Sep 29 2014

And…Scene

This page ends a little confrontation between C and M.

And it ends on a (hopefully) funny joke.

Panel 1: Although C has trapped M in a lie, he quickly undermines his power position with some self-deprecating banter—all the better to lead M in the direction he wants him to go.

The visuals on this page may take a bit of explanation. We’re still in M’s office, and we see behind C a bust of Pallas (Athena). This is a little nod to Edgar Allen Poe: the bust of Pallas appears in Poe’s poem “The Raven.” (In that poem, the bust actually appears on top of a door, but that was a little too on the nose for me. Here, she is just next to the door.)

But I wanted to do more than just reference Poe. M has the statue in his office because he likes to think of himself as wise (Athena is goddess of Wisdom).

But here, it is C in panel 1 who is associated with Athena (who, by the way, is also the goddess of justice).

Panel 2: This panel is just an image of M from between C’s arm and side. Or is it an image of the goddess Athena in heaven looking down on a mere mortal?

Of course, this imagery is all meant to be subliminal. I don’t expect that the reader will make these kinds of literary leaps. But I do think something will register beyond simple talking heads.

Panel 3: I think M actually hurt C’s feelings with that crack!

Sep 28 2014

Studio Time 9-28-14

Sep 28 2014

Message to Adolf (Part 2) – Osamu Tezuka

You need to read the first review here before this one. Done that? Then you will recall that I was eager to read this second part. Having done so there is a lot less eagerness here. The story continues as before but with jumps in time that disrupts the plot and character development to the point of annoyance (although considering how long this thing is it would take another thousand pages to finish at a proper rate), and the earth-shattering information  that started the whole story becomes boring at best, a joke at worse, as it is never really dealt with. There are times of true artistic beauty in terms of poignant moments of tragedy and Tezuka does not shy away from having evil characters do good or good characters commit evil, but there are too many stretches  with me wishing the whole thing would come to an end. If you manage to get the whole way through I think you will find it a fascinating work from an unusual perspective and a story both worth telling and reading, even if it does not live up to what I might have wanted it to be. 

Sep 27 2014

Fantastic Four – Jonathan Hickman

Since I didn’t want to eat up the title line, here are the collections that make up this review: Dark Reign: Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four vol 1-4, FF vol. 1-2, Fantastic Four vol. 5, FF vol. 3, Fantastic Four vol. 6, & FF vol. 4 

The Fantastic Four is a group of super heroes (based vaguely on the four elements), each with their own dynamic personality, but you wouldn’t know that from reading this comic run better labeled: The God-Scientistic Reed Richards With Appearances From His Two Kids And Dad. The stories largely deal with Reed/kids/dad trying to save the world from cosmic threats they seem to have created, and how one solutions just leads to a more dangerous situation later–something that is rather interesting. I don’t know how anyone unfamiliar with the title could know who the characters are (both old and new ones) or particularly care as stories are rather bare boned, and, early on, tended to end as soon as something interesting might happen. I would like to tell you what the plot of these works were, but nothing really happens until volume 4 and only then because of events that start with a character’s death, which is a device I hate. Also, does anyone remember the time that the FF would solve problems that didn’t involves the slaughter of perhaps tens of thousands of people? (Wait, sorry, they aren’t humans that get killed–and they don’t cry out in fear/pain–so it is ok.) Additionally, while it may seem cool to have plots within plots, time travel galore–the bread and butter of Hickman–, and lots of scenes of a kid kicking people in the nuts, there is something boring about, for example, a 3 year old that is smarter than every genius that have ever lived put together and multiplied by 3 and capable of doing things in ten minutes that ever scientist on the planet, using every resource on the planet, could not achieve in a decade. And that’s hardly the worst of it, as people quite literally become gods. It may seem neat at first, but it quickly becomes pointless. Also, there is too much rock-paper-scissors in that hero X can defeat villain Y who can destroy entity Z who can crush hero X. Don’t misunderstand me. I love cosmic battles and alien invasions, but I don’t like to simply have “unclassified power levels” and aliens destroying all of Manhattan. Subtly is good, as are parameters, and without these elements the writing becomes sloppy. The best work is vol. 5 as various strings come together if nothing else and you have a sense of both completion, that past events were leading somewhere, and enough action and pathos to get a reader involved. However, I challenge anyone to say that there has been much of any character development, or that the events really mesh together (without one of the characters saying that this is simply what happens, always, in all time lines). The writing is not particularly snappy or funny and there are more artists than I can shake a stick at–and I’ve been known to shake a stick. I was ready to quit until the end of vol. 4 and that, sadly, kept me around as I saw the spark of great potential. Potential that never seemed to materialize. I will give props to vol. 6, which is more a series of vignettes of the aftermath, and I think these short, focused, rather self contained tales are where Hickman shines brighter. Luckily, this largely continues in FF vol. 3 (albeit on a slightly sillier note at times), which brings his run to its end. In the final analysis, I can’t really recommend these books. If Cej (who enjoyed it) had told me the entire story, I probably would have liked it more than reading it. Still, it is understandable why people get into Hickman’s convoluted plots; I guess I’m more interested in other aspects. 

Sep 26 2014

X-Men: Manifest Destiny

At best this is a bunch of B work from various writers and artists attempting to show depth about mutants as they settle in to life in San Fran after most mutants have been murdered. You would think that last part would be a good place to start when it comes to writing emotionally potent comics, but no, these stories are largely about nothing. 

Sep 25 2014

Mister Negativity and other tales of Supernatural Law – Batton Lash

Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd are two attorneys who specialize in representing the supernatural in courts of law. The last time I read a collection and reviewed it, I was disappointed. This time I was much more pleased. Lash (who I met once and he seemed very nice) does not rely as much on the puns and focuses more on telling clever and enjoyable (if not scream with laughter) stories revolving around parodies of fantasy and horror genres. In this collection he has a boy wizard with tourets, the Muse of potboilers who is a plagiarist, a misogynistic  monster (who isn’t at all Dave Sim), a talking ape, and a great Steven King bit. Regretfully, the same concern with the flat characters is still here. While Lash tried to have romances for the characters to flesh them out, it is too little to really matter, and while you can like the parodies, this comic isn’t going to be great until he can make the characters, not just the cases, come to life. 

Sep 24 2014

Town Boy – Lat

I’ve never seen such a unique style of art as Lat has for his memoir about growing up Malay with his Chinese best friend (perhaps because the art is so stylized that it would appear racists if drawn by your average white guy lah). In any event, I thought the story and art were great, putting plenty of smiles on my face lah. Little short and even littler (?!) background–if you do not know of the ethnic make-up of Malaysia you might lose something in your reading–yet lots of enjoyment lah (ok, I have no idea if I’m using that expression correctly). 

Sep 23 2014

Dork Covenant (The Collected Dork Tower, vol 1) – John Kovalic

I wanted to like this comic more than I did, and I should have. Silly drawings of nerdy guys talking about role playing games and their geek pop culture world, what’s not to love?! Yet I just didn’t find it quite silly or funny enough, sorry. It is the first collection of a series that has been going on for a while, so there is a good chance I’ll grab another collection and find that one to be better than this and thus like it even more. I’ll keep you posted. 

Sep 22 2014

Draw, Pardner!

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this page. I knew that I wanted to try to work in more images of M’s feet (shoes) since they are important to the plot. With that in mind, I decided to try a floor shot with feet in the foreground and C in the background, and one way of doing that was what I came up with for panel 1.

Unlike some people (ahem), this image reminds me of an old fashioned gunfight as the sheriff and the bad guy square off in the street. With that in mind, I decided to play out the rest of the page as the gunfight itself. The dialogue is pretty innocuous, but the images suggest just how C has taken down M. In panels 1 and 2, the combatants square off. In panel 3 C points at M (or is he shooting him?), and in panel 4 M reacts to C’s inability to shut up (or he reacts to being shot). I use the background in panel 3 to suggest the flash of the gun and in panel 4 the explosion as the bullet rips through M.

Again, there’s no real gunfight, it’s just meant to be a suggested by the imagery. If the reader doesn’t get it, that’s okay—it’s working subliminally.

Sep 22 2014

Secret Invasion: X-Men – Mike Carey

I like a lot of Carey’s work, but he seems incapable of writing a decent super-hero comic. The mutant team, the X-Men, fight against the shape shifting aliens, the Skrulls, who are invading Earth. Yep, that’s it. 

Sep 21 2014

Studio Time 9-21-14

 

Sep 21 2014

Return of the Dapper Men – Jim McCann

Despite hearing rumors about how great this is, I was rather disappointed. It is suppose to be a fairy tale where time has stopped and kids and robots live separately but equally so to speak, but everything changes when the Dapper Men return. While Janet Lee certainly does some interesting work with the art, you are much better off looking at the illustrations and making up your own  story rather than read the boring, oh so clever (but meaningless) writing.

Sep 20 2014

Scarlet – Brian Michael Bendis

For the record, I was a huge fan of Bendis back before most of you ever heard of him, and would push his indy crime comics on people all the time. So it would seem that his return to the genre would be a bonus, and it might be if I were 12, and knew nothing about cops, the Occupy movement, or the world in general. This comic is a revenge fantasy staring a very hot punk chick who decided that she is going to change the entire world by killing corrupt cops, which, naturally sparks a revolution of people on her side. Listen, cops have always treated me like garbage (at best) and it would be great if people would organize themselves to fight for their rights, but considering how many people I know that vote against their own interests–if they bother to vote at all–, and the lazy “what can you do” attitude that permeates society, and the complete dismissal of anything realistic in terms of what people and cops have the resources to do as displayed in this comic, I just can’t express how pointless and sloppy this work is. And all that is without discussing Bendis’ penchant for having characters talk directly to the reader and, well, just talk and talk and talk, in general. 

Sep 19 2014

Will & Whit – Laura Lee Gulledge

I thought the art was great and loved the idea that the art goes to gray scale once a blackout occurs due to a storm half way through the comic. The trouble is I can’t really tell you what the story is about. Yes, there are several teenage characters, many who have nice quirkiness to them, that are all dealing with their own concerns during a summer break (Will, the female protagonist, has an actual “real” problems), yet there is no true plot that drives the story–sorry, unrequited love and the existence of carnival don’t count, and while dealing with loss could, it isn’t made into a plot. Neither does the fear of shadows, nor the fact that the characters have their own talents count as plot, although these things could also be turned into story lines. It is this lack of story that drove me away from truly enjoying the work, and while the author is attempting to turn the work into a stage piece I think she is going to have zero luck without a major rewrite. 

Sep 18 2014

Greek Gods, Heroes and Monsters

This History Channel series has a similar name to a course of mine in CUNY. I like it when the channel has shows that aren’t totally nonsense like aliens creating civilization, and this pseudo-scholarly series does provide a nice introduction to various mythological ideas. It does have some problems such as always trying to hint that the mythology could have an actual historical foundation and they always have to link the stories to Jesus somehow, as if if they didn’t we might think they are promoting paganism or something. It is also pretty funny that I think the show has one fancy jacket that they make most of their interviewed scholars wear. I wishes there were more shows like this (and less on aliens, it is the HISTORY channel after all). 

Sep 17 2014

Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love – Patricia C. & Fredrick L. McKissack

Better known at Deadwood Dick, the life of this slave turned cowboy is amazing by any standard. The fact that there were any, never mind many, black cowboys, might be a shock to some and that is understandable, and thus I wished more was done to stress the fact that Nat Love was a black man and show how it mattered/didn’t matter in his life. The art, by Randy Duburke, bothered me in that respect because, while elegant, makes ethnicity difficult to discern when I think it is an important factor. It is hard to put so much story in such a short comic book, but this was made somewhat harder as I didn’t feel the McKissacks truly understand the medium or use it to its fullest (e.g., too much narration). Wish there was a movie/documentary on this man. 

Sep 16 2014

Trouble Maker (book 1): a Barnaby and Hooker graphic novel – Janet & Alex Evanovich

Sassy blond Barney, and also sassy blond Hooker, try to rescue their sassy but not blond friend Rosa from a Voodoo cult. It is a cute story with key elements of romance, humor, adventure, a big dog, etc. with nice cartoony art by Joelle Jones, but nothing particularly ground breaking. Perhaps the authors should stick to the novel forms of this series. Good for younger readers but at $18 for a short hardcover?! 

Sep 15 2014

Cover: Sasquatch

Houston ZineFest fast approaches, and I have yet to complete a mini this year. Sasquatch is a comic that I completed over a decade ago, but never turned into a mini. So this year it’s getting a cover and will hopefully be produced in time for the show.

This cover inspiration is pretty straightforward. I wanted to use the iconic Bigfoot image and combine it with domesticity.

I was worried, because I wanted the style to be similar to the original artwork—so that the cover wouldn’t look “new” to the contents. Fortunately (I guess), my artwork hasn’t really changed that much in the last 12 years!

Et viola!

Note: this scene does not appear in this book.

Sep 15 2014

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga – Chris Claremont

I think that for its time this was pretty amazing. Looking back, perhaps not so much so. John Byrne’s art is great, even if my tastes have changed, giving details to bodies that set a new standard for comic art. The story itself is about a group of mutant superheroes and villains that struggle against each other and to protect/conquer the world. Specifically it deals with the increasing power of Jean Grey/Marvel Girl/Phoenix/Dark Phoenix until the point that she is a threat to all life and how those who love her will fight to protect her despite what she might do. Interestingly, Dark Phoenix takes up very little of this collection; it is the events that help to initiate the dark power in Jean that are truly important. As such I really enjoyed the manipulation that the hypnotist, Mastermind, pulled and feel that such indirect actions are something more comics should consider. As for the whole “how do we stop Dark Phoenix?!” I didn’t really care that much about it. It happened too fast and such high stakes as the sudden destruction of our galaxy doesn’t seem as real to me as the subtle stab of a knife in the gut. I’d like to think that Claremont was pressured into short changing a story he wished to expand upon, if only I didn’t read a decade worth of his comics and realized he was just kind of making things up as he went (akin to modern failures like Lost and Pretty little Liars among so many other sopa opera stories). 

Sep 14 2014

Run Far, Run Fast – Timothy Decker

Decker presents some of the best illustrated stories I’ve ever seen, about a girl caught up in the horrors of the black death of mid-14th century Europe. The problem is that most young readers will not be able to follow and/or understand what is being presented and drawn. Decker is an amazing artist, and I’ve rarely seen such lovingly cross hatching details, but as an author he isn’t anything special and this could have been incredible with the help of a professional writer. 

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