The Comic Queen

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews: Free Comic Book Day Edition

We headed off to our local comic book shops a little after noon on the beautiful Saturday with our hearts full of promise and hope. First, we stopped at the smaller of the two shops in town. The atheists there chose not to celebrate Free Comic Book Day and we left a little disappointed. We knew that our favorite shop, Cosmic Comics, wouldn’t let us down though. We were right. A large counter was set up with a huge array of books and everyone was allowed to select three. Since we brought a friend, we happily snapped up nine titles. Here are my thoughts on the free swag:

Owly: Splashin’ Around
By Andy Runton
Top Shelf Productions

Owly, Top Shelf’s graphic novel series, also works well in this regular 32 page comic book format. In this story, Owly and Wormy continue to help their birdie friends by entering a bird bath contest at the local garden shop. I continue to be surprised just how much emotion Runton can get into a book with so few words and a seemingly simple topic. While I am definitely a softy, I actually teared up a bit when Owly and Wormy were sad. If a comic book could ever make me cry, it would be Owly. The story and characters are just so warm, genuine, and charming.

Bottom Line: A

Alternative Comics Presents
Anthology edition with stories by Robert Ullman, Derke Sakai, Damon Hurd and Tatiana Gill, and others. Cover by James Kochalka.

Alternative Comics Presents houses some great stories by extremely talented writers and artists. I enjoyed most of the volume, but the Story of the Eye-Hop by King Crab and Joel Orff was especially inspired. The story about a group of comic-loving grade school students and their war with a fellow classmate is hilarious. Another highlight is new Lunch Hour Comix by one of my favorites Robert Ullman. This book is a testament to the talent working with Alternative Comics.

Bottom Line: B+

Stories by Kazu Kibuishi and Jake Parker
Image Comics

Image highlights its Flight series with the Copper – Maiden Voyage story from volume one and Robot and Sparrow from volume two. Both these stories are of high quality, but I enjoyed Parker’s Robot story the most. In it a young robot makes friends with a sparrow and they spend must of a year hanging out and becoming friends. I’m not sure what’s best about this volume, the art or the story. I love how the book progresses through the seasons from spring to winter. The color schemes of these pages reflect the changes in nature. The robot is also extremely adorable. Finally, the script reads like a fairy tale. It’s a beautiful little story and this edition has convinced me I need to pick up the Flight volumes.

Bottom Line: A-

The Adventures of Paul
By Michel Rabagliati
Drawn and Quarterly

This book is my first exposure to Paul’s life and I’m completely sold. The book takes a few stories from the other Paul books including one from Paul Moves out which will be published this month. The first story, Paul apprentice about Paul visiting his father’s type shop is both touching at funny. Paul’s father shows Paul all aspects of work at the type shop with loving care and the curiosity of the young boy shows through. In the second story, my favorite, Paul and has friend tromp around the city having fun and making trouble. Again, this is a great story that portrays kids very accurately. It shows the boys imagination as they roam about. The final story, starring an adult Paul at a family member’s funeral is touching and classic. Rabagliati has no problem expressing the emotions of loss and grief on the page. Even if this little volume shows the very best of Paul, which I doubt, there is still a lot available. I’m hooked.

Bottom Line: A

Funny Book
Anthology featuring the work of Ivan Brunetti Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Pete Bagge, Daniel Clowes and others.
Fantagraphics Books.

I was looking forward to this book as I do all Fantagraphics work that I actually have to purchase. The book has a number of stories, short and long by the hottest Fantagraphics writers and artists. Something about this book just didn’t agree with me. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for reading it, but I just didn’t like any of the stories. Besides Ivan Brunetti’s open work “How to Draw Comics” and Richard Sala’s Peculia, I couldn’t wait for the book to end.

Bottom Line: C

Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai
Written by Jeff Amano; Pencils by Craig Rousseau; Inkes by Giulia Brusco
Beckett Comics

This offering from Beckett is an upcoming pick at the 96 page graphic novel Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai. We are treated to the first 22 pages of this intriguing story, a samurai version of Robin Hood. Rousseau’s art is the standout in this book so far. The characters are full of life and take up much of the panels. I particularly enjoy the way the kimonos are decorated with bright pastels and small flower decorations. The most intriguing part of the book is the opening few pages where samurais fight in a snowstorm. It is quite beautiful and definitely beats the usual fight amongst cherry blossoms that we often see in samurai stories or movies. This preview is eye-catching and although I’m not quite sure how the story will pan out, the art makes it worth a look.

Bottom Line: B+

Superior Showcase #0
Anthology with stories by Joel Priddy, J. Chris Campbell, and Jack Soto
AdHouse Books

Generally, I really like anthology books with a few longer stories rather than many smaller ones. This format allows the reader to get into the story and explore the characters more than in a quick one page comic. This book, with its three stories of about equal length, fits this format well. The first two stories Priddy’s “The Amazing Life of Onion Jack” and Campbell’s “Found and Lost” are the strongest and are about the non-superhero side of a masked man’s life. Onion Jack, a biography about Onion Jack, is a joy. The art is small and cartoony and the story a lot of fun. Found is about a superhero and his relationship with his sidekick. The story is good, but less successful than Onion Jack. While I didn’t enjoy the third story in the book, the first two made up for not as interesting final story.

Bottom Line: B-

Comic Festival
Anthology with stories by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Seth, Jim Rugg, Paige Braddock, Salgood Sam, Eric Kim, and others.
Quebecor World

This book, a collection of work by Canadian artists appearing at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, is an interesting idea for an anthology. I like the theme and it is a great promo for the show. Like I mentioned earlier though, I tend to appreciate books with three longer stories and this book has around 20 entries. The quality of work here is good though and the submissions from the Jane's World and Street Angel series are new and entertaining. The excerpt from Seth's Wimbledon Green story is also a highlight. It is nice to be exposed to so many artists in one volume, but as always with these short excerpts and stories, I'm left wanting more.

Bottom Line: B-


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