Weekly Round-Up #1

Hi there.  I’m new to Comics Nexus.  My intent is to share my thoughts on my comics and comics-related reading on a weekly basis.  I have been a comics reader for about thirty years – I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t read comics – and my tastes are all over the map (although I’ve never been a big fan of manga or comix).  Here’s what I thought about this week:

Best Book of the Week:
DayTripper #1
By Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon

This is a good example of what comics as a medium can do. Bá and Moon have created a masterpiece of a single-issue story, as they introduce us to Brás de Oliva Domingos, a thirty-two year old obituary writer and aspiring author living in São Paulo Brazil.

Brás is the son of a famous author, and has a variety of unresolved feelings towards him, his mother, and, it seems, his girlfriend. In a short space, Bá and Moon establish these relationships, as well as Brás’s daily routine. The characters feel fully realized and fleshed out, even though they are given little space to develop.

This is a very literary comic, with Shakespearean references and obituary assignments for painters and diplomats, but it is very much grounded in the quotidian aspects of Brás’s existence.

The art is wonderful. Bá and Moon (I’m not sure who is doing what) keep a lid on the more fantastical elements of their work (this looks nothing like Casanova), and instead render a realistic environment. The book is coloured by Dave Stewart, who does some interesting work with warm, organic backgrounds.

While the end of this issue seems quite final, having read a little about the brothers’ plan for this title, I can expect that this book will be a favourite of mine for 2010.

Other Notable Books:

DMZ #48

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ricardo Burchielli

So the US Army has invaded the DMZ, searching for Parco’s nuclear weapon. Throughout the DMZ, people are being harassed, and there is no media presence to record or publicize army abuses. Parco gets Matty to do something other than sit around and get high, with disastrous consequences, as Matty is jumped by a group of soldiers.

This issue appears to be, once again, setting up a new status quo in the DMZ, where things seem to change a lot, usually for the worse. It feels like the ‘Hearts & Minds’ arc is being used to set up something big for the fiftieth issue.

Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie, with PJ Holden and Adam Cadwell

Sometimes the comics industry can operate in very mysterious ways. This week saw the publication of Phonogram, which was originally solicited for August, as well as the latest issue of DC’s Adventure Comics, and they are remarkably similar in theme, if not execution.

Both comics focus on an overly serious late teenager. Superboy Prime’s comic collection becomes his kryptonite. Black Lantern Alex Luthor tells him, “Others find hope and inspiration between these pages. They find a community to belong to. But you’re not like the others. You claim ownership, but you have no control. And you hate what you can’t control.”

For Lloyd, it’s all about ‘Passion, Devotion, Commitment, and Intelligence’. He is passionately devoted to music (specifically Dexys), but his intensity has consumed his humour, like a black power ring drawn to rage or love. He toils away at his ‘Master Plans’ and fanzines, but with no real satisfaction.

I think both of these comics could hit pretty close to home for more than a few comics readers. Geoff John’s attempt at confronting these issues is pretty self-referential and in-jokey, while Gillen’s examination is much more heartfelt and soul-searching. His accompanying text piece is in many ways more gripping than the comic, as he explains how Lloyd is a reflection of his most obsessive period in life. This issue is interesting in the way it experiments with format – using the structure of a self-published fanzine to convey its story. There is less McKelvie than normal in this issue (perhaps explaining why it arrived so soon after the previous issue), but that only strengthens his pages.

The two back-up pieces are quite nice, and they both feature David Kohl. “Your Song” is my favourite of the two, as Kohl plots revenge on someone who behaves similarly to how he often does, albeit with vastly different motivations.

Red Herring #5

Written by David Tischman
Art by Philip Bond and David Hahn

This is another fun issue of Red Herring. Meyer Weiner and Penny Candy play strip poker while Paris burns, Damorge Channel breaks a new fixture, and Maggie MacGuffin decides to rejoin Red Herring and his partner while they enter the extermination business.

With only one issue left, there is a lot of stuff that still needs to be explained, but this comic has managed to keep up its frenetic pace. The art seems to be more balanced than it did when Hahn first took on an extended role. I still would have preferred to see more of Bond’s pencils, but I can live with this level of compromise.

The Unwritten #8

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross

This issue serves as an interlude in the current story arc, and shines the focus on Governor Chadron, the warden of the prison where Tom Taylor’s been confined. Chadron is no stranger to the Tommy Taylor stories – he reads them nightly to his children, who have over-identified with the characters. The kids ‘play Tommy Taylor’ constantly, and his daughter has managed to develop herself a touch of a psychosis around the whole thing, as she is unable to distinguish between fiction and reality.

This issue examines the place of fiction and childhood imagination in the real world, and demonstrates the dangers of believing too strongly in magic. Carey and Gross are doing some interesting things with this title. It took me a while to get drawn into it, but now I find with each issue I am enjoying it more and more, especially when the main story steps to the side, as it did in this month’s installment.

The Walking Dead #68

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard

This title has been excellent lately. When I first started reading The Walking Dead (around issue 8), it was the suspense that kept me coming back issue after issue. While this is still a suspenseful comic, it is the strength of the characters, and Kirkman’s heavily character-based writing that continues to make it one of my favourite comics.

In this issue, our group meets Aaron, a really nice guy (somewhat in the manner of a smiling Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness at the door), who wants to invite them into his community – a town or neighbourhood on the other side of Washington DC. Remembering everything that went down with the Governor and Woodbury, Rick and the others are, understandably, skeptical. In the end, hunger wins out, and after a zombie attack (when was the last time that happened?) in which Aaron demonstrated trustworthiness, the group heads out towards this new, supposedly safe place.

As always, the characterizations are bang on. We have Rick being the responsible one, worrying about everyone’s safety, while the biggest voice of dissent comes from Michonne, which was unexpected. The best scene in the comic though features Andrea and Rick having a talk, and Andrea sharing her reactions to her different recent tragedies.

The Walking Dead managed to meet its ‘On Time in ’09’ goals, and the creators should be applauded for this. It was quite a treat to get regular, monthly doses of this comic all year, and I look forward to seeing them keep it up for ’10.

Quick Takes:

Action Comics #884 – This needs to start going somewhere, and quickly.  I liked the back-up, until the Atom started talking about ‘Justice’ again.

Adventure Comics #5 – see Phonogram.  Manapaul killed the backup, but it was too short.

Invincible Iron Man #21 – I love what Fraction has been doing with the title, even if this issue basically ruins Captain America Reborn.  This title is one of the best superhero books Marvel is publishing.

New Avengers Annual #3 – This is the other book that Marvel used this week to ruin the end of Captain America Reborn (although it’s not really a surprise, I’m sure).  The New Avengers women (with Jewel) go to rescue Hawkeye.  It’s all photo references, awkward poses, and Marvel-style overpricing.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #11 – Vril Dox as a Sinestro Corpsman is a great idea.  I’ve liked Bedard’s sure-to-be-shortlived take on these characters, but prefer Andy Clarke to Claude St. Aubin.

Red Robin #7 – It’s been seven months, and I really want this book to live up to its potential.  Which is more or less how I’ve always felt about books starring Tim Drake.  Maybe I should just give up…

Secret Six #16 – People complain frequently about how difficult to establish new characters in comics.  Gail Simone brings her pet project, Black Alice, to The Secret Six, and it’s a good fit.  Peter Nguyen’s art is also a good fit for the book, but I’m hoping Nicola Scott will be back.

S.W.O.R.D. #2 – I hate when my holidays overlap.  It’s both acronym week and Kieron Gillen week in the comics world.  This title continues to show promise, with a nice blend of humour, encyclopedic knowledge of characters better left in limbo (Deaths Head, Adam-X), but the art is problematic.  The Beast does not have a snout…

X Necrosha: The Gathering #1 – This is the latest thing at Marvel:  Get a good mix of amazing and average artists to draw 8-page stories that supposedly explain why characters are involved in a certain crossover or large storyline, but don’t really give them any backstory.  I have no clue who Mortis is, don’t know anything about Blink (except that I thought she was a good guy), and am not sure I’ve ever noticed Senyaka before, even though he’s apparently been around.  And, with a the exception of a four-year gap, I’ve been reading the X-Men since the early 80s.  This was all pretty negligible, and I’ve been enjoying Kyle and Yost’s X-Force more than I ever expected to.

Graphic Novel of the Week:

Some New Kind of Slaughter

~0r~ Lost in the Flood (and How We Found Home Again)
Written by A. David Lewis
Art by mpMann

This is a very unique and scholarly from Archaia – exactly the type of work they were beginning to build a reputation for when they went on their lengthy publishing hiatus (and before working with the Gene Roddenberry and Jim Henson estates).

This panoramic graphic novel is concerned with the preponderance of flood myths in many different cultures. It uses one of these myths as its foundation as Ziusudra, a king who has led some of his people onto an ark to escape floodwaters, experiences visions of different flood stories, including a woman searching for her family in the flooded American heartland. The format is both effective and frustrating, as the narrative jumps between so many places with such similar events unfolding. The effect is kaleidoscopic in nature, and what sticks with the readers are the similarities more than the differences.

Of particular interest is the way in which Lewis and Mann deal with the Noah myth. They focus on his family relations, much as Timothy Findley did in ‘Not Wanted on the Voyage’ (which I never read in novel form, but I did see the play in high school). Noah’s difficulty in communicating with his sons becomes central to the story here, just as Ziusudra is unable to communicate with his sleeping wife.

Mann’s art is very nice here. He makes good use of the sideways format, which permits lots of wide-angle scenes (even while making reading in bed difficult). His style shifts subtly for different time periods or tales, but common links are established with a reliable colour palette of blues and greens.

This is a meticulously researched, and thought-provoking piece of work. I hope that the publication of this means that ‘Inanna’s Tears’ might also see publication soon.

Books Not Worth Full Price:

Justice League: Cry for Justice #4 & 5 – I picked these up for half-price, which makes them a little more bearable.  I can see that Robinson has some good ideas for this comic, but the execution is terrible.  It could have been great…

Album of the Week:

Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez

Thanks for reading my first column here.  Please let me know what you think.  Also, please visit my Things I Like blog, where I write mostly about comics, but also music, magazines, books, and any other media I enjoy.

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