I took Friday off from work to catch up on some comics reading (one must have priorities) but instead I ended up doing some last-minute shopping and screwing around with a misbehaving computer. Still, I have been doing a fair amount of comicking lately. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been digging on:
|Emma (Kaoru Mori; CMX)
Kaoru Mori loves Victorian-era London, and Emma shows it. Emma is the story of a young maid looking for love in a socially stratified society. Though she has many suitors, the one she seems to fancy is William, born into wealth and far above her station. Will they be able to break the social bonds that keep them apart, or will she have to settle for the guy with the elephants? A charming book for people who might want to check out a romance book but don’t really care about teen angst.
|The Spirit (Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, Dave Stewart; DC)
If you’re going to do a modern version of Will Eisner’s seminal character, you can’t go wrong by handing it over to someone like Darwyn Cooke, who has a love bordering on fetishistic for the era in which the comic originally appeared. I haven’t read any other reviews of this, but I’m sure that someone out there is upset because the book makes no mention of the character’s history, of who he is, why he is, or what came before. If you had never heard of Will Eisner or The Spirit before opening this book then you merely have a fast, fun read in your hands instead of a History of Comics lesson. Truth is, this is exactly the kind of book that people like me have been begging for for ages: a smart, fun book that isn’t shackled to miles of continuity or a shared universe, that doesn’t expect you to slog through twelve-part epic stories that could have been done in three issues. It’s just good comics, plain and simple, gorgeous to look at, a delight to read. Looks like I might be buying a monthly comic from DC for the first time in years.
|Wasteland (Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten; Oni)
The hell? I’m the one who’s been dying for a book of this type since Moses was a boy, I’m the one who raves on my blog about it, but Sims gets a pull quote? I call shenanigans! Just because people actually read Sims’ blog doesn’t mean his name should be there instead of mine. So here you go, Oni: “Wasteland is the first post-apocalyptic comic to get it right. Too many writers think this sort of comic should be science fiction, but Johnston understands that it should instead be a Western, and the reader is better off for it. Wasteland is one of the few books I don’t wait for trades on because I want to read every issue right the hell now.” And please remember, Oni, it’s “Lartigue”…with a “G” and not a “Q”, which people always wanna put in there for some reason.
|The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Eiji Ohtsuka, Housui Yamazaki; Dark Horse)
This is a story of five Buddhist students and one puppet who find themselves in the business of helping dead people move on to their next life. Through their various skills they find corpses who for some reason or other still cling to their earthly lives and help resolve the issues so they can proceed to their reincarnation. Along the way there’s humor, mystery, horror, and hot hot fan-service — if you’re a fan of young naked dead girls who are often mutilated as well. Yeah, there’s a point when reading volume one where I started to feel like I’d clicked on the wrong link, or as though I suddenly realized that the hilarious parody I was enjoying was actually painfully true. After a while you just gotta wonder how these money shots of dead naked women are playing to some of the audience, and you’re happy that your copy came wrapped in plastic, to ensure that no one else had “handled” it first. The stories are interesting, the characters are interesting, the humor is interesting, and obviously something about corpses should be a bit creepy, but maybe not in the way this book is creepy.
|Cowboys and Aliens (Fred Van Lente, et al.; Platinum Studios)
I knew what I was getting into, so I can’t say I was surprised. The solicitation copy for this book read, “A Graphic Novel Event.” “Soon to be a major motion picture.” “Online and mobile game premiering in December.” But what the hell, the low price and Fred (Action Philosophers!) van Lente writing made me take the gamble. Ugh. This is a totally by-the-numbers, no-surprises, unremarkable, cliche-ridden snoreathon. It’s cowboys versus indians until the aliens arrive, and then they have to put aside their differences to fight for Earth! It’s got all the requirements: the odd couple romances that enable people to set aside their prejudices for love; the aliens who are nigh-indestructable until the climax, when they drop like flies; and the Greater Moral in which you realize that this isn’t so different fromzzzzzzzzzzzzz… I can’t say I was disappointed, since I kinda knew better in the first place. Here’s another pull-quote for Platinum Studios: “Cowboys and Aliens represents exactly what you can expect when you view comics as simply a testing ground for movie properties. It’s a lousy comic that, if Platinum Studios is very lucky, will make a lousy movie that enough idiots will go see on opening weekend to justify this practice.” Remember, it’s a “G”, not a “Q”.
|Cromartie High School (Eiji Nonaka; ADV)
Cromartie isn’t just a bad school, it’s the worst of the worst. The students there are all imbeciles and all delinquents. They care only for fighting, and their every moment seems centered on figuring out who’s the biggest badass and avenging their school against its rival tough schools. And yet…two volumes in, there hasn’t been a single fight. They mostly just talk about fighting. I can’t stress how hilarious this book is. I was reading in bed and was afraid I was going to wake up Becky with my laughing. The cast of characters is utterly absurd (it includes a gorilla, a robot, and the enigmatic “Freddie”), the art could just as well be clip-art for most of it, and the vast majority of the goings-on make no sense whatsoever, but the thing is hysterical. I gotta pick up some more volumes of this.
|DMZ vol 1: On the Ground (Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli; DC Vertigo)
Well, it’s not Channel Zero, I’ll give him that. I stayed away from this book in floppies because I found that previous “political” work from Brian Wood to be juvenile and shallow. I was told, though, that his voice had matured, and even though I had my doubts, I gave the first volume of this series a try. I needn’t have bothered. While there certainly is some improvement over Channel Zero, this is still pretty immature stuff. Since it’s Vertigo, you can always assume that the most right person in the panel is the one with the most tattoos, piercings, and estrogen. And of course, people who don’t have access to medicine, clean drinking water, and electricity always seem to have an infinite supply of ammunition, though to be honest, this often does seem to be the case in actual war zones. I suppose the reason this is an improvement is because the politics take a backseat to just straight-up action, and I can certainly give Wood credit for a cracking opening to issue #1, but afterwards it’s just the usual Vertigo ingredients, which have gotten pretty stale to me.