O’Malley isn’t afraid to get messy in this book but he seems very uncomfortable with truly tormenting his characters either. Katie is an adorably cute girl but she’s hardly likable. She’s just wrapped up in her own life like almost everyone her age is. It’s not a character defect; it’s a defect of her age. As the book goes on, we grow to emphasize with her but Katie never becomes the hero of her own story. We don’t even see her learn to correct her mistakes without the help of her magic mushrooms, the ones she has to eat to change the world around her.
Gødland is the perfect Marvel legacy comic. More than just Tom Scioli’s clearly Kirbyesque artwork, Joe Casey and Scioli tap into the energy and excitement of those early Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comics. Gødland Volume 1: Hello Cosmic is the type of comic that so many creators in the 1970s tried to reverse engineer out of old Fantastic Four comics. Casey and Scioli focus squarely in on the spectacle of those comics but never lose sight of the inner humanity of their characters. Personal discord runs hot and heavy through these comics, recalling everything from the family dynamics of the FF to the youthful uncertainty of Peter Parker. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, we talked about how all of the mainstream artists were trying to be Jack Kirby but we never talked about how all of the mainstream writers wanted to be an updated Stan Lee. Look at the Wolfman/Perez The New Teen Titans; for as much as it was counter programming to the Claremont/Byrne The Uncanny X-Men, it’s written as a Stan Lee Marvel comic book, trying to overwrite the DC DNA with the Marvel formula.
Z2 Comics has rereleased Paul Pope’s Escapo. Written and drawn in the mid 1990s, Escapo doesn’t feel as fully formed as Pope’s later work but the Pope’s raw energy is visible on almost every page. In recent interviews from the past 2-4 years, Pope has said that the only comic artists he’s looking at now are Kirby, Moebius and Miyazaki and that shows in all of his storytelling. But there’s no one before Pope that has just animalistic power in their artwork. That rich, quirk brush stroke of Pope’s has so much emotion in it that so many cartoonists now try to imitate but no one can achieve it like Pope does.
On a still night in 1876, Seth Bullock executes a man. He hangs him out in front of his jail, from the rafters while a mob demands that the thief be handed over to them for their own version of justice and/or revenge. It’s Bullock’s job as the marshall to perform this act of justice but it’s one that he doesn’t want anymore. There are so many ways this night would be easier for Bullock; he could hand the man over to the mob or he could consider the thief’s propositions for his quick and speedy release with the promise of stolen riches on the way to their mutual destination of Deadwood, a small town well outside of the United States’ borders. Just like Bullock, the dead man’s plan was to head to Deadwood to meet his glorious future there. “No law at all… in Deadwood,” the man ponders, thinking about the promise of that place while realizing his own mortality awaits him. The horse thief doesn’t make it out alive of even the first 10 minutes of this series but he exists as a perfect little microcosm of the hope and reality of what Deadwood could and would be.
Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. What a minute, that’s the wrong opening. Instead of that, Chuck Dixon gets away with writing in Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1, “These are dark days for our friends the Harks” and the writing just gets sillier from there with made up slang like “Bospor,” “rammer,” and the lovely descriptive compound phrase “ramming’ Bospor!” Opening with a civil war in some alien galaxy, a group of soldiers called the Nomad Squad has to check all of the refugee ships to make sure that they actually contain refugees and nothing more sinisterly nefarious. Chuck Dixon, Larry Stroman and Carl Potts begin with that idea for a story and never get any farther than that in this first issue.
Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill have no time for a preamble or set up in Nemo: The Roses Of Berlin, the latest offshoot of their League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. Within the first couple of pages, they dive right into the story of Janni Dakkar, the daughter of Nemo, and her husband Broad Arrow Jack invading 1940s Berlin to rescue their daughter. When their son-in-law’s airship is shot down over Germany with their daughter inside, Janni and Jack storm Berlin, finding a city that they didn’t expect. It’s not a Nazi driven Berlin (even though Nazis are there.) It’s the Berlin straight out of Metropolis and the imagination of Fritz Lang. Swiftly realizing that it’s all a trap for her and that her daughter is only being used as bait, Janni’s determination only strengthens as Moore and O’Neill show the resolve that the daughter of Nemo has for her family.
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson one-shot featuring their four-legged supernatural crusaders is a welcomed but too brief visit to Burden Hill and its protectors. Full of a lot of different and unique animals and one hard to catch monster, Dorkin’s dialogue is distinct and perfectly reveals who the characters are. That’s one thing Dorkin is excellent at in all of his writing– using the characters own words and actions to reveal who they are.
Comics and Sequential Art is Eisner’s exploration of the various elements of a comic, stacking one building block on top of another to divine how comic books work. Mostly using his own comic work to walk the reader through various structures of comics – though later editions would incorporate a small handful of other cartoonists to illustrate his points – Eisner acts as a guide to show cartoonists how to create comics. From the micro view of the basic components of a panel to a macro view of the layout of a full page, Eisner writes about the many ways that a cartoonist can construct a page and thereby manipulate the reader to follow where the cartoonist wants him or her to go. The book is not a how-to book like Stan Lee and John Buscema’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (a book that shows you how to draw like Buscema) or any of the technical DC guides to comic creation. Comics and Sequential Art is not instructional. Eisner builds this book on theories drawn from his years of creating stories and comics.
You know all of those 1980s comics that “changed the way we looked at superhero comic books forever:? Before any of them, there was Miracleman by Alan Moore and Garry Leach. Using a Captain Marvel wannabe (the old Fawcett Captain Marvel, not the Marvel Captain Marvel- it’s all very confusing) from the 1950s, Moore and Leach’s 1982 revival of Miracleman (actually called Marvelman but there are whole histories written about that) began the oh-so popular trend of making our superheroes “more realistic.” Moore, a young writer at that time, brought the superhero into the real world of nuclear terrorists and troubled marriages. In Miracleman #1, a reporter named Mike Moran dreams of outer space and colorfully clad men and boys flying out among the stars. A press conference at a local nuclear facility seems like an everyday part of the job for Mike until it is overran by a group of thieves looking to steal some plutonium. Disoriented and dragged outside by the thieves, Mike looks up at a plaque on a wall and tries to read the only word that makes any sense to him, “Kimota.” That word changes everything for Mike and the world he lives in.
It only stands to reason that if there are sex criminals that there have to be sex cops but sex bus drivers? O.k., that last one sounds all kinds of wrong but then Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are all kinds of wrong. Dom-Rom comedies? Inflatable Humpkin? There are panels in this comic that you just shouldn’t try to zoom in on your iPad because you’ll just get lost in all of the fun, dirty jokes that they hide in the details of the panels.
With Sex: The Summer of Hard, Joe Casey may be writing the best Before Watchmen comic that DC Comics wouldn’t produce themselves. I always enjoy Casey’s comics because I can tell that back in the 1980s, he read a lot of the same stuff as I did. Actually, I can tell that a lot of current comic creators read the same stuff but most of them are trying to recreate what they liked. When I look at DC’s Before Watchmen projects, that’s exactly what I see; a bunch of writers and artists making a buck off of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s story. I don’t have a problem with them making a buck but with the limited number of Before Watchmen stuff I’ve read (the Darwyn Cooke-penned miniseries,) it all falls into the category of writers and artists getting to play with their favorite childhood toys without doing anything new or exciting. Casey isn’t playing with the toys like everyone else is though. He’s making them do strange things, naughty things, uncomfortable things for us to read about. He’s taking the toys of his own youth and trying to figure out what they have to say about us today rather than just recycling the stories that he’s finding inspiration in.
Charles Forsman’s Celebrated Summer is a snapshot. Not of an image but of experiences and fears. Reading the book is like looking through an old photo album as you fondly remember the times, places and people in those photos. It’s not so much the actual image itself that triggers something in you but the memories of everything going on around those images. The photo is just a catalyst that floods your mind with memories and thoughts.
A lot of writers talk about writing with their artist in mind but in Guardians of the Galaxy #10, you can see just how Brian Michael Bendis slightly changes up his storytelling in this issue to perfectly suit his guest artist Kevin Maguire. Featuring his second “girls night out” story in recent weeks (see also Uncanny X-Men #15,) Bendis shows Gamora, the deadliest woman in the galaxy, teaming up with Angela, a mystery wrapped in a lawsuit-sized enigma, tracking down the now missing Thanos and also fighting a bunch of Badoon slavers. The plot is what it is- a fun character piece to show these two warrior women bonding but the star of the issue is Kevin Maguire as Bendis writes a story that’s perfectly tailored to showcase Maguire’s artwork.
Will Eisner truly was one of comic books greatest storytellers. No one before or since has been able to use a comic page to tell a story like he did in just seven pages. In “The Christmas Spirit 1948” (originally published in the weekly Spirit serial on December 19th, 1948) he told a rather simple tale of a man who discovers the holiday spirit (no pun intended) and uses his underworld connections to get the blind boy a surgery to restore his sight. It’s a small, quick story but Eisner fills it with a lot of heart as he exaggerates every characters’ emotions, including Basher. A big mountain of the man at the beginning, he’s so big that the panels can barely contain him as he rips the P.A. speaker off the wall. Basher is obviously not a kind, jolly man and even when he puts Santa’s outfit on, Eisner draws him as as just another con in a slightly different outfit.
In Umbral #2, Mitten continues to set the tone for Johnston’s story but it’s an entirely different tone. Mitten’s brittle, cracked lines in Wasteland give way to rich, luscious and cool artwork, made that much more royal by John Rauch’s purplish pallette. Mitten’s easily at home creating the high fantasy setting of Umbral. The city he creates is highly reminiscent of any city from any fantasy novel or story (see almost every setting in the new Hobbit film) but Mitten draws a very organic city as the buildings rise up out of the ground around Rascal and her new ally Dalone. The architecture that he creates of a city that’s built without machines or plans but rather as needed, full of shadows, is somewhere between complete and crumbling. That’s the age he naturally gives to this city. Its best years may be behind it but it’s not so old that it’s decrepit.