Monday, January 5, 2015

Indie Corner - 12/31/2014

Each week I'll spotlight a couple independent books I've read and may have flown under people's radar.

THIEF OF THIEVES v4
It's been a while since I read the previous volumes, but I don't recall those having this many bodies in them.  Volume 3 ended with Conrad in a tight spot, but he quickly gets out of that and almost as quickly, gets into a new one.  And like I said, this book litters the landscape with bodies.  I thought I'd read Diggle was leaving the book, but he's still listed for upcoming issues, and this pleases me greatly.  He's at the top of his game here, with Martinbrough and Lucas his perfect accomplices.  Recommended for anyone that enjoyed Diggle's The Losers.

Lobster Johnson: Get the Lobster
LOBSTER JOHNSON: GET THE LOBSTER
Sometimes I write these things and I don't say anything about what actually happened in the book itself.  This isn't one of those.  In this book, The Lobster fights a cyborg gorilla with a knife.  He has the knife, not the gorilla.  I mean, come on.  This has no bearing on the story whatsoever, but IS incredibly awesome.

Lacking the supernatural elements from previous volumes but ramping up the pulp, The Lobster battles for his very existence against criminals, the police, and one determined reporter.  Continuing story elements from previous volumes, Mignola and Arcudi are building a series that rivals Hellboy or B.P.R.D. for depth and breadth.  Tonci Zonjic draws this world so perfectly, I hope they're able to keep him drawing future volumes for years to come.

It's been a while since I read the previous volumes, but this may have been my favorite.  There are many reasons for this, but I'll single out the the reporter investigating The Lobster.  Her research leads to two possible ancestors, both of which are amusing while offering insight into what may have forged the mysterious title character.  All the while, Wald and Silog are waiting in the wings.  Barely in this book, but their presence and machinations hint toward they're return.  The clock is marching inexorably toward one fateful date in 1939, and I don't want to miss a second of it.

REX MUNDI v1
In my continuing efforts to make it through my to-read pile, we arrive at Rex Mundi.  Purchased years ago, when everyone was talking about it, I've finally read the first volume.  The back of the book is filled with quotes from people you're familiar with, all raving about it.  At this point, four sentences in, I feel like I'm stalling and should just come out and say: I didn't like it.  Set in an alternate 1930s France, Rex Mundi revolves around the investigation of a theft, which quickly adds two murders, and at least one shadowy organization.  None of which is resolved, or even shows the hope of resolution, by the end of the first volume.  The only way I can describe the art is with the word "inconsistent."  While architecture looks great, the main character is six-heads tall in one panel eight in another, and 10-heads tall in yet another.  The back of the book features a separate 38-page complete story with a murder that gets solved.  If only the main story could have moved that quickly.

POWERS: BUREAU v2
Another year, another trade.  Good news: Powers is still awesome.  Saying much of anything that happens would be a spoiler, and there are some huge reveals and consequences in this collection.  The news that Powers is getting relaunched (again) has already been revealed, and if you recall the reason for the last renumbering, you might be able to guess what happens here (though probably not).

Since I can't talk about the story at all, there are a few things I feel like need mentioning.  1) One of the last reveals is so huge, it makes me wonder if we're nearing the end of Powers.  Not that I'm saying Bendis can't, but it would be difficult to make a bigger story than what's coming.  2) I don't know if I'm slipping or Oeming, but he regularly switches from using a one-page layout to two-page layout.  It wasn't until now that I've had a problem following the panel progression.  Thankfully, it wasn't often, but it was enough that I thought it worth mentioning.

ZAYA
I bought Zaya (from http://stuartngbooks.com) based on the art in the preview pages and interesting-sounding premise.  The art is rather good, and the story is pretty interesting, but the two never quite work to create a great comic.  Things happen in the story that are easy enough to understand, but I didn't get the overall story until the very end.  Similarly, the art in individual panels is a visual feast, but doesn't always help tell the story.  Part of problem, I think, is the inconsistent use of sound effects.  Gunfire and explosions don't get sound effects, until late in the book when suddenly they do, but stairs retracting into a ship does.  I'm very curious to see what these creators - a writer from France and artist from China - come up with in the future, but can't recommend this book.

THE QUICK AND DIRTY LIFE OF FRITZ FARGO
I don't read webcomics.  Not even ones I like.  However, I will sometimes binge on a webcomic I enjoy if I happen to be bored.  Immediately after that binge, I forget to read the next installment.  It happens every time.  I just finished a binge of The Quick and Dirty Life of Fritz Fargo, written and drawn by Sarah Fowlie.  It's a bit like Scott Pilgrim in that the title character is kind of a jerk, there's a band that doesn't really play much, and the story is really about the interactions between all the characters.  Oh, and it's good.  Fowlie captured my interest early on with the antics of John and Eddie, slowly expanding the cast to include many other interesting and unique characters.  The art and writing have remained consistently good for the 4+ years she's been crafting this tale, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention her lettering.  There's an expressiveness to the lettering, a daring, that's absent from mainstream comics.  It injects life into 2D, black-and-white characters in a way I haven't seen in a long time.  If you're into webcomics, I recommend checking it out.