The Comic Queen

Zip ribbons and word balloons, Wednesday bliss and Previews dreams. If these phrases mean anything to you, then you're in the right place. But if they don't -- hey stick around anyway. You might just like what you see.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

The time has come, my friends, to lay down my queenly crown and turn my attention to other endeavors. I had a great time and enjoyed running this site immensely, however, The Comic Queen blog is now officially retired.

But don’t be sad! At least, don’t be sad for me. I’m debuting a brand spanking new business: Fourth Wall Editing. This freelance editing service is aimed especially at small comics publishers and independent creators. Therefore, I’ve got to cut back on some of my other activities, and the blog is one of the casualties (actually it has been for awhile).

I’m sure I’ll “run into” most of you anyway. I’ll be reading your blogs, picking up your comics, and perhaps even seeing you at the occasional convention.

Thank you to the publishers and creators who sent me review copies over the last two years. And thank you so much to all my readers. It’s been great fun!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Single-Panel Review: Continuity, The Ticking, Maahvelous!, True Loves

Continuity GN
AiT/Planet Lar $12.95
Writer: Jason McNamara; Artist: Tony Talbert
Yeah, now that’s the stuff. What starts out looking like another testosterone-driven action comic settles into a trippy, mind-bending science fiction book. The book opens on a futuristic metropolis where a prescription drug “bus” is being hijacked. Things don’t go so well, and our protagonist, Alicia, finds refuge in a basement where the homeowner reluctantly listens to her unbelievable story. Suburban life wasn’t perfect for Alicia, she was 17 and living with a harsh stepmom and whipped dad. As bad as she thinks her life is at that moment, though, things quickly go down the shitter. You see, suddenly when Alicia sleeps, her dreams don’t just play out in her head, they change the world. And these aren’t peaceful dreams we’re talking about. Alicia runs away and that’s when her life and the book get triptacular. The comic itself is well executed, stories like this sometimes get out of the creators’ control and become confusing or start to unravel plotwise. This book holds your attention and keeps you guessing in a good way. The art matches the story perfectly, too; dark, sketchy, unsettling – that’s not just the art, that’s Alicia’s life in a nutshell.
Bottom Line: A-

The Ticking GN HC
Top Shelf $19.95
By Renee French
O.k., before I get to the guts of this GN, I want to comment on the design of the book itself. This is a beautiful book to hold in your hands. Hardcover and cloth bound, though it ups the price point, the physical design of the book is worth putting out for all to see. Anyway, to the content! The Ticking is a quiet book done nearly entirely in soft pencils about quiet, yet unsettled, lives. When Edison is born, he not only has a deformed visage, but his mother dies in childbirth. Partly out of the depression of his loss, partly out of shame, and partly out of protection, Edison’s father takes him away to raise him on an island. As Edison grows up, he isn’t ashamed of himself, however, and with his drawing talents, he decides (against his father’s will) to venture into the world. Sad, yet ultimately with hope, this is a beautiful book on many levels.
Bottom Line: B+

Maahvelous! Princess Puut and Dali Do Venice
Glitterati Incorporated $30
By Scott Chambliss
Decadent, over the top, and a visual buffet, are the best ways to describe this book. It’s really a children’s book for adults in a sense. Physically it’s an oversized board book, and storywise it’s got a simple yet whimsical nature with mixed-media art. Princess Puut’s celebrity star is waning, and she’s becoming dejected and questioning her existence. Then she has a dream in which she is called to travel to Venice to find the answers to her questions. Accompanied by her best friend Dali, Princess Puut goes on an adventure to find her destiny … and ultimately finds herself. It’s a fun book, and nearly indescribable.
Bottom Line: B

True Loves GN
New Reliable Press $12.99
Writer: Manien Botma; Artist: Jason Turner
This GN is a yarn about life and love in Vancouver, BC. Not a hint of sappiness is what makes this a surprisingly infectious read. The story follows True, a vintage clothing store owner, and Zander, who works at a grocery store and takes life as it comes. Though their friends are initially skeptical, fate takes its turn with the situation, and things turn out in the end. Don’t worry, I didn’t spoil anything for you – the real fun of the book is the humor, the characters, and the just all-round well-told story. Also, living just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Vancouver myself, it was fun to see many of the local sights I’ve seen in person. So, if you’ve been to Vancouver, there’s a little extra touch for you. Drawn in ink and mostly in panels, the art has a nice cartoon feel to it, then add to this the good details Turner puts into the book from the clothes to the land(and city)scapes, and you’ve got an accessible and enjoyable book.
Bottom Line: A

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Single-Panel Review: Wonderland, War of the Worlds, Papercutter, Hero Squared, and Recommended Reading

Wonderland #1
SLG $3.50
Writer: Tommy Kovac; Artist: Sonny Liew
Beautiful artwork from Sonny Liew is the highlight of this new comic. The story takes place in Wonderland just after Alice’s departure and follows Mary Ann, the White Rabbit’s assistant. The writing is great – fits the comic perfectly. Simply put, this comic is a real treat and not to be missed. Note: Check out sample pages on the SLG site.
Bottom Line: A

War of the Worlds: Second Wave #3
Boom! Studios $2.99
Writer: Michael Alan Nelson; Artist: Chee
Don’t get me wrong, I like this series so far, I’m just beginning to think it will read better in trade form. I wouldn’t say the series is moving slowly, per se, but with big, beautiful splash pages, it’s hard to get the same amount of story into a comic. Good stuff, though, and definitely worth reading.
Bottom Line: B

Papercutter 1 & 2
Tugboat Press $3 each
Papercutter’s a great little anthology book. The first two issues have featured Aaron Renier, J.P. Coovert, Sean Aaberg, Becca Taylor, Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover, and Liz Prince. So, from this line-up alone, it should be pretty clear that these are good books. If I had to pick to my top two stories, they would be Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s “Criminal Intent” a playful story about a catwoman-like burglar in a small village in the 30s (from #2), and Aaron Renier’s “Through the Hall of Biodiversity,” a down-to-earth little love story (from #1). Really, though, there wasn’t a throw-away story among the two books, which is saying something for an anthology. Sometimes they can be hit or miss, but both of these books are right on.
Bottom Line: B+ each

Hero Squared #1
Boom Studios! $3.99
Writer: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis; Artist: Joe Abraham
Another good book from Giffen in the super-hero genre. Funny, engaging, it’s super-hero but fresher. My only criticism is that Giffen can be a little wordy at times, and this issue in particular he’s got the dialogue kicked up to new levels. Really, a minor complaint, though. Overall, this is good stuff.
Bottom Line: B

I’ve been trying to catch up on my way-to-big pile of comics lately. Here are some recommended reads from that pile:

Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
Has a Y: The Last Man attitude but more intense. New York City is a war zone, and Manhattan’s the DMZ, a no man’s land where main character Matty unexpectedly becomes an embedded journalist.

Lobrau Productions
Kevin McShane
A very funny comic with a comedy movie pace and feel. The main characters, Toupydoops and Teetereater, have just moved to LA, where Toupydoops is an aspiring comic book character. That’s right, this is an LA where the entertainment industry casts comic books like movies. Nice.

Archaia Studios Press
Alex Sheik Man
I’m at a loss about how to describe this one – it’s futuristic yet the main character is a samurai. It’s not science fiction and it’s not Samaraui Jack, yet it’s both. Not to be defined by one genre, it’s a very fascinating comic. All issues of this four-issue mini-series are out, and another installment is set for next year.

The All New Atom
Gail Simone, John Byrne, and Trevor Scott
The Atom’s back but now played by a different scientific genius – it’s some pretty standard Atom stuff, but this series has some real promise. I’d recommend checking it out.

Boom! Studios
Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, and Paul Azaceta
I reviewed the first issue of this ongoing, but after issue #2 am really excited about this series, and thought it was worth a second recommendation. If you like a good mystery, you’ve got to pick this comic up.

Jordan Crane
This is an excellent comic in the vein of Kevin Huizenga or even Josh Cotter. Skilled artwork and a thoughtful, sad story.

Pizzeria Kamikaze GN
Alternative Comics
Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka
A graphic novel like nothing I’ve read before. The main character kills himself and goes to a netherworld where only those who have ended their own lives go. They live out an existence that seems like any city or normal life. It’s just that’s all there is. It’s difficult to describe the GN, but I really recommend the book.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Single-Panel Reviews: Point Pleasant, Harry, Tag, Crow Princess

Point Pleasant: Eyes of the Beholder
Twisted Gate Entertainment $4.95
Writer: Chad Lambert; Artist: Edward Pun
Though this is the second Point Pleasant comic, it’s not at all a requirement to have read the first issue. The physical setting is the same—Point Pleasant, West Virgina—and the Mothman legend is integral to the mysterious happenings in the small town. Otherwise, this is a completely different comic. Mike Gillum seems to be solidly off his rocker, having seen the Mothman himself; he’s then haunted by nightmares and visions. At the same time, a series of murders have been occurring around town. Are the two connected – or maybe not in the way that you think? It’s a good mystery, with a twist, and nicely illustrated, as well. For a treat, check it out.
Bottom Line: B+

Apak Studio
By Ayumi Piland
Harry is a little boy who is so hairy he looks like a little sasquatch. The other kids shun him, so he runs away until he finds a friendly bald mountain and they soon become fast friends. The two learn that with good friends and persistence, anything can happen. This is such a sweet little book, kids and adults would both enjoy this story. The illustration is excellent: the confident inks perfectly exemplify the sweet innocence of the characters. This mini-comic is one I picked up at the Emerald City Comicon in April, and though I couldn’t find it on the Apak Studio website, I’m sure an email could score you a copy. It’ll be worth the effort, believe me.
Bottom Line: A+

Tag #1
Boom! Studios $3.99
Writer: Keith Giffen; Artist: Kody Chamberlain
This comic surprised me—I thought I’d be reading another gross-out zombie story, but instead Giffen and Chamberlain deliver a comic with real character and an excellent first issue of a three-part mini-series. The story is about Mitch, who after an almost breakup date is approached by a creepy stranger and “tagged.” Immediately, Mitch feels the effects and after a hospital visit, his diagnosis is clear. Mitch isn’t just “it,” he’s now a zombie. The creepy part is thinking about how gruesome and freaky it would be to experience rigor mortis while you’re still alive. Yowza!
Bottom Line: B+

Crow Princess GN
Manga Punk $5.95
By Rachel Nabors
Crow Princess is a manga-style fairytale about Cora, a girl whose mother never believed was hers and, therefore, will have nothing to do with her daughter. Though Cora is smart, talented, and kind (especially to animals), other kids snub her. Her family and friends aren’t the people in her life, instead, they’re the crows she’s met and cares for. Turns out she has more of a connection to the crows than she first thinks. A fairytale switched-at-birth story, Cora finally finds her place in the world through a little magic. Though not completely down my alley, this is a good fairytale. Because it deals with issues of alienation and isolation, I think this would be an especially good book for readers in their tweens.
Bottom Line: B

Monday, June 05, 2006

Single-Panel Reviews: Talent, Cry Yourself to Sleep, 52, Jeremiah Harm

Talent #1
Boom! Studios $3.99
Writers: Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski; Artist: Paul Azaceta; Colorist: Ron Riley
Mix one part creepy to five parts intriguing and add a little twilight-zoney zest, and you’ve got the recipe for a great new comic. This first issue of Talent is a nice setup issue—you get the gist of the plot—plane goes down and all on board die except for one man who lives in a beyond-a-miracle way. You’re introduced to the main character—Nicholas Dane—who somehow knows things about people, call it premonitions, call it supernatural, whatever the mystery is, it’s a compelling one. I’m on board for this new series, and very curious to see where it will lead.
Bottom Line: A-

Cry Yourself to Sleep
Top Shelf $7
By Jeremy Tinder
This book is sweet, sad, funny … and not a bit pretentious. Some comics that aim to show the self-doubt we all experience can end up feeling forced or overly sentimental, but Tinder just tells the modern human struggle simply, and very effectively. The main characters are Andrew an aspiring human writer, an anthropomorphic bunny named Jim, and anthropomorphic Robot. Each are struggling with their humanity, their place in the world, and loneliness. Though the book is sweetly sad, it also has several humorous moments, and ultimately it’s a story of promise and comfort.
Bottom Line: A-

52 Weeks 1-4
DC $2.50 each
By A Whole Bunch of Folks
You know, I’m actually pleasantly surprised by 52 so far. I thought I’d try out the first couple weeks for look-sees, but I didn’t expect to actually enjoy the books. I certainly didn’t think I’d be looking forward to the next week. There’s no simple way to sum up things so far—really I don’t even know that much, having opted to skip out on Identity Crisis—my God I’m turning 30 this month, I don’t need to subject myself to optional crises! But, gun to my head, I’d explain it this way: the biggest heroes are gone, now the B players are stepping up both in the fictional story and as main characters of these books. The main four so far focused on in 52 are Booster Gold, The Question, Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man), Renee Montoya, and Black Adam. Of all the characters, I’m most familiar with Montoya, which is probably not the case with most readers, but I don’t read lots of superhero books. It’s not that I’m snooty, I just don’t have oodles of money, years and years of history with the comics, or the patience to keep up with things on the interweb. Two things that are the most refreshing or enjoyable about 52 so far: interesting lesser-known characters and the weekly format. It’s fun to see the DC story from the B players, it adds a new dimension and flavor to the perspective. And even though it’s an extra $10 a month, it’s nice to not have to dig up last month’s comic to remember what happened—I actually have a long enough memory to last a week (I know, I’m as surprised as you are). Anyway, I’ve blathered on longer than I intended, but bottom line is that DC’s unexpectedly got me for now.
Bottom Line: So far, so good – B

Jeremiah Harm #3
Boom! Studios $3.99
I’m starting to lose a little bit of interest with this comic. It’s a good sci-fi adventure, but the character that I thought was the most interesting—Jeremiah Harm—is actually more of a side note so far. We’re seeing the villains do their thing, but really we don’t know any more about Harm than we did at issue 1. This comic still has a lot of promise, it’s worth reading for sure, but I’m hoping the focus changes a little in upcoming issues.
Bottom Line: B

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Owly: Flying Lessons Review

Owly: Flying Lessons Review
Top Shelf; $10; 143 pgs.; B&W
By Andy Runton

Adorable, sweet, cute, insecure, worrywart—all these words describe Owly, the main character in the all-ages graphic novels of the same name.

My partner read this one too, and reports that it is “particularly sweet.” I heartily agree.

In this, the third, Owly adventure, Owly and his worm friend discover a new animal in their neck of the woods. With a little help, they identify it as a flying squirrel—who is totally adorable, by the way.

Now Owly would like to make friends, but unfortunately, owls are natural predators of flying squirrels, so the squirrel is understandably afraid to make friends. Little does he know that Owly is unlike most owls, friend of all creatures and not a big flyer either.

Without giving all of the plot away, suffice it to say that both Owly and the flying squirrel learn that trust and friendship can pay dividends.

If you haven’t read an Owly book before, especially if you have kids in your life, check this one out, it’s enjoyable, light, and, yes, particularly sweet.

Bottom Line: A

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In Memoriam: Alex Toth 1928-2006

I was away from my computer all weekend, and so missed the sad news that Alex Toth passed away on May 27. The Comics Reporter has a wonderful collective page dedicated to Toth's passing and work. Read all about it here.