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 31, 2004

September Previews Highlights

Woohoo! I love getting the newest Previews catalog. I believe it was Garth of Wayne’s World who said “Live in the now!!” but I have the hardest time with that. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

This month the best picks all seemed to be in the “back of the book” or the smaller publishers section. I’ll highlight some of the comics that stood out for me – feel free to add your own picks to the comments section.

Pick of the Month:
Or Else #1
Drawn & Quarterly – page 286; $3.50; 32 pgs.
Kevin Huizenga
This issue kicks off a quarterly showcase of Huizenga’s amazing talent. I’m very stoked for this comic. The first I heard of Huizenga was an interview with him in The Comics Journal (#259, April 2004). The only real work I’ve read of his was in Fantagraphics’ Blood Orange, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing more from him since. Looks like my wait is over!

Here’s a list of offerings of note from the smaller publishers and excerpts from their descriptions as seen in Previews:

Bluesman #1 (of 3)
Absence of Ink Comic Press – page 198; $6.95; 72 pgs.
Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo
“… In Book One, Lem Taylor and ‘Ironwood’ Malcott – two blues musicians wandering the back roads of Arkansas in the early 1930s – find an unexpected opportunity in a little juke on the outskirts of Hope. But can they stay alive long enough to claim it?”

One Step After Another One Shot
Adhouse Books – page 203; $5.00; 40 pgs.
Fermin Solis
“One Step After Another follows the life of a young woman who is just trying to make it in this crazy world. … Imported from Spain, find out why Fermin Solis just won the 22nd Comic of Barcelona prize.”

Demo #12
AiT/PlanetLar – page 218; $2.95; 32 pgs.
Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
This issue wraps up the 12-issue series that has created quite the buzz in the ol’ blogsphere. I’ve read a couple and am waiting for the rest on back order. A little sad to see this project end, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next from this very reliable publisher.

Bipolar #5
Alternative Comics – page 220; $2.95; 24 pgs.
Tomer Hanuka, Asaf Hanuka, and Etgar Keret
This comic contains two separate stories. The first is the last installment following a guy who killed himself and his subsequently stuck in the afterlife working at Pizzeria Kamikaze. The second story is about “washed up Aquaflesh – who’s been drowning in alcohol and self-pity – gets his last chance to confront the moment that changed it all.”

Freakshow #1
Atomic Diner – page 236; $2.99; 24 pgs.
Robert Curley, Stephen Mooney, and Stephen Thompson
“When detective Jack Dixon is called in to solve a spate of gruesome murders plaguing Hollywood’s elite, the outcome reveals more than he had planned. Hard-boiled fiction served up with a side order of B-Movie cool.”

Quit City #1
Avatar Press – page 241; $3.50; 32 pgs.
Warren Ellis and Laurenn McCubbin
This is just one of the four Warren Ellis projects on this page alone! Now, let’s see if they all come out on time … hmm. Quit City focuses on Emma Pierson, a “technological explorer.” “She’s the aviator heroine who’s turned her back on it all. … She actually thinks she can go back to her old life, and that nothing’s going to follow her. And she’s almost right.”

Simpsons Comics #100
Bongo Comics – page 248; $6.99; 100-whoppin’ pgs.
Boothby, Ortz, Delaney, and Shum
This is billed basically as a huge, no-holds-barred, no advertisement, giant-sized epic of a story … with special guest Sergio Aragones to boot!

Shaolin Cowboy #1
Burlyman Entertainment – page 252; $3.50; 32 pgs.
Geof Darrow with assistance by the Wachowski Brothers
I have no idea what this is about (even from the description), but it looks intriguing. And if the cover is any indication, it will be visually intriguing as well. I hope to hear more about it and what others have to say about it soon!

Lackluster World #1
Gen: Eric Publishing – page 309; $3.95; 28 pgs.
Eric Adams
I guess I’m just a total nerd at heart – I’ve just got to pick up a book where the three siblings are named Fahrenheit, Kelvin, and Celsius. Heehee. The main character, Fahrenheit, “no longer has patience for the lackluster world he lives in and devises a plan to change it … before it changes him.”

Imperial #1
Highwater Books – page 310; $3.50
Jordon Crane
This is Crane’s first solo comic book series. “A quarterly collection of short stories that will be self-contained with no cliffhangers and no abandoned experiments. Expect more of Jordan’s hauntingly poetic drawing, heart-wrenching humor and impeccable design.”

Featured items from “the big guys”:
Superman: Secret Identity TP
DC – page 63; $19.95; 208 pgs.
Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen
Alright, if you haven’t read this series yet, get off your duff and order the trade for crying out loud. Busiek and Immonen present the best non-Superman, Superman story I’ve read. If you enjoy Busiek’s Astro City work, then there is no excuse to for not reading this. Despite a wonderfully told and illustrated story, the 4-part series suffered from poor sales. I really hope this trade generates more interest.

Kinetic TP
DC (Focus line) – page 75; $9.95; 144 pgs.
Kelley Puckett and Warren Pleece
Here’s another comic I’ve really enjoyed that hasn’t had much commercial success. This trade collects issues 1–6 for a very nice price. In fact this series will probably read better in the trade format. I highly recommend giving the series a look-see.

The Question #1 (of 6)
DC – page 77; $2.95; 32 pgs.
Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards
Although I most likely won’t be picking this title up myself, it does look interesting. And I just noticed that Comic Book Resources has an interview with Veitch on their site. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this series in the coming months.

Psst, hey you!, yeah you -- Human Target, The Losers, and Y: The Last Man all have trades coming out in November. If you haven’t given these titles a try, November’s the month to do it!

Ministry of Space TP and HC
Image – page 147; $12.95 and $24.95; 96 pgs.
Warren Ellis and Chris Weston & Laura Martin
The premise of this sci-fi tale is a view of a world where Britain became the supreme superpower after WWII instead of the U.S. … and how that came to be. This was originally a 3-issue series (that took forever to complete), and is very much eye candy. Another strong recommend.

Iron Man #1
Marvel – page 6 (in the Marvel supplement); $3.50; 48 pgs.
Warren Ellis and Adi Granov
I’ll probably wait for the trade for this one, since I’m not particularly a big Iron Man fan. What caught my eye were the very nice-looking preview pages … that and the name Ellis. And I thought I was busy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Comix & Stories

If you enjoy small press, indie, and/or mini-comics and you happen to be in northwest Washington or southwest British Columbia, you might want to check out Comix & Stories.

The one-day event is billed as “a day of alternative & small press comics, publishing, artwork, & culture” and will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., this Sunday, August 29 at Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street, Vancouver, BC.

Admission is just $3 and as of August 18 special guests include:

Jim Mahfood
David Boswell
Ralph Alfonso
Greg Stump
Smell of Steve, Inc.
James Lloyd
Verne Andru
Robin Thompson and Ira Hunter
Kelly Everaert
Andy Mori
Ken Boesem
Pregnant Embryo Productions
Owen Plummer
Craig McKenney
Ed Brisson
Brian Fukushima
Taylor Beaumont
Shawn Granton
Trevor Frick
Ron Turner
Kim Glennie
Derek De Land
Julian Lawrence
David Kelly
Rusty Beach
Trevor Metz

For more information on the event and these special guests, check out this website.
Hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Revolver one reviewed

Erin publicly promised guest blogs while she is away, so I figured I better deliver. Consider me Comic Queen for the day. With that, let's get on with it.

Revolver volume one by Canadian artist Salgood Sam (aka Max Douglas) is the first in what is to be an ongoing anthology. This volume contains 10 different pieces, two of which will be continued into volume two. These two pieces, Pin City: Part One of Bliss and The Rise and Fall of it All: Act 1 - a Cube with a View are the meat of the book. They were definitely what I enjoyed the most, while the other pieces in the book are really hit or miss for me.

Pin City, in particular, shows a lot of promise. It revolves around Joseph Cotton, an inhabitant of some future city that can't remember his past or quite how he got there. He carries around a journal so he can record where he is going and where he's been. So far it seems it could go the way of Dark City or Memento.

The Rise and Fall of it is the story of a man, Elliot, who has gone from a data entry like job to being unemployed back to being employed again by the same company and doing the same job. This story is an adaptation of an experimental piece by a composer, John O'Brien. There is a website where you can listen to the audio that inspired it, as you read.

Sam's story-telling is linear and effective, but what I was most impressed with the way he draws buildings. The cityscape pictures throughout the book are rich and detailed. He includes many little architectural details that other artists might choose to neglect. He also doesn't always draw from the perspective that one would expect. There are pages draw to look like you are right under a building gazing up at the sky and others like you are just entering a deserted city square. A lot of the drawings have a lot of great texture and shading that adds layers and complexity to the story.

The author's note at the end of the book says that he expects to put out two issues a year. I sure wish volume two was coming out sooner than that.

You can purchase Revolver one from the Revolver Comix website. The website also includes a gallery of art from the volume.

- Kerry

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Two Queens Are Better Than One

I'll be heading out on the road tomorrow morning for a little bit of a vacation, so in my absence I'm happy to introduce you to my guest blogger, Kerry Garvin.

She's got her own blog where she hits on a variety of topics including comics and gaming. So, she'll be posting a time or two while I'm gone. In fact, she hinted at reviewing "Revolver." I look forward to reading what she has to say, and I know you'll like her reviews.

Hopefully I'll be able to find a comics store where I'm going -- I'm helping my brother move into his dorm at Humbolt State in Arcata, CA. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

This PSA Brought To You By The Comic Queen

Just a quick blog entry to tell you about a few blogs and websites I've come across recently, and ones I've been reading but haven't gotten around to sharing yet.

Comic Book Galaxy
This is a great website that I make sure to check frequently. They review a lot of small publisher material and is always a good read. Unfortunately they are in a financial pinch, so if you like what you see, please consider donating or spreading the word.

Comic Weblog Updates
You may already be familiar with this site, but it is a great resource for comic blogs. See which of your favorite blogs have been recently updated, or check out a blog or two you didn't even know existed on this handy site.

Thought Balloons
Both of these blogs are consistently good reads that you should definitely bookmark.

Yet Another Comics Blog
Welcome to David Carter to the comics blogosphere! Looks like we'll have another good blog to check out. Now I'll never get any work done! (Like it took much.)

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews Catch Up 8/15/04

Here are more comics I’ve been catching up on.

Blood Orange #1
Fantagraphics $5.95
By Various; Edited by Chris Polkki
Released this Spring, Blood Orange #1 is a 48-page anthology of short works by 16 different artists, intended to be a quarterly publication. The work ranges from sketchbook pages to the surreal to strip comics. Some of my favorites were M. Kupperman’s “How to Recognize Criminal Fingertalk,” Maaike Hartjes’s “Maaike’s Little Diary,” Kevin Huizenga’s “Fight or Run?” and Ron Rege Jr.’s “The Sublime Realm Between.” There were definitely others I liked and some that didn’t necessarily float my boat but that I enjoyed a certain aspect. Overall, it was a nice smaller format to sample a variety of different minicomics and artists, some of which I most likely would not have been exposed to otherwise.
Bottom line: B+

Y: The Last Man #25
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan; Penciller: Pia Guerra; Inker: Jose Marzan, Jr.
First off, I’ve got to say the cover deserves an A+ all by itself – just an amazingly rendered and colored work of art. As for the book itself, this wrapped up the two-part “Tongues of Flame” storyline where Yorick tries to relieve himself of guilt by finding a church at which to confess, only to end up racking up more to feel guilty about. This two-parter was a vehicle for self discovery by Yorick and showed another possible aspect of life after men. The most intriguing part of the issue was the last three pages of the book, though, setting up another twist to the plot. Another well-done issue by Vaughan and Guerra.
Bottom line: A

Seaguy #3 (of 3)
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Cameron Stewart
Well, this storyline ended up wrapping up and making more sense (in an odd sort of way) than I thought it would. The second issue lost me a bit – the first and third installments are stronger in their storytelling. The series is worth a read, especially for the great artwork of Stewart. This was by far the best part of the limited series for me. In fact, I might just have to flip through the issues again to enjoy the art another time.
Bottom line: B

War Games (so far): Batman, The 12-cent Adventure (Prelude); Detective Comics #797 (Act One, Part 1); Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #182 (Act One, Part 2); Nightwing #96 (Act One; Part 3)
I’m four parts into the War Games crossover, and so far I’m not too impressed, but I’m not discouraged either. A glowing endorsement, I know. Right now, there’s a lot of set up going on, so we haven’t made it into the thick of the plot. This seems about right on course for a 24-part series (Three acts, eight parts each). My only real criticism is the lack of backstory on the gangs and leaders who have started this massive gang war. It is difficult to get invested in characters and groups we really don’t know much, if anything, about. Also, on the individual issue level, the Detective Comics issue was a poor writing job. Reading the rest of the issues, this stuck out like a sore thumb. Batman’s dialogue was jarringly different than the other issues and was substandard in general. That’s the risk in these multiple-title crossovers, keeping a continuous storyline with so many different voices can be difficult. While I’m not a big fan of crossovers, I think this one has potential.
Bottom line: B

Identity Crisis #3
Check out my review of Identity Crisis #3 at the Paperback Reader website.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews Catch Up 8/13/04

I’m working on catching up on a long backlist of comics, and here are a few I’ve read.

Conversation #1
Top Shelf $4.95
By James Kochalka and Craig Thompson
This is a great little experiment from Top Shelf. They pair up two of the big names in small publishing – Kochalka and Thompson, for this look at comics, art, spirituality, and sexuality, among other things. The 48-page comic is black and white and 5 inches square. Bite-sized format, but the content is a lot to chew on. Each artist takes every other page to respond in their own distinct style. Kochalka appears as his American Elf self, and Thompson looking like his Blankets perosona. I highly recommend this book and look forward to seeing Conversation #2. My only criticism/suggestion to Top Shelf is to include a short paragraph of a preface explaining the project either on the back cover or first page of the book.
Bottom line: A-

Street Angel #1 & #2
SLG $2.95 each
By Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca
I have to say I enjoyed #1 more than the second, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment. If you want some off-beat fun and frivolity with minimal sense-making, then you’ll want to check out Street Angel by SLG. Street Angel is a teenage girl who lives on the street in a world where ninjas run rampant -- and she’s the greatest ninja of them all. It’s presented in black and white, with clean inking and a simple realistic drawing style. It’s kind of like a road trip with no destination in particular. You’re in the car for the fun of the ride, and you don’t really ever care where you end up. It’s just not about that.
Bottom line: B+

Batman #627-630
DC $2.50 each
Writer: Judd Winick; Penciller: Dustin Nguyen; Inker: Richard Friend; Colorist: Alex Sinclair; Letterer: Clem Robins
This four-part storyline titled “As the Crow Flies” was average on the whole, but it had some nice moments. I liked it overall, but I had more hope for it early on. This dark storyline follows an uneasy alliance between Scarecrow and Penguin. I thought the first part was by far the most interesting and promising; unfortunately the storyline as a whole just didn’t quite measure up to the high bar Winick set for himself early on. It felt like it needed to be only three issues long – the third and fourth issues just felt a little padded.
Bottom line: B

Astonishing X-Men #3
Marvel $2.99
Writer: Joss Whedon; Artist: John Cassaday; Colorist: Laura Martin; Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
I won’t say much, just that this title brings new hope to the X-Men series. For awhile I didn’t think I’d be recommending any X title, but I really love this series. The art, the writing -- the best. Bottom line: A

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Comic Shopping on the Road

Whew! Just got back from the land of meat -- Denver to be more precise. (The amount of meat in the restaurants was crazy -- and I grew up in Iowa for crying out loud!) I didn't get a chance to get much of a feel for the city since I was working nearly non-stop; however, I did make a point to find a comic shop while I was there. Before I left Bellingham, I searched for the closest comic shop to my hotel -- the City Center Marriott.

Turns out Highlander Comics was less than a mile away, so on one of my very few free nights I hoofed it over to Highland comics a mere block away from the state capitol building.

Highlander Comics was a small shop, but for the size I was impressed with their selection. They had quite a few of the smaller publishers represented as well as some mini-comics from local artists. As with just about every Denverite I encountered, the guy I talked to -- I'm assuming he was the owner -- was very cool and took the time to talk with me, see what my tastes were, and make some recommendations. (I feel bad I didn't get his name!) I subsequently was very happy and spent more than I probably should have. But, hey, I was feeling heady knowing all the overtime I was racking up in Denver.

I purchased the following (a mix of comics I was looking for, local comics, and comics I've been meaning to purchase):

Queen & Country Operation: Broken Ground TPB from Oni (haven't finished it and I'm already hooked on this series -- now I know where a good chunk of the rest of my overtime is going)
Street Angel #2 from SLG (this a hilarious comic -- I command you to pick it up)
Blood Orange from Fantagraphics (still gotsta read it)
9-11 Emergency Relief from Alternative Comics (ditto)
Gotham Central #21 (the two comic shops in Bellingham were out, so I was thrilled to find this here)
Two mini-comics: The Cheerleader & other stories by Lonnie Allen
and King-Cat Comics and Stories Number 62 by John Porcellino

Then the guy who helped me gave me no less than seven free comics (some from Free Comic Book Day, some I assume were overstock). Very cool.

So, obviously, I had a good time there, and if you ever happen to be in Denver, the shop is worth checking out.

Here is a look at the two mini-comics I picked up.

The Cheerleader & other stories by Lonnie Allen
This publication features four tales. The first "The Cheerleader" was the deepest in both storytelling and underlying emotion. The story had to do with a teenage abortion, but a short description doesn't suffice here. This was my favorite of the comic -- my second favorite was a two-page interpretation of W.B. Yeats's poem "He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven."
Check out Lonnie online.

King-Cat Comics and Stories Number 62 by John Porcellino
I *really* dug this comic. Maybe I just sympathized with John, since much of the prose and comic was expressing his loss at moving from Illinois to Denver. I can definitely understand this. But mostly, it was the simple style that revealed so much below the surface. It's the same reason I like James Kochalka so much, but is difficult to express in words. Porcellino captures emotion in a one- or two-page comic the way a great photo does. A moment frozen in time, beautiful, sad, and joyous all together.
I'll definitely be ordering more of Porcellino's work from his website.