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, January 24, 2006

Astronaut Elementary 1-7 Review

Astronaut Elementary Mini-comics by Dave Roman

It’s been a long time since I picked up a mini-comic that was so fun that it tickled the kid in me. When Dave Roman’s Astronaut Elementary fell into my hands I was pleasantly surprised.

Astronaut Elementary is a great little collection staring the students of the school. Each eight page issue showcases two students at the school. Their stories stretch to both ends of the spectrum, from a realistic yarn about popularity, to sci-fi tale about a voltron-esque student run robot saving a planet of bunnies from killer birds. Each story is a quick look at a new character and introduces the reader to more of the school and the students’ crazy world.

Roman bills the books as mini-manga and there might not be a more apt description. The way the characters talk is a great example of the manga style. The characters tend to over explain many things or say them in a way that seems translated to English. For example one character says “But I shall attempt to fall into the sleep for I know it is needed for my body to avoid becoming weak.” Certainly there is a much simpler way to say this sentence, but the stories wouldn’t be as fun if the character just said “I need to sleep to save my strength.” This way of over-speaking is the most enjoyable aspect of the books for me and a source of constant amusement.

Roman’s art is also enjoyable. The characters remind me of dolls like the Groovy Girls. They have tiny necks, big heads, and expressive faces. The backgrounds in the book are good as well. Roman packs a lot into the relatively small panels.

I encourage fans of Futurama, One Piece, and Ninja High School to check out Astronaut Elementary. Many of stories are available online at Web Comics Nation. Go take a look.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dimona Comix Group Spotlight

Dimona Comix Group, a small publisher in Israel, has been featuring their comics in the last few Previews, and I’m here to say their work is definitely worth taking a look – actually once you’ve taken one look, you’ll want to take another … and another. Here’s a spotlight on three of the publisher’s newest offerings.

Dimona 2: Israeli Comix Anthology
$11.95; 16 pages, full-color
Creators: Ifat Cohen, Guy Morad, Meirav Shaul, Amitai Sandy, Michal Baruch

The number of pages in this anthology is deceptive – though only 10 pages of comics, there is a disproportionate amount of talent to those few pages. The size of the pages themselves isn’t what you may expect either – the book is 12 x 12 inches or the size of vinyl albums. The anthology contains five “stories” varying from pencil and ink to painting to mixed media. “My Fish Has Gone Away” by Ifat Cohen, which can be described as a painting set to a poem, is simply beautiful. I’d love to hang the two-page comic on my wall, it’s that nice. The last comic, “Lucky Star” by Michal Baruch, is similar in its stylized poetic way. Each comic, though quite different, had different attributes going for it – it’s an anthology you’ll find yourself flipping through multiple times.
Bottom Line: A-

Dimona 3: 4 Graphic Novellas
$9.95; 64 pages, full-color
Creators: Guy Morad, Michal Baruch, Meirav Shaul, Ifat Cohen

The same group of creators (minus one) is back for this anthology, which I consider the best comic of the three being reviewed here. Though “Dimona 2” was a little more style than substance, this anthology contains comics more focused on story than simply eye candy. Guy Morad starts off the anthology with “Get Lost,” which has a Daniel Clowes-like feel and look to it, with wonderful coloring to boot (see first pic). The story tells about two siblings who, though outwardly spar, really care about each other more than they let on. The second comic, “Sharona” by Michal Baruch, appears to be illustrated with pencils and paint. The story is about Sharona, who from childhood is sweet but sad, a sad she’s not able to shed even through adulthood, and we watch her try to shake the clinging sadness with limited success. In “A Nightly Adventure” Meirav Shaul revisits a character from the “Dimona 2” anthology. The main character is a young woman who talks to her stuffed animals, and they talk back. Though a very different comic, it still has a tone like Tony Millioniare’s “Sock Monkey” comics. Not as much surreal as it is absurd, though too coherent a plot to fall into either of those camps, the comic captures you easily. The last story, “Take Away” by Ifat Cohen is visually gorgeous and follows Indian immigrant taxi driver Raju Singa has he goes about his daily life, until fate steps in (see second pic). If you were to pick just one of the three to read, I would highly recommend this anthology. It is beautiful and well worth reading, and full color at this price is rare anymore. Pick this one up for sure.
Bottom Line: A

Shirley! A Sex Comedy
$9.95; 40 pages, full color, suggested for adult readers
Writer: Noa Abarbanel; Artist: Amitai Sandy

Another comic featuring nice art by Dimona Comix. The book follows Shirley as she tries to find a lover with the same irreverent sense of humor as herself, and struggles with the preconceived notions the world has about what is considered sexy. Though this was less my personal taste than the anthologies, it was a solid comic with talented art and writing.
Bottom Line: B

Friday, January 13, 2006

Linkery in Lieu of Lengthy Review

No idea why I went all Dr. Seuss in the title of this post … I haven’t even been drinking … that much.

If you enjoy Tom Beland’s “True Story, Swear to God” comics, then you’ll want to check out his chat transcript on CBR. … It’s very choothing.

CBR also features a great interview with Neil Kleid and Jake Allen about their upcoming GN Brownsville. Very fascinating and detailed with lots of art to whet the appetite.

Randy Lander at The Fourth Rail steps down from his reviewing there … for now. The Fourth Rail was the first comics site I ever visited online, and is a regular hit for me (although I now wait to read any reviews of things I plan on reviewing until after I’ve had a chance). I’ll miss Randy’s reviews, they were always ones I looked forward to.

David Brown at NPR comments on “The Campy, Absurdist Brilliance of TV’s ‘Batman’” in an audio column. It’s a fun segment marking 40 years since the TV show “Batman” debuted on ABC.

The Vancouver Comicon is coming up on January 22 and features Dave McCaig, Darren G. Davis, Kelley Everaert, and Ken Boesem, among others. If you happen to be in the area, it’s an “intimate” gathering of comic creators and vendors. Always a nice con to visit.

Speaking of the Vancouver Comicon, I leave you with this – a picture of me with a slightly amused Greg Rucka at the Vancouver Comicon a couple years ago. This is the only time I’ve ever gotten fanish at a con – I just couldn’t help it – he’s one of my favorite writers. I’ve now vowed to never be that way again … just had to get it out of my system, I guess. Teehee.

A pre-weight-loss chubby Erin with a humoring-a-fan Greg Rucka. Always a winning combination.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Single-Panel Reviews: Baron Von Donut, Zombie Tales, Jew Gangster

Baron Von Donut from http://www.arseniclullabies.comThe Thousand Deaths of Baron Von Donut
Arsenic Lullaby Publishing $2.99
By Douglas Paszkiewicz
Spoiler Warning: Baron Von Donut doesn’t actually die a thousand times. There. I said it. I ruined the whole comic for you in one sentence. Kidding, kidding.
The comic actually includes a collection of short comic tales (anywhere from one to five pages long), a few of which feature Baron Von Donut – a grown-man-sized plain donut who wears a top hat, drinks quite a bit, and has a delightfully dry sense of humor. The rest of the stories focus on a variety of characters, from aliens and scientists to robots and regular Joes. This comic is one of the best I’ve just happened upon in a long time. It cracked me up with its subdued humor, and I highly recommend it.
Bottom line: A-

Zombie Tales: Oblivion
Boom! Studios $6.99
Writers: John Rogers, Michael Alan Nelson, Mark Waid, Andrew Cosby, Keith Giffen, Johanna Stokes; Artists: Tom Fowler, Andy Kuhn, Mark Badger, Benjamin Roman, Ron Lim, Keith Giffen.
As with most anthologies, some stories were better than others, but as a whole this book was a solid compilation of short zombie comics. They varied from drama to action to comedy, and were a nicely paced mix of the three. The book began with an intriguing take on the plight of zombies in the cold north of Canada in “Momento Mori.” The next comic “Riot Grrl” was an action story – the plot wasn’t as interesting to me as the art by Andy Kuhn. Good stuff. The next two stories were a couple of my favorites of the group. Mark Waid and Mark Badger made a nice team on “Luther” – a drama following a small group who pass their lives after the apocalypse cleaning up zombie corpses. A gruesomely funny “I, Zombie” was next – I don’t think I’ve seen Benjamin Roman’s work before (on art), and I really enjoyed it. The last two stories were less interesting for me, but like I said, overall, this was a good book – there’s something in there for most readers.
Bottom line: B+

Zombie Tales: Death Valley #1
Boom! Studios $6.99
Story: Andrew Cosby; Writer: Johanna Stokes; Penciller and Inker: Rhoald Marcellus; Colorist: Arif Priyanto
A group of high schoolers in “the Valley” manage to inadvertently miss a worldwide zombie-inducing weather phenomenon by getting locked in their school’s bomb shelter. When they get out they’re shocked to find their families and friends are all gone; though more shocked to discover no one’s missing – they’re just zombies now. The art is good, and the coloring bold. I liked this first issue pretty well – it’s got a lot going for it; though I think younger audiences – middle school, high school age -- would enjoy the comic even more.
Bottom line: B

Jew Gangster
iBooks $22.95 HC
By Joe Kubert
In his latest graphic novel, Kubert paints a picture of the life of Ruby Kaplan, a young man in 1930s Brooklyn who is tired of seeing his family live hand to mouth on his father’s “honest” income. Determined to live comfortably no matter how he earns his money, and how much his father admonishes him, Ruby falls in with the Jew gangsters of the neighborhood and apprentices with one of the gang leaders. I thought the plot was interesting and had much potential, and the art was mostly very high quality, as you might expect from Kubert. The problem I had with this book was that it lacked a real emotional pull. I couldn’t get into the characters or feel moved by their plights. The book kept me at a cool distance instead of pulling me into it. I can’t pinpoint any big flaws with the book, just as I can’t pinpoint any incredible highlights. This was a good read but was missing a real soul.
Bottom line: B

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Comic Queen is Back in Action

Whew, what a wild few months it's been. Now that the biggest task of my professional career has its legs, I'll be posting much more regularly.

I've been working the last several months on launching a new magazine for my employer, from concept to first issue, and it's done, baby, in the mail and out of my sweaty hands. Of course, being a magazine, it'll never be completely done, but that's the joy in it.

This project has taught me many things, two of the most important are: if you really believe in something, then get off your ass and try the hardest you've ever tried to make it happen. Push, push, and push some more.

The second lesson is: taking home your work can actually be a joyful experience. If you're doing something you love, taking it home is a good thing (within reason, of course, we all have our lines).

More personally, I've learned that magazine management is truly where I belong in life. This is something I never want to stop doing. I reserve the right to change my mind, especially if I feel I am losing it, but right now, I don't see myself out of the magazine world for a very long time to come.

Long story short: I'm back, and I'll be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays each week, do or die.
Thanks for being patient in my absence -- I hope you will continue reading the blog.