A PAIR OF PREVIEWS
As God is my witness, the new site will open next week. You heard it here first.
Two from Oni Press, both reviewed from black & white photocopies:
THE LEADING MAN #1
Written by B. Clay Moore and Drawn by Jeremy Haun
Nick Walker is one of those guys the rest of us envy. He’s good looking, rich, and oh, yeah… one of the highest paid action movie stars in Hollywood. One of those guys who has it all. But Nick has even more than that; he’s also a real-life spy who uses his movements to filming locations to mask his covert activities.
That’s the plot behind THE LEADING MAN, Moore and Haun’s second stab at working together. Their first effort was last year’s wildly uneven BATTLE HYMN, so I went into LEADING MAN with some skepticism. With such a near-shark jump of a plot, would the creative team be able to hold the book together? In the broadest sense, that remains to be seen, but they’re at least off to a good start.
Where HYMN came out of the gate like Barbaro on a bum leg, LEADING MAN shows high energy and life immediately. From page one, where we meet Nick in the middle of filming a big action set-piece, to the sly scenes where his female co-stars try and figure out his sexuality, everything here feels pretty much right on target. Enjoyable.
LOVE THE WAY YOU LOVE #1
Written by Jamie S. Rich and Drawn by Marc Ellerby
Tristan is the lead singer of Los Angeles’ best unsigned band, Like A Dog. Isobel has just flown in from Tokyo to meet her fiancée’s grandparents. But after locking eyes at the airport, fate brings them together again when Isobel goes to scout out a band for his label and it turns out to be Tristan’s.
LOVE THE WAY YOU LOVE reads like… well, it reads just like a Jamie S. Rich story. Rich has long been comics’ hippest and slyest cat, with a knowledge of music matched by few. His novel work, like CUT MY HAIR, demonstrates his mastery of this sort of tale, so you’d expect no less than a comic that not only has a twinge of real heart to it, but also makes you feel like the coolest kid in the room for reading it.
Full of terrific supporting characters, like Tristan’s amusing brother Lance and Isobel’s best friend Branden, LOVE is fun even when it turns its focus to the edges of the story. And Rich smartly doesn’t make Isobel’s fiancée an unrepentant dick; he genuinely seems to care for her. By giving everyone in the story a stake in the outcome, LOVE gets elevated from cute toss-off to something with real deep potential. It may not have been complete love at first site, but I am definitely in deep like with this book.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Site construction on the new place is nearly complete. But in the meantime, the pile must be addressed…
X ISLE #1
Written by Andrew Cosby and Michael Nelson and Drawn by Greg Scott
Published by Boom Studios
Dr. Alex Keller is a man who has some trouble balancing the priorities in his life. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to improve anytime soon; just as his daughter arrives to meet him in Hawaii (after she’s given up a vacation in France), he’s called to the shore, where a creature never seen before by man has washed up dead. And when the stomach of the creature yields more bizarre life forms, it’s clear that family time is about to get pushed to the side once again.
Of course, all of that could change in a hurry when a freak storm pushes Alex, his daughter, and his crew of scientists off course and onto the shores of an uncharted island…
Part JAWS, part LOST, and part JURASSIC PARK, the plot and concept of X ISLE more than make up for the shallowness of the character set-ups. You’ve seen the parent-child conflict in this situation plenty; plus you get the requisite surly sailor, and plenty of supporting cannon fodder as Keller’s associates. Still, you go to these types of movies, and buy these types of comics, expecting the tropes of the genre to be in place to push the tale along. Therefore, X ISLE reads true to itself.
Greg Scott’s art looks really good here, supporting the suspense and mystery being laid down, too. I probably sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I really liked X ISLE; it’s a tight piece of pop entertainment, and that’s all I was asking for.
After TALENT got optioned a couple of weeks ago, I’d imagine that Hollywood’s eyes are trained a bit more closely on Ross Richie and company’s output. I can’t imagine that X ISLE, which reeks of summer tentpole flick, won’t wind up in a producer’s pocket soon enough.
Written by Chris Gage and Drawn by Luis Henrique Ribeiro
Published by Arcana Studio
Detective Sean Nault must leave his magic-based world and enter ours as LAW AND ORDER scribe Gage concludes his tale of sorcerers and bullets. When last we left Nault, he had discovered that parallel worlds existed, and someone in our science-based reality was crossing over and causing big trouble. Aided and abetted by a science believer from his own world (the standard love interest), Lenoir Rhyne, he must unravel the clues and expose a conspiracy to destroy two universes.
PARADOX is a clever book, and it reads almost purely as a screenplay in many ways. The art is pretty static for the most part, almost purposefully lacking dynamism, instead interpreting its role as more of a set of storyboards. That’s acceptable, of course, but you wouldn’t be disappointed if Ribeiro stretched himself a bit. Story-wise, my one qualm is that the story feels a bit rushed by squeezing it into three issues. I’d have liked to have seen a bit more in the way of fleshing out some of the smaller pieces of the plot, and in adding some extra character material. Still, I expect this to serve its purpose and find the story a Hollywood home at some point, even it winds up being to expensive to ever film.
CRY YOURSELF TO SLEEP
Written and Drawn by Jeremy Tinder
Published by Top Shelf Comix
It’s sort of difficult to know what to make of CRY. The book focuses on three very distinct individuals: Jim, a rabbit who lives an unfulfilling life while working at a sandwich shop; Andy, a young writer struggling to find his voice; and Robot, who decides he wants to find his humanity by following a bird out to the forest and following its example.
Tinder chooses to make Robot a robot for obvious purposes; a machine finding its soul is a common literature trope. But it’s the decision to make Jim a rabbit that really offers up some questions to the reader. Jim is a sad spirit, and his parents put him upon horribly. His father doesn’t accept excuses for losing a job because he’s a rabbit; it’s a tantalizing take on race, but Tinder doesn’t quite sink his claws as deep into it as you’d like. I like that he made the attempt, though.
Each character’s quest for self and meaning winds up coming together in different ways, as the trio’s path will intersect in ways they couldn’t imagine, but Tinder manages to put together a conclusion that feels right, fair, and satisfying. CRY YOURSELF TO SLEEP isn’t a book to set the world on fire, but it is a very solid debut from this creator.
MOUSE GUARD #2
Written and Drawn by David Petersen
Published by Archaia Studios Press
As the mice from issue one were on their mission, others were also working, too. Issue two of this fantastic book follows Guard member Sadie as she heads off to the shore of the Mouse territory to find out why fellow guard member Conrad has suddenly stopped responding to messages. Needless to say, that silence is a very bad sign for all mice…
Petersen’s tale of heroic mice picks up steam with this second issue. It could have been severely damaging to the story to move away from the characters we met in issue one, but he manages to make Sadie and Conrad more fascinating characters than our prior protagonists. The story movement also allows for an expansion of the story’s scope and the picture we get of the backdrop the tale is playing against.
The primary action sequence this issue involves our heroes taking on an armada of crabs bent on taking their lives. Petersen makes this scene exhilarating, putting aside thoughts of what the creatures involved are and delivering perfectly executed scenes of mayhem. Unfortunately, that leads to the one problem MOUSE GUARD faces in this issue: the story feels pretty thin and doesn’t get as far forward as it really needs to in order to keep momentum. Still, this remains a wonderful surprise, and I look forward to reading more.
Written by Chynna Clugston and Ian Shaughnessy and Drawn by Chynna Clugston
Published by Oni Press
Mysterious circumstances send a young girl named Vanora on a ship ride far away from home. However, an accident at sea leaves her stranded and living in a small town off the coast of Oregon. Stranger circumstances yet then leave her looking for a room to rent, and she finds one located above a bar named THE CUTTY SARK TA HOUSE. But as weird as all that may sound, her housemates might just be weirder. And sadly for Vanora, the past is not so easily outrun.
I’ve just written that paragraph, yet I read it knowing that it’s all somewhat of a lie: by the end of STRANGETOWN, you have absolutely zero clue as to what’s going on or what the real plot of the book is going to be. But no matter; it’s all executed with such gusto and energy that you can’t help but be drawn into the tale without a problem.
Much of that is due to the presence of Chynna Clugston as co-writer and artist. Clugston is one of those creators who can do almost no wrong in my eyes. I’ve been a fan since I first laid my eyes on BLUE MONDAY, and her excellent SCOOTER GIRL did nothing to dull that shine. Chynna has a gift for making the absurd seem perfectly rational and normal, which is precisely why STRANGETOWN works. More please. Soon.
PAUL JENKINS’ SIDEKICK #1
Written by Paul Jenkins and Drawn by Chris Moreno
Published by Image Comics
Eddie Edison’s life is full of hassles. By day, he delivers pizza to people who treat him like dirt and try and screw him over. When night rolls around, though, he’s the sidekick to Mister Excellent, the greatest superhero in the city. Of course, Mister Excellent is also a dimwitted, pain-in-the-ass, prig. So you’ll pardon Eddie if he doesn’t feel guilty about fucking Mister Excellent’s wife.
Of course, Eddie’s hassles also extend to his having a voluptuous, kinky stripper for a girlfriend. So, yeah, Eddie’s kind of a dick who’s due for a little comeuppance himself. So when he schemes to get away from Mister Excellent and earn a little side money sidekicking for another hero in town, he bites off a bit more than he can chew when they all hire him…
SIDEKICK is pretty damned funny, scouring modern pop culture and classic superhero comics for every little cliché it can find, and then taking a leak on them. Whether it’s poking fun at Superman, or taking swings at hip hop culture, Jenkins observes no boundaries and no fear in aiming at his targets. Moreno finds just the right mix of slapstick and action to sell the gags. As disappointed as I was in THE LAST CHRISTMAS, I’m surprised, happy, and enthused about SIDEKICK. This is a winner.
Monday, June 19, 2006
I WAS HOPING THE NEW SITE WOULD BE READY BY NOW…
Oh, well. Keep checking The NEW Comics Waiting Room this week, and cross your fingers.
Written by Matt Fraction and Drawn by Gabriel Ba
Published by Image Comics
Casanova Quinn is the world’s greatest thief, a sex magnet, and luckier than anyone deserves to be. Sort of a reverse-image of James Bond, he eschews his family’s commitment to doing good in the world, leaving the secret agent stuff to his father and his twin sister. But when she’s killed in the line of duty, Casanova gets drawn into a strange scenario involving time travel, dimension shifting, giant floating brains, and more. I’d try and explain more of that, but wrapping my head around the twisty plot that Fraction put together gave me a headache. Fortunate, then, I was enormously entertained by the whole affair. CASANOVA is a blast of pop energy, not taking itself too seriously and delivering maximum bang for the buck. Plus, it looks brilliant; Ba’s pages are simply gorgeous to look at. At $1.99 this, like FELL, is something you simply cannot ignore.
DORK TOWER #33
Written and Drawn by John Kovalic
Published by Dork Storm
After a long layoff, due to some cool real world distractions for Kovalic, DORK TOWER returns, as strong as ever. This issue puts the focus on Ken, as Kovalic continues to spread the spotlight out amongst the cast. Ken’s problems are two-fold; one, he’s struggling to write good game modules for his friends, because he lacks an inherent passion and zest that pushes his stories to the next level. And that problem informs the second issue facing him: he’s oblivious to the needs of the girl in his life. Kovalic makes Ken’s troubles as a writer feel very real; anyone who’s ever sat at the keyboard and couldn’t figure out how to make their story jump from “okay” to “great” knows exactly how he feels. And you don’t have to be a writer to know how hard it is to read the signals from your significant other that she’s being neglected. Throw in well-executed movement on Matt and Igor’s plots, too, and this is a strong return for a terrific book.
SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST #3
Written and Drawn by Josh Cotter
Published by AdHouse Books
I had the good fortune to read the first two SKYSCRAPERS back when they were published as mini-comics a couple of years ago (AdHouse reprinted them at standard floppy size). They had won the Isotope Award for minis, and deservedly so; Cotter was clearly an insane genius, melding the absurd with deep emotional pathos with alacrity. Issue three is more of the same. The main storyline involves a withdrawn fifth-grader whose name we never get, but we know him well. He’s shy, loves his toy robot and dinosaur, and is terrified of declaring his feelings for the girl he admires from afar. He also gets pushed around a lot. Even if we weren’t that kid, we knew him. But alongside that plot, we also follow the path of a giant robot wandering the plains and dealing with a bizarre pack of flying cats, and a lonely farmer who likes to wander the roadside picking up cans with his faithful dog. Someway, somehow, Cotter manages to make these plots work together and feel perfectly normal and logical. It’s quite a feat. Beautifully drawn, and cleverly put together around a design resembling a fifth grade yearbook, this is an excellent book.
Written by Elena Carillo and Drawn by Jaime Carillo
Published by Here There Be Monsters Press
ELEISON isn’t a standard comic. Instead, it’s an illustrated prose story. Set in 1833, we discover a young woman teacher with a strange sickness: a bloodthirst, a hunger, that causes her to attack a student as though she were a vampire. That sends a young priest named Peck out into the wild in the hopes of returning with a legendary clergyman named Jean-Marthe Baptiste who it is believed can solve the problem. Baptiste, known to the local Native American population as Waabooz (“Rabbit”) supposedly has experience with the supernatural. But with such a strange malady, it is unclear whether or not his experience will be enough. The illustrations by Jaime are really quite lovely, though they don’t really do much to push the tale along. They are very much a solid, literal translation of what we get from the text. The story itself is fine; I never felt as grounded in the environment as I’d have liked, but that is something that can be rectified as the book progresses. Solid, if unspectacular, debut.
Written and Illustrated by Chad Michael Ward
Published by NBM
This is about as dark and disturbing of a book as I’ve seen in a while. I’m fine with that, though.
AUTOPSYROTICA is a collection of illustrated photographs, accompanied by short text pieces that present a crisply inferred story. By illustrated photographs, I mean that Ward has used a model (usually a goth or fetish model), set up a scenario and captured it on film, and then gone to work with digital paints and other media in order to complete the picture. It’s a remarkable and deeply involving set of artistic creations. This book is about the conjunction of sex and death, and the illustrations here meld the two as though there is no separation between them at all. It would be easy to say that, looking at Ward’s work, there is nothing attractive about what he puts on the page here, but you have to look deeper than that. Yes, there’s a horror in many of his pieces, but in many of the others, there’s something beautiful simmering just below the surface. This is a challenging work, but an admirable one in the attempt. I wouldn’t recommend it to any but the most advanced and open-minded readers though.
RED SONJA #10-11
Written by Mike Oeming and Drawn by Mel Rubi, Pablo Marcos, and Lee Moder
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Issue ten concludes the storyline wherein Sonja acquires a protégée much like herself, and it is quite satisfactorily executed. Oeming sends Sonja on the girl on their mission, and it feels genuinely like the title character has come fully alive on the page. She’s clever, caring, and really seems like she has her shit together. Of course, that can’t last, so issue eleven goes a long way towards putting her life in the toilet. I’m fine with that, as it’s a dramatic necessity, but the execution was off through the issue. As she faces a foe far stronger and smarter than her, there’s a sense that Sonja regresses needlessly; with this enemy, even at her fullest strength, it would take more for her to win. There’s also an added tragedy thrown into the mix, which again, didn’t feel completely necessary for the plot to achieve its aims. SONJA continues to be a solid book, but I’m reserving judgment as we see where the next issue, revealing the series’ main villain to date, takes the character.
ARMY OF DARKNESS #7-8
Written by Kames Kuhoric and Drawn by Kevin Sharpe
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
ARMY #7 concludes the “Old School” plotline, which sent Ash back out to that cabin in the woods where he lost the love of his life and his hand those many years ago. This has been the most fun the series has delivered to date; nothing feels more like a Bruce Campbell moment than kicking a severed head and shooting it with a shotgun while it’s still in the air. Funny stuff. But Kuhoric also manages to make the ending a bit sad, as Ash discovers that he can never even consider giving up the fight for a long, long time. Issue eight begins a new story, “Ash vs. Dracula”, and it gets off to kind of a disappointing and slow start. Kuhoric decides to start us at the end of the tale and tell it in flashbacks, which is a fine device… when your opening place is a whopper. But Ash’s situation at the start of this issue is kind of pedestrian. Sadly, Sharpe’s pencils, which get colored directly, also look a little loose in issue eight as well. Disappointing, but there’s room to recover.
PAINKILLER JANE #2
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Drawn by Lee Moder
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
On the other hand, this book delivers exactly what you bought it for: ridiculous, over-the-top action, story logic be damned. In issue one, the basically indestructible Jane took out a bad guy who was being guarded by dirty cops. Now, the cops want her dead, and only her insiders on the force feeding her information keep her a step ahead of the bullets. However, the bad guy from issue one had family, and they’ve taken the women he was keeping as slaves into their own home for nefarious purposes. So Jane’s job isn’t done, and more people are going to have to die. Daring escapes, rooftop gun battles, long falls from high windows… they’re all here. Palmiotti is smart enough to know that no one picks up this book expecting to find a sensitively told tale of a woman struggling with her inability to die. This is pure fun, and I dug it.