Monday, February 16, 2015

Indie Corner - 02/11/2015

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

I was all set to complain about this book... until the end.  This marks the third volume of Abe wandering around the country and while reading I realized I really miss the old Abe.  Old Abe was a man of action.  New Abe is unsure of what he's doing, where he's going, and generally aimless.  But as I said, at the end of the book, Abe gets yelled at by a new character and I think (hope!) it's the push he needed.

The first few issues here are fairly stand-alone, well-written, and interesting on their own, but served as a reminder that Abe has spent far too many issues just walking.  Interesting characters and events come and go, but aren't satisfactorily explored.  Almost everyone Abe encounters is more interesting than he is here, and that's a serious problem.  I hope to see more of these characters and I really hope Abe busts out of this slump.

Wytches 4
Last week was such a huge haul of comics I wasn't able to write anything about this book before the column went up Monday morning.  Even now, I'm writing this Sunday afternoon because I'm not sure what I want to say or how I felt about it.

When I wrote about the last issue of Wytches, I mentioned how the step-by-step art process shown at the back of the book made me dislike the art.  I thought the art looked better at an earlier stage, before some of the final colors were placed.  Time has softened that somewhat, but the colors are something I remain aware of more than usual.

The story is definitely still creepy and weird, but between the scene at the coast and the other at the ferris wheel, it felt weird for the wrong reasons - disjointed.  The last page alone ensures I'll keep reading, but I don't hold this series in as high a regard as I once did.

I bought this years ago, based on the strength of Blankets, Thompson's previous work.  It's spent the intervening years on a shelf because the size of the book was a little daunting.  In reality, it's a much faster read than it appears, taking about a week of bedtime reading to finish.  On one of the first nights, I wife walks in and asks what I'm reading.  She sees the title and author's name while I'm trying to find the words to describe the strange combination of religion, language, and children forced to grow up too quickly.  She goes, "Sounds like a white guy."  I say, "He is!  And the book is definitely about the desert..."  That essentially sums up my issue with the book - it's good, but it doesn't feel like Thompson should be the one to tell it.  It's hard to recommend, but definitely worth checking out for the art.

Last time I joked that this pairing followed the traditional superhero crossover formula of meet, fight, and team-up.  Still, I enjoyed it enough to ask my comic shop to grab the rest of the series for me.  Well, the joke is wearing a little thin now.  An indeterminate amount of time has passed between the first issue and this one, but once again Conan and Red Sonja meet, fight, and team-up.  Other than that, I don't really have much to say... the characters are decently written, the art is well-suited to the characters, but the story is rather thread-bare.  I'll still pick up the rest of the series, but I can't recommend it any longer.  Hopefully the next two issues are better than this one.

I'm making this my last issue of Ghost Fleet.  Things got weird, and not in a, "This new wrinkle will be interesting to see play out." kind of way, but instead a, "WTF is even happening?" way.  Until now, I thought this series was a pretty standard heist/revenge story with a little Ronin or Pulp Fiction thrown in for not knowing what's in the stolen truck.  This issue we learn more about our two main characters Cohle and Trace, but the center of this issue appears to be a hallucination or metaphysical event that significantly alters things.  In a book that was hardly explaining itself to begin with, this new mystery is one too many.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Indie Corner - 02/04/15

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

Much like the first issue, this opens on action and gives us story in the back-half.  The story actually sets up the next issue, or perhaps, issues.  It's so well written and so wonderful to look at, I loved every second of it.  Even though, in retrospect, not that much happens.  It's two issues into a series of five and I'm already hoping this manages to run as a series of mini series.  I want more Joëlle art and I want more of our main character Josie.

The Bunker 09
This book is so good it drives me insane.  If I could, I'd binge-read the entire series so I wouldn't have to wrestle with the question of, "What's going to happen?!"  Instead of a letters page this issue, there's a piece from associate editor Robin Herrera.  In it, she gets right to the heart of this arc: 

Another question to ask, of course, is whether Daniel and Natasha really can save the world.  Or, more specifically, who we should believe in regards to how the future will play out.  Do we trust the older, possibly wiser Grady, who came from the future to make sure everything goes exactly as planned?  Who penned the letter to past Grady, telling him the events leading to the apocalyptic future must go as written, or else something worse awaits?  Or do we take the more idealistic approach, and believe that if precautions are taken, the future can be saved?

I don't like, nor do I trust, Future Grady.  Unfortunately, from the back of my brain keeps coming the whisper, "But what if he actually pulls it off?"

I'm going to stake a claim, based on very little actual evidence, that Brennan is the real hero of this series, not Mikey.  In part because he's on the cover to this issue, and in part because of the "birthright" that gets hinted at here.  Speaking of, how about that last page?  A lot of comics have great last pages in recent years.  I love turning that page and going, "Oh, snap!"  This comic delivered that moment.

I think I'm hooked.  I wasn't sure when issue two wasn't as good as issue one, but I kinda need to know A) what's going to happen and B) how did things get this way?

I wasn't planning on getting this.  I'd read the couple page preview that was online and liked it well enough, but it didn't really get me excited enough to plunk down money for it.  Except, some me from the past added the first issue to my pull, so when I stopped into the comic shop a few days ago, it was waiting in my stack.  I figured, "screw it" and bought it.

Thankfully, the book is good.  One of the reasons I was avoiding this is was because of the excellent Six-Gun Gorilla, mentally linking the two series where no link should exist.  Cluster has more in common with Bitch Planet, but really only the basis prison-on-another-planet premise.  In truth, it stands well on it's own with a good combination of writing and art.  I may not have been planning to pick up the first issue, but I'm now thinking about checking out the next few to see where things lead.

I've said this before, and feel it's even more true now - this series will read much better collected.  Maybe this time it will sink in so that when Morrison does a new mini series I'll just wait instead of trying to read it monthly.  Maybe.

The reason I say it will read better collected is because everything is coming together now.  All those disparate elements are starting to coalesce, which is good because the series wraps up next issue and there's still a lot to cover.  I expect death at the very least.  Possibly life, maybe some redemption, and definitely a big showdown.

It's still good and I'm still enjoying it, but I think it would make a bit more sense if I weren't reading each installment one month apart.  I've been filing comics the last few days, so if I come across the previous issues maybe I'll re-read the whole thing in preparation for the finale.

I read this just after Annihilator, the other Grant Morrison book out this week.  Annihilator, though weird and a bit confusing, makes infinitely more sense than Nameless.

In my reviews, I frequently write, "not much happens this issue."  Meaning, of course things HAPPEN, but the story doesn't really move forward in any meaningful way.  Here, a whole lot of things happen, but there's no real story to speak of tying the events together.  There's a guy on the run... and an asteroid.  That ellipses was me running through: "there's a woman, whom doesn't really do anything", "there's another woman and some dudes in masks", "there's an Inception-style dream theft", and "there's a rich dude that makes the main guy an offer."

A first issue needs to grab readers to ensure they pick up the next issue.  This random collection of events is all mystery with no substance.  I'll keep an eye out for reviews of subsequent issues in the event things get better or make more sense later.  But as of now, I don't plan to pick up issue two.

DAWUUUGGGHH, THIS BOOK!  I just read a line of narration that makes me want to throw this book across the room.

In my review of issue 24 I wrote how I should drop Saga from my reviews of "under the radar" books because practically everyone know about it by now.  In my Best Comics of 2014 list I wrote how I pay Saga to break my heart each month.  Well, it turns out I can't stop talking about Saga because it's not only breaking my heart, but now infuriating too.  I haven't even finished the issue yet, and I'm not sure I want to... but I need to know...

The artist signature on the cover is dated "2012."  Ditto for the cover to issue seven shown at the back of the book.  I read Danger Club back then.  Loved it, great series.  Clearly, there were some problems between then and now.  Issue six is now out, picking up exactly where things left off, but I have to wonder... should it?

Two plus years is a long wait between issues.  I'm not saying it should have come back with a new number one, but a re-printing of the trade would have helped.    Anything, really.  This issue doesn't really recap anything that's come before and next issue promises "a new beginning."  I'm left to wonder whether things should have been re-written to accommodate new readers, or at least not make it so hard to get back into the series for returning readers.  For anyone interested, I recommend picking up the Danger Club trade.  Start there, not here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Indie Corner - 01/28/15

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

A couple weeks back, I'm chatting with the manager of my local comic shop and he offhandedly mentions Lady Killer, believing I'd purchased it that week.  I hadn't, but it he successfully put it on my radar in that moment.  I've since checked it out and love it.  It's totally my kind of thing.  I'm going to do something rare for me and copy and paste the official description from Dark Horse because it's perfect:
Josie Schuller is a picture-perfect homemaker, wife, and mother—but she’s also a ruthless, efficient killer for hire! A brand-new original comedy series that combines the wholesome imagery of early 1960s domestic bliss with a tightening web of murder, paranoia, and cold-blooded survival.

I'm not sure I'd go with "comedy" but otherwise it's dead-on.  Written by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich with art from Jones as well.  Her work is fantastic and it's only a matter of time before someone notices and she's placed on something more high profile.  Lady Killer is a five issue mini series with issue 2 out Feb 4th.  I'm in for all of it.  Thanks Rick!

Casanova: Acedia 1
Before reading either of the stories inside, I went looking for the back matter.  To my great sadness, there were only ads.  Fraction's letter column in previous volumes was one of the only letter columns I consistently read.  They were informative, amusing, and intensely open and personal.  It's one of the reasons I continued to buy the single issues instead of switching to trades like I do on much titles.  Here's hoping it will return.

As I said, this issue has two stories - the first by Fraction and Fabio Moon with the second from Michael Chabon and Gabriel Ba.  I loved Fraction's; it had all the insanity of the old Casanova I've been craving.  Chabon's was good as well, but didn't really feel like Casanova.  Maybe once it's fleshed out some more.  If I haven't mentioned it recently, I absolutely adore both Ba and Moon.  The next issue can't come fast enough in my opinion.

I've long praised both the Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles series from IDW and have continued that trend for this crossover mini series.  There's not a lot I can say that I haven't already - the teams, both creators and the title characters, work really well together and the resulting book is a blast.  I mean, Mikey's in a jumpsuit on Page 1 here.  That's awesome and just the beginning of the humorous moments that book provides while bringing the final showdown with Chi-You.  That fight takes up the bulk of the issue, making it feel suitably epic.  While not required reading for fans of the Turtles book, I'd recommend it for anyone reading Turtles and curious about the Ghostbusters IDW series.  Ghostbusters recently concluded and this looks to be the final hoorah for the franchise for now.  A sad end, but they went out on on top.

It's hard for me to figure out how I feel about this series.  On the one hand, it's pretty cool... but little things keep creeping into my head and I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep them from spoiling an otherwise good read.

People with special abilities exist and they like to keep it secret.  Okay, I'm with you there.  That a dozen or so live in the same house starts me tingling, because I've seen enough random episodes of The Real World to know this generally causes some problems.  However, we really haven't seen interactions with the cast yet, so I'll let that slide for now.  Where the book really starts to lose me is how our cast treat the normal humans around them.  The book opens with a small group from the house mugging a human.  This is explained to the newest member of the household and our current POV character as the way of things and everyone seems okay with it.  We've seen a bunch of characters, but none of them really stand apart from any of the others and this sameness all living under one roof is kinda driving me nuts.  I'm going to stick with it through at least issue four to see where things lead, but I don't know.

This book is completely nuts, and I am entirely okay with this.  Issue six came out this week, as did a collection of the first five issues.  Convenient!

The series is about the afterlife.  Spoiler!  It's kind of in the title.  Thus far, it's been a loose Judeo-Christian type of afterlife, with an emphasis on "loose."  Granted, I've never actually read a bible, but I don't recall anyone ever mentioning a giant rabbit.

This issues gives us a one page micro-origin for one of our cast members while an antagonist gets radically transformed.  The rest of the cast are simply trying to figure out what to do next.  By the end of issue six, they've all got some new information to consider.

While I don't recommend anyone jump into the series at issue six - I guarantee you'll be confused - anyone curious about the series should definitely pick up the trade.  (This is why I'm reviewing the two together.)  It's been a wild, but highly enjoyable ride that shows no sign of slowing down.  The collection is only $9.99, which is less than the cover price of the individual issues.

The Dying and the Dead 1
A few days ago I read the preview pages for this issue on CBR.  It's always been my belief that preview pages are supposed to give potential customers a sense for the issue or series.  Or, if not that, provide an enticing hook to get readers interested enough to buy the issue.  In either case, those preview pages were terrible at their job.

The first issue is 60 pages (there's two ads at the back, everything else is story) and costs $4.50.  If you like Hickman's East of West, you should definitely check this out.  I'm just going to say to buy it, because I'm not sure any preview pages, high concept tag line, or description is going to properly convey what's going on here. 

The book is very good.  The word "cinematic" springs to mind, and I don't just mean the whole "widescreen" thing it has going on.  It's in every aspect of how this story is told.  I wish I possessed the means to communicate what's actually happening in this book, but to boil it down to a couple sentences would be a mistake.  It's good, and I recommend it.

Wow.  So, I still kinda live in... not fear of this book, but I put off reading it each month.  It always winds up near the bottom of my read pile.  The top of the read pile is always whatever quick, easily forgettable super hero books I'm reading.  This week the indie titles outnumbered the superhero stuff by some ridiculous amount like 6:1.  So I get the hero stuff out of the way, then start making my way through the indies while writing these things whenever inspiration hits.  I think mostly about the cops, trying to remember the storyline that was going on in the last issue.  But the story is entirely irrelevant in this series.  The brilliance is entirely with the character interactions - the tiny moments, the humor, the honesty, the quiet suffering, and eternal for a connection.  And the real reason I avoid the book for so long is because I know all of this in the back of my mind, know that I need to be in the right frame of mind to read it, and am just waiting for the right moment.  Because it's going to be some Heavy Shit when I do.

I had no idea what this book was about when I bought it.  Usually, I go through this whole thing where I read the solicits for books coming out months from now, forget most of it, then every Thursday I get an email from my comic shop with everything coming out next Wednesday.  That's when I read up on new series I haven't heard of or don't remember and figure out if I want to buy it or not.  In this case, I knew Effigy was drawn by a friend of mine and didn't care what it was about.  Tim Seeley as the writer is just icing.

Thankfully, the book is awesome, and I'm not just saying that.  It's got a Coffin Hill vibe, with the female lead returning to her hometown and mystery right from the outset.  The main differences being the inclusion of a sentai children's show the lead was part of, and that this story has set it's hooks in me better than Coffin Hill did.  I hope this series gets a long run, because Marley's perfect for it.

Twice today I've seen DeConnick say Bitch Planet should run roughly 30 issues.  Once in a Tumblr Q and A and again in the back of this issue.  Knowing this somehow makes me feel better about the series.  The creative team aren't going to try and run this forever - from the sound of it, they've got a pretty tight story in mind.  I also learned every third issue will spotlight a different character.  That's slightly weird in that it sounds like any momentum the storyline builds up will be regularly paused, but I'll see how it turns out in practice and roll with it.

The issue itself is quite good, moving things along very nicely while giving the barest hint of the 30-issue storyline.

This was one of the first books I read this week and one of the last reviews I write.  I'm really struggling my thoughts into words this time.  On the one hand, each issue is a great read and I love the art.  On the other, the connective tissue that should be binding one issue to the next into an overarching story appears to be missing.  I get that there's stories happening at two different points in time, I mean that's pretty obvious and not the problem.  First Rasputin's at home, then a monastery, now the palace... and he picked up some huge blond guy along the way... and they still haven't addressed that guy and his "hammer time" from a couples issues back... like, what is happening?  We do get some confirmation of what we were told last issue, even if it does seem to be disproportionate to what we've seen Rasputin do thus far.  Maybe it'll read better as a trade, I don't know.  If I can find some time in the next month, maybe I'll try to re-read from the beginning and see if that helps.