Friday, 31 August 2012

Star Trek/ Doctor Who Assimilation 2 Issue 4

I have decided: issue buying is not for me. On Wednesday, I was all a-flutter as to whether the new Trek/Who issue was out, and who should dash to the comic book store and when, until Joe helpfully reminded me that new comic book day had been moved to Thursday due to the bank holiday. On Thursday, my partner in Trek/Whovian crime, Suki, was otherwise engaged which meant I had to take an extra half hour for lunch in order to duck out to town. I previously and incorrectly described this as a dash. It isn't. It's a bloody trek (no pun intended) from my workplace to the other end of town. It involved lunch-time crowds and sweat and it wasn't pretty.There has now been talk of a pull-list delivered to my home, and I have succumbed, but only for the run of this series. Behold my commitment at bringing you these stately reviews that you didn't even know you wanted. Let me tell you: I gave up FOOD to buy this comic- you want this.

After ending on the potential doozy of the Doctor meeting Guinan in issue 3, we open with it here only for nothing much to be revealed. Guninan knows the Pond's names and that the Tardis is parked in the Holodeck, but nobody appears to be overly startled by this, considering her abilities. Apart from reiterating that the flow of time has been disturbed and reassuring Pickard that he can trust the Doctor, the meeting is un-noteworthy: squib officially dampened.  An incoming message from the bridge leads to some surprising news:  the Cyber/Borg fleet is not headed to Earth as suspected, but instead travelling in the opposite direction. This curious development  leads to Riker, Data, the Doctor and the Ponds to teleport to Cogen V, the planet that was in the midst of being invaded when the Cyber/Borg alliance suddenly turned tail. There, they find the planet devoid of people but strewn with Cyber and Borg casualties: it would seem the Cybermen have double crossed the Borg, and are making a direct course to the Borg's planet for a hostile takeover.

Further investigation shows the debris of Borg ships floating in space, having been blasted to smithereens by the Cybermen. The few surviving Borg ships hail the Enterprise in hope for a truce to together defeat their apparently common enemy. Pickard is not playing ball, however, adamant that after all the pain and bloodshed the Borg have caused, they will find no respite from him: he is willing to leave them to their fate. I liked the curveball of the Cyber double cross and the Enterprise crew potentially having to team up and rescue their enemy. Obviously the Doctor is not going to stand by and watch the annihilation of a race, regardless of how bad the Borg may be. The question is, will he be able to persuade Pickard to aid the Borg in their hour of need, or in the face of Pickard's stubbornness, will he defy him- take the Tardis and join with the Borg in an attempt to save their planet. If it's to be the latter choice, to what extent will Pickard stand by and watch- it's inevitable he will go into action, but with the Doctor or against him?

I felt this was a very strong issue- it moved the plot forward considerably and set up some intriguing points, but there was one big, big problem: the art. The previous 3 issues all have art by JK Woodward and I assume he was doing his own pencils in those. In this issue, the pencils are done by Gordon Purcell  and only the colours by Woodward, and unfortunately it leads to a sharp downward turn in the art. The characters are globby and crude- Amy, in particular, is unrecognisable-, she looks like a different person panel to panel, and none of them have the degree of accuracy and realism achieved in issues past. It extends to the coloring too- on the first page the Doctor looks like a clown, and in one instance Amy's ginger hair has been gone over with a red crayon, but even that not properly, because you can still see about a third of the orange hues at the bottom. The deterioration in the art is incredibly distracting and there's no avoiding it, which is a real shame, as this issue has been the best one so far.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Publisher Spotlight: Humanoids

I was lucky enough to be sent some lovely books by comic publishers Humanoids a couple of weeks ago. They have a great selection of comics, with a particular focus on English language translations of some fantastic new European talent and old masters, such as Frederik Peters, Nicolas De Crecy and Yves Chaland. They're also one of the only publishers currently translating Moebius' work, although these tend to sell out very quickly. Here's a quick look at the books I got- you can see more by clicking on the title of each, which should you lead to Humanoids page.

The Eyes of the Cat The very first graphic storytelling collaboration between two masters of the medium, Alexandro Jodorowsky and Mœbius. In a desolate dreamscape world, a man, a bird, and a cat interact in a unique apocalyptic yet poetic fashion…

Koma  Addidas is a bright and quirky young girl who spends most of her time helping her widowed father in his job as a chimney sweep in the industrial metropolis they live in. When Addidas ventures too far into a chimney, she encounters a bizarre new friend...

Whispers in the Walls A gothic tale of horror from David Muñoz (co-writer of Guillermo Del Toro's THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE film) and artist Tirso. Czechoslovakia, 1949. What Evil lurks within the walls of an ancient Children's Infirmary? After the brutal murder of her parents, Sarah, a young orphan, is about to discover just that and much more.

Flywires Kelsey Fontine is an unemployed cop whose busted flywire forces him into a loser's life on the Aeon City-Ship. As Fontine searches for a boy's missing mother, he learns the dark side to the many privileges that come with having your brain connected via flywire.

I would definitely recommend perusing their site, some genuine treasures on there.

Kickstarter: Crazy Cal's Tales of Mystery and Adventure

I've mentioned Rob Peter's Kickstarter briefly in a news round up thingy on FPI, but it really deserves a post of its own. He's proposing an 180 page, full-colour, hardback book- Crazy Cal's Tales of Mystery and Adventure. It collects 8 of his short comics, which were originally published online here, so you can try before you buy. I really want to see this funded- for selfish, sentimental reasons: Peters' style and the stories remind me of the beloved Usborne Puzzle adventure books I used to read when I was a kid. Here's a sampler of some of the stories included in the book:

Charlie Croc, Private Eye: Charlie Croc and Will Whitefeather, an overly enthusiastic newspaper reporter, solve a complex mystery in a dark, but slightly oddball swamp.

Quest for the Cloud Castle: When the Princess is kidnapped, only a disgraced, washed-up knight and his squire can hope to rescue her in this fantasy/fairy tale story.

Life of Jimmy: 12 year old Jimmy will do anything to avoid shopping with his mother, even if it kills him.

Molly and Her Mongoose: Young Molly and her pet Mongoose are lost in a cave.

A Moment of Culture: Reciting Shakespeare becomes dangerous.
And one new story... tentatively a mystery featuring a robot detective in a Victorian mansion.

You can find out more at Rob's Kickstarter page.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Turtles redux by Michael Dialynas

The vastness of the Internet beast means there's always people drawing and designing their own versions of favourite characters, most of which, to be honest, I tend to ignore. Oh, look, another interpretation of Spiderman, woot woot(!) The downside of reading so many comics related sites is that it can lead to a certain fatgue. These Teenage Mutant Turtles by Michael Dialynas caught my eye because I have a slight but spiry Turtles obsession (more of which in an upcoming review of the new micro-series). I like how he hasn't deviated too far from the characters, but just included small touches which add personality, like Donatello's goggles and Michaelangelo's shell stickers. And another good thing: they actually look young: full of attitude and sulk, whcih pleases me: I feel the 'teenage' in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has never really been fully explored somehow. Click through to Michael's site, The Wooden Crown, for a larger picture and yes, Spiderman illustrations.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Roman Muradov: comics and illustration

Fridays call for a bit of beauty and lightness, don't they? To that end, have a look at illustrator and cartoonist Roman Muradov's gorgeous art and wonderful comics. He also self publishes his mini comics The Yellow Zine and Psychic Detective, both of which you can buy here. If I remember correctly, he's also illustrating part of the story in Josh Tierney's second volume of Spera. For lots more loveliness, head on over to Roman's site, 

Character studies:

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Zine watch: Times are hard for Dreamers issues 1-4

Some really lovely little seasonal zines by Becky Garratt, with illustrations, recipes, folklore and lots more. You can find her esty shop here, she also does some gorgeous textile/crochet brooches and prints.



Is That All There is? Joost Swarte

Is That All There Is? (2nd Ed.) by Joost Swarte - front cover

Fantagraphics are releasing the paperback version of Joost Swarte's collected stories next month, which I'm looking forward to picking up. Swarte adapts Herge's ligne claire style (so deeply ingrained with innocence as it is mainly used for children's stories) and subverts it through surreal subject matter.

By appropriating and subverting Tintin creator Hergé’s classic “clear line” style, Joost Swarte revitalized European alternative comics in the 1970s with a series of satirical, musically elegant, supremely beautifully drawn short stories — often featuring his innocent, magnificently-quiffed Jopo de Pojo, or his orotund scientist character, Anton Makassar.

Under Swarte’s own exacting supervision, Is That All There Is? will collect virtually all of his alternative comics work from 1972 to date, including the RAW magazine stories that brought him fame among American comics aficionados in the 1980s. Especially great pains will be taken to match Swarte’s superb coloring, which includes stories executed in watercolor, comics printed in retro duotones, fiendishly clever use of Zip-a-Tone screens, and much more. (There’s even a story about how to color comics art using those screens, with Makassar as the teacher.)

Other noteworthy stories include Swarte’s take on an episode from Hergé’s early days, a Fats Domino story, a tribute to the legendary“Upside-Downs” strip, and a story titled simply “Modern Art.”

Is That All There Is? (Softcover Ed.) by Joost Swarte - page

Is That All There Is? by Joost Swarte - detail

Is That All There Is? (Softcover Ed.) by Joost Swarte - pages

Is That All There Is? (Softcover Ed.) by Joost Swarte - detail

You can buy a copy here

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Banging September comic releases

Anticipated book releases for September, which will probably be bought over October/November, read in December and reviewed God only knows when. And that's without factoring in the dreaded and blasted MA.

Up first because the colours coordinated, volume 5 of Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, The Prince of Elves. I honestly urge anyone who hasn't read any of these to do so- an epic fantasy adventure series with Kazu's trademark gorgeous animation style art. Speaking of art, cartoon styles are a favourite of mine and cartoons in colour- well! Raina Telgemeier's follow up to chart-topping Smile, Drama also releases next month. Both books will be available for UK readers via Amazon (as Scholastic are still not distributing their Graphix line in the UK).

Both Richard and Joe listed Gil Dillon's Nao of Brown about an OCD young woman struggling to cope with life, as a book they're looking forward to and after reading a synopsis and seeing bits of rather wonderful art Gil's posted on his blog, I'm officially on board too. The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell: Gabrielle's diary comics are one of the very few auto-bio comics I enjoy (I strongly dislike the sad-boy life genre), this is to be distributed via Uncivilized Books, but the September date looks a bit iffy (it's been pushed around a bit).

As anybody who regularly reads these rantings knows, I'm liable to give anything aquatic set or related a go. Aquaman is one of those concepts you feel should be brilliant- an underwater ocean kingdom with a ruler who can command all the vast, varied, specatcular life within it- yet never lives up to its potential. I've heard murmurings that this New 52 interpretation may be the beginning of something good, so I will most definitley be getting a copy. Fantagrahics help distribute The Cavalier Mr Thompson, Rich Tommaso's quite beautiful looking 1920's two colour crime caper-ish comic, which I'm looking forward to with an unreasonable amount of excitement.

Nick Spencer has befuddled me through three volumes of Morning Glories, yet somehow I've emerged a fan. No idea how that happened. From everything I've read, Thief of Thieves is a stellar book about a master thief (howja guess?) attempting to get a life before it's too late. Or is it already too late? And finally, Through the Walls by Jean-Luc Cornette: published by Humanoids in English for the first time, I believe this may be due in October but have a click on the title for some preview pages- how charming and lovely does it look?

New Sludge City: new Brendan Leach

Pretty excited about this: Brendan Leach, creator of the excellently crafted, titled and now Ignatz nominated, Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City, has a new comic debuting at SPX. Set in the ubiquitous dystopian future, New Sludge City is available for pre-order at Retrofit Comics with shipping due in September. Here's a couple of preview images:


Monday, 13 August 2012

Sea life

I always promise myself to keep up with  web-comics and I rarely ever succeed. The advantage of print is there is no way a comic book will reside on my shelf for longer than a week before it's hunted down and read. French comic artist Boulet (aka Gilles Roussel) has an absolutely fantastic site on which he has been posting since 2004(!), which I don't frequent enough. You may remember him from that simply stupendous 24 hour comic he did earlier this year which left the Internet's collective mouth agape. Below is a comic he posted earlier this month imagining the mundane realities of living underwater. I love anything aquatic related so it goes without saying I think it's pretty great. If you haven't visited his site yet, you should definitely do so- I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Kickstarter projects: The Cartoon Art of Mike Deodato Jr

While the great Kickstarter debate rumbles on, and Tom Spurgeon is doing a spiffy job of collating opinion and experience, I like to think we're all old enough to decide for ourselves what we want to do with our money. If there's any kind of fatigue on my part, it's the constant onslaught of promotion of projects, but that too is easily avoidable.

So I'll continue to back comics I find interesting, the latest of which is this volume of cartoons by Mike Deodato Jr. Mike's been an artist for Marvel for over 20 years, and I can't say I'm aware of his work: my only partaking of the Big Two's output is the odd Batman book. Mike is producing a collection of really sweet cartoons centred around him and his family and they look lovely.

I like this sort of stuff- happy, family orientated cartoons. $10 will get you a digital copy of the book and $25 a physical version. Funding ends on August 22nd. You can find out more here.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Furry Trap Josh Simmons

If Josh Simmons’ Furry Trap doesn’t elicit a visceral reaction from you, there’s something deeply wrong. Really. Even leafing through it the second and third times for review purposes bought squirmy feelings to my stomach. Or perhaps I have worms. This hardback collection from Fantagraphics gathers several of Simmon’s short stories previously published in Mome and Kramer’s Ergot, along with newer material.They’re perverse, disgusting and often more than slightly sickening, but they also do a seamless turn in dissecting religion, the proliferation of violence and sex in our society whilst managing to be very funny.

The book opens with In a Land of Magic, a blackly humorous tale which begins tamely enough: an elf/fairy persuading his girlfriend to venture into the forbidden, dark side of the woods and ends with the elf defeating the dark wizard of the realm and having sex(or attempting to) with the tracheotomy he’s performed on him. The bright colours and cartoony style, once so fitting, provide a garish juxtaposition as events unfold. It’s a caustic rejoinder to the epic fantasy film and books which have been the order of our culture for the past decade; heroes venturing into evil lands and returning triumphant, unscathed and unchanged. Their caving in to beastly temptations and temporary transgressions are blamed on the environment, but is it not merely the catalyst for unleashing what already resides within? Let it be a lesson though- there’s a reason the dark side is dark, folks- it will do things to you.

As much as art is interpretive with readers attaching meaning, Simmons seems to use self-cannibalising tropes as comment: the routine, needless violence in Christmas Eve and Asshole Roomate, the searing annihilative judgement of Jesus Christ, building into the standout leeching, exploitative dependency of Cockbone. The Furry Trap gets progressively more harrowing as it goes, with steadily less humour to be gleaned. It may sound obvious, but it’s Simmons’ choice to present what he wants the reader to see, and he does so to garner a certain reaction. It’s said that there is no terror worse than what your mind can conjure, but frankly I don’t think most people would imagine scenarios such as these. Even as your brain scrambles a retreat from the images your eyes are seeing, it flails wildly for the reason why you’re being shown these things. It forces you to confront the images and words, and their meaning and purpose in a manner that text alone would struggle to do. I’m sure it’s not an unlost irony on Simmons that the discussion of the very things he is taking apart- mainly sex and violence- are what evoke such strong reactions from his work, and arguably, what make his comics an ideal conduit for such discourse.

The one story missing giant cocks (and I may well have miscounted but I ain’t going back) is Demonwood, Simmons’ original contribution to this volume, in which a man is forced to sleep at his woodland work site after his truck fails to start. Nestled by the night, he’s kept company by a smoking, drinking, Elmer Fudd-esqe baby-faced child/thing, who proceeds to prey on his insecurities and shortcomings about himself and his family, reeling off a litany of atrocities he’ll perform when he gets his hands on them. Manifestation of psychology or otherwise, by the time the logger gets home to his family, he’s unable to recognise any of them, seeing only giant bald heads with those bitty, hungry eyes. Simmons ends the story there with an ominous ‘fun begins now’ and certainly the previous 100 pages have provided enough horrific fodder to fuel what may take place next. It’s an effective reminder (harking back to House) of the unsettling dread he can achieve even without the whack and jack.

A mention for The Mark of the Bat, an unofficial bootleg take on the Caped Crusader and easily the best illustrated thing in here. This story has been getting quite a bit of interest recently, courtesy of Matt Seneca, who highlighted it as part of his ongoing ‘Greatest Comics of All Time.’ These things are entirely subjective, of course, but it’s a snarky little deconstruction of the Dark Knight and the constant ‘teetering on the edge of sanity’ thread that writers seem not to tire of exploring. Simmons gives him a hearty push over said edge as Bats devises a unique way in which to permanently distinguish criminals- cut off their lips and mouth. He appears to do this via some sort of plunging cutter device and as much as I try to take this seriously, the image of Batman playing ventriloquist with some poor bugger’s mouth just makes me laugh.

So yes, that’s what Josh Simmons will do to you- he’ll make you feel sick and then he’ll make you laugh and then he’ll make you feel sick for laughing. If you like to read something off-road and thought-provoking you can’t do much better. Be warned though- this stuff lingers.

You can buy The Furry Trap from Fantagraphics
Review originally published at Forbidden Planet International

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Curiosity: Life on Mars

Richard posted this over at FPI and I digs it vey much: Francesco Francavilla is producing some amazing output at the moment- in comics and on his site, where he's been doing minimalsit movie and tv posters, for Breaking Bad amongst others. Take a gander.

Ink + Paper Issue 2 mini review

I'm slowly becoming more aware of British creators and their works, and a pretty handy way to do it is through anthologies like Solipsistic Pop and ink + Paper, both which showcase some heavy duty talent. I doubt it needs pointing out that anthologies can be hit and miss stuff, but this benefits from the great editing of David O'Connell, who isn't too shabby at the comic thing himself. It's an A5 sized, full-colour, 100 page quality publication now into its second issue. As far as I can tell, there isn't a theme to  ink+Paper and I prefer it that way simply because it allows contributors more creative freedom. Brief rundown of my favourite bits here:

I'll be honest- I didn't really get Will Morris' story about a boy and his huge (imaginary?) clay-like monster/friend who appears to abandon him, but its beautifully illustrated, and made me feel sad all the same. The amount of light, shadow, depth and nuance he teases from his watercolours makes me look forward to the release of his book The Silver Darlings even more.

The Secret Wood by Sarah McIntyre about a deer who gets more than he bargained for when he wanders into a wood is lovely and charming. I'm not enamoured with limited colour palettes, they're used for effect, but rarely add something extra. The only place I was bowled over it was by Faz Choudry's The Elephant of Surprise strip for Solipsistic Pop 3 where he squeezed so much out of the red/blue palette you didn't even feel the absence of other colours. Having said that, the green/orange works here due to the contained woodland setting. Liked the ending to this strip a lot- it had a surprising weight to it.

Fish Soup by Sarah Gordon- a man stops at a little eatery and decides to order the fish soup special and finds it a bit more special than perhaps expected. With a wordless comic, you really need the art to work harder and Sarah Gordon's is so expressive and alive, which is perfectly fitting considering what happens here.

John Riordan intertwines multiple cultural references in The Inventor of Colour to deliver a clever parable-esqe tale charting the introduction of colour (both literal and figurative) into the world and its subsequent slow demise. Particularly appreciated the reference to Benetton whose advertising campaign history I've always found interesting, though not as much nowadays.

Fever by David O'Connell- I love David's comics: the fine clean lines and humour in his work. I didn't realise it, but I actually bought a watercolour from him at ThoughtBubble last year with no idea of he was and only became familiar with his work this year. I looked up at it on the wall the other day and saw the signature in the corner and went 'huh, that's by David O'Connell.' So at least I'm consistent in my taste! He builds and diffuses the cabin fever between two crooks stakeout-ing a job in a hotel room so deftly and so well.

The thing I like best about ink+Paper is it has no pretensions or gimmicks- it's just excellent comics with a positive affirmative tone. You really should buy a copy. And finally, I loved all of Fred Blunt's jocular little doodles, more of which you can see over at his site.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Egmont to release collected edition of Garen Ewing's Rainbow Orchid

I'm rather ashamed to say I haven't yet got around to reading Garen Ewing's Rainbow Orchid triology, which is by all accounts (and by all, I mean Richard over at FPI, whose opinion in which we trust), rather magnificent. So the news from Garen's blog on Friday that Egmont will be releasing a collected edition of the books from September the 3rd, is just the kick up the bottom I needed- I'll definitely be picking one of these up.
Right from the beginning I had intended RO to exist as a single volume, so this is the book that matters most to me, and is the edition I want to supersede the three volumes and to be most widely available, if at all possible.

It's 117 pages of story and comes with 17 pages of extras, including character development, research notes, sketches and comic creation. There are no differences or additions to the story from the three volumes, except for the correction of three or four minor text errors and a couple of graphical ones that you'd be hard-pressed to notice.
He's also announced self-publishing a Rainbow Orchid Supplement book, which will mainly comprise of annotaions for the whole story, other information, and sketches not featured anywhere else. This will be one of those limited number things, and Garen's aiming to have it out for late September, but promises copies will be available for purchase at Thought Bubble in November.