Sunday, 15 November 2009

Comics of Months Past

In no particular order books that I've read over the last few months with a degree of enjoyment.

First up, Luna Park. Now maybe I was drunk when I ordered this or directly after but I got to the point that I thought a book by an unknown writer (to me), drawn by Danijel Zezelj and coloured by Dave Stewart was a dream. Zero publicity until this week I saw an interview here that bought it back to reality.
It's actually quite appropriate set up for the read. As the story begins, you have the feeling that this is a crime story leaving me to wonder at first why it wasn't included in Vertigo's so far unsatisfying crime imprint. As it progresses it takes surreal though flashbacks across time and feels more like a Vertigo proper book.

Maybe it's the setting of Coney Island, the story jumping through time, syringes full of heroin or all of the above but I couldn't help but think of Darren Aronofsky throughout, which is no bad thing.
Of course, the highlight for me is Zezelj's truly beautiful whilst stark art which is combined here for the first time with Dave Stewart reinventing himself to perfectly compliment another great artist. While trawling the book for images to scan to prove my point I was stuck for choice. In short, check out the interview linked above and make sure to check out the book ASAP.

Dark Horse's Noir anthology is another that felt like it was a ling time in coming. The line up of talent made the book a no brainer; Dave Lapham, Brubaker & Phillips, Dean Motter, Mr X, Azzarello & Bá & Moon, Paul Grist, Eduardo Barreto and so on.
I then found out that Motter would do Mr X, Paul Grist would to Kane etc which took the wind out of my sails a little. First story, Dave Lapham with an exemplary Stray Bullets story, truly gut wrenching, scratching a bit of an itch and a pitch perfect kick off to a noir anthology. There's plenty of good stuff in the anthology, some of which didn't live up to expectations but was enjoyable enough and the Azzarello Moon/Bá story was really nice, expecially as I read it straight after the disappointing Filthy Rich. A very good value book!

I've been very patiently waiting for Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's adaptation of the Wonderful Wizard of OZ and it doesn't disappoint. I know from blogs and podcasts that Skottie Young's a big fan of 90's comics and Chris Bachalo and all this is evident from his embracing of technology in the process of creating of his art and his constant evolution over these past years (I've watched his growth from a seemingly Humberto Ramos influenced artist on Marvel's Human Torch in the Tsunami line up through Venom, a fairly major reinvention on New Warriors on to New X-Men where everything suddenly clicked). He draws several Marvel covers a month while working on Oz and everyone's a gem. The real pleasure of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is that the storytelling is always spot on and the designs of all the characters that I'm only familiar with from the movies have such charm.
Not having read the source material, it's difficult to comment on the quality of Eric Shanower's adapatation of the story apart from to say that it never feels excessively wordy or heavy handed which is probably as much as you can ask from an adaptation ofa novel.
The second series is underway and I'm once again waiting patiently for the nice oversized hard cover.

I ultimately buckled and picked up Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi's Astonishing X-Men hard cover collection. From the start I'd say I could have waited for the trade as the book is quite expensive and is intended to showcase the art which I basically don't overly care for. I thought his art was perfect for Shining Knight with Morrison with it's fantastic setting but it did nothing to help sell me the great sci-fi babble Ellis was offering.
(This is a very geeky thing to be annoyed by but his redesign of Cyclops gave the visor a brige across the nose making it look lie glasses. Don't ask why this bothered me but I guess if the character's called Cyclops, giving his costume the appearance of having two eyes makes no sense.)
What the book does have is a wierd few short What If's at the back which show various catastrophes could have taken place if the wrong decision had been made in the story. These somehow serve to really ground the story and give it a sense of importance. They're drawn by Alan Davis, Adi Garinov, Clayton Crain and Kaare Andrews and each is grim and pessimistic but satisfying.
The book has nothing to do with the Whedon & Cassaday series which it continues and which I liked well enough and also alludes to current X-Men continuity (San Fransisco) so I really don't understand why this is an Astonishing X-Men book but it's good Warren Ellis and worth a read.

Fantagraphics are publishing a really nice series of Jacques Tardi books which is long overdue. I've always like Tardi's art which looks like Guy Davis finished by Joe Kubert and Hugo Pratt. West Coast Blues is the first I read and is a GREAT crime story which makes me think of great american 70s crime films like with it's questionable, grubby protagonist and surprising twists and turns all through. Ed Brubaker likes it according to the back cover and it's no surprise. Check it out!

Marvel's Strange Tales anthology of indie creators doing turns is a mixed bag, as you'd probably expect. Some of the stories are great almost straight stories such as Paul Pope's, Jim Rigg's, Stan Sakai's, Jay Stephens'. There are some great odd turns by Max Cannon, Pete Bagge's Hulk strip at last, Jhonen Vasquez and Jonathan Hickman. Lastly of course you have the unreadable which just make me feel old! I'd recommend checking out each issue to see if it's for you. There's enough in there to keep me happy but not in the inevitable hard cover for 20 quid or whatever.

I picked up the Charlatan's Ball trade by Joe Casey and Andy Suriano based on the various images I'd seen and a confidence in Joe Casey. Great Book!! It reminds me very much of Milligan and McCarthy's Paradax which is high praise. It's no surprise that Suriano comes from animation from the balls out confidence of the thing. Gorgeous brushwork and great design, touch of Kiby, touch of Ditko, all good! It's a 'book one' and finishes like an old fashioned book one with little closure and a promise of great stuff to come. I hope it comes quick.

P Craig Russell adapting Neil Gaiman's Sandman Dream Hunters was as inevitable as it is beautiful. A great book.

Amazing Spider-Man has been great on and off since Brand New Day. Depending who's on it, it's perfect Peter Parker. The trade paperbacks arbitarily collect issues x thru z so you can end up with Chris Bachalo, Javier Pulido and Barry Kitson. As such I keep an eye on the issues in general. I held off on New Ways To Die however knowing the JRJR would bring it home on his own. Dan Slott writing, JRJR drawing, Janson inking and Dean White colouring. Check it out if you've any interest in Spider-Man.

Happy 10th birthday, Avengers Forever. The series FINALLY got the treatment it deserved, collected in an oversized hard cover matching the Morrison X-Men hard covers with great reproduction correcting errors on the only previous collection. As good a Pacheco as you'll see once he started working with Jesus Merino (post Bob Wiacek) and a great writing collaboration between Busiek and Roger Stern. A definitive collection of a benchmark series which made it out in a time when Marvel was producing some very questionable comics.

Batman and Robin's second three part arc came to an end this week and I MADE IT! Not to say that Philip Tan ever has to worry about being in the same league as Tony Daniel but following Frank Quietly and preceding Cameron Stewart and Frazer Irving is just bad luck. Towards the end the line work got sloppier for the better but unfortunately the damage was done.
Morrison's story has the same vibe as his Batman run of constantly feeling lie it's part of a greater whole which has yet to be revealed. This is fine when its well drawn but is a bit like pulling teeth otherwise

I think I'm in the minority in prefering the brushwork of Fabio Moon over the shadowy Mignola and Risso influenced work of Gabriel Bá. This isn't a criticism really. Like saying you prefer Jaime Hernandez to Beto. Both great but Fabio Moon does something for me. Dark Horse did me the favour of collecting the Sugar Shock story by Joss Whedon in a one shot. Colours by Dave Stewart and off beat space story which is all perfectly good fun with some great dialogue. $3.50 well spent.

More soon...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Ernesto García Cabral (El Chango)

It's a rare week when you can find something completely new under your own sun. There's always the feeling when you discover the work of someone from the 20's that someone else will laugh at your discovery but I thought I'd share that this week I came across the work of a Mexican illustrator Ernesto García Cabral in the form of a book about his career. His line and figurework is amazing, his lighting too. Obvious comparisons to Mucha etc but from the book alone, something truly beautiful and original too. Above are bits found on the web about the book in question but over time I'll be sticking up other pieces from the book, dependant on being able to scan them.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Money Up Front

The above Polish film poster has nothing to do with the this post but isn't it great?

After a good couple of months of stress at work and weekend lethargy and a crisis of commitment I'm back with a post on the books I've ordered money up front for the next couple of months. I've been reading plenty recently and will review books over the next weeks to get back up to speed.
In no specific order:
Young Liars
Batman and Robin
I Kill Giants
The Art Of Harvey Kurtzman
Amazing Spider-Man
Asterios Polyp
Wednesday Comics
The Nobody
Dark Reign Zodiac
Detective Comics
Ghost Rider by Jason Aaron
You'll note that my priorities are well aligned in the face of the credit crunch...

Dark Horse Noir should be out very soon. Featuring a ton of great creators doing short crime stories, this looks like an anthology that will definitely have more good than so so in it. Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, David Lapham, Rick Geary, Paul Grist, Jeff Lemire, Sean Phillips, Eduardo Barreto are the known quantities while M. K. Perker, and Alex de Campi, who knows. As always the "and more" bit causes a little concern but we should see soon. Preview available here.

3 Story is very much a leap of faith. I've heard good things about Matt Kindt and the premise for this book is interesting. Kindt has a reputation for creating a whole world with a lot of work invested in the design and supplementary material to give a 'whole' experience. Rather than paraphrasing the sollictiation I'll just direct you here.

The next Modern Masters is a retrospective interview with Darwyn Cooke. The success of these books is very dependant on the subject. The Lee Weeks and Chris Sprouse volumes recently were great while the Kyle Baker one left me kind of cold (apart from the part where he talked about helping Lynn Varley with computer colouring for Dark Knight 2). This should be good as Cooke doesn't come across as a guy who wastes his time on projects.

Gotham Central volume 2 will be great. I know this as I've already read it. Brubaker and Rucka with Michael Lark. What's not to like. If you didn't follow this series, can't recommend it enough. I think by the end of it we'll have four hard covers and I'd recommend at least the first three. Volume 2 has a great Joker as a sniper, randomly (?) taking out passers by.

This is one of those satisfying moments where I'm gald I've waited all these years before spending money on Groo as we're gonna get it all collected book by book in it's entirity, "Collecting material from Destroyer Duck #1, Starslayer #5, Pacific Comics's Groo the Wanderer #1-#8, Eclipse Comics's Groo the Wanderer Special #1, and Epic's The Groo Chronicles #1-#6". Great stuff to sit next to my seven complete Concrete books!

Umbrella Academy: Dallas was a painful wait for me. The first series was excellent and Gabriel Ba's covers are so well designed and so well coloured (Dave Stewart of course). Nice to have something genuinely new under the sun.

As a die hard Mignola slash Hellboy slash beautiful books fan this is an absolute no-brainer. My Sunday afternoons sail by with these librart editions and I struggle to think of anyone else's work that would merit the format and the cash.

This is another example of glad I waited. For some reason the Fantagraphics versions of the Usagi books have always been about a centimeter smaller than the Dark Horse versions and with boring design. Recently they improved on the design but they're still smaller than the Dark Horse versions. Now Fantagraphics are doing a two book slipcase hard covers containg all of the Fantagraphics books with all the covers and supplementary material. There are two versions, a normal one and one signed with a sketch at 95$. Not going to comment on which version I'm getting. Usagi is a pure pleasure, great cartooning and solid characters. Self contained stories which conribute to the greater whole of the saga.

A good time to be reading Usagi. To celebrate 25 years Stan Sakai is producing a new full colour graphic novel, fully painted. At $14.95 it'll be a great opportunity to sample the character if you haven't tried it yet. The talking animals aspect of the series as an off-putting factor crumbles under the great story telling and intensly researched feudal Japanese backdrop. Check it out if you haven't.

This is a mention of something that I'd be getting if I didn't already have it (and I still might trade up for new Dave Stewart colour sections in Hell). On the back of Guy Davis's long overdue recognition as one of the great storytellers and designers in comics, Dark Horse are releasing a collection of the two Oni Marquis books, in preparation for more material coming up. The Marquis is a good and creepy series about a guy who has been gifted with a sight that allows him to see through the disguises that demons ware to allow them to move freely though a vice ridden, hedonistic alternate 17/1800s. He has his doubts about his sanity and as the book goes on, you do too.

Collecting the serialised adaptation of the original Vertigo novel by Gaiman, the Sandman Dream Hunters is P Craig Russell at his best, artwise. No slavish photo reference as in the Ring, to drag you out of the story. I loved the Coraline adaptation and have high hopes of good P Craig with this.

The current series of Thor has been GREAT. I've only read the first trade which is all Olivier Coipel but the series is so understated, so subtle and graceful for superhero book that your constantly taken aback at what's not happening. When the action comes its welcome but you also want to get through it again to the quiet Oklahoma moments. Love it and this looks like it'll be volume two of three as Straczynski's off to DC.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Coming soon...

Rather than flatly recap on everything I've read in the time since my last post and perhaps things that can't easily be found, I thought I'd show where I'll spending my money 'sight unseen' in the months to come. In order of publisher/imprint.

From Vertigo, I've the final 100 Bullets book, having avoided spoilers online. Thinking on it, I've no idea what to expect as I don't feel that the series has been building to a climax so I'm very intrigued to see how the last 12 years or what have you come to a head. You know what you're getting with Risso's art but Azzarello's endings have been pretty varied in success over the years. This has a lot to live up to and the mumblings I've seen online suggest that he pulls it off.

Also from Vertigo come the first two of the Crime Graphic Novel line. The Iain Rankin one I'll wait and see on but the the Azzarello one I will pick up knowing his work of course but also that of Victor Santos, a Spanish artist who while still wearing his influences on his sleeve (Cooke, Muñoz, Timm, Miller) can really tell a story and engage.

The second (and apparently penultimate) Young Liars TP is also coming. While the characters are all pretty unlikable (as you'd expect from Dave Lapham) by the end of the first book I was onboard. I've seen him say that it was always gonna be a slow burn and my lack of monthly support of the book probably contributed to it's demise but some books, full of ads, on shitty paper need the wait. Vertigo monthly books aren't nice objects, and the collections aren't much better but at least they don't have 30% ads. Great covers by Lapham though...

A fill in on Northlanders by the amazing Daniel Zezelj will get snapped up. Brian Wood's work is always readable enough and this book has peaked my interest a little already but from what I've seen this will be the best looking issue thus far. This'll maybe tide me over while waiting for the rest of Warren Ellis' excellent Desolation Jones.

The final part of of the middle chapter of Morrison and Stewart's Seaguy will undoubtedly leave me wanting more as much as the first one did. Of Morrison's trilogy of trilogies from a few years back, while I loved WE3, Vinamarama didn't do much for me but Seaguy blew me away and looked liked a likely candidate for a Big Numbers award for unfinished comic symphonies.

Unbelievably, Spirit #29 will be a one-off story bringing together Dean Motter and Paul Rivoche. While often linked to Mister X together, this will be the longest collaboration between the two that I've seen and one thing's certain, that it'll have lots of gorgeous city and shadows. Rivoche spends most of his time doing distinctive design and background work for animation and I'm always happy to see him in comics.
Also Spirit #30 will be by Mike Oeming and I'll be getting that too!!

Following an issue by Paul Gulacy (the previous one he did was great, by the way) the first six parter in the series starts. When they originally talked about this story it was going to be by Rafa Garres but in the end it'll be drawn by Cristiano Cucina who a quick Google image search show looks like a good fit.

DC have got me buying two Batman books a month again having given me a couple of skip months with Tony Daniel comics. Morrison and Quietly are back, doing Batman with no indication of what we can expect. Don't overly care what I get, I'm sure it'll be great regardless of who's Batman, who's Robin etc. Reason to get the issues? This has been set up to be a rotating art team (as opposed to "Quietly as the artist" that we got on the X-Men).

Detective Comics will be nothing if not gorgeous with JH Williams on art with Dave Stewart colours and a Question back up by Cully Hamner. I like Greg Rucka a lot on various things (previous Detective Comics, Gotham Central, White Out) but not enough to swear by (Wolverine, Wonder Woman). Through in Batwoman and the female Question and my doubts increase. Everything to play for...

Got rid of my old Sleeper trades in favour of the new two complete books. If you've not read Sleeper, it's as good as anything else Brubaker's worked on. Great intrigue, character, dialogue and great art by Sean Phillips.

From Marvel, as always, my only interest is in the odd one-shot, fill-in or mini that they've gotten really quite good at. The Trial Of Thor is a great title for a book and makes me think back to John Byrne FFs. Written by Peter Milligan who can be great and drawn by Cary Nord who's work since Conan (always at Marvel) has left me a lttle cold. I don't think people should stick to a genre because they're good at it necessarily, but this will definitely be a return to subject matter which he excels at. Hope Dave Stewart's on colours. We'll see.

Continuing Marvel's 70th Anniversary specials, comes The Young Allies by Roger Stern (who is one of the few 80s writers who I think can still impress) and Paulo Riviera. Riviera has done quie a bit of painted work for Marvel, largely with Paul Jenkins, and didn't do much for me (as painted comics often don't). A couple of months back he did half of one of the large Spier-Man Extras with Zeb Wells. This was all done in pen and ink, a Spidey/Wolverine story that was Zeb Wells great and funny but his art was really gave it something more. Someone to keep an eye on.

Written by Jesse Alexander, one of the Heroes/Lost guys, Sgt Fury will tie-in (hopefully tenuously) to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Captain America White. I expect to pick that TP up as I think Tim Sale's great and I'll just have to hope the story doesn't get too much in the way (as it did with Catwoman: When in Rome, which was terrible). Back to the book at hand, Sgt Fury will be drawn by John Paul Leon, reason enough for me. After Winter Men, I'll follow him anywhere. I've a list of guys I'll follow onto everything and It feels like its getting shorter. A subject for another post, perhaps.

Fin Fang Four is another outing of a team of various Kirby monsters as a team. Drawn by the great Roger Langridge and written by by Scott Gray, I imagine that the various shorts of this will end up collected in one book but for me it's a bit of an oasis in the midst of all the Civil War/Dark Avengers/Secret Invasion type stuff that I find a real turn off. Genuinely funny, this comic feels like it shouldn't exist but I'll take it while I can.

Wolverine #s73 & 74 are two stand alone issues cut in half split over two issues. A bit annoying as either half of these two would hold up. We get Daniel Way (who's alright) and Tommy Lee Edwards on one half of each and Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert on the other half. Should be good.

Mark Waid is on a three part Spidey story with Mark McKone. McKone doesn't do a massive ammount for me but he's got his own style and can tell a story. The hook for me on this is Mark Waid. He recently did a Spidey two parter with Marcus Martin which was excellent bringing in J Jonah Jameson's dad and a great Peter Parker. I dip in and out of Amazing Spider-Man depending who's on it but lately Zeb Wells, Bachalo, Dan Slott, JR JR, it's worth keeping an eye on.

Lastly, Dark Reign; Zodiac, a three issue mini by Joe Casey and Nathan Fox. At three issues, the chances are that when they collect this they'll stick in some old appearance to pad the book out and thet drives me nuts. As such, I'll get the issues on this. Nathan Fox has a great brush style (influence of Paul Pope in there) and drew the great looking Pigeons From Hell from Dark Horse. Joe Casey has been great for years and his Iron Man enter the Mandarin was excellent. Worth looking at.

Well that's it. There's no Dark Horse or Image here, and maybe I'll do that later but that ammounts, more or less, to Joe Kelly at Image and Mignola at Dark Horse.
There are plenty of things like Scalped, Criminal and different minis but I'll push them as they come up.

Sunday, 12 April 2009


Hi there! Been way too long since my last post. Good reason though as we've been in the process of moving for the last six weeks. Constant and exhausting but we're at the end of it now. We're in a fanTAStic flat which has daylight and everything!
What I thought was going to be a spare room has in fact evolved into 'my' room full of comics and basically my stuff!!!!
Above is the view from the balcony and photos of the room follow, including the bookshelve for library voyeurs like me. But first a wedding present from the increasingly fantastic Duncan Fegredo:

The following is a turn around of the room!

...and a close up on the Toppi shelf!!!

IDW are publishing one of their little swallow books of Toppi in June:

This'll be the first full publication of a Toppi book outside Europe. I'm hoping this means IDW are planning to do something with the rest of the Toppi back catalogue. Fingers crossed.
Done all sorts since I last posted of course, read some great comics, read some ok ones, saw Watchmen but more on all this later.