought us back to the current situation in Manhattan, as the United States Army enters the city in large numbers.  They have finished their massive bombing campaign, and are now making their way through the city with the goal of taking control of it, and then coordinating their entry into Free States territory.

Matty Roth, the usual main character of this series, is traveling with them in his new role as embedded journalist.  Matty's been used by Liberty News and the army before, but he agrees that an independent, impartial record of the invasion needs to be kept, and that he is probably the only person able to do the job.  It's amusing that for most of the issue, the soldiers don't attempt to make use of Matty's superior knowledge of the territory, and he doesn't volunteer it.

This series has been about Matty's growth more than anything.  Here, he reflects on the attitudes and actions of the soldiers entering the DMZ for the first time, and recognizes in them his own earlier self.  What remains to be seen is how Matty will leave this particular part of his journey, especially after an old, familiar face shows up towards the end of the issue.

I feel like, as the series nears its end, Wood is finally able to put into play some things he's been planning for a long time, and that makes this series exciting again.  It's very nice to see regular artist Burchielli back on the book, as he's been gone for a little while now.

Wet Moon Book 2: Unseen Feet

by Ross Campbell

I'm a little surprised by just how absorbed I found myself in the second volume of Campbell's bizarre punk college girl series.  I liked the first volume, and love Campbell's art, but found, with this volume, that I didn't want to put the book down, and stayed up way too late to finish it off (I only wish I had the next three volumes handy).

This book picks up right where the last one left off.  Cleo and her friends are working their way through their various minor dramas, and just generally getting by and living their college life.  Cleo becomes close to Myrtle, the girl she literally ran in to in the last book, although some questions are being raised as to the nature of their friendship.  Trilby gets closer to her boyfriend, roommates eat peoples' food, and so on.  In a lot of ways, this is New York Four set in the south, populated with chunky girls with ambivalent sexuality (except that it came first).

What makes this book so charming and beguiling is the strength of Campbell's characterizations and artwork.  He does such a good job of conveying Cleo and the others through their physicality and facial expressions, that it is obvious what they are thinking at different moments.  There are some truly bizarre choices made in this book, like when a random cat plays with its food in its bowl, for no apparent reason, but scenes like this only add to my enjoyment of the series.

I don't see this as the type of book to have a wide readership, but at the same time, I think it deserves a lot more attention than it has received.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wondermark Vol. 2: Clever Tricks to Stave Off Death

by David Malki

Having become mildly obsessed with Malki's Wondermark site, and having thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of Dark Horse's collections of the strips, I eagerly enjoyed this second volume

Malki, for those unfamiliar with his approach, takes old Victorian images and repurposes them to create newspaper-style comics strips, with a decidedly contemporary outlook.  Much of the visual humour in the series comes from seeing people in petticoats and top hats discussing the Internet or modern celebrities.

Malki's sense of humour is very strange, but always funny.  I felt that this volume is much more consistent than the first, which often seemed to feature strips that ended, rather than concluded.  You can trace his growth as an artist in this book, especially when he includes a few out-take strips that were never published on-line (because they aren't good).

This book also includes Ransom!, his first long-form comics story told in this style (originally published in a volume of Myspace Dark Horse Presents).  Personally, I didn't enjoy this story too much, as I felt like it was pretty forced (until the ending, which redeems it).

Overall though, this is a very funny book.  Check out the website, and then do yourself a favour and give this a try.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stupid Comics #1

by Jim Mahfood

I feel like I really need to track down more of Jim Mahfood's work.  I've read the Phoenix Edition of his Stupid Comics, basically a collection of a strip he did for an independent paper, and I read his Grrrl Scouts, but this is the first I've read of this series, which looks like it lasted three issues, spread over a number of years.

Anyway, this issue is made up of a number of one-page strips, with a couple lasting two pages.  Mahfood is a comics creator after my own heart - he listens to hip-hop, funk, and afrobeat music, and writes about jazz, the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, Catholicism, celebrity worship, technology obsessions, and gender relations.  He takes street kids to task for being boring, but also rails against hipster 'loop diggas'.

His pages are crammed full of his angry comics goodness, making this single issue a lengthy, complicated read.  I'm not sure what he's been up to lately, but I feel like I need to find out.