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.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Single-Panel Reviews: Intimidators, Styx Taxi, Tomorrow Stories, Syncopated

Intimidators #1
Image $3.50
Creator: Jim Valentino; Writer: Neil Kleid; Penciller: Miguel Montenegro; Inker: Waki; Colorist: Angel Marin

The Intimidators is a light-hearted look at the super-hero genre, poking a bit of fun at the common conventions while still employing them. This is a tough sub-genre to successfully tell a narrative with, and Kleid does his job pretty well. The group of heroes is presented, each with their own superpowers and quirks, of course. The premise is that this motley crew of “heroes” has been retained by the U.S. government in case of emergency, and lo and behold just such an emergency situation develops in Detroit, where evil guy Al Minetti is threatening to unleash a nuke. The really intriguing turn of plot comes right at the end when the predictable “get rid of the nuke by flinging it in space” drops an unexpected result on them. This series has promise, and while I’m just getting around to reading the first issue, the second issue is also available, and the third comes out this week. If the comic sounds interesting, Image has the first issue up at their website to read in its entirety for free. Check it out at Image’s website under the section “online comics.”
Bottom line: B

Styx Taxi: As Above So Below & Counting Time
Styx Taxi stories written by Steven Goldman with art by Rami Efal
Counting Time short prose stories written by Steven Goldman

Styx Taxi is back for two episodes in this comic “As Above So Below.” The idea behind Styx Taxi is that just after you die, but before you move on to the next life, the Styx Taxi service picks you up for a two-hour trip to anywhere your heart desires. It’s a good concept, one that piques your interest and has unlimited possibilities. These two particular stories are ultimately positive but tinged with a certain sadness. In the first, “Rosa,” the main character simply wants a quite place to finish her book, and, like us all, keep a few last illusions. In the second story, “Dinner Date Number 9,” the taxi driver gets a rare treat – a home-cooked meal – as the last wish of his fare. The second half of the comic, called “Counting Time,” contains two prose short stories with the preface that these are part of a novel in progress. The concept takes place in a future New York City, in which the homeless population is 12% and the currency on the street is the telling of a good story. Much like Styx Taxi, we’ve got a good idea, and good execution, but just not enough of it! I hope Goodman can keep some more coming – in both comics and prose, he’s got a somber, but hopeful tone for humanity, and that’s a big reason why his work is worth reading.
Bottom line: B+

Tomorrow Stories Special #1 (of 2)
America’s Best Comics (Wildstorm) $6.99; 64 pgs.
Writers: Alan Moore, Steve Moore; Artists: Kevin Nowlan, Hilary Barta, Melinda Gebbie, Cameron Stewart, Rich Veitch; Colorists: Michelle Madsen, Tony Avina, Randy Mayor

Tomorrow Stories is a compilation of five very different (and I mean that in more ways than one) comics. If you grew up on Mad Magazine like I did, then you’ll want to give this comic a look. It’s got that same irreverent tone, a good dose of silliness, and pinch of the nonsensical. The first two comics were my personal favorites of the bunch. “Jack B. Quick: Boy Inventor” follows, you guessed it, Jack B. Quick a boy genius – sort of -- who invents things. He lives in an impossibly stupid farm community, and creates a legion of robots who “take over” their idiotic human counterparts. The story is somewhere in between Mad Magazine and The Goon, but definitely has a distinct style of its own. The other story I particularly enjoyed was “The Big Seep” a marathon of the silliest puns and word play that you may ever encounter, featuring Splash Brannigan: indelible investigator, who isn’t just merely a private eye, but also a puddle of ink. My love of the pun stems from my Midwest upbringing, so it’s truly difficult to explain why you should read this comic -- just do. The artwork in Tomorrow Stories varies as much as the story themselves, all skilled and all excellently colored, too.
Bottom Line: A-

Syncopated Volume 2
Creators: Brendan Burford, Jim Campbell, Rina Piccolo, Brian Haimes, Glenn Mott, Sara Rosenbaum, Micah Spivak, Trish Vandenbergh, Sherwin Dunner

Here’s another comic I let languish at the bottom of my to-read pile. One which after reading I put on the biggest boot I could find and kicked my own ass for not reading earlier. In a world full of mediocre compilation comics, here’s an excellent one sitting in my own stack of comics. Jeesh. Don’t let this happen to you, go buy this one and read it right away. If you like Kevin Huizenga’s Glenn Ganges work or Joshua Cotter’s “Skyscrapers of the Midwest,” this is a good comic to give a try. The content varies in style and substance, but not wildly. Most of the comics are short vignettes that focus on people or places dear to the creator. “The Orange Girls” by Rina Piccolo was a highlight for sure. I’ve never seen any of Piccolo’s work before. It’s instantly engaging and personable with an easy pace and artwork with Dr. Seuss sensibilities. The editor, Brendan Burford, has a few comics included, which are also some of the best. Accompanying the comics were two prose non-fiction articles – both interesting -- and a section “Syncopated Remembers Comics that Time Forgot,” that showcases political cartoons from 1913 and 1914 on the Women’s suffrage movement. Man, those are eye openers. So, do yourself a favor and get this comic before I have to come after you with my boot. ‘Cuz I’ll do it – I’m tricky that way.
Bottom Line: A-

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Yes, You've Reached The Comic Queen

Just a quick note to let you know you are indeed in the right spot -- I've just taken a moment to update and freshen the look of the site.
Same content, new wrapper. Expect a new, and more interesting, post tomorrow night.
Over and out.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Single-Panel Reviews: Marlene, Tails, Jeremiah Harm, Super Spy

SLG $3.95; Mature Readers
By Peter Snejbjerg
I love reading books and comics from Scandinavians. Most American literature feels the need to equate sex only with life, love, happiness, and titillation. Though sex isn’t that simple, we Americans have trouble acknowledging that fact. Not so with other countries’ literature, and I’ve found this especially true in Scandinavia. In “Marlene,” Denmark’s Snejbjerg writes a horror-mystery story in which a key element is the connection of sex as death. I’ve seen this comic described as an “erotic thriller,” but there’s nothing erotic about it. Sex isn’t always erotic, and that’s a key element to reading this one-shot comic. The comic opens with the murder of a stalker, and Detective Inspector Michael Joergensen is sent to investigate. Joergensen finds this isn’t a simple murder case, however; the supernatural is involved. The tone reminded me in some ways of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck police mysteries (if you haven’t read any, do yourself a favor and read one) or the movie “Insomnia” (the Norwegian version). Artistically, Snejbjerg’s work on “Marlene” is similar to Paul Chadwick’s “Concrete.” This is an excellent comic, and I’m glad SLG did English-speaking readers a favor by publishing this translation.
Bottom line: A-

Tails: Chapter One
By Ethan Young
Reading comics by creators I’ve never heard of is one of the things I enjoy most about reading small publisher and “alternative” comics. Here with the comic “Tails,” to my delight, I find another talented creator. Young writes and illustrates what looks to be an autobiographical story about working in NYC at an animal shelter while essentially running his own cat haven at home (living with his parents to boot), with the moral support of his girlfriend Cynthia, or “Sin.” Chapter One is an introduction to who Ethan is, his daily life, and the people who constitute his world. His ink work is wonderful and his use of panels and the page is truly creative – something I don’t see as much as I’d like to in comics as a whole. Young’s creativity and humor also come out to play when he illustrates a point through exaggerated artwork or showing readers what the cats must be thinking. I would suggest this comic to just about anyone, but especially if you like Tom Beland’s “True Story Swear to God” series. I’m looking forward to reading Chapter Two, which comes out this month.
Bottom line: B+

Jeremiah Harm
Boom! Studios $3.99
Plot: Keith Giffen; Script: Alan Grant; Artist: Rael Lyra; Digital Inker: Joe Prado; Colorist: Imaginary Friends Studio
Set in outerspace, this comic is a sci-fi tale about the incarcerated and hardened Jeremiah Harm, who is let out only to track down Dak Moira and his two cohorts who have recently escaped their prison ship. Harm finds out that Dak, Ayoma Skiver, and Brune S’Maze have take a “bump portal” to his homeworld -- an outlying and primitive world known as Earth. This is a pretty familiar plot in many ways, but Giffen and Grant show that there’s promise for a good story to be told here. Certainly the characters are intriguing, the art is nice, so the groundwork is laid for a solid sci-fi story.
Bottom Line: B

Super Spy Weekly
Top Shelf Web Comic
By Matt Kindt
Though this comic “Super Spy” is a web comic with a new installment each week, I received a mini-comic compilation in the mail to promote the new “web comix” section on Top Shelf’s website. Matt Kindt’s Super Spy is well worth checking out. Being more of a strip than a comic book, the stories are told succinctly and very effectively – all little snippets of a life in espionage. Both Kindt’s art and storytelling are top notch. I only wish on the website, they printed more than one small strip per page – it hampers the pace to continually have to click to get to the next short part. This is minor, though, and definitely nothing to do with Kindt’s work. Along with “Super Spy” there are several other artists featured on the Top Shelf’s web comix site. I sure know where I’ll be surfing on my lunch breaks from now on.
Bottom line: A-

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Single-Panel Reviews: Rock 'N' Roll, 10, Loveless, Something So Familiar

Rock ‘N’ Roll
Image $3.50
By Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Bruno D’Angelo, Kako
In some senses this comic is excellent, another example of how the comics medium can truly be whatever the creators want to try to make it at the moment. But pushing the conventions carries some risk. In this case, though, I think Moon, Bá, D’Angelo, and Kako pretty successfully handle the risk of something a little bit different. What’s different you ask? For one, the story is told in three parts – each part illustrated and told by a different creator. The three parts work together to tell a story, but I get the sense that the story was created like a campfire tale, in which one kid in the circle starts a story, then the next kid adds to the story and so on, until the circle (and story) is complete. This is what Rock ‘N’ Roll felt like, the parts worked together to tell a greater story, but each was distinct in both art and story direction – especially the trippy third part. To add an extra measure of experiment, the story is essentially wordless. The group of creators is clearly talented, and there’s definitely some beautiful artwork. I’m especially fond of Moon’s second part – he’s got the cleanest and sexiest lines of the group, but the third part, by Bá, was also a definite treat. That’s the saddest thing about a one-shot comic like this – it leaves you wanting more!
Bottom line: B+

Boom! Studios
Writer: Keith Giffen; Artist: Andy Kuhn
10 is a thriller/suspense tale following a group of people who receive a letter essentially informing them they are part of a “game” forcing them to kill or be killed in a simultaneous hunt and race to see who will survive. Andy Kuhn’s art is great as usual – I’m looking forward to seeing his work continuing for a long time. Giffen’s story, though suspenseful, was a little light and semi-confusing. I think there’s a bit of an error in the letter we see that was sent to the contestants – the error is regarding the math of the 10 contestants -- but besides that, the book is a good read. The cover’s very nice, too, I have to say.
Bottom line: B

Loveless #1-3
Vertigo $2.99 each
Writer: Brian Azzarello; Artist: Marcelo Frusin; Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
More gritty, earthy storytelling from Azzerello, which I personally like. The plot could be moving a little faster, though. After three issues, not too much is revealed about the main character, Wes Cutter, who comes back after the end of the Civil War to find that his land and town have been taken over by the Union. I’m hooked for now, mostly because of the beautiful art by Frusin. I have to admit I haven’t read Hellblazer at all, so I wasn’t familiar with Frusin’s work before Loveless. But in this comic both the covers and the inside art are incredible, so a little Hellblazer’s now on my reading backlist.
Bottom line: B+

Something So Familiar from
Something So Familiar
The New Radio $4
By Alex Cahill
Telling a good story without any dialogue is a unique challenge. Cahill more than meets the challenges inherent in such a comic, though, with this Xeric Foundation grant-winning comic. The story follows a man who lives with the deep sadness and guilt associated with the death of his wife and child. A depression that affects his work and pushes him to a suicide attempt – one that has a very unexpected result. I won’t ruin anything here, but suffice it to say that in our deepest moments of grief, sometimes hope reveals itself in beautiful and unanticipated ways. Cahill shows insight and talent with Something So Familiar. In the perspectives and details especially, he showcases his talent. Keep it coming, Alex, I’m looking forward to reading more.
Bottom line: A-
(More preview pages are available on The New Radio website)