Friday, March 18, 2011

Red Rocket 7 by Mike Allred

Red Rocket 7 by Mike Allred

Red Rocket 7 manages to be both more and less ambitious than Allred's better known Madman books. More ambitious because it involved starting a band and recording an album, filming a movie (which I own but have never watched) (of course, that's also true of The Godfather).

Here's what the band sounds like (more), if you don't mind looking at a pretty girl at the same time:

RR7 is also more ambitious in that it tries to marry Allred's popart sensibilities with his love for pop music. Essentially, our title character takes us on tour of rock history.

But it's less ambitious in idea. It takes the depth of Madman's games with religion and faith and reason and hope and despair and just sums them up.

read the rest

Monday, February 28, 2011



029) Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew, finished February 21

When attempting a Wonderland story of any type, the greatest challenge is making it sufficiently nonsensical without alienating the audience. Carroll did this by having a nonnative to Wonderland tell the story. Burton avoided the question by changing the name of the place to Underland and making everyone down to the Mad Hatter sensible. Kovac and Liew, to their credit, don't avoid the question like last year's blanken film did, but neither do they introduce a character from the Real World. This is a tricky line to walk, but . . . . (read the full post)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is Jeff Lemire a Genius?

First, let me the 45thousandth person to proclaim Essex County a masterwork. I just sat down and reread volume one then followed it immediately with volumes two and three. And I don't know if it's possible for me to overstate how excellent this work is. It's on par with the very best comics I know --- Jimmy Corrigan, Maus, Blankets --- it's high literature as Lemire's fellow Canadians have recognized.

What I don't know is whether or not Lemire is a bonafide genius. It's just too soon to say. Chris "Jimmy Corrigan" Ware is. Craig "Blankets" Thompson? Let's wait for the next book before we decide.

(Incidentally, speaking of Thompson, as his drawings in Blankets are what I wish I could draw, the style I wish I had, Essex's drawings are what I would actually draw. If, you know, I had a decent sense of perspective and the human figure.)

But whether he is a genius who can consistently hit the heights represented by Essex County or not doesn't affect at all the inherent worth of Essex County itself.

I admit I have a couple biases that help my opinion of him, viz:

1. Half my childhood was spent in the Idaho version or southern Ontario and I feel the honesty in his portrayal. It's clear he respects his past.

2. The drawing thing. But seriously. That ink....

See that crow? I have a thing for crows (add bias #3), but in the end, that crow is not just a crow. It is a symbol that helps tie all three books together into a single novel. I don't know whether Lemire planned it that way or not, but I've seen enough crappy pulltogether symboljobs to recognize the difference between a hack bit of lookatme and a genuine, brilliant metaphor.

For those waiting for some plot summary, Essex County is three stories about a pair of Essex County families. That good enough for you?

After my last post I want to mention briefly that all three stories contain or grow out of a single, pivotal, life-shaping sexual encounter. Nothing base or sexy here, just a simple fact: the power to create life does just that --- and not only directly, through conception.

I could wax rhapsodic about all three volumes, but I have another couple Lemire books to get to, and so just one more thing, about the first volume, Tales from the Farm. As I said in my introductory essay here, serious comics are in a transitional state --- they often require a bit of meta --- and Farm is no exception. The main character, a boy named Lester, wears a cape and mask, draws his own superhero comics. This is all done to terrific effect, but once again, it's a serious artist acknowledging comics' hackneyed past. (Not that I have anything against superheros, but they're just one small corner of all possible stories.)

I don't suppose it's possible to arrive at adulthood making comics without a relationship with superheros though. Love them, hate them, love/hate them, you know them.

And so, although I was surprised to learn that Lemire is writing Superboy and Atom, I wasn't shocked.

I found out by looking for more information on Sweet Tooth, the comic he's writing and drawing for Vertigo, DC's grownup house.

It's one of a zillion postapocalyptic stories out now, but a good one. I've read the first two collections and I'm hoping to read more. It's too soon to know whether or not it is evidence of Lemire's possible genius, but not to soon to know that it's good. It gets compared to Y: The Last Man and The Walking Dead and those comparisons seem apt. In this case we have a disease that's killed nearly everyone, weird mutated children, evidence of genetic science being the cause, a big man with guns who kills people, desperation, prostitutes, children in peril --- all that stuff. But its well written and drawn in a gussied up version of his Essex tales and certainly has the potential to be something special. I hope so. I'm expecting great things from this Lemire guy. Time to pick up some more books.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bayou by Jeremy Love


I had not even heard of DC's Zuda experiment until it was already over and dead. Katya sent me a reading suggestion (today's book) and that's how I learned about what sounds like it must have been cool before they shuttered it and took everything down. But I'll never know how closely it approximated its attempted cool and all I can judge it by now is the comics it left behind.

Bayou takes place in the South, 1933, and, as you might expect, the story grows out of the era's plainfaced and violent racism.

Scene one: A little black girl is required by the white sheriff to dive into the bayou to help recover the body of a lynched black boy. While down there, she sees not just the body, but also a living version of the dead boy, with butterfly wings.

Having established the supernatural element, Love slowly builds the tension. Most of the horror comes from the realistic portrayals of bigotry, so when a supernatural character suddenly acts badly, it's utterly shocking --- a fascinating variation on typical horror tropes.

This volume ends just as the story gets going which is hella obnoxious, but I suspect that is because this was as far as the story had progressed before Zuda went under and now, to gauge interest in more story, they have published a book to see how it does.

I got mine from the library and with no promise of more, I'm not likely to buy my own copy. I hope it does well though as, according to Love, The story comes to a definite end at around page 500. and I hope he gets to take it all the way.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Judge Dredd & Batman (maybe they can save the world if they can just stop fighting blah blah blah))


All I've ever really known about Judge Dredd is that it was made into a Sylvester Stallone movie and that was always enough. Even though I was given this Dredd/Batman volume and even though it was skinny, I wasn't sure I was going to bother reading it. How good, after all, could it possibly be?

As it ends up, although the story is only so-so, the art by Simon Bisley is so enrapturing that the entire book is well worth your while. I wouldn't mind being given further Bats/Dredd volumes in the future.

Picture one, in which the bad guy kills in his distinctive and striking and visceral fashion:

Batman / Judge Dredd

Picture two, in which you get a sense of the mythological way the Batman is presented in this volume. He has a truly history stature, standing a good eighteen inches taller than normal people.

Batman / Judge Dredd

Picture three in which you see this book's striking rendition of the Batmobile. But even the copcars and taxis are hella cool.

Batman / Judge Dredd

Friday, December 31, 2010

Vivat Grendal (vivat is latin for crappy)


In 1993, Grendel: War Child won the Eisner for best limited series. My mother-in-law picked up the collection from Freecycle and gave it to me for Christmas and I'm sorry to say that it's utterly unworthy of the award. I'm guessing in 1993 there wasn't much competition? Or --- I don't really follow the Eisners that closely --- maybe they always pick crap?

Here's the thing: The story has lots of violence and sex and other Impressive Stuff, but it never really builds into anything. Interesting ideas like having a main character never speak are screwed up by ending them at the wrong time. Attempts at Seriousness (like killing innocents to help more innocents live) are executed in such a away that it was clearly just an idea; no real attempt in grounding the idea in a reality was attempted. I'm depressed over how lousy this book was.