Get Me, Talking About Comics!

This entry has been a while in the making because I’ve been lazy. Actually, I didn’t want to write it until I had read the first two books on the list, which is where the lazy came in. But now they’re read, so get ready for some hot hot geek-on-comics writing action!

Here’s what’s on tap, for impatient types:

  • Cocopazio #1 (Daniel Warner, Slave Labor)
  • Kindergoth #1 (Lee Kohse, Bloodfire Studios)
  • Sharknife vol 1 (Corey “Rey” Lewis, Oni Press)
  • Why Are You Doing This? (Jason, Fantagraphics)
  • Action Philosophers #2 (Fred Van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey, Evil Twin Comics)
  • Hoax #1 and #2 (Various, Mental Note Press)
  • Super F*ckers (James Kochalka, Top Shelf Productions)
  • Smoke #1 (Alex Di Campi and Igor Kordey, IDW)
  • Drawn and Quarterly #8 (Various, D&Q)
  • Frank (Jim Woodring, Fantagraphics)
  • True Memoirs of Docteur Mystere, vol 2: The War of the Worlds (Alfredo Castelli and Lucio Filippucci, SAF Comics)
  • Ice Haven (Dan Clowes, Pantheon Books)
  • Whiteout (Greg Rucka, Oni Press)
  • Summer Blonde (Adrian Tomine, D&Q)

Cocopazio #1 (Slave Labor) and Kindergoth #1 (Bloodfire Studios) were the comics I got from YACB’s Free Comic Book Month offer. (I also got the Bone Sharps… FCBD preview, but I already had that. Cocopazio turned out to be pretty interesting. Drawn in a minimalist-manga style similar to that of Andi Watson, it tells the story of, well, I’m not completely sure. This first issue sets a lot of it up but doesn’t explain much, leaving that presumably to future issues. We seem to have a deluxe hotel situated in Limbo. A wedding party is taking place, and many odd creatures and demons are attending, along with John Victory, a would-be writer who has somehow crashed the party. This cheeses off Death, who…well, a lot of stuff happens. It was pretty entertaining, and I wouldn’t mind seeing where the rest of it goes.

The second title, Kindergoth, just wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s about little goth kids being all shocking and surly, and something to do with aliens. I found the kids to be more annoying than cute and the humor wasn’t really my style.

Now the thing is, these were both free, including postage, which was very generous of Mr. Carter. And while I didn’t really care for one of them, it was fun to see what was picked out for me and, hey, free comics! So in the spirit of the experiment, I’ll be passing both Kindergoth and the extra copies of Bone Sharps on to other parties. Thanks again Dave!

Sharknife vol. 1 (Oni Press) is another slam-bang wild action ride in the style of Scott Pilgrim. A seafood restaurant is plagued by demons sent by the owner’s gangster rival. Fortunately, one of the busboys has the ability to transform into Sharknife, an incredible super-articulated action figure/robot/video game avatar with all sorts of amazing fighting skills! The book’s detours into videogame territory, explaining everyone’s powers and special moves are hilarious. The action come fast and furious here, sometimes outpacing the art, which is done in the very popular manga-hop style, which is a name I just made up. Sometimes I found it hard to tell exactly what was going on, but then I realized what was going on was that asses were being kicked, and the specifics didn’t really matter that much, and I’d move on. This is what people talk about when they talk about comics being fun.

Why Are You Doing This? (Fantagraphics) was my introduction to the mononominal Jason. I’m working hard to establish my indy cred, and this requires checking out certain creators, such as this one. It was a pleasant introduction. This is a story of a person who inadvertently witnesses a crime and then gets framed for another one. In trying to clear his name he has to elude the authorities, find the truth, and avoid the real killer. He also meets a woman and her daughter who jeopardize their own safety by trying to help him. The title echoes throughout, as peoples’ motivations for their actions are called into question. It’s a nice little mystery adventure. Possibly off-putting to some is the fact that none of the people are people, they’re cartoon animals. Dogs, birds, and various unidentified mammals play the parts. But that doesn’t take away from the story or the characters, unless you let it. I now want to look into some of his other work.

Action Philosophers! #2 (Evil Twin Comics). I really enjoyed the first issue of this book, and this second, “All Sex!” special was no letdown either. All three profiles — Thomas Jefferson, St. Augustine, and Ayn Rand — are fascinating, especially (for me) the last two, since I knew so little about them to begin with. If there’s someone out there who wouldn’t find this book interesting, I don’t ever want to meet them. It’s fun, fascinating, and feducational! (I was trying to go for the alliteration there.)

Hoax #1 and #2 (Mental Note Press). The first issue of this was something I idly picked up off the shelf and thought interesting enough to take home. When the second issue came out, Jim, my Comics Pimp, put it in my folder for me to consider, and I decided to grab it as well. I don’t know much about the publisher or the creators involved, but I do like me some anthology comics, of which this is one. As with most anthologies, there’s wheat and chaff. In this case, probably more of the latter than the former, but each issue has had a couple of interesting moments. In the second issue, a story called ‘The Law of Bone Healing’, by Lydia Gregg, is the standout story. Unfortunately most of the other material is saddled by the usual “look how daring and iconoclastic I am” kind of humor that doesn’t really accomplish much.

Super F*ckers (Top Shelf Productions) is by indy fan fave James Kochalka, whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past and expect to enjoy again in the future. But this…this just didn’t work for me. Super F*ckers (and I’m only being as coy about the name as the cover and indicia) is one joke stretched to 32 pages and seven bucks (to be honest, for your seven clams, you get some fun art, nice paper, and very attractive colors.) The joke is: this is a bunch of superheroes who are all assholes. That’s it. They’re assholes. To each other and everyone else. Every time it seemed like the humor was getting dangerously close to being about something else, it would quickly be reeled back so that the only punchline is that someone’s an asshole. And maybe I’m getting old or whatever, but I just don’t find that cute or funny. Now, I will say that the bit on the inside front cover, where it said, “Hey Kids! Take your dicks out of the Playstation Three for one goddamn minute and read some fucking comics.” was pretty funny.

Smoke #1 (IDW) was another disappointment from the same day. I really wanted to like this, and I thought it started out decent enough, but pretty soon it just collapsed into a big pile of cliches. I’m begging any comics creator out there who may be reading: Enough with characters called Cain, Kain, Kane, Caine, or any variation thereof. (Including “Qaynne”.) The art’s gorgeous, and I know enough about Alex di Campi to know that she’s going to find her own voice soon and it’ll probably be pretty good, but for now, this is a retread of material that was kind of irritating the first time around.

For some reason, Drawn and Quarterly #8 got solicited by Previews a while back, and I ordered it. It’s originally from 1992. I have no idea why it suddenly turned up again, but I did enjoy it, especially the Joe Sacco piece. I heart Joe Sacco.

I found Frank (Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring at the used book store, so I snagged it. This isn’t The Frank Book, which is much more comprehensive, but it’s a nice taste of Woodring’s surrealist style. I’ve dipped my toe into this pool before, with snippets from various collections, but it was a very different thing indeed to go through so much in one sitting. The stories inhabit a sort of Merrie Melodies world gone to seed. Frank, the cat who serves as protagonist, wanders about this bizarre world reacting to the strangeness around him. Sometimes he seems at ease with this world, sometimes he hatches plans within it, and sometimes he’s just as mystified by it as the reader is. It’s not weirdness for its own sake, though, and definite themes and ideas bubble up throughout it. Now I need to check out the library for The Frank Book to delve into it some more.

True Memoirs of Docteur Mystere, vol 2: The War of the Worlds (SAF Comics) is something I knew nothing about before seeing it on the shelf. When I picked it up, I knew it was for me. As I read, I assumed this was a pastiche, a spoof of pulp characters and Tintin-like adventures, but it seems that Docteur Mystere and his companion, Cigale, are the genuine article. Still, the book is plenty tongue-in-cheek, with a lot of genuinely funny humor, but also some not bad action. Proper homage is paid to the appropriate sources (the Docteur’s rocket projectile lands in the eye of the moon, Melies-style, for example. This was a fun and beautiful book, a nice chance discovery from a company I had never heard of.

Finally, there’s Ice Haven (Pantheon Books). I jumped on the Dan Clowes bandwagon with Eightball #23 (The Death Ray), which I thought was an excellent book. Since then I’ve been grabbing a lot of his older stuff as well. Ice Haven is a sort of re-release of Eightball #22, which I’d heard was very good, but couldn’t scrounge up a copy of. The book is about a fictional midwestern town called Ice Haven, and some of its inhabitants. When a young boy ends up missing, his plight intersects with many of the other citizens. Describing it in that way seems like the mystery of the boy’s disappearance is the plot, but really, it is and it isn’t. There certainly is a lot of attention paid to it, and it’s sort of the primum mobile of the story, but really the bouncing of various characters off each other is what it’s about. And the stories, great and small, underlying each of them. I really liked Ice Haven. I’m not sure if I liked it more than The Death Ray, but since I found both to be excellent, I’m not sure hairs need to be split there. It’s actually one book I’m looking forward to reading a second time probably more than I was looking forward to reading it the first time. (Bonus points for having an prelude in which a “comics expert” discusses the terms “comics” and “graphic novels”, and then introducing the book on the title page as a “narraglyphic picto-assemblage”. I’m totally gonna use that term.)

Also in there I got two books from the library:

Whiteout (Oni Press) is a cracking good story of murder most frigid in Antarctica. I really love Greg Rucka’s work on the spy series Queen and Country and this book is a treat as well. God forgive me for saying this, but it would make a damn fine movie as well.

Summer Blonde (Drawn and Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine was a chance to check out a writer I’d heard a lot about but never read. Now I know what all the hype is about. He draws with a gorgeously fine art style and writes stories with genuine emotions in them. This is a fine collection, and now I’m eager to pick up Sleepwalk and 32 Stories.

So there you have it, some of my recent buys and reads, dissected for your entertainment. That should buy me a couple more days of credit as a “comics blogger”.

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5 Responses to Get Me, Talking About Comics!

  1. Dave Carter says:

    Glad you liked one of the comics. I wasn’t quite sure where to go with your tastes, so I picked two comics that were quite different, figuring that at least one would come close.

    Whiteout may be a movie, someday. It seems to be stuck in production hell.

  2. David Thiel says:

    So, the name “Super F*ckers” wasn’t enough to suggest that it might not be a very good comic?

  3. Dave says:

    So, the name “Super F*ckers? wasn’t enough to suggest that it might not be a very good comic?

    No, the solicitation copy made it sound like it was going to be a lot funnier. I knew in advance it was going to be a bunch of surly superheroes, I just assumed there’d be a second joke in there. Also, I like James Kochalka.

  4. Why Are You Doing This? was also my first intro to Jason and I enjoyed enough to want to track down some of his other work. Speaking of establishing your indie cred, have you checked out AdHouse’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest yet? It’s my rave-of-the-month comic.

  5. Nathan says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who thought that Smoke wasn’t as good as everyone tells you it is.