Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hell Lost

by James Turner

I've become a big fan of James Turner's work over the last few years, having first read Rex Libris, and then moving on to his other books, Nil, and Warlords of Io.  In each book, Turner has displayed a penchant for creating complicated bureaucracies and amusing characters.

This time around, he's turning his satirical eye towards Hell.  This book, which I picked up at TCAF, comprises the first chapter of a new story, although I have no idea when or how the rest of it will be made available.  This is just a teaser, introducing characters and setting, and giving the reader just enough that he or she will want more.

The main character is Balthazar, a fallen angel who has just been released from "spiritual rehabilitation", and tasked with fighting Archduke Baal.  We meet Balthazar, his pet dragon, his parents, and various other denizens of Hell.  Because this is a James Turner comic, we also get an exhaustive history of Hell, and a very detailed map.

This is a fun comic, although all it's done for me is make me want to read the rest of the story.

'68 #2

Written by Mark Kidwell
Art by Nat Jones and Tim Vigil

This mash-up of war and zombie comics is really working well for me.  Kidwell continues to introduce and develop characters, such as the CIA agent Declan Rule, while establishing that the zombie phenomenon that our soldier protagonists is experiencing is happening across Vietnam.

Reading this, I had the thought that this comic is taking place in the same year that Night of the Living Dead was released, which explains why none of the characters are able to figure out what is going on exactly, and why the z-word hasn't been used yet in this comic.

The main story jumps around some, introducing Rule, and also checking in on Yam, the Chinese-American soldier we met last month.  Yam has to decide whether or not he wants to rescue the sergeant that has been making his life miserable.  Meanwhile, back at Firebase Aries, the brass is figuring out what to do about the zombies.

Like the first issue, there is a back-up story set elsewhere in Vietnam, showing another aspect of the outbreak, this time in a comfort woman like enclosure.  In all, there's some good stuff going on with these comics.

The Mission #4

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

I'm really enjoying this title.  The Hoebers are making very good use of the single issue story to build upon a larger storyline, and are very slowly portioning out some information, leaving the reader to guess and puzzle together what is going on.

In The Mission, a man named Paul has been contacted by a man (or perhaps angel?) named Gabriel.  For the second time now, Gabriel has given Paul a mission, without explaining why he needs to do it, or what the greater purpose is.  The first time out, he commanded Paul to kill someone.  This time, it's a much simpler task - Paul is to steal a carved ivory box from a small town museum.

The problem with this whole set up is that there is another side to whatever war Paul is fighting, and as he tries to complete his mission, he begins to run into the people from that other side.  Really, reading through this issue, I'm beginning to wonder if there is anyone who isn't a part of this great war.

I like the way the Hoebers are keeping Paul, and by extension, the reader, in a state of confusion.  I'm curious to see where this title is headed, and how long Paul is going to be able to keep his activities a secret from his wife.  Dell'Edera's doing a fine job on the art, and the writing is pretty sharp.

The Walking Dead #85 / Witch Doctor #0

Written by Robert Kirkman and Brandon Siefert
Art by Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn, and Lukas Ketner

One of the things that has always appealed to me about 'end of the world' stories has been the actual mechanics of putting life back together.  The difficulties of rebuilding and reconstructing day-to-day comforts and routines would be massive.  Kirkman, in his long-running zombie comic, has addressed these issues a few times, like when Rick and his group moved into the prison a few years back, but now that the decision has been made to stay in the community where they've been living, and to improve upon it after their recent troubles, this is what's taken centre-stage.

There's a terrific scene where Rick meets with some of his friends, and the leaders of the community, to talk about methods that can be used to improve their safety, preparedness, and quality of life.  It's a cool scene, as so many people have good suggestions.  Previously, this comic was about survival; now it's beginning to become about rebuilding, and I'm looking forward to seeing these themes explored.

Of course, everyone is still recovering from the events of the last few issues.  Rick is in an especially dark place, for reasons I still don't want to spoil.  Leave it to Kirkman to end the book with such an ambiguous scene, which has me worried about a certain character that I like very much, all over again.

On the flip-side of this book is the 0 issue for Witch Doctor, a new series being published next month by Kirkman's Image imprint, Skybound.  The previews I saw of this title didn't interest me, but reading this whole issue did.

The Witch Doctor is a man studying the mystical from a medical standpoint.  In this issue, he and his assistants (one of whom is X-23?) medically examine a vampire.  In this world, vampires are parasitic creatures, like the Goa'uld of Stargate fame crossed with the Aliens from Aliens.  The way in which this investigation is conducted is interesting, and the art in this book, with it's attention to detail like stained glass hypodermic needles, is excellent.  I'm afraid I may have to buy the first issue when it comes out...

Xombi #3

Written by John Rozum
Art by Frazer Irving

Xombi has become my favourite DC Universe comic, and could be my favourite superhero monthly.  John Rozum and Frazer Irving are doing an incredible job with this book, and while I'm not surprised, I am saddened that this title is not getting more acclaim.

I don't know anything about this character's previous run with the Milestone imprint, except that it was also written by Rozum, and doesn't appear to have ever been collected.  I gave this new series a try based solely on the strength of Frazer Irving's artwork, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing.

In this first arc, David Kim, the Xombi, has been called in to investigate the escape of a prisoner from a prison comprised of a miniaturized subdivision, run by an interfaith coalition of jailers.  Aiding him are Catholic Girl, and a pair of superpowered nuns named Nun of the Above and Nun the Less.  As the story unfolds, David and his friends, along with a couple of golem and a creature made up of the souls of wasps that have died on windowsills have to fight Marantha, a lion-like wrath of god creature.

There's more going on than this, but hopefully you can get the picture - this comic is crazy good.  In some ways, this book reminds me of Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol, but it has more of a heart to it than that legendary series.  Amid all the action of this issue, Rozum treats us to a monologue on living given by a ghost, and uses a few pages to set up his villain, Roland Finch, as very smart man who only makes mistakes by design.

Wonderful writing, beautiful art.  Please, go buy this book; I fear it's too good to survive in today's comic market unless people start to get the word out.

American Splendor: Another Day

Written by Harvey Pekar
Art by Ho Che Anderson, Zachary Baldus, Hilary Barta, Greg Budgett, Gary Dumm, Eddie Campbell, Richard Corben, Hunt Emerson, Bob Fingerman, Rick Geary, Dean Haspiel, Gibert Hernandez, Leonardo Manco, Josh Neufeld, Chris Samnee, Ty Templeton, Steve Vance, Chris Weston, and Chandler Wood

This is the first that I've read any of the late Harvey Pekar's autobiographical comics series American Splendor, and I was surprised by two things.  The first is the caliber of artist involved in this anthology project.  Look over the list above - there are some incredible artists contributing here.  What I enjoyed most about that is seeing the different ways in which they draw Harvey.  He's always recognizable, but each artist plays with his image subtly, emphasizing different aspects of his personality or appearance.  I think Richard Corben's take on him was the furthest from the mark, but it was still very cool to see how he went about it.  I love Chris Weston's contribution, and am always up for some Ty Templeton.

The second thing that surprised me was the utter aimlessness of the writing.  I expected that Pekar's stories would be small, slice of life things, built around the struggles of everyday life.  What I didn't expect was that they would be so dull in their depiction of the quotidian.  A typical story in this collection has Harvey get up in the morning, go to the bank, and then go to the pharmacy to get his prescription filled.  When it isn't ready, he has to go to the HMO.  End of story.  There is no observation about life, or lesson learned; that's just it.

Another good example has him call over the neighbour to help him fix the toilet.  Then he feels gratitude.  That's it.  There's another toilet-fixing story earlier in the book, but at least in that one, we can revel in Harvey's victory.  Better stories involve conflict with his foster daughter, and there is one in which he remembers hurting a friend as a child.  These fit better into the autobiographical mode.  I know that the minute attention to boring detail was Pekar's thing; it just doesn't make for compelling reading.  Thankfully, the art is really good.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Skullkickers #7

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang

I'm still more than a little surprised that I'm enjoying this comic as much as I am.  I don't usually go in for lighthearted sword and sorcery comics - it's just not my cup of tea - but Jim Zubkavich has constructed this book in such a way that I'm really enjoying it.

This issue marks the return of the series after a short hiatus, and starts the new arc, 'Five Funerals & a Bucket of Blood'.  Our heroes, who actually, finally, get named in this issue, are being taken to the capital city to be feted in their new roles as 'Heroes of Mudwich', after they saved the town from a monster in the first arc.

As is to be expected with these two characters, trouble is not far behind, and they quickly find themselves being ambushed while having dinner with a bunch of noblemen.  It's not much of a surprise when they get blamed for what happened, and have to go on the run once again.  The character work in this comic is excellent, and the dialogue between the two is often very funny.  I like Huang's artwork, which is starting to remind me of Leave It To Chance-era Paul Smith, were that book more influenced by manga.

This is a fun title.  If you haven't been reading it, this issue is a great place to pick it up and give it a try.  Plus, the trade is only $10, so you should get that too...

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #3

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Mike Huddleston

The last issue left me a little unsure about this series, but with this one, I'm back on board whole-heartedly.  Casey really find a balance this month between his principle characters - Butcher Baker (who is maybe not all that interesting except as a walking, talking plot device), Arnie B. Willard, the walking cliche of a small town cop that is chasing Butcher, and the super villains who are looking for revenge.

I think the most interesting character in this comic is Jihad Jones, who in this issue, breaks into Butcher's home/headquarters, and does some pretty nasty stuff.  He's got that wise psycho thing going for him, and its interesting to see how the other, more bumbling villains relate to him.

Willard is another great character, in his homespun aggression and blissful embrace of trashiness.  And that, of course, is the central concept of this comic as a whole - the embrace of trashiness.  Casey admits as much in his essay this month, which compares comics to junk food.  What makes this comic work is its self-knowledge, as Casey tries to outdo himself with wackiness and trash, while maintaining a structurally sound exploration of superheroes.

I don't think this comic would work without Mike Huddleston.  He employs a few different styles and art techniques while drawing this comic, and this helps keep things fresh and interesting on every page.

The Tattered Man

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Norberto Fernandez

I'm not ever quite sure how I feel about the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.  I find their Jonah Hex to be wildly inconsistent, but often good.  Their superhero books, like the Freedom Fighters, have been disappointing, but their independent work, like The Last Resort and Random Acts of Violence have been brilliant.  I also enjoyed their Time Bomb at Radical.

So, when I saw this forty-page graphic novel being solicited, I thought it was a no-brainer.  It's okay, but it's not great.  Basically, the writers use this book to revisit the DC character of the Ragman, and re-write him into a slightly grimmer character.  That's about it.

Of course, both the Ragman and the Tattered Man of this book have their origins in Jewish mythology.  In this book, an old man is assaulted by a trio of costumed junkie thieves on Hallowe'en, and while ransacking his home, come across a box of rags.  They ask him about them, and he proceeds to tell a lengthy story about his experiences as a child Holocaust survivor.  Then some stuff happens, and the rags are re-awoken to bring justice.  At that point, this book basically becomes an issue of the Spectre.

I'm not sure why these two writers felt the need to tell this story.  To read the back matter, both of them are incredibly proud of the originality of this book.  The thing is, there isn't any.  I don't see a single new idea or approach in this comic, and so I'm puzzled by this self-congratulation.  Fernandez does a good enough job on the art.  This isn't a bad comic, it's just not a special one.  I hope that the forthcoming one-shots written by these guys that I've pre-ordered are better.

American Vampire #15

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

It's becoming hard to find new ways to praise this comic, as it is so consistently impressive.  We're in the middle of an arc (always the hardest time to review a comic) set during the Second World War.  Henry has traveled to Taipan with a squad of vampire hunters which is now under attack from a group of local vampires that are faster and more vicious than any type they've ever seen before.

They learn that the Japanese have built something strange on the island, but the locals don't know what it is - only that it's horrible.  What Henry and his compatriots don't know though, is that Skinner Sweet is with them, posing as a normal American soldier.  While all this is going on, Pearl is rushing to Taipan to try to alert Henry of Skinner's presence.

This issue flew past pretty quickly, but was still very satisfying.  As with every issue he's done on this book, Albuquerque's work is amazing.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Strange Adventures #1

Written by Selwyn Hinds, Talia Hershewe, Peter Milligan, Lauren Beukes, Jeff Lemire, Ross Campbell, Kevin Colden, Paul Cornell, and Brian Azzarello
Art by Denys Cowan, Juan Bobillo, Sylvain Savoia, Inaki Miranda, Jeff Lemire, Ross Campbell, Kevin Colden, Goran Sudzuka, and Eduardo Risso

I wish that Vertigo did this type of thing more often.  This is a 75-page anthology of science-fiction themed short stories, by a nice blend of Vertigo all-stars (Azzarello, Risso, Milligan, Denys Cowan!), new comics royalty (Campbell, Lemire, Cornell, Miranda), and some up-and-comers who show that they deserve more of a spotlight.

The stories are pretty varied in their style and delivery, ranging from social commentary sci-fi through dystopian, and stopping off at alien abduction and weird alien space hero.  As with any project like this, not every story will work for every reader, but some of these stories were fantastic.

I think the Milligan/Savoia story about imaginary friends may be my absolute favourite.  It's not exactly science fiction, but it fits with the tone of this anthology quite nicely.  A pair of friends are no longer sure which of them is real and which is imaginary, and they go to great lengths to prevent finding out.

Beukes and Miranda have an interesting story about consciousness sharing and the Brazilian favelas, which is beautifully illustrated.  Jeff Lemire resurrects Ultra the Multi-Alien in a bizarre, nostalgia-twinged tale.  Cornell and Sudzuka (now there's an artist I've missed) give us a cool story about a writer who experiences alien abductions.

Surprisingly, Ross Campbell's story didn't work for me.  I love his work normally, but just like his recent story in an issue of Marc Guggenheim's Resurrection, this tale didn't actually end, and was therefore disappointing.  Likewise, I found Kevin Colden's story about genetically engineered creatures as disturbing as it was wordy.

Most of the attention this book draws will be focused on The Spaceman, the introduction to a new character by Azzarello and Risso.  As usual, Risso's work is brilliant, but I'm not sure I liked Azzarello's writing.  I hate stories that rely on a lot of 'future slang', so I was quickly turned off this.  Still, I'm going to be giving their new series a try whenever it comes out.  I learned my lesson by not jumping on 100 Bullets very quickly.

In all, this is a great anthology, even if DC ruined a lovely Paul Pope cover by putting a ridiculous Green Lantern banner across the top (purposely not pictured here).

Kill Shakespeare #11

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

We're getting very close to the conclusion of this remarkable series, but it seems like most of the big story moments that readers have been waiting for occurred in this issue, leaving the last chapter for final confrontations and wrapping up.  In this issue, we see Romeo and Juliet reunite, just after Will Shakespeare finally reunites with his children.

And that is where this issue is at its most interesting.  Shakespeare has been established in this series as a god, having created his 'prodigals', and then having abandoned them to the detrimental effects of free choice.  He likens himself to a father who has abandoned his children, and it falls to Hamlet (no stranger to daddy issues, him) to set him straight.  With this issue, it becomes clear that Del Col and McCreery have a lot more to say than just writing "Fables with Shakespeare characters", which is how I saw this title when it started.  Instead, they are commenting on the nature of religion and higher powers, and the role that these things play for the common man.

Belanger continues to show remarkable growth, filling most of the book with terrific double-page layouts.  This book ends on three different cliffhangers, and I look forward to reading the conclusion.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Star Wars Legacy: War #6

Written by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema
Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons

I've been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember, but since I was fourteen, I found it to be a guilty pleasure, tempered by my acknowledgment of the corniness and sheer hack-ery of George Lucas's stories.  What I've always loved most about Star Wars was the potential to tell fantastic, sweeping stories on a grand scale.  That each of the movies (Empire Strikes Back least of all) fails in this has always bothered me, and I've tended to avoid the novels and comics that the franchise has produced.

And then I heard about John Ostrander and Jan Duursema's Star Wars Legacy, and decided to give the first trade a try.  This is what Star Wars should have been.  The Legacy book, which lasted for fifty issues before being wrapped up with this six-issue mini-series, is set while after the closing of Lucas's stories.  It has a Skywalker, Cade, who is a roguish pirate, unsure of his connection to the Force.  It has a universe that is suffering under the grip of Darth Krayt and his vision of the One Sith.  Krayt is opposed by Roan Fel, who claims to be the true Emperor, and by Gar Stazi, the last free admiral of the Alliance.

The series was as sweeping as Star Wars should be, and Ostrander took the time to develop a number of characters, each with their own sense of a story arc.  This book delved into politics, and the usual Star Wars theme of good versus evil.  Best of all, this series was completely lacking in cutesy alien races and animals, and only had one droid, who got next to no screen time.  Like I have said before, it was Star Wars done right.

This issue, which wraps up the entire series, brings every sub-plot (except the Mandalorian one) to a fitting close.  Characters act according to their own internal logic, and the end of the book feels very satisfactory.  John Ostrander is a giant among comics writers, and it's great to see him still putting out such good work.  As always, Jan Duursema does a wonderful job working with Ostrander.  The two of them are apparently working on a new Star Wars title; I can only hope it will be as good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


by David Collier

Chimo is an autobiographical graphic novel from David Collier, who decided, in his early 40s, to re-join the Canadian military, with the goal of traveling to Afghanistan.  Collier was in the army as a young man, and achieved his first brush with success as a cartoonist during that time.

Now, married with a child, he wants to be involved in the Canadian Forces Artists Program, a successor to the glorious Canadian War Artist Programs of the first and second World Wars.  In its original form, the Canadian War Records, under the control of Lord Beaverbrook, sent Canada's best artists (including the various members of the Group of Seven) into the trenches and along the front lines to paint what they saw.  This led to some incredible artwork.

The participants in the modern iteration of this program are not actual soldiers, and therefore are restricted, for insurance reasons, from going anywhere that is actually dangerous.  In order to get to Afghanistan, Collier re-enlisted, and almost immediately blew out his knee in a training exercise.

The bulk of this book is about a man fighting against time, and striving to live life on his own terms, albeit within a highly structured and regimented environment.  The text digresses all over the place, as we learn about the history of skipping rope, and the life story of Jackrabbit Johannsen, Collier's childhood hero and pioneer of cross-country skiing.

I found the book to be very readable, and worked my way through it quicker than I expected.  That no part of this book ever took place in Afghanistan was not the disappointment I would have anticipated it to be.  Good stuff.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wholphin No. 5

Edited by Brent Hoff

I've basically given up on movies, but Wholphin gives me so much hope for the genre of short films and documentaries.  Maybe I'm just losing all vestiges of an attention span for visual media, which makes sense since we're kind of heading that way as a culture, or maybe it's just that the selection process for these DVD magazines are just that good...

Anyway, issue five has some great stuff in it.  'Death to the Tinman' is a fantastic short about a man who keeps losing body parts, to get them replaced by a mad scientist friend.  This plays havoc on his relationship, especially when his soul- and mind-less body gets reattached as a meat puppet, and his girlfriend decides she prefers its company.

The highpoint of the disc is 'House Hunting' a short film based on a Michael Chabon short story, concerning a young couple who are shopping for their first home, and unstable real estate agent that is showing them around (played brilliantly by the guy who played McManus in Oz).

On the documentary side, there is 'One Day With the SLA', showing what life is like among the Sudan Liberation Army in Darfur.  'Drunk Bees' is about just what it sounds like, and 'Piece by Piece' profiles championship Rubik's Cube players.

'American Outrage' and 'Chonto' were on the Best Of disc I've already watched.  This disc also has two creepy videos - 'Madame Tutli-Putli', an animated short, and 'Echos Der Buchrucken', which is a very disturbing science fiction/surrealist short.

The DVD menu videos include a guy throwing a balsa-wood plane off a cliff, a film of a drum set getting shot to hell by two men with guns (I love the sound when you shoot a cymbal), and a video showing the ability of the man who invented the right-click mouse to hang on to the side of a tree using one arm and one leg.

Good stuff, all around.

Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!

Seminar: Aesthetic Expressions of Psychedelic Funk Music in India 1970-1983

As a general rule, I try to stay away from Bollywood music.  I have been increasingly intrigued by a lot of psychedelic funk music from other parts of the world though, so thought that maybe this collection of twenty tracks from the sub-continent would be worth checking out.  I wasn't completely sold however, until I realized that the ninth track, 'Dharmatma Theme Music' by Kalyanji Anandji is the basis for the classic Jaylib song 'Champion Sound'.

That piece is the best on the disc, perhaps for its familiarity, but the rest of this cd has really grown on me.  Tracks like Asha Bhosle and RD Burman's 'Dum Maro Dum Live' and Atomic Forest's reworking of Deep Purple's 'Mary Long' have become favourites, and there are blissfully few tracks with that piercing, high-pitched female voice I always think of when I think of Indian music.

I won't likely be returning to this particular well again any time soon, but I have been enjoying this disc.  Like all compilations of this kind, the liner notes are exhaustive, and are written in the form of a course syllabus, which is kind of amusing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Sickness in the Family

Written by Denise Mina
Art by Antonio Fuso

This is one Vertigo Crime book that ended up being pretty creepy.  In A Sickness in the Family, a British family of means disintegrates utterly and completely.  The Usher family (a little heavy-handed with the naming) is full of the simmering resentments that most families have, and just about everyone in the family has a secret, but as the book opens during Christmas dinner, they are more or less functioning.  Sure, the parents are in counseling for the wife's extra-marital affairs, the daughter is unhappy that her father isn't funding her business venture, and the older brother is hiding a pretty big secret.  The youngest son is adopted, and has not ever been fully welcomed by the whole family.  The aging grandmother is mellowing nicely, but everyone else remembers what a terror she used to be.

During this dinner, the couple that lives downstairs get into a massive fight that culminates in both their deaths.  After that, the father decides to open a huge hole in the middle of his house to build a staircase to the recently acquired ground floor, and things start to go weird.  One by one, the members of the Usher family meet accidents and have their secrets revealed, as the dwindling number of survivors turn on each other.  There may be a supernatural element to what's going on, or the explanation may be more pedestrian than that.

Mina does a great job of ratcheting up the tension with each new chapter, and as the list of suspects shrinks, everyone begins to look more and more guilty.  The story is told through the perspective of the adopted teenage son, who is pretty much the only nice person in the comic.  Fuso's art is serviceable, but doesn't really stand out.  Still, this is a pretty impressive piece of work from an imprint of an imprint that keeps improving.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Drums #1

Written by El Torres
Art by Abe Hernando and Kwaichang Kraneo

I've only had a passing interest in some of the Caribbean and South American religions that have been easily demonized in the modern media - Voodoo, Santeria, and others, but have recognized their effectiveness in horror stories for a while.  I probably would have passed on this book altogether except that the cover to this issue is so good (at first glance, I thought it may have been done by Paul Pope).  Also, El Torres has written a few good comics, notably The Veil, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

This comic opens with a straight-edge FBI agent being called in to investigate a bizarre crime scene.  66 adherents of Santeria and its sister religions are found dead, but the cause of death is not apparent.  It almost seems as if they all just died instantly, and the investigation is not going very far.  Our supercop partners with a cultural anthropologist and seeks out an expert on Santeria, but not before experiencing a strange vision.

The story is intriguing, but I'm not sure if I'll be back for the next issue.  I find the art a little stiff, and the sheer volume of strange terms and explanations that I find hard to follow are kind of turning me off.  At the same time, this book has some serious potential - I'll give this issue another read, and make up my mind later.

DMZ #65

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

Parco Delgado is no Osama Bin Laden, but it's interesting to look for parallels between these two figures, given the proximity of the release of this comic to Bin Laden's death at the hands of the American military.

In this comic, Delgado became the Governor of New York through what is believed to be a rigged election.  It comes out during his trial that he was receiving money and security from the FSA, but that he had no intention of ever becoming their puppet.  He also makes it clear that he did not detonate his nuclear device at Indian Point, and that it was indeed the US Army who caused the explosion there.  Matty has proof, and decides to enter into negotiations with the US so that he can save Parco from execution, and also bring the war to an end.

Bin Laden, of course, is an Islamist fundamentalist who received training from the US during the war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, and who later used his training and connections against the US.  Parco was never meant to be an analogue of Bin Laden, but this comic and world events have often gone hand in hand, in an allegorical fashion, and the timing here is a pretty cool coincidence.

On top of these events, Matty also gets to see Zee again, meets the president, and has finally come as far as he can from being the self-absorbed loser we met when the series began.  I think there are four issues left in this series, and I'm looking forward to watching Wood wrap things up.  Next issue is a Zee solo issue, and it should be great.

The Li'l Depressed Boy #4

Written by S. Steven Struble
Art by Sina Grace

As much as I continue to find this comic to be pretty charming and sweet, I think I'm starting to need a little more from it.  Every issue so far has been about LDB trying to get attention from Jazmin, the girl he's met, and in this issue, it seems that they are getting closer and closer.

Of course, there's a twist at the end of this issue that I didn't really see coming, and clearly, neither did the LDB.  The thing is, it makes Jazmin look very bad, as she's been leading our hero on pretty badly.

The art in this book is very nice, but I find that the pace of the plot is more than a little irregular.  LDB and Jazz hang out, and go out a lot, playing laser tag, eating take out, and graffitiing abandoned car sculptures.  LDB seems to have a lot of cash available to him, which is interesting as he doesn't appear to have a job.

As much as I like this book, I would prefer it to be a lot less decompressed.  It still reminds me a lot of Scott Pilgrim, only without the density of that comic.

Fables #105

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

Willingham takes some time away from the conflict between Mister Dark and the refugees of Fabletown, now holed up in Haven, to focus on the relationship between the North Wind and Bigby Wolf.  Mr. North has come to inform his son that he must kill his grandson, Ghost, because of a promise he made ages before that all zephyrs, invisible wind creatures, will be executed.

What follows from this conversation is an examination of the nature of the winds, which is pretty interesting.  I like how Willingham has considered all possibilities in anthropomorphizing something like the North Wind, and really applied its nature to its character.

In all, a very good issue of Fables, although the cover barely matches with the content of the book.

The Next Day

Written by Paul Peterson and Jason Gilmore
Art by John Porcellino

I found this short graphic novel project to be much more interesting than I originally anticipated.  The Next Day has its text taken from interviews with four people who have attempted suicide.  Each person, three women and one man, tell their stories in one-page increments, and as the book jumps from one person to the other, many parallels between their stories are observed.

The book has incredibly simple drawings.  They almost look like they could have been done by children, and where usually this type of minimalist art is a negative for me, I found that it helped focus on the tension in each person's story.

In each case, the person is thankful that their suicide attempts failed, and we see a little of how they are currently living their lives.  This is an important work in that it helps shed some light on depression and mental illness, and can be used to create more understanding of these problems.  Apparently there is more to this project than just this book - there is also an interactive website being run by the National Film Board of Canada.

I'm not sure if this is something I would give to a person suffering depression to help them understand their condition, but I think it may help families and friends come to grips with what a loved one is going through.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Klondike

by Zach Worton

I love reading decent historical novels, books, and comics, so The Klondike is the type of book that I'm always going to pick up.  When it's made by someone who works at the comic store that I frequent, I'm even more likely.

The Klondike tells the massive story of the gold prospectors, entrepreneurs, and police officers who rushed into the Yukon Territory at the end of the 19th century, during the last large-scale gold rush ever seen in North America.  This was a moment of great importance for Canada, as it exerted its sovereignty in the north, and began to develop one of the last true frontiers.

Worton tells the story in a kaleidoscopic fashion, jumping from character to character, attempting to give the reader the big picture of what was going on in this cold and unforgiving place.  The book is full of interesting historical figures, like 'Lying' George Carmack, who discovered a large vein of gold, and Belinda Mulrooney, a tough woman who opened a hotel in the region.  There is Joe Ladue, who did more than anyone to bring a sense of order to the camps, and "Soapy" Smith, a gangster-like figure.  Also, Superintendent Sam Steele, the most famous member of the Northwest Mounted Police is given some screen time.

What emerges from reading this book is a good understanding of the type of person that abandoned their lives to gamble on becoming rich in this difficult part of the country.  There is a dignity to Worton's characters, as well as a desperation.  The book jumps all over the place in terms of story, which allows for a more nuanced gestalt to form in the reader's mind.  There is some interesting backmatter in the book that explains mining techniques, as well as a who's who of important figures.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and imagine it will fit nicely on the shelf next to Louis Riel and Northwest Passage.  I love that there is a growing body of good Canadian history graphic novels.

Moriarty #1

Written by Daniel Corey
Art by Anthony Diecidue

I'm not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of Sherlock Holmes.  I can understand the appeal of the books to some people, and even the devotion the famous fictional detective inspires in some people, but Conan Doyle's character has never done it for me.

This new comic, centred on Holmes's greatest nemesis, was an impulse buy based on some nice art, and Image's recent track record for amazing comics.  I'm really glad I picked it up though, as it is a very good read.

The story opens in 1914 London, after the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, but before the entire European continent is engulfed in the Great War.  Moriarty has been enjoying a sort of retirement from his criminal enterprises, instead taking on a role much like Holmes's, only for criminals.  He is contacted by a government agent to investigate the disappearance of Mycroft Holmes (brother of Sherlock, and important character in Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).  What follows is a rather complicated beginning of an investigation which seems to be at the mercy of a great number of coincidences, and involves strange devices, Edgar Allan Poe references, and the Black Hand.

Corey's writing is interesting, and this is easily the densest comic I've bought since the last issue of Turf (I mean that in a good way, even if Corey can be a little verbose).  The art, by Anthony Diecidue, is quite appealing.  Picture layouts by Riley Rossmo and finishes by Guy Davis, and you should be able to imagine what this book looks like.

I feel like so much was happening in this comic that I'm going to need to read it again before the second issue comes out, but that I will definitely be buying that second issue.