Everyone’s A Critic
• Pop Matters has an interesting essay comparing Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series with the similarly themed Italian comic Dylan Dog.
As characters, they could be satanic siblings, or infernal in-laws: Hellboy, the Hades-born offspring of a witch and a demon; and Dylan Dog, in love with an undead woman who was likely his mother, and battling his nemesis, the devil, who could be his father. Despite their fantastic and often horrific circumstances, at heart each character is a working-class hero, just trying to get the job done.
• Sean Collins grapples with All-Star Batman and Robin: “The thing really is (to quote Grant Morrison’s Mad Hatter) very much cleverer than its rep as a goddamn-Batman meme generator would indicate.”
• Curt Purcell continues his ongoing look at the Blackest Night series and superhero decadence in general.
• Matthew Brady enjoyed Lamar Abrams’ Remake: “It’s pretty ridiculous stuff, but always funny.”
• Greg McElhatton declares Neil Kleid’s The Big Kahn “easily Kleid’s best work to date as a writer.”
• Brian Hibbs was shocked — shocked I tell you — to discover that Archie #600 was a fun read: “I mean, I’m certainly a “Betty Man”, and that makes a lot more sense to me than Veronica, but Mike Uslan’s script here is remarkably crisp, as well as filled with real drama and pathos.”
• Katherine Dacey on Ooku: The Inner Chamber: “For all its dramatic and socio-political ambitions, volume one isn’t nearly as daring or weird or pointed as it might have been. If anything, it reminds me of a BBC miniseries: it’s tasteful, meticulously researched, and a little too high-minded to be truly compelling.”
• Kinukitty reads the yaoi manga Black Sun and says “I can’t even think about this title without kind of flapping my hands and sputtering a bit.”
• Rob Clough reads and reviews more minicomics, something we all should do more of.
• The Daily Cross Hatch on Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit: “True enjoyment of this volumes ultimately seems to fall on a willingness to embrace the complementary sensibilities of ‘aw, fucking gross’ and ‘oh, fucking sweet,’ ”
• KC Carlson reviews Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martel, a book I was completely unaware of until now.
• Finally, Tim O’Neil has some thoughts on what makes The Thing so awesome.
• Andrew Rilstone’s 60-page zine on Watchmen, Who Sent the Sentinels, has been garnering quite a bit of attention, mainly because of passages like this:
I’ve never stopped being surprised that something as geeky as Watchmen is so popular with people who are not geeks. How can a book which so full of superhero in-jokes be so much admired by people who have never read a superhero story — by people who purport to dislike superhero stories — by people who sometimes end up denying that Watchmen has got superheroes in it… Maybe Watchmen manages to generate its ironic double-vision internally: the text itself tells you both what superheroes are meant to be like, and what these superheroes are actually like, and it would do so even if there had never been another superhero comic in the world… Or maybe the people who were so enthusiastic about Watchmen were unaware of the idea of superheros, and read the story simply as a story – with an un-ironic single vision.
In which case they’d be reading a different comic to me and it wouldn’t be surprising if they assessed it differently.
I’ve barely had a chance to do more than scrape the surface of this thing but I like what I’ve perused so far.
• Dan Nadel offers a devastating — and as far as I can tell, the only — negative review of Darywn Cooke’s The Hunter (which, by the way, has gone back for a second printing already). Lemme quote a bit here:
Even if I’m wrong and Cooke’s reading is utterly faithful, this adaptation doesn’t work very well as a comic book. Cooke’s character design is strangely generic, his storytelling is often unclear, and his drawing, while polished and stylish, is dull. Parker looks like a generic sort of Bruce Wayne, with a face and body language that betrays not a hint of an inner-life. Panel-to-panel and particularly page-to-page Cooke has a difficult time clearly conveying where a scene is occurring and what, precisely, the action and emotions are that he’s trying to draw.
He goes on to use John Stanley as a point of comparison, which befuddles some folks in the comments section.
• The great and all-powerful Ng Suat Tong provides one of the most comprehensive and detailed critiques of Asterios Polyp I’ve seen online yet. Seriously, Tong’s one of the finest critics comics have ever had. The fact that he’s writing again, even if it’s just a one-time thing, is cause for joy.
• Frank Santoro reviews issues #1-4 of Richard Sala’s Ignatz series, Delphine: “The story surrounded me and carried me away to a very real world. It’s a cartooned, exaggerated world, but a real world nonetheless.”
• Johanna Draper Carlson reads a whole lotta vampire manga.
• Similar to our Collect This Now feature is David Welsh’s License Request Day, where he picks manga that haven’t been translated yet, but should. This week he recommends something called Paros No Ken.
• It’s been up for a few days now, but I have to point an arrow towards Katherine Dac’s review of Children of the Sea, which is one of the best takes on the book yet.
• Man, everyone and their Uncle Bob is reviewing David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp these days aren’t they? This week alone we’ve seen Brian Hibbs, Rob Clough, Douglas Wolk and the LA Times’ David Ulin.
Not wanting to be left out of the fun, I’ll probably have my own review of the book up this Friday.
• The Groovy Age of Horror’s Curt Purcell has been spending a lot of time talking about Blackest Night, and, given that he’s not a regular fan, he has some interesting things to say about the crossover event. Rather than link to all the separate posts, I’ll just say start here and work your way back.
Oh, and while you’re at it, read his new review of Gilbert Hernandez’s Speak of the Devil.
• Johnny Bacardi likes Blackest Night quite a bit too.
• Another day, another stellar review for David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. This time it’s Dan Kois for New York magazine, who calls the book “a great graphic novel” and “a masterpiece.”
• Frank Santoro dubs Mat Brinkman’s Multiforce “terrifyingly good and an indispensable record of possibly the most important serialized comics of the post-Ware era.”
• Jog declares Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea “a fairly lovely production.”
• Johanna Draper Carlson calls Posey Simmonds’s Gemma Bovery “engrossing, even watching people make stupid wrong decisions, it’s a page-turner.”
• Brian Heater thinks Fred Chao’s Johnny Hiro is “a rollicking love letter to boundary-less pop-culture, which, by the end, has embraced everything from Night Court to Brand Nubian.”
• Sandy Bilus uses Hellboy Vol. 6 Strange Places to look at how colorist Dave Stewart uses specific palettes to strong effect.
• Rob Clough reads Everyone Is Stupid Except for Me and wonders if Peter Bagge isn’t a modern-day Mencken.
• Let’s begin by directing your attention to the comments section of this post on the Comics Comics blog regarding my recent interview with Dan Nadel. It devolves into a conversation over Nadel’s earlier comments about Fantagraphics’ recent Boody Rogers book, edited by Craig Yoe. Nadel disliked the book for a number of reasons, which Tom Spurgeon had felt was inappropriate for him to discuss in public, since Nadel had written and edited a book that featured Rogers’ art, Art Out of Time, and thus, was suffered from a conflict of interest of sorts.
Anyway, Nadel, Rob Clough, Tim Hodler, Jeet Heer, Spurgeon and even Gary Groth (!) hash the whole matter out here, though little is resolved by the end. I haven’t read the Rogers collection yet, so it’s hard for me to gauge the accuracy of Nadel’s comments. Spurgeon makes some good points, but I’m not 100 percent convinced they are that germane to Nadel’s original post. Still, it’s an interesting discussion nevertheless.
• Speaking of that Boody Rogers book, John Mitchell didn’t care much for the book either, though for different reasons, labeling it a “patience tester.”
* Sean Collins dubs the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book “a funny, creepy, nasty piece of work that encapsulates and articulates many of Alan Moore’s most heartfelt themes as explicitly and entertainingly as any book he’s ever done.”
* Shaenon Garrity runs through the top five cartoonists/children’s book illustrators. Is your favorite on the list?
* Doug Wolk praises Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know, calling it “a vivid, affecting, eccentrically stylish frame built around a terrible silence.”
* Sean Howe reviews David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp for EW. Apparently the book was the darling of this year’s MoCCA show.
* TCJ critic Kent Worcester talks about the burgeoning academic interest in comics, sorry, sequential art.
* Johanna Draper Carlson wants to let you know that Kabuki: The Alchemy offers a “mind-bending conclusion.”
* Paul Gravett continues to examine the “atom style” in eurocomics.
* Via Heidi I discovered the Graphic Novels Challenge, a site devoted to getting book bloggers and those unfamiliar with comics in general to read and review some select graphic novels of their choosing. It’s a great idea and the general first-time reactions are fun to read.
* Sean T. Collins reads the first nine volumes of Invincible and declares: “It’s very much not a book about how awesome Invincible is, whereas 90% of corporate superhero comics these days are about how awesome Copyright Man or Team Trademark is.” (follow-up links found here)
* Paul Gravett pontificates on “The Atom Style,” as exemplified by European artists like Joost Swarte, Daniel Torres and Javier Mariscal.
* I’ve avoided the Grand Guginol horror series Hack/Slash up till now, but Curt Purcell makes me wonder if I haven’t been missing out on something.
* Tucker Stone ruminates on the wonder that is G.I. Joe: “This is pretty solid comics–it’s aggressive, it’s far more cynical and hard boiled than I’d imagine a comic based off a toy empire to be, and as long as I’m not having to listen to him screech, Cobra Commander is a great heavy.”
* If that’s not enough Tucker Stone for you today, there’s also the second episode of this.
* Also over at Comixology, Valerie D’Ozario debuts her new column, Comics-Op, which promises to talk about comic-book related news from a “semi-insider” perspective.
* Staying on the Comixology vibe, Kristy Valenti scrutinizes two anthologies about, ahem, doin’ it.
* Sean T. Collins reviews the latest issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle: “I think what Kupperman’s doing–with his long, digressive “stories,” with his riffs on old-fashioned comic-book covers, and so on–is using the stuff of comics itself as a locus of the comedy.”
* Writing for the New York Times, Chris Hedges is effusive about The Photographer:
The power of “The Photographer” is that it bridges this silence. There is no fighting in this book. No great warriors are exalted. The story is about those who live on the fringes of war and care for its human detritus. By the end of the book the image or picture of a weapon is distasteful. And if you can achieve this, you have gone a long way to imparting the truth about warfare.
* The Forbidden Planet Blog calls the latest comics adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray “an excellent read.”
Moving quickly, while I’m on break:
* Good Comics for Kids holds an interesting roundtable discussion of Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth.
* Speaking of roundtables, man, I wish I had gone to TCAF just to catch this panel.
* Time for another lengthy and fascinating essay from Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga co-author Kentaro Takekuma. This time he examines the work of Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo.
* John K. talks about the whys and wherefores of good composition, using Yogi Bear and N.C. Wyeth as examples.
* The Guardian’s Rory McLean reviews Burma Chronicles.
* How long does it take you to read a standard comic book page. Neil Cohn ponders this question.
* Nina Stone can’t get worked up enough to hate on Power Girl: “I guess I just don’t see what is being oppressed here. Is there some strong feminine story that could be told if this character didn’t have large breasts? What is it I’m missing?”
* Is Storm a racist character? Discuss.
* Writing for Reason magazine, Brian Doherty examines Harold Gray’s classic comic strip Little Orphan Annie, with a particular eye to its political themes:
These first two volumes of the series, both of them pre–New Deal, are individualistic, but the anti-government mood is generally quietly suggestive, not obtrusive. The subtle politics are highly individualistic, promoting the virtues of the hard-working common man. The strip was suffused with Midwestern values (hard work and cheerfulness) and prejudices (pro-fisherman, anti-beard) and a very populist sense that it was who you were inside, not money or station, that mattered, and that “just plain folk—and plenty of ’em” were best.
* Jog compares and contrasts the new Wolverine movie with the third film in the Death Note franchise, L, Change the World: “The fan-service of L seeks to draw the fan closer to the character, to make them love him more. The fan-service of Wolverine, in contrast, mainly draws attention away from Wolverine himself, instead emphasizing the grandness of his world, reducing characters to more of a series of impulses.” (smug note of self-satisfaction: I helped a tiny, tiny bit with this piece)
* Let’s start things off with Kristy Valenti, who examines the Seven Stages of the Comics Critic:
Everyone is familiar with this phase in its various forms: passionate defense of one’s favorite superheroes, even (and especially) from those currently cartooning them, leading to message-board brawling; the realization that it’s easy to snark crappy comics, of which there are legion in all genres and from all countries; long, slightly combative conversations with relatives about how even the New York Times literary establishment has embraced the medium; railing against the current comics (and comics criticism) establishment. This is also the phase in which the danger of style over substance looms, if a critic becomes more concerned with flashy, rather than solid, writing.
* Lissa Pattillo posts what I think is the first review of The Color of Water, the second volume in Kim Dong Hwa’s manwha trilogy.
* Sean T. Collins includes Phoebe Glockner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl in his ongoing Favorites series: “Heartbreak and rage: that’s what I feel when I read this book.”
* Curt Purcell peruses Doug Wolk’s Reading Comics and declares it good: “Basically, I’m enough of an outsider to find a lot of the current comics scene puzzling, but enough of an insider to have a fairly precise sense of what I don’t understand. And that’s what makes Wolk’s book so worthwhile for me.”
* Andrew Wheeler reviews a whole mess o’ manga.