Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sick day comics

I caught a lovely cold while visiting my family for Thanksgiving, so I've trying to catch up a bit while laid up. So here's a brief 4 in one write-up.

First of all was Jellyfist, a bizarre round robin comic that marked the return of Jhonen Vasquez after the cancellation of his sometimes ingenious cartoon Invader Zim. This was one of Vasquez's more nonsensical comics, but it was fun nonetheless. And as a bonus each of the 1-3 page strips in the book included commentaries that were equally fun to read.

Next came the Goon: Chinatown, the first Goon story by Eric Powell to be released as an original graphic novel. This story was singled out from the ongoing series for a number of reasons. The story, which is primarily a flashback to when the Goon had has heart broken and his face mangled, lacks the humor (as well as the zombies and mad scientists), which the series is best known for. But it's a testament to just how good Powell is that it still feels like a perfect fit with the rest of the series. And Powell's art just keeps getting better.

Then this morning I read the 4th Scott Pilgrim book, Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together. There's really nothing I can say that I won't be repeating from my comments regarding the first three books. Every time I've finished one of these I just have a big stupid grin on my face, and I'm not sure what better praise there is.

Which, at last brings me to Flink, Doug TenNapel's latest book. This one feels a bit like TenNapel is repeating himself. It's still an excellent comic, but the boy and his Sasquatch plot feels a little too similar to his boy and his T-Rex book, Tommysaurus Rex.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

52

52 was one of the most ambitious comics projects in recent history. It was a series released weekly, with four writers, about a dozen artists, six intertwined story lines, and no definitive ending when the project began. What is really surprising is just how good a book it turned out to be.

The writing staff, comprised of mad genius Grant Morrison, crime novelist Greg Rucka, and then Geoff Johns and Mark Waid, two of the most talented straight superhero writers in the business, pulled off a minor miracle with the story. The main characters were all amongst DC's must human (ok with the exception of Starfire, the alien warrior princess), which grounded the comics beautifully. The comic never strayed from telling truly relatable character studies, even when verging into some more absurd territories (i.e. Archbishop Lobo and his alien dolphin companion Fishy).

And simultaneously with these smaller sorts of stories, the creators managed to tell an epic adventure in which characters died, were reborn, and witnessed a fundamental change to the entire universe. I've read the story twice now, and I'm still not sure how exactly this was all pulled off. There are flaws in the story to be sure, but they're mostly forgivable given the conditions the story was written under, and the commentaries provided in the new trades go out of their way to point them all out, which really just adds to the fun.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Essential Marvel Horror

Man, if ever there was an Essential volume that didn't deserve the name this is the one. The Essential Marvel Horror is in fact a collection of stories featuring Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan and his sister Satana, the Devil's Daughter. These comics originally came out in the mid 70's while Marvel was going through their tame horror fad (out of which was only produced one good comic, Tomb of Dracula), and this was their attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Exorcist. These stories were also written with the comics code in mind, so no actual horror could occur in them.

Thus we have the Son of Satan, a demon turned exorcist who battles Satanists and possessed teens in St. Louis with the aid of his Netheranium trident (I can't make this up) and his demon-horse drawn Chariot. Even Steve Gerber writing a few of these stories couldn't save it.

Satana on the other hand was almost a decent comic, featuring an entirely amoral protagonist. However, due to various problems her story went through 4 writers, 6 artists, and 4 different comics over the course of a mere 8 stories. Needless to say things didn't work out and the character was unceremoniously killed off in a random issue of Marvel Team-Up.

Really not one of Marvel's higher points.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stop Forgetting to Remember

Last night the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum opened an excellent graphic novel exhibit and quite a few of the artists who were represented were in attendance. The highlight for me by far was the chance to meet Peter Kuper, and getting him to autograph my copy of the first issue of the System.

While I was there I bought a copy of his autobiography, Stop Forgetting to Remember, and actually got him to sign that as well. And today I read through it in a single sitting, and rediscovered just what a masterful artist Kuper can be. Kuper, via his fictional alter-ego Walter Kurtz, tells the story of his experiments with drug use as a teenager, his quest to lose his virginity, the birth of his daughter, his frustration with the Bush White House, and his attempts to publish the book I'm holding now.

The entire book is astonishingly honest, despite telling the story through a fictionalized version of himself (as well as admittedly exaggerating the quality of his studio). This is enhanced by the incredibly expressionistic artwork that mirrors the work of Edvard Munch on more than one occasion. The talk Kuper gave at the exhibit opening last night was all about the passion he holds for this medium, and its nice to see that his enthusiasm is not being wasted.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

God of the Razor

It took a few extra days, but I've now gotten through my annual Halloween horror reading. This year's entry was Joe R. Lansdale's God of the Razor. The book is actually a reprinting of one of Lansdale's earlier novels, the Nightrunners, along with an assortment of short stories that were influenced in part by it.

The main story is far from being one of Lansdale's best, but according to the author it is where he first found his proper voice. I can definitely see that in the book, although it does lack some of the pulp sensibilities he picked up when he moved into writing mysteries (not to mention the occasional Batman story).

The short stories are a bit more interesting, although their exact ties to the Nightrunners are often a stretch. Two of them are only in the collection because of descriptive passages that were cribbed from the larger work. And then there's Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, which was probably included because it was recently made into an episode of Showtime's Masters of Horror. It also just so happens to be one of the creepiest stories I've ever read and it certainly made for a nice Halloween capstone.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Scott Pilgrim

A few weeks back I posted about Bryan Lee O'Malley's first Scott Pilgrim book. Now, thanks to the same friend who loaned me that book, I've had the chance to read the next two, and my enthusiasm for this series has only grown.

O'Malley has created a world (a.k.a. Toronto) where the rules keep becoming more absurd, and yet it feels like reality. Granted it is a place where Vegans have psychic powers, evil ex-boyfriends can be turned into coins and power ups, and where the fourth wall is broken at every turn, yet it all feels grounded. O'Malley just makes this legerdemain seem completely effortless and fills every page with happiness.

The fourth volume in the series comes out today (I've got my copy on order) and I don't expect to be disappointed.