The Comic Queen

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Friday, December 31, 2004

Dozen Ways to Spend that Holiday Dough

Still have some of that Christmas money or Hanukkah gelt burning a hole in your pocket? Here are a dozen suggestions (in no particular order) of how to spend that cash the comics way.

1. American Elf: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka
Top Shelf; $29.95
This tome (520 pages) contains a whopping five years of Kochalka’s sketchbook panels. Each daily strip is a snapshot into the life and mind of James Kochalka: funny snippets of conversation, random thoughts, fears, loves, and everything in between. Although many of the strips are intensely person, the observations and thoughts expressed are universal, or nearly so. You’ll find this is a book that will not only take a good amount of time to read, but you’ll want to pick it back up again once you’re through.

2. My Faith in Frankie
Vertigo; $2.95 for each of the four issues
Writer: Mike Carey; Penciller: Sonny Liew; Inker: Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel
My Faith in Frankie is a fun, four-issue romp. Frankie Moxon, friend Kay Watson, and Frankie’s personal god, Jeriven, are the stars of this very entertaining offering by Mike Carey and Sonny Liew. Skip the trade recently offered and dig around for the full-sized, full-color originals.

3. Caper
DC; $2.95 for each of the 12 issues
Writer: Judd Winick; Artists: Farel Dalrymple, John Severin, and Tom Fowler
Caper follows the same California family through a handful of generations in three 4-issue story arcs. All issues are written by Judd Winick, with a different art team on each story. Ranging from gritty action to drama to caper comedy, this 12-issue series is something I wish the Big Two would do more. Like many items on this list, it wasn’t a runaway success, so I’m encouraging a second look.

4. The Comics Journal
Fantagraphics; $36 for five-issue subscription
The lengthy and very well-done interviews are why I originally subscribed to The Comics Journal, but features I especially enjoy now that I’ve got it coming to my door are the news and trend analysis, commentary, and reviews. Recently the publication went under a make-over and added a color section devoted to past comics greats. Ultimately, TCJ has turned me on to many creators whom I hadn’t known before, and taught me more about creators I already knew.

5. Persepolis I and II
Pantheon Books; $17.95 for hardcover editions, first book also available for $11.95 in softcover
I’ve reviewed both Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return here, so for glowing recommendations, I suggest you follow those links. These are moving books that won’t easily leave your thoughts.

6. Queen & Country
Oni Press; $2.99 per issue, trades various
Looking for intrigue and action, maybe? Or perhaps in-depth characterization and human drama? But you also want great writing and stellar art, right? Super, because I’ve got a series for you – it’s a little ditty I like to call Queen & Country written by Greg Rucka and a rotating cast of artists. Now through issue #28 (plus a three-issue special “spin-off”), there are several trades to pick up or you can track down the original issues. Out of 31 issues I’ve only been disappointed with a couple, which is an amazing track record.

7. Astonishing X-Men
Marvel; $2.99 each issue; The first trade is also out collecting issues 1-6 for $14.95
Writer: Joss Whedon; Artist: John Cassaday
I’ve gone on and on about this series. After I’d pretty much given up, it made me love the X-Men again. Joss Whedon has managed to write a comic that nods to long-time fans but is accessible to new readers. Cassaday’s art is like nothing I’ve quite seen in the X titles before – beautiful illustrations that are most definitely art.

AiT/Planet Lar; $2.95 each issue
Twelve different issues, each with a new plot, new characters, no ties to each other. Each a graphic novella featuring various art and writing styles. Everyone will have a different set of favorite issues that worked for them especially. However, they are definitely all worth reading.

9. Runaways digests
Marvel; $7.99 for each trade digest
The first “season” of Runaways is over, with the second on the horizon. Now’s a good time to pick up the trades. Each is only $7.99 in the digest format – the first two are currently out and ripe for reading, the third is due out in February. This series about a group of kids who has discovered their parents are all members of an evil, super-powered organization. Like all teens and preteens, they’ve a lot to discover about themselves, only this group has even more than is typical! A great series for light reading.

10. Small Press Sampler
The White Elephant; Alternative Comics; $8.95; Damon Hurd and Christopher Steininger
Egg Story; SLG; $3.95; J. Marc Schmidt
Ninety Candles; Rant Comics; $5.95; Neil Kleid
Lunch Hour Comix; Alternative Comics; $4.95; Robert Ullman
This quartet of small press gems should be required reading as far as I’m concerned. The White Elephant is a heart-wrenching tale of one young man’s struggle with his sister’s sexual abuse. Egg Story is a light-hearted, humorous, yet still touching story of a group of eggs and their travails in the world. Ninety Candles follows the life and legacy of Kevin Hall told in 90 panels, one panel for each year of the story. Lunch Hour Comix was just released last week and will be reviewed on this site shortly. It’s a day-in-the-life collection of strips by Robert Ullman in a similar vein to Kochalka’s work but distinctly Ullman’s. Each of these books is more than affordable and the kind of books you’ll want to keep out for friends to read instead of storing them away in plastic.

11. Y: The Last Man
; $2.95 an issue, trades various
Brian K. Vaughan is at his best in this series. I love the series in individual issues, but reading them in one sitting as trades is a wonderful experience (four are currently out). It’ll get your pulse pumping and mind wheeling like few series currently being published. If you haven’t given this series a try, now may be the time to do so.

12. Superman: Secret Identity
; $5.95 for each prestige-format issue; $19.95 for the trade
Writer: Kurt Busiek; Artist: Stuart Immonen
I think this four-issue series is one of the most overlooked projects of 2004. It sold poorly and hardly made a splash. I know there were complaints by some that the cover price was just too much. However, after cracking it open I have a feeling most readers would change their minds about that price. Superman: Secret Identity follows small-town teen Clark Kent as he discovers his powers, grows up and finds a career, a wife, raises a family, and into middle age. Only this isn’t the real Superman, just a “normal” guy who through chance gets the opportunity to imitate the comic character. Although the book contains Kent showcasing his powers, that’s not what the series is about at all. Instead, it’s about the universal experience of being human. Quite touching, really; and Immonen’s art is just pure eye candy.


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