Posts this late in the day are the reason why I use equivocating words like "I hope" in the titles of earlier posts.

*Awful, Revolting Self-Promotion and Comedy Frolics Dept: Hey, hey. I know what you’ve all been thinking today:

“Land alive, I do so like when that ‘Jog’ fellow from the internet goes on and on about comics so old they got to take a position on the prohibition of alcohol. If only he’d do it at an even greater length, and in a format I can easily take to the toilet.”

Consider your ass relieved, Planet Earth.

Coming very soon! Probably debuting at MoCCA in about a month, I think! It’s issue #3 of Comics Comics, the comics newspaper about comics, and it will feature lots of great comics and comics-centered features by many excellent contributors! And it will also feature me blabbing about the earliest exploits of Mutt and Jeff, no doubt dragging American print just a little farther down in the process! Get ready for several profane oaths, and horrific insults directed at Happy Hooligan’s hat! Good times ahoy! Every pillar of society will have the whole thing memorized in minutes flat, so watch this space for details as the golden day draws near.

The Shaolin Cowboy Vol. 54, #7

I always forget the “The” at the front of the title, until the cover reminds me.

It’s no secret that I like this series an awful lot, as infrequent as my opportunities to sing its praises are. It’s kind of amusing that publisher Burlyman Entertainment’s output has been so light in the past year that they barely even have any house ads to stick in the back of this issue - there’s the usual PROTECT plug (Darrow’s on the national advisory board), the same Burlyman website piece we’ve seen before, a joke ad about how infrequently Doc Frankenstein (Burlyman’s other, even tardier ongoing series) comes out, and a graphically bold display urging us all to check out the V for Vendetta motion picture, in theaters everywhere March 17 (of 2006). At least by the time issue #8 rolls around the Wachowskis will probably have some Speed Racer posters ready, or possibly ads for the dvd.

Ah, it’s no problem. That just means we get a six-page bonus section of airy b&w drawings from writer/artist Geof Darrow - aside from acting as a no-doubt quick fix for space concerns, it brings to mind the sort of catchy spot illustrations he used to do in the pages of Cheval Noir back in the day. Fitting, since Shaolin Cowboy strikes me as very much a retooled version of Darrow’s old Bourbon Thret concept, from the amazing 80s pages of Heavy Metal and Dark Horse Presents (and a 1995 French-language hardcover album from Delcourt, which might actually be a reprint of an earlier limited-edition thingy - anyone know if that’s new stuff, or a collection of the old pieces?). Same pug-faced design for the protagonist, same ‘random selection from an imaginary library of adventures’ structure, same energetic appreciation of nonsense.

But Shaolin Cowboy also trades some of Bourbon Thret’s visual density for a bracing sense of speed, and an evident appreciation for puns and word games (or maybe I just read the wrong episodes of the older work). Much of this issue is spent with Our Hero’s talking Ass, following his mad flight across the surface of Little Sweety (a trundling dinosaur/city), the enigmatic Baby Bling stuffed dirty diaper-first into his mouth, with Skippy G and Father M, an odd couple of talkative flying demons (“Skippy G, it is easy to see that the time you spent torturing Rod McKuen was time well spent.”) in hot pursuit. The talk rarely stops, but Darrow’s crisp sense of orchestrating complex, intuitive ‘movement’ across the span of many pages never falters.

It’s clearer than ever that this comic excels as a segmented series of exercises in rushing visual storytelling -- the anecdotes often neatly contained as passages in single issues -- the artist pushing himself to manage increasingly complex stretches of longform action and hi-jinx, all while the writer indulges his love for silly, wordy fun. I’m sure the lavish outbursts of visual wildness, from the famous panorama of rogues from issue #1 to the water-borne dual chainsaw ballet of issue #6, will leave some readers wonder if there’s any ‘real’ point to it all. But the sight of the Cowboy staring down a segmented foe, speaking in segmented word balloons, tongue-kissing a saucy skeletal bride with a sword protruding through one eye and political gags pouring out of his mouth, may yet force a reassessment of priorities.

Really, it’s the comics about stoic swordsmen and talking animals having adventures atop and inside dinosaurs that ought to be making the case for style-as-substance, and nonsense-as-beauty. This one’s regularly among the most eloquent arguments.


Yeah, I hope tomorrow I’ll manage to get back to my morning posts, now that things are settling down a little.

*Um, it looks like Memorial Day somehow bumped back my prior reviews link post as well. And I didn’t even use the mail.


Elvis Road (which I'll link to again down below - happens once a week, it seems)

random lil' comics reviews (starring Gutsville #1, Wisdom #6, and Madman Atomic Comics #2)

The Plain Janes

Plus, a museum exhibition review of Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, in which I spend too much space making jokes about gold and horses.

*Jesus, it feels like the new books are already out.


Percy Gloom: Very well-reviewed debut graphic novel from Cathy Malkasian, an animation veteran best known as episode director on various Klasky Csupo television cartoons and co-director of The Wild Thornberrys Movie. More from me soon. Fantagraphics is the publisher, and this week they also have Our Gang Vol. 2, collecting more of Walt Kelly’s vintage works, and the rather self-explanatory Just When You Thought Things Couldn't Get Worse: The Cartoons and Comic Strips of Edward Sorel, compiling the famed illustrator’s strips from all over the place.

Elvis Road: Now out from Diamond. A regular highway to enlightenment from Elvis Studios and Buenaventura Press - I reviewed it here.

Elle-Humour: Also now out from Diamond. A 144-page hardcover art book from Julie Doucet and PictureBox - it’s been available via other means for a few months now, but procrastinating Doucet fans will now have another way of getting their $40’s worth of collage and drawings and much, much more.

Shaolin Cowboy #7: Excellent! It’s always a special week when Geof Darrow’s beyond-the-pale decadent action book graces us with its rare presence. In this issue, according to the Burlyman Entertainment homepage (which does not like specific links), “The Shaolin Cowboy faces a foe almost as powerful as American voter apathy! Can he prevail?” My hazy memories of last issue tell me the Cowboy is stuck in the belly of a walking lizard-city, about to confront the horror bride of the decapitated head that’s been bugging him. Enjoy this lavish one-page preview, and try to savor the book itself. Pretty soon even Frank Miller and Jim Lee will have passed it out.

Tanpenshu Vol. 2 (of 2): Manga you probably won’t be seeing in your local bookstore, which is a damn shame. A toast to Dark Horse for putting Hiroki Endo's short stories onto discerning shelves in English-speaking lands. I think all that's been scanlated out of these 224 pages is the very short, very funny Boys Don't Cry, so get ready for new experiences. Preview allegedly here, although it's down as of right now.

52 Vol. 1 (of 4): Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed memory scrapbook of familial ties and literary substitutions, finally available in softcover! No, no wait - that’s Fun Home, which is also out tomorrow. This is the one about the mice and the Holocaust.

The Punisher Presents: Barracuda MAX #4 (of 5): Yeah, can’t say there’s an awful lot from the front of Previews that’s catching my attention this week. Although you might want to try the Punisher MAX Vol. 3 hardcover, also out this week, if you missed the first Barracuda story from a while back - it’s teamed up with the storyline where Frank destroys sex slavery.

Silent War #5 (of 6): This is a pretty book. Silver Surfer: Requiem #1 (of 4) will also probably be pretty, since Esad Ribic is doing the art (story by JMS). Additional pretty: Hellboy: Darkness Calls #2 (of 6), although that’s published by Dark Horse. Obviously. I feel sharper when I do these things in the morning, you know.

EC Archives: Shock Suspenstories Vol. 2: Further tales from a universe inclined toward maximum irony.




*Excuse me while I make this (already late enough) post short, since I’m in the middle of sprucing up my apartment for some high-stepping events tomorrow. Sorry, random Comics’ Greatest World back issues - you’re gonna have to sit this one out in the car.

The Plain Janes

Surely you’ve heard of this, the initial publication of DC’s Minx line of teenage girl-targeted original graphic novels. If your local chain bookstore is anything like mine, you’ll find it tucked away in the manga section, where (let’s face it) it’s more likely to get picked up and flipped though. The manga section looks like the fun place to be anyway. Everybody sitting around and chatting, while somehow reading comics at the same time. Meanwhile, the last time I was by the Marvel/DC section some kid ran up behind a guy browsing through Civil War (or something) and screamed “COMICS I LOVE ’EM” right in the fellow’s ear. Really spoiled the reading experience, I reckon.

Anyway, I don’t actually have much to say about The Plain Janes that hasn’t been mentioned in just about any other review you can find, since the book seems to have prompted strongly similar reactions, so let me give you this - it’s the sort of book where I’m genuinely a bit down that it didn’t shape up to be a little better. DC could have quite easily coughed out something grossly derivative or especially pandering, but this book really does evidence some genuine ambition, and a good faith attempt at thematic sweep. Writer Cecil Castellucci clearly wants to grapple with meaty notions of beauty and security, the prison of anxiety and the freedom of whimsy, and does manage to ultimately project enough of it that the book at least seems a respectable thing.

Unfortunately, it all winds up filtered though the sort of shorthand character development and faintly contrived scenarios that might work as part of an ongoing television program on Nickelodeon or Disney, where the audience has had time to come to grips with the cast and premise, but come off as hasty and ill-fitting in a standalone work such as this. The plot concerns young Jane, a girl whose placid life in busy Metro City is upset when she’s caught in an awful café bombing; her mother becomes a trembling bag of nerves and the family packs off to suburbia, but not before Jane experiences a personal awakening through her ‘interactions’ with a now-comatose victim of the blast, and his black work journal emblazoned with the brand “Art Saves.” Indeed it does, as Jane sets out to wake the sleepy, latently paranoid town to the beauty of the world with a little help from a band of easily-identifiable character types, all of them more-or-less also named Jane.

So Jane and The Brainy One and The Sporty One and The Dramatic One go out and stage whimsical, vaguely anti-homogenization ‘art attacks’ on the town under the auspices of P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods) -- putting hats and scarves on fire hydrants, wrapping mundane sidewalk fixtures as gifts, etc. -- which naturally whips the town’s equally simplistic authority figures (cue the crew-cutted, gritty-toothed police official!) into a frenzy of anxiety, all while gradually capturing the support of The Swishy Gay Boy and The Moody Handsome Loner in Vintage Jeans and the other kids. Oddly, in the midst of all this, Castellucci manages a surprisingly shaded, sympathetically complex sketch of the obligatory Mean Popular Girl, who oscillates convincingly from disgust at things outside her sphere of interest to a deep-seated desire for total acceptance. It’s gratifying to see such a bright little portrait in there, but again, it makes you wonder what could have been for the rest of it.

Protagonist Jane, it should be mentioned, is a fairly compelling character, and all of the personalities are keenly realized by artist Jim Rugg’s skill with expressions and body language. The whole book is visually low-key, with classy bits of flair displayed at appropriate intervals - it effectively grounds the action in teenage realism, even as the script largely neglects to convince us as to the friendship of these characters beyond plotting necessity, or trips itself up on the comatose guy subplot (which eventually becomes more of a distraction than anything), or stumbles into a finale that somehow manages to be a bit too final to tantalize a sequel, yet abrupt enough that it doesn’t really satisfy on its own merits.

But the failures of this book are relatively noble ones, as I’ve mentioned above; if they don’t do the book itself any favors, they do at least evidence a desire to reach forward on the part of the creators, and indeed the line that’s meant to be launched. Don’t take that as a rousing recommendation, but I’ve seen many worse displays out of the front of Previews.


But really, if you were to twist my arm, I’d tell you it’s reviews of museum exhibitions that the comics internet craves.

Saul Steinberg: Illuminations

Washington, D.C.! The capital city of the United States of America! All the rumors are true - the streets are paved in pure gold, every man is Uncle Sam, every woman is Lady Liberty, the hallowed halls of government are patrolled by velvet-clad cavaliers riding horses made of precious gems, and every rustling tree and tweeting bird is red, white and blue! Walking down the street, a man passed me by, whispering:

James Dean is alive.”

I believed it.

Yes, it was me and Chris Mautner (of the part of Newsarama that is a blog, not to mention his own site), two Original Rebels out to raise as much hell as pair of nerdy Pennsylvanians in town to visit an art exhibition possibly can. Why, when we sat down for lunch, our waitress actually tried to warn me away from ordering a certain dish that caught my eye - clearly, all other patrons of the establishment cowered in terror from the beef tips over fries which I demanded! Although she may have just been attempting to warn me that the entrée was disgusting, so I decided to get chicken Alfredo pasta instead, and it was good although a little heavy on the onion and garlic!

And yet, our main focus was the Saul Steinberg exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which opened on April 6 and will run through June 24. If you know of Steinberg, you probably associate his name with The New Yorker, the magazine that published a good number of his cartoons and drawings, sometimes on the cover. Walking around the roomy exhibition space, which is set up so that one end of the exhibition represents Steinberg's earliest work, the observer moving forward in time as they progress forward in space, I overheard several art lovers whispering of the wit and sophistication of the artist's output. Indeed, there is much of both to be seen - of the many pages of original art presented, there are several sly ideas (a scale, perfectly balanced, holds a delicate, curled reef of diverse nations on one side, and the lone, square, drab state of Wyoming on the other) and witty gestures (like this) taken from across the breadth of the man's career.

And yet, the emphasis I took from the assembly of the exhibition was that of Steinberg the trickster, an artist fixated on artificialities, which are nevertheless the stuff of politics and living. It is suggested that perhaps Steinberg's escape from Italy's fascism in the early 1940s inspired a great interest in artifice - forged documents transmuted to the glorious nonsense handwriting that twirls across several of his works. Of course, it's only nonsense if you're looking to understand what is literally said. Through the creation of paper masks, fake diplomas, elaborate recreations of his own tools, and perfectly weighted wood simulations of letters addressed to himself (complete with real Postal Service stamps, the project only complete after the fakes had done some traveling), Steinberg processed the food of simple reality through an artist's digestion, regurgitating mightily a strange essence of truth-beyond-truth. As the Saul Steinberg Foundation notes:

"Steinberg did not represent what he saw; rather, he depicted people, places, and even numbers or words in styles borrowed from other art, high and low, past and present. In his pictorial imagination, the very artifice of style, of images already processed through art, became the means to explore social and political systems, human foibles, geography, architecture, language and, of course, art itself."

Note the lack of vomit metaphor. I always try to give a little something extra.

Obviously it's not all tricks and canny pranks, though Chris mentioned to me that Steinberg always seemed to maintain a cartoonist's puckish viewpoint throughout his work, which I agree with. Observing the artist's originals, it's often impressive how many bits of media Steinberg shoves together to create widely reproducible work, something that can only seem more 'whole' when viewed by the many, while the artist's own view seems more like pieces, sometimes mixing in bits of 'found' material, or employing the use of custom-made rubber stamps to produce a sort of computerized aesthetic.

Even this is fodder for commentary - in one piece, a large field is dotted with acronyms, their fonts and positioning cleverly representative of their roles in life. And up in the sky, drawn out in only the faintest of pencils, is the word GOD, so light that it could never quite be reproduced, and can only really be seen if one is directed to look hard in the right place of the original piece. Thus, GOD is forced to become a personal search, inherent to things yet wholly impossible to see by the many, and maybe only acknowledged in the first place as the most private of things.

There's less lofty musings as well. Maybe my favorite bit of the exhibition was a nice collection of Steinberg's doodles and cartoons using official Smithsonian stationary from his time as artist-in-residence. The stately Smithsonian letterhead is fully integrated into each drawing, all of them becoming some sort of satirical or playful comment on the famed institution (many may be viewed here). Likewise, it's not all magazine stuff and carvings and the like - several sketchbook pages are presented, some of which evidence the influence of underground comic books (Steinberg's 'underground' vehicles and buildings remind me a little bit of Skip Williamson's), along with production designs for stage presentations and murals and the like.

It was a nice visit. Afterwards, we got coffee in Chinatown and Chris was almost trampled by the most intense old man I've ever seen, who was in a really big rush to get on the train. What a day.


Memorial Day Weekend Froth

*Ah, it's a vacation! And an unusually cultural one for me - I actually went down to Washington, D.C. with Chris Mautner (of Newsarama's blog) to see the Saul Steinberg exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and I'll have a rundown of that sometime tomorrow.

*Silly Old Anime Dept: Very nice thing to run into on YouTube the other day - both the new parts for the 1987 OVA (deep breath) Super Dimensional Fortress Macross Flash Back 2012. A fitting find, since it's recently been announced that a new Macross television series will be going into production to celebrate the franchise's 25th anniversary. In case you don't know, the original Macross television series is something of an icon of '80s anime, loaded with J-pop kitsch and booming economy splendor, and lots of transforming robots fighting shit and saving humanity with songs. It's got the NES game to prove its eventual popularity. It later got merged with two other series and presented in the US under the title of Robotech, a franchise that's gone on to develop its own extensive, separate continuity, although it ought to be noted that the Macross bits were left largely intact in terms of English re-writing.

Sadly, legal struggles surrounding the US rights for further Macross properties have ensured that large chunks of the franchise are Japan-only, most notably the 1984 movie version Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?, and the above-linked OVA project, both of which relate directly to the original series. Do You Remember Love? has the interesting distinction of acting as a movie that 'exists' in the Macross universe as a docudrama (thus coyly brushing away the bits that don't match up with continuity). Flash Back 2012, meanwhile, is a collection of musical numbers, much of it set to recycled footage from the television series and movie. However, the two bits linked above were actually new animation (hence the 'new parts' mentioned above), bringing to live a segment meant for the ending of the movie, which was never completed in time. Oddly, I do believe Flash Back 2012 is considered proper canon (while the film is not), or at least it hasn't been explicitly set aside from such, so it really winds up serving as an extended epilogue to the television series, while cannily folding some of the movie designs into the Macross universe proper - now that's continuity management.

Er, all of that's a long way of saying that Flash Back 2012 is a nice little capsule of a certain brand of glittering '80s cartoon, more than a little visually 'arty' while still high on big robots and melodramatic romance and cheesy pop music. The storytelling is almost certainly incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't seen a lot of Macross (and let's not shit around - absolutely nobody who wasn't already a hardcore fan would have gone out and bought this thing, so clearly no effort was made toward easy access), but I think the superficial qualities please on their own. It'd almost have to be that way for a show like this.


One of them 'between' days...

*... in which I'm writing stuff on two ends, and there's not a lot to post. Oops - I have to go to work too. At least I found the time to install the AC, because boy is it getting hot.


Lil' reviews that are still four paragraphs long in some cases.

*I think it’s high time I did one of those posts where I review a few of the shorter, serialized comics that came out this week, mostly because I’ve been doing a lot of mentioning of titles in the shipping list feature and then never bringing them up again save for maybe one long review of one of them. So -

Gel-Coated Review Capsules

Gutsville #1 (of 6): Kind of a small triumph of visual presentation and detail-orientation over actual plot, I think. There were a lot of little things I liked about Simon Spurrier’s script, about a small society of 19th century folk that got swallowed by a whale or something and somehow sustained and mutated their religious and social functions by building a town literally in the belly of the beast, mostly involving wordplay - “The Daily Digest,” “shitward” (all sense of direction being defined by the body they inhabit, you see), the way the upper classes self-censor their language while the drunk and ‘low’ cuss freely.

All of it’s kind of energetic and cute, and does a little to bolster the actually rather rote character notes and conflicts - there’s a young man who wants to be an artist but is forced to take his father’s job of ratcatcher, he’s at the tail-end of a forbidden romance with a bright upper-class girl who’s betrothed to the vile son of the local political/religious head. There’s racial, economic and religious strife aplenty, complete with revolutionaries disguised as conservatives, and even a black woman with seemingly magical precognitive powers who’s hated and feared as a witch. Can the young ratcatcher’s father’s secret legacy be the key to freedom??

Ideas as initially familiar as those can spread out into interesting territory over the course of 100 or so pages, mind you, and it’s not that they’re necessarily unentertaining on their own - I presume Spurrier is shooting for a style of old-fashioned melodrama to bounce off the archaic social mores on display in the guts of beast, and that’s fine, although I could have stood for even more of the world-building bits. Fortunately, we all have the art of Frazier Irving to appreciate - packed full of wrinkled men strutting around an enclosed fantasy environment in tall hats and antique finery, the visual detailing can’t help but remind one of Klarion the Witch Boy, which is perfectly fine with me. Even while a chase scene deep in the entrails of the monster comes off as slightly convoluted, Irving’s art is never less than slathered with fleshy atmosphere and dynamic character actions.

And it manages to pull off the brunt of ‘selling’ the premise and keeping it interesting enough to ensure my presence for next issue. It’s telling that the weakest bit is the bonus prose mystery serial in the back, which is neither as clever as it seems to think it is, nor funny enough to land as parody, nor particularly mysterious - it’s like the prose bits from the first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen miniseries, only stripped of Alan Moore’s vainglorious language styling, which is not a fine place to be.

Wisdom #6 (of 6): In which this better-than-expected MAX miniseries (the label never much more than an excuse to jack up the price by a dollar) for Marvel mutant character Pete Wisdom draws to an unexpectedly downbeat close. The running theme of Paul Cornell’s episodic script has been Great Britain’s imaginative legacy, and this closing chapter does indeed bring it to its logical conclusion, with Those Awful Martians from H.G. Wells attempting to take over our Earth as a trundling symbol for the colonialist past of England, prompting Wisdom and company to put together a crack force of all the ‘good’ bits of British culture (the Beatles! the mighty knights of Avalon!) to repel the sins of the past.

Unfortunately, this is the first issue where I get the feeling that departed art team Trevor Hairsine & Paul Neary were sort of necessary, since replacements Manuel Garcia & Mark Farmer can’t quite manage non-stop apocalyptic action with quite the same aplomb. It all culminates in a brief flurry of bringing up and dismissing possible ways out of trouble, mainly as a means of bolstering the eventual doom and gloom of Wisdom doing his duty to save the land. As a result, it both seems somewhat thematically fitting, yet directly at odds with the otherwise jaunty tone previously established, as if a ‘serious’ ending is automatically presumed to be better. Ah well, it was still a better book than many.

Madman Atomic Comics #2: Two interesting things about this issue. First is the ‘recap’ page, which actually just redisplays the complete art for issue #1, stripped of words, and set in teeny-tiny thumbnail format. I don’t know how much utility that sort of thing will have in the future, but since last issue was mainly just its own recap of prior Madman continuity anyway, it seems fitting. For now.

Second is Mike Allred's essay in the back of the issue, a freewheeling thing that bounces from answering critics of the prior issue to explaining his personal influences to launching into a good deal of political commentary, something I don't recall Allred doing much of in the past. The actual comic, on the other hand, very much feels like something from the past - Allred is right in noting that Madman has always had an existential undercurrent, but the moody cosmic trawling of this particular storyline mainly recalls the sort of whimsical-grotesque self-analysis that the author used to do in the pages of Grafik Muzik. Laura Allred's colors have grown steadily richer and slightly more subdued over the last few years, and they respond to the storytelling quite well, even as Mike's script circles around and around notions of omnipotence and inter-dimension dreaming and fiction springing to life.

Of course, if you're here to see Madman clash with brightly-colored villains in a pop color universe, you're kinda shit out of luck for now. Lord knows what an unacclimated reader will make of it all. But this particular long-term Allred fan can't help but be somewhat intrigued by this late-period swim back toward the past, more an assessment of personal themes than a catchy superhero relaunch...


“The Elvis Road is some kind of… all this stuff that gets into your eyes and ears and then into your brain and then you spit it out into Elvis Road.”

Elvis Road

This is the latest book release from Buenaventura Press. It’s not quite available from Diamond yet, but (much like with Drawn & Quarterly) your shop might have a copy anyway if they’ve been dealing directly with the publisher. Or, you can just order a copy straight from the publisher yourself. It’s $24.95 for a 12.5” x 9” b&w hardcover, at 23 pages. Technically.

I’m being equivocal, because Elvis Road can be taken in more than one way. Yes, from the way it’s folded into its hardcover, it’s 23 pages. But there aren’t really any pages in this comic - it’s actually a single, extremely long panel, nine inches high and approximately twenty-four feet long, that’s been accordion-folded into something that can be smushed into a hardcover. The far right end of it is attached to the hardcover itself, but the rest of it can stand quite freely, if you feel like unfurling it.

One gets the feeling that’s the most natural way to enjoy this book, created by Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel, working under the auspices of Elvis Studio - the Swiss duo are comics artists, graphic designers, commercial illustrators, and custom toymakers, who’ve appeared in volumes 5 and 6 of Kramers Ergo and had a cover story devoted to them in issue #7 of the late, lamented arts magazine The Drama (from where most of the background info and my title quote comes from). I do believe this is their first ‘solo’ release in English-speaking environs, although it’s not a new work - Elvis Road was actually created over the course of one year, with Reumnn and Robel taking time out of each day to draw on a giant roll of paper, allowing the full picture to develop in an improvisatory manner, the final length of the work only dependant upon how much paper was in the roll.

Upon viewing the final work, the reader will no doubt get the impression that the act of creation had an exorcising effect on the artists’ daily anxieties. Equally reminiscent of Gary Panter and Richard Scarry, nearly every corner of Elvis Road is packed tight with drawing (samples from the book here, samples of different work in the same general style here), but virtually all of it aggressive, violent and ominous. People and creatures of all shapes and sizes rush across the landscape, zipping around in vehicles or hustling on foot. All the world is an awful, industrial strip mall on Elvis Road, large buildings looming across the top of the page, bearing names like Satan Gasthof and Ultra Hardcore Tearoom (located right next to the Super Porno House), windows packed tight with sweating and grimacing souls.

Something terrible is always happening - neo-Nazi gangs parade around while a gargantuan cowboy is wheeled through the streets, a flaming meteor smashes into a population center, hundreds of corpses rise from the ground in a typhonic swirl of flesh, only compact into a dripping wet dump truck. Little stories play out over the inches, although there is no dialogue, no words save for the screaming titles of businesses and organizations, a total loss of humanity.

The work is fascinating in the way it builds and relaxes in visual motifs from left to right. You can vividly sense the rhythm that Reumann and Robel built up for their act of creation - like movements in a musical composition, Elvis Road stretches into distinct areas of commerce-gone-wild, politics-gone-wild, religion-gone-wild, sex-gone-wild, and so on, culminating in no less than the rise of Jesus Christ himself, grown to gigantic proportions and left to confront the only thing that could possibly wait at the end of this seething, living paean to unrestrained capitalism and thoughtless, destructive indulgence (no, I’m not telling).

But the people on Elvis Road so often look oddly happy, content with their plight. Eager to get on to the next thing, or at least get by in their lives, merely reacting to the horrors swirling everywhere. There’s a rich comedic element to this book, discernible in this way, that makes it all a little more bearable - this easily could have been an unrelenting work indeed, but a smile will be raised on the reader's face upon finding Nancy and Sluggo tucked away, or appreciating the broad, caricatured faces on so many of this world's residents.

It's the kind of book you can easily spend an hour pouring over, only to return to it the next day and find many new things waiting along the road. As I mentioned above, maybe the best way to enjoy the book would be to unfold the entire thing, carefully utilizing the folds to dodge around chairs or sleeping pets, then follow Elvis Road along from start to finish, oblivious to the reaction of your significant other/children/parents/non-sleeping pets, just to drink in the full impact of Elvis Studio's long, twisted world. Of course, I'm not sure the paper is quite sturdy enough to stand up like that, and my apartment is too small and crowded to even try. Sorry!


I don't know what's up these mornings or nights.

*Oh, this is where I put the links to reviews.


Misery Loves Comedy (collection of classic Ivan Brunetti, and a telling object on its own)

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #5

Arf Forum (a third dip into Craig Yoe's web of comics 'n art)

*I think the most surprising thing about DC’s August solicitations is definitely the presence of a completely random two-issue prestige format Batman/Lobo miniseries (Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious, to be exact), written and drawn by none other than Sam Kieth. It was kind of a good surprise, though!

Less good: apparently Adam Strange, Starfire and Animal Man are now sort of a quasi-team? And they’re going to have their own eight-issue miniseries? Titled Countdown to Adventure?! I mean, I understand the tie-in, of course, but that’s still sort of like titling the series The Adventure Happens Later or Biding Time Till Excitement or Please Wait Until Darkseid Does Something Calamitous in 2008.

*Worthwhile reading: Jacen Burrows’ “commentary track” to Garth Ennis’ Chronicles of Wormwood #3.

*Lord, is Image planning to dump out all the comics I want to buy from them all at once -


Arf Forum: There’s a link to my review of this at the top of the page, but I think I’ll sap the world’s dwindling link resources a bit more.

The Field Guide to Midwest Monsters: I’ve never heard of this book before today. It’s from creators Aaron Blecha & Jason Felix, and is published by ‘A & J Books’ (see what’s going on there?). Still, the title caught my eye, and the preview from the official homepage makes it look like it might be good fun. Only $9.99 will buy you tips ’n tricks for spotting many different monsters, should you ever wake up in the American Midwest for whatever reason, with additional diagrams and bonuses tossed in.

The Homeless Channel: I can probably let the preview for this new AiT/Planet Lar book, the debut of writer/artist Matt Silady, speak for itself, since it presents about one third of the whole book, all things considered.

Welcome to the NHK Vol. 3: Oddly, Diamond’s list identifies this delightfully black-hearted otaku ruin series (writer: Tatsuhiko Takimoto, artist: Kendi Oiwa) as continuing only up to Vol. 5. That would be unfortunate, since there’s only been five chapters per book so far, and there’s a good deal more than 25 chapters - actually, there’s currently a rumor floating around that the forthcoming Chapter 40 is going to be the series finale. Publisher Tokyopop’s website, meanwhile, leaves room for six volumes. As always, manga releases are curious things.

Fell Vol. 1: Feral City: It’s actually a pretty big week for Image in terms of noteworthy releases, the foremost of which for many readers will be this new collection, showcasing the first eight issues of Warren Ellis’ and Ben Templesmith’s moody police detective series. I sort of run warm and cool on Fell - with the copious hype surrounding its serialization format having subsided, Fell stands at the end of issue #8 as a sturdy enough police procedural, reminiscent to me of the sort of thing you might find sitting at the end of a prime time network television weekday. The standalone episodes vary in quality, never dipping so low that you can’t discern what Ellis and Templesmith were shooting at, and occasionally leaping into inspired visual territory thanks to the artist’s signature glow/brood, all of it liberally drizzled with the writer’s favored characterization flavors. Not a bad use of $14.95. Also available in a $24.99 limited edition hardcover, as is the excellent Casanova Vol. 1: Luxuria, although the mass trade of that one isn’t showing on the list. Next week?

Gutsville #1 (of 6): Wouldn’t you like to read a Frazier Irving-illustrated comic book about the descendants of a sunken sea vessel going about their business in a society built literally in the belly of a depth-trawling leviathan? Fucking yes you want to read that. Well toot the horns because here it is, written by 2000 AD veteran Simon Spurrier, and featuring some truly fine art from the looks of the official preview. Looking forward to this.

Elephantmen #9: Also, let’s not forget the continuing Image series we (I) know and purchase.

Gødland #18: For they too are coming out this new comics day.

Madman Atomic Comics #2: Who knows what they'll say?

Wisdom #6 (of 6): The conclusion of this really quite nice Marvel MAX miniseries, tracking the path of the titular mutant operative through a comedic map of Great Britain's cultural psyche. I hope you'll consider the eventual trade, if you haven't been keeping up on the issues. In other random trade news, by the way, there's also a collection out from Vertigo for the Jason Aaron/Cameron Stewart Vietnam miniseries The Other Side.

Dave Stewart’s Walk-In #6 (of 6): Wait a second. Didn’t this miniseries end last issue? I mean, there was even a “The End” caption and everything! All of that is true, and yet we still have this special wrap issue, written by Jeff Parker, who will also be handling the art duties this time around.

Criminal #6: Beginning the new storyline for Ed Brubaker's and Sean Phillips' ongoing crime series. Despite the problems I had with the wrap-up to the series' initial storyline, it was still for the most part keenly observed entertainment, and I have much faith that this second story will be even better.



There's a review under this, in case you missed it.

*Anime Dept: Considering that only two episodes out of a projected 26 have aired, there's a good deal of hype building behind studio Madhouse's Denno Coil, the directorial debut (beyond episode direction) of Mitsuo Iso, also the show's writer and original creator. Iso is widely experienced in key animation, and this is apparently something of a dream project for him - he's certainly managed to attracted an impressive roster of talents, and the level of animation quality in episode 1 is quite high, especially considering that this is television animation. Here's the first nine or so minutes of episode 1, which sets up the bare outline of the premise and showcases some nice character animation.

The storytelling is very low-key, kind of a whimsical urban childhood fantasy/sci-fi thing about chasing down digital pets in a quietly spooky near-future world. Lots more information can be found at the ever-valuable AniPages, including way more on the people involved than I could ever manage. People are going to be talking about this one as more episodes are released, particularly if this level of visual quality somehow keeps up.


Tomorrow has finally come.

*Don't ask me how a simple fucking graduation turned into such a lengthy affair, but that's what happened - two solid days of events and meeting with people and all that. It was nice to see everyone, of course, but it sort of wound up wearing me out. And I get to do it again in another two weeks!

I always sort of hope some kind of wild scandal will occur with these college graduations, but nothing quite does. This year, an environmental science major went up to accept the diploma without any shoes on! That was the most exciting thing that happened. You've let me down again, wild college students of these United States of America.

*Aw hell, how's about a short review, huh?

Arf Forum

This is probably coming out on Wednesday, if my dream visions are correct. It's from Fantagraphics, and it's $19.95 for 120 pages in color and b&w, depending on what's needed.

This is the third volume in Craig Yoe's ongoing 'Arf' series of books, aimed at exploring the "The Unholy Marriage of Art + Comics," as the cover proclaims. There's also a regularly updated website that serves as a sort of ongoing augmentation of the print project. You can find a lengthy preview of this book posted on there, but if you've ever read any of the prior two volumes, you'll know to expect a profusely illustrated stew of odd artifacts, strange correlations, historical curiosities, vintage humor, vintage cheesecake, and a general feeling that whatever is waiting upon the next turn of the page cannot entirely be expected, even if you've read the table of contents.

Take this volume's 24-page cover feature, Comic Reading is Fun and Mental, which is little more than a parade of curious items connected to the act of reading comics, with minimal historical information provided. There's images of celebrities like Elvis and Rock Hudson and Boris Karloff reading (or sometimes merely standing in close proximity to) comic books, followed by a series of full-page reproductions of mid-20th century magazine covers relating to the reading of comics, followed by a four-page Stan Lee/Joe Maneely short in which a bold comics editor (not unlike Stan Lee!) defends escapism itself against a sweating, growling opponent of everything good and true in the world, followed by dizzying 1922 Krazy Kat Sunday in which Krazy simultaneously reads and participates in the very comics page he/she happens to exist in. That last bit also reminds me how George Herriman was one of the truly fine writers in comics:

"But if I are here, and you is here, how come I are in the paper, and you also - ansa me that."

"Because, fool, how could it be aught were it not thus - you answer that."

All that, plus a saucy five-page picture feature from 1941, in which a leggy comics fan, prone to reading Shield-Wizard Comics in her underwear, visits the offices of MLJ (later Archie) Comics to fawn over several scenes of scantly-clad women posing live in dangerous predicaments, only to saunter off beaming with Steel Sterling and the Shield, thanks to the magic of comics.

"Come on, boys! We're going places!"


The rest of the book proceeds in a similar manner, although it does pause occasionally to present some slightly more in-depth text - an essay by Ken Quattro on his search for information on semi-legendary pre-Code horror cover artist William Ekgren, who produced a grand total of three pieces for publisher St. John in the early '50s before vanishing forever (all are lovingly reproduced, of course), gives the impression of presenting just enough information that the reader can feel as if the peculiar subject has been approached with just the detail needed to provide an entertaining overview.

But more often, the book is content to simply present pages and pages of art, usually with only a short introduction and quick nuggets of information in captions. And while Yoe's selections from, say, Max Ernst's sequential collage booklets from 1930s France, or caveman cartoons from the late 19th/early 20th century, or illustrator Ted Scheel's surreal cartoons for the lowdown Humorama line of spicy gag books, tend to make one wish that somebody would later present this material with a bit more depth, it would be misreading Yoe's aesthetic drive to pursue that line of criticism. The Arf books are fierce little visual concoctions, determined to wow the reader into awareness of the extensive intertwining of arts that were once known as High and Low, its impact emotional, sensational. Intellectual consideration of the finer points will have to come later, but it's to the book's credit that the reader is more than willing to put it off.


I have to drive to see a graduation...

*Be back later on tomorrow...


In Which the Goddamn Batman Gets to the Goddamn Point

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #5

Oh man, I seriously think Frank Miller has finally tipped his hand.

Initially, I mean that in the sense of outrage. All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder (last time I’ll be typing that in this post) has proven to be a remarkably long-lived source of controversy, sniping, miscellaneous garment-tearing, attack, defense, mockery all around - for a book that hasn’t actually seen a new issue in just about a full year, it still seems oddly immediate.

But god, I don’t know how Miller will keep up the reactions this time, not after the first half of this issue, a Justice League sequence so carefully constructed to piss so many people off, I really don’t think the effect will actually come through. Too much effort, you know?

I mean, gosh - the first line of dialogue uttered by Wonder Woman, an outstandingly caricatured man-eating she-woman, is “Out of my way, sperm bank,” with a pudgy nebbish clutching his briefcase to his chest in terror as she passes by. Diana then arrives at JLA headquarters -- a shitty abandoned cellar -- and absolutely lays into the rest of the team, driving poor, emasculated Superman bonkers with seething rage ("Woah! Felt that one right between the legs, huh, Kent?") until he finally snaps and knocks her over with a mighty stomp on the ground. Needless to say, Diana reacts to being (finally!) physically knocked around by a (real!) man by giving Superman a nasty kiss, her buttons duly pushed by the Big Blue Boy Scout resorting to brute, inhuman force. Put that in your laundry basket, Mary Jane!

I think the funniest part for me was definitely Miller’s characterization of Hal Jordan as the most bland, wishy-washy waste of a superhero concept ever. Diana barks at him, and he uses the infinite power of his ring to… make her a hanger for her jacket. What a horrible, horrible superhero Hal Jordan is. It’s almost like one of Johnny Ryan’s parodies of independent comics, hell-bent on upsetting everyone as a means of enhancing its own comedic drive.

But it’s not all just pushing fanboy buttons here. There’s obvious elements of parody, but as I’ve been saying for a year and a half (so, two prior issues), the inclusion of parodic elements does not render something a parody, just as the inclusion of jokes does not make a comic a joke. I am still convinced that the intent behind this book is largely straightforward. Yes folks, characterizations like this really do fit into Miller’s larger point.

Wait?! There’s a fucking point??

Yep. And it’s not an unfamiliar point either!

You see, to my mind, Miller is doing (in part) the same thing with this All Star book as Grant Morrison is doing with his All Star Superman - he’s folding bits and pieces of his own varied contributions to the title character’s lore into a type of ultra-summary of the character’s essence, as he sees it. Hence, the Superman as seen in this book is the consummate Frank Miller Superman, hopelessly tied down to the whims and machinations of humans, when he ought to be soaring as free as a god. As the narration states quite obviously, Wonder Woman isn’t as so much getting off on having real violence done to her by a real man, as becoming titillated at seeing Superman forget that horrible Clark Kent horseshit and seize the will to power. In the Millerverse proper, that’s something Superman wouldn’t truly do until the final pages of The Dark Knight Strikes Again, with no less than his and Diana’s ambitious love child at his side.

Now, I don’t think this comic is necessarily ‘set in’ Miller’s little Dark Knight universe. Hell, I’m not even sure it’s set in the same All Star universe that Morrison’s writing. There’s been a little bit of rhetoric surrounding the finale to 52, about the DC obsession with setting all the continuities straight, but some of its corners are really more like what’s being said of Marvel - stories existing as stores, free to connect and disconnect from one another as they please. That's what's going on here. Miller is canny enough to couch his exaggerated characterizations in the context of a JLA just starting out, not quite used to the world. Maybe they’ll grow into their ‘normal’ selves (whatever that means). Or maybe they’ll grow into Millerverse Gods.

"In time, the bonds will form. These four will become legends. The stuff that dreams are made of."

And in that way, the themes of this book are also Miller’s old favorites.

Hal’s really a wuss, you see, because he’s a galactic police officer, albeit one that's more prone to asking for votes and extra contemplation. He’s authority, which in the Millerverse exists only to be thrown down after its inevitable corruption. Hal isn’t corrupt, or wicked, so he’s merely a bit of an oaf. Obviously, he’s not beyond help - when we see him in DK2, he’s divorced himself from humanity entirely, even adopting a different physical shape. He’s free by that point, and freedom is the most precious thing in the Millerverse. For superheroes who command the powers of gods, ‘freedom’ comes through tossing off the yoke of humanity, of human civilization, and inhabiting the Pantheon. Becoming Legends. One wonders if the empowered Superman would even retain his morality, which is maybe why Miller leaves the question hanging at the end of DK2 - answering it would be sticky indeed, when you're trying to promote them as superheroes.

It’s no surprise, then, that Batman is the favored Miller superhero, because he’s no deity. He’s actually, fully human, yet he stands just as high as the gods. He can bring the greatest of the gods down low. And here, in All Star Batman, he represents perfect, joyous freedom. That’s the key to the series so far, in all its ridiculous, pitiful, gregarious glory and/or shame. Batman acts silly, and says silly words like “cool,” and spits out the most overblown of pulp narrations, and giggles while jumping down to engage in corny verbal play with street toughs, because I genuinely believe that is what Miller considers fun. Batman is a ‘fun’ superhero, because he is free, and he stars in what I'm sure Miller considers a 'fun' superhero comic. There's different versions of fun, you know? I like Geoff Klock’s notion of Miller’s and Morrison’s simultaneous visions of Batman existing in a sort of state of war - I personally suggest comparing the textures of the similar-yet-different pulpy narrations that both Batmen provide.

Same idea goes for Plastic Man, by the way - he’s the only member of the JLA that Miller seems to indicate any deep-seated affection for, and it’s no wonder. He’s the Id, doing anything he pleases with himself, pointing out everyone’s foibles, and cracking fanciful japes about Wonder Woman urinating on him (hmmm, this Johnny Ryan comparison is getting better and better). And Dick Grayson, well, his journey is all about picking up the axe, and becoming something powerful.

So, that's all fine - but, is the comic actually any good? I mean, identifying the mere existence of beating (bleating?) themes doesn't exactly form a rousing recommendation - it merely suggests motives. But I hold very little attachment to DC's icons, and I do respond to the chortling that Miller infuses every page with. It makes me wonder why something like The Boys bored me so much, when Miller is arguably swimming around in a similar pool of self-reference as Garth Ennis was in his book. I think it's because Miller simply seems more energetic (and it helps that he's been way less prolific), and is aided rather nicely by the mainstream-as-it-gets superhero stylings of Jim Lee, who didn't seem to work well at all with the material early on, but has since become so much better at selling the grinning face of Batman, and the solemn constipation of the 'stronger' superheroes. Even water-treading sequences like that of a (once again!) shirtless Alfred reviewing Batman's origin while punching a bag (ooh, rugged!) become statuesque.

I'm sure a lot of readers will find that it's Miller who's really constipated, and that's understandable, really. He's not the same writer he was in the prime of his popularity, and he's clearly never going back. But hey, I'm the one who thought DK2 was the best work the guy had done in years, after too much Sin City boredom, and while All Star Batman is an altogether lighter, less ambitious, and less satisfying work, I still appreciate the unrestrained glee that Miller manages to convey, when he's on. He's more on with this issue than he was in the last. It's a strange irony that this rebel of comics, with all his tales of personal liberation, has found a financial and creative 'up' in working so much (this and two more projects on the way) on such an old, corporate-owned property.

Yet, his work on that property gets people agitated, on a scale he wouldn't manage otherwise in the Direct Market. What's your freedom, Frank Miller? What's your liberation?


“Someday I’ll shit out a work so filled with hatred for the human condition, it’ll cauterize skin on contact.”

Misery Loves Comedy

ANYway… I was GONNA say that I kinda hate the Internet… I mean, isn’t it just an infinity of intellectual miscarriages enamored of their own worthless opinions?

“…that’s not the ‘Net; that’s ‘humanity.’

This one’s out today, this beautiful Wednesday, from Fantagraphics. It’s a $24.95 hardcover, with a deceptively plain green and white package design, collecting works from 1992-2003, at 172 pages.

And all things considered, that’s not an extraordinarily large amount of stuff. But the chief appeal of this book, as all recurrent readers of writer/artist Ivan Brunetti already know, is not any display of prolificacy. Rather, it's that the small amount of material happens to embody, with formidable aplomb, an entire, peculiar-yet-familiar approach to making autobiographical comics, and ably documents its creator’s development in seemingly every applicable way. One might almost convince themselves that an era is perhaps summarized between these covers, but no, it is only the singular era of one man, writ large enough that he might seem to speak for the form itself.

Misery Loves Comedy is indeed soaked with misery and comedy. Seemingly every page beams some fresh emotional atrocity or angry splash of gore slapstick, and the two serve mainly the same purpose. The book happily requests on its back cover to be filed under “Erotica/Hate Literature,” and opens with an introduction by Brunetti’s therapist, who details the shame and terror the author undergoes in creating comics for public consumption, and closes with the benediction “Enjoy the cartoons. Don’t get too impatient waiting for the next book. Treat your children well.” By the end of this little tome, you will absolutely believe in the seriousness of this preface. I believed it immediately - comics have gotten to be a bit like pornography, in that I’ve come to accept that just about anything is probably true. Did Ivan Brunetti really have his therapist introduce his new book. Sure! Did someone in Germany really make an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial porno? Yes. Absolutely (note: never click that link).

The purpose, and the delight & tedium of Ivan Brunetti’s work of this period, is that he’s equipped to make you believe that truly anything is possible in his autobiographical comics, so steely-eyed is its gaze upon his failings and self-loathing. Primarily, this book collects three issues of Brunetti’s comic book series Schizo, published from 1995-98. Indeed, the original color covers of every b&w issue are included, complete with glossy stock, to give the impression that the issues themselves have somehow been artfully squished into the larger book. There’s other material -- shorts and strips from the earliest and latter stretches of the artist’s career -- but the meat of the collection is/was also the primary material of those first three issues: chapters one through four of a projected (and thereafter abandoned) eighteen-part serial called Self-Caricature.

That’s an important title to keep in mind, as Brunetti’s approach to autobiographical comics is anything but naturalistic, and the exaggeration-prone properties of the form are largely employed toward heightening the artist’s projection of self-loathing. The reader is always kept aware that it’s a projection, although there’s rarely anything facile about Brunetti’s storytelling. Yet, despite the initial randomness of the visual approach, there’s a definite progression through the three issues of Schizo, which is only enhanced by the intuitive arrangement of this collection’s contents. I’ve mentioned before how the organization of older material from various sources into a new book can create fresh and particular effects, if enough attention is paid to detail. That necessary attention is absolutely paid here, and the effect is potent - the autobiographical Brunetti is put on a sort of path by the organization of these contents, and its one that enhances the effect of the earlier materials.

But wait! What are these comics about? What do they look like? Well, they’re always about one thing: the bottomless well of anxiety, loathing, and miscellaneous negativity inside of Mr. Ivan Brunetti. And they always look like different things: stylized narration, heavy realism, gag strips of every style and stripe, pure text, a myriad of varied cartoon lines.

Issue #1 of Schizo, the first piece presented in this collection, remains utterly marvelous in exploring Brunetti’s single-minded subject matter as reflected through the surface of a diamond. The ‘main’ story of the issue takes the form of Brunetti narrating his horrified mental state - fantasizing about murder, chatting with a nasty God, wandering through symbolic scenes of killing and violence and vomit, musing on the horrors of society and life. We sometimes get other viewpoints. There’s a bit with Brunetti’s concerned (and evidently long-suffering) wife. There’s also a bit with familiar Christian icons portrayed as Popeye characters, God anally assaulting the Baby Jesus and emptying a revolver into the back of the Child’s head.

Dang me

I didn’t even come…”

This sort of material quite easily runs the risk of seeming tinny, like so much empty ‘shocking’ posturing. But as Evan Dorkin notes about Brunetti elsewhere in the book, the “overall seriousness and unrelenting nature” of the material differentiates him from “wiseass insincere angry folks who have MTV options and publicity people.” Then again, Zero Benjamen slags him as “mediocre shit” that “steal[s] all the attention away from folks out there who are honestly trying to say something interesting and wondrous about life.” And sure, even Brunetti has trouble enlivening as old-hat an idea as the List of Things I Hate, another piece of the first issue.

But the wonder of that issue rises from its accumulation of anger through dozens of varied images, many stories and story types that all add up to exactly the same thing, as if all the comics in the world cannot hold in one man’s hate. Half the fun is in how far he’ll go, and he goes far - by the time he displays the actual photographs of a close female friend, confessing his nasty secret crush, you’ll seriously be thinking that anything is possible.

Obviously, this struck a chord with a lot of folks. The letters page to issue #2 is packed with so many notable names on the record you’d swear that somebody extremely beloved had died in a particularly cruel manner. This is where the Dorkin quote above came from. Robert Crumb is present. Chris Ware. Dan Clowes. Peter Bagge. Chester Brown, Seth, Joe Matt. David Mazzucchelli. Art Spiegelman. Bill Griffith. So many more. You wouldn’t think this would attract quite so much attention.

The collection positions some Horrifying Early Work in between issues #1 and #2, lots of utterly grotesque gags and strips, which are really quite remarkably reminiscent of Johnny Ryan in their determination to hit directly upon the most marvelously awful things for dirty laughs. The earliest of this material dates from 1992, and I believe Ryan’s earliest minicomics work appeared in 1994, so perhaps the two were unknowingly sharing a certain wavelength, although there’s little surprise that Brunetti broke out so fast while Ryan languished in obscurity for a while - besides the obvious gap in visual proficiency, I get the feeling that the molten core of artful doom at the heart of Brunetti’s work struck a certain chord for a certain time in alternative comics, while Ryan (provided that his earlier work isn’t incredibly far removed in storytelling thrust from his later professional publications) has always preferred a the pursuit of perfect, evil gags, unencumbered with any pretension of chest-beating self-analysis, similar taste in shit and puke be damned.

Pretension does become a problem with issue #2 of Schizo. By this point, especially when read as part of a whole collection, the shock of issue #1 and its endless contortions has waned. Brunetti becomes increasingly verbose, his tortured monologues and dialogues becoming tortuously lengthy - one page is filled almost entirely with tiny lettering, the words of Jesus Christ, no less. Later comes a nearly unbearable illustrated prose semi-treatise on the state of the world. Robbed of visual invention, the whole enterprise sags. Frankly, it’s boring. I wouldn’t call it calamitously boring, more ‘three vehicle accident with injuries’ boring. But still, it really seems that Brunetti has already found himself in a rut. It emphasizes how crucial the artist’s kaleidoscopic visual sense had been to the prior issue.

But even then, the collection’s structure affords it some affecting ironies. In the middle of issue #2 is a text piece by Brunetti’s wife, one of those frazzled ‘I gotta live with this guy!’ pieces that nonetheless carries with it real affection. After issue #2, the collection presents some Contributions to Various Periodicals. One of those is a humorous one-pager about the Spice Girls, and how Ivan thinks Posh Spice is hot. His wife is perturbed. The punchline of the strip is that the two have divorced. For real. And goddamn if it doesn’t serve up an extra-nasty sucker punch, the type that only a collection of this sort can manage.

Issue #3 of Schizo is the last in the collection. Its letters page is full of reader invective, some playful, some serious. This is where the Benjamen quote above came from. But it’s an altogether more developed thing, consisting mainly of a gorgeously-paced 20-page slice of Brunetti’s past working life. Yeah, it’s still full of meanness and excellent lines, but it’s spookily controlled (all 4 x 4 grids), assured storytelling, packed with funny, well-realized characters, touches of irony and subtle visual flair, and a genuine flavor of life to go with the suffering. In a way, all three issues of Schizo were little transformations, just as the stories of issue #1 were so impressively flexy - issue #3, then, sees Brunetti evolving into a newer, more interesting (for my money) form.

Hell, he even seems a little better! Healthier! The path that this collection takes him down seems to represent an exorcism of his worst demons, his self-assessment beginning as a dazzle, turning into a slog, and emerging as something with a greater depth of entertainment. After issue #3, the collection presents its final section, Miscellaneous Color Pieces. Shit, the book even fucking ends in color! And I do believe these are the newest pieces of all, showcasing the artist’s current streamlined style, and venturing into subject matters like reporting and biography - there’s a suite of winsomely connective James Thurber pieces that form a great little saga in miniature, informed by Brunetti’s obsessions, but not overwhelmed by them. There’s even (*gasp* *choke*) an inspirational story of a downtrodden woman overcoming her station to achieve a dignified poise! Yow!

It was the first time in my adult life that I felt something close to faith in humanity.”

So narrates the great depressive, who ends the book a little different than he began. Shizo #4 would not come out until 2006, eight years after #3. It’s not in this book, and it has no right to be (even if it would fit in dimensionally). It’s too much the present, and this book is a chronicle of the past, and an often great one, for those with the fortitude. By the end, they may believe the words of Jim Woodring, from that star-studded letters column:

Here’s what I predict: this book will bring you lots of acclaim; you’ll become a critics’ darling and a sophisticated fan favorite; all your vile juices will be spent and only your discerning mind, acerbic wit, and formidable drawing skills will remain; you’ll produce biting, humanist work that will bring you a larger, nay, a huge audience that will include most of your original fans; you’ll have a long and fulfilling life and end up buried next to Jim Morrison. Like Sartre, your paean to existential isolation will cause humanity to embrace you. By God, I wish I were you, with all the joy and fulfillment you have in store for you. This is a great day.”


Do do do do dooo...

*I suppose the reviewing parts of the brain napped last week.


God Save the Queen

Yep. I mean, obviously I posted about other things, but this is all I could formally call a 'review,' you know?



Misery Loves Comedy: From Fantagraphics, a 172-page, $24.95 hardcover compiling the first three issues of Ivan Brunetti’s famed comics series Schizo, along with a bunch of additional material. The series has become something of a touchstone for a certain breed of comics fan, despite having released a total of only four issues since 1995 (yeah, take that, comics at the bottom of this post!). Loaded with massive shifts and leaps in Brunetti’s art style, sometimes overloaded with words, always overloaded with dejection and neurosis and horrid, filthy humor, Schizo remains disconcertingly effective, potentially upsetting work today.

Things Just Get Away from You: Also this week from Fantagraphics’ $24.95 hardcover collection department - this 216-page omnibus of works from seemingly perpetually under-the-radar cartoonist/animator Walt Holcombe, a man much respected by his peers, yet not so much discussed by readers. Containing the artist’s Xeric-funded The King of Persia, along with other works.

The Plain Janes: The first book in DC’s much-hyped Minx line of comics for young females, from writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Jim Rugg. The plot is something about an urban lass moving to the suburbs and forming an art gang with local outcasts, I think. Anyway, if there's any non-superhero book everyone will be talking about online this week, it'll probably be this.

Batman: Black & White Vol. 3: Being another fat (288-page) collection of b&w Batman tales from a wide variety of writers and artists. Hardcover, $24.99. I wish DC had posted a contributors’ list somewhere, since lord knows I can’t keep a million Batman shorts straight, but we are promised appearances by Darwyn Cooke, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Jill Thompson, and more. Also this week from DC’s Batman department - Batman #665, an issue that both ties in with Batman’s origins and apparently serves to fill in the gaps of the ill-fated Batman subplot in 52.

B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls #3 (of 5): Solid as always.

Army@Love #3: I enjoyed Marc Singer’s review of the first two issues of this Rick Veitch project, if you haven’t seen it already.

X-Men: First Class Special #1: I can’t say I’ve read any prior issues of writer Jeff Parker’s continuing chronicle of the X-Men’s earliest exploits (an eight-issue miniseries just wrapped, and a sequel ongoing series is set to launch next month), but this 48-page one-off’s visual line-up of Kevin Nowlan, Nick Dragotta & Mike Allred, and Paul Smith is too much to resist. Preview here.

Warren Ellis’ Blackgas 2 #2 (of 3): Gee, I had no idea what was going to happen to this Avatar zombie sequel project from writer Ellis, now that artist Max Fiumara is off to work with Peter Milligan on Infinity Inc. over at DC, but I guess it’s going to draw a little closer to finishing itself off. It’s been half a year since issue #1, but I do believe the cast is holed up at a hospital, and are preparing to fight off ink-spewing zombie things in a distinctly Italian style. Lots of bodily harm. Also this week from Avatar’s zombies department - Plague of the Living Dead #1 (of 6), from the Escape of the Living Dead crew of John Russo, Mike Wolfer, and Dheeraj Verma, which is only 16 pages, hence the $2.50 cover fee.

All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #5: Face it folks, after a couple days of online commentary surrounding this one, you’ll probably want it to disappear for another year. Also this week from the extreme lateness department (an inter-publisher endeavor) - The Ultimates 2 #13 (of 13), Mark Millar’s final issue, which will also thereafter jump from the glacial art process of Brian Hitch to the greased lighting we all know as Joe Madureira.



The Internet is my benefactor.

*In a short follow-up to something I mentioned the other day, I finally got a hold of Drawn & Quarterly's Free Comic Book Day thing from this year, a little pamphlet titled Activity Book, which is actually an excerpt from Lynda Barry's Spring 2008 project What It Is. I didn't manage to find any loose copied sitting around in stores, by the way - luckily, someone with an extra copy heard my cries and gave me free comics succor, which was nice.

I'm pretty glad I got a copy of this book, because it strikes me as one of the most personal of the 'How To Make Comics' projects that tend to proliferate on FCBD, being essentially a series of excercises the reader can perform in order to get their storytelling juices flowing. Lots of emphasis on observation, and (moreover) developing skills in transmuting silent personal observations into something that might eventually resound on the page. It's not so much geared toward the communicative, in the writer-audience sense, but the writer's own solitude in processing the stuff of past and present surroundings into the stuff of stories. As a result, it naturally adopts a more personalized feel, as Barry cannot avoid spilling out her own interior workings in teasing out better workings within the reader.

I think I was most struck by the element of anxiousness in the book, a real grasp of how little illusion barriers crop up to impede progress toward storytelling, especially the simplest illusion of believing, simply, that you don't have much of interest to say. Barry is wise enough to know that a mere ticking off of events in a person's life doesn't really make for good stories, nor does purely swimming in emotion - she posits the wielding of the 'image' as necessary, that being not necessarily drawings but charged things that crackle with the stuff of living, as opposed to the 'obituary' nature of facts' simple relation. Above all, the act of creation is held up as a self-evident good, one that needs no attachment to the validation of capital or reknown to better the outlook of the creator - this isn't a recipe for 'breaking in' to any industry or whatnot, but a genuine attempt to promote what Barry sees as the betterment of life itself.

As a result, it doesn't care much to deal with 'styles' or trends of the sort - heaven knows some readers may find Barry's own patchwork visual approach to be cluttered, although her linework is disarmingly smooth and lovely. I appreciated it as a dumping out of the contents of one head to facilitate further dumpings on the part of the reader, and I think it's a worthy FCBD pursuit to put out a book of that sort.

So, I'm saying I'm glad I got the thing. I do believe D&Q will send you a copy with any order from their online store, if you can't find one and don't want to wait until Spring 2008.


Ah, the YouTube anime post - a perfect invention for a fast Saturday evening post.

*Best piece of animation I've seen recently? That would be Yasuhiro Aoki's Kung-Fu Love, a short film from the 2006 Studio 4°C dvd anthology Amazing Nuts!, which compiled four shorts which I believe were all intended to act simultaneously as stand-alone works, music videos, and promotional 'trailers' for prospective longer works, should financial backing be somehow finagled.

I'd sure love to see the full-blown theatrical feature Aoki (a key animator and occasional director on assorted 4°C/Beyond C projects) has planned - supposedly he's already storyboarded much of the movie in his spare time, and the short does indeed have the overstuffed feel of someone packing in ideas he's probably had for years and can't wait to get out. Excellent animation, odd-looking characters, lovely fights, funny gags, vintage teenage the-world-is-against-me worries, young love, young sex, sly digs at traditional gender roles, tooth-rotting pop music - just about everything is here.

*Yes, Studio 4°C has released several fine dvd anthologies. But it is Genius Party, their upcoming two-volume theatrical anthology, that shall revolutionize the world and cure many challenging diseases. Please dip your mind into this extended trailer for Vol. 1 (out in Japanese theaters this summer), which intersperses footage from the shorts themselves with production footage of the directors at work. An awful lot of time is spent with Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) and his Baby Blue short, but we also get to see Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game) zipping around alongside a camera, and Hideki Futamura's Limit Cycle manages to somehow look exactly like how I pictured the world of William Gibson's Neuromancer in my head while first reading it many years ago.

Also, if you happen to have a short animated film sitting around anywhere, you can enter it in the Genius Party contest on MySpace, and maybe get your entry included in the official dvd, or possibly critiqued by one or more of the Genius Party directors. I'd certainly be up for Shoji Kawamori spending 800 words on how much I suck, so it's too bad I can't even animate my body out of bed in the morning half the time!

*Second best piece of animation I've seen recently? The prolonged opening sequence to the first episode of Re: Cutie Honey, a 2004 three-episode OVA series created as a sort of accompaniment to the (also 2004) live-action Cutey Honey movie directed by Hideaki Anno (of Neon Genesis Evangelion). Anno also 'directed' the OVA series, but much creative control was supposedly handed to the individual episode directors, episode one's being Hiroyuki Imaishi, who is now best known as director on studio Gainax's currently-airing, much-hyped television series Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, the production of which has already seen Gainax co-founder Takami Akai resign as producer (and indeed, step down from his position on Gainax's board) following a series of online controversies and heated message board exchanges with fans over various issues concerning the show. Anime News Network has details ("Akai, under the name Magi no Suke, responded that personally reading the comments on 2channel was 'like putting [his] face next to an anus and breathing deeply.'").

Anyway, Imaishi (a Gainax veteran and animation director on FLCL) has a highly energetic style, which loans itself well to the gradual building action of this introductory sequence, climaxing in the proper OP of the series, complete with the famous Cutey Honey theme song (vintage original here).

I've also recently seen Anno's live-action film, which was recently released on R1 dvd. I should note that I haven't seen the original 1973-74 Cutey Honey show, created by anime/manga legend Go Nagai, which apparently served as a major formative influence on a generation of Japanese youths, possibly through its innovation of the 'nudie transformation scene,' in which the show's heroine zaps away whatever clothing she happens to be wearing, resulting in a few fleeting seconds of nudity before her magical action outfit forms around her and she's ready to battle evil.

I suspect Anno was one of those youths (born in 1960, he'd be just the right age), because much of the Cutey Honey movie is spent building a universe of innocent fanservice, somewhat self-consciously naïve love-will-save-us-all rhetoric, and candied slam-bang costumed action. It's all somewhat reminiscent of a Troma film in its total dedication to turning its limited resources into giggly entertainment, as well as its loud sense of humor. Lots of broad actors parading around in gaudy supervillain costumes (designed by anime/manga luminaries like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Moyoko Anno) while CGI and models explode everywhere. The usual Anno theme of the individual's torturous relationship with society is present in the form of artificial human Honey's comical desire to fit in, although everything is kept as light and fluffy as possible; even an 'intense' red-lit battle scene highlighting Honey's capacity for rage and the obligatory ponderous-spiritual endgame seem more concessions to genre expectation than anything else.

It's pretty fun, though, provided you don't get easily irritated with 'knowing' camp or plotlines pausing for a villain to introduce himself through a song-and-dance number. There's some behind-the-scenes footage on the dvd, and the famously depressive Anno looks like he's having the time of his life - the enthusiasm does manage to show in the film, at least.


I have a lot of fog to drive through today, so all I can do today is express my intense jealousy.

*Lucky West Coast Dept: Hey there, readers who happen to be somewhere near Seattle! I was just looking around at Anime News Network (which don’t seem to permalink its shorter news blurbs), and discovered that this year’s Seattle International Film Festival (May 24 - June 17) will be screening no less than three of the comics/animation-connected movies that I won’t shut up about on this here site.

On Friday, May 25 and Monday, May 28, we’ve got Paprika, the new Satoshi Kon feature anime. On Friday, June 8 and Sunday, June 10, you can catch Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s live-action adaptation of Mushishi, which is apparently going to be screened under the title Mushishi and not its dire alternate title of Bugmaster. And on Sunday, June 10, there’s Tekkonkinkreet (aka: Black and White), the Studio 4°C adaptation of Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga (itself up soon for a one-volume re-release from VIZ), which is also the first anime feature to be directed by an American, Michael Arias (although, oddly, the festival’s site credits Technical Director Hiroaki Ando as co-director). Lots of nice stuff there...


Not a lot to say about the new comics I've read thus far...

*Although I will note that the structural idea behind the new Punisher War Journal storyline -- the 'Frank becomes Captain America' plot -- actually comes off a lot better in this second issue than it did in the first. I think the repetition of the future-tense bits as a framing device is each issue works pretty well, but it only really works through, er, repetition. So it led to a rough first issue, but I've got a much better handle on it now. It's a rather silly Punisher that Fraction writes, one even more prone to antics (and slightly less straight-faced antics) than Garth Ennis' run on the non-MAX Punisher book - still, I enjoyed pretty much every bit of the title character dressing as an outrageous stars 'n bars The South Will Rise Again type, and Fraction seems ready to treat the character's career as Captain America, however short it may be, on mostly symbolic terms. As in, Frank's aware of the Captain America symbolism, and wants to use it for good (well, his idea of good).

Also, nice joke about superhero costumes at the end; very interesting in that it's almost a direct inversion of the sort of joke Ennis would crack...


The evening's real post.

God Save the Queen


A new original graphic novel from Vertigo, just out in hardcover the other week, $19.99 at 96 pages.

This, unfortunately, is an awful comic. And I know writer Mike Carey and artist John Bolton aren’t generally awful talents, as much as some of their individual works might not be to my personal taste. But this is as bad a comic as any I’ve read recently, coupling bizarre, disconcerting visual choices with a dull, formulaic script, all toward an unpleasant result. There is neither originality nor inspired use of studied formula at work. It is bluntly moral in the manner of a schoolteacher lecturing small children, haplessly literal in much the same fashion, and prone to repetition of themes that aren’t particularly compelling the first time around. It is kind of a chore to read, is what I’m saying.

God Save the Queen initially sports dual unimpressive plotlines: an evil revolution in a fantasy kingdom, and a rebellious young woman’s descent into drug abuse with the Bad Crowd. They eventually meld into an equally unimpressive whole, in the manner of 1 multiplying into 1. The fantasy plot concerns the return of wicked Queen Mab, the former ruler of the Faerie realm, who seizes the throne away from one Queen Titania - don’t get too caught up in the fairy lore, since just about everything beyond surface details and plot twist necessities operates on the plane of broad fantasy clichés, from the evil former ruler returning to wreak havoc, to everyone’s salvation laying with a rejected-yet-gifted one from beyond the immediate confines of the realm, whose responsibility it will be to save the queen. Because that’s the title, you see.

The title also comes from a Sex Pistols song, of course, which ties in the our second plotline, that of young Linda. She’s enamored with her dad’s music (and isn’t that the essence of punk rock?), since it reminds her of more stable times, but she’s currently living unhappily with her emotional ruin of a mother, a designer of buildings who hasn’t been getting much work done at all. Linda, as these things go, has a nice local boy who’s sweet to her and wants her to study her school lessons, but she eventually falls in with some unsavory types she meets at a club, including a smoldering bad boy in shades who dresses in black and turns her on to the dangerous world of… Dope!

I like a guy who’s a bit dark. A bit - somewhere else.

But then if I’m honest -

“- I guess I like a lot of things that are bad for me.”

Unfortunately, our heroine narrates much of the book in a similar manner. It also turns out these bad new friends are actually from Faerie, and happen to be dealing in a nasty Faerie drug, Red Horse, which requires a certain type of blood to cook. Linda’s got the right stuff, and soon she’s using with the rest of them, and even dragging her nice local boy-who-is-a-friend along into the gutter! Tragedy and personal growth awaits!

You can probably already tell where this plotline is going, so it’s sufficient to note that this is just the sort of comic where, as Linda shoots up for the first time, an image of a wild red horse bucking around is actually drawn on the page. Because she’s using Red Horse. You might think, ‘oh, well at least nobody drew a screaming face on her arm or anything.’ No, that’s a few pages later. She does not, however, actually chase a dragon at any point, but did I mention she goes for a motorcycle ride with Bad Boy and literally lets her hair down?

Meanwhile, we occasionally jump back to Faerie, where mythic thingies speak in riddles and sullen characters with flowing hair utter lines like “That cursed recreant! How he will bleed and scream when the true queen returns!” Three guesses who has the hidden power necessary to make things right.

All of this might have come across as slightly less banal had there been some inspired art choices, but this is not the best I’ve seen of John Bolton. Frankly, many of the aesthetic criticisms I’ve seen levied toward superhero heavy realists like Greg Land apply just as much here, though Bolton works his photorealist characters through a sheen of painterly smudge. Still, there’s the same stiffness to the characters’ postures, and a nasty tendency toward jarring ‘overacting.’ Facial expressions occasionally don’t seem to match what’s being said in the dialogue, and characters on the same page sometimes don’t seem to be occupying the same reality. There’s inconsistencies in character depictions, occasionally on the same page - I know Queen Mab has some shapeshifting capabilities, but why do small things like her lip color and the bone structure of her face change from panel to panel? Also: why does Our Heroine, when faced with a no-doubt dangerous journey, change from her pants into a little skirt and a belly-baring top?

You see, most of all, there’s an overabundance of glam. Bolton is a very glam artist, and he positions his characters in glamorous poses, sometimes regardless of what’s going on in the story. Evil villains attacking the palace? An escaping fairy takes the time to cross her legs in mid-air, and winsomely tuck her hands beneath her chin. Soon after, another fairy is swatted out of the air by Queen Mab, causing her to luxuriously careen through space with her eyes sensually pursed shut and her back arched to accentuate her bust.

I could imagine this acting as an affectingly arch sort of style in a more tongue-in-cheek book, but this story is so thuddingly literal that each added layer of glossy sass and sex only irritates more. Needless to say, the drug abuse bits offer several opportunities for ravishing decadence, though young Linda is almost always positioned under the most admiring of gazes. Even when she’s had a barbed arrow as long as her forearm plunged through her shoulder, she sits patiently on the leafy grass, head tilted to one side, solemnly lolling, as if attempting to remain awake during Sunday mass or contemplating a poem. A glamorous poem!

The apex is undoubtedly reached in a sequence directly following the obligatory WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THE TRUTH bit where the girl confronts her mother about her secret nature. Linda is lounging around in her underwear after sex with her Bad Boy crush object, only to pull on her boots (and only her boots) to confront the fairies’ monstrous drug hookup, her pantied butt at the center of a dramatic splash page. But the wicked trafficker tells her death is afoot, and Our Heroine runs, runs in her bra and panties and boots, only to find her poor nice local boy pal dead -- dead from Dope, dear readers -- the tragedy of which causes her bra to spontaneously disappear as she places her left hand over a nipple and blushes in the reader’s general direction.

I wouldn’t give a name. Or any address except the squat. So they took me in.

A white car like a slab of ice. Red lights. Like love. Like whores.”

Some of those words are underlined for extra impact, by the way.

As you’ve picked up by now, Linda eventually makes her way into the world beyond as a determined fighter, encountering allusions to the hit Sandman comic book series while uncovering Queen Mab’s dastardly drug-related scheme, eventually learning to respect her mother while destroying evil in a clankingly literal ‘symbolic’ manner that doubles as both tossing away her drug paraphernalia and harnessing the power of love. I couldn't tell you who this book is aimed at, but its determination to avoid any trace of subtlety in the process of hammering at themes of love and regret and family evokes a certain brand of edgy-yet-wholesome young adult literature I do seem to recall from junior high, though maybe I'm just imagining things.

It is the type of book that gets the mind wandering away from it - everything is all better in the end, Linda is confronted with Dope again but she Just Says No, and the book concludes with her and her mother apparently riding motorcycles across an idyllic bridge of enchantment, unless that’s some other people on the bikes. I could have gone for Death popping up from the bottom of the page to declare “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” while John Constantine waves a banana with a condom on it, but even that tiny pleasure was robbed from me. Damn my earthbound head!


This week seems kind of light.

*Get going.


House (horror of a type from Josh Simmons - get it when it's out)

52 #52 (of 52)

and a big special on Free Comic Book Day 2007

*I sure hope I'm not missing anything of too much interest -


The Collected Hook Jaw Vol. 1: Here’s an odd one, which may not show up in many North American shops - a new collected edition of a notorious serial from Action (“The Sensational Paper for Boys!”), a 1976-77 British comics anthology, created by Pat Mills, which became something of a magnet for controversy at the time due to its depictions of violence. The experience would later inform the launch of 2000 AD. Hook Jaw was one of the more famous features, an unabashed Jaws riff packed with both dismemberment on the high seas and environmental politics, from writers Mills & Ken Armstrong, and artist Ramon Sola. Further information and pretty pictures here. From Spitfire Comics, at a pricey $24.99 for 104 pages.

Criminal Vol. 1: Coward: The collected edition of the first storyline from Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Phillips’ creator-owned crime book, which is set to begin its next bunch of issues soon. It’s a perfectly fine little crime caper, jumping from a big heist to a man-on-the-run, with plenty of nice bits of character observation, only slightly undone by a somewhat silly guns blazin’ action movie finale. Far from bad, though - these two know their entertainment.

Eternals: Also out this week, in both Direct Market and chain bookstore-targeting covers, is a hardcover collection of this Neil Gaiman-scripted exercise in explaining Jack Kirby concepts (at trying length) for new readers, and retooling everything for the current Marvel continuity. Lovely, appropriate art by John Romita Jr. can’t disguise the fact that Gaiman just doesn’t seem to have an awful lot to say about these characters beyond the broadest suggestion of religious and mythic themes, which is too bad, since his wide envisioning of Civil War-era Marvel is not without wit. They can stuff it in a $29.95 hardcover and make it look like a proper novel if they want, but this really feels like one of those relaunches of an ongoing series where a ‘name’ creator is brought on for the first storyline to quickly attract readers and provide vague direction to the subsequent teams to follow. Classic superhero thinking in a contemporary superhero package, then.

Parasyte Vol. 1 (of 8): In which another artifact from an earlier era of manga-in-English makes its way back to the shelves. Parasyte, from writer/artist Hitoshi Iwaaki, was one of the first-even released from Tokyopop, way back in 1998 when it was known as Mixx Entertainment. I do believe they eventually got the whole thing released, in 12 volumes. The new Del Ray editions are a good deal fatter and less expensive (288 pages for $12.95), which is why there’ll be less of them, and they’re also unflipped. Parasyte hails from 1990-95, sporting a visual style that looks old-fashioned for even that time, but the point of the whole enterprise lays quite clearly in watching horrific alien pods do awful things to the human body, while a boy with an alien for a hand struggles against something. Shaenon Garrity has more info, and many pictures.

Buddha Vol. 7 (of 8): Prince Ajatasattu: And in other manga releases, there’s the softcover version of the penultimate volume in Osamu Tezuka’s opus (among other opuses).

Garth Ennis’ Chronicles of Wormwood #3 (of 6): The third issue of this religious comedy thing, which actually is written by Garth Ennis, so don’t be fooled by the possessive title, which often denotes that a certain person is not so much involved with the book - he is. Comics are very confusing.

Guy Ritchie’s The Gamekeeper #2: The second issue of this decent action thing, which really has very little at all to do with Guy Ritchie. Ah! See what I mean?

India Authentic #1: Ganesha: Also from Virgin this week, something that was originally going to be titled Deepak Chopra’s Ganesha, but I guess they decided the India Authentic banner would do a better job. First in a line of one-shots, as the book's writer confirms in the comments below, telling stories of famed Indian figures of myth. One suspects Virgin is trying to start over to gain some attention - next month will see various relaunches and special new reader-friendly issues of various titles, presumably reflecting the influence of new story consultant Ron Martz.

Blade #9: Continuing the exciting travails of Blade in England.

The Immortal Iron Fist #5: Continuing the exciting travails of multiple Iron Fists.

Punisher War Journal #7: Continuing the exciting travails of Frank Castle and his America Fuck Yeah outfit down at the border.

Countdown #51 (of, er, 1?): You see, the numbers go backwards down to #1, so next issue will be #50. Good thing I won’t have to label this every week!