Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Vault #2

Written by Sam Sarkar
Art by Garrie Gastonny

I wasn't all that impressed with the first issue of this mini-series, but upon reading it a second time, I felt that there was more potential than was apparent at first glance.  That fact, coupled with the fact that this was the smallest new comics week in months (thanks DC), meant that this series got a second chance.

This issue is much better, as the story about archaeologists and treasure hunters digging up a strange sarcophagus on Nova Scotia's Sable Island became more of a creature story, like Aliens.  The thing in the sarcophagus is too large and heavy to be human bone, and of course, someone decides to open up the large coffin and have a look.  This doesn't go well, and people start coming under attack from it.

We're squarely in movie-pitch land here, as I suspect that this comic is one of those created simply with the aims of selling the movie rights, but it's still becoming a decent story.  I especially liked the scene with the wild horse, although I'm sure that most of the American audience would not be aware of Sable Island's fabled horses, especially since the text does nothing to explain their presence, even when they begin to take on a key role in the tale.

This is not a great comic, but it's a decent one, with nice art.  I'll definitely be getting the conclusion next month.

The Sixth Gun #14

Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Tyler Crook

Talk about coming from nowhere.  A couple of months ago, I'd never seen anything by Tyler Crook.  Now, he's popping up all over the place, landing the job as Guy Davis's replacement on BPRD, and having his original graphic novel, Petrograd, come out at the same time.  Now, he's guest artisted this issue of The Sixth Gun.

This is an interlude issue, telling the story of Asher Cobb, the seven-foot mummy that fought Drake Sinclair last issue.  We learn, through the framing sequence of a discussion at a freak show, how Asher came into the world, and the sad story that led to his eventual mummification and undead status.

Bunn has worked hard to create a solid Western mythology in the Sixth Gun world, and this issue helps strengthen that foundation.  Asher's birth was peculiar, as was his appearance and abilities that echo the ones granted by the gun in Becky Moncrief's possession.

Crook's art looks great here.  His style is different enough from regular artist Brian Hurtt that this issue will stand out in a trade, but he also sticks to the basics of this series, and works within the visual milieu that Hurtt has established.  This is always an impressive series (especially when compared to Bunn's recent work at Marvel).

Skullkickers #10

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats

Who would have predicted that Skullkickers, the chaotic and wildly funny book about doltish monster killers would really be a book about environmentalism?  Not since Paul Chadwick's Concrete has a comic explored the relationship between mankind and his environment in such a profound way.  Well, okay, maybe not.  But still, it's nice to see what the woman with the arrows, who we first saw in the first issue, is up to.

Most of this comic is more of the same Skullkickers goodness.  The guys have just about everyone angry with them - soldiers, an angry mob, and the thieves guild.  There is a lot of marching, mobbing, and swarming going on, as these three groups scour the streets looking for our heroes.  They are too busy developing medical applications for the questionable practice of gerbiling, choosing instead to use a dead squirrel.

This book really isn't like anything else on my pull-list, and for that, I'm thankful that its been so reliably good.  It makes a nice break from what normally makes up my pile of weekly comics.

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #6

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Mike Huddleston

What fun this comic is.  Butcher has been captured by Jihad Jones (great name), who is torturing him, finally being able to get his revenge for Butcher's part in the death of Jetboy, Jihad's former sidekick, and it is implied, life partner.  This death is shown to us through a flashback that looks like a 90s comic.

Those scenes are not the most interesting in this book though.  And while I like the parts with Arnie P. Willard, the cop that is chasing Butcher, even into his dreamstate, they aren't the best either.

The reason why you should read this comic is for the scene where Dick Cheney and Jay Leno get pulled in front of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss their role in Butcher's destruction of the Crazy Keep.  It's a very funny scene, with Leno attempting to alleviate the mood.  Huddleston goes even more crazy on the art in this section than he has been all along.  He draws the military brass as having faces that are puddles of colour, sometimes looking more like demons than men.  Were Ralph Steadman to paint portraits in the Pentagon, they would look like this.

As always, the back matter is almost as good as the comic itself, as Casey writes about how he acquired comics throughout his childhood.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who felt a wave or two of nostalgia reading this.

Elephantmen #34

Written by Richard Starkings and Monifa Aldridge
Art by Boo Cook and Axel Medellin

I suppose that Elephantmen's unpredictability is one of its strengths, but I do find it hard to figure out what to expect from one story arc to the next.  After having finished the drug-fueled Elseworlds visions of Man and Elephantman, I thought we'd bee seeing a little more of Hip and Ebony, but instead, we are getting a sequel to War Toys, which was originally published as a separate mini-series.

It's all good, as I love this comic, but this issue felt more like a recap of earlier material than anything else.  We start with a Chinese legend, the relevance of which does become apparent later, before checking in with Yvette, the star of War Toys.  She's leading a squad in Siberia, and kills a group of Mappo soldiers - mostly hyenas led by a single elephantman.  This gives occasion for one of the guys with her to talk about her story. Later, there are a bunch of rockets launched from the moon, with rather interesting occupants.  I'm curious to see where this goes.

There is also a back-up story, written by Aldridge, which helps fill in the back history of Panya, the dancer who likes to switch places with Sahara from time to time.  It's perfectly fine, but pretty predictable.

This issue has art by both Boo Cook and Axel Medellin, and it's a very lovely issue.  There are perhaps too many splash pages for Cook, but he does make good use of them.

Casanova Vol. 1: Luxuria

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Gabriel Bá

Back in 2006, when Casanova was first published by Image, I'd not heard of Matt Fraction (actually, I think I'd heard of Last of the Independents, but hadn't read it yet), or Gabriel Bá.  My interest in the book was purely economical - it was published in the same 'slimline' format as the brilliant Fell, and cost less than other books on the stand.  Add to that the fact that it had a very nice cover, and I thought I'd give it a try.

That first issue blew me away.  I was hooked by the frenetic, totally unpredictable writing, and loved Bá's minimalist art.  In sixteen pages, these guys packed in more story than Brian Michael Bendis can with a six-issue arc.  And man, was it good.

Basically, Casanova Quinn is a thief and scoundrel who gets lifted out of his home dimension by Newman Xeno, the leader of the criminal organization WASTE (acronyms are important here).  Now he is to take the place of this new world's good Casanova, meaning that he is the favourite child of his father, the director of EMPIRE (picture SHIELD, but more powerful).  Cass is working as a double agent for Newman, and trying to run his own gig through insane mission that involve an orgone-saturated town, sex robots, a meditating performance artist, an extra-dimensional island populated with doctorate-level savages, and more triple-agents than you can ever expect.

Fraction fills each page with insane ideas, and Bá more than rises to any challenge he gives him.  Since this comic originally came out, Marvel has had it re-coloured and re-printed in this new edition.  The third volume, which is of all new material, begins publication next week as a four-issue monthly, so I figured it was time to reread this series and get myself caught back up in the twisted world of the Quinn family.  I'm really glad I did, as I'd forgotten how great it is.

I would easily point to this book as Matt Fraction's best, and hope that even a small portion (I didn't want to use the word 'fraction') of the people who are reading and perhaps even enjoying Fear Itself, The Mighty Thor, or Invincible Iron Man (the only thing on this list that is good) give this series a shot.  As good as Bá is on this book, it of course does not compare to his more recent work, such as Daytrippers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fallin' Off The Reel III

Truth and Soul's third Fallin' Off The Reel compilation is an incredible collection.  It features music by nine groups or artists, and takes the listener on a modern funk journey.

Collected here are Cosmic Force, Quincy Bright, Timothy McNealy, the El Michaels Affair, Black Velvet, The Olympians, The Ghetto Brothers, Lee Fields & The Explorers, and Michael Leonhart & The Avramina 7.  Each artist or group is given two contiguous tracks, with the exception of El Michaels, who has four tracks in two chunks.

The compilation is curated perfectly, and often doesn't sound like the work of a multitude of people.  I find it runs from start to finish more like an album than a collection, which is pretty unusual.

My favourite track is The Ghetto Brothers' 'I Saw A Tear', a 50s doo wop style song.  This is well worth checking out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Murder Book Vol. 2

Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Vic Malhotra and Michael Walsh

The first issue of Murder Book was one of the nicest surprises I picked up at TCAF this year; a regular-sized comic with two very well-written and drawn crime stories in it.  I was very pleased when I saw a new issue at Brisson's table at Fan Expo this last week-end, and snatched it up in a hurry.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in here by artist Simon Roy, whose work has been on my radar since reading Jan's Atomic Heart, but Brisson has found a pair of talented collaborators in Malhotra and Walsh.

Both of these stories are pretty dark, just like in the first book.  The first involves a street-level criminal being accused of taking from his 'company'.  The second involves a man, who I presume was a police officer, who had been shot and left in a wheelchair.  Years after the event, he has the man who shot him tied down to a chair right in front of him.  It's a pretty taut little psychological story.

In all, this is again a very capable and interesting compilation series.  I hope to find another issue at another event some day.

A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada

by John Ralston Saul

It's not my style to read books of political commentary, but when I read a few reviews of Saul's latest book, I was interested in learning more about his vision of Canada as a Metis nation, which has adopted a middle way between European and Aboriginal values, lifestyles, and forms of government.  It is an interesting argument, and Saul backs his ideas up nicely, but I feel like there may be more than a few instances of him looking for something and massaging interpretations to fit his vision.  For example, while I can see how Lester B. Pearson's notions of Peacekeeping are in line with an Aboriginal or Metis view, I doubt very much that Pearson would have given that any credit.

The other sections of the book are also very interesting.  Saul calls out the Canadian elite for cowardice and lack of vision in a number of areas, and each of his arguments make a lot of sense.  When put as it is, it's not hard to question the direction this country is going.

I found this book to be very approachable, educational, and entertaining, in its own fashion.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spontaneous #3

Written by Joe Harris
Art by Brett Weldele

Things take a few turns for the weird with this issue, as we get many of the pieces of the spontaneous human combustion puzzle put together for us, while other, new mysteries come to light.

It seems there is some corporate military contract work origin to the reason why so many people are suddenly bursting into flames in this one little town - a more more fiery version of Gulf War Syndrome, and our two heroes are figuring things out.  Of course, that may not work for them, as Melvin finds himself in some new kinds of trouble.

Also of interest is Melvin's relationships.  It's been pretty clear that he's going to fall for Emily, but what I didn't expect is the unrequited love of his former investigative partner and general tech-support guy Kenny.  This adds an interesting wrinkle to things, as does the appearance of a voice that Melvin hears.

Harris and Weldele are doing a great job building up some suspense and wonder in this comic.

Northlanders #43

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Paul Azaceta

This is a good week for Paul Azaceta.  He has this book out, and Graveyards of Empire, and they are both excellent and vastly different.  In Graveyards, Azaceta gives us dusty and dry Afghanistan, whereas here, we get to see 880 AD Iceland, with wonderful battle sequences and a cool whaling scene.

Ulf, the child we saw being so mistreated in the first chapter of The Icelandic Trilogy, has grown up into a right little prick, and has taken over his father's role as leader of one small section of Iceland.  After his livestock is stolen, he leads his men on a vicious raid against the neighbouring Belgarssons, and begins to assert his authority over the whole island.

It's interesting how Wood has changed Ulf from the slightly sympathetic character that he was last issue into a proper little monster.  I'm curious to see where this story is going, and still saddened by the knowledge that this is going to be the last arc of this thoughtful and engaging series.

Dark Horse Presents #3

Written by Dave Gibbons, Robert Love, David Walker, Carla Speed McNeil, Paul Chadwick, Howard Chaykin, Jim Steranko, Patrick Alexander, Richard Corben, Chuck Brown, David Chelsea, Neal Adams, and Michael T. Gilbert
Art by Dave Gibbons, Robert Love, Carla Speed McNeil, Paul Chadwick, Howard Chaykin, Jim Steranko, Patrick Alexander, Richard Corben, Sanford Greene, David Chelsea, Neal Adams, and Michael T. Gilbert

There are a lot of comics in this book.  This issue of DHP, while keeping it's $7.99 price point, increased its page count to 104 pages, which is appreciated, as that is a nice chunk of comics to digest.  I do wish I liked all of them though...

Dave Gibbons 'Treatment' is not bad.  Really, it's a lot like Archaia's French reprint comic Cyclops, starring a group of SWAT-like police officers who are broadcast live on a mix between a football game and a reality show.  It may be an interesting idea, but it's going to need more developing than we get in this first installment (I assume there will be more).

As always, the two stand outs in this book are Paul Chadwick's Concrete, and Carla Speed McNeil's Finder.  In Concrete, Chadwick addresses the issue of unjustified police tasering.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but the best Concrete comics are the ones that have the stone giant explore a social issue that doesn't often get much play, especially in comics.  Chadwick's environmental stance had a huge influence on me when I was younger, and it's nice to see that he's still using his work as an engine for some kind of social change.  I think this may meander a little too close to being preachy, but I admire Concrete's usual stance that there can be a better way of doing things than what is current practice.

Finder is incredible.  Having read Voice, the most recent graphic novel, I now get a lot more of the context of this DHP strip, and I'm loving it.  In this chapter, Jaeger helps an old lady who has missed her train stop by taking her through a short-cut which crosses the incredible city that McNeil has built.  The story ends on a pretty creepy note that I thought was very effective.

I'm enjoying Love and Walker's Number 13.  There is more happening in this chapter that is getting me interested in this post-apocalyptic story, and I'm curious to read what's going to happen next.  Also, I've been enjoying Richard Corben's pieces, although I found this month's to be a little disjointed.

Beyond that, the book becomes kind of mediocre.  I know this may be sacrilegious to many comics fans, but I didn't feel Steranko's Red Tide excerpt much at all.  For all his bombast about his own ingenuity, he's written a fairly standard and cliche-ridden private detective prose story, which is only marginally assisted by his art.  I don't think I'll be looking for the full book when it comes out.

Howard Chaykin's Marked Man is growing on me a little, but I still don't like his art.  Likewise, Neal Adams's Blood continues to be incomprehensible and way over-written, but pretty.  I find Brown and Greene's Rotten Apple, which debuted last issue, to be pretty incomprehensible too.  Snow Angel, which I found refreshing earlier, doesn't even appear to have a point this month.  It's pretty rambling.  And, after having been burned last time, I didn't even bother to read Michael T. Gilbert's Mr. Monster.

American Vampire #18

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque

I do so enjoy this series.  This World War II story, set on a fictional island in the Pacific, has worked really well to explore the relationship between Pearl and Henry, as Skinner Sweet has used the chaos of the war to make a move against the man that he apparently sees as his rival.

Most of the plot of this arc falls away in this issue, as the focus is squarely on the conflict between the two American vampires, and Henry.  I was a little surprised at the depth of Pearl's feelings for Skinner - I'm not sure that we've seen enough evidence of that before now - but I also found it pretty interesting, especially as something is going to pop up again.

I also found the last page of the story to be pretty interesting.  As the Vertigo line contracts (DMZ, Northlanders, and Scalped are all finishing in the next year), this book stands as a good example of why DC should continue to invest in the imprint.

Graveyards of Empire #2

Written by Mark Sable
Art by Paul Azaceta

I like zombie comics (when they are well written).  I love war comics.  So, putting the two together obviously grabbed my attention, just as it has in '68, the Vietnam War zombie comic also being published by Image right now.  And as much as I'm enjoying that title, I think this one is far superior to it.

I have a few reasons for saying this.  To begin with, I've been following Paul Azaceta's career since he drew Mark Sable's Grounded a few years ago, and I feel that these two work particularly well together.  The main reason why I'm enjoying this book so much though, has to do with its portrayal of American involvement in Afghanistan.  There are a number of flashbacks in this book that show an older, widowed farmer and his family having to deal with successive waves of Taliban, American army, and American military contractors, all trying to influence his actions.

The Taliban force him to grow opium, and threaten his children.  The Americans try to buy him off while an Afghan police officer threatens his son.  Later, the military contractors burn his crops, leaving him destitute, and in danger of Taliban reprisal.  It's clear that, once again, it's impossible to win 'hearts and minds' without understanding the local conditions.  I love that no one is bothering the members of Karzai's tribe who are also growing poppies in the next field.

In the present, the American FOB is under attack from a group of Afghan zombies.  They repel the attack, but are soon faced with a larger group approaching, with the locals stuck between them.  Sable handles the distrust between these groups, and the on-going cultural misunderstandings beautifully, adding tension and intrigue to a story that could easily just be a repeat of genre tropes.  It's good stuff.

Crogan's March

by Chris Schweizer

I love these books.  Schweizer is writing and drawing a lengthy series of graphic novels set in different historical periods, featuring the men (strangely, none of the books will be about women) of the Crogan family, a long line of screw-ups who have somehow found themselves involved in military matters throughout history.

This book is about Peter Crogan, a member of the French Foreign Legion, assigned to Northern Africa in 1912.  The Legionnaires were mostly men that were running away from their lives, for a five-year term, and were looked down upon by regular army and their own officers alike.

Crogan is nearing the end of his service, at a period where the French were in almost constant conflict with indigenous Taureg.  During a march to a fort somewhere in the desert, Crogan's column is attacked, but they are able to repel their attackers.  Later, when after they arrive at their fort, they make plans to track down the interlopers, but are again attacked instead.

There is plenty of action of the usual war story type.  There are humorous soldiers, blundering, blow-hardish Captains, wise long-suffering Sergeants, and bravery in the face of insurmountable odds.  There is, however, also an intelligent and realistic sub-text about the attitudes of colonial empires, and the people who serve them.  The locals are given a voice and some sympathy, but nothing is ever treated in a heavy-handed way (except perhaps the modern-day framing sequence).  This is an enlightened view of history, which I can appreciate for its attention to detail and context, which never gets in the way of telling a good story.

Schweizer's art is not the type of cartooning I usually enjoy, but his writing is so good that it doesn't get on my nerves at all.  I can't wait for the next book, Crogan's Loyalty, to be published.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Xombi #6

Written by John Rozum
Art by Frazer Irving

I get it that sales probably weren't that great, and that I should just be thankful that a six-issue arc of a book like this got published at all in today's climate, but really, I'm just sad that this book is ending, and won't be returning in the DC relaunch.  I think that Xombi would work just fine as a Vertigo book, with absolutely no changes made to it, but it is what it is.

This issue finishes up the Stronghold story that began with the first issue.  Through most of this series, the book has really been an ensemble title, with David Kim, the titular Xombie, being the lead, but not the centre of things.  And that approach worked really well I felt, as when a comic with super-powered nuns with funny names shouldn't be about just one person.

In this issue, our collected heroes have their final confrontation with Roland Finch, the mastermind who stole the Skull Stronghold, and is now hoping to wage war on other Strongholds (floating islands of immortals).  The writing is clever throughout, and Frazer Irving's art is beautiful.  This comic has had more than its share of interesting new ideas and colourful villains (this month, the Sisterhood of Blood Mummies), and I hope to see more work from Rozum (other than Static Shock, which has art by Scott McDaniel) and Irving (who I'm really hoping is going to finish Gutsville now).

If you haven't read this, pre-order the trade and let DC know that you want more comics like this.  It is definitely the best thing to come out of the DCU in years, and is up there with Scalped and DMZ as one of the best books the company publishes.

Kill Shakespeare #12

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

I really want to congratulate the Kill Shakespeare team on completing their series.  It's rare for independent titles to make it to issue twelve, and to do so in a relatively timely manner, and maintaining such a high level of artistic and story-telling quality is impressive.

Kill Shakespeare is an original book.  Basically, it's like Fables, but populated with characters from Shakespeare's oeuvre.  The great villains - Lady MacBeth and King Richard are in opposition to the more heroic figures - Juliet, Othello, and even comic relief-providing Falstaff.  Hamlet, the prophesied Shadow King, starts stuck somewhere in the middle, but eventually comes to the right side of things, as all heroes will.

The story wraps up nicely, if a little predictably.  On a larger level, this series asks questions about what life would be like if people could actually meet their creator.  The writers don't delve too deeply into this aspect of the story, but I presume that future volumes (and we are told to expect more from this world) may explore this train of thought.  To be honest, that's something that would draw me back more than another action-based story.

I've really enjoyed watching Andy Belanger grow as an artist and experiment with some new techniques in panel layout.  This issue, he does a thing to show action by having the same character appear more than once in a panel, and it didn't really work for me.  At one point, I thought there were two Richards.  It was weird.

Chew #20

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

I think we all know the drill by this point.  Another issue of Chew comes out; it contains a few surprises and moves the plot in an unexpected direction; it's funny and very well-drawn.  Is there anything new to say?  Chew is one of the most innovative comics on the stands, yet it becomes hard to say that in some new way month after month.

Instead, a short recap.  The book opens on cast wildcard Mason Savoy, who has been experiencing a days-long cibopathic vision (cibopaths are people who receive knowledge through ingesting things), and has missed that the strange alien sky writing that has been encircling the Earth has disappeared.

Tony and Colby are sent undercover to check out the Church of the Divinity of the Immaculate Ova - a church/cult of egg worshipers who predicted the disappearance of the writing.  The leader of the church, Alani Adobo (who we have seen before) runs a pretty tight ship where eating chicken or eggs is concerned.  Some stuff happens.

As always, the story just chugs right along, paced perfectly.  Guillory always does a fantastic job on this book, and I love his little visual gags, like the face on the Kool-Aid pitcher, which ends up being an example of foreshadowing.  Great stuff, once again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DMZ #68

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

I can see where some may feel that this final story arc in DMZ is a little anti-climactic, as this issue is all about Matty driving around Lower Manhattan with Zee, meeting people and talking about the future of the city, but I find it fascinating.

To start with, the proposal to divide New York into 'Five Nations' in the wake of the peace armistice between the US and the Free States is pretty interesting.  Matty has two weeks to finish up his work before he has to turn himself in to the government, and he's using that time to organize his notes and complete as comprehensive an accounting of the war as he can.

He and Zee travel to Ground Zero, a first for Matty, and then meet with a representative of Lower Manhattan - the 'First Nation'.  He is, of course, a "finance real-estate douchebag", which is what Lower Manhattan is known for.  I like how Wood shows us the real Ground Zero, and then shows us exactly the type of people who profited from it.

There is something wistful about this arc, as we ride with Matty through the city for a final time.  I plan on soaking up as much nuance as I can from the remaining three issues of this series.

The Walking Dead #88

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

As much as I love this series, there is always the odd issue that is only very very good, as opposed to the usual level of fantastic I've come to expect.  This is just one of those issues.

Carl is awake, but doesn't have all of his memories.  Rick is having a hard time coping with all of this, so he decides to go out scavenging in the area around the town.  Andrea tries to get rid of that guy that likes her, and there is a possibility of new intrigue taking place within the community.

It is a very good issue, but it feels a little like a conduit between two places in the story, and so doesn't hold up well as its own thing.  As always though, there is strong characterization and great art.

Fables #108

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha

There have been a couple of moments where I've wondered if Fables should continue.  When the Adversary was defeated, I wondered if there was much point in the series moving forward without an established antagonist.  Then Mr. Dark came along, who was a weak replacement at first, but ended up very effectively shaking up the status quo, driving everyone out of Fabletown and then the Farm.  When he was vanquished a couple of issues ago, I wondered again if it may not be time for Vertigo's second longest-running series to fold.

With this issue it finally became clear to me that plot really has become secondary in this series.  Like a good soap opera (if those actually exist; I've never watched one, but they seem popular), it's investment in the characters that drive this series forward.

In this issue, Rose Red returns with a small group to sweep the Farm for traps, while Nurse Spratt plans for the eventual return of her enemies to Fabletown.  We check in again with Blufkin and his new friends, as they try to make their way across hostile territory in Ev (is that the cat from the latest Cinderella series?).  The heart of this issue lies in the North Wind's castle, as it becomes clear that one of Snow White and Bigby's children will have to replace their grandfather.  These scenes are amusing and touching, as we see a side of Bigby that is not often shown.

So what I've learned from this issue is that, after so many years, I really like the characters in this comic, and am perfectly happy if it meanders a while, so long as Willingham keeps such strong characterizations afloat.  Also, I'm not sure what was going on with the art this issue, but Buckingham and Leialoha look better than ever.  I suspect it's the new approach to colouring that Lee Loughridge uses here, with more of a watercolour washed effect on the background, and it looks great.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

All Nighter #3

by David Hahn

The more I read of this series, the more I like it and the characters that populate it.

In this issue, Kit gets closer to Martha, her new house-mate who has claimed to be her guardian angel, and is generally a little creepy, and also gets a lot closer to Jim Magirl, the boyfriend of one of her other housemates.  To be fair, they had a connection before he started to date Donna, but both of them know that it's wrong.  There are other things going on too - Kit has an argument with her friend and final housemate Sally-O, but we learn nothing more about how Kit's mother died.

Basically, this is just more of the usual slacker late teen/early 20s genre, but it's a genre I enjoy.  Hahn's art is always great, but this issue looks a little looser than I remember the other issues looking.  I'd have to dig out the first two to be sure, but I find that this light style works very well with this material.

I'm definitely interested to see what happens next, especially with Martha, the oddball girl.

The Stuff of Legend Vol.3: A Jester's Tale #1

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

The Stuff of Legend seems to be growing into an ever more sprawling adventure epic.  In the second volume, The Jungle, the group of toys who have ventured into "The Dark" to save their young master faced great divisiveness in their ranks, as a revelation of guilt splits them irrevocably.

This new arc is mostly focused on one of the toys - the Jester - who in the real world is a jack-in-the-box, and his quest to find his Princess, who appears to have been kidnapped and taken to the Indian lands (as this story is set in 1944, when kids played Cowboys and Indians, I'll let the misnomer go).

What makes this most interesting is that it seems there is another Jester roaming The Dark, sticking to the seas and terrorizing the Boogeyman's navy.  As always with this series, Charles Paul Wilson provides some excellent visuals, which really help propel the story.  I'm getting a little tired of the sepia tinting though.

Cyclops #6

Written by Matz
Art by Gaël de Meyere

Oh, Archaia.  Sometimes, I just don't know what's going on at that place.  They put out some of the most beautiful comics on the stands, and have very high production values, but on the last issue, they had the wrong artist's name credited, and this issue, which is issue 6, states on the cover that it is actually #5.  Don't people check for this kind of thing?  It's a little embarrassing.

The comic itself is always good.  Pistoia, our hero and general puppet of his Multicorps bosses, is finally pushed a little too far.  His affair with a Multicorps employee (who seduced him) is exposed as a way of trying to rein him in, and has the opposite effect.  On a mission, Pistoia and his squad decide to disobey orders, and expose to the world what they know about their commanders' dirty dealings in the international security business.

This comic has been slow in building to this point.  Matz has methodically set the stage for Pistoia's awakening of conscience, and now it looks like the rest of the series will involve mercenaries hunting down the good guys.  This has been a very solid story, and it's really heating up.

Art wise, I miss Luc Jacamon a great deal.  His replacement artist, de Meyere, is decent, but Jacamon has a much stronger sense of human expression, and panel design.

Echo Vol. 1: Moon Lake

by Terry Moore

I'm not sure why I've never gotten into Terry Moore's work.  Strangers in Paradise gets a lot of love, but I never gave it a chance.  When Echo started, it looked interesting, but I never picked it up, until I recently got a few of the trades on Ebay.  It's really very good.

The series opens with a female test pilot flying around in a strange metallic suit, which her military contractor bosses decide to test to failure, with a volley of missile attacks.  The suit explodes and tons of small metallic droplets fall on a dry lake bed.  Another woman, named Julie Martin, is there taking photographs, and is covered by these small beads.  Later, she finds a large chunk of the metal in her truck's bed, and it attaches to her skin, and attracting any of the rest of the metal that is in the vicinity.

Julie quickly learns that this portion of the reconstituted suit won't come off, and has a habit of randomly shocking people who seem to have hostile intent towards her.  The military is after her now, and they've brought in a special agent who excels at profiling people.

At this point, the comic seems like pretty standard fare, but what makes it stand out is the strength of Moore's characterizations.  Julie is a mess.  She's in denial about the fact that her husband is divorcing her, she's broke, and her only living family member is institutionalized in a psychiatric facility.  She's not someone who is well equipped to handle the weirdness that has just come into her world, even with the help of the dead test pilot's park ranger boyfriend.

Between Moore's sharp, character-driven writing and his nice clean artwork, I'm hooked.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blue Estate #5

Written by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, and Andrew Osborne
Art by Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Paul Maybury, and Marley Zarcone

Blue Estate shifted in tone a little with this issue.  While there has always been a humorous aspect to this comic (dark, dark humour), this issue seemed to be much lighter and almost sillier, from word play (the Sudoku scene), physical humour (termites), and the silliness of bodyguards trying on wigs.  I'm not even going to talk about the garden gnomes.

I don't get it - Kalvachev and his team have been angling this to be a pretty dark story, but now I'm not so sure.  Still, it's pretty entertaining, so I'm not going anywhere.

There is a new introduction to the art team with this issue, and that is Marley Zarcone.  I first noticed Zarcone's work on Nick Spencer's Forgetless, and I was immediately impressed.  She's a talented artist whose style fit seamlessly with the others who work on this comic.

BPRD Hell on Earth - Monsters #2

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Tyler Crook

Tyler Crook is a good addition to this title.  He's keeping so many of the elements that Guy Davis introduced to the title that worked, but is also putting his own spin on things.  This issue continues to focus on Liz Sherman, who finds herself stuck in a trailer park full of creepy trailer trash Satanist frog worshipers.  Crook has a knack for drawing trailer trash, I have to say.

It's been a while now since we saw the main BPRD cast, so I was appreciative of the few pages tucked in here featuring Corrigan, Abe, and that UN guy whose name I don't remember.  It feel like this book is going to be getting back on track after it's Liz Sherman-centred hiatus, and I'm pretty happy about that.

This is consistently one of the best comics on the stand.  Next month it looks like the team is going to Russia, which should work for Crook, as he is the artist for the Petrograd graphic novel that looks so good.

Baltimore: The Curse Bells #1

Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Art by Ben Stenbeck

I don't know that I was exactly clamoring for another Baltimore comic, but it seems that the Mignola comics machine is trying to maintain a greater output these days, with Baltimore and Witchfinder trading story arcs as the two outliers of the Mignola-verse (and yes, I know that Baltimore is not set in the same continuity as everything else, thank you).

I enjoyed the first comic arc (never read the novel) well enough, but appreciate the fact that I know what's going on, and who is who in this new series much more.  The first series didn't explain things until a few issues in, and it was confusing.

Lord Baltimore is still pursuing Haigus, the ancient vampire who ruined his life, and is still coming across traps the creature has left for him.  Some stuff happens in a small town in Switzerland, but of course, that's just the pre-credit action sequence.  Later, still on Haigus's trail, Baltimore meets an American journalist who knows a few things about vampires and the other creatures awakening on the Earth.  Baltimore needs this kind of character - the man barely speaks, so this new guy will provide most of the explication as we go along.

Ben Stenbeck's art looks different here.  It's looser and more open than before - it feels like he's less concerned with staying within the Mignola house style (which is pretty broadly defined), and is making the book a little more of his own.  Strangely, that sometimes means that Baltimore takes on a Munch-ian quality, but that would go away were he to allow his hair to grow.