(All works with a + are part of the ongoing SXSW 2014 Starter Pack review series.)
The Superior Spider-Man, Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy (2013) Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli (Marvel)
(If you haven’t kept up with Spider-Man universe, you probably won’t understand what follows. Best to read The Amazing Spider-Man #700 before starting this newer series.)
This is a tough one... The first two issues in this volume really tried my patience with the "Peter Parker angel" floating around and the tiresome scenes of Peter trying to deal with Doc Ock's relationships with Pete's loved ones. Things do get more interesting during the last half of the volume. It's certainly entertaining and I'll probably keep reading, but there are many opportunities here, only some of which Slott takes advantage of. Yet I'll give him a chance and keep reading.
Steve Canyon, Vol. 1: 1947-1948 (2012) Milton Caniff (IDW)
Caniff is, of course, a legend and you certainly can’t go wrong with any of his work. Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, and while Steve Canyon isn’t quite the comic strip that Terry is, it’s still an incredible experience.
When Caniff left Terry and the Pirates in 1946, he also left ownership of the title and its characters to the Chicago Tribune newspaper syndicate. He knew that the next time he created a newspaper strip, he wanted complete creative control. He got it with Steve Canyon, an action/adventure strip about an Air Force veteran running his own air-transport business. Like Terry, Steve Canyon is filled with international adventures, dangerous villians and plenty of love interests and femmes fatales (often the same woman).
Yet Steve Canyon takes awhile to find his way (no pun intended). It seems Caniff didn’t really know what to do with a large supporting cast of Canyon’s World War II buddies, so they sort of just disappear after the first quarter of the book (which actually makes the book stronger). Most of the characters and storylines don’t quite match up to the depth and quality of Terry, but the volume seems to be finding its way in the last half of the book. Sign me up for the next volume.
+ Nathan Sorry, Vol. 1 (2010) Rich Barrett (available online through ComiXology)
Blankets (2003) Craig Thompson (Top Shelf)
Blankets is one of those memoir graphic novels that gets mentioned so frequently it almost became the sole focal point of Thompson’s career, until the release of Hababi in 2011. Blankets is a powerful, yet quiet work that examines love, faith, sibling rivalry, coming-of-age and more. Without getting too personal, Blankets reflects so much of my own life it’s sometimes difficult to read or comment on it. Maybe one day.... Anyone interested in graphic novels should read this one.
Alias the Cat! (2005) Kim Deitch (Pantheon)
You’ll either love or hate Kim Deitch’s wild, often staggering Alias the Cat! but I doubt you’ll be able to forget it. Deitch and his wife Pam are actual characters in the book, searching for pieces for Pam’s collection of Halloween cats from the 1920s and 30s. When they stumble upon the story of Alias the Cat - which was both a comic strip and film serial - they discover stories within stories, each story crazier than the last. I love Deitch’s character’s constant state of shock and horror at each revelation about Alias the Cat. This is my first, and hopefully not the last, exposure to Deitch’s work.
+ Footprints (2013) Joey Esposito, Jonathan Moore (214 Ink)
Footprints is one of those graphic novels that simply should not work at all. I mean, come on, Bigfoot as a hardboiled detective looking for the murderer of his brother Yeti? And Bigfoot’s buddies helping him on the case - The Jersey Devil, Loch Ness Monster, and Megaldon? How in the world could this work on any level?
I’m not sure, but it does. Esposito provides just the right amount of humor in this gritty noir tale and Jonathan Moore’s art is somewhat reminiscent of that of Sean Phillips. Worth a look.
In the Dark: A Horror Anthology (2014) Rachel Deering, ed. (IDW)
Read my review at The Comics Alternative.
Reset (2013) Peter Bagge (Dark Horse)
Two things: (1) This is my first experience with Peter Bagge, and although I'm sure this is probably not his best work and maybe not the best place to start, I still enjoyed it.
(2) I really appreciated Bagge's NOT going where I thought he was going and the way he explores so many ideas at once, including fear/distrust of technology, relationships, and, of course, humor. I definitely will place Bagge high on my "To Read" list.
Attack on Titan, Volume 1 (2010/2012) Hajime Isayama (Kodansha Comics)
I enjoyed the story and concept of this first volume, but was often frustrated by the art and visual storytelling. (The anime series clears up a lot of the visual confusion very quickly.) I plan to keep reading the series, though.
That’ll do it for May. Tell me what you read.