January 31, 2014

Review -- LOUD COMIX 2

Loud Comix 2

(Jamie Vayda / Sal Canzonieri / Eric Todd / Darin Martinez / Christian Maes / Erikca Lane / Alan King)
3 stars
The last time I reviewed Loud Comix I mentioned that this anthology series contained stories in which “Each tale cradles a misfit who stands outside the norm wailing their own particular song into a night filled with the smell of moonshine and the hiss-rattle of the cicada as the kudzu threatens to envelop everything.
This time around, not so much. Sure a collection begins with Darin Martinez's “Rest Stop of The Dead” in which peeing in a radioactive toilet makes a stoner a zombie, but after that, things just aren't as tight. Loud Comix may still be screaming, but occasionally it's spitting gibberish.
Loud Comix 2
This collection still features some of the South's Punk Rock luminaries. Birdcage Bottom Books runs this solicitation:This issue Jamie Vayda illustrates stories from Sal Canzonieri (Electric Frankenstein), Eric Todd (Stand-up comedian, EricToddCast, Rancid Vat, Party Wreckers), Darin Martinez (Stand-up Comedian, EricToddCast), Christian Maes (Captain Catastrophy, Belgium Television writer) and of course Erika Lane (The Stovebolts, Early Graves), Alan King (Hellstomper, Polecat Boogie Revival) and to top it all off the cover of issue was designed by Magnus Sellergren (Sellergren Design – Art is the Enemy)

January 30, 2014

Review -- Stefano Cardoselli's WALK

Stefano Cardoselli's Walk

(Stefano Cardoselli / Stephen Nelson / Bram Meehan)
4.5 stars
Okay. Any comic that begins with a splash page featuring a huge muscly masked man chainsawing the back of another man's head -- blood splatter mixing with spittle, both characters' tongues hung out and quivering in orgasmic revery -- displaying a prominent text box that reads, “They say I wasn't right in the head” is not worried about wearing its intentions on its sleeve.
Then again, Walk is a Stefano Cardoselli comic, and Cardoselli has never been one for the subtle touch. Teaming up with writer Stephen Nelson here, though, he takes the term “ultraviolence” to a new level and, while it may not be politically correct for me to say this, that new level happens to be pretty fucking great.
Stefano Cardoselli's Walk
I know this is a sensitive issue nowadays. The preponderance of horrific imagery in media has not only fueled the already nuclear fire of Conservative groups who bemoan a lost social innocence and live in gated communities, but has also given pause to Progressives as they contemplate the fallout of Sandy Hook and Georgia Tech and Columbine. While gun politics is a contact sport nowadays, both sides tend to agree that images such as the opening page of Walk add little to the game except penalty flags.
And yet...
Walk is both a glorification and a commentary. Its “ultraviolence” is as much Burgess as it is vicarious. Cardoselli and Nelson are taking a familiar story, “mindless televised violence” as “the last surviving art form. A dying society's final means of catharsis” – you know, that whole Hunger Games schtick – and have injected it with 1,000 cc's of pineal gland extract. It is too much, and, by being too much, it is just the right amount.

January 28, 2014


Blastosaurus: Welcome to Freak Out City Part One

(Richard Fairgray / Terry Jones / Tara Black)
4 stars
Mutant Dinosaurs! Robots! Time Travel! Action! Gore! Science! Jokes! Annoying Kids! You get all this and more in New Zealand writer Richard Fairgray's Blastosaurus: Welcome to Freak Out City Part One. It's a club sandwich of comics, it's got layers, man, layers.
The story revolves around a mutated triceratops who, I gather, is trying to save us from a gang of mutated raptors, an evil corporation, and a future dominated by robots. That, and along the way avenge the brutal murder of his mother. It's an origin tale as much as it is an introduction to all the aspects of the larger story line, and it moves and it grooves through introductions, characterizations, and narrative time slips. There's a lot going on in this first issue. As Blastosaurus says, “ya gotta pay attention cos it gets complicated.
Blastosaurus is an all-ages title as much as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an all-ages title, but it has got some unique quirks that make it stand out, the time-travel aspect of the narration being the most interesting. This first issue is told simultaneously in the past, present, and future. Fairgray does a remarkable job of keeping his reader fixed through these time changes with his coloring – the future is notably gray, as one would expect it to be in a world ruled by robots, while the past is full of lush and plump greens and browns. For the present, interestingly, Fairgray goes beige adding a soft familiarity to the comforts of home.

January 27, 2014

Review -- HARBINGER #20

Harbinger #20

(Joshua Dysart / Clayton Henry / Brian Reber / Dave Sharpe; Valiant)
4.5 stars
Just exactly how does a gang of misfit kids take down the most powerful man in the world? This is not the tag-line to the latest Scooby-Doo adventure. Rather, it is a question posed by writer Joshua Dysart, and the new arc of his bookHarbinger will, I guess, seek to answer it.
It's a big question, but then again, Harbinger is a big book.
Harbinger #20
But before any sort of answer can be reached, the full extent of the question must be posed. Issue 20 is all about making everything pretty damn clear. This is a book that begins in the future – SOON (echoes of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf's opening “So”) -- because it has to, because the drama demands it, because it couldn't begin anywhere else.
Toyo Harada and his Harbinger Foundation have basically been in charge all along. It takes issue 20 to let everyone else in this world know it. Once the secret is out, the hand that has been gently cradling the power structures must now clench into a fist. When the mask is taken off, the face underneath is tight in a sneer.

January 24, 2014

Best Graphic Novel of 2013 -- Charles Forsman's THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD

The End of the Fucking World (TEOTFW)

(Charles Forsman; Fantagraphics)
TEOTFW will break you.
It's easy to conjure up sobs of false sentimentality when thinking about this book, but it's not in its heart one of those “look upon this horror” or “there but for the grace of God”. This is a bildungsroman of the narcissist, psychotic, detached. It is the psychic havoc of the perpetually doomed; the coming of age story of those striding forth into world where the connection between cause and effect is a spectator sport, where emotional content is gauged by “hits” and the chance to go viral.
The End of the Fucking World
TEOTFW is a dispassionate presentation of dispassionate times peopled with dispassionate individuals, and therein lies its passion. It's hard not to be moved by the immovable, as we are humans and, as much as we would prefer otherwise, we care.
It's a love story between a young girl who loves too much and a young boy who can't love at all. It is an indictment as much as an embrace. Remember Romeo's conception of unrequited love? “O brawling love! O loving hate! O anything of nothing first create!” Forsman uses the Petrarchan conceit covertly to examine our ultimate longing to be part of something outside of ourselves.
And it will break you.

January 14, 2014

Review -- SHADOWMAN #14

Shadowman #14

(Peter Milligan / Roberto de la Torre / David Baron / Dave Lanphear; Valiant)
3.5 stars
With Shadowman #14, the art team of Roberto de la Torre and David Baron stomp the horror genre comic with thick, masterful boots. A matter of fact, screw genre niches, as far as I am concerned, these guys are stomping comics in general. This book is as beautiful as it is creepy as it is viscerally, knot-tingly, horrifically powerful. Its strengths lie in its visuals and they cover the mars of some minor Milligan missteps.
Shadowman #14
There is a distance to the pages in Shadowman #14, a gauze between the action and the reader, a haze or a fog. The things that come out of this mist come at you hard and vicious. There is little air to breathe in these panels; de la Torre's wispy lines and suggested backgrounds barely hold together and Baron's colors wash you even more in uncertainty, as if your emotional reaction can only be gauged through subtle shifts in the vibrancy of greens or reds or grays. This art burrowed into my own primal fears getting to a fundamental, intrinsic horror – something so terribly alien mating furiously and frantically with everything familiar and comforting.

January 13, 2014


Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps #18

(Christos Gage / Joshua Dysart / Bart Sears / Matt Milla / Allen Passalaqua / Dave Sharpe; Valiant)
3 stars
Hey cover banner that reads “All-New Arc!” and “Must Read Valiant,” your shouting makes me nervous. There's a desperation to your punctuation; methinks your admonition protests too much, perhaps. I'm wary, but...  well... okay. It's you, Valiant. I've come to trust you over time. Your relaunch has brought such bounty, such pleasure. I guess you're just enthused. I understand. I can be excitable too.
But not all hype is in service to the truth.
Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps #18

There's something droll about Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps #18, something not quite serious in its over-seriousness. It's as if everyone involved is in on this joke but nobody really understands the punchline because it's actually a Nietzschean aphorism and not supposed to be funny in the first place. Imagine, if you will, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing the role of Macbeth … in a wet suit … translated into Klingon or Elvish or something nerdy like that, and then packaged as an exercise regimen called “Lay On, Macduff” because The Rock is all muscly and really, we all want to be muscly, don't we?
That's kind of where I ended up when I started thinking about this book.
It could be that I am still associating this H.A.R.D.Corps with THIS H.A.R.D.Corps and that's fucking me all up.
I know, I know. Let this book stand on its own merits. The past is the past, let sleeping dogs lie, a bird in the hand, mama didn't raise no coffee table. Professional in attire and attitude. Ahem.

January 9, 2014

How Poop (Office) is Made - Poop Office 75

I've been writing about Poop Office (here and here) from Naked Grape Comics and have called it both a "a scathing condemnation of Capitalist doctrine" and "a Dadaist manifesto of survival in the bureaucratic structure inherent in modern life." 
Now Ben Pooped gives us some insight into "the making of" Poop Office #75 and we are all the better for him having done so. 
Click "Click Here to Read More" to see the video

January 8, 2014


The Illegitimates #1

(Marc Andreyko / Taran Killam / Kevin Sharpe / Diana Greenhalgh / Peter Pantazis; IDW)
2.5 stars
This is a comic that is all about premise. There is not much to it otherwise. The question becomes then, I guess, is premise enough for a critic like myself to declare something “good”? This, of course, brings up questions about the nature of criticism itself, as well as an even larger can of worms concerning what, itself, is “good”. But I'm wondering if a review of IDW's The Illegitimates #1 is really the platform for such a discussion? This strikes me as neither the time nor the place for this larger  discourse.
Instead, let's talk about premise. The Merriam-Webster definition of the term is “proposition antecedently supposed or proved as a basis of argument or inference; specifically : either of the first two propositions of a syllogism from which the conclusion is drawn.” It is, in a nutshell, the “IF” to the “THEN” of the cause and effect relationship. Premise is all about Idea, and Idea is the fecund ooze from which all art arises; it's the single celled organism about to evolve through evolutionary action. As my fellow reviewer Justin Giampaoli has never said, “A sandwich is a premise, while a Banh Mi is its fruition.

January 3, 2014

Review -- FACTION #2

Faction 2

(Allan Xia / Cory Mathis / Damon Keen / Sheehan Brothers / Rachel Royale / Michel Mulipola / Ned Wenlock / James Squires / Adrian Kinnaird / Mukpuddy)
4 stars
I love to sample. Beers, chocolate, ice cream, music, excerpts, trailers, sound bites, and the like. You know, you get to try all sorts of new experiences without having to fully commit. Nothing wrong with trying before you start buying, amirite?  Maybe that's why I like anthologies so much, as you encounter new voices, see new visions, be set assail on new seas, without having to invest your full self to the experience. I mean, when was the last time you sat down and read the work of 10 different cartoonists from New Zealand?
I rest my case.
Faction 2
Faction #2 is the second anthology released by Three Bad Monkeys and once again it fulfills its mission to: “show off the diverse range of comic talent that exists in New Zealand and celebrate the extraordinary new direction that comics have been taking in the past years.” Diversity is certainly the name of the game here as the material presented in its 80 or so pages runs the gamut from science-fiction to fantasy, thick painted panels juxtaposed with lightly inked expressions, dead seriousness contrasted with the oddly goofy. As my grandmother used to say, “It's got a little something for everyone,” some stronger than others, but all worth a sample.

January 2, 2014

Review -- David Lapham's JUICE SQUEEZERS #1

Juice Squeezers #1

(David Lapham / Lee Loughridge; Dark Horse Comics)
4.5 stars
I know I'm a little behind on this story, but the idea that David Lapham is writing an all-ages comic kinda bends my mind. I mean, this is Stray Bullets David Lapham, right? The same guy who was artist on Warriors of Plasm? Is this really the kind of guy you want creating comics for kids?
Apparently, the answer to this question is YES, because Juice Squeezers #1 is all kinds of family fun awesome.
Juice Squeezers #1
As an all-ages comic, the premise behind this book is straight up nutso. There's this town, Weeville, California, and it's been invaded by “legions of giant bugs” who are threatening to overrun the town. The only thing standing between staid, small-town American Life and arthropod Armageddon is a “covert group comprised of scrawny tweens, the Squeezers,” who “are the only ones who can fit into the cramped subterranean battlefield and fight the insects on the frontlines!
Having student-taught at a middle school for a semester, I can understand why those little suckers are the perfect insecticide. Seriously.