comics

BB Wolf and the Three LPs

BB Wolf and the Three LPs JD Arnold and Richard Koslowski are great showmen, and fast talkers. When I was walking by the Top Shelf booth at Comic-Con, the two of them somehow managed to talk me into buying a comic that really didn't interest me that much: a retrospective of the life of a blues-singing wolf. But I'm so glad they did. BB Wolf and the Three LPs will almost certainly be remembered as one of the finest comics of the year, for both writing and illustration. An absolutely amazing book that reminds us why we love Top Shelf, and comics in general.

Superfuckers

Superfuckers by James Kochalka One of the highlights of my trip to Comic-Con was getting to meet James Kochalka, who was first introduced to me several years ago, when he was donating the proceeds from Fancy Froglin's Sexy Forest to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Fancy is one of the creepiest, funniest, most childish, and strangely cute comics you'll ever read, with its completely innocent take on absolute perversity.

Friday at the Con

I took so many pictures on Thursday that it took me hours to post them. Luckily, I spent all day Friday standing int he line for the True Blood panel, so it wasn't really an issue.

Here are about a dozen pictures from Friday. Sorry I didn't take more, but there wasn't much opportunity for it.

If you're into this crazy stuff, make sure to check out the other three pages:
Page 1 Page 2 Page 3

The Blues Brothers
Jake and Elwood

Captain America

Thursday at Comic-Con: Part 3

Okay, folks.

I'm just going to dump a lot of pics now. All this typing and stuff is taking forever. I'll only editorialize where it is absolutely necessary. Also, remember to check out page 1 and page 2.

Kakashi Hatake
Kakashi Hatake from the Naruto series.

Girl dressed as Link
This girl makes a great Link. This is because Link totally looks like a chick.

Manga Chick

Thursday at the Con, Part 2

Okay, we're back from Yogurt Land, one of my favorite places on Earth, feeling totally refreshed and ready to take on the world. Here are some more pics I took at the San Diego Comic Convention today. I'll probably take many more tomorrow, so be sure to bookmark, if you like this kind of thing.

Back to it!!!

Captain Jack Sparrow with some wench

Last year, there were so many Cap'n Jacks that it was enough to make you ill. This year, I only saw this scurvy pair, who did a pretty nice job of it.

Cat Woman

A very nice Cat-Woman outfit, worn very well by someone who can pull it off. She was really nice, too.

Chew Review - It's true.

Cover of Chew v1I'm terrible about managing my singles. I used to do the subscription thing, but it gets out of control, and eventually they always cancel me. Plus, when you're on subscriptions, you start to see that you're making the shop owner's car payment.

As a result, I am constantly picking up ish Ones and ish Twos, falling in love and completely forgetting what I'm collecting and where I am the next time I hit Meltdown. Luckily, so many titles are coming out in trade/graphic novel format as soon as they hit ish Five that I have some small chance of staying kind of current.

A recent acquisition, thanks to the help from my well-connected and much-more-talented better half, allowed me to find out what happened with Tony Chu, whom I last remembered eating a decaying finger several months ago. Fresh out in trade paperback, issues one through five of Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory, are now available for your perusal and enjoyment.

I can't be adequately adulatory concerning Layman's creativity. He's taken the CSI genre to new heights (maybe depths is a better word here) by inventing an entirely new superpower: Cibopathy - The ability to tell everything about a food's history just by tasting it. Set in an alternate America, where the FDA has banned poultry, and the war on Foul has made them the most powerful government agency, Chew is not only a satire of the conspiracy genre, it's also a clever send-up of the crime drama and the supernatural hero.

Guillory is definitely a name to watch, as well. His artwork is vivid, original, and absolutely perfect for this project. It rests on the knife's edge separating comedy from drama, and in one frame can show violence, fear, slapstick and the visions of a psychedelic freakout all at once. His exaggerated proportions, mixed with deft draftsmanship and impeccable motion work create a very strong pairing with Layman's imaginative scenario. The book simply wouldn't work without Guillory's inventive viewpoint.

In short, Chew is an essential graphic novel purchase for 2010, and belongs on your short list next time you hit the comic shop. It's funny, disgusting, exciting, and completely unpredictable.

Grandville review

Bryan Talbot's Grandville is the kind of comic I end up liking despite myself. Based in a weird Steampunk world where animals are in charge, humans are a recent hairless ape mutation, and Napoleon retired undefeated, this crazy graphic novel is full of things I hate, but still I loved it.

Having spent a good deal of time talking to Cutey Bunny creator Josh Quagmire about the "funny animals" genre in the not-too-distant past, I guess my head is always in the gutter when it comes to anthropomorphism. I get a little weirded out by critters acting like people, and it's particularly difficult to snap out of it when they're doing something more than just being cute.

And there's nothing cute about Grandville! The central storyline is a gritty Sherlock-Holmes-meets-Philip-Marlowe detective story featuring the ass-kicking Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock of Scotland Yard, a certified bad-ass badger who looks suspiciously like Robert Irvine, the impossibly buff chef from Dinner Impossible.

In an action-packed thriller of a book, he follows the clues to the upper echelons of the French government, and with his rattish Watson, Roderick, makes a last-ditch effort to prevent an international conflict.

The graphic novel features top-notch art and compelling, exciting storytelling that really creates a genre all of its own. Talbot's genius is in creating a narrative that is completely unpredictable, never relying on animal stereotypes to push forward, and somehow pulling us into a world that at first seems completely preposterous but which eventually feels as normal as anything. One of the coolest books I've read in a while, and I'm really hoping that he creates a sequel.

Solomon's Thieves

Based on the strong recommendation of my personal reader's advisor, big-mouth librarian, and graphic novel maven, I took the time today to read Solomon's Thieves, by Mechner, Pham and Puvilland, a truly engrossing and beautifully illustrated title that gives a new variation on the story of the last days of the Knights Templar.

History is rich with stories of the persecution, deserved or not, of the Templars, but this short graphic novel, told from the point of view one honest man of the Order, gives new life to the legend and shows modern audiences that theirs was a tale worth telling.

Solomon's Thieves is the story of Martin of Troyes, who, after returning from his duty protecting the Holy Land, finds himself in a bad situation. Regional leaders in both France and England have turned on the order of the Templars, imprisoning them, taking their property, and eventually torturing and exterminating them. He is left with the dregs of a once-proud brotherhood, the desire to right a wrong, and vengeful-yet-pious need to protect the treasure of the Templars.

Written as an exciting three-part historical fiction, with strong characters and plenty of action, Solomon's Thieves is more than worthy of the attention that it is getting. And the detailed art style is both vibrant and moody. I highly recommend it.

Incognito is bad-ass. Just face it.

I finally got around to finishing Incognito, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It's not that it was slow going, or even remotely boring. The main problem was that I couldn't ever get my hands on the single issues before the trade paperback came out. I think I own 1-4, but it took me most of a year to get even those. Even at Meltdown LA, which probably sells more comics than 95% of comic shops in America, that title generally sold out within hours of being stocked.

Man, was it worth the wait, though. The combination of these two rare talents succeeds once again in creating a new perception of superheroes and villains that never relies on clichés or stupid genre tropes. Brubaker's rich character development elevates the superhero comic to a place that many may think is not possible. By focusing on crazy things like motivation, internal conflict, and the duality of man, he breathes life into a world that is generally so stale and boring.

And Phillips adds amazing emotion and understanding to the panels. By using a more impressionistic art style, influenced more by Noir film than Stan Lee, he manages the difficult task of leaving something to the imagination. The character on the page stays vague somehow, rough, despite being visually exceptional. I don't know what their process is like, but there is a reason that Phillips and Brubaker sell comics on their names alone. They consistently create comics that elevate the medium.

Incognito takes place in a near future where the government has taken steps to eliminate the presence of superheroes, both good and bad. Those that cannot be reformed are forced into maximum security prisons, while those that they feel can be reintegrated into society are put on power-draining drugs and forced into menial positions, such as the protagonist's gig as a file clerk.

Although we may have seen this in well-known projects such as Watchmen and even The Incredibles, it is done with such nuance and creativity, with such a different vibe, that it almost seems unrecognizable. By focusing on character instead of the constant obsession with action sequences, the story feels full and rich, and the characters seem very real.

As we follow the story of the Overkill Brothers, we quickly fall completely into a new world of drug use, failure, despair, longing, vengeance, where the only disappointment is that it eventually ends.

Although I definitely have enjoyed the Criminal series by this fantastic pairing of artist and illustrator, Incognito is the first series I've read that is as satisfying as Sleeper, which, in my opinion, is one of the best comics I've read.

The Question V1 - Zen and Violence

Based on a recommendation from Darren at Skylight Books, my favorite independent bookstore, I picked up this little gem from 1987. Back in print since 2007, The Question, by O'Neil, Cowan, and Magyar, takes place in the DC Universe in a town called Hub City. The series follows the life of The Question, a night-time vigilante in the spirit of Batman, and day-time freelance journalist Vic Sage.

While the comic throws a battery of genre clichés at you, it's still a very entertaining read with a protagonist who gets more and more interesting, and a few bad guys that you really want to learn more about.

My only complaint is that the first 80% of the book takes place under a consistent story arc, and the last chapter feels like it dropped out of the sky. Not the best way to end a trade. If it made sense to just collect the first 4 issues, they should have done it.

All in all, a good read. Unfortunately, I don't see this title stocked at many shops, so it may be a while before I have a chance to get V2 and V3.