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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Story Thus Far: Girls #1-4 Review

Script by Joshua Luna; Art by Jonathan Luna
Image Comics, $2.99 each

The Luna brothers proved they possess creative and artistic chops with their limited series Ultra. Now with the release of their second series, Girls, they add mysterious and a little bit odd to their list of traits. I mean all this in a good way. In Girls, Ethan is a checker at the lone grocery store in a small town. He is getting over his latest ex-girlfriend and hanging out with friends at the local bar. After a particularly rough night, Ethan drives home only to find a nude woman in the middle of the road. She is injured, so he brings her into his home. Soon, she multiplies into many girls. This is when the weird starts to happen, effectively changing Ethan’s life as he knows it. Ethan isn’t the only one affected as the lives of other townspeople are soon changed as well.

The story that Joshua weaves is so intriguing and deliciously weird that I was glad I saved up four issues for one sitting. I ripped through each issue trying to figure out what the heck was going to happen on the next page. The pace of the story is fast and the confusion that Ethan and his friends feel occupied my thoughts as well. The urgency to find out what exactly is happening is strong, but unrewarded after four issues. Believe me; the rest can’t get here soon enough.

Jonathan’s art is stunning as well. Although he showed he could draw beautiful women in Ultra, Girls is the ultimate proof of this. The girls are incredibly beautiful even in not so beautiful moments. His lines are so thin that it makes the girls feel delicate and frail. Even for all his talent drawing women, the best thing Jonathan does is capture expressions on all his characters’ faces. Ethan spends a lot of the time confused and exasperated and it shows in his face.

Girls is turning out to be even more exciting than Ultra. The story is intriguing and the art beautiful in every panel. Really, I don’t see how the Luna brothers can top this work, but I’m excited to see them try.

Bottom Line: A

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Link-O-Rama Sunday

Tootsie Roll Theatre
The Museum of Comic Book Advertising has a great exhibit up: Tootsie Roll Theatre. Featured there are five “Captain Tootsie” comic strips, most written by C.C. Beck, the artist of Captain Marvel in the 1940s. The strips are: “Captain Tootsie and the Giant Cannon,” “Captain Tootsie Battles the Monster Man,” “Captain Tootsie and the Secret Weapon,” “Captain Tootsie and the Bumbershoot Jump,” and “Captain Tootsie and the Haunted House.”

These are all a lot of fun to read, and I’ve decided to try and single-handedly bring back the exclamation “Hootin’s Zoots!”. I also love the idea of Tootsie Roll-flavored milk as a health drink. As suspect as the idea is, though, the tagline is probably pretty accurate: “Grow up to be a big, tall, husky guy like me!”

If you get some time to surf around the museum, I highly recommend doing so, there are other fun exhibits worth checking out, such as the “Novel Ideas: 50 Years of Comic Book Novelties” exhibit.
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Kochalkaholics Take Note
For all you James Kochalka fans out there, a new blog has been created to follow his cartooning and music careers: Kochalkaholic.
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New Skip Williamson Site
Another new site features the art and life of Skip Williamson. It’s billed as following his "rowdy days of the Underground Comix movement, through his years at Playboy magazine to art galleries and comix pages worldwide. Film-clips, animation, comix, and autobiographical nihilistic rant lushly illustrated."
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Kleid and Seraphic Press to Publish Migdal David
Neil Kleid teams up with Seraphic Press to publish Migdal David, due out in 2007. The sample pages are very impressive, and I’m already looking forward to its release.

The GN is a memoir about two boys growing up in an orthodox jewish community — one living with an uncommon disability, struggling to find his place in community and religion; the other given all the advantages in life, frustrated and seeking ways out of both.

This is an autobiographical work for Kleid, and he says of the personal work, “This book is the hardest thing I'm ever going to write.”
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New Talent to Check Out
Another promising upcoming GN is called “The Road to God Knows” and focuses on a young girl’s struggle to come to grips with her mother’s schizophrenia. The book is due out next year by Eric “Von Allan” Julien, and is so far a visual treat. The first 18 pages are up for viewing on his website. Check out the great use of the page – the watercolor washes and creative use of panels are what strike me in these sample pages.
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Calling All Nerds: SPX Nears
News is already coming from Maryland, as Bethesda hosts the Small Press Expo (SPX) this upcoming weekend. Harvey Pekar is the special guest this year, but he’s certainly not the only attraction. There will be more than 300 artists and publishers at SPX with their wares this year. A bargain at $15 for a two-day pass, even better is the fact that all profits go to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which works to protect the First Amendment rights of comic book readers and professionals.

A highlight of SPX will surely be the presentation of the ninth annual Ignatz Awards, voted on by the SPX attendees. Though SPX sent out a press release with all the nominess, for some reason, this is not up at the Ignatz page yet. Stay tuned, though, I'm sure it will be up soon. One I’m watching is the outstanding artist category. As much as I loved Jeffrey Brown’s “Bighead,” David B.’s “Epileptic” is simply artistically amazing. Joshua W. Cotter is up for both Promising New Talent and Outstanding Series with his work on “Skyscrapers of the Midwest,” the first two issues of which have made my jaw drop.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 9/16/05

Flytrap
Cold Water Press $2
Writer: Sara Ryan; Artist: Steve Lieber
I honestly have yet to figure out why Lieber and Ryan don’t get more attention for their work. Lieber’s art, especially, is amazing -- meticulous, eye-catching, familiar yet original -- he doesn’t just illustrate a story, he brings it up a notch. The story this time is about Maddy, a publicist trying to keep up a poor juggling act between home and work, when a real juggling act, the Flytrap Circus, walks in the door looking for help. “Flytrap” is billed as the first installment featuring Maddy and the traveling Flytrap Circus. The comic is a satisfying short story in itself but ends with the perfect teaser for more. I certainly hope the next installment will be available soon, since mini-comics with fine storytelling and great art are a rare treat.
Bottom line: A-

Hero Squared #1 and #2
Boom Studios $3.99
Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis; Artist: Joe Abraham (with Mark Badger and Shannon Denton on issue #2); Colorist: Matt Nelson (and Mark Badger on issue #2)
Between dueling crises in the superhero universes of “The Big Two,” I’ve been getting a little burnt out on superhero comics. So, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take a chance on another, especially from a new publisher. However, I gave “Hero Squared” a shot, and was pleasantly surprised. The book takes the best elements of the superhero genre, throws in some light-hearted humor, and serves up a thoroughly enjoyable read. The plot is that Milo and Stephie, two typical 20-somethings, are now dealing with their doubles from another universe; a universe in which Milo is the superhero “Captain Valor” and Stephie is the evil “Lord Caliginous.”

I have a few criticisms, such as, occasionally, the witty dialogue crossed the line from the right amount to weighing down the action or slowing down the story. Also, in the second issue, backstory is revealed in flashbacks each from Caliginous’s and Valor’s perspectives, which was done with mixed results – sometimes effective, sometimes too much. However, these are fairly minor criticisms.

Overall, the comic is an enjoyable read reminding me in tone of Invincible or Runaways. So, if you’re looking for a new, refreshing superhero comic, give Hero Squared a try.
Bottom line: B+

The Black Diamond OnRamp #0
AiT/Planet Lar $2.95
Writer: Larry Young; Artist: Jon Proctor
As a stand-alone pre-issue to The Black Diamond six-issue series, this comic certainly whets the appetite, but I’m not sure it is done quite as successfully in the comic itself as Young’s two-page lowdown/character and plot synopsis that follows the comic. Must say, though, that the color was very nicely done, deep and rich in oranges and greens especially. Some of the inking, though, I’m not wild about; the linework around and on people is too thick in many cases giving a distorted, almost grotesque look to the characters. Though, much of the illustration, especially on the cars, was pretty sweet. Of course, the high-concept plot by Young is unrivaled: a no-holds-barred highway connecting the two coasts comes, literally, crashing into the lives of two people living below the massive, elevated Black Diamond highway.
Bottom line: B

G.I. Spy #1
Boom Studios $3.99
Writer: Andrew Cosby; Artist: Matt Haley
James Bond with a dash of Indiana Jones is the concept for this comic. However, Cosby just doesn’t have a good sense of pace in this issue at all, one scene jumps to the next with no feel of continuity or purpose. The comic is a series of action scenes with not much connecting them, creating a rushed feeling, and this, unfortunately, just doesn’t do justice to the top quality art by Haley, of which the first five pages set in Antarctica was exceptional.
Bottom line: C-

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews: 9/15/2005

Serenity #1
Story by Joss Wedon and Brett Matthews; Script by Brett Matthews; Art by Will Conrad; Colors by Laura Martin; Letters by Michael Heisler
Dark Horse Comics, $2.99

I discovered Firefly after its premature cancellation by picking up the DVDs from Netflix. Soon, I found myself on Amazon purchasing the set, because I knew I would watch the episodes over and over again. I’ve introduced my friends and family to the show and, of course, am eager to see the Serenity movie in but a few short weeks. It comes as no surprise then, that I adore the first issue of the Serenity comic. Conrad captures the essence of each character in his art keeping them all recognizable. Most importantly though, Matthews’s script keeps each character’s lexicon and patterns of speech intact. Firefly fans will love this comic as it feels just like an episode of the show. At the same time, new readers shouldn’t have a hard time understanding the comic. It serves as a good introduction and allows the reader to pick up the flavor of the show (and, with luck, the movie) before even seeing an episode.

Bottom Line: A

Banana Sunday #1
Written Root Nibot; Illustrated by Colleen Coover
Oni Press Inc., $2.99

Kirby Sunday is about to go to her first day at a new high school. If that weren’t unnerving enough, she is attending Forest Edge High with three intelligent monkeys that have been reportedly raised and trained by her scientist father. The monkeys not only speak English, but are well-versed in the ways of man. The series gets off to a good start in book one as the Kirby and the monkeys adjust to their new surroundings. It is a fun story with great art by Coover and funny dialog from Nibot. Each primate has a different crazy personality trait that exasperates Kirby and makes for lots of hijinx.

Bottom Line: B

Mr. T #1
Written by Chris Bunting; Pencils by Neil Edwards; Inks by Randy Emberlin; Colors by Don Mackinnon; Creative Supervisor: Mr. T
AP Comics Ltd., $3.50

Initially I was pretty excited by this book. It is the return of Mr. T after all. Oh, I’ve missed him so. Problem is, the book isn’t all that great. The goodly Mr. T has been framed for some heinous crime and has gone into hiding. Unfortunately this leaves the city to be overrun by criminals touting a new drug Shaz-8. The story so far is pretty obvious. Although perhaps I should have expected a run-of-the-mill T story, I was definitely hoping for something a little more edgy and updated. Beyond a good dose of nostalgia the book leaves much to be desired.

Bottom Line: C

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ebay Comic Watch -- Featuring ME!

So, I was doing some "slightly" delayed spring cleaning last weekend, and in the process went through my comics closet. Looking through my collection, there are some good comics there that, though I enjoyed them at the time, I just can't see myself sitting down with them 10 years from now and enjoying again. Therefore, I'm putting them up on ebay for others to enjoy instead. Check out the auctions under my ebay handle: scandinavia_lover.

A couple of note are:

Angeltown 1-5 from Vertigo
Bidding starts at $0.99, shipping is $4
Item number: 6560787782
Ends Sep-18-05 13:03:29 PDT

Uncanny X-Men 437-441 (She Lies with Angels Storyline)
Bidding starts at $0.99, shipping is $3.50
Item number: 6560758647
Ends Sep-18-05 11:44:12 PDT

Incredible Hulk 425-433 and 435
Bidding starts at $0.99, shipping is $4.50
Item number: 6560783930
Ends Sep-18-05 12:52:54 PDT

Batman: The Man Who Laughs
Bidding starts at $0.99, shipping is $2.00
Item number: 6561293434
Ends Sep-20-05 12:54:22 PDT

And stay tuned, I'll be adding more during the next few weeks ....

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Smoke and Guns GN Review

Smoke and Guns
AiT/Planet Lar; $12.95
Writer: Kirsten Baldock; Artist: Fabio Moon

"Smoke and Guns," a foray into the world of cigarette girl gangs, reminded me of "The Big Lebowski" in many ways. The Cohen brothers’ production borrowed heavily from detective movies – exaggerating the nonsensical conventions of the old films, while Baldock and Moon take their graphic novel down a decidedly noir path.

Both "The Big Lebowski" and "Smoke and Guns" have loosely coherent plots, instead their charm comes with the combination of unforgettable characters and bits of dialogue … of course, "The Big Lebowski" didn’t have sexy cigarette girls, so perhaps "Smoke and Guns" has an advantage.

This graphic novel is a day-in-the-wild-life of Scarlett, a cigarette girl in District 5 in a town defined by its cigarette girl gangs. Scarlett and friend Annie manage to start an all-out cigarette girl gang war mostly not on purpose. There’s no conscience, no principle, it’s just business as far as they're concerned.

This is Baldock’s first GN and Fabio Moon is a relatively unknown talent in the U.S. Both “new” creators worked together to craft a satisfying book, and both clearly have talent oozing out of their pores. Moon’s art is especially memorable with both beautiful still work and action sequences. There’s movement and feeling in every line, each frame brimming with sultry emotion. (Well, except for James Sime’s cameo … sorry not-so-sultry, but definitely charming, James.)

"Smoke and Guns" is an especially guilty pleasure, taking some violent turns in its journey. If you have enjoyed other “action” comics from AiT/Planet Lar, though, you’ll want to check this book out as well. The art alone will knock you out.

Bottom Line: A-
(click on images for a better look)