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.

Monday, January 31, 2005

February Previews Highlights: Kerry's Picks

Pick of the Month:
Bete Noire #1
Fantagraphics Books; page 298; $9.95; 88 pages

I'm excited when Fantagraphics does almost anything from tying their shoes to cleaning their dinner plate. Nearly everything they do is cause for celebration and praise. This new quarterly anthology inspires much excitement in me. The book, set to feature English language comics from all over the world, will certainly be of the same high quality that we've come to expect from Fantagraphics.

Other Picks:
Billy the Kid's Old-Timey Oddities #1

By Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz
Dark Horse; page 44; $2.99; 32 pages

Powell, the creator of the Goon writes this four-issue series starring Billy the Kid. The cowboy faked his death and is later forced to join a traveling sideshow. The premise sounds just crazy enough for Powell and the cast of characters is intriguing.

Death, Jr. #1
Image Comics; page 135; $4.99; 48 pages

Middle School takes on a whole new level of horror in this three-part series. DJ's Dad is the Grim Reaper and his friends include conjoined twins Smith and Weston and the Seep, a foreign exchange student in a jar. The art looks both cute and macabre.

Nodame Cantabile Volume 1
Del Rey; page 276; $10.95; 200 pages

This manga about a young music student with a fear of airplanes and water that prevents him from traveling for his dream looks entirely different than the manga solicited this month. The boy must overcome his fears with the help of a fellow student Nodame, also an expert pianist. The story looks touching and sweet.

Action Philosophers #1
Evil Twin Comics, page 298, $2.95, 32 pages

This Xeric Grant winning book stars famous philosophers like Nietzsche, Plato, and others as pro-wrestlers and ninjas. The book details the lives and theories of the men in a fun and easy to understand way.

Meat Cake #14
By Dame Darcy
Fantagraphics Books; page 299; $3.95; 32 pages

I've never noticed this book advertised before, but obviously it's been around for quite some time. The text calls the book a "comics feast" complete with demons, doll stories, and Cleopatra. The art is describes as "absinthe-soaked Victorian." I don't know what that means, so I'd best check it out.


Sunday, January 30, 2005

February Previews Highlights: Erin’s Picks

I always get so excited when the new Previews catalog comes out. There’s always that mystery of what’s new and who’s new to comics. Nothing made me squeal with delight this month, but there are quite a few solid releases I found worth noting.

Pick of the Month:

The Tourist GN
AiT/Planet Lar – pg. 218; $12.95; 104 pgs.
Brian Wood has a new graphic novel out – this time with Toby Cypress as the artist. A soldier goes AWOL and slips into life in an unsuspecting small village on the North Sea. He falls for a local woman but since this is Brian Wood we’re talking about, the story doesn’t stop there. The town discovers the new guy for who he really is and to boot the people he ran from have found him. I’m looking forward to this book.

Featured Comics:

Batman: Jekyll and Hyde #1
DC – pg. 63; $2.99; 32 pgs.
This is the beginning of a six-issue miniseries with Two-Face as the subject. It will be written by Paul Jenkins, but the interesting part is that issues 1-3 will be illustrated by Jae Lee and issues 4-6 by Sean Phillips. This should be an interesting project; I’m hopeful that we’ll see an interesting take on Two Face and not a rehashing of past tales.

Solo #4
DC – pg. 87; $4.99; 48 pgs.
Howard Chaykin is the sole artist and writer this issue. Solo has been a real treat so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Chaykin does with his turn. Chaykin has another offering by DC this month, as well – a futuristic tale called City of Tomorrow #1 (of 6) (pg. 106; $2.99)

Bilal Library: Memories TP
Humanoids/DC – pg. 100; $17.99; 144 pgs.
After reading The Chaos Effect (check my last entry for a review), I had a taste for more from Enki Bilal and Pierre Christin. Looks like I get half of my wish, since this book collects two works by Bilal – Memories of Outer Space and Memories of Other Times. They look like a fantasy and scifi mix, so right up my escapist alley.

Nil: A Land Beyond Belief GN
SLG – pg. 236; $12.95; 232 pgs.
This GN by James Turner looks like a nice surreal book, as the solicit says, “of fiction and intrigue that delves into the bleak and bitter philosophical brew of Nihilist chic.”

Easy Way #1
IDW Publishing – pg. 310; $3.99; 32 pgs.
This new ongoing by Christopher E. Long and Andy Kuhn looks like an intriguing action comic involving a man at rehab. There are a few small sample pages included with the solicit and the art reminds me of Human Target, while the coloring is black and white, with red duotone art.

Mosquito GN
Top Shelf – pg. 360; $14.95; 152 pgs.
By Dan James, this is a wordless book done all in red ink. “Intriguing and clever, it follows the adventure of a man who receives a curious letter containing Poloroids of vampire victims and a map to the small town where the vampire lives.”

Quick Picks:

Dark Horse will release a new issue of Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith each week in April (pgs. 22-23; $2.99 each).

Eric Powell, of The Goon fame, has a new four-issue series coming out from Dark Horse -- Billy the Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities. The premise is that Billy the Kid faked his death and has started a new life of crime. Soon after, a traveling freakshow discovers his identity and takes him hostage (pg. 44, $2.99).

The Dark Horse Book of the Dead, an anthology of horror stories, will feature work by Mike Mignola, Jill Thompson, Kelley Jones, Eric Powell, and Gary Gianni, among others (pg. 46; $14.95, 104 pgs.).

Vertigo launches another new miniseries – Mnemovore, a six-issue book written by Hans Rodionoff and Ray Fawkes with art by Mike Huddleston. The solicit says this “is a paranoiac supernatural thriller about memories, monsters, and the real terror behind forgotten thoughts” (pg. 122; $2.99).

I’ve been wanting to try Invincible for awhile now, so Invincible #0 offered by Image caught my eye. It’s just 16 pages long, but it’s an origin issue for just 50 cents. Hard to pass that up (pg. 137). As an aside, Image has reformatted their section, and I have to say it looked much better before. It just looks very generic now.

Joe Sacco and Drawn & Quarterly have a new book offered titled War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96. The book collects two stories from his earlier work (pg. 289; $14.95; 80 pgs.).

Fanfare/Ponent Mon is publishing for the first time in English the Times of Botchan Vol. 1 GN by Natsuo Sekigawa and Jiro Taniguchi. This book concerns the Meiji era (1868-1912) of Japan and is the first of 10 volumes (pg. 298; $21.99; 152 pgs.).

Fantagraphics is introducing Bete Noire #1, planned to be a quarterly anthology of new and seasoned alternative creators (pg. 298; $9.95; 88 pgs.).

I really enjoyed Temporary #1, so I’m glad to see issue two solicited this month (pg. 327; $3.95; 56 pgs.).

Trade Treatment:
There are several trades coming out in April worth mentioning.

Freaks of the Heartland
Dark Horse – page 43; $17.95; 144 pgs.
Been waiting for this one, since I just got a brief glimpse of the individual comics and they looked incredible.

Vertigo: First Taste TP
DC – page 123; $4.99; 160 pgs.
This is a sampler of six Vertigo titles: Y: The Last Man #1, 100 Bullets #1, The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime #1, Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, Transmetropolitan #1, and Death: The High Cost of Living #1. This is a wonderful idea and a superb price; my only criticism is this trade comprises mostly titles that have been ongoing for quite some time. They need to use the same idea to collect first issues of newer Vertigo titles.

Blue Monday Vol. 4: Painted Moon TP
Oni Press – page 326; $11.95; 128 pgs.

DC: The New Frontier Vol. 2 TP
DC – page 78; $19.99; 208 pgs.

Marvel has a slew of new trades including Powers Vol. 8, Supreme Power Vol. 1 HC, Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko HC, Daredevil Vol. 11, Wolverine: Enemy of the State Vol. 1, Black Widow: Homecoming, She-Hulk Vol. 2, Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One, and Spider-Man: India.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Chaos Effect Review

The Chaos Effect from http://www.dccomics.com/The Chaos Effect
Humanoids/DC Comics $19.95
Writer: Pierre Christin; Artist: Enki Bilal

Humanoids does English speakers another favor by publishing both The Black Order Brigade and The Hunting Party graphic novels together in one soft-cover volume. These two GNs were originally published in French, The Black Order Brigade in 1979 and The Hunting Party in 1983.

At first my American sensibilities compared The Black Order Brigade to The Dirty Dozen. I soon found that while the GN does follow the military adventures of a rag-tag group, this isn’t an action/adventure cheer-for-the-underdogs kind of story. Instead it’s a look at a group of aged fighters from a volunteer brigade in the Spanish Civil War who reactivate to fight an old foe, the Black Order, who have recently reengaged in nefarious activities. The volunteer group, now scattered all across Europe and one even in the U.S., are mostly bored with the lives they’ve led for so many years and decide to volunteer one last time for a taste of the old days.

The book has a whole set of interesting characters with distinct personalities, humor, action, and intrigue, but the story is ultimately an internal drama. The physical conflict the group engages in is soon overshadowed by the internal conflict they each feel – and each quite different from the other. The reader can see the growing realization, explicitly acknowledged or not, that the group is really not much different than those they seek to stop. Just as each member of the group has their own motivations, so do the group as a whole as well as the Black Order they are fighting.

The Hunting Party is the story of a group of politicians from various Warsaw-Pact countries who all meet in Poland at an isolated mansion to hunt game. Although there are several main characters, most of the narrative revolves around Vassily Alexandrovich Chevchenko. Vassily has organized this hunting party and called each of them there. Though he currently suffers from facial paralysis and is unable to speak, he has been an instrumental figure in the events of the early 20th century soviet nations.

Each of the men at the retreat have a connection to Vassily both good and bad, but all quite melancholy. Much of their talk is of the past and the various ways Vassily has influenced their lives and their countries. Vassily is tortured by the past and these reveries hurt him further. The reader sees the flashbacks to the past as he is seeing them; his blood is on every action, including the memory that seems to haunt him the deepest – the death of his love Nikolaevna. The art is incredibly strong in this story, especially in the flashbacks. They show just how sharp Vassily’s pain and guilt is over the past.

Both of the stories in The Chaos Effect have a similar feel and pace – that sadness and slowness that is found in many dramas of European cinema. They are both also dense, not stories to breeze through – ones you truly need to read carefully and digest. If you enjoy human drama and history, these are most definitely stories you will want to read. If you simply enjoy an amazingly well told story that will stick with you and equally great artwork, then I encourage you to pick up this book.

Bottom Line: A for both stories

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 01/27/05

I apologize for the lack of posting this week. Life's been crazy and my partner-in-queenliness is out of town. We'll be back up to full strength next week, though! Thanks for understanding.

WE 3 #3 (of 3)
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Frank Quitely; Colorist: Jamie Grant
WE 3 is the story of three animals physically altered and trained to be weapons by the government. Bandit, Tinker, and Pirate, a dog, cat, and rabbit respectively, are set to be “decommissioned.” That’s when their trainer decides to break them out. They are programmed to only kill when threatened, and on the run, they are continually at risk and continually kill. In this last issue, an advanced model of animal weaponry, WE 4, is let loose to kill the three fugitives. Although these animals have been mutilated and sacrificed in the name of military science by humans, ultimately, it’s humans who make this tale not end as badly for WE 3 as I had expected. Also interesting is the fact that the animals’ final caretaker is just about as disenfranchised in society as the animals. This comic is not for the faint of heart – it is extremely gruesome and gory, with ample violence toward both animals and people. I found it strange that the violence to the animals in this series hit me a little more strongly than the violence to people. It must be all these damned comics desensitizing me! The most impressive part of the series to me were the amazing art and color. Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant make the book a strong one.
Bottom line: B+

Jane’s World #17
Girl Twirl Comics $5.95
By Paige Braddock
Lots going on in Jane’s World this issue. We get some more backstory on both Jane and Chelle and even more on Jill and Chelle’s past. Dixie and Ethan meet the inevitable end of their relationship; and Café Squeeze has its grand re-opening party, which, like many parties, provides numerous funny and awkward moments. There’s also an incident involving Dorothy and a little too much to drink at the party. As usual, though, poor Jane just can’t seem to get a romantic break. We can always hope she’ll have more luck next issue, though.
Bottom line: B

Furious Fist of the Drunken Monkey #2
Imperium $2.99
By Rich Stahnke
As you may remember, I won the first issue of this comic in an ICAA contest. It was amusing and held quite a bit of promise, so I thought I’d pick up issue 2. This issue the “drunken monkey,” Chip, and his sidekick, Al, a toad, are still low on funds. Among other things, Al ends up in the emergency room, and Chip battles “The Exhibitionist,” a maniacal scientist who has invented and implemented the, ahem, “concealable crotch gun.” Yep, you heard me right. This is a pretty funny comic overall, and Stahnke has improved his storytelling from last issue. There are some very funny gags that made me laugh out loud. I consider it my guilty pleasure of the week.
Bottom line: B-

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Links Schminks

I finally got around to updating my links section, and thought I’d point out some highlights. I’m sure some of these are already in your bookmarks, but perhaps there are a gem or two you've yet to discover.

Fanboy Rampage
This blog is always good for a laugh, and elicits some of the best comments of any comics blog.

Peter David’s Blog
If you like PAD, then you’ll love his blog.

Warren Ellis’s Blog
Another fun creator blog – check it out for a glimpse into what Ellis is reading. You are always assured a link to a wacky news story, etc.

Brill Building
Ian Brill’s blog focused on comics is both interesting and entertaining. Good times.

The Comics Reporter
This is a news and commentary site you should read each and every day.

Postmodern Barney
Mike Sterling’s “Pal Dorian” is also a must read.

Zach Braffs Garden State Blog
Liked Garden State? Check out this blog. Although Braff doesn’t post very regularly the entries are always worth a laugh.

New Comic Book Releases List
Each Tuesday, this site is updated with the week’s new comics listed by company, which is much easier to check out than Diamond’s list, which lumps all the small publisher stuff together. Also contains the last week’s releases, the next week’s, cancelled books, news, and links.

The Hostess Page
This is an extensive guide to all the insanely hilarious snack advertisements that used superheroes to sell their tasty treats.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 01/21/05

Human Target #18
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Peter Milligan; Artist and Colorist: Javier Pulido
Man, oh man. I know this series is being cancelled, so perhaps you feel it’s not worth getting too attached. Please, please, I implore you: read this issue. If you don’t read this title, pick it up. If you do, lend it to a friend. This one-issue story is the best issue of the series in my humble opinion. In just one issue, Milligan manages to represent five unique perspectives on what it is to live today in America as the war in Iraq continues and fear grips people from all walks of life in different ways. Each character is presented in a way that seems predictable - you think you’re looking at a stock character; but then Milligan shows us the complexities of these characters. A young Muslim man who believes he’s been taken to Guantanamo Bay, a young white man angry at anyone who might be from the Mid-East, a young black man who seems to be sick of displays of patriotism, a middle aged man targeted because he’s thought to be Muslim, and a couple cops who think they’re chasing a threat. Each character carries so many assumptions, and so many assumptions this reveals readers to have as well. There is fear in these characters, which we understand when we learn just an iota more about them. I found this a damn moving comic especially considering its brevity and complex topic. What a shame we’re losing this series soon. I hope more people will pick up the trades; and I’m not saying this as someone hoping a comic will be saved at the last moment, I’m saying this as someone who enjoys a well-told story and hopes others will give this good writing a try.
Bottom line: A


Concrete: The Human Dilemma #1 (of 6)
Dark Horse Comics $3.50
By Paul Chadwick
I’ve never read any of the Concrete series before, so this was a completely new experience. As a newcomer, the book is easy to access. The characters’ origins are quickly summed up in a brief preface, Concrete is introduced as a character, and you’re up to speed. No doubt there is a richer backstory, but this knowledge isn’t required for a newbie. In the main storyline in this issue, a CEO of a famous pizza chain discloses to Concrete that he has set up a foundation to “stem the population explosion” through voluntary sterilization, and he wants Concrete as his spokesperson. The comic raises many questions but isn’t heavy handed or up on a soapbox. It gives both Concrete (a philosopher at heart) and the reader something to think about. I’m curious where Concrete will find himself at by the end of the story. Also included in the comic is an essay by Concrete titled “My Favorite Painting” where he examines an obscure piece of art by an obscure artist (actually Chadwick). The issue contains some art from earlier in Chadwick’s career as well. This isn’t a comic that made my jaw hit the floor, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next issue.
Bottom line: B

Flaming Carrot Comics #1
Image $2.95
By Bob Burden
Flaming Carrot is another comic I’ve never read before, but unlike Concrete, I don’t think I’ll be back for issue #2. I usually enjoy a comic based on random humor, but I guess I just didn’t really get it. I only laughed a few times, the art didn’t really stand out for me, and the characters didn’t intrigue me at all. Kind of left me with a “who cares?” feeling. I’m sure many people really dig it; it just didn’t do much for me.
Bottom line: C

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Zed 3, 4, and 5 Review

Created, written, and illustrated by Michel Gagne
Gagne International Press $2.95 each

Zed, the story of the cutest alien in the universe, continues in three more issues from 2002 and 2004. Issue three begins with Zed under the protection of the emperor of Gallos. Everyone is trying to figure out what really happened on the planet Xandria. Zed's invention couldn't have blown up the planet. Uber-baddie General Maxuss still has all intentions of finding and slaughtering Zed.

The book is visually stunning. Each issue just gets more and more incredible. It would have been great if Gagne could have printed the books in color because the landscapes are lush and amazing. Imagining them in color is fun, but the real thing would be quite a treat. Black and white printing isn't a detriment to the book, however. Gagne does a lot with a full spectrum of grays.

The best thing about the books is definitely Zed himself. He is so cute. Every expression is priceless. I've never seen such an emotional little creature before. Each face Zed makes is entirely believable. Gagne has the amazing ability to turn a few simple lines into the most heart-wrenching face ever drawn. I felt for him completely. This character is so compelling, I still contest he would make a great stuffed animal, animated series or movie.

The star of the series is definitely Zed and the art, but the story continues to be good. Issue five has a surprising turn that made the whole adventure less predictable. This was a welcome change of pace that makes the story much better.

The next issue of Zed is scheduled for a May 2005 release. It is certainly worth the wait.

Bottom Line: A-

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Link 'Em Up!

There’s quite a bit going on around the Internets (as W. would say), so here are a few things to check out for yourself.

Over at the Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog the contest currently running is in its final day for a copy of “Colonia: Islands and Anomolies” or a page of original artwork from the series. You’ve only got until 9 p.m. (PST) on January 20 to enter, so get going!

Lots of time to enter the Street Angel Contest at Comic Book Galaxy. Enter for a chance to win an autographed set of Street Angel #1-5 and the original Street Angel mini-comic. A pretty cool twist is that the winner’s comic book shop will receive an identical set. Oh, and the Grand Prize is a piece of original Street Angel art for both the winner and his/her comic shop. Nice.

The Onion’s AV Club interviews Los Bros Hernandez.


NewCityChicago.Com takes a look at Chicago’s next generation of graphic novelists, including Tom Lynch, Anders Nilsen, Jeffrey Brown, John Hankiewicz, and Paul Hornschemeier.

Derek Kirk Kim is interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.

The Comic Pimp, James Sime, is back with a new column at CBR.

Also of note over at CBR is Augie De Blieck Jr.’s newest column and his third Podcast as well.

The Third Annual Emerald City Comicon is just around the corner. The two-day event is set for Feb. 5 and 6 and features a laundry list of talented creators and publishers.

Free Comic Book Day will be held May 7 this year and the Gold Sponsor comics and Silver Sponsor comics have just been announced. Looks like some very good picks this year. Especially catching my eye are Ronin Hood of 47 Samurai #1 from Beckett, the Bongo Comics offering, Flight Primer from Image, Superior Showcase #0 from AdHouse, Comics Festival! featuring Canadian creators, The Adventures of Paul from Drawn & Quarterly, and an all-new Owly tale from Top Shelf.

And last, but not least, Neil Kleid, of Ninety Candles fame, has a new column at Scryptic Studios called “Big Pond.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Kerry Reads Manga! One Piece Volume 1

Story and Art by Eiichiro Oda
Shonen Jump $7.95

My journey through mangaland continues with one of the most popular series, One Piece. I actually received the first three volumes for my birthday from one of my anime-loving friends. He recommended both the show and the book to me for months. It really is no surprise then that I ended up adoring this delightful pirate adventure.

One Piece stars young pirate wannabe Monkey D. Luffy in his conquest to become a full-fledge pirate. Luffy starts his journey with nothing more than a dinghy and the clothes on his back. Luckily though, Luffy ingested some Gum Gum Devil Fruit that has left him with a strange stretchable power. His body is like rubber and he has developed a super punch. A side effect of the fruit is the inability to swim, an unfortunate coincidence for a pirate-to-be. Luffy's adventure begins and his first task is to add members to his crew.

Overall, One Piece is a lot of fun. It made me laugh and left me looking forward to volume two. Oda does a lot with little Luffy making him cute and silly, if not a little cocky. I'm a sucker for pirates, so I love Luffy's quest to become the ultimate buccaneer. The story moves quickly and is never boring. Although it is silly, the silliness is in no way a detriment to the story. The Gum Gum fruit is quite ridiculous, but it works here. I like the tongue-in-cheek attitude the book possesses. It's nice to read a story that doesn't take itself seriously.

I'm also digging the manga art style more and more. Oda does a good job with facial expressions. Shocked and anger are two emotions he is especially good at drawing. Luffy makes enraged faces quite a bit and they are funny and believable every time.

I'm looking forward to diving into the next volume of One Piece. If the story continues as is, I could be a fan for a long time.

Bottom Line: B+

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Skyscrapers of the Midwest #1 Review

Skyscrapers from http://www.adhousebooks.com/Skyscrapers of the Midwest #1
AdHouse Books $5.00
By Joshua W. Cotter

When I ordered this comic, I knew it had been well received by James Sime of
San Francisco’s Isotope, a bastion for good mini-comics. However, I didn’t know anything about the comic itself – subject matter, art style, tone. But knowing it was from AdHouse and that it had received the Sime Stamp of Approval, I had to give it a try. I’m very, very glad I did.

Cotter’s intricate inks and incredible detail make this a comic to keep flipping back through just to take in the care put into the art and the emotion contained therein. The characters are depicted as both anthropomorphic animals and robots. In fact, the cat-like characters are so anthropomorphic they could be described as animalized humans.

While there are several different short stories in the book, the five longest stories revolve around two brothers. The older seems about 10 or 11 and the younger brother is about six or seven. These are intimate and emotional stories, and I’m sure for many (including myself), familiar. The first story follows the older brother as he’s left out of a kick-ball game and imagines himself transforming into a huge robot and saving the day. Other stories show him going to camp and having a birthday. One story displays his younger brother’s imagination as he avoids getting ready for church by becoming the pilot of a bomber plane. Each story caries with it a sadness and somber feel.

The most emotional for me is “Going to Grandma’s,” which shows the loss of the two boys’ grandmother to cancer through the children’s eyes. The sweetness of their trip to grandma’s is suddenly jarred by a creature they see on their grandma’s back. She tells them not to worry but later goes to take dessert out of the oven and never comes back. The loss and dismay that is death is depicted by an empty kitchen, a mess of pie on the floor, and the boys’ and anxiety.

Obviously the emotion in the stories is difficult to describe, so I recommend picking up a copy of the book for the tales, art, and, as usual, AdHouse’s high-quality production output.

Bottom Line: A

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Proof of Concept Review

Proof of Concept from http://www.ait-planetlar.com/Proof of Concept
AiT/Planet Lar $12.95
Writer: Larry Young; Artists: Kieron Dwyer, Damian Couceiro, Steven Sanders, Jeff Johns, Paul Tucker, John Flynn, John Heebink

The latest offering from AiT/Planet Lar consists of six short comics vignettes framed by the concept that these are story ideas Young is pitching to his agent. Each short story is utterly different (from each other and really in general) in both concept and artwork, and I think most would be quite interesting fleshed out into a longer format.

The two I would especially like to see more of are “For the Time Being” and “Emancipating Lincoln.” The former follows a crew of time and space travelers whose captain is accidentally jarred out of the space-time realm and into a state of god-like, evil omniscience. We leave the concept as he challenges the crew to keep up with him, saying, “I’m gonna really mess with the human race. Stop me, if you can.”

“Emancipating Lincoln” is set in 2437 in a future where everyone bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln, but has no knowledge of the man or his life. Now a private investigator has a case he just has to take – figuring out the mystery behind a newly discovered five-dollar bill. You know, the one with Lincoln’s mug on it.

Of course if these two concepts don’t strike your fancy, there’s also a vampire hunt, zombie dinosaurs, and a group of kids who discover a dimensional porthole.

The only real flaw to Proof of Concept, as I see it, is the treatment of the last conception – “The Bod.” Young really should have stopped after the first installment of this concept, leaving the reader at a similar spot the others did. It was a great cliffhanger, letting the reader’s imagination run and with the thought, hey, this has potential (much like the other stories in the book). Unfortunately, this comic idea was oodles longer than the rest of the “shorts” and proved, at least for me, that no, this concept doesn’t have much potential. My suggestion would have been to pull the plug on this one earlier, and stick in another great Young springboard like the others.

Overall, however, I enjoyed this romp through Young’s imagination. It is, after all, quite an imagination.

Bottom line: B+

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Lunch Hour Comix #1 Joint Review

Lunch Hour from http://www.lurid.com/ Lunch Hour Comix #1
By Robert Ullman
Alternative Comics $4.95

KERRY: Lunch-Hour Comix #1 is an interesting experiment by Robert Ullman. The goal was to keep a comic journal of events as they occurred in his life. Part of those results make up the book. The comics had to be completed in an hour or less from forming the idea to drawing, lettering, and inking.

ERIN: Sometimes these “conditional” concepts get a little old or forced, but Ullman manages for the most part to keep his strips fresh. The qualification that the strips were each completed in about an hour isn’t really important unless you’re wondering where the book’s title originated.

KERRY: I discovered Ullman’s work last year and quickly ingested Grand Gestures and From the Curve. Eagerly, I awaited Lunch-Hour Comix and I wasn’t disappointed. Ullman’s style lends itself well to this type of strip. He is awesome at capturing the humor of truly absurd moments. Some of the strips are almost like Seinfeld -- about nothing but hilariously funny anyway. Ullman covers a lot of material here from the more disgusting like dog poop and scabs to the mundane like the DMV and listening to music. Sometimes, he even covers current events like the November presidential election. His take on all these things is successful and comical. I laughed out loud at a number of strips.

ERIN: What I found refreshing about the strips was their tone. So many “alternative” books, especially of the diary ilk, have a melancholy feel to them – a certain sadness. While I do like that style, Ullman’s lighter, succinct tone is a nice departure from the sometimes gloomy nature of other biographic comics.

KERRY: Ullman’s drawing also works well in these types of strips. The lines are relatively thick and there isn’t a lot of detail to weight the strips down. There is also a lot of high-quality work here considering they were all completed in less than an hour. For a non-artist like me, it is a mind-boggling concept.

ERIN: I think Lunch Hour Comix is Ullman’s best offering to date. There is a marked improvement in his drawing especially. Everything is tighter -- art, words, and composition. This makes me hopeful that we’ll continue to see Ullman mature and continue to put out continually higher quality material. Also worth mentioning is the inclusion of a few strips by Ullman’s friend Bill Burg, which are also worth a look. I particularly enjoyed Berg’s illustration style – a little more detailed and with some nice use of perspective.

KERRY: Ullman continues to impress me. I love his easy style, sense of humor, and sarcasm. It is exactly what I want in a biographical strip. He is on my short “must-buy” list with Craig Thompson and Andi Watson. I’m looking forward, as always, to his next book.

Kerry’s Bottom Line: A
Erin’s Bottom Line: B+

Monday, January 10, 2005

Quit City Review

Story by Warren Ellis; Arwork by Laurenn McCubbin
Aparrat line from Avatar Press, Inc., $3.50

Quit City is the second book in the experimental Apparat line from Warren Ellis. The four series line is an answer to the question “What would have happened to comic books if the super-hero genre didn’t take over?” The first book, Frank Ironwine, answered the question in reference to crime pulps. Quit City examines it from the aviator hero point-of-view.

As Ellis writes in the afterword, aviators and pilots were heroes in the early 20th century. People followed the careers of real-life pilots Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. Aviator pulps and comics were also hugely popular. As flying became safe, commercial, and mainstream the view of the heroic aviator died.

Quit City pretends that the aviator hero survived and examines the life of a star pilot in the present day. That star is Emma Pierson and she has just quit her position on the elite flying team Aeropiratika to return to her hometown and old life. Besides being sick of the gig, Emma never really explains why she left or what she plans to do now. It is only clear that she wants to start over. First she visits friends and finally the book ends with a ghost from her past.

The story in Quit City is very good. It expertly blends the exciting life, fame, and romanticism of a popular 1940s pilot and the problems and language of the present day. The combination is seamless. This makes the story entirely believable. One even starts to wonder why this sort of story isn’t marketable today and is instead only possible in a quick one-issue examination. Ellis is fantastic at crafting casual conversation and it works here. Nothing seems phony or forced.

Also fantastic is McCubbin’s artwork. The story is character driven and McClubbin makes Emma pop out of the page. She is always the biggest thing in the panel, sometimes sticking out and overlapping into a nearby panel. The backgrounds are light and almost fade away to avoid confrontation with the characters. Each page is an achievement.

The only real fault with both Quit City and Frank Ironwine is that the reader is intentionally left wanting more. Normally this is how one should be left, but in this case there isn’t a second book to anticipate. By design, the Apparat line is made up of the first issues in imaginary series. Ellis is just too good at his experiment and answering his own question. His success with the books feels like punishment to the reader because that is all there is. Both books include some set-up for the non-existent issue two and the reader is left wondering what happens to the characters after the book concludes. While the issues are stand-alone, there definitely feels like there could and should be more.

So far the Apparat line is a successful experiment and it’s a shame that Quit City won’t be around. With 50% published, the line answers the question that Ellis posed. They did what they set out to do. They leave the reader wondering why so many genres drowned in the wake of the super-hero comic.

Bottom Line: A-

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Clarke-Bradbury International Science Fiction Competition

As part of my day job I’m responsible for finding news stories that relate to optics and photonics. Recently, I came across a contest the European Space Agency is putting on called “The Clarke-Bradbury International Science Fiction Competition for 2005.” This is a science fiction writing and art contest that may be of interest to some of you, so although it’s off the beaten comics track, I thought I’d spread the word. Here are some of the details of the contest. For the full scoop check out the official website. The site is very helpful with not only all the details on the contest itself, but also includes lots of links to relevant sites on information about the theme – space elevator.

The Clarke-Bradbury International Science Fiction Competition for 2005

Theme for 2005
Unlike the previous competition, a specific theme has been selected for the current contest, namely the space elevator. The space elevator, as currently conceived, will be a 100.000 km ribbon of carbon nanotubes stretching up into space along which climbers will travel to release payloads into orbit at diverse points. The system is comprised of various components: an initial spacecraft, the ribbon, climbers, power beaming facility, anchor platform, and tracking facility.

Call for Entries
Either write a short story (not more than 2500 words) which incorporates a Space Elevator in some way or create an artwork (eg painting, digital image, drawing etc.) depicting a Space Elevator.

Evaluation Criteria

The science fiction stories and artwork should relate to a space elevator and incorporate technologies and applications in some way. For example, imaginative use of the space elevator as a cheap access to space for launching oversize or fragile objects to distant planets, or for space tourism, or space exploration or terra-forming. The jury will assess the entries in accordance with the following criteria:
Technology
- convincing use of technology,
Imagination
- innovative ideas and the ability to think “outside the box,”
Structure
- development of storyline, plot, characters,
Skills
- clarity of expression, style, degree of realism,
Visualization
- convincing depiction of the Space Elevator.

The contest is open to
space and science fiction enthusiasts and artists from all nations. There is no entry fee, and the submission deadline is February 25.

Prizes

The winner in each category will receive a cash prize of $600 and the runners-up in each category will receive $300. It is anticipated that the winning stories and artwork will appear in a new book on the Space Elevator by Dr. Bradley Edwards due to be published in the summer of 2005.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Queenly Declarations: Let Them Have Patience

I’ve noticed a trend in comic book reading that concerns me. There are a growing number of complaints that comics take too short a time to read. Readers almost to the point of giving up because their monetary investment isn’t resulting in the amount of time of entertainment they’d like.

One example I’ve heard cited bothers me especially. This is that while a two-hour movie may cost $8 to see in the theater, 5 comics costing $15 can be read in as little as 25 minutes. There are some big differences here that make this comparison moot. Here’s the biggest difference: YOU have control over how fast you read. You do not have control over the pace of the film. Another difference: the comic you can read over and over if you’d like, but one viewing of the movie is all you get at the theater.

So, let’s even the comparison up a bit, then. Alright, you buy “Napoleon Dynamite” for $20, and you can watch that about an unlimited number of times (well, I could anyway – jeez!). You buy $20 worth of comics, and you can also, in theory, read those about an unlimited number of times as well. What’s the difference then? YOU are the biggest difference. Sure, you can watch a movie in a shorter time if you fast forward through the whole thing, and you’ll probably get the gist of it. But if you truly want to have the chance to enjoy the movie, you will watch the film in the amount of time the director intended.

Now one joy of reading, or viewing art for that matter, is that you have more control over the time involved. How much time did the creator intend for the reader to take? You’ll probably never know. Therefore, the reader has to take a certain amount of responsibility for the length of time in which a comic is read. And I contend this is more responsibility than most people give it.

At the blog “Ringwood,” Ken Lowery recently posed the question: “What does the artist owe to the audience, and what does the audience owe to the artist?” I think we’re too focused on what the artist or creator owes the audience, and we don’t think enough about what the audience owes the artist. I contend that the audience owes the creator much more patience and attention than is typically given.

Therefore, my Queenly Declaration is that readers will take the time to really READ and ENJOY their comics. You’ve spent your hard-earned cash, now enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you are reading through your comics like you take Pepto-Bismol – as fast as possible so you don’t really taste it – then maybe you need to be trying a few different comics.

One of the wonderful parts of the comics medium is that the reader has more control than many other storytelling mediums. So take control – think about what you are reading, take in the details, really take the time to look at the work the artist took so much time creating, and really think about the words that are put on the page.

Now go, read, and really take it in for a change! I promise this will result in a completely different reading experience, and perhaps in a different mindset as well.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Will Eisner: 1917-2005

Will Eisner passed away Monday night, January 3, following complications from quadruple bypass heart surgery. This is a sad day for the world of comics. My words will never do Mr. Eisner's life or his contribution to comics justice. I'll point you instead to the Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog post, which includes the full text of an enewsletter by Bob Andelman about Mr. Eisner's passing and many links of interest.

Monday, January 03, 2005

January Previews Highlights: Erin's Picks

Alright, after a delay, I was finally able to get my mitts on a copy of Previews. There weren’t a lot that screamed “buy me” but many that looked very promising. So after some weeding out, here’s what I’ve got for you.

Pick of the Month:

Process Recess: The Art of James Jean HC
Adhouse Books -- page 209; $25
By James Jean
This 224-page, full-color book collects the art of James Jean, an amazing award-winning artist. His work has graced the cover of many comics, but it’s his consistently incredible covers for Fables that make this art collection a must have for me. For a full-color hardcover, this is a very reasonable price to boot.

Featured Comics:

Tony Millionaire’s Sock Monkey in That Darn Yarn HC
Dark Horse -- page 33; $7.95; 40 pgs.
By Tony Millionaire
Sock Monkey is back in this two-in-one hardcover. The right-hand pages tell one story, while the left-hand pages tell another, “the stories merge as the book unfolds and the adventure develops.”

Batman Cover to Cover HC
DC
– page 64; $39.99; 240 pgs.
Looks like DC is really gearing up for the new Batman movie. This oversized, coffee-table book collects 250 Batman covers along with commentary from famous Batman comics, TV, and movie personalities. This would look so nice in my collection. *sigh*

Batman Chronicles Vol. 1 TP
DC – page 66; $14.99; 192 pgs.
Writers: Bill Finger and Gardner Fox; Artists: Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, and Sheldon Moldoff
Now this is more in my price range. This volume reprints the Batman stories from Detective Comics #27-37 and Batman #1. More volumes are on the way collecting the old Batman stories in chronological order. This is a very affordable way to read some of the most classic, and the best, Batman comics published.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #1 (of 5)
DC – page 72; $2.99; 32 pgs.
Writer: Brian Azzarello; Artist: Lee Bermejo
I haven’t collected Superman comics for many years now, and it seems like the only Superman projects I’m really drawn to are the limited series. Different takes on the same old, same old; and this limited series seems to fit the mold. For the short version, Azzarello says, “In this story, Superman is the villain.” I can’t say I’m familiar with Bermejo, but the sample pages look wonderful. I’m tempted to buy the individual issues, but I think I’ll hold off until the trade.

Anywhere But Here
Fantagraphics – page 294; $12.95; 96 pgs.
By Tori Miki
Fantagraphics puts together a special collection of the Japanese comic strip Anywhere But Here in this American debut. This wordless strip is very popular in Japan, and as the solicit says “can leave you scratching your head in bemusement almost as often as it makes you laugh.”

Minisulk
Top Shelf – page 352; $8.00; 96 pgs.
By Jeffrey Brown
I really enjoy Jeffrey Brown’s work and can’t wait to pick up this newest offering described as a “humorous short story collection featuring fiction, gags, and autobiography.” In other words, some of Brown’s best subjects!

Quick Picks:

Dark Horse is offering several Star Wars projects this month, but two that stood out are the Star Wars: Visionaries TPB and Star Wars: General Grievous #1. The “Visionaries” trade ($17.95; page 23) is a collection of stories written and drawn by concept artists and designers from Lucasfilm. The solicit says “Given free reign to explore any and every aspect of the Star Wars universe, each artist offers a new twist or a deeper view into that galaxy far, far away.” General Grievous ($2.99; page 24) is the first issue of a four-issue miniseries by Chuck Dixon, Rick Leonardi, and Mark Pennington, and the sample pages look very promising.

Mr. Mxyzptlk is back in the Adventures of Superman #638 ($2.50; page 70).

Looks like DC is also trying to woo me back with a $1, 80-pg. “Spectacular” titled DC Countdown #1 (page 79). Even with the low price tag I’m wary after reading just three issues of Identity Crisis before being completely turned off.

AiT/Planet Lar has a new GN listed – Filler ($12.95; page 223) -- by Rick Spears and Rob G. that looks intriguing as the publisher’s listings usually do. John Dough lives on the fringe of society as “filler” until he meets up with a hooker, and “before he knows it John is off, brass knuckled fist gleaming, into a tangled, twisted web of ass-kicking limb-chopping triple-crossing murder.”

Drawn & Quarterly is offering a trio of “Paul” books: Paul in the Country, Paul has a Summer Job, and Paul Moves Out. These all look great -- check them out on page 276.

Oddly enough, there are two books based on the character of Frankenstein this month. IDW Publishing is offering a retelling of the Mary Shelley tale by Steve Niles and Scott Morse ($15.99; page 309) and Typocrat Press is publishing an English version of Frankenstein: Now and Forever by Alex Baladi ($19.95; page 353), an award-winning book originally published in 2001 in France.

Hello, Again GN looks like another quality offering from Top Shelf ($10; page 353) and Max Estes. “Hello, Again is the tale of a drunken fisherman, an unfaithful fiancé, and a guilt ridden apartment manager, whose lives intersect with unsuspecting and dangerous consequences.”

Looks like Aaron McGruder is coming out with a new Boondocks collection containing more than 500 strips ($15.95; page 386).

And last but not least is a book buried in the imported books section titled Bad Job, by Nicolas Mahler. “A simple but yet very funny book, Bad Job is a modern take on the wonderful job that is to be a salesman.” An odd solicit, but from the cover art could be good ($10.95; page 392, with minimal French text).