Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Three factors interest me after reading the first issue of Southern Cross, the Image Comics mystery–set on a futuristic tanker spaceship–by writer Becky Cloonan, artist Andy Belanger and color artist Lee Loughridge. Something about the way the cast is introduced as the series lead Alex Braith boards the tanker flight to Titan (a refinery moon) plays out in a manner that is reminiscent of a 1970s murder mystery movie set on a train. Secondly, the cinematic scale of some of Belanger’s establishing shots, particularly of the tanker itself. But most of all, I find myself taken by the troubled and somewhat internally conflicted character of Braith herself.
As a kid, I was a DC and Marvel junkie. In fact well into my 30s I was still very much all about the two main publishers, in retrospect much to my shame. If you look at most of my ROBOT 6 peers, their collective reading tastes in their younger days was far more diverse than mine ever was. I am glad to say that these days, my reading is far more diverse. Rather than getting wrapped up in the universes of the big two, my reading choices typically are driven by the creative teams on a project. Such is the case with the new Valiant ongoing, Imperium.
Anne Goetzinger’s Girl in Dior, out this month from NBM, is as much art book as graphic novel. While there is a narrative thread to the story, it often looks very like fashion illustration, with models arrayed across the page, posing in careful contrapposto to show off the graceful curves of the dresses. Even panels that aren’t part of the fashion show often use this same format, with a gaggle of fashion writers or Dior employees filling the panel, each one with a single comment in a word balloon.
The plot is slight and beyond implausible, a mere pretext to bring us into the world of Christian Dior: Clara, a young girl who has just been hired as a reporter, covers Dior’s first show, is fired after a disastrous photo shoot, and ends up being hired as one of his models. She’s a pretty standard-issue character—young, smart, spunky—who exists mainly as a lens through which we get an insider’s view of the Dior atelier. Indeed, the book focuses as much on the life of the people who make and model the dresses as on the designer or even Clara herself.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a great story, though. Goetzinger brings us into the world of Dior on the day of his first show, which galvanized the fashion world. It was 1947, and although World War II had been over for two years, rationing was still in place and the French were still feeling the hardships of the war and its aftermath. Dior’s “New Look” (as it was christened by fashion writer Carmel Snow) swept that aside, replacing the practical shapes and short skirts that were the result of fabric rationing with long, flowing skirts and graceful wasp-waisted silhouettes. Goetzinger shows us the action behind the scenes as well as the buzz of the crowd, but most important of all are the dresses themselves, which she renders in loving detail.
Man, it must be super rough to follow a creative team like Matt Fraction and David Aja. When they, along with Ed Brubaker, left Immortal Iron Fist, the vacuum of talent was really felt. Nothing against Duane Swierczynski, but it just wasn’t the same, despite Travel Foreman’s awesome art.
Aja and Fraction made their mark on Hawkeye too, as “Hawkguy” became a classic hit and a place to set a first foot into the Marvel Universe. Hawkeye being a simple character to follow (guy who shoots arrows does heroic deeds), they brought him back down to a simple storyline and singular purpose; it’s easier to relate to a guy just trying to keep his apartment building safe as opposed to unraveling the great Hickman mysteries over in Avengers. He has his faults, his close friends seem to be more human next to him (Tony Stark helping him set up his VCR is one of my favorite dialogues in the series), the women in his life seem to have a reason to be attracted to or letting go of him; this seems like someone we know.
Every year, I participate in my city’s Community Reading Day, in which adults in various professions read a book to an elementary school class. Everyone loves to read to the little kids, so I always volunteer for the older grades, and of course I bring comics.
Sometimes I get a good response and sometimes I don’t, but this year was really great, because of both the book and the kids.
The book was a no-brainer: Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters, which was the top selling graphic novel in bookstores last year and the top pick on the Good Comics for Kids blog’s list of the best children’s graphic novels of 2014.
It was Mark Waid Week last week at Marvel, and the veteran writer penned two more winning installments of S.H.I.E.L.D. (issue #3) and Daredevil (issue #13).
For the latter, Waid and artist Chris Samnee (with colorist Matthew Wilson) poked fun at the old “loved one in danger” trope, as Daredevil fought to save Kirsten from an unknown opponent. Not only did this happen with the express acknowledgment that Daredevil’s relationships tend to have unhappy ends, it explored just who might want to abduct her, and put a couple of subplot-servicing twists on top just for good measure. Waid and Samnee have been so reliably good for so long on this title that they may risk being taken for granted, but this issue was a real treat. Done in one but with a final-page hint of future danger, Waid’s script was propulsive enough to keep the reader both involved and guessing throughout.
One of the neat things about this upcoming Secret Wars mega-super-hyper-combo event is that a lot of cool projects are coming out of the woodwork — not just to support the unfolding crash of realities, but to sneak in some books that make entirely too much sense. While Battleworld rages on, it would be ridiculous not to have a cadre of teen heroes roaming the field and making their way in the mighty Marvel manner. Since the Secret Wars themselves are happening to create a universal order on a massive scale and enforcing a set universe out of countless others, it makes sense that someone (or someones) are going to want to rebel against that universal order. Thus, the Runaways.
Drawn Onward, by Matt Madden (Retrofit Comics)
I’m mostly familiar with Matt Madden as someone who writes about the theory and practice of comics, as the co-author (with his wife, Jessica Abel) of Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, as well as the sole author of 99 Ways to Tell a Story, so I wasn’t too surprised that this comic would be an experiment in form. In fact, the name gives it away: Drawn Onward is a palindrome. The story, a tale of infatuation and obsession set almost entirely on the New York subway, reads at first like a straightforward tale of a woman’s encounter with a strange man who keeps bothering her—and with whom she becomes obsessed. But the last page of the comic is only the midpoint of the story: The narrator tells the reader to go back and read the comic backwards, and when you do, it’s the same story with the roles reversed.
In September 2014, when readers first met Spider-Gwen in Edge of Spider-Verse #2, I expressed a desire that the Spider-Verse crossover event would not be the last folks would get to enjoy the adventures of the alternate Marvel universe (Earth-65) with a living Gwen Stacy. In fact, I speculated “judging by the creative team’s eagerness to do this one-shot, I imagine they could easily be persuaded to do far more than one issue.” Just how much more they were ready to do became delightfully obvious this week with the launch of the new Spider-Gwen ongoing.
The writing team of Brian Joines and Jay Faerber along with the artistic combo of Ilias Kyriazis and Charlie Kirchoff have created the Front Line, a quirky Canadian-based team with far more interesting personal lives than their heroic pursuits, as neatly laid out in the first issue of the Image Comics series, Secret Identities.
This week brought some great news for fans of Stan Sakai’s long-eared ronin — Dark Horse announced that the ongoing Usagi Yojimbo will return this May.
While it’s been three years since we last saw an issue of the Usagi Yojimbo regular series, neither Sakai nor Usagi haven’t been absent from comic shelves. During that time Dark Horse released the Eisner-nominated 47 Ronin, by Sakai and writer Mike Richardson. And last year brought the War of the Worlds-inspired Usagi Yojimbo: Senso miniseries, a “What if?”-like tale that saw an older Usagi battling an alien invasion.
Since the late 1970s, on a weekly basis, I always have eagerly anticipated the day new comics were released. This week was faced with the greatest amount of anticipation, because of events in my personal life. In the early hours of this past Tuesday morning, a seizure of unknown origin rendered me temporarily unable to speak and unexpectedly hospitalized for a few days. One immediate change due to my hospitatlization, state law prohibits me from driving for the next six months. Fortunately, my wife was kind enough to drive me to the comic book store the day after my release from the hospital.
This week, due to my health scare, I was just a smidge more appreciative than normal to see the release of the first issue for Jimmie Robinson’s new Image Comics creator-owned series, The Empty.
For the past week, Kamala Khan fans have been gathering at Kamalacon, a Tumblr celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first issue of Ms. Marvel. I have no idea whether this is a grass-roots thing or some clever guerrilla marketing by Marvel, but it’s fascinating to see the range of fans who have contributed cosplay photos, selfies with their collections, Kamala-themed playlists, and fanart that ranged from sketchbook drawings to animated GIFs to cookies and Funko sculptures. There was even a virtual gift exchange.
Kamalacon kicked off with a series of essays by readers about what Kamala Khan means to them. The first thing that struck me on glancing at them was the diversity of the writers. There’s something universal about Kamala’s story that appeals to many readers, from a Muslim woman who sees parallels to her own life to the white guy who compares it to Quasar to explain what makes Ms. Marvel good and Kamala bad—and makes a good point:
People talk about why they need diversity in comics, and usually it boils down to the importance of representation. But it also just makes better comics. Kamala Khan can tell stories and do things and go place that Wendell Vaughn simply can’t. When a publisher only stocks Wendell Vaughns in their creative toolbox, they’re putting artificial limits on the kinds of stories they can make. They cheat themselves and their audience. As long as Kamala’s on the beat, the industry’s headed in the right direction, however slowly.
Last month when writer Grant Morrison hyped Nameless, his newest Image Comics collaboration with artist Chris Burnham, by name-dropping concepts such as “nihilistic philosophy,” I found myself thinking “Christ on a crutch, that sounds dreadful.” Years ago I made my peace with how to appreciate Morrison. I do not dislike Morrison–I count his Animal Man and Doom Patrol runs among among my top 10 favorite comics series that I have read.
This past week, DC Comics revealed the new roster for its line of superhero books. Starting in June, the publisher is debuting 24 new titles (including a handful of miniseries) to go along with 25 returning series. Because these numbers don’t add up to 52 ongoing series, and because the phrase “The New 52″ doesn’t appear anywhere in either of DC’s press releases about the roster, many comics news sites (including CBR, ComicsAlliance, and The Beat) have deemed this to be the end of the New 52 brand.