Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crazy Memorial Day Sale at Fantagraphics

Don't miss this insane Memorial Day Mega-Blowout sale over at Fantagraphics Books. These prices are so low, I may even take a chance on some books that I've never even heard of. If you pick anything up at the sale, let me know what you get.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan, Vol. 1 (2010) Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan, Vol. 1 (2010) - Al Williamson, Archie Goodwin
Collecting daily newspaper comic strips from 1967-1969
IDW, The Library of American Comics series
Hardcover, 285 pages, black & white
ISBN 9781600106972
Retail price: $49.99
Amazon price: $39.86

Creating and sustaining a successful newspaper comic strip is a fine art. If you think about how these strips appeared in newspapers, the creators had three panels per day to work with: the first to summarize what happened the day before, the second to advance the plot, and the third to further advance the plot and hook the reader to keep reading the next day and the next and the next.

Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson were masters of the daily comic strip. You can learn all about the origins of Secret Agent Corrigan in the book's extras, but the main reason you'll want to pick up this volume is for the storytelling and artwork. This was the mid-60s, a time when the spy genre was very hot, thanks largely to the James Bond films and TV shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Corrigan (actually an FBI agent) is up to the task of picking up intel and coming up with sly tactics to nab the bad guys, whether they’re gunrunners, pirates, or counteragents. 

Sure, you can see that there's something of a formula involved, but the way Goodwin and Williamson work the formula is masterful. If you've never read some of the vintage newspaper comic strips, X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan, Vol. 1 is a great place to start.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Massive, Volume 1: Black Pacific (2013) Brian Wood, et. al

The Massive, Volume 1: Black Pacific (2013) - Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson, Garry Brown, 
Dave Stewart
Collecting The Massive #1-6 and portions of Dark Horse Presents #8-10
Trade paperback, 176 pages
ISBN 9781616551322
Retail price: $19.99
Amazon price: $12.98

Wow... I may just become a Brian Wood fan for life. 

The Massive begins aboard the conservationist ship Kapital, just after a series of unexplained environmental disasters. These disasters have brought most global commerce to a standstill, forcing the Kapital to spend most of its time and effort searching for critical supplies and avoiding pirates. To make matters worse, their sister ship The Massive has gone missing.  

The main crew of the Kapital includes Callum Israel, the ship’s captain, a former mercenary turned non-violent environmentalist; Mag Nagendra, also a former mercenary, but one who has no problems using violence to realize the Kapital’s goals; and an absolutely fearless woman named Mary, whose past is unknown to the rest of the crew. 

The Massive is not what you might expect from a post-environmental disaster story. It’s not preachy, formulaic, or predictable. The book contains many quiet, contemplative scenes, scenes in which we can get inside the heads of these characters and realize that Wood has written levels of depth to these people, levels we don’t often see in comics and graphic novels. 

Information is revealed gradually, and not always in a linear fashion. Many writers (and film directors) seem to do this arbitrarily, but Wood knows exactly what he’s doing. There are no gimmicks or slight-of-hand tricks here, just solid storytelling. You won’t find an explosion on every page, but you will find plenty to engage your mind. If this is what Wood is capable of all the time, give me everything the man’s ever written.  

The Massive is good, incredibly good. The characters are superbly written, the pacing perfect, and the suspense - while often subtle - is expertly sustained throughout. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again. That rarely happens with me. Read this now.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Graphic Novels Read in April 2013

I only had time for a mini-review of each book. Books that were previously discussed in more detail are linked with the title. 

The Complete Strangers in Paradise Vol. 1 (1994) - Terry Moore

Strangers in Paradise, Volume 2: I Dream of You (1996) - Terry Moore

A few months ago, I signed up for a free online class called Gender in Comics, which, unfortunately, I had to drop. (Dropping a free class sure felt weird....) These volumes by Terry Moore (along with the first issue of Moore’s current title Rachel Rising) made up the first reading assignment. 

Moore certainly examines several important topics, including feminism and gay/lesbian issues, but what stuck with me is how good a storyteller he is. What seems like something of an ordinary tale of relationships becomes much more complex as Moore layers in other elements of mystery, crime, and noir, all in black and white. 

4/5 for each volume

Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon (2012) - Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido 


Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls (2012/2013) - Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, et. al 



Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom (2013) - Mark Waid, Chris Samnee

I’m a big fan of both the Rocketeer and Mark Waid, so when you combine a nostalgic “sense of wonder” character with one of today’s most talented writers, you’re bound to have a great time. I certainly did. Fans of the late Dave Stevens who think that the Rocketeer died with Stevens are really missing out by not picking up this volume (collecting Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1-4).   


Daredevil, Volume 4 (2013) - Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Michael Allred

Well, Waid shows up again.... How about that?

When Daredevil was relaunched in 2011, Waid was wise enough to steer away from the gritty, noir-saturated Miller/Brubaker/Bendis atmospheres, choosing instead to have some fun with the character. Here in Volume 4, Waid’s still having fun, but the element of weirdness, combined with a strained relationship between Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson, creates a memorable series of tales. 


The Joe Kubert Archives, Vol. I: Weird Horrors and Daring Adventures (2013) - Joe Kubert, Bill Schelly, ed. 

(A detailed review forthcoming)