Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New X-Men: Ultimate Collection Volume 1

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Scriver, Igor Kordey, Leinil Francis Yu, Tom Derenick, Tim Townsend, Mark Morales, Prentis Rollins, Dan Green, Gerry Alanguilan, Danny Miki, Rich Perotta, Scott Hanna, and Sandu Florea

It's hard to believe that it's been more than a dozen years since Grant Morrison took over the X-Men, giving the property a conceptual shot in the arm, and setting up some story ideas that have been in use ever since.  I distinctly remember the excitement that came from reading New X-Men #114, when Morrison and artist Frank Quitely launched their story.  Suddenly, the mutant heroes were a "rescue organization", were wearing sensible costumes, and had undergone some pretty sudden changes, not the least of which was a hugely different appearance for Beast.

This pretty solid trade paperback collects thirteen issues of the regular series, and one annual.  In these pages, we meet a ton of new characters like Xorn, Angel, Beak, the Stepford Cuckoos, Glob Hermann, John Sublime, and Cassandra Nova, many of whom are still important characters today.  We see the machinations of Nova, who goes from committing genocide in Genosha, to trying to use the Shi'ar Empire to wipe out all mutants on Earth, while infecting the X-Men with a curious virus.

Morrison's writing in these comics is stellar.  He plays with the original core concept of the X-Men, that mutants are mistrusted and maligned, but updates that idea for a more modern, celebrity-obsessed culture.  He also returns to the original purpose of the Xavier School, to train new mutants and protect them.  

Frank Quitely's art is always wonderful, and it's cool to see him play with some pretty iconic characters, especially since he doesn't draw mainstream superheroes anymore.  Ethan Van Scriver's art is also very beautiful, and Igor Kordey, who was famously given very little time to draw some of these issues, is understandably all over the place.

I'm not sure that many other comics from this era would stand up as well as the ones in this book.  I know that the current stable of X-Books do not look very good in comparison to these modern classics.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Lords of Death and Life

by Jonathan Dalton

One of my favourite things about TCAF is discovering new cartoonists, and that's what happened when I happened upon Jonathan Dalton's table.  Dalton has been in the game for a while, making comics in British Columbia, but this was the first I'd heard of him.

The cover to his Lords of Death and Life jumped out at me, as I love historical comics, especially when they are set in time periods that don't get a lot of play usually.  This story takes place in pre-Contact Central America, and is both a political and supernatural thriller.

Mol Kupul lives a quiet life in a small village, but his dreams send him to the city of Xicalango, where he becomes a pawn in the growing unrest between the city's Maian and Aztec populations.  It seems that Mol has gained some superhuman abilities, and people from both cultures, trying to sow unrest, want him to work for their cause.

Dalton's story is clearly very well-researched and alive with tons of little details about the time period, as well as strong character development.  Dalton's art reminds me a little of Phillip Bond, and is as detailed as the story.  I'm really glad I picked this little book up, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Sam Humphries's book Sacrifice.

Taddle Creek #32 Comix Supplement

by Ethan Rilly, Dave Lapp, Michael Cho, Jason Turner, Jason Kieffer, Joe Ollmann, Maurice Vellekoop, Corey McCallum, Matthew Daley, and David Collier

Just in time for TCAF this year, the fine people at Taddle Creek have put together a terrific broadsheet comics supplement to their latest volume; seven massive pages of comics for only $2.  I always enjoy Taddle Creek's fiction and reporting, but the way it's embraced the Toronto comics scene is something that's always endeared me to the magazine.

The first strip (shown in the image) is by Ethan Rilly, of Pope Hats fame.  It's about a stained glass artist who is so unhappy with his creation that he feels compelled to destroy it.  This story would not feel out of place in an issue of Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve, as it has many of the same sensibilities.

Dave Lapp, the most regular of Taddle Creek contributors, has a nice strip about an incident from his childhood, when he got in trouble for drawing 'Dirty Drawings' in his classroom.

Michael Cho, one of Toronto's greatest cartoonists, has a nice little piece about a man looking back at his youth, and the way the ever-changing city has cut him off from many of his memories, although that's not exactly a bad thing.  I love his stuff.

Jason Kieffer, who is probably the perfect person to adapt Rob Ford's story into a graphic novel (since it would fit nicely with his Zanta! and The Rabble of Downtown Toronto), adapts an Achomawi legend to the comics page.

David Collier contributes a page of reminiscences about the Toronto Reference Library (home to TCAF), and the joys of looking through old bound newspapers and comics.

There are other strips here, but these are the ones that stood out to me as the most memorable and most impressive.  I hope this is something that Taddle Creek chooses to do again, as I loved it.

For readers outside of Toronto, you can check out the comics here.