10.03.12 Shipping Report

It’s a very light week for me, which is fine since I’ll be in LA on business for a couple days and might end up hitting the LCS late Wednesday evening, if at all. The book of the week is clearly Danger Club #4 (Image) from Landry Walker and Eric Jones. The delay was apparently because the child of one of the creator’s was struck by a car(!), but everyone is now ok and the book seems to be back on track. It’s definitely one of the best books of the Image New Wave and I can’t wait to check it out. The way I pitch it to people? It’s like Warren Ellis doing a post-modern Teen Titans. Image also has something called Non-Humans #1 (Image) out this week, which I’ll give a flip. Honestly, it sounded interesting until I got to the end of the sentence. The year is 2041 and it’s a couple decades after a space probe brought back some widespread disease which has made toys come to life and—SCREEEEECH, as the record scratches off track! Brought kids toys to life? “Blade Runner Meets Toy Story?” I don’t know, that kinda’ sounds like Peanut Butter Meets Mayonnaise to me, but all of the Image New Wave deserves at least a flip just on principle. It’s a 4-issue mini from Glen Brunswick and once-hot Whilce Portacio. On the GN front, a couple things of interest. One is the Negron SC (PictureBox), collecting some of the ridiculously proportioned sensuality of Johnny Negron, which kind of reminds me of a contemporary artist named John Valadez we just exhibited, which I guess is neither here nor there. Second, is the Sailor Twain GN (First Second) by Mark Siegel. It’s set in late 1800’s NYC as a ship captain apparently encounters a mermaid in the Hudson River. 400 pages entirely in charcoal, which the writer/artist admits is not a very feasible medium for comics for a variety of reasons. That’s definitely worth a look.


9.26.12 Reviews (Part 2)

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
Prophet #29 (Image): Honestly, I have no idea what’s going on in the solicits for this book. I swear that I saw Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis attached to this issue, and we get Farel Dalrymple instead, but you know what? Who the hell cares! At the end of the day, it’s always the same 4 or 5 guys producing this book in different combinations, jumping around, riffing and jamming from issue to issue, but they’re all amazing. Some I’ve been fans of for years; for example, I’ve followed Dalrymple since he was the NYC phenom who brought us Pop Gun War. Some are recently new finds; guys like Simon Roy or Milonogiannis were new to me, but I quickly investigated books like Jan’s Atomic Heart from the former, and Old City Blues from the latter. And guess what? They’re all fantastic! I’m going to keep saying that until you buy this book. This issue is a good example of the sheer dedication to storytelling the guys bring. Take a throw-away line about a “starship war,” that at the hands of another writer would be quickly dismissed, but here it becomes a luxurious two-page spread. In another two-page spread of the “farming marsh,” you can play an endless “Where’s Waldo?” type game consuming the expansive art. I loved the mental daze sequence where the art goes gray and white to mirror John’s foggy mind. Ultimately he puts together a “Dirty Dozen” style group, one that looks like Star Wars Bounty Hunters as designed by Philip K. Dick or some damn thing, to fight their Over Mind captor. Speaking of crazy-ass analogies, you know what the newest game on the interwebs is? It’s bloggers and critics and other hipster doofuses trying to summarize Prophet in a hook-y and clever one sentence sound byte, usually involving the terms “Conan” and “sci-fi” as inescapable components. So, here we go again, this is about the 5th time I’ve tried to do this: Prophet is like Conan as a European sci-fi comic portrayed as an epic poem like Beowulf for Generation X and The Millennials who followed. It’s utterly unpredictable, an utterly unique vision, and utterly engrossing. Prophet is surely one of the best books of 2012. Grade A.
Happy #1 (Image): Here’s the deal, Happy is better than approximately 87% of the books you’re going to find on the stands in any given week, yet something about it still really bothers me. It’s not the incomprehensible metaphysical reality exercise in symbology, continuity, and intertextuality that often sickens me with Grant Morrison’s writing. In fact, on the contrary, this is quite straightforward, with just a touch of the bizarre, yet there’s this sort of smug posturing that grates on me and tries to ingratiate its way into being liked. It’s the way it’s all sweary and vile in an inorganic in-your-face fashion, with a sort of glee best summarized as “haha look at me breaking all the rules, y'all! they say I sold out my counterculture roots to work for the man, but nu-uh girlfriend, I am sill the zany outsider Scotsman you know and love! woot!” I also didn’t like all the “ise” instead of “ize” crap. For example, “stabilised.” I realize (realise?) that Morrison is British and that’s just the way those dudes talk, but when you’re writing a book about Americans, speaking as Americans, for a predominantly American audience, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Sometimes it’s also a little rusty about who is doing what to whom and why, but that’s mostly cleared up by the end. Boy, this sure sounds like a bunch of backhanded qualified compliments. Sorry. Without caveat, Darick Robertson’s art has never looked better. It’s fantastic. And I do like the basic premise of this. In a world where everything is a con, everything is upside down, former cops are hitmen, current cops are corrupt, hospitals and doctors are run by the mob, everything is a trap, nothing is what it seems, everyone is on the take and in on the scam, and it’s all feels one step short of a movie like The Game, the main character has to re-evaluate his existence and position in life. With the help of a blue flying unicorn donkey, who may or may not be a figment of his imagination. So, there’s that. Grade B+.

9.26.12 Reviews (Part 1)

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

X-Men #36 (Marvel): Yes! David Lopez is back. Brian Wood and David Lopez make a good pairing and just click in a way that’s evident in the way the artist seems to intuitively interpret the writer’s scripts. For example, it’s there in the speed with which Sabra draws her weapon literally in the face of a threat, or in Pixie’s mannerisms, like the way she slouches in a chair in the cockpit talking to Domino. This issue continues to be about those interesting pairings. Wood will probably hate me calling this a “post-9/11” thing and throwing that label around in his vicinity, but you can see that this issue in particular is a debate over security vs. personal freedom. It’s a debate over the way Cyclops wants to handle things in his autocratic rear-echelon style vs. Storm wanting some trust and discretion in her management of the strike team and the judgment calls she has to make in the field, differing opinions on how Scott and Ororo interpret what’s in the best interest of mutantkind. The opening scene with Sabra is a lot of fun, showing off some security in the modern age, something close to my own profession, and I love how the terse dialogue flows effortlessly without feeling staged. I also still think it’s remarkable how each character has such a distinct voice, be it Domino’s flirtation or Gabriel Shepherd’s calm in the interrogation. Lopez continues to kill it visually, varying the ethnicities of the team and grappling with action or talking heads with equal gusto. I think there might be one small little coloring glitch; on the bottom of the page where Shepherd goes ape shit on the plane, Psylocke is making a fist and there are some wavy lines around it, but her psi-knife doesn’t appear to be colored. No big. I’m also not sure if Wood fully addresses the fact that the cabin of the plane is depressurized. I mean, yes, they’re superheroes who can hold on physically and the powers of more than one of them could easily shield the hole, but it’s never dealt with outright. But again, no big. It’s not like I’m going to cry and boycott the book like that one dude who complained about The Massive because a rifle shot was fired and the art accidentally showed the bullet casing still around the slug. Is it perfect? No. But it doesn't affect the narrative thrust of the story and overall seems a fairly petty thing to hang an argument on or a decision to stop a title. Anyway. Thus endeth the rant and digression. When the team grabs Shepherd and begins their pseudo-interrogation, this is a good example of why I love this book and will miss it in my monthly pull. It’s a car load of smart people talking to each other and not sounding like clichés. It’s pretty fucking refreshing. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Wood and Lopez are delivering the thinking man’s X-Men, and that’s not something you can say every day. You’re missing out on a great run if you’re not buying this. Grade A.

Mind MGMT #5 (Dark Horse): I guess I don’t have a ton to say about this book other than it being really really great. Kindt’s art is absolutely fantastic and there’s nobody else doing what he’s doing, bringing this level of artistic craftsmanship to a monthly comic. This issue is largely Agent Henry Lyme’s story, about his rise to being the star Mind MGMT agent, with a history of pacification in global hot spots and being one of the most dangerous men on the planet, to recuperating from stress and almost retiring out of the lifestyle, to re-immersion, and an ultimate mental collapse. It’s heartbreaking; the basic premise being how can you trust those around you if you’re a mind control expert? What’s genuine? What’s real? What happens when you discover you have the ability to surprise yourself? What happens when you hit the realization that products of a corrupt system can no longer exist? If you’re one of the book’s fans who prefers ostensible main character Meru over Henry Lyme, then don’t fret, a strange personal connection is revealed. Mind MGMT continues to be one of the most unexpected and unique delights currently hitting the stands. Grade A.


Brief Respite

My Day Off (Self-Published by Lilli Loge): Loge’s 10th self-published mini-comic is an ultra-limited print run of just 25 copies, which are all lovingly hand-assembled and have a hand-sewn binding. Hailing from Berlin, Loge shared with me via a handwritten note that she originally produced this with black and white originals, and then used a somehow “damaged” printer to eek out the pink hues in this edition. The experimentation continues. The original story also was a mere 3 pages; here, Loge has tinkered with the story to achieve the optimal result of each panel being placed on its own page, extending My Day Off to become a 20-page objet d’art that has enough introspection to sustain the larger narrative length. Aesthetically, Loge’s style seems to have some vintage manga influence, particularly in the facial characteristics. It’s almost as if Leiji Matsumoto dropped in some of his 1970’s figures, combined with an effervescent paper quality, and Loge’s own European fine lines to produce something slightly ethereal. Her wispy line weights, spare inks, and expert use of light create what we’d call in the Fine Art world, a minimalist composition. The main character seems to want to escape her sense of duty in a clinical setting and venture into the city at night in order to answer the call of adventure. When we can all get caught up in our isolationist work ethic, it’s a nice reminder that it’s never too late to do things for yourself and remember to prioritize your own needs in life. For ordering information visit: www.lilliloge.de Grade A.


Stealing Away The Contemporary Horror Genre

Identity Thief (Fanboy Comics): If nothing else, writer Bryant Dillon and artist Meaghan O’Keefe definitely win the award for creepiest use of the term “offspring” that I’ve ever seen. *Shudder* That unexpected little moment gave me a skin-tingling chill that I won’t soon forget. Identity Thief is the second original graphic novel published by Fanboy Comics (I reviewed the first here, Something Animal) and they’re immediately creating a consistent aesthetic to the line. Identity Thief has the same painterly qualities and intensely dark color scheme dripping with ink. From a thematic standpoint, these comics, which play like short films brought to paper (fans of the TV show American Horror Story take note), also share the same slick production quality and horror-infused supernatural elements to their human dramas.

This book sees Craig and Daphne move cross-country to escape a troubled past and begin a new life. While there is some blatant exposition to be found (the characters share indirect monologues about why they moved and who they are, mostly for the reader’s benefit) and some of the scenes play disjointed from page to page, (characters asking questions which are never answered in favor of rough unexplained jump cuts), I will say that those sophomore pitfalls from Dillon aside, most of the storytelling choices are otherwise fairly bold. I like how so many of the sequences are completely devoid of dialogue or text, allowing the art to shine and carry the primary means of information delivery, though the visual clarity of O’Keefe’s art still seems to need a little more time to develop in order to achieve this optimal balance. I do love the way that the art grows more chaotic and stylized as the anger and emotions builds in the story, it’s a nice mirroring effect that shows when the writer and artist seem to be the most in sync. During some of these sequences, the white colors serving as light indicators also really pop. I was reminded of the work of Ben Templesmith, or some of the other artists in this same aesthetic milieu, the kind I’ve seen with commercial success in LA gallery shows; people like the inimitable Jason Shawn Alexander come to mind.

In the face of the young couple’s new abode and the mysterious paranormal intrusion lurking, we learn that the real darkness in man seems to lie within. Typically the horrors in our own real lives, or even the physical manifestations that symbolize them in fiction, all stem from our own paranoid and insecure psyche. This seems to be another part of the connective tissue running through the burgeoning Fanboy Comics line, the examination of real world “monsters” as an aspect of confronting self and what we ourselves are capable of. That said, Fanboy Comics seems to be tapping into something primal, something tangible, and something socially relevant in the collective consciousness at this point in our history. The fascination with a type of intimate horror that comes from our own human nature vs. some nameless, faceless, interchangeable external threat. I’m sure that some literary scholar more skilled than I could make some sort of post-9/11 sleeper cell analogy about the proverbial “enemy within” fascination in contemporary pop culture (the recent Emmy wins for Homeland come to mind, or even the embedded paranoia surrounding the “skin-job” Cylons in BSG), but for now I’ll just say that this is engaging and beautiful comics from a company to watch. Grade A-.


9.26.12 Shipping Report

Prophet #29 (Image) continues the bold sci-fi tradition of this title as the trio of writer-artists known as Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and Giannis Milonogiannis all team-up for the story, Giannis provides the interior art, and Fil Barlow delivers the cover you see. Happy #1 (Image) is the latest blast from Image Comics. Honestly, Grant Morrison has done precious few titles I love, but this 4-issue mini-series with art from Darick Robertson seems to be more coherent than most Morrison offerings, basically his “It’s A Wonderful Life” take on crime. I'll try it out. Image is also reprinting this piece of dark subversive suburbia that I originally purchased in singles from Dark Horse a few years ago; it’s The Milkman Murders HC (Image) by Joe Casey and Steve Parkhouse, which is a steal for only $14.99. Speaking of Dark Horse, their lone title of interest for me this week seems to be the Matt Kindt spectacle Mind MGMT #5 (Dark Horse). For my Brian Wood fans out there, it’s his penultimate issue of the adjectiveless mutant affair with X-Men #36 (Marvel). On the collected edition front, this series chugs along to its inevitable conclusion [at 60 issues total (currently awaiting #40), I’m projecting there will be at least 10 of these TPB editions (this is #7) and probably 5 Apocalyptic Editions (currently 2 out) in all, got all that?] with Wasteland Volume 07: Under The God (Oni Press), which collects issues 33 to 38, from Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood.


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9.19.12 Reviews

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

Godzilla: Half Century War #2 (IDW): James Stokoe's take on Gojira works in a way that most ostensible "monster" books don’t because Godzilla really isn't the main star of the story. Instead, he focuses on the impact that the rampaging irradiated beast has on the soldiers, on humanity, on the culture, and just the way that people think about and perceive the world around them. Ultimately, that's the true cost, not just the rampant property damage, although there's plenty of that too. You hear this hyperbolic "so-and-so could illustrate the phone book and I'd buy it!" all the time, but in Stokoe's case it's actually true. I can't image anything that his art could fail to make interesting. I often try to compare the style of his work to other artists in an effort to relay some oomph. Today, I'll say that it's got all the detail of Geoff Darrow, and all the danger of Rafael Grampa lurking in his million flicks of ink. He's the kind of artist I want to cozy up to Brandon Graham so that we can get a special Stokoe issue of Prophet. This issue sees a Vietnam War era military crusade against Godzilla, attempting to defeat him with everything from traditional B-52 carpet bombing, to maser batteries, to another surprise guest, with hints toward the end of a larger plot in motion. All the while, see Stokoe do serious, humor, static, or action, and understand what a truly versatile visual storyteller he is. Grade A.

Batwoman #0 (DC): Here's the thing. I've read the original 52 series that first introduced Kate Kane as Batwoman. I've read her first solo adventures in the Detective Comics run. I've read the original #0 issue that was pre-52. I've read the entire New 52 run so far. And now I've read this second post-New 52 #0 issue. These comics are fucking great. But, as good as they are, and as good as this issue is, I haven't really learned anything new from this issue that I didn't already know about Kate Kane. I don't know, at this point, nothing I'm going to say is going to be able to sway you one way or another on this title. If you like it, you're going to like this. If you don’t, then you won't. The entire issue is built around a pre-recorded message from Kate to her Army Colonel father that fills in her entire origin story and high points from the series to date. It's smartly written and expertly rendered. I'm not just talking about Jim Williams' pencils either. I'm talking inking, coloring, lettering, all the way down the line. The team has displayed an absolute mastery of the psychological drivers of this character, all in a purposefully shifting aesthetic style that JH3 can tap into at will. Despite the pure expositional construct of the story, it's a portrait of one of the most beautiful killing machines ever created. It's, by far, the best thing currently coming out of the mainstream DCU. It's impeccable. That said, it pains me to explain the following. This book is an anomaly that shows the desperate incomprehensibility of the New 52 initiative. Aside from lengthy shipping delays, the New 52 had absolutely zero effect on this book. It's the same book that it was before the New 52, so what was the point? Good comics don't come from rebranding and remarketing your intellectual property catalogue. They come from sticking the best creators possible on books they're passionate about and then largely getting the fuck out of their way. If you can imagine this book in a vacuum, it's totally Grade A+ material, but branded such as it is, as a "New 52 #0 Issue" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean), it's unfortunately dragged down by that contextual clusterfuck. Grade A.

Ghost #0 (Dark Horse): Hey, even Dark Horse can't escape the #0 madness! So, this is apparently a collection of the prequel stories that appeared in Dark Horse Presents #13 to #15. Which really only leaves me asking where was the #0 issue for The Massive? Sorry, I'll try to get through one week's worth of reviews not mentioning Brian Wood. It's Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto, a creative team with some sort of online buzz-worthy pedigree. But... this is what I call "Dildo Art." It can be fun, it can be sexy, it can get the job done, but it's also stiff and unnatural. Something something something a huckster reality TV dude has the tables turned on him by investigating paranormal phenomenon that actually turns out to be the real deal. My problem is that the script really lacks a sense of clarity. I'm not sure why these guys are even friends in the first place. I'm not sure how the dude knows that Vaughn tampered with the machine. I'm not sure about the entire page in quotes that comes after that. The three prequel pieces don't play well together, feeling like disjointed vignettes. It lacks realism. There are so many times I was just thinking, shit, "people don't talk like that," they don’t talk out loud at themselves, they don't act that way, they don't hit each other randomly, they wouldn't react to a "ghost" like that, etc. It's just jerky and rough. Why would two guys enter a room and one of them says "two in the front room" (statement of fact) and the other says "is there anyone else here?" (question). It just doesn't make any sense. I thought it was interesting for a minute to show the main character descending into alcohol induced madness and wondering if what he was seeing was real or a hallucination, and during the last third of the story the dialogue kinda' gets ok with the ex-wife chatter, but for the most part I just didn't get it. The whole affair seems like a very flimsy premise to base a series on: uhh, we're going to go on the run and find the identity of this person because she just killed someone and she uhh needs a name, 'cuz like, that might honor the dead person, or something? Grade B-.


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9.19.12 Shipping Report

After the deluge of books last week, this week is a light one for me. The gem is GODZILLA: HALF CENTURY WAR #2 (IDW). The selling point for this book is a mere two words and captures both the art and the writing: James Stokoe. It’s the second of a 5-issue mini-series and if you’re a) somehow unaware of James Stokoe, and/or b) the type of person who misses the old Shaolin Cowboy series from Geoff Darrow, then you should be all over this. I’ll give BATWOMAN #0 (DC) a flip, even though I think it’s pretty silly that there already was a pre-New 52 #0 of this very series, from this very creative team, which was then not promptly followed up with the #1, which was delayed multiple times, to wait for the very New 52 enterprise that is now creating yet another #0. So, in this run which #0 comes first in continuity? Do I read the old #0, then this #0, then the series, or this #0, then the old #0, then the series? Talk about your multiversal time space continuum continuity paradoxes. I’ll also give GHOST #0 (Dark Horse) a flip, though I have to admit Kelly Sue DeConnick is a writer I have not yet seemed to warm to, but Phil Noto is always worth a look (when it comes out on time, heh). The GN action belongs, without a doubt this week, to 20TH CENTURY BOYS VOL. 22 (VizMedia), which means there are only two volumes of this series left to be translated! Apparently, “The Watchmen of Japan” will switch to 21ST CENTURY BOYS VOL. 1 and 2 for the final installments of the series, so keep an eye out for those toward the end of the year.


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9.12.12 Reviews [DC Edition]

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
Punk Rock Jesus #3 (DC/Vertigo): I’ll try to tangent my way into this review by saying how much I’ve been enjoying the reviews of DC’s long lamented SOLO series over at Comics Alliance. The boldness of that project under Mark Chiarello felt like some sort of life-affirming juju that is also present in this quirky series, why some people might still hold out hope for the ailing Vertigo line. The draw for most people here, I think, is probably Sean Murphy's crazy-good art chops. There’s real emotion in his art to make it feel realistic, yet it’s just stylized enough to push you into fantastical entertainment. It’s such a good balance. But, you know what? Dude can frickin’ write pretty well too! This issue opens with an amazing little action scene, as Thomas tries to get Gwen back into the J2 compound (if you’re just catching up, they’ve cloned Jesus, y’all, and it’s a reality TV spectacle ala The Truman Show, Gwen’s the inverted Mary figure, Thomas is the bodyguard, and, oh hell, just buy it already). We get to see holographic bible lessons that range from rated G to ludicrously age inappropriate. Of course, Dr. Epstein introduces good ol’ science, we’re talking evolution and global warming for all the Left Wingers in the house. I love the scene where Chris nearly drowns when he tries to walk on water. Even company man corporate handler Slate has some range in his personality, culminating with the whole you’re a prisoner “so get the fuck out of my office” scene. Desperate mom pulls a desperate deal, we go from Chris and Rebekah in public school, through a couple of vignettes that push the narrative ahead a few years, to being in the media spotlight himself, the second coming with low test scores but the genius IQ. It’s the classic nature vs. nurture debate in comic form. By the end, you can certainly see how the rebellious “punk” in Punk Rock Jesus starts to form. As if the stand-off at the gate wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, I loved the end epiphany. It’s one of the most dramatic scenes we’ve seen, like, all year, in comics, something you could never see coming. Though I think the black and white art is totally serviceable and great, I have a sneaking suspicion that the book would get the “+” if it was in color. Grade A.
Team 7 #0 (DC): This is the New DC. It doesn’t suck completely, but it’s not good either. It’s smack dab in the middle, selling tons of copies. It’s the most high profile celebration of mediocrity you could imagine. I really enjoyed The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, so I was curious to see what Justin Jordan could do with the remnants of my beloved old WildStorm Universe, but it just feels like the guy's hands are tied by an editorial checklist of what this issue is supposed to accomplish in DC Entertainment's Intellectual Property Catalogue. So, originally they called it Team 7 because it was, you know, a SEAL Team. See, there’s Naval Special Warfare Group One, basically the West Coast groups comprised of SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, 7, and, oh, never mind, I guess that’s no more, it’s just like a cool sounding name or something, “Team  7.” Yeah. It says it on the side of their ship. Because a covert team trying to contain metahumans would TOTALLY want to brand their ship. Ahem. I like that an effort is made to use these WildStorm charged words like “Majestic,” and “Gen Factor” to the DCU “metagene,” but those are like single word drops without much more in the way of actual story. They’re also playing really fast and loose with DC-charged names like “Lance” and “Grayson.” Hey, they mentioned the National Park Service. Cool. Hey, there’s Lynch and Fairchild. Hey, there’s Grifter. I love Grifter. Hey, there’s Slade Wilson. Hey, there’s skinny Amanda Waller. Hey, there’s like half a dozen other dudes that I have no idea who they are. Hey, there’s some generic whatever villains with no motivations. Hey, there’s some generic art with no distinguishable aesthetic traits other than everyone looking like they have colitis and are straining from inflamed large intestines and scrunching up their foreheads. The frogs tell Cole Cash (aka: Grifter, if you’re just joining us) to “drop that man,” but uhh, he’s… not… holding… anyone? Ahem. So I guess I thought it was an interesting attempt to weave in some WildStorm junk, but it’s basically just a throw-away gathering the team issue with a flimsy expositional construct, no hook whatsoever, and mediocre art, building an utterly forgettable conglomeration of disparate elements in the grand scheme of things. Because I miss the WildStorm U, here’s a very charitable Grade B-.


9.12.12 Reviews [Regular Edition]

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
Stumptown Volume 2 #1 (Oni Press): It’s safe to say that I was hooked on the very first page when I could actually hear the song lyrics in my head. There are a couple of nods to Volume 1 (Marenco, Tracy, etc.), but for the most part this story stands on its own. I think it might even be stronger in its ability to immediately grab you. Greg Rucka’s dialogue is subtle when it needs to be, and it’s bold when it needs to be, flexing both muscles. I felt burned out on crime stuff a long time ago, but Stumptown has been one of the lone exceptions. This story sees Dex investigating a stolen guitar belonging to Miriam “Mim” Bracca of the band Tailhook. Rucka does all sorts of crafty things with the dialogue and introduces a character named Cathy Chase who has the potential to be an even tougher version of tougher-than-nails Dex, judging from her few sparse lines. I also feel like I really learned something about the lineage and evolution of the PI archetype in the backmatter. One thing: DEA is the Drug Enforcement Administration, not the Drug Enforcement Agency as the character says. It’s a common mistake, and it seems so sloppy for a writer of Rucka’s caliber and notorious authenticity when it comes to procedurals, espionage, etc., that I almost feel like it’s a deliberate plant and the character could be lying about who she is. Or it could just be an honest mistake I’m over-analyzing. Anyway, artist Matthew Southworth seems to have improved the clarity of his lines and the ability for the characters to emote with their facial expressions. There are a couple of isolated instances of "wonky" art (my meaningless generic term for those times that perspective or proportion just seems "off" to my eye, or the art is otherwise just generally awkward), such as the close-up shot of Dex’s head while she’s driving in her ‘stang, or the few times when the small scale figures appear a little too beady-eyed, but all the rest is on point. All of the full page and two-page spreads, the larger mosaics that Southworth composes really shine. In short, the boys are back. Stumptown is a must-read book, for the second time. Grade A.
The Manhattan Projects #6 (Image): It’s “The Red Issue” entitled “Star City,” which begins to chronicle the Russian side of the equation. During the final days of the war, we see how the remaining German rocket scientists were largely divvied up between the Americans and the Soviets. There was a time not long ago when I was a bigger fan of this book, but not today. I’m starting to feel like Hickman shouldn’t have attempted to sustain one of his Image books beyond a mini-series. I think it’s extremely difficult to maintain the balance between kitsch and gravitas. They seem to be at odds with each other. At times, it’s kind of sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek, and other times it’s done in full earnest trying to make grand points. Let me be clear, I think Hickman is capable of doing either, but trying to weave both together makes for a somewhat muddled composition. I like the mention of Tunguska, I think Jordie Bellaire’s colors are a large part of what makes the book shine, and the entire Russian aesthetic in those sequences at Star City is killer from Nick Pitarra. That stuff aside? Call me fickle, but sometimes it feels like Hickman is just trying to do his best Ellis and Pitarra is trying to do his best Quitely. And that’s not strong enough for me to support in singles, something I’d probably try to score in trade for a deep discount at a con. Grade B+.

9.12.12 Reviews [Brian Wood Edition]

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

Conan The Barbarian #8 (Dark Horse): If you subscribe to Alanis Morissette’s worldview that love is a verb (and really, who shouldn’t?), in that it's something you actively work at, not a noun you haphazardly fall in and out of, something she recently described in a Piers Morgan interview, and that couples go through cycles of infatuation, power struggle (where most break-ups occur), and ultimately being able to nurture their partner, then you may start to understand what this issue is truly about. Sure, Conan and Belit are still in Cimmeria tracking his mysterious namesake doppelganger east, like a band of Uruk-Hai across the Gap of Rohan, and it’s a harsh land both physically and emotionally, but ultimately this issue is about their relationship. Belit too is a pillager and a reaver, her identity crisis comes into focus, as she wonders how Conan can love her for doing little more than the one they’re tracking. She’s also a city girl, a sea girl, not cut out for the rough terrain and the moors, stuck in her country boy’s land; are their cultures of origin and learned values so different as to drive a wedge into the heart of their young love? Ultimately, the lovers settle on trusting each other to be the independent and uniquely worthy individuals they are, resisting co-dependency. The other “Conan” has never been on screen, yet he’s already building toward being some classic foil with familiar ties, like a Butch Cavendish to The Lone Ranger, maybe revealing the shared pulp roots of these two properties. Has Brian Wood ever done a Western? I’m just sayin’. I wouldn’t put it past him. He still portrays Conan as a more introspective thinker, not a mindless brawler, and the script is more engaging because of it. On the art front, I’ve honestly been off and on board with Vasilis Lolos in the past. Here, his Conan is, at times, a little too soft and doughy and androgynous for my taste, yet he’s able to deliver Belit’s wry smile or a battered old man just fine. This is, no doubt, due in part to the fantastic colors of Dave Stewart bridging all the different art styles we've already encountered. Lolos is probably at his best in the action-oriented scenes, such as the sequence where Belit wings a knife up into the trees and, a full story beat later – an excellent pause showing absolute mastery of pace from Wood, a mysterious assailant drops from the trees. Grade A-.

X-Men #35 (Marvel): Storm’s strike team is still embroiled in the machinations of a religious cult wielding proto-mutant DNA, now being labeled “bioterrorism” by the government. Psylocke and Domino are undercover, and the mutant espionage really gets rolling when a cruise missile is inbound, and the team debates how to resolve the incident in a psychic loop. It’s intense! I don’t feel like I have a lot to say about the issue other than this extended scene is really worth its wait in gold. Pixie is still learning to master her powers (“you have to be supernatural”), there’s terrific banter that cuts the tension on the tail end of the incident (“too much talk, missile on its way”), and it’s just a smart script. Look, I’ve responded to hundreds of emergencies, been Incident Commander dozens of times, taken FEMA training, etc., and I’m telling you this hectic scene, processing data and making snap decisions, weighing risks and outcomes, is the real deal. We used to joke that incident command was all about making important decisions in too little time based on too little information. Hey, the art isn’t my favorite when it’s not exclusively David Lopez (that shot of Psylocke in a bottom panel with her creepy elongated face is downright ugly), but this particular issue is so taut and smart that you hardly mind. One of the most mature and intelligent things that Wood brings to this script is the way he takes a group of people, the X-Men, who have history, and puts them in a situation where they’re all smart people, who all like each other, but who all absolutely disagree on how to handle something. They reason through it like adults, like real people, finding that sometimes compromise is what moves us along, and don’t resort to just beating the shit out of each other, as is the case so often in company owned comics. It’s proof that this can be done right, it can be handled deftly. Grade A-.

Ultimate Comics: X-Men #16 (Marvel): It’s the apocalyptic doomsday scenario; mutants are outlawed, the government crumbles, there are concentration camps and mass graves, Sentinels patrolling the skies. Kitty Pryde and her small band of freedom fighters play a high stakes, all or nothing game. I like Kitty as a soldier. It’s almost like Brian Wood is finally done cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor and has gotten these characters in the situation they were built for. Nick Fury is enabling their rebellion, and once again, it’s raw intensity from Wood. Save yourself. Save mutants. Save the country. Go. The art still has moments of “cartooniness” to it, but I also see some enhanced details, some crispness that tries hard to stand up to the gravitas of the script, thanks to the combined powers of Barberi and Medina. Overall, Kitty and the mutants, as outsiders looking to define themselves, is an idea at the core of what the X-Men are all about, and it’s a good match for Wood since so many of his stories are also focused on identity at their core. For some reason, I’m just really digging Husk too, it shows how everyone has strengths and weakness, a use, evidence that Wood has such respect for these characters. We even get a new character (I think?) named Black Box, as Kitty finds a clever way to motivate and inspire her new army. Grade A-.


9.12.12 Advance Review [The Massive #4]

The Massive #4 (Dark Horse): When you hear that quick tempo gulang gulang gulang of the trailer for this issue (note: music by Brian Wood), it’s almost as if you can sense Wood figuring out the direction of this series and now just having fun with it. He’s moved past the initial bout of shock the characters experience from The Crash. He’s moved beyond the basic world-building that needed to occur in the first 3-issue arc for the audience to get situated. He’s getting more to the heart of what he described in an interview as (I’m paraphrasing) "a socially aware story masquerading around in the skin of an action/adventure comic." The Massive is still partially about identity too (it is, of course, the underlying connective tissue that binds all of his work together thematically), but it’s about identity in a specific way. This group, Callum Israel and Ninth Wave, follow their own moral code, their own set of rules. Now they find themselves in a world largely devoid of rules. Redefining Ninth Wave also means redefining the man who dedicated himself to this cause after some epiphanic change of heart on a North Sea oil platform that should have taken his life.

Entering Mogadishu (colloquially “The Mog”) in this issue in search of a reliable resupply source creates all kinds of tension. There’s the palpable residual in the pop culture collective consciousness from Ridley Scott’s Black Hawn Down, to the point that the script references “The Day of the Rangers” and “the little birds.” It’s an aside, but it makes me want Eric Bana to play Callum Israel with all the warm precision he brought to a Delta Force Operator in that film. The issue literally opens with Mary swimming with sharks, an apt metaphor for Cal diving into The Mog as a citizen of nowhere, able to blend into any surroundings and just melt away physically due to his acquired skill set, sure, but out of place everywhere spiritually. “Ich Bin Ein Auslander.” Mogadishu is an important city to focus on, once thought of as Hell On Earth, one of the most dangerous places on the planet, drugs, arms, and low-grade tech fueling the local fiefdoms and regional economy. Now, post-Crash, Mosque and all, it’s probably more representative of what the rest of the planet actually looks like than being some Third World anomaly. The Crash was The Great Equalizer. It doesn’t matter who your parents are, where you were born, how much money you have, or the time you spent planning ahead. For everyone, the only thing that matters is a sense of immediacy; it’s all about food, clean water, and survival for the next 24 hours.

In search of these basic necessities, Cal stumbles into a meeting with an old Blackbell PMC acquaintance named Arkady, who fashions himself a Russian Mafioso. In a flashback, you’re given another plausible reason as to why Cal ultimately gave up mercenary work, because (without spoiling anything), it’s absolutely mercenary work, where the highest bidder gets the outcome they desire. Loyalty became meaningless, so Cal created a new ideology for himself. Post-Crash, in a world where a former associate capitalizing on shark fin soup is a greater atrocity than a man with a gun, how does this pacifist function in a world that just turned toward violent anarchy? That’s the heart of the series, all wrapped up in amazingly adventurous world-building and tense dramatic moments that could burst into action at any given time – just the way Wood promised.

When I first learned Kristian Donaldson wouldn’t be continuing with this second arc, I was a little worried. He’d helped define the look of the universe in an aesthetic I was drawn to. Yet, Brian Wood seems to have this knack, this eye, this draw, this don’t-call-it-luck for working with some amazing artists who are on an ascending path. Garry Brown wasn’t a name I was familiar with, but he will be now. The art is just gorgeous. I have a difficult time comparing it to the style of someone else, as I’m always prone to do. So you won’t see any “it’s like so-and-so meets so-and-so” in this review. This art is Garry Brown’s own unique intellectual property. He uses well-formed figures that are full-bodied people and doesn’t rely on many representational blocky lines, but more of a life-drawing emphasis (if that makes sense) with characters having very unique facial characteristics and body types. There is strength and weight to his figures, but he also uses a lot of gritty little detail and fine line work that adds a sense of kinetic movement waiting to pop off. He uses interesting camera angles, and when paired with the dynamite coloring of Dave Stewart, you start to notice these innocuous little things like how shadows simply fall across a back alley in Mogadishu, the way water ripples and distorts figures submerged beneath its surface, or the way strands of light pierce their way into a Mosque. It’s rare you see fully-formed rock star artists emerge right out of the gate, but I think Garry Brown might be one.

I guess the last thing I want to point out in this issue is the first panel atop page 20. Cal has just exited his impromptu meeting with Arkady. He’s leaning against a wall, doubled over, hands on his knees, and just whispers to himself “Christ…” in acknowledgment of the threat he’s just endured. It’s important because he’s not some uber-competent operator. Callum Israel is not James Bond or Jason Bourne. He’s a dangerous man, sure, but he’s also just a guy, who’s fallible, who can be scared, but a skilled survivor nonetheless. He’s just survived another day in this fucked up world and now must reassess and adjust his playbook on the fly, as all leaders must. The end of the issue perfectly sets up what’s to come, Mary and Ryan’s mission in the next issue. There’s also no reason that this issue can’t function as a jumping-on point. Everything you need to know about the world and the crew is seeded in the dialogue or text of the book.

Can I just say that I'm loving the backmatter in this series? Not only is it just plain fascinating and cool, but it’s also a serialized treat that nobody else in the industry is doing. I love it for the content itself, but I also love it for being unique and different. It's a new storytelling delivery mechanism. It offers a window into the post-Crash universe that the script doesn’t permit. It allows exposition about timelines and ships and characters and missions that the best sourcebooks always do. It offers clues and ways to get inside the characters’ heads that I hope continues.

The Massive is just “good art.” It’s the type that entertains and delights in all the ways comic books should, but also provokes thought, induces emotional reaction, contains social relevance, and reveals the marvels of craft, in all the ways that Fine Art should. If you’re a comic book fan not reading this series, you’re missing out on some fine creative performances. The Massive is also the type of book we should be forcing all of our children to read. If you break the world, this is the lawless and bleak stripped-down survival occupation it will become. Grade A+.


9.12.12 Shipping Report

It’s been a while since we had another unofficial BRIAN WOOD WEEK around here, so this is it. First up is THE MASSIVE #4 (Dark Horse) from Wood and Garry Brown, who is debuting his work. Full disclosure, I’ve read the issue and it feels like a turning point on a couple levels, this issue set in Mogadishu. Not only does a new artist jump on for this arc (and anyone who enjoys the representational qualities in Sean Phillips’ work will surely get a kick out of Garry Brown, mixing that style with the fine line kineticism of say, Tradd “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” Moore), but from a narrative standpoint, it also seems like Wood is settling into his groove finally for where this book is headed. I’d also start paying attention to the backmatter really closely. More on that later. We also have CONAN THE BARBARIAN #8 (Dark Horse) hitting the shelves, this time with once-in-a-great-while collaborator Vasilis Lolos, who turned in a one-shot issue of Northlanders I really dug about “The Viking Art of Single Combat.” It looks like the lovers are still in Cimmeria visiting mama as Conan tries to clear his name. Completing the trifecta of Brian Wood books for the week is ULTIMATE COMICS: X-MEN #16 (Marvel), still fleshing out Kitty’s band of mutant freedom fighters amid the mini-crossover event. What else, what else… let’s see… finishing off DC, I’ll also be picking up PUNK ROCK JESUS #3 (DC/Vertigo) from Sean Murphy and will definitely give TEAM 7 #0 (DC) a flip since I have a nostalgic affinity for some of these WildStorm characters and am interested to see what Justin “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” Jordan can do on the writing end (hey, there’s Luther Strode again). I’m also really looking forward to STUMPTOWN V2 #1 (Oni Press). Volume 1 was a quirky crime story with a lotta’ heart, and though I enjoyed Greg Rucka’s stylish PI Portland thing, I was more concerned with the development of artist Matthew Southworth, so I’m all in on this. I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with this book in singles, but nevertheless I’ll be considering MANHATTAN PROJECTS #6 (Image) from Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra, and Jordie Bellair, this time looking at the Russian side of the atomic equation. I’ve read ALL of the new Valiant books and none of them have grabbed me, but I’m interested to see how Ninjak gets worked into the universe, so I’ll give X-O MANOWAR #5 (Valiant) a curious flip. Lastly, CRACKLE OF THE FROST (Fantagraphics) from Lorenzo Mattotti looks interesting, so we’ll see if that GN passes the casual flip test at the LCS.

UPDATE: X-MEN #35 (Marvel) also comes out this week! As if the Brian Wood trifecta wasn't enough, we also get more on Marvel's Merry Mutants from the dude who is writing approximately 397 other books ranging from creator-owned, to licensed work, to company-owned properties!


9.05.12 Reviews

Sponsor Plug: Special thanks to Yesteryear Comics for sponsoring this week’s review books. Make Yesteryear Comics your first destination in San Diego for great customer service on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Valid until September 30th, new customers receive a promotional 25% discount on new releases. Starting October 1st, receive an attractive 20% discount on new books during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

Think Tank #2 (Image): If Jonathan Hickman had created Tony Stark, he might look something like this. “We’re the good guys… or so I’ve been told.” That regretful sarcasm introduces us to an unflinching look at military apps and the moral fallout of the people involved in their creation. This looming ethical crisis provokes thought, like any great art. Writer Matt Hawkins weaves together a tale of cutting edge technology, psi-ops, and pop culture drops that is wicked smart and very entertaining. Artist Rahsan Ekedal makes the black and white art shine, delivering energetic off-kilter panel designs that emphasize the slightly skewed reality. The main character’s intellect gets him in trouble; he balances a military arrest with his personal exit strategy. His line about “selective choices” possibly guaranteeing success is a real clue to the emotional conflict of the series protagonist. In actuality, he really isn’t trying to rebel against his military handlers, but to rebel against his own inner nature. On top of the engaging story, the backmatter, which simultaneously reveals and debunks real-world technology, is top notch. Grade A.

Archer & Armstrong #2 (Valiant): There are parts of this I like and some parts that offer minor annoyance. When I read that Archer can mimic any skill and has been trained as an assassin, all I could think of was Batgirl Cassandra Cain. I’ve never been into Van Lente’s writing. His recurring “the 1%” stuff is what the Brits would call “too smart by half,” the  DaVinci Code bits, layoffs and downsizing jokes are all just too cutesie clever vs. being cool and smart. It’s as if the writer is just trying way too hard to stick the themes. The caricature of the religious zealot parents, tough satirical in tone, also gets boring really fast. On the positive side, this book has the best art of the entire Valiant relaunch so far, thanks to Clayton Henry. I like the unlikely duo of Archer & Armstrong, events in this issue nicely set their quest in clear motion, and the grand story idea is just fine, but the dialogue part of the writing is really what craps out on me. The Michelangelo tirade, the lengthy historical exposition in the middle of a collapsing church, etc. I might do one more ish to see if I can stick with this series, I might revisit a first trade. Hardly a ringing endorsement, so I’ll just consider myself still intrigued but not sold. Grade B+.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 (Dynamite): This book started strong for me, but ultimately just fizzled out. I like the idea that this nuclear world would be answered with the emergence of a new figure. I thought it was interesting to open with Thunderbolt revealing his identity to the world. The role of the media (including crowd scenes featuring Clark Kent and Peter Parker, among others) was a compelling theme to tackle. There's also the whole "Before Before Watchmen" angle vis-a-vis Charlton, Ozymandias, and the creators rights issue. Visually, I liked the initial effects of his powers swirling in the air, the motion of his hands, it was all very convincing and evocative thanks to artist Jonathan Lau. From that point forward, there was a combination of cliché and just too much being crammed into a single issue. The tired old expositional tool of extended news feed informs the world. There was the tired formula of the exotic man-servant to the wealthy philanthropist; this thing has been mined repetitively since its pulp origin. Several antagonists are being set up for Pete Cannon, the vilified military guys, the four “Sons of Adam” super-soldiers, the mysterious reporter woman with the eyes, the contact in Tokyo, the public who will turn on their false idol, etc. It feels like too much is being manically crammed in vs. happening at a more steady and organic pace. The expositional dialogue is met with art that degenerates to some instances of wonkiness, flawed proportions and perspective. There’s a lot of package here for the $3.99 price tag, with two back-up essays (one from Mark Waid) and even a lost story from the original creator. Ultimately, I just wanted to like it more than I did. Grade B.


Prophet [Shotgun Blurbs]

by Contributing Writer Keith Silva

Published by Image Comics
Creators: Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Farel Dalrymple

What It's About: Scrap the nineteen-nineties. Imagine that there is no (John) Prophet, instead, think Prophets… millions of Prophets. Evolved from an agar of 'Conan in space,' Prophet is a strain of science fiction as kooky, inventive, and improvisational as Philip K. Dick, and sexy, surreal, and avant-garde like Samuel R. Delany. Set 10,000 years in the future, Prophet plays like a riff lifted off an old vinyl LP -- found content remade and set anew -- Paul's Boutique in comic book form. The Prophets are travelers of both time and space, insatiable iterations who find strange many-eyed, limbed, and mouthed creatures, and kill them or eat them or mate with them. Part search for lost time, part action-adventure, Prophet seethes with an organic energy and industry, an inventory of ideas that trades on a reader's expectations in the extreme.

Why You Should Buy It: With apologies to Butch Cassidy, Brandon Graham has vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals. Those familiar with the puns, amity, and goofs of Graham's King City will find Prophet familiar, like a joy ride in your older brother's muscle car, except instead of tear-assing down main drags, you park out under the stars, eat sandwiches, and dream. Each issue stands alone and yet is cohesive, a part of the whole. Artists Roy, Milonogiannis and Dalrymple, along with colorists Joseph Bergin III and Richard Ballermann, act as co-conspirators in Graham's vision; the deep bench gives Graham license to transpose keys (swap artists like Prophets) and still maintain a steady rhythm. For all its groovy loosey-gooseyness, Prophet never feels masturbatory or (gasp) decompressed. Graham and gang cast Prophet as singular, an aggregate of influences; an influential prophecy of comics to come.  


9.05.12 Releases

It’s a really atypical week for me; none of the books from my regular pull are coming out. Nevertheless, there are a few notable items I’d point you to. This title has been getting a lot of buzz, and I enjoyed the first issue, but it’s one of those situations where excess buzz might be running the risk of killing my enthusiasm. However, I’ll probably still check out Think Tank #2 (Image). I’m less likely to purchase Archer & Armstrong #2 (Valiant). While I think it’s been the best of the Valiant line so far, that’s sort of like being the valedictorian of summer school since I haven’t been really impressed with any of the derivative expository offerings so far. But, I’ll give it a flip. I’m more interested in Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 (Dynamite), marketed as a sort of “Before Before Watchmen.” From what I gathered, the original creator set up the rights to revert back to his family upon his death, so Dynamite was then able to acquire the ability to publish, sneaking it out from under the DC acquisition of the old Charlton Comics library. It’s got Alex Ross, Jae Lee, and a few others in various capacities. The real action this week is on the GN front though. The Heartless HC (Conundrum Press) from Nina Bunjevac looks interesting. Gary Panter’s Dal Tokyo (Fantagraphics) is surely a must-buy in some circles, with its post-pop futurism and social commentary. I mean, all you really need to know is “Gary Panter.” Last, I can wholeheartedly recommend Aya: Life in Yop City (Drawn & Quarterly) by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie. This series of graphic novels is noteworthy for presenting a look at a specific African culture seldom seen in Western Media, in a bustling middle class metropolis on the Ivory Coast, with startling ink washes that continually capture dramatic moments in time involving a large cast of gossiping, scheming, dramatic family and friends. Apparently, this D&Q edition collects the first three volumes of the series (previously printed) as Book One. D&Q will then translate volumes four through six of the original French series and publish it here as Book Two. It’s fantastic.