Comic Books Out 7, 14, 21 October 2015

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Butter and Blood (Steven Weissman) [Retrofit]

A collection of short stories, mini comics, zine entries, designs, sketches, etc. put together by an individual with impeccable taste and style. The art here ranges (as you’d imagine) from loose sketchbook pages to photoshop-clean but keeps a scratchy, human quality that also bleeds into the pathos of some of the shorts. There’s plenty of humor, too, particularly a series of escalating gags revolving around Guns ‘n’ Roses and food.

Ikebana (Yumi Sakugawa) [Retrofit]

An art-comic in the sense that it’s about an art student and her performance-art final project, the frame of the story works to address issues of life, gender, family, harassment, and human connection. With a spare art style that rests comfortably somewhere between naive and minimal, there’s still enough interesting detail to necessitate a deeper look, especially in the crowded scenes.

Jughead #1 (Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson) [Archie]

If you’re not familiar with the strange and silly antics of cartoonist alter-ego Chip Zdarsky, you should know that his placement as writer of Jughead is one of those “on the nose” picks. Jughead’s relaunch is properly focused on cheeseburgers, with a healthy dose of friendship, video games and epic fantasy (and Game of Thrones references). This book is literally laugh out loud funny, and Henderson’s cartoony faces perfectly mesh with the silliness within.

Paper Girls #1 (Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang) [Image]

One of my favorite single issues this year, hands down. We’re talking about this on the next episode of Four Color Commentary, so I’ll save my thoughts for the show.

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Continue reading

Comic Books Out 2 October

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Bizarro #4

I was not 100% in love with this book at first, to be perfectly honest. I love that each issue has a guest artist for one illustration (this issue has a Darwyn Cooke-drawn Zatanna poster!) But the story, while fun and light-hearted, and the art, though loose and cartoony, have both been a bit on the weak side. But darn it, I keep getting sucked into this book, with its deep, deep DC universe references and it’s heartfelt emotional appeal. I’m bummed that it looks like the next issue is the last one.

Jem and the Holograms: Outrageous Annual #1

I bought this for my seven year old daughter and, to be honest, she hasn’t really let me get my hands on it. It’s a framing story of a slumber party for the Holograms (though they’re sisters who live together) where they all have different dreams. The dreams include a horror movie/teen wolf homage, a Mad Max mashup, a riff on Star Wars, and of course Jem and the Hologram babies. It’s fun and looks great! I just wish that it was a bit cheaper; it’s relatively short and nearly $8! (Maybe I’m just spoiled with Island’s page count at the same price point.)

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

Ryan North, writer of Squirrel Girl (and the early issues of Adventure Time, The Midas Flesh, and Dinosaur Comics) is one of my all-time favorite internet people. His writing style somehow is one of the smartest and silliest, simultaneously. I love Erica Henderson’s cartoony art, I think it fits the book perfectly. This book does for the Marvel universe what the Bizarro book tries to do for DC. It’s a lot more fun and exciting though.

From Under Mountains #1

This book, written by Marian Churchland and Claire Gibson and with art from Sloane Leong, exists in the same universe as the 8House series, and it will eventually cross over. It’s beautifully, dreamily-drawn high fantasy that starts right in the middle of things with no explanation whatsoever. I’m still sucked in and planning to keep reading, but some of this book is a bit impenetrable. That stabby ghost monster, though. I can’t wait for more.

Godzilla in Hell #3

This series is a treat. It’s just wall-to-wall action of Godzilla battling and destroying monsters. This one has a crazy crystal-infected moon Godzilla (uh, I don’t know much Godzilla lore) battling our hero and it’s crazy. It’s crazy!

Over the Garden Wall #2

The Over the Garden Wall animated television miniseries is really an incredible achievement in American animation and this book is perfectly timed for this fall. Series writer Patrick McHale expands the show with a great side story from a formerly-honest horse that gets right into that sweet spot between funny and spooky without being too obvious about it.

Comic Books Out 23 September

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Wolf #3

I am enjoying this book a lot. It’s a true crime/seedy criminal underworld kind of book, set in modern Los Angeles. Pretty standard except there are vampires and Chthonic dudes and maybe even the antichrist. It’s slowly unraveling in a way that just keeps sucking me in and I’m stoked to see what’s going to happen. The art effectively uses negative space in a very LA kind of way, and the linework is clear and strong. The colors are spectacular as well.

The Spire #2

The super incredible team who made one of my favorite recent books (Six Gun Gorilla) are building a weird fantasy/scifi universe not unlike 8House. As usual, the art is excellent, and really sells the grotesqueries of the hybrid humans and strange cyborg creatures. It’s framed as a police story, but there’s a lot going on here with class and race and political intrigue.

We Are Robin #4

I bought this issue mostly because of James Harvey’s incredible art. He has a great eye for  over-saturated pop art with a manga flair, and he’s been involved with character design in the We Are Robin series since the beginning. We Are Robin as a book is interesting; it focuses on street-level heroes dealing with the aftermath of the post-Bruce Wayne Gotham City. It nicely ropes in the various political viewpoints that vigilante justice tends to bring up while still roping in a lot of the modern DC universe Bat-family.

Power Up #3

It’s been crazy seeing the rise of girl hero groups in American pop culture, especially in the last couple of years. Sailor Moon (the canonical example) has been around for ages and it’s popped into the zeitgeist a few times, but it’s inspired a ton of awesome cartoons: The Powerpuff Girls and Steven Universe are two of the best. Now, that style that started in Japanese manga and then moved to anime, then came to the US and into American-made cartoons is finally filtering back into comics. Power Up is one of the best of the bunch. It ropes in characters who are personable and human and puts them in highly dramatic and extremely silly situations. 💖

Comic Books Out 16 September 2015

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A bit late.

Southern Cross #5

Southern Cross is an incredibly-drawn psychedelic murder-mystery in space. The basic story is that of a woman aboard a vessel trying to investigate the mysterious death/disappearance of her estranged sister. There’s plenty of drama and intrigue of the regular human and of the supernatural/science fiction type, and it’s all combined with a sensation creeping dread that takes a bit from Alien but mostly veers towards the unknowable like Del Toro likes to hint at. I can’t wait until the conclusion next month.

Prez #4

Beth Ross is now finally president, and she’s picking her chiefs of staff, who include people like her anti-establishment high school civics teacher, and her no-nonsense boss from Lil’ Doggies House of Corndogs. There’s also a horrific crisis caused by military overreach that will probably track through the end of this book, which it sounds like is coming far too quickly. Please buy this book!

Jem and The Holograms #7

A rebuilding issue for the Jems, where they deal with the practical side of the band and its fame as well as begin to rebuild relationships. A transitional issue, but still tons of fun.

Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #4

I can’t believe I only recently found out about the long-running Age of Reptiles series. They’re lush, wordless comics featuring dinosaurs. How did 12-year-old me never find out about this?! Honestly, I could stare at this book for days.

Island Comics Magazine #3

Island is a gift to comics fans. It’s put together by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios and it features incredible creators putting out awesome work. I love love love anthology books. You get a bunch of different stories all in one package; there’s always something to surprise you. The story that bowled me over this time was Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s Ancestor (part 1). It conveys an anxiety and uneasiness that is tough to reproduce and goes right for the throat, forcing you to look at yourself critically if you’re a chronic smartphone user like me. The art is clear, iconic and evocative in a way that gives a sense of space and life into emotionally charged situations. I guess that makes Ancestor sound tense, but to me it was a fresh plunge into a world that I can’t wait to read more about.

Comic Books out 9 September 2015

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I only picked up three books this week.

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #2

I get frustrated with books that take work to get into. Books with a lot of history or that require you to have read lots of other stuff beforehand are something I complain about on Four Color Commentary with relative frequency. But if I’m being perfectly honest, I do occasionally love books like that assuming I’ve already done all of the required reading. I’ve done all of the reading for Phonogram’s newest series, The Immaterial Girl, as well as all of the required listening and watching. This month’s issue heavily references the music video for A-Ha’s Take On Me (even in the cover) as well videos for Thriller and Madonna’s Material Girl. Musically it references some solid early-2000 electro, as well as the music scenes surrounding, and the book itself gives no introduction to characters or their exploits, as you’d need to read the other Phonogram volumes to understand those references. But Gillen/McKelvie and I somehow travel in similar musical circles (with some exceptions), so I’m right in tune with them for this mind bending and heavily-referential series.

Head Lopper #1

I tend to add the format of a book to its name when mentioning it, which means I’ve called this book “Head Lopper Quarterly Adventure Comic #1” a couple of times when mentioning it to friends (in the same way that I keep calling it “Island Comics Magazine”). But I think the quarterly aspect of it is important, because it’s a thick book (80+ pages) and it costs nearly $6. You’re getting easily 3 issues worth of comics for your money here, which introduces the Head Lopper himself, the world around him, his next quest and the political machinations that motivate it. Also there’s a ton of bad-ass monster battles drawn with Andrew MacLean’s angular style. This is a brütal comic, with tons of blood and blisteringly-drawn battles like the best swords-and-sandals stories. The art is done in a distinct way that brings to mind some of that vividly-colorerd, loose noodle-arm style of Adventure Time. This book looks incredible and even after 80 pages I’m thirsty for more of this story.

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #1

I’ve been reading Clevinger and Wegener’s Atomic Robo since the beginning, but this is the first issue of there’s that does two things I never expected to see from them: (1) continuity and (2) no Atomic Robo. Most of the Atomic Robo stories have been stories out of time, tales of the storied life of the super-scientist robot created by Nikola Tesla, but this series follows Robo’s team directly after the end of Volume 8: Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur (which is easily the funniest Robo story). Essentially, Atomic Robo has done a Back to the Future 3 and accidentally ended up in the 1880s, while at the same time some sort of new bio-apocolypse is turning the world into a police state. His team regroups and decides to find Robo and make things right again. It’s continuity and I like it!

Comic Books Out 2 September 2015

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I was originally planning to get five books this week, but Nuclear Comics in Mission Viejo was sold out/didn’t get Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #4, and I forgot to ask. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it next week.

Casanova: Acedia #4

I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I haven’t read this yet. I have Acedia issues 1-3 as well and I like to savor my Casanova books and read them in one sitting, preferably with coffee. But Fraction/Ba/Moon’s Casanova books are the comics that got me back into comics years ago. They’re the books that made this disillusioned lover of postmodern fiction realize that incredible things and literary things are going on between the pages of comic books that don’t involve capes or punching. And I’ll always love Casanova for that. Also there is some punching.

Plutona #1

Speaking of capes (which, for those of you who aren’t huge comic nerds, is code-speak for superheroes), Plutona is a really oblique look at the superhero genre. The focus on this first issue is on a group of middle school kids who are all various amounts of dirtbag in depressingly realistic ways. And it ends (spoiler!) with them finding the body of a famous and mysterious hero in the woods. Emi Lenox, with her distinct cartoony-inky style, is a surprising choice for drawing superheroes but is a perfect choice for this more slice-of-life look at kids who live in a world in which masked vigilantes happen to exist.

8House #3: Kiem

The 8House series is a really cool way to have a lot of different stories set in a singular universe. Brandon Graham (from King City/Multiple Warheads/Prophet) is the mastermind behind this universe that he’s sharing with some other writers and a bunch of artists. The issues have different subtitles and are thus different parts of the story. The first two issues were subtitled Arclight, drawn by Marian Churchland, and set in a heavily fantastic warrior culture. Issue #3 is subtitled Kiem and is drawn by Xurxo G. Penalta and set in a very science fiction-y enclave. The art is gorgeous and hyper-detailed, bringing to mind Moebius’ work (especially the coloring) and the story hints at a lot of depth that I’m looking forward to discovering.

Jem and the Holograms #6

I didn’t grow up with Jem and her rock and roll band, but my kids and wife and I love that silly 80s cartoon quite a bit. I and my daughter are the target audience for this book and this is the issue that wraps up the first arc. First of all, the Sophie Campbell’s artwork on this book is astounding, with an incredible combination of Jamie McKelvie-style clear line and a more fluid, manga-influenced style. The colors are dazzling as well. This book does the best representation of music on a comics page in a book out right now (yes, even compared to Wicked + Divine). The story has been hilarious and heartfelt, just like the best episodes of the show.

Comic Books Out 26 August 2015

26 Aug 2015

I bought four books this week.

Prez #3

Prez is the best comic book that DC is putting out right now, and, from what I understand, it’s not selling well. I guess people are confused, possibly because it stars a girl and uses bright, pretty colors, and no one punches anyone.

No punching. In a DC book.

But the book is incredible. It’s the second coming of Transmetropolitan, but without the winking ‘this is the future’ irony. The book is literally just as absurd as Transmet, but it’s so much more world-weary. Whereas Spider Jerusalem alternatingly reveled and was disgusted by in the filth and insanity of his future, Beth Ross just can’t even with this time she lives in. Sometimes, I just can’t even with the time I live in. BUY THIS BOOK.

Godzilla in Hell #2

I added this to my pull list because James Stokoe did the first one. And his previous Godzilla book was literally the best Godzilla media that the 21st century has produced. I did not realize that each issue is a different creator (or creative team) doing a no-holds-barred monster battle. This issue, featuring incredible oil paintings by SF/Fantasy/Horror artist Bob Eggleton, is the closest I’ve seen kaiju mingle with fine art, even if the narration is a bit overwrought. It’s giant monsters fighting, though, so overwrought works.

Zodiac Starforce #1

I bought this book half for myself and half for my 7 year old daughter. The art is gorgeous and vibrant with tons of incredible colors, and the story is far from your standard magical girl book. Taking a page from Steven Universe (et al), we come upon this super team who has all but disbanded and whose relations are pretty strained. It’s an interesting premise and the way the backstory develops as the story moves forward is going to make or break this book. I am excited about the group of “evil girls” who remind me a lot of the main gang from Curb Stomp.

Over The Garden Wall #1 (of 4)

If you haven’t watched Over The Garden Wall, Patrick McHale’s animated miniseries, it’s going to be tough to describe the singular tone of that world. It’s a place that macabre but never really dark; it’s absurd and funny but juuuuuuuuuuust keeps you on edge. This book captures that beautifully with a ridiculous tale of a pair of sisters with chores that they never fully articulate. Jim Campbell’s art captures the feeling of the characters without letting them seem static, a tough chore for a cartoon adaptation. (I picked up the Steve Wolfhard cover because I think he’s a rad dude.)

In Real Life

I remember when this was a short story by Cory Doctorow (one of those boingboing.net editors) that I listened to in the car driving home from school (I did that a lot). It was one of my favorites, and Jen Wang’s interpretation of it elevates this story to a classic. I have always loved books that deal with the mundane life and its intersection with another more charmed world, even if it’s just a MMORPG. The story doesn’t rely on easy answers and addresses some real world issues in a sane and honest way. In classic YA fashion, there are certainly lessons learned in this book, and I can’t wait until my second grader can read this and grasp its lessons.

Also the art is GORGEOUS OMG.

 

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Media, September 2014

Inspired by posts like this from guys like Sean Witzke, here’s the media I consumed in September:

FILM

  1. Tangled (2010)
  2. The Lone Ranger* (2013)
  3. Equilibrium* (2002)
  4. Monsters University (2013)
  5. Toy Story shorts (Hawaiian Vacation, Small Fry, Partysaurus Rex and Toy Story of Terror) (2011-2013)
  6. Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)
  7. Enchanted (2007)
  8. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  9. Swiss Family Robinson** (1960)
  10. Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers** (2010)
  11. Joseph: King of Dreams** (2000)
  12. Speed Racer (2008)
  13. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
  14. National Treasure* (2004)
  15. The Phantom* (1996)
  16. The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)
  17. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  18. Spirited Away (2001)
  19. Pixar Short Film Collection Vol. 1 (2007)
  20. Castle in the Sky (1986)
  21. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
  22. Wreck-it Ralph (2012)
  23. The Mummy* (1999)
  24. Blade* (1998)

*For Super Action Bros
**On Netflix

TV

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 7)
  2. Doctor Who (Series 8)
  3. Steven Universe (Season 1)

BOOKS

  1. Sin City: the Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller***
  2. Demeter by Becky Cloonan***
  3. The Mire by Becky Cloonan
  4. Wolves by Becky Cloonan
  5. Storm #1 by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez***
  6. Suicide Risk #1 by Mike Carey and Elena Casagrande***
  7. The Multiversity #1 by Grant Morrison and Ivan Reis***
  8. The Midas Flesh (complete) by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb***
  9. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  10. Silver Surfer: Parable by Stan Lee and Moebius***
  11. Fatherhood by Ryan K Lindsay and Daniel Schneider***
  12. The Iron West by Douglas TenNapel***
  13. Nailbiter #1 by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson***
  14. The Five Fists of Science by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders***

***For Four Color Commentary

Prestige Format Review: Bandette 1-3

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Have you read Monkeybrain Comics’ Bandette yet? There are three issues on Comixology for 99¢ apiece. That’s $2.97 for a lot of good comics!

Charming and adventurous like a hip Tintin, Bandette is a coquettish rogue who splits her time between stealing, helping put-upon Inspector BG Belgique capture criminals, and building her network of street kids, ballet dancers and cute Thai food delivery boys. Imagine a young, dashing French/Belgian Catwoman without all the prostitute baggage and you get close to her character. But there’s also her band of helpers! The inspector! That scooter she drives! Her underground lair and flair for the arts! It’s so good and so worth it, you guys.

Colleen Coover’s art is somewhere between the aforementioned Tintin’s ligne claire and some inkier quill-drawn manga work, with inkwashes and mostly earthtone watercolor to enhance the scenes. Paul Tobin’s story is kept fast-paced and enthralling with six or seven panels per page, and there is just enough snappy dialog to move the plot without burdening the reader.

The stories are nicely lighthearted–lighthearted theft and crimestopping, that is–with little in the sense of real peril (besides the temper of inspector Belgique). But in the same way that you know Huey, Dewey and Louie will make it out okay, the adventure is still exciting and enjoyable even without the feeling of impending doom hanging over the reader. The end of the third issue hints at a more serious storyarc to come, as well!

Bandette is ONLY available from Monkeybrain Comics via digital comics app Comixology, which is compatible with your web browser as well as the iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle Fire. 

Prestige Format Review: Multiple Warheads

Multiple Warheads The Fall

Multiple Warheads is a seriously bizarre comic by writer-artist Brandon Graham. Known for his epic manga about cat-masters, King City, and his critically-lauded reinvention of the much-derided Rob Liefield science-fiction book Prophet, Graham has a history of occasionally letting his id loose on comics projects. Usually he lets it loose in short stories for dirty books or on his blog, but it seems that he has finally unleashed the beast in Multiple Warheads. Originally a one-shot from Oni Press (now out of print, and no digital either–though Graham did mention it would be included in the eventual Multiple Warheads collection), the story follows organ-smuggler Sexica and her half-werewolf (I’ll let you figure out which half) boyfriend Nik as they escape their city and go on a road trip.

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Along the way they deal with talking cars, singing cigarettes, weird animals, robots, ghosts, monks, and as many visual and lexical puns as one human being can jam pack into a candy-colored page of comics. Graham’s art, equally inspired by his history in graffiti, childhood love of manga and devotion to Moebius, is alternatingly jam-packed and sparse. There are wide-open landscapes, blank skies, and densely packed (with characters, buildings, vehicles and jokes) cities, all boasting a gorgeously pastel ice cream paint job.

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The story also follows a mysterious assassin who’s looking to collect some heads. His story, with a mysterious mission and unknown counter-assassin, is a nice action-packed counterpart to Nik and Sexica’s discussions of breakfast and taking turns driving. Both are heading towards the same finish, so they’re bound to cross paths sooner or later.

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The book is charmingly bizarre and sometimes so punny that it can be difficult to understand which direction a conversation is heading, but all of the tiny jokes and minuscule references can have you staring at the gorgeous art for hours on end. The book is rated M for mature, mostly because Graham’s sexy comics past means he can’t pass up a good bit of cheesecake or jokey reference, but the story is more romantic than bawdy and certainly more chaste than some mainstream comics that I’ve read

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The last issue is due out next week (February 6) and it contains 8 extra pages! At $2.99, for such a beautifully printed color comic so densely packed with excellence, it’s a steal. Speaking of which, the first issue of Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity is available now for free on digital comics service Comixology, which you can read in-browser or on the digital media device of your choice. If you’re thirsting for more Brandon Graham, though his main blog is updated infrequently, his posts are always massive (and usually partially NSFW). The same (NSFW) goes for his much more frequently-updated but less dense tumblr.