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...