Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we regularly talk about the comics we’ve been reading lately. Our special guest today is homebrewing enthusiast and first-time publisher Joshua Henaman. He’s the creator of Bigfoot – Sword of the Earthman, a sword, sorcery and Sasquatch epic self-published under the Brewhouse Comics banner with art duties by Andy Taylor. It’s available in select stores and via online ordering at www.bigfootcomic.com.
To see what Joshua and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man #8: I wish I saw writer Todd Dezago and artist Craig Rousseau doing more work at Marvel or DC these days. So when I found out they had a story in this issue, I scooped it up immediately. They did not disappoint. Dezago is the king of writing wisecracking-style Spidey as usual and Rousseau adapts to the Disney XD/Marvel house style of drawing Spidey—figuring out a way to make Spidey’s mask expressive by resizing the eye lenses in certain scenes. While a short story, it was still fun to read for all ages.
Journey Into Mystery #646: I have been a longtime fan of Kathryn Immonen’s writing (I still fondly remember her Hellcat back in 2007/2008). So I was primed to love her writing Lady Sif in the Marvel Now-ification of this title. Kudos to editor Lauren Sankovitch for pairing Immonen with artist Valero Schiti. Immonen seems to inject a bit of subtle whimsy in her characters, and not all artists can pull that subtly off. Schiti can. Also Lady Sif has some great action scenes (and some simple quiet character interaction moments) that both writer and artist deliver effectively. This is a great start.
FF #1: Two reasons I am reading this book: Michael Allred and Laura Allred. To have these two incredibly talented people on a Marvel book is as extraordinary as one might expect. Other artists have had Sue Storm walk on invisible steps as a mode of transportation, but the perspective that Michael uses when Invisible Woman arrives at the Inhumans floating kingdom (allowing us to see the city below as well as a plane and helicopter in flight) is downright astounding. Meanwhile Laura’s coloring sensibilities are like no one else on a Marvel book. Characters pop off the page. Writer Matt Fraction could have the characters doing baby talk and I would not care=I am here for the visuals.
What with Steed & Mrs. Peel, Daredevil, and Indestructible Hulk, it was Mark Waid Week last week. I liked all three a lot, but Indestructible Hulk #1 (drawn by Leinil F. Yu) might have gotten me back on the Hulk train for the first time since Peter David left. In fact, when I first started reading the David/Frank Incredible Hulk back in 1994, the book was in the “Dr. Banner”/Pantheon phase. It’s somewhat simplistic to compare Waid’s SHIELD-based take to the Pantheon, but the tone is totally different. I like Waid’s quieter, more mature, but more commanding Banner, and I thought Yu did a good job with both the mundane diner scenes and the action. It’s maybe a little rougher work than Daredevil, but (oddly enough for a Hulk book) it may be more subtle too.
After hearing many good things about it, I also caught up with Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor, God Of Thunder #1-2. Thor is a character I’ve never followed month-to-month, just in Lee/Kirby and Simonson collections and whenever I’d read Avengers, so I don’t have a real frame of reference for the monthly pacing of a Thor story. However, this one moves along at a pretty good clip. We know from the story structure that both Gorr (a cool Marvel-Monster-style name, by the way) and Thor survive their first and middle encounters, but that ends up making the Old Thor scenes more meaningful. I also like the idea (which, again, I don’t know how prevalent it is) that Thor answers prayers, even those from far-distant worlds. The notion that Thor is famous throughout the universe reminded me of how Superman used to be an intergalactic celebrity, and of course the Man of Steel has his own “worship” issues too. Ribic’s moody art ties everything together nicely, although I don’t know if he wanted his “young Gorr” to look so much like the Spectre. (That would be a nice in-joke, as well as a subtle indication of Gorr’s power.) Like Hulk, I’ll stick around through the first storyline at least.
Finally, I’ve been reading the recolored Sandman paperbacks off and on, and am halfway through Volume 4, Season Of Mists. It moves slower than I remember (just finished the “Dead Boy Detectives” chapter), but in hindsight that may be because it’s frontloaded with character bits. The dialogue also seems a lot more mannered, and perhaps formalistic, than I thought; but that’s probably inherent in this sort of political storyline. I usually get through this arc and “A Game Of You” before taking a break, but this time I’ll try to power through.
I just finished the fourth volume of House of Five Leaves, and I’m enjoying it more than ever. It starts out as a samurai story with a twist—the hero is sort of a loser samurai who is a skilled swordsman but not very brave or intimidating. Consequently he loses his job and he moves to Edo (Tokyo) in hopes that he will be able to improve his skills. He can’t keep a job there either, but by chance he falls in with a gang of kidnappers. They are sort of crooks with hearts of gold—they don’t kill anybody, and they only kidnap the children of scummy people, and some of them use the money for good causes. In the subsequent volumes, though, what started out as the samurai version of “We’re No Angels” becomes a darker and more complex tale, as creator Natsume Ono lays out the backstories of the Five Leaves, one at a time, and the relationships between the characters shift. It’s a good reminder that in manga, the first volume is seldom a good indicator of the series as a whole. Ono’s style is linear and expressive, more like something you would see in an American indy graphic novel than a samurai manga, and she likes to split the page into thin, vertical panels that each show a sliver of the action. It’s a sophisticated style that sometimes demands close reading. Viz just released the eighth and final volume of the series, and I’m looking forward to reading the story in its entirety.
Lately, the only book I am religiously following is James Stokoe’s Godzilla: The Half Century War. There’s something about this comic that triggers that nostalgic feeling of excitement I had as a kid. I was a Godzilla freak growing up (one of the only surviving toys from my youth is the giant Shogun Warrior Godzilla that inexplicably can shoot off his hand) but I could never stick with any of the Godzilla comics for any length of time. Not this one. I’m not picking it up to collect it; I’m picking it up to revel in it. Maybe it’s the frantic detail of Stokoe’s pencils as they exude nervous energy or maybe the retelling of the Godzilla mythos I grew up with, but it’s an absolute blast. It’s the first book in a long time that has me constantly asking my local comic shop, “When’s the next one coming out?” And yes, I may be committing a cardinal sin by saying this, but I’m hoping Jet Jaguar makes an appearance.
The next two books I picked up at the same time and there is definitely a specific order in which they should be read. The Stuff of Legend: Omnibus One by Mike Raicht, Brian Smith and Charles Paul Wilson III and Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case.
The first one I read was The Stuff of Legend… and that was the wrong choice. Not because it’s a bad book. Good lord, no, this is a great book and it makes an absolutely stunning graphic novel. I could see this making a lot of Christmas lists this year. It’s a “men-on-a-mission” tale of a child’s favorite (and often forgotten) toys banding together to save the kid who has been kidnapped by the Bogeyman. Don’t think of it as a darker Toy Story; approach it as a heartwarming Dirty Dozen or Kelly’s Heroes.
The problem I had was I immediately started reading Green River Killer AFTER The Stuff of Legend. Whatever whimsy or fantastical excitement was built up in Stuff…, it was immediately destroyed in the first five pages of GRK. It is heartbreaking. However, the level of detail, first-hand knowledge and procedural drama of GRK makes it a must-read. There’s tenacity, there’s perseverance and then there’s obsession. I cannot imagine what Jensen’s father went through as he pursued the actual Green River Killer over the course of 20 years, but it makes for a fascinating read.
Prose-wise, I’ve been reading The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. I was a big fan of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and I recently stumbled across her book of short stories at my local used bookstore (shout out to The Iliad in Noho!) The comic script I wrote after Bigfoot – Sword of the Earthman uses a lot of faerie lore and I just can’t get enough of the mythology. Plus, this has been a great week for fans of the “Man with the Thistledown Hair” as they just announced the BBC is making Jonathan Strange… into a mini-series.
Finally, as a new creator and publisher, the one site I go to daily is the Comixtribe website. If anybody has even a passing desire to create a comic, these guys are a great resource. One of the editors, Steven Forbes, has a column called “Bolts & Nuts” that essentially acts as a blueprint for creating a comic, establishing your team and finally bringing your book to the marketplace. And “Bolts & Nuts” is only a fraction of the info the site holds! Bookmark them.
And lastly, as a nod to my publishing name, Brewhouse Comics, I paired the writing of this review with Rogue’s Double Chocolate Stout.