Catching up!

*We are up to Wednesday, and it's still Thursday! YESSSSS.

*My father took me aside the day I moved away from home.

"Jog," he said, "One thing I'm sure of in this life is that nobody can have enough Seven Soldiers, and you can take that to the bank." I did, and that's how I got my beloved check card.

But Dad was also right about Seven Soldiers, which is why I must link to Andrew Hickey, who's putting out a whole series of posts on Grant Morrison's DCU exploits. First up is a look at 'gravity' in the extended Seven Soldiers saga, a motif I never quite picked up on. Go look.

*Here's a nice deal for easygoing '80s anime enthusiasts and Naoki Urasawa die-hards alike: the first four episodes of the 1989-92 television anime series Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl, based on Urasawa's first-ever monster hit manga, on dvd from AnimeEigo for only $5.00 (to cover shipping). Or free, if you buy something else. In subtitled Japanese only, with extensive cultural notes as a bonus. Again: five bucks.

I guess you can call it a 'sampler,' even though it's the size of many full-scale anime dvd volumes, since AnimEigo isn't planning to actually release the series disc-by-disc. It is 124 episodes long, after all. Rather, the publisher is accepting pre-orders for a 40-episode Season 1 box set, the price of which will be determined later as based on how many pre-orders there actually are. It's due to ship in early 2008, although it might make Christmas of this year.

The four episodes on the sampler disc are pretty good stuff. Very light, mixing comedic action with fluffy romance antics, much in the manner of its television peer, Ranma 1/2. But there's no fantasy in Yawara!, even though its young heroine is a fighting expert. She's pushed by her wacky Judo master grandpa to become the greatest in the world, in anticipation of Women's Judo debuting as a medal sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics - interestingly, the series seems to progress in quasi-realtime, with a counter appearing at the end of each episode to tick off the days left until the (actual) Barcelona competition. There's many complications, of course, since Our Heroine wants to be a normal teenager.

It's the sort of generous, crowd-pleasing show that can't even bring itself to make the villains (thus far) seem all that bad; a womanizing rival Judo coach actually comes off as somewhat endearing, and the obligatory haughty rich girl rival is given just enough dimension to keep her interesting. There's not enough space on the disc for the famous Urasawa build to take hold (if, indeed, it ever does, this being an adaptation of an early work), which perhaps works to the advantage of such unabashed formula, polished as it is. Oddly melancholic closing credits too, maybe suggestive of a greater emphasis on drama later on.

Certainly worth a $5 gamble - those who enjoy this period of mainstream television anime will probably be most pleased, but it's a cute enough show for a wider bunch.


Hey there, Jog - welcome back to the land of internet posting!

*What do you mean it's not really 11:59 on Tuesday, but well into the wee hours on Thursday?! The nerve! Anyway, here's the new column. It's on the horror anthology Taboo, specifically the 1989 second volume. Don't be scared!



Ok, post for real now.

*So -


Krazy & Ignatz: The Kat Who Walked in Beauty (in which our cast goes wide)

Incredible Change-Bots (Jeffrey Brown parody comic, in full color)


Column #6 (the path of Igor Kordey at Marvel, with a special focus on Soldier X #1-8)

teeny reviews (Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious #1, Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper #4, and so much more)

all at The Savage Critics!

*Publishing news of the day: Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine will produce a new Dan Dare miniseries for Virgin Comics, a seven-issue miniseries to begin in November. The plot sounds a tiny bit like the Grant Morrison/Rian Hughes version, only mounted as a contemporary science-hero revival thing. Fairly inspired choices on the creative team (and ooooh, covers by Bryan Talbot!). It's got my attention.

*And -


Chance in Hell: Excellent new Gilbert Hernandez graphic novel from Fantagraphics. I think some stores may have gotten it in already, but Diamond says this week's official. My review here.

Tokyo is my Garden: Gah! A live Fanfare/Ponent Mon release! Approach with care if you find one; these things are known to flee if spooked, and you might never see another. This one's an $18.99 English-language edition of a 1997 collaboration between Frédéric Boilet & Benoît Peeters -- featuring special guest Jirô Taniguchi! -- concerning the misadventures of a French cognac salesman in Japan who, in true farcical fashion, tries to fool his visiting boss into thinking he's not just bumming around the local nightlife. Some readers may appreciate the separation from Boilet's later, autobiographical(ish) formalist solo works, but they pretty much had me at Taniguchi.

Asthma: Has this been out for a while? Maybe Diamond's just getting to it now. It's a Sparkplug Comic Books collection of stories by John Hankiewicz, $17 for 104 b&w pages. Here's a sample. Diamond also has another Sparkplug release this week (albeit with Ben Catmull on as co-publisher), Mats!?'s Asiaddict, a travel comic through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

Bill Mauldin's Up Front: Yet more confusion - Amazon tells me this $24.95 W.W. Norton release came out back in 2000, so maybe it's a new edition? Either way, this 1945 prose & comics fusion from the famed creator of Willie & Joe (a gigantic hardcover collection is due from Fantagraphics in early 2008) comes highly recommended for its grounded view of WWII, from a man who lived it.

Mean: For heavy-duty fans of Steven Weissman, Fantagraphics has this $16.95, 128-page collection of his early Yikes comics from 1993-98. I suspect laffs within.

Local #10 (of 12): Always nice to see this around.

Hellboy: Darkness Calls #5 (of 6): This too.

The Last Fantastic Four Story: Pretty much all that catches my eye from Marvel this week is this oddball one-off project from writer/co-creator Stan Lee, teaming with penciller John Romita Jr. for his own damned Fantastic Four: The End, apparently. It's 64 pages for $4.99, and contains several exclamation points. Meanwhile, DC's most striking pamphlet is Peter Milligan's Batman Annual #26, so it's pretty lean over there too.

Devilish Greetings: Vintage Devil Postcards: Ok, so this isn't a comic at all. But it is from writer/editor/designer Monte Beauchamp, he of Blab!, and it's basically a sequel to his 2004 release The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards, which filled 168 pages with real 19th and 20th century postcards depicting a demonic anti-Santa's yearly romps. This new 160-page tome expands the scope to everything devilry in early 20th century world postcard art, although there's still plenty of Krampus left over. With annotations, translations and a diverse collection of styles on display. A perfect choice for flipping.


Thrilling Prelim Post

*Oh, look at that. Advance copies of Brian Chippendale's Maggots for sale. At least, until the three copies left are gone. Then you wait until October.

Also: C.F.'s Powr Mastrs Vol. 1 is out. Again, only while the limited stock hangs around. Speed.

*Real post coming in an hour or three...


"I dunno, Balls... who needs girls when you get to hang out with robots?"

Incredible Change-Bots

This should be out on Wednesday. It's Jeffrey Brown's new release from Top Shelf, and also his first full-color longform comics work, $15 for 144 pages.

We're back in the realm of parody with Brown, although this Transformers spoof is stronger than Bighead, Brown's aimless superhero thing. I suspect part of that result is due to focus - while Bighead was mainly a collection of minicomics joined up with extracts from an unfinished graphic novel, Incredible Change-Bots benefits from a sense of narrative build that allows its jokes greater room to breathe across Brown's wide canvas, willing to accommodate the large cast and sprawling plot that a tribute to a vast toy line and television cartoon franchise perhaps demands. Granted, the book never quite escapes the episodic nature that marks many of Brown's prior works, including the pointillist 'girlfriend' books that made his name, but even this seems like less of a pressing problem than an odd comics equivalent of watching a whole season of cartoons with all the titles and commercials edited out.

The plot is quite simple: Big Rig and the heroic Awesomebots have long waged war with Shootertron and the wicked Fantasticons, at least since Shootertron totally stole the last election on their home planet of Electronocybercircuitron, and now the battle's come to Earth, where young Jimmy Junior and his dad Monkeywrench get caught up in the action. You might have detected an element of political satire - indeed, the Fantasticons loathe the Awesomebots' "religion of science" (as Shootertron puts it) and love to wage war, and they're quick to ally themselves with Earth's energy-rich military interests after they arrive on Earth, while the Awesomebots cook up a natural, peaceable power source. But Brown uses this material mainly for quick jabs, before mixing it in with a half-serious concluding moral that only evidences discomfort with even rolling out such real-world matters at all.

Thus, the book works best as pure nostalgic parody, and there's some pleasure to be had in that, particularly on the visual level. Brown's art is somewhat surprising in how naturally it fits with the subject matter - his character designs are pretty slick, but executed in a pliable enough style that they feel more like fond remembrances of childhood things than cool toy designs. The robot faces are pretty great, expressive in a way that links them to Brown's human characters, their usual shriveled forms more a counterpoint here than an expression of interpersonal vulnerability. It's efficient, even canny, and nicely colored in bright hues that mainly set the forms of the robots off against sandy orange or sterile white.

As for the jokes, well... they'll probably get a smirk or two out of the occasional comment on cartoon tropes (all the evil robots have terrible aim so they go to a firing range, the nasty second-in-command wants to be leader until it has to do something, etc.), and naming a robot "Balls" is always good for a laff (it's a golf cart, you see). The evil microwave robot was decent, especially with the mini popcorn bag robot and plastic bowl of soup robot that hide within. The propulsive pace does tire the gags out after a while, leaving the book in the odd position of seeming like it ought to be taken in small doses, even though it's a very quick read.

Maybe a bigger Transformers enthusiast than I might get more out of this; there's enough odd character detail present to indicate that Brown is playing with specific fannish elements that I can't quite grasp. Nevertheless, I can say that it's an attractive project, and is probably worth flipping through if only to check out how the artist approaches his subject matter. You might take or leave the subject itself.


Black Black

*It was just after 8:00 PM yesterday evening when all the lights went out.

A very bad storm had blown through; there were warnings in the usual places about it, but I suspect that many people in town were like me in that they stared into the glaring, hazy sun of the afternoon just passed and figured that no rain was likely to show. It was close to 100 degrees, and humid, but it didn't look like rain.

And it wasn't really raining for all that long. Only about ten minutes of howling winds, whipping the drops into a horizontal trajectory, lightning leaping from cloud to ground. It hit something; it only took about half the brief storm's length for the power to blow out.

At first, I wondered if it was just my building, or maybe my sector of the building. I've been known to occasionally blow a fuse, forcing my landlord to haul himself over and unlock the cellar door so I could reach the fuse box. He's got the only key. There used to be another guy -- two other guys, now that I think of it -- but that's all gone now.

So I ventured outside. There was still some light in the sky, so it was easy going. I walked up to one of the main drags, and I could see people pouring out into the street from restaurants and businesses; there was nothing more to do inside, although I saw that one of the eateries had lit candles all over, and people were laughing from within. Most people were laughing, really. The rain had stopped, at least.

As I made my way down the street, I realized that one of the local fairground car shows had spilled out into some kind of demonstration on the other main street. Maybe a parade; it wasn't a parade then, since nobody was moving. The entire street was blocked off by flares and police officers, and for blocks and blocks there was nothing but shining Corvettes, and people milling around. Some of the people had clearly spilled out of the nearby bar, and all of a local hotel's diners were sitting on its patio, drinks in hand. I snaked through the unmoving cars. It was getting dark, and long lines of moving, less beautiful cars were rolling through side streets, their headlights already like lightning balls for the lack of street lamps or sunlight.

It was still hot. Still humid. I got back to my apartment, which was now very black. No air conditioning. I used my cell phone as a flashlight to make my way around, and called my mother, to let her know where the storm was going. She suggested I get out of town for a while; find a bookstore that's open until 11:00, just kill time where it's cool and light, and maybe things'll be fixed by the time I get back.

I did one smart thing when I got in my car. I planned out my side-street route. I would press through the housing development, and make my way out by the highway exit through the super shopping center. Driving was nervous. It was all dark by then, and cars were in long lines down every street, the main drag still clogged with classics. I'd occasionally catch a red sparkle of a flare out of the corner of my eye, marking off a portal toward the main street as off limits.

Sometimes, when I was younger, I'd experience a sense of subtle fear when standing next to something very large and immobile, as if behemoth architecture possessed a sleeping and awful soul, which might sense my little presence at an unknown second and rumble the whole artifice toward me. Not kill me, or crush me; it would just move, and that simple violation of expectation would drive me mad, as a child reared to trust in natural rules.

I got that feeling, driving through the black parking lot. The massive buildings were all asleep. The colony of lamps were dead. There were not many stars through the cotton clouds, and the buildings were too far away for texture, so all I could see above the flicker of headlights zipping earthbound were inky geometries set against the endless black of space. Unseen, rising blocks of solid night, which could hurt you if you ran into them. And if you didn't run into them, you'd keeping moving until you ran out of air; that is the character of slumbering environment.

But I didn't quite feel a serious plume of eerie panic rise, even if only temporarily, until I got out on the highway, and realized how much I'd internalized the map of electricity that formed the typical nighttime landscape. Now, it was only dim, emergency lights and the occasional loneliness of the backup generator. I could see in front of me -- there were too many cars around to prevent that -- but the land seemed foreign and threatening; we imprint our own persona onto landscapes, both through tangible roads and manmade landmarks, and the personal paths we take every day, known only to us. Such ruin of those paths, such a large swathe of nighttime - it was like I could not trust my own body, which obviously there is no way out of.

I saw the storm far off, to the north. Flashes of lightning from shoulder to shoulder in the clouds.

I didn't get to the first bookstore I chose. The storm had done its work well. I got off the highway onto the uptown shopping strip, and the whole end of the street was blocked by police cars. There were lights on my side, but behind the police there was only endless black space. Nothing to be seen but a hundred headlights buzzing to escape, being waved sharply onto side roads. It was like they'd crawled from outer space. There was nothing behind them. Nothing.

But eeriness didn't affect me for long. I sat at a gas station for a while, with all of its nice lights. A lot of the cars from out in the blackness didn't stop there, like the wash of nothing kept them moving. Huh. I got back on the highway, and drove south a little ways, and found a different bookstore, this one lit. In its schematic, cataloged rows I felt a certain salve absorb into my brain. It's only dark out there, that's all. Look! Look at the maps, which are the rows of books! You walked them a hundred times. You know where everything is. You don't even work here! That is the post-cartographer, post-internalized life, in sum.

I felt odd, but at least I didn't buy anything.

When I got home, there were still no lights. The power wouldn't be back until after midnight. I didn't look for the fancy cars, but there wasn't a lot of traffic on the streets anymore.

My apartment was hot. I opened a window, but it didn't do much. I turned on my battery-powered radio as I laid down in bed, pointing the antenna up toward the ceiling and pressing the bottom against my chest. Nobody had news updates on the town. Nothing to say.

I found a station playing some kind of space music, and I tried to sleep, but I didn't do well.


Ever Panoramic

Krazy & Ignatz: The Kat Who Walked in Beauty

I was going to start this review off with something like "buy this, buy this, buy this," but then I realized that Krazy Kat konnoisseurs are among the most loyal buyers of all contemporary Golden Age of Reprints beneficiaries. The mere presence of a new Krazy Kat book, especially one that presents scads of daily strips in close to their original print size, has probably already sent the cash registers ringing - not as a cacophony, but a good steady beat.

So let me get right to telling you of the unique properties of this reprint collection, which is a very good one. Unlike publisher Fantagraphics' usual run of softcover Sunday collections, which are edited by Bill Blackbeard and designed by Chris Ware, this special hardcover volume -- a huge 15" x 7" landscape-format production -- is edited by Derya Ataker and designed by Fantagraphics stalwart Jacob Covey, utilizing a striking black & silver cover conception and interiors that spread gigantic titles across massive double-page spreads. The object is to create a sense of the panoramic, which compliments the type of strip contained in here - nearly everything is gleefully horizontal, as if to celebrate the nature of a stretchy daily strip.

There are four sections in here, each taking a period of Krazy history, and building on the last, so as to give a taste of creator George Herriman's varied approaches. The first section samples some of the earliest appearances of Krazy and Ignatz the mouse, as stars of a sort of sub-strip in Herriman's earlier strip, The Dingbat Family. Specifically, we see Krazy & Ignatz's various 'invasions' of the main strip from 1911-12, in which the Dingbat cast would vanish, leaving the kat and mouse run of the place. Herriman's arrangements are tight, often heaping several tiers of borderless panels atop one another; the characters aren't fully defined either, in that Krazy often eats mice, and Ignatz tosses bricks at him out of revolutionary zeal, and Krazy gets pissed when he/she's hit.

The tone of these strips is indicated by the style of Herriman's art - a joy in supercharging cat 'n mouse tropes, packing so much zest and myth into his strip that comedy rises naturally. Interestingly, once the kat & mouse get their own temporary 1911 strip in the NY Evening Journal (also included in this section), Herriman calms right down, offering sleek gags in a straight left-to-right line. It's likely due in large part to space restraints, though. And likewise, this book's second section sees Herriman similarly subdued. It's a crop of dailies from 1914, the second year of the proper Krazy Kat run (the Sundays wouldn't start until 1916), and the format of the time required that Herriman's horizontal panel arrangements be cut out and pasted vertically.

The book restores them to horizontal format (THEME: hooray for horizontal!!), but it's fascinating to witness how this doesn't really restore any energy - by this time, Herriman was making certain to treat his panels as little universes of their own, complete with those famous shifting backgrounds we all know and love. Indeed, I began to get the idea that maybe Herriman's shifting backgrounds technique was used in this setting as a means of emphasizing the singular nature of each panel, effectively distancing the reader from the 'flow' of left-to-right reading, and maybe frustrating any inclination of his own toward onrushing action, knowing that his drawings would simply be snipped apart and put into something else. Very striking, these strips. Necessary to counterpoint what is coming next.

The third section is the bulk of the book, a big block of nearly eight months of 1920 dailies (and a smattering of 1921 exhibits) that saw Herriman temporarily freed from editorial design restrictions. Instantly, Herriman did away with the concept of composing the daily strip of multiple panels, and constructed each day's comic as a single, horizontal wide frame, with additional panels laid atop the main frame, with the spaces between the inlaid panels often serving as de facto 'panels' for the purposes of character action and dialogue. Or, sometimes two or three big panels are 'taped' together with topping panels, forming a sort of comics chain. It's a very aggressive, design-conscious style, something that Herriman must have known he could never get away with, should anyone besides him be capable of touching his comic.

Here, his shifting backgrounds become overt indicators of his patchwork designs, adding a layer of self-awareness to an already keenly 'aware' comic. Needless to say, Krazy & Ignatz are at full power here, although the always smaller space of a daily (no matter how well designed) strips the strip of the poetic force of its Sunday incarnation. Really, if the Krazy Kat Sundays are closer to poetry than prose (should we be in the business of comparing art forms), than the more immediate dailies are like inspired sketches of an especially clever stage show, freed from the stage's distance by the inspired sketch artist's pencil.

So, it's fitting that the final section of this book presents Herriman's program illustrations for the Krazy Kat "jazz pantomime," which played the stages of NYC in 1922. Period comments from composer John Alden Carpenter are also included, but the total effect of everything this book has presented so far only serves to turn the eye to Herriman's drawings, which convey the action of the stage show as it can only exist in his comic, zipping and hopping from universe to universe, panel to panel. If a daily strip's going to have its panels stacked up, a sampler collection of such might as well prompt these thoughts from the reader, turning another faithful appreciation of Herriman's characters into a small class on his understudied adventures into an alternate, more prolific form - Krazy every day.


The fate of Mother Earth depends on the answer to this vital question.

*So, back in the late '90s, Francisco Solano López drew an Aliens comic for Dark Horse titled Aliens: Kidnapped, sort of a broad, underground horror-feel thing, which was written by Jim Woodring & Justin Green. My question: was that the Justin Green? Like, of Binky Brown? I can't seem to find any information at all on the topic, and I'm curious.

*Extra question: were any of López's and Carlos Sampayo's Evaristo strips released in English, besides in the Catalan Communications collection Deep City?



*God, finally the new column is up. Stuff needed rewriting. And I needed to go to work and stuff too. The subject is Soldier X #1-8, by Darco Macan and Igor Kordey, although it's the artist and his time that's my real focus. Go read!



Long yesterday, longer today.

*The life never stops.


Booster Gold #1

Comic Foundry Vol. 1 Issue 1


Column #5 (on Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent)

The Programme #2 (of 12)

all at The Savage Critics!

*Right. Go straight to tomorrow. Lots of varied stuff.


Comic Foundry Vol. 1 Issue 1: New comics magazine; I talk about it here.

Krazy & Ignatz: The Kat Who Walked in Beauty: Oooh, this will be nice. Usually, right about now Fantagraphics would be releasing another big softcover collection of Krazy Kat Sundays for our reading pleasure, but that's not happening this time. Instead, we're getting a 114-page, 15" x 7" landscape-format hardcover that compiles some of the best from the Krazy daily page, including a nine-month stretch of 1920 strips that engaged in some interesting design activities, along with various rarities from 1911 onward, plus illustrations from the 1922 Krazy Kat jazz ballet. Only $29.95! The Krazy dailies I've seen have a different tone from the Sundays, less poetic and more focused on vaudeville-type verbal exchanges and the like. You know I'll buy it.

The Complete Terry and the Pirates Vol. 1 (of 6): In other Golden Age of Reprints news, here's IDW's latest entry in their vintage comics catalog (now officially dubbed The Library of American Comics), a full-scale collection of Milton Caniff's beloved adventure epic. Collects materials from 1934-36, dailies and color Sundays, in a 11" x 8.5", 368-page package for $49.95. Introduction by Howard Chaykin, with the expected informational bonuses. Hell, while you're at it, Fantagraphics has also got The Complete Peanuts Vol. 8: 1965-1966 out this week. Our riches embarrass us...

Amazing Fantasy Omnibus Vol. 1: The hell with this newspaper stuff! What about the vintage funnybooks?! NO PROBLEM - this here is a $74.99, 416-page hardcover from Marvel, collecting the 15 issue whole of Amazing Adventures, Amazing Adult Fantasy, and Amazing Fantasy. Steve Ditko admirers will obviously want to take note, although damn that's pretty expensive.

Akira Club: Holy fuck, is this for real?! Yes folks, it's Dark Horse's much, much delayed English-language presentation of the official companion art book to Katsuhiro Otomo's famed manga and anime creation. Over 100 images never seen in the Akira manga collections (see some here), plus sketches, promotional materials, alternate drawings, and comments by Otomo himself. It's 256 pages in full color at $29.95.

Golgo 13 Vol. 10 (of 13): Wasteland: Shit, this one took a while to get to the Direct Market. My bookstore-powered review from August 9th is here. I got some especially worthwhile comments at the bottom of that one.

The Drifting Classroom Vol. 7 (of 11): On the other hand, I never seem to find this in bookstores. Ah well, I get one ahead of time, and I wait for the other. Truly, my life is in balance. Don't forget Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vol. 10 (of 18), while you're at it.

Death by Chocolate - Redux: From Top Shelf, collecting some odd, food-based crime capers by David Yurkovich, starring an FBI man made of organic chocolate. Review coming up.

Scrap Mettle: This week is going to bleed you dry no matter what. Some will want to save their $39.99 for this new Image production, a 400-page collection of sketches and paintings by Scott Morse, produced since his employment with Pixar, I believe.

Lucky Vol. 2 #1: Hey, a pamphlet-format comic book thingy from Drawn & Quarterly. The new incarnation of Gabrielle Bell's solo series, first a group of minicomics then collected into a recent D&Q book - I picked this up at MoCCA, and I wasn't even aware it hadn't gotten out to shops yet. It's nice stuff, containing two stories in each of Bell's favored 'modes' - the first story is a wandering, day-by-day account of autobiographical adventures, while the second story is a fable involving giants and things. The second story also often appears in the first as a slideshow Bell is performing with, and feel free to draw comparisons between the themes and emotions on display between both portions. Only $3.95.

Raisin Pie #5: Hey, a pamphlet-format comic book thingy from Fantagraphics. It's Ariel Bordeaux's and Rick Altergott's ongoing series, although Bordeaux is actually wrapping up her serials this issue and apparently leaving the book, so I guess it's nothing but Altergott's Doofus after this. A scant $3.50.

Ramayan 3392 AD Reloaded #1: Oh, this was my favorite of Virgin's ongoing series in its initial incarnation, kind of a thumping Heavy Metal vision of the saga of Rama. Now it's back, with Ron Marz as story editor. I'll try it out. Also from Virgin: Guy Ritchie's The Gamekeeper #4, a series that apparently actually will form the basis of a new Guy Ritchie film, even though I don't get much of Guy Ritchie feel from the comic.

Black Summer #2 (of 7): Ah, rolling along at a nice clip. More bloody superhero clashes (physical and philosophical) from Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp.

Batman #668: I like it when J.H. Williams III is bi-weekly, although the concluding issue #669 won't be around for three weeks to make room for the Peter Milligan-written Batman Annual #26, which itself relates to the upcoming weekly Ra's al Ghul Bat-crossover that'll be written by Grant Morrison, Paul Dini, Milligan (on Robin), and Fabian Nicieza (on Nightwing). Which... that's still a pretty strong writing team, even if I've never been huge on Nicieza, and Dini & Milligan are pretty hit-and-miss these days.

Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious #1 (of 2): In other Bat-news this week, Sam Kieth writes and draws this Prestige Format story. Preview here, looks pretty. Remember everyone - it may be $5.99 per issue, but since you get 48 pages of story with no ads, you're really getting slightly more than two normal issues of story at just under the price of... two normal issues. Which isn't a stunning deal, yes, but it's enough to get me puzzled over complaints that the format is per se too expensive. Now, if you're saying comics in general are too expensive, that's another thing.

Wolverine #56: Double-sized issue, worth noting for the presence of guest writer Jason Aaron (of Vertigo's The Other Side), and the debut of new regular artist Howard Chaykin, who'll actually be skipping next issue when his Blade cohort Marc Guggenheim begins as new regular writer.

The Order #2: Issue #1 was pretty good, with a few nice spins on the old 'superhero as media stars' plot.

The Immortal Iron Fist #8: Fight!

Tank Girl: The Gifting #3 (of 4): Concluding several thrilling serials in high style.

Halo: Uprising #1 (of 4): I don't know if I'm going to buy this thing, but you can be sure I'll flip through it on the stands. I suspect there's still plenty of good vibes left over for writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev from their much-loved run on Daredevil, so I expect many will be interested in seeing them reunite for this video game tie-in, if only to see what the hell happens. This one's 40 pages for $3.99.

The Ultimate Spider-Man 100 Project: Your odd thing for the week - a $10 collection of a whole lot of sketch covers for Ultimate Spider-Man #100, with proceeds going to the Hero Initiative, which benefits older cartoonists in financial need. The original art was also auctioned off. A lot of expected superhero names, like George Pérez, Frank Quitely, J.G. Jones, JRJR, JRSR, Joe Q., Greg Land, Mark Bagley, Frank Cho, etc. Plus, some interesting names like Neil Gaiman and Guillermo Del Toro. I think I saw Tim Vigil involved! However, some of the sketches, like Todd McFarlane's, will not be included at the request of the artists. Worth looking at.



Adventures in Further Publication

Comic Foundry Vol. 1 Issue 1

This should be out on Wednesday. It will be, for many, the first print edition of the Comic Foundry web presence, filled with all-new stuff, although I do believe prior online-only materials were compiled into print a while back, possibly not for sale. It's 80 b&w pages for $5.98, which the cover brightly informs me is one cent below the retail price of Wizard. Sadly, this new magazine does not come polybagged with free chromium trading cards I might use to signal passing aircraft if trapped in a jungle. Has Wizard actually had those since 1996? What's in the polybag these days? It'd better help me in the jungle.

Comic Foundry is a good-natured magazine, eager to attract a wide swathe of readers with its light, peppy coverage of a broad range of comics. I ought to clarify 'coverage' - Tim Leong, the editor in chief/art director/co-creator (with Amber Mitchell), describes the magazine's journalistic focus as "lifestyle stories - how comics relate to your everyday life." As you have probably heard, the magazine has no interest in engaging with comics as individual artistic works, or at least no more such interest than it takes to facilitate an interview’s progress or fill a "what to buy" sidebar. Mind you, this isn't to say that the magazine is bereft of criticism, but all such critical thought, when it comes up, is directed toward cultural considerations.

To get an idea of how Comic Foundry is set up, it's helpful to think of Entertainment Weekly, specifically the first half of each issue. Just as how the front of every EW first half is composed of a lot of small information bites, two or three per page, so goes the Longbox and Life + Style sections in the front of Comic Foundry.

The Longbox is a strongly promotional section, in which we get a preview of the upcoming R. Kikuo Johnson book, and updates on long-overdue comic and movie projects, and quickie project-focused interviews in which we discover what Brad Meltzer's "biggest geek-out moment" was while writing Justice League of America. Life + Style is where we get recipes for superhero mixed drinks, and a tour of Brian Wood's office, and additional interviews which I think are supposed to have a broader focus than the Longbox interviews, although it's somewhat difficult to distinguish between them. I liked that a lot of these little features had a bluntly humorous tone -- Michael Kupperman's list of favorite jokes was excellent -- although I do have to question the style instincts of a magazine that recommends taping superhero rasterbations to the wall as a less juvenile alternative to Wizard pinups. I also hope they like my upcoming Best Anime Wallscrolls pitch.

After that, there's a very short Costume section on t-shirts and sneakers, and then an odd thing called Departments, which is where I guess they put everything that doesn't fit elsewhere. It's a strange jumble, with things like a short piece on the making of The New Teen Titans' storyline The Judas Contract, an interview with Darick Robertson where all the questions have been removed and all the answers are tossed around the page in different fonts, and even a short prose story by Ian Brill, concerning a young bookstore employee and the broadening of his comics horizons, and how he learns stuff about himself. It'll be pretty fascinating if there's recurring fiction in this magazine; that's a particular incarnation of the 'cultural' focus that I don't think anyone else at all is doing at the moment, online or off.

That leaves the Features, which are a bit like the profiles and stories that appear in the second half of the front section of EW, to keep the comparison rolling. Some of these are quite simple: an introduction to Frédéric Boilet and the Nouvelle Manga, a chat with Bryan Lee O'Malley, and a deeply silly eight-page photo section that inserts models into panels from Death Note and Jinx and such, designer clothing names provided on the side.

But other features do adopt a more critical posture. If there's anything that really might attract a certain set of readers to Comic Foundry, it would be the magazine's attempts at appeal toward female readers of superhero and fantasy-based comics, and addressing issues directly concerning them; this aspect of comics culture provides the most in-depth content the magazine has in store, including two relatively large pieces by Laura Hudson, who is the magazine's senior staff writer. One is an analysis piece on the sexual elements behind the creation of Superman and Wonder Woman (and the themes running through the current She-Hulk), advocating that superhero comics take after the example of Alan Moore works like Watchmen and (especially) Lost Girls, and mature the sexual subtext of fantasy characters through direct confrontation. The other is an ode to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a rundown of how other television and comics heroines stack up.

I was was most struck by a sidebar, in which one Dr. Ian Kerner (an author and clinical sexologist) reads through a bunch of recent comics, and comments on "what they might mean for the people who read them." Better scrub your brains out with soap, All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder readers! The longest bit is actually a semi-defense of the much-loathed Heroes for Hire #13 cover, which I think unintentionally illustrates differences in perception that can arise between genre-aware readers and less-acclimated commentators. I think it's very pertinent that Dr. Kerner entirely fails to mention the presence of tentacles on the cover, 'reading' it as a simple bondage/rape scenario, arguing that it ought to serve as the starting point for couples to discuss their fantasy lives. After all, some women do fantasize about being tied up and raped, as Dr. Kerner notes.

Except, that's not all a tentacle scenario is. The tentacle serves as a substitute for the penis -- the very presence of the tentacle having been devised as a means of circumventing Japan's obscenity laws -- and transforms it into an explicit weapon. Like, it wraps around things and chokes, and breaks and rips things. These sorts of comics/cartoons often contain an element of murderous violence, that I think goes beyond a typical nonconsensual fantasy scenario. Not that this necessarily erases Dr. Kerner's points, or that there aren't women who read 'tentacle' comics - actually, most women and men I know find the genre so absurd that it's difficult to take seriously. But there is that extra consideration, which I think has a way of becoming invisible to people who maybe aren't so aware of the genre implications at work on the cover of a superhero comic for a T+ audience.

Still, these features are what caught my attention most, and I hope the magazine keeps them up. A lot of what's in here is cute and fast and disposable, which is a valid direction to go in, even though it doesn't really catch me much. It's worth looking through on Wednesday, to see if it's for you.


The usual tiny weekend post.

*My favorite film title of the moment:

"Unglassed Windows Cast a Terrible Reflection"

A 1953 short by Stan Brakhage. I mean, that's fucking perfect.

It's included in the new Kino dvd release, Avant-Garde 2: Experimental Cinema from 1928-1954, which I will hopefully obtain shortly. The set also features an extended, 111-minute version of Isidore Isou's infamous 1951 letterist cinema treatise, Traité de bave et d’éternité, (Treatise of Slime and Eternity, although the Kino version is titled Venom and Eternity) which can be viewed in a shorter, low-quality version here, with occasionally unreadable white subtitles. Intermittently fascinating, wildly egotistical, and often deeply irritating - you'll want to see it remastered!


Ok, here's the second post.

*Anime Addendum Dept: Here are the first two teasers for Evangelion: 1.0 You Are [Not] Alone, the initial installment of the upcoming four-part Rebuild of Evangelion anime movie series. In Japanese theaters this September! The writer and ‘chief’ director is Eva creator Hideaki Anno, and the plain vanilla directors are FLCL mastermind Kazuya Tsurumaki and Gainax mainstay Masayuki (Yamaguchi). It certainly looks… like Eva.

Booster Gold #1

Pretty good.

It’s very much a thematic follow-up to the Booster Gold segments of 52, which you'll recall climaxed with the idea of a marginal superhero participating in an event so fundamentally world-quaking that nobody’s quite aware that the fabric of reality (or, realities) is different. Indeed, they can’t know. This new ongoing series runs with that idea, positing Booster Gold as such a goofy, irresponsible superhero that nobody would dream of seeing him as a keeper of time and dimensions - the grand multiverse itself. By existing on the margins, he’s capable of tackling the most sensitive challenges. In a way, it’s kind of the opposite of Seven Soldiers - while 52 team writer Grant Morrison suggested that fringe superheroes are those with most potential for personal evolution, 52 team writer Geoff Johns presents the fringe superhero as ultimate guardian of the status quo, although he’d dearly like to change a few things for himself.

But it’s not just Johns in here. Actually, co-writer Jeff Katz (whose experience seems to be mostly in film - he was an executive producer on Snakes on a Plane) is apparently being groomed for the permanent writing slot, with Johns pitching in for the first few issues. I can’t evaluate Katz’s scripting on its own, but I can say that the story seems a bit more tongue-in-cheek than Johns will usually get with his scripts, with plenty of pokes at recent DCU storylines and goofy bits of internet humor thrown in with the premise-setting plot, along with a cute continuation of the famous 52 timer (Week XX, Day XX) and the return of Rip Hunter’s exciting plot thread chalkboard.

Really -- and I know I'm going 52 comparison crazy here -- if there's any other current DCU book this reminds me of it's 52 team writer Mark Waid's revival of The Brave and the Bold, a dense but fundamentally light-hearted romp through various corners of the shared universe, given a certain classical flavor (and extra volume) by the contribution of a popular artist from a while back. I'm certainly not saying that Booster creator Dan Jurgens (who provides layouts for Norm Rapmund's finishes) is any George Pérez, but his (their) work here evidences a similar interest in tightly packing pages with superhero business, albeit in a more workmanlike manner. It's like the comic is trying to grasp the whole of a superhero place; given the time/universe-traveling structure of this series, this book may be the 'vertical' answer to Waid's & Pérez's 'horizontal' series.

It also shares in the danger of leaning too much on arcane character knowledge, although I was able to keep up with good issue well enough, having only read 52 (now, if you haven't read even that...), and the tighter time curves are explained smoothly. It's a slick thing, pretty inviting. Maybe I'm just responding to the concept, since all this issue really does is lay out the concept, or maybe I'm just piqued by a new series that seems more interested in expanding on recent 'big' works than charging toward the next sales monster. But yeah, it's pretty good.

I might have a second post later today, since this one is so short...

*But until then - here is another one of those neat Studio 4°C short films/music videos/promo pieces. It's titled Global Astroliner, and is directed by Daisuke Nakayama. I detect a certain Jamie Hewlett influence at work in the designs, and even some of the movements in the last few minutes.


Buy the comics today.

*OMG, new column! It's the French sci-fi classic Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent! Only at The Savage Critics! Yee haw!



Evening preview of new.

*Just in time for your at-work list making.


Black Adam: The Dark Age #1 (of 6)

Golgo 13 Vol. 10 (of 13): Wasteland

Yesterday's Tomorrows (Rian Hughes: in comics)


Column #4 (Gilbert Hernandez's public access bonanza, The Naked Cosmos)

short superhero reviews (Batman #667, Blade #12)

at The Savage Critics!

*The new funnies are so close you can taste them. If you're into tasting comics (I am).


Yesterday's Tomorrows: Rian Hughes, collected. Grant Morrison writes a bunch of it. A short review by me is here.

Life After Black - Barron Storey: The Journals #45: This is bound to be worthwhile, since I believe it's the first solo Barron Storey book in over a decade, a color reproduction of a fully-painted personal journal, composed in 1992. Sample images here. Storey is one of the greats, a hugely influential artist that too few are aware of - I don't think this $49 production will catch too many blind buys, but it'll be nice to have it in some stores.

Dogs & Water: Definitive Edition: An expanded, $19.95 Drawn & Quarterly hardcover edition of Anders Nilsen's fine wander through a dark and deadly land, previously released in pamphlet format. Very nice use of white space and colored lines (see it here), and a sense of environmental precision that might surprise those who only know of Nilsen's visually simpler works (but not those who've read Big Questions). Check it out if you don't have it yet.

C'est Bon Anthology Vol. 3: This thing always looks really good, but I never quite get around to picking it up. And this third edition looks just as nice. If you only had $17.95 to spend on something random at the comics store, I bet this would do you.

Good as Lily: This is the Minx book from Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm, which I know some people have been waiting for. About a teenager who comes face-to-face with versions of herself from all over her life's past and future. And there's a school play.

The Programme #2 (of 12): I liked issue #1 of this Peter Milligan/C.P. Smith Wildstorm series a good deal, and it'll be something to see where it goes.

Army@Love #6: Not a lot of pamphlets I'm interested in this week.

The Brave and the Bold #6: Not a big week in general.

D.P. 7 Classic Vol. 1: Hmmm, you can't say these New Universe reprints are coming out too fast to keep track of. Still, here's the first softcover compilation (issues #1-9) of writer Mark Gruenwald's and penciller Paul Ryan's series about Displaced Paranormals and the adventures they have. Also out this week is the first collected edition of Warren Ellis' and Salvador Larroca's newuniversal altenate (New) universe revival series, which is currently on hiatus.



Tomorrow will be yesterday by the time you get through this.

Yesterday’s Tomorrows

This will be released through Diamond on Wednesday, which means North Americans can buy it without coughing up the fee to ship it over from the UK. It’s a limited edition (3000 copies), 256-page hardcover collection of comics drawn by Rian Hughes. The publisher is Knockabout Gosh, and the cover price is $47.50, although you can also still get an extra-limited (350 copies) signed and slipcased edition (with dandy art cards!) from Forbidden Planet for £24.50, which actually isn't very different from the regular edition's US cover price, although the shipping charges bump it up to north of $70.

Something tells me that, for a lot of US readers, Hughes is going to be one of those artists they just know they’ve heard of somewhere, but can’t quite place it; the chief attraction, then, will likely rest in the presence of two otherwise out-of-print Grant Morrison stories. I was initially amused to see Morrison credited above Raymond Chandler on the cover’s list of writers, but then I realized that the ranking was probably due to page count. And indeed, while there is a Raymond Chandler adaptation in there, Morrison wrote the most pages out of anyone in this book. None of them are among his best, frankly.

But enough of that; Rian Hughes is the star of this show. Paul Gravett has helpfully posted his Introduction to the book online, and that’ll fill you in on the details of the teenaged Hughes’ professional entrance onto the UK comics scene in the early ‘80s, through Gravett's and Peter Stanbury’s seminal Escape. But this collection does not otherwise concern itself with Hughes’ earliest works - comprehensiveness is not its aim. Rather, it presents a simple selection of five pieces -- some of them ‘major’ works, some of them probably not -- set in order of creation. All of them are written by persons other than Hughes himself. A sixth section of advertising and design projects is also included. The result: a tour of Hughes’ visual development over a fertile six-year period of comics creation, 1987-1993, one that would conclude close to Hughes’ withdrawal from comics at large, toward a greater immersion in illustration and design.

As you can see from the images reproduced at the Gravett link above (with more at this Newsarama interview), the Hughes of Yesterday's Tomorrows is a very design-conscious artist, preferring sharp, bold lines, plainly influenced by the then-contemporary likes of Serge Clerc and Yves Chaland, and their ironic, self-aware appropriation of the authentic mid-century ligne claire style of Hergé and followers. But Hughes' character work is especially jagged, set against architecture and accoutrement detailed so sharp that you might cut yourself leaning against a wall - everything seems carefully sawed from some magnificent omnibus of rocket dreams, and pasted together without any need for smoothing out the edges.

Much room between clear lines is left to be filled with color, both varied and monochrome, usually dabbed with geometric arrangements of white light. Sometimes this light is used to give the illusion of three dimensions, but often its employed for wholly complimentary purposes, so as to better facilitate the page's operation as a total composition. Indeed, page composition is almost always key to Hughes' art. Simple square and rectangular panels (or some variation) are the norm, with the placidity of Hughes’ arrangements upset mainly for moments of special impact; with page arrangements as slick as his, any jostle is as good as a collision. It’s a sparklingly conceived approach, with Hughes in control of each element; even the lettering fonts are carefully selected to behave in an integrative manner. Yes. Hughes loves letters.

Oh, and not everything I just wrote necessarily applies today; a look at those postcards linked at Hughes' homepage above reveals a more rounded, 'warm' approach, albeit one that doesn’t need to concern itself with sequential storytelling. But even among the comics presented in this volume, unified by the certain elements outlines above, almost every story in this book seems somehow different in visual approach.

The earliest of the stories, The Lighted Cities, is also the shortest, weighing in at only six pages. It’s written by fellow Escape veteran Chris Reynolds, himself a fascinating writer/artist, and first appeared in Reynolds’ own Mauretania Comics #2 from 1987 (it was later reprinted in the US in issue #24 of Fox Comics, which appears to have been a North American vehicle for UK and Austrailian cartoonists, co-produced at that time by Fantagraphics). It’s also somewhat unique among the stories featured here, in that Reynolds is very much the dominant creative force, perhaps owing to his own deeply individual approach to comics. Pages are composed of simple grids, here nine panels each. Narration or dialogue runs across the top of most panels, with contemplative moments of silence dropped in. The story is ominous and melancholic.

Put simply, it’s a Chris Reynolds comic that happens to have been drawn by Rian Hughes, with the artist working in a black-heavy style, character and object outlines often melting into shadows; this has the primary effect of subsuming Hughes' clear lines into something like Reynolds’ own thicker-lined, inky approach. And yet, even here we can sense a foreshadowing of Hughes’ willingness to adapt the elements of his own style to the needs of the stories he’s presented with.

More extensive is the 30-page graphic album The Science Service, written by future prolific editor and blogger John Freeman, and commissioned by Belgium-based publisher Magic Strip. It debuted in 1988, with UK and US editions following in 1989 via Acme and Eclipse. This time, the political force of Hughes' adoption of a 'nostalgic future' visual approach is fully complimented. Freeman's plot is rueful sci-fi, centering on aging Henry Van Goyen, who used to explore outer space as part of the heroic, forward-thinking Science Service, which eventually got knocked back to a technological maintenance squad as large corporations co-opted scientific advances as a means of keeping the population satiated with conveniences and novel body-modification products. He soon becomes caught up in a scheme to rush a dangerous face-changing device (look like your favorite movie stars!) onto the market, an investigation that (naturally!) comes to involve his former cohorts.

So, if Hughes can't draw cultural force from his simple use of ligne claire, he certainly can exploit that style toward embodying a Western dream of astro-lounge optimism, one that Freeman's story sees perverted and rusted after too many decades. It’s almost an anti-cyberpunk work, acknowledging the capitalistic overload of a technology-choked society, and making nods toward classic gritty investigative fiction, while openly lamenting the loss of optimism in a to-the-stars future, and blinking at ground-level, mass-produced technological concepts as idle distractions for a sedated populace, and indicative of a latent acceptance of corporate domination as the status quo in that-which-moves-the-world.

But men like Van Goyen can’t quite accept such ‘realism.’ Even as Freeman's storytelling stumbles a bit, seemingly uncomfortable with space restraints and prone to rushing through major confrontations while relegating seemingly important events to background chatter, Hughes conveys the theme perfectly. He draws Van Goyen with zig-zag eyebrows, just like Dan Dare, that famed British sci-fi symbol for rocket-powered futuristic gallantry - the man (and symbol) are aged, but not quite ready to lay down. And Hughes fills the character’s world with sharp, sharp architecture, a hollowed representation of everything that used to be possible, but still retains power when properly beheld.

The next story is a complimentary one, and the first of the book's big Morrison pieces. If the prior story had a character that looked like Dan Dare, this one actually had him. Dare was serialized from 1990-91 in a pair of 2000 AD sibling magazines: the short-lived, 'counterculture'-flavored Revolver (which was designed by Hughes himself), and the somewhat less short-lived, politically-aware Crisis, where the serial wound up after its first home went away. It was soon after brought to the US by Fantagraphics' Monster Comics line as a four-issue, pamphlet-format miniseries. It’s the longest work in this collection, 73 pages in total, and certainly the most ambitious, ready and willing to press past the yearning for a '50s space ideal in The Science Service, and expose the dirty side of that very ideal, as enacted by cold political reality.

But Dare is a flawed work. And, since Hughes mainly provides an even more elaborate version of his inspired visual approach to The Science Service, the blame falls squarely on Morrison's shoulders. Gravett places the work as part of an anti-Thatcher trilogy in the Morrison catalog, along with 1989-90's (excellent) St. Swithin's Day and 1990's (sadly uncollected) The New Adventures of Hitler. Dare, however, is the only one of those works to incorporate that specific political charge into the fantastical, preexisting costumed pop character milieu that Morrison was already making a name for himself in. Yet Morrison's obvious rage over the politics of the time doesn't mix well with the rubber suits and rayguns he's examining, resulting in a sadistic, shrill work, one that overstates its broad case nearly to the point of hysteria, declaring to uncover the dark abuses behind certain bright bits of comics, all while providing an equally simplistic vision of the stuff he doesn't like.

I'm going to spoil the plot now, just so you know.

It's the sort of comic where a pair of armored troopers storm into a bank, demanding access to a safe deposit box. When the clerk says something about respecting confidentiality, the troopers demand to know which party the man voted for. He replies that he voted for the Unity Party and Prime Minister Gloria Monday (Margaret Thatcher), the trooper sneers "Then you voted for THIS," thrusting a privacy-killing document under the poor fellow's nose. You'd half expect these bastards to assure a man that they'll watch over his innocent doggie, only to put the pooch down via raygun as soon as Master's out of the room. And that's exactly what happens several dozens of pages later. It's Dan Dare's dog, by the way.

Really, this is The Passion of Dan Dare. Morrison's plot is quite simple: England is a complete fucking hellhole, thanks to Margaret Thatcher, although Dare is also partially to blame. There was wicked empire-building in all those adventurous missions of years gone by, but Dare's sort of blocked out the children he killed in those clashes against the green Treen folk of Venus. He also seems utterly unaware of the starvation and crushing poverty that's taken much of the country, all cozied up in his upper-class retirement coocoon. Yes, the beauty of the past was actually pretty nasty ("All that lovely art deco and no bloody shops," hisses a disenfranchised youth), but the suicide of Dare's beloved Prof. Jocelyn Mabel Peabody sends him on a dark mission to uncover the dirty work, all while evil evil Margaret Thatcher coaxes him out of retirement to act as an election year symbol for the good old values and blinders-on herd optimism that her party stands for.

What a wicked time for Dan Dare! His goofy sidekick Digby is suddenly very class-conscious, and openly consorts with urban terrorists. His wonderful Space Fleet Headquarters is falling apart, and will soon be remodeled into apartments. When he gets too close to the dark secret at the center of the mystery, his honorable commander Sir Hubert Guest winds up having his granddaughter threatened, and he sells Dare right out, his once-proud face falling in irreversible disgrace as Margaret Thatcher grins wickedly in the background, in case any readers have developed full-blown amnesia while reading the story and therefore have forgotten that she's evil evil evil.

So evil, in fact, that she's actually planning to sell an entire future generation of lower-class England off to the Mekon (series archfiend from Venus), in a bizarre scheme involving an election-clinching miracle foodstuff that's actually an alien sexual emission that causes intense sexual desire and awful birth defects. Actually, this stuff is kind of fun, letting Hughes rip out some suggestive organic food production designs, while Morrison amuses himself with the aphrodisiac implications of the foam itself. But anyhow, Dare gets lobotomized or something, but not before he goes terrorist himself and plants a fission bomb in his proud spacecraft, the Anastasia, which then evaporates all of the bad people, and I guess most of London, but then the white of doom turns out to be a virgin drawing board, and we realize that sometimes comic fictions that come from a poisoned source deserve to be wiped out, because they can always be started again, and the shining ideals behind characters (as actors in fictions and symbols in waking life) cannot be destroyed by any bomb or writer.

Morrison would start many things again over the course of his career, and most of them would turn out better than this. But Hughes - he really keeps it up. Rich color is all over in Dare, the bright facades of buildings deeply sad in the present. It's an equal, more eloquent statement.

The final two stories in Yesterday's Tomorrows see Hughes moving farther toward intense design. There's the 44-page Raymond Chandler adaptation, Goldfish, scripted by Tom DeHaven (of several prose novels, like the fun Derby Dugan series and the recent It's Superman!). It was completed in 1992, and then apparently went unpublished until the 2003 iBooks comics anthology Raymond Chandler's Marlowe featured it. You really need to look at this sample.

You'll notice that Hughes' line is a bit looser. But the graphic impact of the story is so evident that it's nearly distracting. Check out those square cuts of white light, not even so much meant to represent light in an illusion of storytelling reality but to symbolize the presence of light as hyper-conscious elements of graphic design. Note the spot color of the lighter flame, and be aware that every 'place' in the story gets its own monochrome wash, like tints in a silent film, although sometimes single environments change hue to suggest a certain mood, the panel gutters shifting complimentarily. Shit, pay attention to how the lettering is set down in the harshest font known to humankind, in so as to act as the presence of hard film noir dialogue delivery. We can't have sound (ha ha... silent films), but we can have graphics.

It's really something. It's so impressive it almost drives the story into the ground, but Hughes knows just when to pull back and let his sense of panel-to-panel clarity kick in. It's an old story, one that I think many readers will have either come across or seen portrayed in some variant form somewhere, so maybe this type of intensive graphic experiment is appropriate here. Certainly, you can sense Hughes' interest in fonts and illustration becoming more powerful.

But before he's off, there's 1993's Morrison-written Really & Truly, which ran for eight progs in 2000 AD's Summer Offensive of that year. I don't believe it's ever been reprinted until now. I guess I can call the story Morrison on autopilot -- after all, the man himself claims to have written the whole thing over a weekend Ecstasy trip -- but sometimes autopilot is a nice little option. Nobody's going to nominate this one to the Career Best list, being a 40-page lark about a pair of cute girls on a big road trip to deliver Soviet song bullets to a huge San Francisco party, taking strange fantasy drugs and eluding the FBI's House of Fun (a rolling clown tank) and a Buddhist crime gang, with a drunken cosmonaut (his memories literally spilling out of his head, psychically) and a beatnik in tow.

Silly ideas and notions spill out at a fast clip, and Hughes adopts a cartoon style mean to evoke Hanna-Barbera classics, with the edges of his panels smoothed down to look like little television monitors. And it's indeed the disposable sort of thing you might sit through on television, but that's it... you'll sit through it. Maybe even picking up on an undercurrent of sadness that joins the work with all of Hughes' other pieces in this book; both an understanding of the past, and what it all could have meant for the future.

The secret's in the title, then. After these works were finished (along with a few more), Hughes moved into fonts and logos and illustrations. He did a lot of logos for comic books, Vertigo (Morrison's Flex Mentallo and The Invisibles, for example), Image (NYC Mech) and more. He designed seemingly half the comics paperbacks in England. He worked in music, ads, etc. But there remains a real unity in Hughes' art of this earlier period, a theme that resonates through varied approaches from varied artists. It's yesterday's works, but looking back even farther to glimpse a world paradoxically still too far ahead of us.


My triumph.

*Current Events Dept: Well, I never thought I’d see myself quoted as a “comics critic” in my local newspaper. Top of the world, ma!

*Long posts will resume on Monday evening, with a big Rian Hughes thing.


Millions of great words.

*God, posts are light this weekend. Just very busy. Here are some short reviews of the ol' superhero comics at the other site.

*Oh: the BECK anime is neat.


At Saito Pro, they draw 44 pages in six days flat.

Golgo 13 Vol. 10 (of 13): Wasteland

We’re the best socialist nation in the world. We’re somehow a socialist country that doesn’t think we’re socialists. Because we never acknowledged this, we never had to have a revolution.”

That's creator Takao Saito himself on the state of his nation, from this installment's big bonus feature: part one of a 2001 interview conducted by critic Kunio Suzuki, who starts things off by declaring "Golgo 13 was the textbook of my life." His enthusiasm actually gets kind of infectious; as with all of the recent, 'critical' supplements to this series, a number of interesting ideas and notions are raised without much space to really explore them in, but Suzuki's obvious interest in the work (and Saito's apparent comfort with his interrogator) results in a higher rate of neato tidbits than usual.

Saito makes reference to his early years in the gekiga rental book scene, declaring that the famed Nikkatsu Action films ripped off his style. He chats a bit about working on James Bond manga adaptions for Shogakukan, and how Golgo 13 was actually meant as a departure from that approach (as has been written before, G13 is essentially a translation of certain samurai ethos to a covert action setting). He insists that Duke Togo is "not a passionate man, but is trying very hard to be so." A biographical timeline is provided, revealing that Saito was a bully as a child, and shared studio space with Yoshihiro Tatsumi and other gekiga artists for a year in the late '50s, and that Golgo 13 has never skipped an issue of the Big Comic anthology since its 1968 debut. And yes, such prolificacy does involve cranking out an average of one 44-page G13 chapter per week, although I suspect there's quite a lot of hands at work.

It's a lot of information, most of it quickly stated and tossed aside as the next thing comes up. It'll really make you wish for an extra-long, career-spanning interview in the style of The Comics Journal, since Saito is an articulate, opinionated man, and thoughtful about his work. He's obviously seen a lot in his career. It'd take some Japanese-fluent Golgo 13 superfan with a solid grasp of manga history, and a willingness on Saito's part to actually do it, but he'd be a prime subject for such treatment.

One topic that is covered in some depth is politics. Suzuki is endlessly impressed with the sober attitude the comic adopts regarding touchy subjects, especially since the series rose out of the inflamed student protest Japan of the late '60s. Saito characterizes his true political message as one urging personal responsibility in regimented Japan; in this way, it's easy to see Duke Togo acting as a constant symbol for individual action, one that often prompts other individuals to act on their own in trumping moral authority. One could be tempted to brand Duke Togo himself an anarchist (specifically the ultimate in anarcho-individualism), but Saito's work strikes me as
disinterested in ascribing exact political philosophy to his creation; just as the continuity is kept light enough that nearly any Golgo 13 story could be your first, the metaphoric thrust of the character is broad and basic. The stories are individuals too.

(and oooh... maybe one of you crazy college kids might be up for putting together a paper on Osamu Dezaki's Golgo 13 theatrical anime acting as a covert liberal critique of its source material, amping up the self-obsession of the title character to monster levels of cruelty - I'll accept a special thanks credit and your unyielding devotion)

But something tells me editor Carl Horn may have been saving this volume's first story, Wasteland (Story #213, July 1984), especially for coupling with the Saito chat, as it's replete with themes of personal responsibility and individual workings in society. The plot concerns a spanking new nuclear power plant just about ready for opening in Port Hueneme, California. The President is going to be in nearby Los Angeles for the Olympic Games, and pressure is high to get the place up and running at a politically helpful rate. But poor Miguel, safety director for the place, has been clashing with his evil boss (pointy mustache = evil) about important issues! No matter - the joint fires up, and soon everybody gets to confront the threat of LA being rendered uninhabitable for 25 millennia. But as luck would have it, Duke is in town to murder the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Miguel heroically enlists him to avert a full-scale plant meltdown... by shooting it.

I sometimes joke about Golgo 13's sense of sophistication -- the series being all about a dude who assassinates people and has sex a lot and shoots nuclear reactions to death -- but I am serious when I say that sometimes there's some handsome visual metaphors and narrative flourishes at work. This particular story begins with the image of a pipe being bumped in the under-construction plant. It soon becomes evident that the pipe may muck up the entire operation of the plant - given that the whole story is about individuals screwing up sophisticated machines to awful effect, I think it's fair to view this image as symbolic of the story's ongoing theme, which completes itself upon another individual's decision to marshal forces and repair the ruined system.

There's a running joke about a plant official who keeps getting angry with people who don't understand how nuclear power works (on the whole, the story probably errs on the side of info overload - perhaps Saito and company felt a nuclear-adverse Japanese audience needed extra clarification on the ins and outs of such things?), but in the end he makes a big gesture of personal responsibility, arguing for the safety of nuclear power, while the story gently undercuts his impact through its own uncertainty about the will of people to stand up against deadly systems. Surely Duke appreciates action - his role in the story concludes with a gesture of such over-the-top, damned near transcendent manliness, you'll be willing to follow the icon wherever the fuck.

There's some technical things going on in this volume too. I noticed an odd reproduction problem with my copy, which made certain parts of the first story fade in line detail, with several small details being obliterated - maybe the source materials for the story weren't the best? Or was it an error on VIZ's part? It's also worth noting that the second story, Route 95 (Story #249, April 1987), dips into the Author's Selection edition of the gigantic Best 13 compilations of G13 stories, which likely shuts the door on that puppy making its way to the US in the near future.

That second feature's a shorter tale, only 40 pages long, and very heavy on atmosphere and silent assassin attitude, as Duke finds himself at the scene of a murder mystery out in Nevada, an arid environment that quickly becomes the stage for gunmen thinking about irrelevance. It's probably a bit closer to something like Hotel Harbour View than Golgo 13 usually gets, and it's maybe a little revealing that Saito values the piece as one of his personal favorites - he and his team don't have the lyrical ability of a Jiro Taniguchi, but their stony portrayal of men confronting greater men carries some inky pulp impact regardless. Maybe Saito prefers the nation's medicine go down as sweet as he can mix it.



Non-dream post coming this evening...

*I can recall exactly two parts from my lengthy and involved dream of last night:

1. I'm working on a screenplay, and for some reason I'm hanging around with the film's director and another screenwriter. After a little while, the director takes me aside, and tells me that the studio has a great idea: they think Tom Cruise is going to be in the movie, but they want to produce a reality television series about Tom Cruise living in my home, and all the hilarious antics that will surely follow. I am opposed to the idea, but I can't think of a good enough way to voice my complaint.

2. I'm sitting in my bed, and I can hear music so loud and clear that it's like it's being played right next to me. Suddenly, an masked intruder bursts into the room with a gun. Being a man of action, I lunge forward and bite down on one of the intruder's fingers so hard I think it's going to come off. But the intruder feels no pain whatsoever. It's not Tom Cruise, by the way.

I think at some point I was in New York, and I'd somehow mistaken a bar for my office, and went to work there by accident, but one of my coworkers (not anyone I work with in real life) had made exactly the same mistake, so it was sort of ok. Strange bunch of dreams.

*Right, so... comics this evening. Weren't the colors in the new Casanova winter fresh?


So Much

*New column is ready for eating. This time it’s the 2005 Gilbert Hernandez public access epic The Naked Cosmos. Which is not primarily a comic, but don’t worry, there’s a tie-in comic so it’s all good.


*God, I can’t get the cosmos out of my head! Why, I think I’ve somehow developed the power of precognition! Concerning a comic out this very afternoon! Watch out, there’s big SPOILERS coming!

Black Adam: The Dark Age #1 (of 6)


This debut issue of the new miniseries for the beloved genocidal Marvel family cutup is written by Peter Tomasi, with pencils by Doug Mahnke. Maybe the inks (by Christian Alamy & Norm Rapmund) have had a sort of calming effect on Mahnke’s pencils, because they don’t seem quite a distinctive as they have in the past. Odd, but still very sturdy. Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of what to expect in this toe-tingling superhero saga, depicting Black Adam’s attempts to steal his wife Isis’ remains out of her grave and drag them in a bag up to a Lazarus Pit in the Himalayas:

- A delightful ‘secret identity’ disguise for the main character, attained by having his grief-stricked followers beat him so badly that his face is disfigured beyond recognition.

- A man hung from a tree by a cheering mob after being beaten to death in a case of mistaken identity, with superheroes basically sneering in the people’s faces over their error, while being met with icy indifference.

- Middle Eastern occupation by foreign sources. Relevance!

- A bloody gun melee, with corpses laid out in a row in the aftermath, a skull split open to reveal what seems to be brain matter, though the coloring isn’t specific.

- A hasty grave robbery that leaves an important plot point/portion of the deceased’s anatomy behind for covert collection.

- A nice meaty close-up of cannibalism, flesh being chomped right of an arm in the raw.

- A fellow sliced in half, his intestines spilling into the snow. To be fair, this is part of the cannibalism bit too.

- A rotten, broken-apart corpse dumped into a Lazarus Pit, piece by piece.

- And finally, just when you thought things were getting a wee bit overbearing, good ol’ Isis rising toned and curvy from the pit for some wet, steamy, fan-friendly nudity. God bless America and DC Comics.

- Wait a minute… something’s wrong with this nudity…

- Oh my god, the Lazarus Pit failed to regenerate Isis’ nipples!! THIS IS A TOTAL CATASTROPHE.

And that is really the long and short of the plot. There's pained narration in captions too.

So, in conclusion, yes, I know the comic is subtitled The Dark Age, but this first issue bears resemblance to nothing so much as some embarrassingly misconceived post-Watchmen shot at ‘dark’ superhero relevance. It’s neither compelling nor shocking, just ugly and pandering. Please buy something else.


I slept in ice.

*I'm ready for you, 100 degree weather.


The Punisher MAX #50

Robot Dreams

movie review: Rescue Dawn


Column #3: Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing

short review: the soul of Ennis (Garth Ennis' Chronicles of Wormwood #6)

short reviews: yummy Japan (Mushishi Vol. 2, Witchblade Episode 3)

At The Savage Critics!

*Damn, that's the kind of weekly round-up I like to see up there.


Notes for a War Story: New Gipi, from First Second. Review here.

Robot Dreams: New Sara Varon, from First Second. Review here.

Style School Vol. 1: This ought to be interesting. It’s the first English-language edition of the Japanese illustration journal SS, which is typically filled with glossy features spotlighting young manga artists and designers and illustrating creation techniques - Dark Horse will be publishing this version, a 144-page full-color publication for $14.95, and it’ll be accepting reader submissions. There’s a ton of ‘how to’ manga books out there, but this is probably the most dedicated a US publisher has gotten.

Casanova #8: The one many have been waiting for. Beginning a new storyline for writer Matt Fraction’s ultra-compressed trans-dimensional epic, this time with added time-travel excitement, unless I misread something! Featuring the art of Fábio Moon, brother and frequent artistic collaborator of last storyline’s Gabriel Bá (still on covers). Still only $1.99, so give it a try.
Punisher War Journal #10: Meanwhile, the Hate-Monger storyline finally wraps up, although the whole Punisher-as-Captain-America thing still has an issue left after this.

Berlin #13: The newest issue of Jason Lutes’ long-running series, from Drawn & Quarterly, in case you’re following the pamphlets. I’ve actually seen this sitting around in some stores already, so maybe Diamond got it out to some locations early, or maybe some stores are dealing direct with D&Q.

Alan Moore: The Complete WildC.A.T.s: This new 393-page omnibus (only $29.99) does have a few strikes against it. First, if you’ve read a bunch of WildC.A.T.s or related books, you probably already know the identity of the surprise villain at work for the whole story. Second, the story gets knocked clear off track by the thoroughly awful Fire From Heaven crossover for a pair of issues around the middle. But all in all, this is actually some of Moore’s better Image era material, a mostly complete story split between the grime of Earth and the politics of space, with different artists handling each part - obviously, one Travis Charest proved to be the all-star. Collecting issues #21-34, plus the Moore/Charest epilogue story from issue #50, which has never before shown up with the rest of this material.

Criminal #8: Actually, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips made good use of one of Moore’s creations in their Sleeper spin-off. This book, however, does not originate in any way with Alan Moore or Jim Lee.

Batman #667: Beginning the Grant Morrison/J.H. Williams III reunion storyline in short order - I do believe the three parts of this are supposed to appear biweekly as a means of getting the title back on scheduling track. The story sees Batman and Robin jet off to an island to meet a Club of Heroes, and the art looks to take a slick approach to differentiating between characters and traditions. Probably bound to be the most immediately impressive superhero thing of the week.

Blade #12: Final issue of this often very loopy, perpetually somewhat-better-than-expected Marc Guggenheim/Howard Chaykin production, although the team is basically just pulling up stakes and moving over to Wolverine, so don’t feel too bad. Note that Chaykin actually starts on Wolverine #56, which is written by Jason Aaron, and then Guggenheim begins writing at issue #57 with artist Scott Kolins, and then the two synch up with issue #58.

B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #1 (of 5): Say, Guy Davis is even doing the covers this time.

The Un-Men #1: A new Swamp Thing spin-off project from Vertigo. I don't know anything about writer John Whalen, but artist Mike Hawthorne's designs look nice.

Bad Planet #2 (of 6): Holy shit, remember this? Image comic? Co-written by Thomas Jane, of various acting roles? Lewis LaRosa & Tim Bradstreet on art? Issue #1 came out in… late 2005? Well, here’s issue #2.



Lessons of Effervescence

*Two batches of small reviews up at The Savage Critics - a lil Garth Ennis thing, and an all-Japan post featuring my ode to the Mushishi manga, and the odor of the Witchblade anime. Smells like GONZO!

Rescue Dawn

Saw this film the other day - can't miss a chance to catch Werner Herzog on the big screen. It was good, but not great, and largely confirming for me that the Herzog of the last decade or so is most potent when working in the 'documentary' format, although he's hardly a typical filmmaker of that sort as well. Plus, I think the only other large-scale dramatic picture he's done in ten years was 2001's Invincible, so there's not really much to compare it with.

The best scene by far is the pre-title sequence, which is nothing but stock footage of aerial bombings set to lovely music, the center of the frame dominated by twirling, flaming bits of debris that soar in tune with the soundtrack. It's the kind of opening that really gets me going, totally eager for Herzog to knock my socks off. That doesn't happen, but there's still some interesting bits.

You probably know the film is a sibling work of Herzog's 1997 'documentary' Little Dieter Needs to Fly, a dramatization of pilot Dieter Dengler's imprisonment in Laos at the dawn of the Vietnam War, and his subsequent escape. There are many connections between the two works. The explosion of stock footage I just mentioned shows up (in part) in the prior film as well, and several scraps of narration and recollections from one work are recontextualized in the other. Christian Bale plays Dengler, who's set up as a lovable, almost cornpone embodiment of American good nature. Early scenes seem straight out of a '50s war film, complete with dodgy scenes in the cockpit accomplished by rocking the camera up and down and blowing steam everywhere. It's like Herzog wants to portray freedom as something of a dream, with the harshness of the jungle that Dieter's shot down over as total, cruel realism.

Certainly, all of the scene-dominating special effects are gone as soon as we're among the trees, and Herzog characteristically opts to dwarf Bale against the lush power of nature; nobody can quite shoot the jungle like Werner Herzog, and there's plenty of ominous natural beauty on display. But while Dengler's struggles to get out of the jungle alive are surely classic Herzog material, Rescue Dawn is more interested in conveying supple human attributes than mad compulsion; it's no secret that Herzog sees Dengler, his fellow German-come-to-America, as embodying good American values: perseverance, indomitable cheer, loyalty. Thus, we have a distinctly upbeat excursion into the wild, and lots of promotion of brotherhood between men.

Herzog's 'big' dramatic films are always deliberately-paced, so much time is spent among Dengler's fellow prisoners once he's caught and hauled off to the camp. All performances are somewhat stylized, reflecting Herzog's general avoidance of actorly realism. Jeremy Davies drifts perhaps a bit too far over the top, overloading his performance with stoner twitches and nervous vocal tics. On the other hand, Steve Zahn is almost shockingly good as a rapidly zoning-out man desperate to hang on to anything that seems solid and just. He and Bale really manage to sell Herzog's theme of fraternity, and their eventual trek through the wild in search of freedom provides some of the film's most effective moments, among them a lethargically creepy bit with the men peeling leeches off their chests, and a fine crack-up scene.

But Herzog's typical God's eye view of shooting, affording equal impact to a man's head being chopped off and a man finding an abandoned shoe in the water, doesn't work quite as well with such a low-key approach to character and theme. At times, the film seems to be going for suspense in the manner of a typical Hollywood escape movie, yet Herzog's cool approach often acts to sap 'thrills' from the screen, while his earlier studies of mad drive might capture the characters in such a way that the screen is charged to glowing.

Maybe this is intentional. One might presume that Herzog looked at something like Black Hawk Down and resolved to do the very opposite of that. The tortures Dengler underwent are kept mostly off-screen, or played down. The expected shootings are panicked, and unheroic. Surely nobody will accuse this film of sensationalizing anything, from Dengler's personal experiences to warfare itself. But this approach also effectively keeps the audience at a certain arm's length, while Herzog's earlier films projected mania and enigma and satire that couldn't help but draw the viewer in.

Still, a worthwhile film, and very much a Herzog work. Admirers may not be knocked out, but they'll have stuff to chew on.


In turns out that androids dream of cute things, electric and otherwise.

Robot Dreams

This is the second book First Second’s got coming this month, 208 color pages for $16.95. It should be in comics stores very soon; I noticed that my local Borders already has it (and Gipi’s Notes for a War Story) out for sale.

Robot Dreams is by Sara Varon (of Sweaterweather and Chicken and Cat), and it’s one of those bright & cheerful comics with anthropomorphic characters that actually deals frankly (if metaphorically) with adult anxieties and pain, while also attempting to not lose its grip on its all-ages visual appeal. In other words, it’s the sort of comic where a cute little doggie character builds a snowman, who springs immediately to life, to be his friend in the winter months - later in the book, when the Spring arrives, a penguin walks up to the doggie and hands him a knapsack, which contains the snowman’s coat and scarf and carrot nose, and the doggie can’t quite look at it. That kind of comic.

It’s also a no-talking book (I can’t say ‘wordless’ since there’s actually a lot of signs and labels and such), so the weight of storytelling is squarely on Varon’s visuals - she does nicely, sticking to simple page layouts, and short mini-chapters divided by white pages, sometimes with a single summary or set-up panel planted in the lower right corner. This ably conveys the passage of time, although Varon also breaks up her larger, ‘formal’ chapters with the names of months, and even sometimes lets days pass invisibly within her vignettes. The result is a strong sense of time marching forward, sometimes quickly (as in good times spent with friends), and sometimes deliberately, with bogs of white space spread between incidents. Not a bad concept, and Varon’s cute characters are good little actors, moving smoothly through the various anecdotes, as can be seen at First Second’s typically large preview.

The story itself involves the aforementioned doggie, who has a habit of literally ‘making’ friends - as such, he (who’s not necessarily male, by the way, although I’m a male and the reader is clearly meant to identify with ‘him’) sends away for a robot-building kit, and whips himself up a mild-mannered robot pal. Things are nice for a while, but the doggie clearly hasn’t read the robot instructions very well, since a trip to the beach results in the robot getting rusted in place. The doggie panics and slinks away home. As misfortune would have it, the beach is all closed up for the year by the time the doggie gets back to help his friend, so he stares through a locked fence at his pal fused in place on a towel yet still alive, and then leaves.

I understand this is all supposed to represent the walls that become erected between friendships, especially new friendships, but it did make me kind of wonder why the doggie didn’t try to find another way onto the beach, which seems extremely accessible to an awful lot of incidental characters despite the fence. Actually, why didn’t he just take the robot home with him in the first place? I presume we’re meant to realize that the doggie doesn’t actually care about his friend all that much, and that even though he sometimes feels guilt about being mean, it’s never so much that he’ll exert himself much to right his wrongs, even though he’ll hop to action once it’s easy for him. Kind of an asshole, this doggie.

So anyway, the doggie goes through the rest of the year either ‘making’ friends or just drifting in to friendships, while the robot lays in one spot and dreams about various things. First he dreams of being with his doggie friend again, but those dreams soon become charged with feelings of abandonment. So then he dreams of being in a happier place - napping with a giant walking flower, cuddling with a cloud and riding a snowflake, etc. But all the gets are people ripping off his parts, and maybe the occasional bird nesting by him. Is it off to the scrap heap? Will the doggie ever find a lasting friendship? How do the animals feel about eating meat? Ha! Varon seems to have thought of that one - everyone only eats grains, fish, candies or insects. Am I the only one who looks for things like that?

It’s a very cute book, and sort of sad, and works somewhat efficiently in prompting the reader to identify with both of the main characters, placing themselves in both the role of ‘somewhat irresponsible’ and ‘sadly immobile.’ Varon is a generous author, and it’s no shock that both personalities find a sort of happiness by the end. Much of the fun in this book isn’t in the pep of Varon’s vignettes -- honestly, most of them feel cursory -- but in sorting through the different types of friendships she presents, the differences between mere tinkerers and those who build from the heart. A very quick, small-scale comic, but brightly presented and emotionally authentic. Your zest for this kind of comic will probably dictate how strong your reaction is.