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Welcome once again to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Paul Maybury, creator of the webcomic Party Bear. His work can be found in Comic Book Tattoo, various volumes of Popgun and 24seven, and, of course, the full-length graphic novel Aqua Leung. Be sure to check out the sketches he shares.
To see what Paul and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click on the link …
Sean. T. Collins
I took last week off from WAYR last, so I’ve got fully half a dozen comics to share with you–well, my bloviating about half a dozen comics, at least. Click the links for full reviews…
Neighbourhood Sacrifice by Steph Davidson, Michael DeForge, and Jesjit Gill: Dark, down and dirty newsprint zinemaking from a trio of intriguing artists.
The San Francisco Panorama Comics Section by various: Uneven but nonetheless enjoyable broadsheet-format comics from an all-star line-up assembled by McSweeney’s.
Paper Blog Update Supplemental Postcard Set Sticker Pack by Anders Nilsen: A minicomic and assorted other goodies featuring never-before-seen strips from one of alternative comics’ best writers and biggest talents.
Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan: Strong art dukes it out with predictable writing in Modan’s much-acclaimed Israeli drama.
Prison Pit: Book 2 by Johnny Ryan: Johnny Ryan goes as far as he’s ever gone.
The Witness by Hob: The artist also known as Eli Bishop serves up an existentially chilling minicomic about the death and afterlife of a dinosaur. No, seriously.
I picked up James Sturm’s Market Day from the library, having seen a preview of it online. I thought it was well done but lacked a satisfying conclusion. I liked the main character, and the way the story followed the monologue in his head. I really liked the fact that although this was a story about a traditional society, Sturm didn’t fall back on the standard folk-tale stereotypes. His characters are a bit neurotic and often deeply thoughtful, reflecting on the world around them and their own place in it. At the same time, the internal monologue we are listening to is an interesting one: Mendelman, the rug-maker, observes the world around him, thinks about how to translate it into rugs (in a way that only a graphic novel could show), experiences rejection, indignation, despair, and camaraderie, and reflects on the meaning of his life and his place in the world. It’s a wonderful, human portrait, and it is beautifully drawn with a limited palette and a simple but effective line, but having followed Mendelman through this day of upheaval and self-examination, I really wanted Sturm to finish the story, but it seemed to simply stop, rather than end.
The folks at Norton sent me a galley of Sophie Crumb’s art book. It was a bit of a tough sell—what parent doesn’t think their child is a genius? So I guess if you’re Robert and Aline Crumb, you get to show that to the world? Actually reading the book tempered my indignation quite a bit, however. First of all, from the pictures and descriptions, it’s clear that Sophie was indeed ahead of most kids her age. (Almost as advanced as my children! Hey, Norton, where’s my book?) And while her drawings are still little-kid drawings, she comes up with fairly complex relationships and stories within them. I ended up liking it quite a bit, although in the end, it suffers from the fact that it is a sketchbook—the drawings don’t have the finish of a completed work of art, and they don’t knit together into a single narrative, like a comic book. They just float on the page, and like any sketchbook, weak drawings share space with strong ones. For me, the best part of the book was the end, where she did combine pictures and text into something like a narrative, and I’d like to see more of that—I could see her doing a killer comic about life with her baby and husband. But those little-kid pictures sure are cute.
A Home for Mr. Easter by Brooke A. Allen — A rollicking, fast-paced affair from a relative newcomer. Allen could stand to tighten up her line a bit — there were times I had a bit of trouble figuring out what exactly was going on, especially in large crowd scenes with complicated backgrounds. That being said, she manages to keep her hero’s quest story moving at a fair clip without ever flagging once. And I liked how she had a rather unconventional heroine (a rather large, possibly mentally handicapped teen) as her lead. All in all, it’s a solid debut book and I plan on keeping an eye out for what Allen does next.
Booth by C.C. Colbert and Tanitoc — A fictionalized retelling of the day’s leading up to Lincoln’s assassination, from the perspective of his assassin. This was alright — I’m not sure Tanitoc’s impressionistic art style fits the material — I had trouble frequently trying to tell who was who and what they’re relation was to each other. It didn’t help much that Colbert’s script assumed too much on the reader’s part and didn’t really spell enough out for history dimwits like me. Bottom line: If you want to learn about Lincoln’s death via comics, Rick Geary’s version is a much better account.
Roger Stern writing Captain America, I just get giddy reading that phrase. Add to the mix it’s the present day James Barnes Captain America–with Nick Dragotta drawing the 1940s era Bucky scenes and Marco Santucci on the modern day material and it gets even better–with the first installment of a four-part miniseries, Captain America:Forever Allies. Dragotta has a Darwyn Cooke vibe to his art that’s just perfect for Stern’s writing. My one gripe–Marvel’s penchant for reprint back-ups as a justification for the $3.99 price tag: instead of the 100th reprint of Cap’s origin, how hard would it have been to reprint one of Stern and John Byrne’s Cap tales instead.
Gorilla Man: Jeff Parker’s Ken Gale origin miniseries continues to hold my interest. My one question: in a world where Deadpool seems to publish on a weekly basis–why is there not room for a Gorilla Man ongoing monthly, eh?
Avengers Prime: how much do I cherish Alan Davis artwork? I will endure the tiresome writing of Brian Michael Bendis in Avengers Prime just to see the incredibly executed layouts by Davis (and equally exquisite inks of Mark Farmer).
For all of us that enjoyed Paul Cornell’s Marvel work, we get one last treat with this week’s Spitfire one-shot. Cornell clearly has a bigger Spitfire/Blade story to tell (which we get a little taste of in this adventure) and someday I hope he gets to tell it.
I get the impression that if given the chance, Secret Warriors 18 scribe Jonathan Hickman would write an Untold Tales of the Howling Commandos miniseries. In this issue, he has the Commandos swapping war stories in a manner that says to me this guy understands Marvel history and character dynamics in a way that other current Marvel writers wishes they could.
Sweet Tooth 12: Jeff Lemire makes good storytelling look too easy.
iZombie 4: artist Michael Allred has every right to disagree with me, but the two-page of two characters walking through a mental landscape disguised as Egypt is the best sequential scene he’s pulled off in a damn long time. And I love that writer Chris Roberson snuck a punchline or two in the lush scenery.
Writer Jim Shooter and artist Bill Reinhold’s first issue of Magnus Robot Fighter is a little rushed and uneven in some parts (kudos to Dark Horse for reprinting the Russ Manning’s original first issue for contextual reference, it helped frame the modern day update in a sense), but I’ll likely be back to check out issue two. I wish Reinhold would tone down the cheesecake factor of the female leads, I get that it’s emulating Manning’s approach to a certain extent, but I wonder if it might alienate potential female readers.
Writer Jim McCann continues to hold my interest with the third issue of Hawkeye and Mockingbird. I particularly liked McCann’s pacing (with David Lopez’s art) in the opening where Hawkeye retraced the shooting that ended the last issue. Taking a CSI approach (on a slight level) with Hawkeye is a nice approach that makes sense for the character. He understands the physics of a shot more than most heroes, given his skill set.
First on my list, I finally tracked down a copy of Peplum by Blutch. I’ve literally been looking around for four years. While this isn’t the cover on my copy, I was floored by this image years ago, and remains one of my favorite comic covers ever:
It’s almost a crime that more of Blutch’s work isn’t translated here in America. For now I’ll be slowly translating as I go while drooling over the imagery.
2 ) Fluorescent Black by Nathan Fox and MF Wilson
Nathan sent me a pdf of this a while back and I was excited to see this totally perverse and imaginative art with an interesting Biopunk story being published by Heavy Metal. Nathan is one of those guys that came into comics a little later, but has the work ethic and drive of a modern master. I finally got to pick up the hard cover in San Diego and man, this is one beautifully printed book. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a nifty pinup by yours truly in the back.
3) Peepo Choo by Felipe Smith
I was a huge fan of MBQ from TokyoPop, and was sad to see it end and then learn that Felipe was moving to Japan to work for Kodansha. I mean, super excited for him, but super bummed that I wouldn’t be able to read it. Thankfully, the fine folks at Vertical have blessed us with an English translation. It’s very much a spiritual successor of MBQ with some great characters like Milton, an American kid and hopeless Otaku who does some really weird Peepo Choo dance to communicate with people.
4) Usagi Yojimbo, Return of the Black Soul by Stan Sakai
The only book I’ve consistently followed my entire life. This volume mostly deals with the evil spirit known as Jei. We see Usagi, Gen and Stray dog team up again to track down a bounty. I love Stan’s pacing and whimsical story telling. The last three volumes really remind of me the feeling I got from the original Fantagraphics published volumes. I was lucky enough to receive this totally awesome Aqua Leung drawing by Stan a few years ago when I sat next to him at a show in Austin. Sorry, I just have to show it off:
5) Crogan’s March by Chris Schweizer.
Yes, Oni publishes Scott Pilgrim, but they also publish another fantastic series. The Crogan series is about a couple of kids learning about their famous family tree and the valuable lessons all of their stories tell. One of the few intelligent all ages series out there, I couldn’t recommend this book more. Heck, I even drew fan art for it. There are currently two volumes out, with a third on the way.
6) Old City Blues by Giannis Milonogiannis
This recently wrapped up and is an amazing read from start to finish. It has a weird Snatchers (a very cool Sega CD game) vibe, with loose gritty art that fits the story perfectly. I hope this guy never stops making sweet sweet comics. Go read it now over on his site and give him a pat on the back. Webcomics can be a pretty thankless job, and it’s always nice to feel acknowledged by readers.