Saturday, March 15, 2014


by Hermann

I love getting the opportunity to read French comics in English translation.  I always feel like I'm missing out on a wide world of terrific comics, and so trust that the translation process works in a curatorial way, ensuring that only the best books make it to our shores.

Afrika is a handsome hardcover book published by Dark Horse, and it stars Dario Ferrer, a Frenchman who is living on a nature preserve in an unnamed African country.  He spends his days trying to save the animals of the park from poachers, and generally just being surly and unfriendly.

A French journalist arrives at the park hoping to interview him and write about the poaching problem.  He's none to happy to see her, but eventually takes her out to see a recently killed animal.  Later, they end up in a firefight with some poachers, and it's established that Ferrer has had some military training.  Later still, Ferrer and the reporter witness the scene of a government-run attack on a rebel village, and the secrets they learn force them to leave the country immediately, and by foot.

This is a quick read, with some nicely tense scenes.  The cartoonist, Hermann, never wastes much time in establishing the bigger picture, so we have to trust Ferrer's interpretation of events.  There is a subplot involving Ferrer's African girlfriend and another European who is always around, but it doesn't go all that far towards adding much to the story.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Foster Anthology 2012

Written by Brian Buccellato, Troy Peteri, Vince Hernandez, Robert Place Napton, Eric Wallace, Mike Johnson, Sterling Gates, Kyle Higgins, and Paris Buccellato
Art by Jason Copland, Noel Tuazon, Steve Buccellato, Dan Smith, Don Hudson, Aaron Gillespie, Hector Collazo, Rod Reis, Karl Altstaetter, and Paris Buccellato

When I was at TCAF (the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the best comics show you'll ever attend) in 2012, I bought the first two issues of Foster from Noel Tuazon, the series artist.  I really enjoyed these two books, which are set in Vintage City, a down and dirty American city that looks and feels like it got stuck in the grimier part of the 1970s.  Vintage City has all of the usual problems of an American city, but is also home to a large group of Dwellers, mysterious and shadowy creatures who are descended from Cro Magnon man (if I remember it correctly), and who live in secret.

The series is about a guy, Foster, who is trying to protect his young neighbour, who is half-Dweller, from them.  I liked the books, and was pretty happy to see that the series was being solicited by Diamond, although nothing past the first issue ever came out.  It's possible to buy 'convention editions' off of writer Brian Buccellato's site, but they're kind of expensive.

Anyway, I was at the Toronto Comicon last weekend, and saw that Tuazon was selling copies of the Foster Anthology, a Kickstarter project that Buccellato made.  This book has a number of short stories set in the Foster universe, by a number of different creators.

The best stories are the ones set in various historical periods.  Buccellato writes a story (drawn by Jason Copland, of Murder Book fame) about an attempt at a military alliance between Ancient Rome and the Dwellers.  Troy Peteri and Tuazon have a very nice story about a trapper in the 19th Century who runs into the Dwellers in the woods.  I also really enjoyed Kyle Higgins's story about a cab driver in Vintage City who won't pick up Dwellers.  Rod Reis's art in this story reminds me of Bill Sienkiewicz around the time he was doing Elektra Assassin.

It is my hope that the Foster series will get collected into a trade format soon, as I'd really like to see how the story ends (and am not interested in reading it digitally).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Where Bold Stars Go To Die

Written by Gerry Alanguilan
Art by Arlanzandro C. Esmeña

I loved Elmer, Gerry Alanguilan's very political graphic novel about sentient chickens who have to find ways to fit in with society, and so was intrigued when I saw that Slave Labor Graphics was releasing a new graphic novel, Where Bold Stars Go to Die.

This slim book is quite different from Alanguilan's prior work, touching on themes of desire and obsession.  Our main character is a young man who falls in love with a bold star (the Filipino version of a soft-core movie star) who he sees in an old movie.  He tries to learn more about her, but has little luck.  One night he visits her in a dream (that kind of borrows some ideas from Bill Willingham's Fables), and that sends him on a road of absolute obsession.

Alanguilan's writing is itself pretty bold here, not shying away from the masturbatory practices of his hero.  The guy's friends can tell what's up with him, especially as he becomes ever more bedraggled and spent.

The art is by Alanguilan's close friend, the late Arlanzandro C. Esmeña, a trained architect who only ever completed this one comic before his death.  His women are lovely, but his landscapes even more so.

The book is supplemented with a string of pin-up pictures, mostly drawn by Filipino comics artists.  This, and Elmer, are both books that are worth checking out.