Friday, December 5, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shackleton's Journey (2014)

Shackleton’s Journey
William Grill
(Flying Eye Books)
Hardcover, 80 pages
Recommended for readers 7 and up

I could kick myself for not reading Shackleton’s Journey sooner. Although the book was published in February of this year, I’m only now getting around to reading it and I’m glad I did. It’s one of the best graphic novels for younger readers I’ve read in 2014. 

In the last days of the Heroic Age of Exploration, Ernest Shackleton dreamed of crossing the frozen heart of Antarctica, a place of ferocious seas, uncharted mountains and bone-chilling cold. But when his ship, the Endurance became trapped in the deadly grip of the ice, Shackleton's dreams were shattered. Stranded in a cold, white world, and thousands of miles from home, the men of the expedition set out on a desperate trek across the ice in search of rescue. 

Shackleton's Journey is the true story of how Shackleton and his crew managed to survive this epic adventure, and a testament to their great courage and endurance.

This text, from author/illustrator William Grill’s website, gives you everything you need to know about the story and Grill’s sample pages provide a tantalizing look at just some of the book’s visual rewards. Working in colored pencils, Grill expertly captures the vastness of Antarctica, the exhilarating sense of adventure, and the incredible dangers faced by the men of the Endurance

Much of the story’s point of view is conveyed from a distance. Rarely do we see close-ups of characters, yet we get to know these men - as well their hopes and fears - quite intimately. The historical narrative works wonderfully with the illustrations, combining words and images in a way makes you realize that having one without the other would be unimaginable. This is exactly what graphic novels should do and Grill does it extremely well. 

In a time when we see so many recreations - both on film and in graphic novel form - that are ultra-dramatized, complete with overused close-ups of characters in fear/determination/outrage/choose your emotion, Grill’s artwork provides a refreshing alternative. Shackleton’s Journey is a fascinating story that instructs, entertains, and provides something that’s sadly lacking in most graphic novels: a sense of wonder. 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Black Friday Deals, Reviews and a Publisher Spotlight

The Black Friday deals have already begun at TwoMorrows Publishing, where all in-stock books and magazines are 50% off. If you’re not familiar with TwoMorrows, you should be; they publish some great stuff including the outstanding American Comic Book Chronicles series. If you have any interest in the history of American comics, you have to read these books. My friend Derek reviewed the volume covering 1965-1969 a couple of months ago over at The Comics Alternative. I know I plan to pick up the two newest volumes soon.

Third Eye Comics always has some enticing deals on Black Friday. You can find the complete rundown for Black Friday as well as Small Business Saturday right here 

Things have been very busy over at The Comics Alternative. Derek and I recently discussed eight books from Nobrow Press, a UK-based publisher who’s putting out some really great stuff. Check out our podcast and see what you think.

Finally, I have reviews up for one new all-ages title and one reissue:

Cat Dad, King of the Goblins - Britt Wilson (Koyama Press)

The Collector - Sergio Toppi (Archaia) 

October Reads Part II

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One (1983) Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, John Totleben (Vertigo)

Although Alan Moore had written a tremendous amount of comics before 1984 (mostly for Marvel UK and IPC Media), his work on Saga of the Swamp Thing (1984-1987) was the first time many Americans comics readers had heard of him. Swamp Thing wasn’t like any other DC title at the time. It wasn’t even like the previous issues of Swamp Thing, since Moore all but reinvents the title, carefully orchestrating a complex arc that changes the nature of Swamp Thing from scientist Alec Holland to a creature more elemental and even less human. The writing is absolutely inspired, as is the art - breaking many conventions of style and panel construction. I enjoyed this volume, but I’m not sure how much further I’ll read. 


The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation Into the Kennedy Assassination (NF 2014) Dan Miskin, Ernie Colón, Jerzy Drozd

Recently reviewed for The Comics Alternative 


Through the Woods (2014) Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

Some really good stuff here... These stories contain gorgeous (and often creepy) art combined with stories that have an "old world" feel to them, yet are timeless. Emily Carroll is definitely a creator to keep an eye on. If you’d like to get a taste of Carroll’s style, check out her webcomic Margot’s Room.  


The Steve Ditko Archives, Vol. 3: Mysterious Traveler (2012) Blake Bell, ed. (Fantagraphics)

I’ve mentioned before that the reason to read any of the volumes of The Steve Ditko Archives is the art, not the stories. Many of these stories - probably none of them were written by Ditko - are bad and some of them are just plain awful. Editor Blake Bell explains why in the introduction of this volume. Yet these comics were, if nothing else, a place for Ditko to explore and experiment, which he did with a vengeance. 

Many who purchased this volume were outraged that two story pages were missing. Hey, people make mistakes. Fantagraphics offered the pages in a pdf you can find here and if I’m not mistaken, these stories were also reprinted in Volume 4: Impossible Tales


Moon Knight, Vol. 1: From the Dead (2014) Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey
(Marvel Now!)

I’d never read Moon Knight before, so the character was completely new to me. I didn’t really know whether Moon Knight was mercenary Marc Spector, the Egyptian mood-god Khonshu or both, but I didn’t care: the story was compelling, weird, and wonderful. This story arc - collecting Moon Knight (2014) #1-6 completes the Warren Ellis/Declan Shalvey run on the title, taken over with issue #7 by the creative team of Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood and Jordie Bellaire.  


I’d love to hear about what you enjoyed last month...or this month! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's Wednesday... 11/19/14

November 19, 2014

Just one single issue today:

Intersect #1 (Image) 
Story and Art: Ray Fawkes

The official description from Image: 

“Blood rains from the skies. A hypnotic voice trills over the airwaves as bodies shift and grow in horrifying new directions. Are you ready for the new world? RAY FAWKES, acclaimed creator of One Soul and writer of Constantine and Batman: Eternal, launches a terrifying monthly odyssey of madness and warped flesh in this lush, fully painted debut issue!”

I’ve certainly enjoyed Fawkes’s previous work and look forward to this new ongoing horror title. If you’re in the Annapolis, MD area and would like to meet Fawkes, he’ll be at Third Eye Comics on December 13, 2014 

Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1 (Image)
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples

The Big Kahuna of the week - maybe even the year - is the much-anticipated hardcover deluxe edition of Saga, covering the first 18 issues (or three trade paperbacks) of one of the most imaginative comics I’ve read in years. It’s definitely not for kids, but Saga is a true wonder of imagination and storytelling. There’s a reason it just keeps winning award after award. 

Mind MGMT Volume 4: The Magician (Dark Horse)
Story and Art: Matt Kindt

I know you’re tired of hearing it, but along with The Massive, Mind MGMT is the best title being produced in comics today. Seriously. Get on that. This volume also features my favorite comics cover of 2014. (Hey Matt - Any chance we'll be able to buy prints of that cover?)

Cerebus Volume 1 Remastered (Aardvark Vanaheim)
Story and Art: Dave Sim

I’m not sure if I’m ready for the long commitment that is Cerebus in its multitude of volumes (6,000 pages running from 1977 to 2004) , but I know that at some point I should at least attempt this important series. (I've heard that High Society - the second volume in the series - is a better place to start.) Interlibrary loan may be my best course of action...

That’s it for me. How about you? 

Friday, November 14, 2014

October Reads Part I

Gotham Central, Book Two: Jokers and Madmen (2009) Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark (DC Comics)

I’ve seen little of the new Gotham TV show, but what I’ve seen isn’t nearly as compelling as what Brubaker, Rucka and Lark have put together in Gotham Central, a gritty, no-nonsense police procedural that's mostly without Batman. This volume contains one of the best Joker stories you’ll find anywhere. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's Wednesday... 11/12/14

November 12, 2014

Lots of good stuff coming out today. Here's what's on my radar: 

Drifter #1 (Image) 
Story: Ivan Brandon
Art: Nic Klein

The copy on the Image website calls Drifter a title “joining the dark revenge themes of Unforgiven with the mind-bending sci-fi universe-building of Dune.” Looking forward to this. 

Story: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips

Brubaker and Phillips continue with what might be their best collaboration yet. The first two issues have been absolutely killer and these guys’ track record speaks for itself. If you love crime noir and haven’t read The Fade Out, get to it. 


Kitchen #1 (Vertigo)
Story: Ollie Masters
Art: Ming Doyle
(Variant cover on the right by Becky Cloonan)

When three mobster husbands are busted and sent off to jail, their wives are left to collect protection money from the neighborhood locals. But things get a little rough... I’ve actually already read an advance copy of Kitchen #1, set in New York City in the 1970s. In fact, Derek and I discussed it (and other titles) on The Comics Alternative Podcast, which should be up sometime today, 11/12/14. The tension built during the last seven pages is incredible. Check this one out.  

Story & Art: David Petersen

I just started reading Mouse Guard earlier this year, and although Winter 1152 is next on my list, I know I’ll want to pick up this new volume. Since this is a collection of tales, it’s probably a good jumping-on point for new readers.  

Zenith Phase 1 (2000 AD)
Story: Grant Morrison
Art: Steve Yeowell

Except for a deluxe edition, Zenith (which originally ran from 1987-1992) has been out of print for quite awhile. All four volumes are being reissued with the next scheduled for a December 2014 release. I’m certainly going to check it out. 

That’s it for me. How about you? 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Silver Surfer: New Dawn (2014) Slott, Allred

Silver Surfer, Vol. 1: New Dawn
Dan Slott, Mike Allred, Laura Allred
(Marvel Now!)

Things had gotten so heavy and ponderous in the Marvel Universe at one time that it desperately needed a lighter touch. It’s no wonder, then, that the two Marvel titles that delivered that lighter touch - Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and Mark Waid’s Daredevil - instantly garnered high praise from both fans and critics. Now along comes the Silver Surfer, a character who’s often so mired in philosophical musings and moroseness that he could use either a night on the town with the boys or a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory (where he’d actually fit right in), or maybe both. 

Slott and the Allreds deliver some much-needed lightness with Silver Surfer, Volume 1: New Dawn, a five-issue arc that begins with a little girl named Dawn Greenwood, wishing on a star with her twin sister (who thinks Dawn’s wish is “the stupidest wish ever”). Enter the Silver Surfer in the vastness of space, being flagged down by a strange being named Zed, who appoints the Surfer the next champion of the Impericon, a sort of gargantuan shopping mall/World’s Fair all rolled into one. But why does the being known as the Never Queen want to destroy the Surfer? And how in the world does the adult Dawn Greenwood get involved?

Answering those questions is all part of the zany fun that is Silver Surfer: New Dawn. Slott and Allred show us that you don’t have to have the entire universe threatened every five pages for a comic to be good. This story arc is light, fun (often ridiculously so) and strangely addictive. (The Hulk and Doctor Strange also get in on the act.) While some have accused the placement of Dawn as the Surfer’s traveling companion as an flagrant imitator of Doctor Who, I say “So what?” Even if it is, it’s a fun journey that I intend to keep following. I hope you will, too. 


Rai (2014) Kindt, Crain

Rai Volume 1: Welcome to New Japan
Matt Kindt, Clayton Crain

I haven’t had much success journeying through the Valiant universe, picking up only a few titles here and there, never really latching on to anything long-term, but when I saw that Matt Kindt was writing a comic set in Japan in 4001, I knew I couldn’t turn it down.

In the year 4001, Japan has been pulled out of its geographic home and now orbits an Earth that’s little more than a wasteland. Strict rules are in force and no one has committed a murder in over 1,000 years. Until now. People wonder if the mysterious folk legend known as Rai will come to enforce the laws of a people living under the rule of an even more mysterious god-like being called Father. 

Rai actually has much in common with one of Kindt’s other creations (and my current favorite comic book series) Mind MGMT. Like that title, Rai begins with a mystery: who committed the first murder in Japan in 1,000 years and why? But also like Mind MGMT, Rai also explores the theme of personal (and collective) identity through the investigation of a mystery. The themes and superb artwork make comparisons to Blade Runner inevitable, but Rai carries its own compelling and distinctive energetic force. (Collects Rai #1-4)


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Empire (2004) Waid, Kitson, Pascoe

Empire (2004) Mark Waid, Barry Kitson, James Pascoe (DC Comics)

Few of us are like Mark Waid. You might think I’m talking about the man’s talent - which is obvious to anyone who’s read his work - but I’m not. Neither am I talking about his knowledge of comics, which is just as obvious to anyone who has spoken to him, listened to him or read one of his interviews. But that’s not what I’m talking about either. In “True Story,” his introduction to the trade paperback edition of Empire, Waid states that he realized on his 29th birthday that he “had achieved every single one of my goals and dreams and really had no picture whatsoever of tomorrow. It was the most frightening and most sobering moment of my life.” 

That’s how Waid got the idea for Empire, a comic featuring a villain as its main character, a masked conqueror named Golgoth, whom, at the beginning of the book,  already rules close to 100% of Earth.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's Wednesday... 11/5/14

Let's see what's waiting for us today...

Velvet #8 
Two words: Brubaker. Epting. Now hand over your $3.50 and get to reading this great series. 

The New York Four by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly is being reissued by Dark Horse this week in a comprehensive trade paperback edition. Although I’m a Brian Wood fan, I confess that I’ve never read this before, but will soon.

Lots of folks (me included) have been awaiting this hardcover edition of The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (Vertigo) which includes the complete 10-issue story. 

Looks cute, doesn’t he? I’ve read enough of Gabriel Hardman’s Kinski online to know that it’s a must-buy. Read more about it here.   

And although this one’s been out for a few weeks, The Warren Commission: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination could’ve easily slipped under your radar. You can read my review of it here.  

That’s it for me. How about you? 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Links of Interest

There are so many great podcasts coming your way from The Comics Alternative soon, a couple of which I'll be involved in. (The ones that are already there are excellent as well.) Check out the website or follow the CA on Facebook or Twitter

One of those podcasts will cover webcomics, a topic that I've only recently started learning about. We already pretty much have our lineup for our webcomics episode and probably won't cover this one, but the new webcomic Terms of Service examines the enormous amounts of data we use through our many electronic devices and how this affects piracy. I haven't read it yet, but it's available for free for a limited time. 

I haven't yet listened to the Publisher's Weekly podcast PW More to Come, but it's devoted to comics and graphic novels. The magazine itself is as expensive as all get-out (mainly because it is, uh, weekly), but you can probably find it at your local library. 

If you're into collected editions of newspaper strips, you'll want to check out the current Previews catalog. They're highlighting several collected strips, some of which are either coming soon, will be reissued, or are available now. 

Finally, if you haven't checked out Lynda Barry's new book Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, you should. You can read my recent review of it here

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It's Wednesday... 10/29/14

October 29, 2014

Just a couple of single issues on my radar this week, starting off with Rasputin #1 by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo with colors by Ivan Plascencia (Image). I’m onboard for any work by Rossmo, plus, after reading Petrograd a few years ago, I can’t deny a affinity for anything related to the Mad Monk.

Of course, Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT #27 (Dark Horse) is a must-buy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re not reading Mind MGMT, you’re missing one of the best titles out there. 

I picked up the first issue of C.O.W.L. a few months back and enjoyed it enough to put it on my “Pick up the trade” list. The tale of the first superhero labor union is told in C.O.W.L. Vol. 1: Principles of Power (Image), story by Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel, art by Rod Reis. (Collects C.O.W.L. #1-5)

I won’t be getting this one today, but I’d love to take a look at Basil Wolverton’s Weird Worlds Artist’s Edition from IDW. Wolverton (no relation, at least as far as I know) produced some really wild stuff, so if you’ve never experienced his work, this might not be the place to start, and certainly not the cheapest. (A couple of good places to start might be with the more affordable Spacehawk or the upcoming volume Creeping Death from Neptune: The Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton Vol. 1, both from Fantagraphics

This one’s been out for a week, but you should certainly consider it: Lynda Barry’s new non-fiction work Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, reviewed by me recently at The Comics Alternative

That’s it for me. How about you? 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

September Reads Part III

Yes, October is nearly over and I’m just finishing September’s reads. I can’t wait to see how far behind I’ll get during the holidays... Well, regardless, here’s the last of the September reads (and in case you missed them, here’s Part I and Part II): 

Youth is Wasted (2014) Noah Van Sciver (Adhouse Books)

Van Sciver’s short stories are honest, daring, often hilarious, and impossible to ignore. After reading this collection, I certainly want to check out his 2012 graphic novel The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln


An Iranian Metamorphosis (2012/2014) Mana Neyestani (Uncivilized Books)

An exceptional graphic memoir by Neyestani, an Iranian cartoonist whose cartoons featured in a children's publication landed him in a prison nightmare worthy of Kafka. While Kafka's Metamorphosis is a clear inspiration for this black and white graphic novel, it is not heavily derivative of that work. Neyestani instead creates something with a hint of the bizarre, yet very personal, unique and moving. Seek this out!


Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1: The God Butcher (2013) Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic (Marvel NOW!) 

The God Butcher tells the story of Thor during three periods of his life: the young Thor, the modern day Thor of the Avengers, and a future wearied, nearly depleted Thor. All the while, Thor battles Gorr the God Butcher, who has apparently been killing the gods for centuries. Now it’s Thor’s turn. Or is it? I love Aaron’s work on Southern Bastards and am eager to start Scalped, but despite some interesting artwork from Ribic, this book is painfully repetitive. 


Fatale, Vol. 5: Curse the Demon (2014) Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips (Image)

Brubaker and Phillips bring the story of the mysterious Josephine to a wild and satisfying conclusion. Now that the series is complete, noir and/or horror fans have no reason not to experience this stunning work. 


Hicksville (1998) Dylan Horrocks (Drawn & Quarterly) 

I first heard of Dylan Horrocks after reading his short story “Steam Girl” in Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rick and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant I instantly fell in love with Horrocks’s modern-day story of two young social outcasts and knew I’d want to read more of his work. After reading Hicksville, Horrocks’s work has now become a must-buy. 

Hicksville is the story of Leonard Batts, a young man who travels to New Zealand to gather research for a biography of world-famous cartoonist Dick Burger. When Batts arrives in Burger’s hometown of Hicksville, he can’t believe all the animosity the locals have toward cartoon legend. Hicksville is so rich in its storytelling, character development and pacing that it’s almost too good to be true. This is a book I plan to return to again and again. I can’t say that about very many books, but few are as good as Hicksville


White Cube (2013/2014) Brecht Vandenbroucke (Drawn & Quarterly)

Belgian cartoonist/illustrator Vandenbroucke’s first book is filled with color, humor, and absurdity as its two main characters - pink-faced twins - seek to understand the world of modern art. The short episodes are often hilarious jabs at the art world, but just as frequently fall flat. I think Vandenbroucke possibly assumes too much (at least as far as American audiences go) about the reader’s knowledge of art and artists, making some of the jokes go over our heads (or at least over mine). Yet I look forward to more from Bandenbroucke.


The Hidden (2011) Richard Sala (Fantagraphics) 

I love Sala’s art and the surreal/horror/German expressionism going on, but the story didn't completely work for me, at least not on a first reading. This is my first experience with Sala's work, but I hope to read more.


I’d love to hear about what you enjoyed last month...or this month!