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Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

The Stack-3/8/17

In new books on March 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm

. . . Aaaaaaaaaaand I’m back!

Sorry to all three of my regular readers, but i sorely needed a vacation. Not from comics, mind you, but from day-to-day life in general. Sometimes you lose perspective, and get in a rut so deep that your wheels just spin without purpose, and you angrily kick up mud at everything around you, losing any interest in forward momentum. Yep, according to my lazy-ass metaphor, sometimes you turn into a jeep.

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And you watch helplessly as your leader heroically drives off to his doom.

But now it’s time to get back to the things I love, hopefully with some renewed purpose and enthusiasm. First I’d like to quickly touch on a few of the more noteworthy books I missed in the last two weeks. I feel kind of guilty, taking my already brief one-paragraph nonsense and chopping it into rapid-fire nuggets (I’m capable of long form reviews, I swear), but since I’m not getting paid for this and you’re all probably just skimming it anyway, we’ll zip right past my insecurities and get the hell on with it.

Letter 44 #30 (Charles Soule, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque, Dan Jackson, Crank!-Oni Press): The human race tries to put on a brave face and go out with some dignity, and we witness the inevitable heroic sacrifice. NO, I’m not crying. There’s something in my eye. Shut up.

Clean Room #16 (Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, Quinton Winter, Todd Klein, Jenny Frison-DC/Vertigo): It’s on like Donkey Kong. Demonic forces have infiltrated our world, and are ready to push humanity over the edge. Astrid and her organization are mobilizing, ready to kick said demonic forces in the taint.

The Old Guard #1 (Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández, Daniela Miwa, Jodi Wynne-Image): Four weary immortals offer their services as mercenaries and get tricked into revealing their nature. This one’s off to a very promising start.

Savage Things #1 (Justin Jordan, Ibrahim Moustafa, Jordan Boyd, Josh Reed, John Paul Leon-DC/Vertigo): Children with sociopathic traits are recruited by an organization within the United States to be remorseless killers that will be unleashed on the nation’s enemies. What could possibly go wrong?

Royal City #1 (Jeff Lemire, Steve Wands-Image): The story of a dysfunctional family, the city they grew up in, and the loss that has manifested itself in different ways. I love the feel of this comic, and the way Lemire tells its story. I hope it sticks around for the long haul.

DC Rebirth update: I have read a few more titles in this new lineup recently, and I find I’m still not connecting with any of this stuff. At this point I’m honestly not sure if I’m just bringing in weird preconceived notion baggage, or if these books are really just mostly stale and bland throwbacks, but either way it’s not for me. I never want to be one of those people who dismisses a whole publisher’s worth of books for no reason (I still won’t touch Zenescope, who proudly just slap big ol’ titties on public domain fairy tales and call it a day, but I consider that sort of lazy exploitation a good reason), so I’ll still give one a read here and there, but in my opinion the really worthwhile comics in their arsenal are over at Vertigo and Young Animal.

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Redline #1 (Neal Holman, Clayton McCormack, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Crank!-Oni Press): I have no doubt only become MORE persnickety over the years about the execution of narrative, feeling that the HOW of storytelling makes all the difference when it seems like that old chestnut about there only being three (or maybe seven) basic stories is mostly true. So it was exciting to see this Science Fiction story approach its subject matter almost entirely from the point of view of a few US military agents stationed on Mars (ostensibly as a peacekeeping force). The exposition is as much in the repartee and shit-talking between Coyle and his team as it is in the art team’s gritty visuals. It comes across, speaking in the inevitable TV and movie comparisons, like Generation Kill meets Aliens, keeping us as entertained as we are intrigued.

Green Valley #6 (Max Landis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Pat Brosseau-Image): The issue where Max Landis essentially points out how dumb the plot to Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits is.

The Wicked + The Divine #27 (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): This issue contains a very interesting experiment using eight-panel pages and color coding on those panels to differentiate scene breaks. I want to see more of this, please. Also, Dionysus tries to battle The Great Darkness with a series of experimental raves, because OF COURSE he does.

Copperhead #11 (Jay Faerber, Drew Moss, Ron Riley, Thomas Mauer, Scott Godlewski-Image): It has returned! Co-creator Scott Godlewski has passed the art torch to Drew Moss for now, who does a great job filling those big, Budroxifinicus-sized shoes. Speaking of everyone’s favorite wiseass, he drops a significant bomb on everyone at the conclusion of this issue.

Jessica Jones #6 (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Cory Petit, David Mack-Marvel): Man is this issue good! I really don’t know why people give Bendis so much shit–He keeps proving how adept he is at superhero storytelling, whether it’s dialogue, action, or drama, and the end to this first arc showcases that perfectly. AND it starts off with a flashback where Jessica (then known as Jewel) beats down Doctor Octopus and tells him that he has no dick, so there’s that. One of Marvel’s best right now.

I think that about wraps things up for this week. Join me next time, when there will be a new Bitch Planet, Kill or Be Killed, Manifest Destiny, God Country, Head Lopper, Injection, Spider-Man, The Mighty Thor, Ether, Batwoman (Oh yeah, I DID like that one), The Wild Storm, and more! In addition, I feel it’s time to drop a piece about working the retailer side of things, too, so keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for reading, and comment below so I don’t feel so alone in this world!

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And Happy Birthday, Freddie Prinze, Jr.!

The Art of the Pull List

In new books, rants on February 17, 2017 at 7:32 am

Like any true Wednesday Warrior, my comic book pull list is in a constant state of flux. There ARE those people who blindly buy every book a company puts out, I suppose in some pointless display of brand loyalty, but I’ve never been one of those (Though, to be honest, I came close when Vertigo was at its peak). Recently there has been a bit of a purge, and that got me thinking about the entire process, both from a consumer and a retailer perspective. I’ve assembled here a bunch of random observations that could possibly be of some use to anyone who loves comics so much that they must have them each and every week. Enjoy.

1. The Chopping Block: Should it stay, or should it go?

There’s the obvious primary factor in choosing titles for a comic shop pull list–limits on disposable income. Sure, we’d all like to add whatever we want, and give more books a chance. But there’s that pesky rent/food/bills/depression medication thing getting in the way. So you’ve got to be kinda picky, and prioritize based on what you value most in a floppy. Maybe it’s art, maybe it’s story, or maybe it’s variant covers. Actually, if it’s variants, and you don’t just nab one here and there because it features art by someone you adore, you should probably take some time to evaluate your life. You filthy collector.

Beyond that, there’s a personal threshold that develops for everyone, and it involves a few factors. Most important is how long you intend to give a series to develop. First issues are designed to hook you, but when that wears off, the development of the plot and characters are what will keep you buying. So how long do you allow for that? Most of us will go to the conclusion of the first storyline, which is usually five or six issues. Sometimes you’re just not feeling it, in which case you should by all means drop it and move on with your life. There will be this completionist part of you that will nag at the back of your mind, trying to convince you that enduring mediocrity for the sake of a complete run is wise. Ignore that shit. Trust me. You filthy collector.

2. The Previews catalog: Your greatest friend, your greatest enemy

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Every single month, Diamond puts out the Previews catalog. This monstrous tree-killer lets you know about every single comic, collection, and graphic novel headed your way in about two months. Each shop gets a free copy, and any that desires staying open will at the very least let you peruse one. DO THIS. I realize that I don’t really need to emphasize this, since the thrill of the new is all the motivation you’ll need. Your wallet will hate you, and loved ones may disapprove, but you knew the risks going in. What is even more important is that you inform your shop owner as soon as you’re done looking at it, letting them know what you want to add or remove. Their initial orders each month are based primarily on pull list numbers, and the interest suggested by those numbers. You’ll get exactly what you want, and they will not be wasting time and money. It’s a wonderful bit of symbiosis, when everyone is on board with it.

3. The Social Contract: It takes two to make this thing go right

Speaking of your relationship with your local shop, let’s talk about responsibilities. YES, you have them when you start a pull list. It’s not a legally binding contract, but by ordering comics that a shop has agreed to hold for you, you have agreed to actually pick them up and pay for them. Regularly. Not put most of them back on the shelf. Not disappear for months and expect that you can just cherry-pick some when you deign to show up again. Nope. You take and pay for them all. Your shop is providing you with a service, and many of them are even giving you a discount on top of that. Be an adult and uphold your part of this deal. Let them know in a timely fashion if you have changes. If you have to or want to cancel, just say that. You might be making them less money, but you will have earned their respect. I speak from experience on this one.

I think that pretty much covers it. Don’t be scared to commit to the list. The hours of reading enjoyment are totally worth it. Just make sure you honor that commitment. It’s like having a puppy. A puppy made of paper. But there’s a new one each week. A bunch of them each week.

Okay, it’s nothing like having a puppy. Just read comic books. Please. And thank you.

You filthy collector.

 

The Stack-2/15/17

In new books on February 16, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I’ll keep the opening banter to a minimum this week, since I’ll be making another post right after this one that will tie into what I want to discuss, and it will hopefully make up for the lack of anything on Sunday.

Wednesday was a deluge of goodness. If you didn’t visit your local shop yet, get off yer rump and fix that situation posthaste. Behold, nerdy mortals:

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God Country #2 (Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, John J. Hill, Gerardo Zaffino-Image): Emmett was an old man suffering through Alzheimer’s, and then for some reason a magic god-forged sword from beyond Earth chose him to wield it so that he might slice up demons. Its former owner and his father aren’t too pleased about this, so it’s time to parley while Emmett comes to terms with the fact that this weapon has returned his memories and life to him. This book is a spiritual successor of sorts to the amazing 2008 Luna Brothers series The Sword. Unintentionally, I’m sure, but the similarities are there. Regardless, this cosmic-mysteries-by-way-of-real-world-Texas-grit yarn is one of the best new books out there.

The Wild Storm #1 (Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Ivan Plascencia, Simon Bowland, Tula Lotay, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair-DC): Jim Lee’s Wildstorm universe was a thoroughly 90s superhero concept that made its way from the early Image days to DC Comics. Full of black ops teams, conspiracy theories, and genre action, it really didn’t pop until a Red Bull-swilling, cane-swinging Brit by the name of Warren Ellis got to make his mark on it. With StormWatch, and later The Authority, these ideas soared to glorious new places, with a swagger all their own and page-consuming fight scenes. This latest iteration goes a bit more street-level on the surface, but even darker and more devious below that. It’s going to be one hell of a twenty-four issue ride.

The Mighty Thor #16 (Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson, VC’s Joe Sabino, Joe Jusko-Marvel): Thor, right in the middle of Malekith’s war, has been whisked away beyond the edges of space to the place where the Shi’ar gods reside, and they have decided to challenge her to determine who is mightier. To these vicious celestials it’s all a game where mortal lives mean nothing, and Thor does not approve. In fact, she’s going to show these tyrants up by simply being her awesome, benevolent (at least as benevolent as a hammer-wielding superhuman can be) self. Meanwhile, in the Congress of Worlds, Volstagg filibusters by talking about his favorite foods.

Animosity #5 (Marguerite Bennett, Rafael De Latorre, Rob Schwager, Marshall Dillon, Marcelo Maiolo, Mike Rooth-Aftershock): Another fantastic comic that puts the thesis statement of the whole series in one beautifully-executed page! The whole conflict is right there on page one of this issue, as two shrimps who have been sent as emissaries for their kind head to the surface world to speak with the rest of the animals who have been suddenly given human-level consciousness and the power of speech. They wonder what other forms of life have been given these gifts, and if they are just too far down the chain to be taken seriously by larger forms of life. And then a whale eats them. Yep. There’s also goat drama, a big human event, and possibly a dragon attack…?

Unfollow #16 (Rob Williams, Mike Dowling, Quinton Winter, Clem Robins, Matt Taylor-DC/Vertigo): It’s time for the big showdown. Ferrell has revealed that he’s still alive, and he’s given the survivors of his experiment his coordinates in Venezuela. So they’ve hopped on a few helicopters to confront–Oh, he has shot them out of the sky with missiles. I know. Spoilers. But it seems like many of them are still alive. So there’s that. Back in the States, the FBI is trying to shut down the Global Church of Akira, which is more than up to the challenge, what with all the tax-free money they’ve accumulated and the MANY social media followers they’ve amassed. And then, the most thoroughly modern of disasters occurs, which put a big grin on my face. This one I won’t spoil.

There were so many other great books this week, including (brace yourselves) a Rebirth title–Batwoman! What made top of the pile for YOU? Feel free to comment. Seriously. You can. Just try it. It’ll be fun. Comments SHOULD be enabled. I think.

The Stack-2/8/17

In new books on February 9, 2017 at 11:16 am

It’s weird out there, folks. Not in a good way. Not in the way that Austin, Texas is known for. Not in the way that club kids or Burners enjoy. No, more like when there’s a black storm on the periphery of your town, and you feel dread in your guts. You know that fucker wants to come for you, and throw tornadoes at the ground, making unidentifiable detritus of everything you know and love. Weird like THAT.

I know, I know. I’m here for comic book reviews, and I just pooped darkness onto this post before it even had a chance to begin. But stay with me. In times like these, you need some solace or you’ll go mad. Here’s where the comics come in. Reading them voraciously, drinking in every beautiful panel–it’s a weekly ritual that helps to keep me from getting too close to the precipice. I don’t COMPLETELY have my head up my ass; obviously the support and love I get from those close to me is the what means the most. But my books, along with the myriad other hobbies I engage in, come in a close second. They connect me to all of these people outside of my immediate sphere, people who have big ideas, and stories to share, and images in their heads that they needed to get onto paper.

Having unburdened myself of that, let’s get to the weekly highlights.

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Green Valley #5 (Max Landis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Pat Brosseau-Image): This is a comic I’ve been raving about since its first issue, and the primary reason for that is how well it doles out its mysteries. It always messes with your expectations, even the ones it worked to establish in previous installments. There’s plenty more of that this month, along with an amazing dinosaur battle (the tension and excitement created is wonderful; Max is not at all afraid to truly jeopardize his characters), and the musical stylings of 80s sensation and singer-songwriter Eddie Money.

Alters #4 (Paul Jenkins, Leila Leiz, Tamra Bonvillain, Ryane Hill, Brian Stelfreeze-Aftershock): This issue feels like a true crystallized mission statement. Charlie, newly transitioned from male to female and from human to superhuman, is starting to connect with a community that understands and supports those changes, and it has given her the courage to come out to the world as Chalice in a television broadcast. She assuages fears, takes down the haters, and offers up her powers in the service of anyone out there who needs a hero. Then, of course, the baddies show up and threaten to undo it all.

The Wicked + The Divine #26 (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): The gods have made themselves known to the world again, and now the Great Darkness follows, threatening to destroy everything. It’s time to unleash the superpowers… for SOME of the Pantheon. This isn’t The Avengers, and things just aren’t that simple. What we’re seeing is a collection of capricious deities in the bodies of very flawed, very conflicted mortals. Some want to fight, some want to study the enemy further before taking action, and some just want anarchy. Despite what prophecies might say, sometimes your champions just do not give a shit.

Jessica Jones #5 (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Cory Petit, David Mack, Jay Fosgitt-Marvel): And now we get to the jaw-dropper of the week. One thing I adore about the genre of Detective Fiction is the escalation factor. It always begins with a case, and quickly swells into conflicts and conspiracy WAY beyond the protagonist’s wheelhouse. That’s precisely what we have here, and it involves a recent, massive crossover event in the Marvel universe. It also threatens to turn Jessica against her superhero friends. A big nod to this art team is in order, too; they convey noir atmosphere on each and every page.

Okay, I started dark, so let’s head to the light. Let’s spread the word about all the good things we still enjoy, whether they’re comic books or not. Let’s encourage the creative people who make it possible, and put some money in their pockets for all of their hard work (I’m looking at YOU, pirates). And as always, let’s get it from local shops unless we have no other option. Thanks for reading.

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FUCK the bozos!

Image Comics, Past and Present

In history on February 6, 2017 at 2:26 am

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Today, while most folks are enjoying the Super Bowl, I’m drunk as shit, reminiscing about my misguided youth, most of which was spent sampling the delights at the buffet table of early 90s comic books. Not as exciting as, say, coming back to win after your opponents have a twenty-one point lead on you, but this wacky world of funny books has always been less about visceral, outward excitement and more about intellectual power trips. No one was better at that than Image Comics was when it was founded by a gaggle of renegade artists back in ’92.

They are names that you know if you’re a mainstream aficionado: Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino. They were superstars in a very small world, highly stylized hotshots who were selling a SHITLOAD of issues for Marvel Comics. But they weren’t happy with how they were being treated, and how much they were being paid. So they conspired, and made a grand exit so they could found a new publishing company, one that would change the rules of the game and give creators control of their work. Image was born, from rebellion and scratched up Bristol board, screaming into a world which wanted more comics. Even when they were released insanely behind schedule.

The same year that this fledgling organization enthusiastically squirted out its glossy new books onto store shelves, I was an impressionable and curious young asshole of fifteen years. I wrote terrible poetry, I listened to Metallica, and I spent an obscene amount of time playing Sega Genesis games. I knew very little, but I knew that I loved comic books. I couldn’t get enough of them. So when something arrived at my local shop and it stood out on the shelves, I blew all of my dishwashing or grocery bagging money on it. Image books were custom made for marks like me.

The original Image lineup had certain key things in common, and these are qualities that are still loved today, despite my feeling that once you’ve graduated from college you should have outgrown them and moved on to things with a bit more to offer. Sure, you can tell the styles apart, but they’re the ones that made comics big business, and they did that for very specific reasons. These are comics about angry vigilantes and government-sponsored hit teams, splash page after splash page of angular musculature and three thousand hatch lines. It speaks to the angry young nerd, and gets their heart racing. It did for me, I’ll admit it. I wanted Spawn to stab serial killers with popsicle sticks, and I wanted the WildC.A.T.s to chop up the evil Daemonites that possessed Dan Quayle.

There’s a lot more to the Image story, but I’m going to get divisive and blow right past it, to the point I refer to as ‘The Kirkman Era’. Lots of other creators were brought into the fold in those early years, with varying degrees of success, but then the collector craze that they were largely responsible for formed a speculator bubble, which quickly burst and nearly killed the whole industry by the end of the century. There was a period of wonderful experimentation when comics were attempting to rally in the aftermath, and it’s in this environment that Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead appeared. Five years later this hot new creator has done so well that he’s a partner in the company, and the flood gates are open for fresh talent.

Suddenly I’m wondering what dear old Image is up to. Oh, not much. They just introduced the world to Jonathan Hickman through books like The Nightly News, and Kieron Gillen via Phonogram, and The Luna Brothers. They provided a new home to greats like Brian K. Vaughan and Colleen Doran and Rick Remender and Warren Ellis. Suddenly there are books about everything under the sun. There’s a huge resurgence in Science Fiction. More and more women are making comics, and people from every social, racial, and sexual strata, too. Is this entirely the work of Image? No, that just isn’t true. BUT, they’ve been a big part of it. Their business model and their team of editors have allowed diversity to thrive, and as a result we have the landscape that exists today.

So here we are, in 2017, and my pull list is majority Image. The books I most look forward to each week are often theirs. I rant and rave to my customers about the big ideas and bold approaches to the medium found in comics like Bitch Planet, Manifest Destiny, Lazarus, and Chew. It’s easy to dismiss those halcyon days of giant guns and foil variant covers as a mistake, but they paved the way for a new golden age, so that gets them a big pass. You like what you like, so by all means go read your old copies of Youngblood and Pitt, but I’m still going to make snarky jokes. Sorry. I’m only human. A kinda petty, snooty human.

The Stack-2/1/17

In new books on February 2, 2017 at 5:06 pm

When you’re working the retail side of this business, every penny counts, so you sometimes come up with bizarre ways to get attention. This week I unleashed my new stick puppet, Ant Morrison, into the world (see the store link in my ‘Meet the Author’ section). If you are familiar with GRANT Morrison it should be a hoot. However, most folks have told me that I just sound like Mrs. Doubtfire. The word is still out on how well this has translated into sales or chuckles. Stay tuned.

For now, let’s take a look at what hit shelves this week.

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Blood Blister #1 (Phil Hester, Tony Harris, Eric Layton, Guy Major, Dave Sharpe-Aftershock): Brand Hull is a truly despicable human being. He lives to deceive, and to screw people over, and relishes every minute of it. So when he finds himself in a haunted house that seems to lead to Hell, it’s not all that surprising when its terrifying denizens tell him that he’s home. This one’s got tons of potential, and seems to be headed for an examination of the forms that evil can take. I’m still a big fan of Tony Harris’s art, but in recent years it has moved more towards a simpler, stylized form, and I just think that the more photo realistic Starman-era work would better suit the story here.

Paper Girls #11 (Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher, Dee Cunniffe-Image): After a small hiatus, the best damn comic about timeline-wandering girls who deliver newspapers is back, and it is chock full of floating grandmas, Cathy (from the syndicated comic strip, of course) jokes, MORE giant monsters, and futuristic technology that’s all apparently made by Apple. Vaughan and Chiang are killing it on this book, which is a must read, especially if you’re a fan of stuff like Stranger Things.

Karnak #6 (Warren Ellis, Roland Boschi, Dan Brown, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Holy shit, what a great ending to this series. This is one of the many reasons I adore Warren Ellis. He has taken a character in a superhero comic that could easily be boring (He has the ability to see the flaw in anything and then destroy it based on that information. Let’s just have him karate fight robots!), and given him some philosophical opposition to contend with–a character who essentially represents the Terrigen Mist that he was denied at birth. It needs to be pointed out as well that Roland Boschi’s moody, drybrush art makes an excellent pairing for this story. This one was well worth the wait.

Champions #5 (Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): I have many thoughts about this issue. So many. I’ll state up front that I really enjoy this comic. It’s full of inspiring young heroes who want to help without always punching and destroying everything. That’s admirable. Where we run into trouble this month is when the plot is revealed to be essentially a heavy-handed parable about Trump’s America. It’s distractingly on the nose, and maybe right now we need that, but it felt kinda lazy and didactic. Then there’s (groan) Gwenpool. I am not a fan. Making a silly variant cover that then gets made into a popular cosplay is probably not a good enough reason to add a character to the continuity. Let’s be honest here: She’s Harley Quinn. Marvel just wants a Harley. And I can see that she is meant to be the reckless idiot here that the Champions have to school, to show people that throwing bombs at cops is not such a great idea (yeah, that actually happens), but I just get the feeling that nothing is going to change, and if she stays with the team they’re just going to have to babysit her and her nutty, eccentric murder impulses.

That’s all I’ve got time to cover for now. What say YOU, gentle reader? Comment below. Until we meet again, make your enthusiasm for comics infectious, and support your local shop!

The Breakdown: Prince of Cats

In reviews on January 29, 2017 at 9:59 pm

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Prince of Cats (Ronald Wimberly, Jared K. Fletcher-Image) is best described as a remix. Originally released as a Vertigo book about four years ago, it has been polished up and given the deluxe hardcover treatment at Image, which I suppose makes it a remastered remix. This story takes pieces from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, specifically the ones involving Tybalt, and sets it in 1980s New York City, where it absorbs all of the trappings of early hip-hop. Sprinkle in the influence of Samurai films and anime, and you get a pastiche that works so well because its components share fundamental common ground.

When you want to compare the family rivalry of the original play to inner city gang warfare of the modern era, it makes sense to shift the narrative focus to Tybalt. He was young, brash, quick to violence, and extremely protective of reputation, which are all traits one can find in any number of tragic figures who lost their lives on the crack-riddled streets in Reagan’s America. Getting his perspective on the events leading up to his death, and the death of many others in his orbit, is absolutely perfect.

There are no shortage of people who are Shakespeare purists, trying for whatever reason to maintain some image of the Bard’s writings as untouchable, and even highbrow. This comic will no doubt piss them off as much as Baz Luhrmann’s movie did. But you don’t have to be an expert to see the truth of it: Flowery language and iambic pentameter aside, Willy was writing universally street-level shit for street-level people. So you can take those tales and easily move them into the future, since people are people and we may very well be doomed to repeat all this nonsense over and over again, and you can take those verses and meld them to hip-hop rhymes effortlessly. Wimberly does this deftly, and to great effect.

The end result is just an artistic extension, and one that is true to the source while still bringing in new cultural influences, and it never feels forced or dissonant. The book provides both clever wordplay and ‘yo mama’ jokes, enduring enmity and nightclub skirmishes, the tenderness of young love and anecdotes explaining how one practices fellatio with ice cream pops. There’s vice and video games, grit and graffiti, and brutally bloody samurai sword duels.

The artwork wholly compliments the spirit of the material, and demonstrates a fluency in comics that marks this as something successfully unique. The illustration is frenetic and loose, similar in style to Paul Pope. The color palette is simple and bold, with the neon hues that define the era. The panel choices and page composition provide extremely effective pacing without getting overly showy or confusing. This is superb graphic storytelling.

The big secret to a proper remix is a respect for, and understanding of, the source materials. Prince of Cats clearly comes from that place, and because of it, the author has produced a work that bridges the gap between generations, cultures, and media. I strongly recommend picking it up, and allowing its pages to show you how everything old is indeed new again.

The Stack-1/25/17

In new books on January 26, 2017 at 11:30 am

This week was a beast, and by that I mean that there was a metric shitload (roughly one half fuck-ton in US measurement) of new books on the shelves. It was also a beast in the sense that many of these comics were gritty (like Jason Latour’s new Loose Ends), macabre (for example, the new Black Mask cannibal story The Dregs), and just downright METAL AS FUCK (the Nazi-stabbing bloodbath that is Slayer: Repentless). Combine that with the final images from Marvel’s Civil War 2 epilogue, The Oath, and you can get a pretty clear snapshot of the zeitgeist in 2017.

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Oh Nick Spencer, you prognosticating rabble-rouser, you.

But I digress. Let’s continue talking about the most noteworthy new comics. In addition to those I linked to above, I also highly recommend the following:

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Saga #42 (Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Fonografiks-Image): HOLY SHIT. If you’ve been reading this comic (and you should be–the hype is entirely justified), you know that Vaughan has never been too precious with his characters. They suffer, they get horribly damaged, and they die. The backdrop, after all, is a massive war between bitter enemies. So it won’t surprise you when you see what happens in this issue, but the real curveball is how much of an emotional gut punch it is, even after forty-one issues of love amidst carnage. Here’s the only spoiler I’ll share: The final six pages are completely black, and it’s heartbreakingly perfect.

Animosity: The Rise #1 (Marguerite Bennett, Juan Doe, Marshall Dillon-Aftershock): This spinoff title builds on ‘the wake’ event from the core book, following an understandably freaked out veterinarian as he saves a sea lion’s life during the initial chaos and earns himself protection from the VERY pissed off animals who have taken control of the city. One thing that’s really been fascinating/terrifying about this premise is watching how each animal reacts to their new consciousness and power of speech. Some of it is funny, like how the pelicans want to steal every electronic device they can from smug tourists, some of it is exactly what you would expect (newsflash: dolphins are assholes), but most is disturbing in some fashion.

Ether #3 (Matt Kindt, David Rubín-Dark Horse): Boone Diaz continues his murder investigation in a strange world that tries to defy him and his scientific method at every turn. He and his companion, Glum, trail a copper golem into the fairie kingdom looking for answers. What I find even more interesting than this main narrative is the back story of Boone, seen in brief flashbacks, and watching him interact with everyone else in this book, whether they’re real people or creatures from the Ether. This character is a total jackass, and in a way that I haven’t seen in many other stories. He is dismissive of everything that isn’t hard science, and is in love with demystifying the world (and the sound of his own voice), and everything and everyone else takes a back seat. This makes him more than a little off-putting, but I trust that it’s all part of Matt Kindt’s plan.

Doom Patrol #4 (Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Tamra Bonvillain, Todd Klein-DC/Young Animal): Just recapping the plot of each issue tells you all you need to know about how bizarrely untethered this comic is, and you will either be obsessed with it or walk away bewildered. First, we meet Lucius, who is trying to become a sorcerer, even though his family does not approve. Then, Larry and Cliff confront N’Hal of the Negative Space, and make a case for personal choice. Niles Caulder once again gets into mischief behind the scenes, Casey learns about her powers via organic cassette tape, and we learn much more about Danny and what he was up to before he was captured by aliens who want to turn him into stress-free burger. Man I love this book. Oh yeah, and at the end there’s a Bane coloring section. No, seriously:

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You color like a younger man, with nothing held back. Admirable, but mistaken.

I want to say a bit about the new edition of Ronald Wimberly’s Prince of Cats that came out this week, so perhaps it’s time for a regular post devoted to trade paperbacks and graphic novels. What do you think? What are you reading this week? Leave a comment. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to support your local shop!

Get Good (art edition): Part 3

In art on January 23, 2017 at 10:38 pm

Welcome back to what has now become a three-part series on some of the best informational tools for the aspiring comic book artist. This week I want to touch on a few more books that I have found to be enormously useful, as well as what is without a doubt the best resource of all (if you can afford the time and money involved): schools. So let’s dive right in, shall we?

Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden

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This is the definitive comics textbook. It’s structured in fifteen lessons, complete with homework assignments, extra credit sections, and even a companion website. It’s beautifully illustrated, easy to follow, and is thoroughly comprehensive to the point where it demonstrates proper use of tools and even stretches to do when taking breaks! I cannot recommend it enough. And when you’ve made it through this, it’s time to move on to Mastering Comics, which builds on those lessons and strives to elevate you to full-blown cartoonist status.

Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Peck

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This will always be my favorite anatomy book, which I realize is a strange thing to declare. You get the human body, from skeleton to musculature to gender and race distinctions. You get it all in detail that will make your head spin, both as photo and illustrative reference.

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill

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It’s all here: tools, tone, shading, composition, and more. I know you crazy kids are all about the tablets these days, but if old school pen nibs and brushes is your jam, this is your new bible. As an added bonus, you get introduced to a gallery of insanely talented illustrators, designers, and architectural renderers. You will feel lazy and insignificant when gazing upon their work, so prepare yourself.

Schools. You just can’t beat what good schools offer you: hands-on instruction, an environment full of your peers, and challenges that will hopefully help you find your voice before you have to go out there and hack it in the real world as a professional. I’m envious of anyone who gets the opportunity, since I never made it there myself, and I’ve always wanted the experience. I have, however, done a bit of research and even visited a few places, and these are the ones that I think are worth going into crippling debt for.

The Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art-Dover, NJ

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Founded by one of the legends in the business, this school provides an intensive three-year program designed to produce professional cartoonists. The list of alumni and alumnae that have gone on to graphic greatness after attending this institution is beyond impressive. This is the place where the big publishers come to hire new talent, and the instructors are going to make you and that drawing table spend enough time together to ensure that you’re one of the lucky ones whose work appears on shop shelves every Wednesday. For more info, click here.

The Center For Cartoon Studies-White River Junction, VT

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Another school with a central focus on graphic illustration and design, with a faculty that’s a who’s who of indie creators and industry heavyweights, the CCS offers a one-year and a two-year program that provide students with the background and skill set which will set them on the path to being working professionals. The school also has the one-of-a-kind Schulz library, full of comics, instructional books, and rare Peanuts collections! For more info, click here.

So there it is. A jumping-off point for my fellow doodling dreamers and ink-smudged storytellers. I want to give the writing side of comics creation the same treatment in a future series of posts, but next week I have a feeling that I’ll be switching gears a little. Until then, keep at it. As much as you can. I’ll promise to do the same.

The Stack-1/18/17

In new books on January 19, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Two weird comics things cross my mind as I type this: I get nervous whenever it feels like the 90s are creeping back in, and right now it must really seem like I have a strong anti-Rebirth bias going on. Allow me to briefly address this.

So the 90s thing. Some of you may be too young to remember, or weren’t into comics back then, but the 90s almost killed the comics business. To oversimplify, I’ll just say that there was a shift toward gimmicky collectability. Every new book had to have a ton of variant covers, and these covers were often foil-embossed or encased in a special polybag. Everything was marketed as a collector’s item, one that’s sure to increase in value (even though we printed millions of them) in no time flat. People who saw comics as an investment swooped in. Home shopping networks got in on the insanity. A bubble formed, and soon popped. Companies went belly-up. Marvel had to sell off movie rights to avoid sinking. It was a dark time, and I never want to see it happen again. So yeah, when I see Image doing 25th anniversary variants in that same style I chuckle, but it’s a nervous chuckle. When I see Valiant comics with send-away variant coupons tucked inside, my eyes roll so hard that the sockets sigh. PLEASE, comic book industry: let’s not do this shit all over again.

Now, a few words about DC’s Rebirth. The entire conceit behind this relaunch did not exactly fill me with confidence from the start. I’m not big on taking steps backward. I really fucking despise nostalgia. I don’t want any ‘good ol’ days’ crap. I don’t need it. The past is what it was, and we’re eternally in the present, where things are always changing, always moving forward. It shouldn’t be a scary prospect; it should be EXCITING. That’s what I want in my comics. Show me something new, bring in a new perspective–just EXCITE ME again. I don’t want to live in a feedback loop where each successive iteration has a slightly more pungent degradation to it. Is that what Rebirth actually IS? I can’t say that it is, entirely. I’ve tried a few of the titles so far: The Rebirth Special, All-Star Batman, Batman, and The Hellblazer. I am a fan of the creators involved, but these really did nothing for me. Still, in the interest of fairness, now that the first trade paperbacks are arriving, I’ll be trying a bunch more to see if any stand out. Top of the list is Rucka’s Wonder Woman, and I’ve heard good things about Green Arrow. I’m looking forward to the new Batwoman, too. So expect a follow up, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, some Rebirth stuff will get added to the stack.

And now, on to this week’s Wednesday warrior treasure trove:

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Curse Words #1 (Charles Soule, Ryan Browne, Jordan Boyd, Michael Parkinson, Chris Crank, Shawn Depasquale-Image): I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book since I was fortunate enough to get an ashcan edition of it last year at the Retailer Summit. This is a story about a badass wizard that is sent to our world to prepare it for the coming of a dark overlord named Sizzajee. What happens instead is that the wizard falls in love with how free we are, and decides to be a spellcaster-for-hire while flirting with being a good guy for once in his life. There are of course hefty repercussions. I have absolutely no idea if this is true at all, but Curse Words feels like Ryan Browne, known for zany, free-form comics like God Hates Astronauts, took lawyer (no, seriously) and writer Charles Soule out for beer and convinced him to take a step sideways from things like Letter 44 and just get magically twisted. And now, thanks to that collaboration (however it actually happened), we have talking koala bears (#teammargaret), pop stars who want to literally go platinum, and hogtaurs. If that isn’t worth four bucks a month, I don’t know what is.

Invincible Iron Man #3 (Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): The torch has been passed to Riri Williams, and now it’s time for the ladies to be in charge. Control of Stark’s company has been given to his birth mother, Amanda Armstrong, and she plans on doing all she can to improve the world, backed up by Mary Jane and Friday, the AI construct. Showing Riri the ropes of the often deadly world of superhero-ing is none other than Pepper Potts, though she may be a little too late. The haters can keep on hating, become the truth is that this book is awesome. If you truly don’t understand the importance of legacy in superhero fiction, perhaps it’s time to move on to something else. I just now tried to come up with an example of something exceptionally boring and consistent, but I can’t. Life is change. The sooner we all accept that, the better.

Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual (Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Nate Powell, Dave Stewart, Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt, Dustin Nguyen, Ray Fawkes, Emi Lenox, Michael Allred, Todd Klein-Dark Horse): Colonel Weird is without a doubt one of the most tragic figures in comic books today, and this annual is all about another of his mind-bending journeys through the Para-Zone, where he encounters a strange entity that has touched the lives of every member of his team at some point. Featuring stories by an impressive lineup of art luminaries, it manages to be beautifully heartbreaking in that way that only stories about being helpless in the presence of fate can be.

Kill or Be Killed #5 (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser-Image): Speaking of fate, it is also the narrative throughline of this issue as well. Dylan continues down the path of murderous vigilante, trying to justify his actions as he prepares for each new target, springing to action when a heartless white-collar criminal serendipitously crosses paths with him. It all goes pear-shaped in a hurry, and he suddenly realizes, “The world is nothing but chaos… and chaos will fuck us all eventually”. Poetry. As is Sean Phillips’s art on… well, EVERYTHING he does. I’m constantly fascinated with his line work, and use of shadow. It’s like he’s simply recording these events in the world’s most impressive sketchbook.

Generation Zero #6 (Fred Van Lente, Diego Bernard, Javier Pulido, Andrew Dalhouse, David Baron, Dave Sharpe-Valiant): I have really been digging what Van Lente has been doing in this book. There’s a sort of junior A-Team vibe with psiots who escaped from the corporate forces looking to exploit their powers. There’s a little bit of The Prisoner in the way this mysterious town of Rook is presented, with its Cornermen and mind-control beverages. Despite me using those reference points, the book really has coalesced into its own thing, and it’s deeply intriguing and still a lot of fun. Observations that I had about this issue: Gamete, the psychic fetus who controls the body of her brain-dead mother, is just about the most unsettling character I’ve ever seen. That psychotic, wide-eyed stare freaks me out every time I see it. Bonus points for the Settlers of Catan reference. I love the Heroscape idea, and how it gives an opportunity to explore other art styles and genres within the pages of what is at its core a superhero comic.

That wraps things up for now. As always, feel free to share your thoughts and picks in the comments, and make sure you support your local shop.