Prestige Format Review: Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter

Marc Ellerby's Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter

Marc Ellerby’s Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter

I recently discovered Marc Ellerby‘s Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter through a special Christmas comic that was posted about a month late to his tumblr and then reblogged by someone I follow. Which is a pretty roundabout way to discover something, I suppose, but such is the Internet. I was so enamored, however, that I immediately purchased the Chloe Noonan digital omnibus, a 136-page DRM-free PDF (with bonus covers and sketches and fan-art) which set me back all of $4.84(-ish, it’s whatever £2.99 converts to) including all of the Chloe Noonan stories except the 2012 Halloween and Christmas specials (those are available here!).

Chloe Noonan, Monster Hunter is a young lady living in the UK who, while not going to class, clubbing with pals or playing keyboard in a dysfunctional band, works for some sort of top-secret monster hunting organization. She has the powers of: a metal stick, and telling people off. She’s constantly grumpy and put-upon, a perfect foil to her ever-present short, perky and fit (the British way) pal Zoe. Chloe stumbles through life (not unlike a certain Canadian ex-boyfriend battler) and somehow survives, usually by the persistence of her frowns.

Mostly, Chloe is just trying to just get on with her life while having to deal with monsters, unstable bandmates and cheery best friends. As I alluded to earlier, there’s certainly some Scott Pilgrim DNA in these stories, but where Pilgrim is an OMG INCREDIBLE fighter, Chloe gets knocked down and suckerpunched a lot and she can’t even run very far without getting out of breath. It’s fun and refreshing to see a totally normal (if maybe supernaturally grumpy) person in a world where monsters abound. Seeing fantastic things happen while characters focus on the mundane and the ginger protagonist point to a bit of inspiration from legendary webcomic Scary Go Round, but Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter is fully its own entity.

Taken as a whole, the fun stories are a little disconnected. They’re presented as vignettes of Chloe’s life, and little hints of a bigger story pop out occasionally. There are bits of larger monster-related and life-related plot lurking in the background, and the Christmas and Halloween specials reveal a touch of backstory. Based on Ellerby’s blog posts and notes on the matter, the Chloe Noonan comics that exist right now are essentially a warm up to something greater. I can’t wait to see what that is, but right now I’m content with seeing Chloe call a Kraken Squidward and fuss at him to the point that he slinks away after insulting her.

Prestige Format Review: Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake #1

Fionna & Cake #1 Quinones Cover

Fionna & Cake #1 Quinones Cover

I convinced my daughter to get this comic with three words: “girl adventure time.” Maybe that was a bit reductivist, maybe I was trying to distract her from worrying about the spiders on the cover of My Little Pony #2. (A small side story: My four year old daughter Bella was VERY excited about a My Little Pony comic when we got it, but the scary ponies–changelings, for you bronies–literally gave her nightmares. She took one look at the cover of MLP #2, with cutesy spiders hanging out with the ponies, and decided she was definitely not getting that comic book.) She is not much of a fan of Adventure Time–when we watched a few episodes, her response was, “That was weird, dad.” So I wasn’t sure what she would think about Fionna and Cake. She doesn’t read much yet, but going by her enjoyment of the pictures, she seemed to enjoy it (especially the cute kitty).

I also really enjoyed the book. It began with a surprisingly touching fairy tale that ends up as Cake’s fantastical explanation of volcanoes. Then Cake changes shape into a cat who looks like a pile of poo. They fight the Ice Queen and set up a nice arc for the miniseries. But it’s this juxtaposition of touching stories and poop jokes that I think gets to the heart of why Adventure Time is so beloved: it’s appallingly silly and manic and it seems that anything can happen to our intrepid adventurers. Inside of downloaded dances and kitty-litter-swords is a real sincerity and love. The characters, though silly on the surface, are honest and surprisingly deep. The writers and artists involved really love and are committed to having fun and making great art for us to enjoy. The stories are funny and wonderfully nonsensical, but the reader is always respected by the inventiveness of the stories.

The backup story of the issue is from the much beloved artist, tumblr’s own Gingerhaze, who actually makes her jokey feral sweater boys an ACTUAL PART of Fionna and Cake continuity. I’m 100% behind that and seeing more of Noelle Stevenson’s art in print. For instance, check out her webcomic, Nimona!)

Things to do, Summer 2009

OC Mud Run

The mud run is a 5- or 10-K dirt run involving obstacles like lake swims, mud hills and army crawls through muck. If this doesn’t sound like immediate fun to you (I was dubious at first, too), imagine it as the next logical step after playing with GI Joes in the dirt in your backyard. Plus you get a tshirt! Visit their site for details.

Read Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest is the late David Foster Wallace‘s 1000+ page masterwork. It’s both readable and worth reading, and all of the Internet is reading it this summer, from June 21 to September 22, 75 pages a week. Get into it: infinitesummer.org

Play Ultimate Frisbee

I hearby declare the summer of 2009 to be not only the Infinite Summer, but the Ultimate Summer. I’ll be playing Saturday mornings at 10 at Olympiad park in Mission Viejo.

Read Jan’s Atomic Heart

It’s a short comic in black and inkwash-grays about a man in Frankfurt with a temporary robotic prosthesis for a body. And it is gorgeous and brilliant and only $6. Preview and purchase point here. Publisher’s site here.

Listen to Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and Akron/Family’s Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free outdoors

Look, both of these albums are fantastic and clearly intended to be heard wafting across acres of greenery. Get it done.

Listen after the jump:
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A Bloggy Update

Here comes a big wrapup and here’s why I haven’t blogged post:

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Who’ll Watch the Watchmen?

Unless you’re not an a comic book nerd in the 18-35 demographic, you may not be aware that Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ legendary icon of comics, Watchmen, is coming out in a film version this weekend. Don’t know much about Watchmen? Click here.

There are plenty of reviews out there, and they seem to be taking two very different looks at this movie. It seems that people who are coming into the film having already read and loved the Watchmen comic book love the movie. And people who don’t love (or haven’t read) the comic book are having a tough time with the movie.

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These could be Tweets: a Life Update

Isabella’s saying ‘Dada’ and ‘Mama’ now with some frequency.

I drink Diet Dr Pepper daily–I’m starting to break my Diet Coke addiction.

I would like a barbecue feast.

No one was interested in seeing M83 with School of Seven Bells, so I’m probably not going.

Rossy was interested, but when I asked about it later admitted that she didn’t remember who the bands were.

I misplaced two comic books: Top Ten Season 2 #2 and Kickdrum Comix #2. It’s driving me nuts that I can’t find them.

I watched Metalocalypse season 2 on my phone and was underwhelmed. It seemed pretty formulaic and the music wasn’t as solid (or maybe not as surprising to me) as season 1.

I downloaded Venture Bros. Season 3, but the files have AAC 5.1 audio, which I can’t convert to iPhone-compatible video.

I want Transformers Classics Hound & Ravage and I kinda want a Classics Optimus Prime, but I am probably going to be over buying new transformers for 6 months or so.

The JJ Abrams Star Trek movie looks like good sci-fi from the trailer.

I can’t wait for the Watchmen movie, but I have lingering doubts about it being any good at all.

I’d like the Wall-e three-disc set.

I cannot wait for Rock Band 2 to come out for the Wii.

CSI is my favorite police procedural show now. Sorry, Law & Order.

I’m watching Smallville (on DVDs, just started season 2) and Heroes out of compulsion now. I hope they both get better.

I bought a six-pack of Stella Artois. I shoulda bought a six-pack of Red Stripe.

I don’t own the following series on dvd: Star Wars, The Matrix, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park.

White Cheddar Pirate’s Booty may be the world’s most perfect snack food.

I keep writing half blog posts and then deleting them because they’re too much work to conclude.

I am very passionate about politics, but I try very hard to avoid the subject in conversations.

I want to buy a Toyota Venza.

I want to buy a house.

I want to not buy so much stuff.

Driving home in the dark at 5:30pm daily is pretty depressing.

Stuff I’ve Been Enjoying, October ’08 Edition

Man, it’s been (and continues to be) a crazy month: I’m still playing catchup for the school-starting rush at work, getting used to feeding Isabella baby food (rather than just bottles), alternately dealing with and avoiding politics, trying to avoid sickness, getting ready for the holidays, paying debts, pretending not to worry about our financial future, etc. At least there’s some good stuff, too:

  • Buying comics via Heavyink.com.  It’s a pretty nifty (beta) service that allows you to subscribe to comics which they then mail to you. Since it is in beta currently, all the prices are 20% off, and shipping through the USPS is free! One nifty thing heavyink has (over going to a comic shop) is that it asks you to rate all the comics you’ve gotten, and then it recommends you new comics based on the ones you’ve rated. The system isn’t perfect yet, but it works better than most disinterested comics shop employees I have met. Lately, I’ve read: Atomic Robo, All-Star Superman, Blue Beetle, Batman RIP, Hellboy/BPRD, I Kill Giants, Greatest Hits, Tiny Titans, and the most recent Superman/Batman arc.
     
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  • Pondering what is happening in Batman RIP and Heroes. I’m an episode behind on Heroes but completely caught up with Batman. And they’re still mostly incomprehensible. There’s so much happening in Batman that could mean different things–I feel like I am reading that comic backwards or something because I am so confused. Plus I’m missing the last 70 years of Bat-lore to fill in the blanks (Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, anyone?). Heroes seems focused on making every character completely different than who you think they are. They’re treating Hiro like the comic relief buffoon again, for instance. Boo for that. I also get a very strong feeling that an event is going to occur later this season that will negate half of what has happened. PLUS they keep getting the effects of time travel in a closed timeline wrong, which irks me to no end. I really am enjoying Batman and Heroes though. It’s joy wrapped in frustration. Like a candy which has become hopelessly connected to its wrapping.
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  • Achewood.com: The art is mostly terrible, yes. Sometimes it is bizarre, hard to understand or just plain inappropriate. But mostly the writing is another kind of brilliant. Reading this comic will seep into your speech and change the whole way you talk about stuff. Start off at wikipedia, following links from there. Alternately, check out the Great Outdoor Fight book, it might give you a goosebump.
     
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  •  The hope inherent in Wilco & Fleet Foxes’ cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”. This is a two-fold hope. Fold one is the hope buried in the song itself, something akin to other soul anthems like “A Change is Gonna Come”. Fold two is rooted in the potential this song exhibits. Two well-regarded indie/alt country groups covering a standard hearkens back to the days of The Band, the Travelling Wilburys and other countrified “supergroups”. Collaborations are already abounding in this new group of musicians (see M. Ward/She & Him, Jim James/MMJ, Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley, etc.) This brings me hope because I need more rollicking honesty in my lyrics and more loping ballads with ponderous solos that remind me of truth, humanity and all that stuff. Plus, dang, it’s a good song. Download free with pledge to vote here.
     
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  • The new MSTRKRFT single Bounce and the remix by A-Trak.  Okay, so this song is kinda raunchy. Not overtly, just, you know, kinda. I have no great love for NORE or his verses, and the chorus is repetitive. BUT the backing track is just stellar. This is excellent moving music, great for exercise, fast driving or various types of work. Then comes the A-Trak remix. Generally, I have no great love for A-Trak either. But his remix transcends any limitations this song holds. Starting with a great old-school drum break and proceeding through a number of early hip hop tropes fresh enough to avoid cliche, A-Trak constructs a great Bush I era-dance track. It’s chock full of funky drummers and James Brown yelps, but then that acid loop comes in and basically destroys the track (uh, in a good way). A great late summer listen-loud track. Your car demands it!
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  • My daughter, who is awesome. Evidence here. 

Paul Pope’s 100%: A Lunchtime Review

 

The cover of the Trade Paperback for 100%

<meta>I’m starting a new section of the site–“Lunchtime Reviews”–which are exactly what they sound like.</meta>

 

100%, Paul Pope‘s 2002 graphic novel, was billed as “a graphic movie” and I think it succeeds splendidly in that. Wikipedia has a good summation of the characters, sci-fi, and other elements of the comic, so go read that and report back. 

100% takes place in some future (2038) version of NYC, and, as name-checked by wikipedia, there’s a good amount of Blade Runner in the depiction. There is, however, a lot separating 2038 NYC from 2019 LA. The setting of 100% is a lot less stark; it is a lot more jumbled and full of humans, refuse, and day-glo colors. (The book is in black, white and halftones, so the dayglo thing is partially an assumption. But look at the covers!) 2038 NYC has some of the lived-in future of 2019 LA, but it’s also got some 1984 1/2 London in it. The drawings are kinetic while being cinematic–this could easily serve as a story board for one of those up-and-coming direct-adaptation-of-comics directors.

There’s a whimsy here not present in the threatening dystopias like Blade Runner. Details like the popular fast food of “Tandoori Star” and orb-like “threading devices” for communications bring in various elements of futurism, but it’s all taken for granted by the characters and the story. Denying someone’s thread request is no different from sending a caller to voicemail. These futuristic elements are presented front-and-center, but it’s as if Pope is winking at the audience, dazzling us with his imaginative concepts, and saying “look at the future…same as it ever was.”

The story focuses on three main stories which intertwine to various degrees. The focus of all three stories are good ol’ boy-girl relationships: a whirlwind romance, a chance encounter, a slow burning, a reconciliation, a breakup. They’re just like, well, real life: sometimes, heartwarming, sometimes inexplicable. Perhaps the most striking element of this book is honest and slightly mundane life is in the future. People fall in and out of love, feelings get hurt, anger and fear meld with apathy in a way that almost betrays the futuristic setting. In a world where nudity has given way to lurid viewings of internal organs, would interpersonal relationships remain unchanged? Why not? 

This book dares to be a slice-of-life comic wearing a future-suit. These aren’t extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; they’re just people, y’know? Sure, it’s the future, but so what?

Further Reading:

Comic Book Resources interview w/ Paul Pope
Paul Pope’s Blog
His flickr

A brief subject matter disclaimer: This graphic novel [ed. – sounds pretentious]  contains some naked bodies, some death, and some rough language.