Tag Archives: comics

Review: MICHAEL MIDAS CHAMPION: BOOK ONE

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“Michael Midas Champion: Book One” is an all-ages comic that takes superhero tropes thoughtfully and lovingly to a high level of entertainment. It has distinctive characters who not only walk and talk naturally. There’s a genuine quality that will make you want to follow their story. Michael is the good guy who is always bullied by Truck who is always muscling in on Danielle, the girl of Michael’s dreams. But push comes to shove, and Michael must stand his ground.

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At the heart of this story is young adult nirvana. Tapping into the classic nice guy behind the superhero mask mythos, Jordan B. Gorfinkel has written a powerful story about youth finding the courage to act. And, hey, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a nice romance going on once Michael is brave enough to court Danielle. Scott Benefiel is totally in step with his artwork which further humanizes an already compelling narrative. Every superhero has that one villain that knows him a little too well and who is most capable of taking everything he holds dear away from him. That is the dynamic between Michael and Truck. It’s a story you’ll want to check out for yourself. And, by the way, it ends on a perfect cliffhanger.

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“Michael Midas Champion: Book One” is a 144-page trade paperback, brought to you by Avalanche Comics, InkLit, and Penguin Random House, and is available as of August 4th.

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Filed under Avalanche Comics, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, InkLit, Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Penguin Random House, Scott Benefiel, Superheroes

Review: ‘Steve McQueen: Full Throttle Cool’

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Give me a good biography in a comics format anytime. The new graphic novel version of the life of actor and race car driver Steven McQueen is straightforward and appealing. Make no mistake, Steve McQueen was one serious race car driver as “Steve McQueen: Full Throttle Cool,” published by Motorbooks, bears out. Written by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and illustrated by Greg Scott, we zigzag between the movie set and the race track as the remarkable life of a true legend unfolds.

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Steve McQueen was nobody’s fool and I’m sure he would have appreciated this book’s no nonsense approach. There’s really no overreaching to get inside Mr. McQueen’s head. The amazing facts speak for themselves. Raising himself out of great adversity, by the age of 16, he was already a Merchant Marine. He excelled in a rugged and military environment. As a Marine, he rescued five Marines from a sinking boat. This led him to be assigned to Pres. Truman’s Honor Guard. Shortly after that, McQueen would study acting.

In a confident chronological narrative, with a few flashbacks, we see how uncertain McQueen’s career choice would be, even after he had gained notoriety. We gain a greater understanding of the landmark films he starred in such as the celebrated “The Great Escape” and “Bullitt.” All done in a bold realistic drawing style, this is one adventure you won’t want to miss. I can’t think of anyone who would not have anything but praise for Steve McQueen and this book honors his legacy.

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“Steve McQueen: Full Throttle Cool” is a 96-page trade paperback, available now. For more details, visit our friends at Motorbooks right here.

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Filed under Biography, Comics, Dwight Jon Zimmerman, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Hollywood, Motorbooks, Steve McQueen

Review: ‘When Life Hands You Lemons, Check For Lymes’ by Phil Gerigscott

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“When Life Hands You Lemons, Check For Lymes” is a graphic memoir by Phil Gerigscott in which he ostensibly describes his struggles with Lyme disease. Consider the Lyme disease a bonus. If you’ve ever faced Lyme disease, there’s definitely much to relate with here. However, there’s lots more too. As in any life, one cannot live by Lyme disease alone. What you end up with here is a touching and very funny look at a young couple as they embark upon a life together with all its many challenges and joys. And you also get an honest account of one man’s journey to get answers about Lyme disease.

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This amounts to a journal created in a shorthand form of comics. The drawings are simple and serve to document as well as provide comedy relief. Gerigscott even points out that all the comics in his book were drawn during a certain time: October 2014 through March 2015. If you know anything about Lyme disease, know that it is a risk you take when venturing into the great wilderness. It is there that you, the urban dweller, are out of your element and at the mercy of all these foreign elements, like deer ticks which carry the disease.

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Gerigscott begins his story with where he first got a deer tick bite in early June 2012. It was on North Manitou Island near the northwest coast of Michigan. At the time, he thought he’d gotten the little sucker good. He had burned it off his thigh. That was his first mistake. As he later learned, by burning the insect, Phil had caused the little bug to vomit bacteria into his bloodstream. Not good. But then life happens and one distraction leads to another. Soon enough, Phil has forgotten about that particular incident. His next mistake. This results in a long journey of discovery as Phil tries out various cures for his mysterious muscle and joint pain that leads him to suspect a laundry list of possible causes.

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“When Life Hands You Lemons, Check For Lymes” is a 155-page, black-and-white, hand-drawn graphic memoir. It is a very funny book with a distinctive voice thoughtfully covering the subject of Lyme disease as well as: young adulthood, travel, partnership, mayonnaise, and ghosts in top hats. Lyme disease is not exactly a laughing matter and can, in fact, be deadly. But, thanks to this book and its quirky humor, we can gain some insight along with some laughs.

“When Life Hands You Lemons, Check For Lymes” is currently available for pre-order. For more details, go right here. You can also visit Phil here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Health

Review: GUN #1, published by Reckless Eyeballs

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GUN is a new superhero crime noir comic, written and drawn by Jack Foster. Both the deadpan humor and light touch to the artwork remind me a bit of Matt Kindt. This is a story with its fair share of irreverence while still sticking to the reality that bullets and punches hurt, especially bullets. The premise here is that of a number of comics that take superheroes off the grid: in a world overflowing with superheroes, and super villains, is anybody just plain normal?

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The search for normalcy hangs heavy over our super characters. Maybe one last bank heist, so to speak, would solve everything. Just run away with the loot and enjoy margaritas on the beach. I love the quiet grace to this comic. Our hero is not a hero. Actually, he’s technically a villain. To listen to his story, you’d think he’s just some mixed up kid with superpowers. You can call him, Twist. That’s what the media calls him. It wasn’t his idea. That’s just how he moves. He would have preferred “something cool like King Crimson or Doc Hangover.” Do you get a sense here of silly fun, of bubblegum superhero mythos? It is fun and it works.

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I’ll tell you something, covering comics is built on one work of comics at a time. It can’t just be the big two publishers all the time, although there’s much to cover there as it is. And it is fun to see how iconic superheroes going back close to a hundred years still remain relevant. In fact, Foster is tapping into the swagger and pulpy goodness of yesteryear. Anyway, covering comics is very similar to covering any other art form. As a reviewer, I look for new talent right along with checking out established names. What’s great about Foster’s work is that he’s having a blast. His love for the old school approach is apparent in every hand-drawn and hand-colored panel. This is a character-driven narrative with room for subtilty and wry wit.

This is a beautiful comic, hands down! Rounding out the talent is the lettering of Greg Sorkin and the editing of Nolan Smith. This is the first issue of GUN, entitled, “Fighting is My Monday.” The next issue will be entitled, “Strange Bedfellows.” For more details, and to preview the first issue, visit our friends at Reckless Eyeballs right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Jack Foster, Reckless Eyeballs, Superheroes

The New York Times Declares Graphic Novels to be ‘Summer Reveries.’ Huh?

Panel excerpt from Fatale Deluxe Edition: Volume I, one of the titles on Dana Jennings' summer comics reading list.

Panel excerpt from Fatale Deluxe Edition: Volume I, one of the titles on Dana Jennings’ summer comics reading list in The New York Times.

I love to read The New York Times. I like the idea of The New York Times and I actually enjoy reading it. No problem. It can be quite pretentious but I’ve had delightfully pretentious friends over the years. I may still have a few. So, what’s my problem? Okay, here’s the thing, The New York Times offers up the backpage to its Friday arts section (read it here) to the subject of comics and graphic novels. We are told that there’s nothing quite like a graphic novel on a long summer’s day. And then we get a hodgepodge random list of ten books. They’re all labeled as “graphic novels” while three are actually collections of comic strips. Have at it, folks, enjoy your funny books.

This piece was written by Dana Jennings. He is bravely representing the comics geek at the office (at the dentist’s, wherever, you decide) that we’re not supposed to quite understand. And we’re not supposed to understand him (or possibly her but the stereotype would be “he”) because, as The New York Times implies by this ever so brief offering, graphic novels remain something of a curiosity. Sure, The New York Times includes a category for graphic novel bestsellers but that was inevitable.

So, if The New York Times is really serious about graphic novels, and the comics medium in general, then they need to treat the subject with the respect it deserves.

Again, I love The New York Times. I’m sure they have it in them to provide far more accurate and in depth coverage of the leading art form of the day. Seriously, I’d be happy to work with them in this noble endeavor.

Quite seriously, I believe it’s outdated to need to introduce the world of comics as if it’s an oddball relative. Would you relegate the world of contemporary painting to an arts backpage and then highlight ten works from various times and places and offer it up as a quick look at some “summer reveries”? No, you wouldn’t.

It’s not the comics medium that is this curious little creature. It’s articles like this one that are quite curious indeed.

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Filed under Art, comic books, Comics, graphic novels, The New York Times

Tom Spurgeon Takes The Comics Reporter to Higher Level

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Tom Spurgeon is one of our cherished chroniclers of the comics scene. The Comics Reporter is one of the go-to places for all things comics. There’s only a handful of us out there and I’m very happy to call him a friend and colleague. Right now is an exciting time for him, and all of us in the comics industry, as he takes things to a higher level. In August, he will launch a PDF monthly version of his daily blog which will showcase in depth exploration of the contemporary comics scene. This new magazine will be available to those who join his Patreon portal to help sustain all the good things he does at The Comics Reporter. Be sure to visit The Comics Reporter and become one of Tom’s Pateron patrons, for as little as $2 per month, right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Journalism, Journalism, news, Pateron, The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon

Advance Review: KING TIGER #1

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We all miss the Star Wars comics from Dark Horse. We miss the intriguing detail, the swagger, the sly humor. But the talent that brought you that magic is still around. And there are new tales to tell. Enter King Tiger, written by Randy Stradley (Star Wars, Aliens vs. Predator) and illustrated by Doug Wheatley (Star Wars, Aliens).

There’s just something about this comic, and its confident execution, that will hook you in. Supernatural forces are on the offensive. They will take what they want, sacrifice human lives, wreak havoc. But a sorcerer and martial artist, known as King Tiger, may have the strength and cunning to bring them down.

This first issue sets the bar high and there’s no doubt this story is going to prove itself worthy. First off, King Tiger is very likable and mysterious. His girlfriend, Rikki, has made a man out of him. He appears to have formidalbe magical powers. But we know very little else about Tiger. And he likes it that way. His sidekick, Milo, makes for perfect comic relief. And Tiger is about to embark on the most challenging, and deadly, case of his career.

Stradley masterfully handles the narrative with just the right touches. We get an eerie refrain about how humanity is much better off just giving up hope that strikes a perfect creepy chord. Wheatley has a wonderful way with bringing life to his characters. We instantly gravitate to them. We know Rikki means stability. We know Milo means comedy. And we know Tiger is going to lead the hell out of this adventure.

King Tiger #1 is on sale August 12th. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Randy Stradley

Review: WOLF #1, published by Image Comics

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“Wolf,” is a new comic (script by Ales Kot; art by Matt Taylor) in which we follow Antoine Wolfe, a hard-boiled paranormal detective, down the sun-kissed streets of a noir-infused Los Angeles. The streets are indeed sun-kissed and beautifully harsh thanks to the intense colors by Lee Loughridge. Like any good crime story, we savor the details. One excellent moment simply has Antoine approach an anxious German Shepherd in his path with a mellow, “Meow.” From the start, we know this is going to be one weird tale as we begin with Antoine covered in flames one moment and completely unscathed the next.

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This original fantasy/horror/crime saga is worthy of comparison to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The narrative rolls along quite smoothly as the plot develops. Antoine is steadily revealed to be adroit as well as a bit out of his depth as we find him caught up in something of apocalyptic proportions. Ultimately, his fate will be linked to that of an orphaned teenage girl. And, through it all, we have a compelling clash between fantasy and gritty crime drama. For instance, Antoine may have supernatural powers but, as an African American, he is regularly reminded that he is not welcome in some places. And Los Angeles is depicted as a twisted wonderland, an amalgam of wilderness and concrete jungle. And full of magic. Wait until you meet Antoine’s pal, Freddy, a most Cthulhu-like fiend.

I am often asked where the best comics are coming from and the short answer is Image Comics. A perfect example is Wolf.

WOLF #1 is available as of July 22nd. It is a 64-page comic priced at $4.99. For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics, Noir

Review: ISLAND #1, published by Image Comics

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ISLAND is a whipsmart comics anthology brought to you by Image Comics. In the first issue, Brandon Graham provides a brief intro and we’re off and running. Work here is intro art by Marian Churchland, ongoing comic by Emma Rios, story by Kelly Sue DeConnick, ongoing comic by Brandon Graham, and ongoing comic by Ludroe.

Emma Rios presents a sci-fi thriller entitled, “I.D.” I love the clean linear quality to her artwork. Everyone looks hungry and jumpy. And that’s understandable considering a terrorist attack has just occurred in outer space. We open with a scene in a coffee shop. Just as you would expect, once a crisis has been declared by the media, hot-blooded youth feel compelled to do something. One outraged young man declares, “The streets should be burning these days!” To this remark, a woman gives him the most vicious of eye rolls. Anyway, that crisis is in the background. The focus is on the characters and some of them are desperate to change their bodies. Nice opener.

Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Railbirds” is a poignant memoir that pays tribute to her friend, the poet, Maggie Estep. It is prose with illustrations by Emma Rios. We follow Kelly on a road to recovery from addiction and growing as a writer. You learn all about the “railbirds,” those overeager participants at the race track, in this moving story.

Brandon Graham’s “Ghost Town” is a tour de force adventure with his favorite couple, Nikoli and Sexica. This this chapter, the two try to enjoy brunch at a café that specializes in whale. A few other oddball things happen. No one gets blown up. Always excellent work.

And finally, there is Ludroe and his ongoing piece, “Dagger Proof Mummy,” which proves to be quite a revelation. I see a few touches of Graham’s influence in what is a very refreshing skater fantasy tale. Reno smokes a little too much weed. Dirk is a superstar skater. Will they ever be a cool couple like Nikoli and Sexica? Maybe not. Whatever the case, Dirk appears to have supernatural powers and presently he has made himself completely vanish during a mid-air daredevil jump.

ISLAND is published by Image Comics, priced at $7.99. It is brought to you by Pretty Deadly artist Emma Rios and King City writer/artist Brandon Graham. Each ongoing issue of this comics magazine runs 20 to 30 pages, ad free, with issue length chapters of new work from around the globe. The first issue is available as of June 15.

For more details, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Anthologies, Brandon Graham, Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics

Review: ‘Marilyn: The Story of a Woman’ by Kathryn Hyatt

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“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” is a graphic novel originally published in 1996 by Seven Stories Press. It caught my eye on my last visit on the last day of business at Seattle’s Cinema Books. Funny how we find our comics sometimes. A perfectly compelling work was just sitting on a shelf waiting for me to finally take notice. Kathryn Hyatt proves to be a devoted and thoughtful fan of all things to do with Marilyn Monroe, one of the most celebrated and misunderstood of Hollywood stars.

Stars burn bright and then they burn out. While this holds true for the career of Marilyn Monroe, that is only the briefest of descriptions. What Hyatt does is pay tribute to the human being and the artist. A mountain of books have been written about Marilyn Monroe but her unique life and work forever fascinate generating more and more stories. Hyatt carves out a path in search of some clarity.

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Marilyn Monroe was the committed innocent artist. She was innocent in the sense that she was uncompromising in her pursuit of purity of purpose as she saw it. She had to overcome many obstacles none the least of which were her own feelings of low self-esteem. Even when she seemed to have a control over her own sexuality and image, she was still haunted by misgivings. Hyatt lovingly brings us into that world. For instance, the photo shoot that would lead to the iconic centerfold in Playboy was bittersweet. Hyatt evokes the scene with great empathy. Monroe may be thrilled by the attention upon her beautiful body but, at the same time, she only agrees to pose in order to get her car back from being repossessed. And she continues to replay harsh criticism from earlier years that she is “unphotogenic.”

Hyatt has a nice feel for capturing the mannerisms and movement of Monroe. It’s a mixture of a crunchy underground vibe and a more smooth and polished approach. The zest for pursuing her narrative is clearly there. What I’ve come to find in comics biographies is that the cartoonist’s depiction of the subject is akin to an actor’s portrayal. The best versions aren’t direct impersonations but are the creator’s unique interpretation. Hyatt mapped out in her mind the quintessential Monroe and everything that came before and after. She also had to map out what to focus on in the larger-than-life world of Monroe. And that process is akin to a novelist’s work. The overall result is quite stunning.

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Monroe’s sexuality was, and remains for us in her work, the undeniable focal point. There are a number of well-chosen scenes where Hyatt addresses this key issue. There are a certain number of depictions of Monroe nude which Hyatt handles with grace. Those depictions wouldn’t work if they were simply meant to titillate. If Hyatt had felt a need to really get provocative, she could have taken a lewd turn but, instead, she is interested in humanizing. In that regard, Hyatt includes a scene of Norma Jeane as a little girl appearing naked before her family. It’s an interesting harbinger. We come to see that Marilyn doesn’t have a problem with her own skin but that will not prove to be as simple out in the world.

Much in the same way that the Kennedy dynasty will forever fascinate, the life of Marilyn Monroe will always have something to say on a personal and a universal level. The theme of Hyatt’s book is a close look at a particular woman who managed, by sheer determination, to place herself in the forefront of public discourse. We see Norma Jeane’s struggle to become Marilyn Monroe. It happens gradually, by fits and starts, as she navigates casting couches and fickle to malicious critics. Through the process, she fully appreciated the status she achieved and gave back as much as she could. However, the misgivings would never go away. She was an innocent artist and that is the deeper layer that sustains her legacy.

“Marilyn: The Story of a Woman” can be found at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Biography, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Hollywood, Kathryn Hyatt, Marilyn Monroe, Sex, Sexual Politics, Sexuality