More comics have moved from the to-read stack to my eyeballs to a stack of read comics I need to figure out what to do with. I am a big fan of digital comics because there really aren’t that many more physical books I need to own. With Fantagraphics entering the digital arena, this means more stuff I want will be available that way, but the problem is this: I usually don’t know something is going to be available digitally until after I’ve already ordered the print version. I really wish I knew, when a book was solicited, if I also had the option of buying it digitally, since that’s how I would get most things. Same-day digital release doesn’t help in this case, since I’m ordering two months in advance. I guess the solution would be to stop ordering in advance and wait and see what happens. That may be the way I go.
Anyhow, here are the books I’ve read:
Leviathan (Edgington, D’Israeli) — A big cruise ship being attacked by supernatural forces while lost in a seemingly interminable ocean is a great idea for a story, but this isn’t that. This is about a ridiculously huge cruise ship — a mile long and half-mile tall — and that really blunts the edge to me for some reason. For me the size negated the entire point of setting the story on a ship, and just threw the whole thing off.
King City (Brandon Graham) — I said above that there are few things I need to own as physical books; this may be one of them. The production on it isn’t particularly special, but this is such a great book. I don’t even know how to describe it: it’s a sci-fi ninja hip-hop book done in a clear-line yet obviously influenced by manga but not slavish to it style that is funny, exciting, and poignant. It’s dazzlingly creative and expertly realized, with solid characters and beautiful detailed art your eyes will be thrilled to linger on. Seriously, folks, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Old City Blues (Giannis Milonogiannis) — I like me a little dystopian future private eye stuff, so this sounded right up my alley. And it’s not bad, not at all. But ultimately I kind of felt like I was dropped midway into a larger novel and then pulled out again. It felt like an excerpt more than a fully-fleshed work. And — and this is just a personal hang-up of mine — when I’m reading a futuristic story with a lot of cool hardware, I prefer smoother artwork rather than the scratchy linework here so I can really see the stuff. (Then again, I always prefer smoother art to scratchy or wiggly art.)
Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest (various) — Nice collection of good, old-fashioned BPRD stories.
RASL, vols 1-3 (Jeff Smith) — I’m one of the few nerds who isn’t that crazy about Bone, Jeff Smith’s previous project, but that didn’t stop me from trying this one out. I liked the first volume and bought the next two but had not read them yet. With the fourth and final volume ordered, I read all three, expecting the fourth would arrive by the time I finished (it hasn’t). A cracking good story by a guy who knows his craft. I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion.
Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland (Pekar, Remnant) — There’s a joke to be made about Pekar’s output, considering he died in 2010. Considering, though, that he wrote stuff for others to draw it makes sense that some of these projects wouldn’t be finished up until now. This is a beautiful tribute to the city he loved, warts and all. He combines the historical with the personal to really put the reader on the streets. It genuinely feels like walking around Cleveland on a chilly morning with Harvey, listening to him talk about the city.
Valérian and Laureline: The City of Shifting Waters (Mézières, Christin) — Earlier this year when I went looking for volume 2 of The Invisible Frontier I got sucked into a whirlpool of French science fiction comics. This was one of the things I had in my hands when I regained consciousness on the beach. This is a hoot (and not at all what I was expecting): time-traveling agents going to a submerged New York City in the then-future of 1986. It’s a grand, fun time and I’m now sorry I didn’t get the big chunky volumes of this stuff back when it was first offered in Previews (now out of print). Still, I’ll probably be grabbing more of these slim volumes pretty soon.
The Influencing Machine (Gladstone, Neufeld) — I like non-fiction comics and nearly ordered this when it appeared in Previews, but for some reason I backed off. After reading Matt Wilson’s review I regretted that and ended up ordering a copy. It’s an excellently done analysis of the media, in both historical and current contexts. And Josh Neufeld’s art aids in the delivery rather than just illustrating the pictures. This is a worthwhile lesson not only in how the media operates but in how to do a non-fiction graphic work right. Recommended.
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol 1 (various) — There’s a new Judge Dredd movie coming out soon, and even though it looks terrible that’s a good reason to get acquainted with the title character. These new phone books are inexpensive and chock full of Dreddy goodness from his creation onwards. Judge Dredd is a difficult character to do right, as one must walk a very fine satirical line with him. an inch too far in the wrong direction and he’s to goofy, too on-the-nose, or too serious. The stories in this volume get it mostly right, even though they’re still feeling out the potential of the guy. I have the first four volumes of these and though a little goes a long way, I am eager to get through them. At the very least, it’s great watching just about every major British comics creator take a spin with the guy.
The Lovely Horrible Stuff (Eddie Campbell) — Here’s a good example of what I spoke of in the intro. It’s a non-fiction book about money by Eddie Campbell, so when I saw it offered, I ordered it. Now it’s available digitally. I liked it, it’s a good read. But I don’t need the book on my shelf; I probably won’t re-read it. If I’d known at the time I could get a digital version instead, I would have. Now I have to figure out what I want to do with the physical copy. This isn’t a slam on the talented Mr. Campbell — it’s how I feel about many of the books I get.
Wally Wood: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction (Wood, various) — Talked about here.
Gloriana (Kevin Huizenga) — I can’t explain why I love Huizenga’s work, but I do. I love the way he starts out with an ordinary scene and then deconstructs it — literally — pulling apart the moment and following each individual thread that comprises it, turning it into a majestic symphony of
experience. I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating here, but I’m not: every story is a moving tribute to the miracle of mere existence, an appreciation for the infinite tiny influences that drive even the most banal of moments. It’s poetry or music in comics form except it’s not, it’s something much more to me. I’m not kidding when I say that when I think of the potential that comics has to offer, Kevin Huizenga’s work is what I point to.
The Incal Collection (Jodorowsky, Moebius) — This deserves an entire post of its own. It’s one of the most influential works out there, which is interesting because of the number of influences it clearly draws from. Star Wars is here, Dune is here (literally: Jodorowsky recycled a lot of his concepts for an abandoned Dune movie here), I’ve mentioned the oddball appearance of Tonto (who even looks out of synch with the rest of Moebius’ artwork, like it was pasted in from elsewhere). It’s bizarre and joyous, hilarious and eye-rolling, with a meandering plot that only sort of eventually pays off. It’s also, confession time, the first full-length Moebius work I’ve read, an oversight I intend to correct (see: French comics whirlpool above). And, maddeningly, it and Valerian also make me think about rewatching The Fifth Element, a movie I hate hate hated yet a lot of folks I know seem to love and which owes a lot to these works. Thankfully, memories of Chris Tucker usually nip that urge in the bud.
Just looked at the shipping list for my next DCBS order and there’s only one new book in it (by Harvey Pekar, too) which, yay, a chance to catch up! But there’s also a Showcase volume in it and man, do I have a separate stack of those piling up…