Tag Archives: graphic novels

Review: UFOlogy #1 (of 6)

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UFOlogy #1, published by Boom! Studios, is a very cool comic with very cool people in charge of it. Here’s the thing, a lot of us are repulsed by an ultra-slick high end production number. We wish for something with a shaggy dog vibe. But, if you let that dog get too shaggy, that can be just as bad as your typical mainstream corporate superhero comic. The shag, just like the ultra-slick, can get out of control. What you get with this comic is that scribbly sketchy feel you crave along with a sure-handed approach that demonstrates a mastery of the medium and a pleasurable read for you!

Gosh, I don’t know how I do this sometimes. I’ve been writing reviews, along with creating my own comics, for years now and the whole thing remains as fresh as a daisy for me. You see, it’s comics like this that show the way. They prove that the comics medium is truly inexhaustible. You give me a super duper industrial-strength superhero, and it will only work if the right talent is behind it. You can only create, or review, or heavily market, or simply read so many of these super duper comics before you just call it quits. At the other extreme, you give me something a little too precious and too uneven, and that can be annoying too. But you put together a creative team like this one for UFOlogy and you make a friend for life.

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UFOlogy was created and written by James Tynion IV and Noah J. Yuenkel. And the artwork is by Matthew Fox. A round of applause to all of you and here’s why. Our story begins in Mukawgee, Wisconsin where nothing is quite as it seems. You think this is just a sweet and innocent small town? Think again. Two teen-aged lives will collide here: Becky Finch, who would have been okay with a sleepy little town; and Malcolm Chamber, who demands the stars and the heavens. Throughout the story, we get snippets of the local FREEK podcast. The friendly deejay, Russ Chamber (Malcolm’s dad) keeps referring to the stars and it seems the town is due for a visit of monumental proportions. Or is the deejay just sort of freaky? This is all an ambitious scenario that takes off with no signs of slowing down.

Gettng back to the shaggy dog quality to this comic, it’s not something you can fake nor rely upon to get you by. The drawing here has a personal touch to it as you can feel that an actual person drew it. But that doesn’t mean that Fox takes that as a sign he can get sloppy. He maintains a sketchy quality that he also keeps under control with a nice clean line. There are other great sketchy styles out there to be sure. Fox’s style has that special natural look about it.

The writing too has a quirky and eccentric thing going on. That can get overdone as well. However, here we have something lean and determined. We get a chance to appreciate the dynamics of each character: Becky is something of a laggy, deliberately lagging behind for the sake of her family; Malcolm is as wild of a dreamer as his dad but we sense he may really be onto something. I think this comic is really onto something.

UFOlogy #1 is available as of April 1. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews, UFOs

Review: ‘La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico’

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A war zone that may not be on your radar: the border state of Chihuahua and its city of Juarez. It is the site of more murders than war-torn Afghanistan. And ninety-seven percent of these killings remain unsolved. This is thanks to the inextricable link between drug cartels and official corruption. But thanks to human rights activists, these crimes will not fade away. Leaders like Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro won’t allow that to happen. “La Lucha,” published by Verso Books, is their story.

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Written by Joh Sack, head of campaigns at the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, his goal here is to put a face to a crisis. Sack does this with a series of profiles and reportage that have the urgency of dispatches from the scene. The art of Adam Shapiro adds to the immediacy of each story.

Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro

Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro

There are all compelling stories to be found here. One example is the story of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and her daughter, Rubi Marisol. Rubi was murdered by her boyfriend, Sergio Barraza. It was a clear-cut case. However, Sergio Barraza would never be found guilty simply for the fact that he was a member of the Zetas drug ring and that made him instantly untouchable. Rubi’s mother, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, led a fight to bring Sergio Barraza to justice. She was able to repeatedly track him down when authorities were not. Sergio Barraza was eventually slain in a shoot-out in 2012 with the Mexican Army. But during Marisela’s struggle for justice, the Mexican authorities, from the local level to the federal level, would not get involved. In the end, Marisela was killed for her efforts. This is quite an involved story. An excellent examination of it from Borderland Beat is right here.

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If Americans are sensitive to Iraq and Afghanistan, then they should surely take notice of Mexico. Yes, if you’re looking for the most bloody war zone, all you have to do is look south of the U.S. border. Marisela Escobedo Ortiz’s murder was captured on video (starts at 1:05). Trust me, you don’t need to know a word of Spanish to appreciate the above video. “Él le disparó en la cabeza.” translates to “He shot her in the head.” Just in case, you need that clarity. Cultural and language barriers should never be an excuse for understanding. That is what this book breaks free from in a very compelling read.

In memory of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz

In memory of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz

“La Lucha” is an exemplary example of the comics medium. A book like this one proves how complex issues can be presented in a clear and concise manner that can benefit people in a myriad of ways. It can jump start conversations that require a number of facts that are not always easy to follow. It can make a difference. It can even save lives.

“La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico” is published by Verso Books and is available as of March 31, 2015. You can find it here, here, here, and here.

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Filed under Human Rights, Mexico, Verso Books, War

Giant Days #1, published by Boom! Studios

Giant Days, drawn by Lissa Trieman

Giant Days, drawn by Lissa Treiman

Giant Days, drawn by John Allison

Giant Days, drawn by John Allison

Not too long ago, I reviewed a John Allison comic under the same title. This first issue of “Giant Days” is different material and published by Boom! Studios. It is very cool to see this comic getting a higher profile. This one is by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. It is the same trio of college friends from the webcomic. But, just so you know, Allison only writes it. And it is Treiman who does the art. Now, I know Allison has a strong following that know his work as the result of his writing and drawing. For those fans, how do you feel taking his characters in a new direction as it were? It does not completely sit well with me. But should that really be the case? Probably not.

Having another artist draw one’s comic creates a whole new dynamic to say the least. The original Allison characters are delightful: very deadpan, droll, with an overall cool demeanor. This new version warms up Daisy, Esther, and Susan in a way that is subtle but still there. This got me to thinking. It seems like you can get away with that with Adventure Time characters being drawn by various artists. That’s because they’re such broad and elastic characters drenched in irony. But you could never truly get away with the Peanuts gang being drawn by someone else. That’s because they’re such personal creations. I submit to you the newer Peanuts animated TV specials for your review. The oldest ones, you know the ones, may not have been drawn by Charles M. Schulz but they sure had the look and feel of the characters spot on.

There’s definitely a shift in tone here. So, I thought some more. It’s like once you’ve seen Ricky Gervais in “The Office,” you’re kind of spoiled and won’t ever fully accept Steve Carell, even though he’s a comic genius. Hmm, that said, it has to be an honor for Allison to see his characters transcend his own depiction of them. That part is nice. And Treiman does a fine job. And, well, if you didn’t know this already, it is Allison who requested that Treiman pursue this latest run that revisits the girls getting used to university life.

But you see my point, right? Comics are a very tricky thing. They involve body language, style, and a whole way of looking at the world. Hmm, for me, the change in the art alone made this comic feel less British. It is, mind you, still set in Britain and the dialogue alone attests to that from time to time. Maybe some small adjustments have been made in the bargain so it’s just not quite as British. But, to heck with it, I do enjoy the American version of “The Office!” If you’re not easily won over, this different Giant Days may throw you threw a loop but, at the end of the day, it’s very funny. I dare say, what with all the changes, it has a nice charm about it.

“Giant Days #1″ is available now. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under Adventure Time, animation, Boom! Studios, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Charles M. Schulz, Comics, Comics Reviews, John Allison

ECCC 2015: Top Shelf Productions and Shannon Wheeler & Mark Russell

IDW Publishing at Emerald City Comicon this year brings a wide variety of comics goodness. I wanted to point out that Top Shelf Productions, now an imprint of IDW Publishing, will be at booth #1225, where you can meet the creative team behind the hit satire “God Is Disappointed in You,” Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler! The book is very funny and informative. Read my review right here.

"God Is Disappointed in You," by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

“God Is Disappointed in You,” by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler is a cartoonist best known for creating the satirical superhero Too Much Coffee Man, and as a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Find him here. Mark Russell is a writer and a cartoonist. His writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, The Nib, and Funny Times, among other places, and his cartoons are featured regularly at Nailed. Find him here. And, of course, you can definitely purchase “God Is Disappointed in You,” from Top Shelf Productions, right here.

Top Shelf Productions

I have a soft spot in my heart for the ebullient quality of Shannon’s cartoons. I include above a video interview I did with him at last year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. Seems like the perfect blast from the past to share with all of you. Below are the details on the panel with Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell:

Saturday, 2:00 – 3:00 Room Hall C (TCC 301)
God is Disappointed in You (The Sequel), with Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler—Last year’s standing-room-only hot ticket returns — now with even more Biblical bewilderment! God Is Disappointed in You, published by Top Shelf, is the tongue-in-cheek “condensed” version of the Bible you never knew you needed — hilariously modern, but surprisingly authentic — packed with cartoons by Eisner-award-winner Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, Too Much Coffee Man). Join him and author Mark Russell (writer of DC Comics’ upcoming Prez) for an hour of unforgettable irreverence, including Q&A, audience sketches, and the hilarious-yet-accurate “ten-minute Bible.” PLUS: a taste of the Audie-nominated audiobook, read by Dr. Venture himself, James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros), and an exclusive announcement about the upcoming sequel!

For more details on the IDW schedule at ECCC, go right here.

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Filed under Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comics, Emerald City Comicon, God, Humor, IDW Publishing, Religion, Satire, Shannon Wheeler, The New Yorker, Top Shelf Productions

Image Comics at Emerald City Comicon, March 27-29

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Image Comics returns to Seattle for this year’s Emerald City Comicon on Friday, March 27 through Sunday, March 29. You can expect an impressive assortment of creator-owned panels, signings, and con exclusive variant covers like the one above for DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, priced at $5 (#Y-05, also available at Image booth #312). DESCENDER is about a young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. Read my review here.

Here’s a rundown on Image Comics variant covers at ECCC:

VARIANTS SOLD AT THE IMAGE BOOTH (#312):

LOW, VOL. 1 hardcover by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini, $35

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #9 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, $5 (also available at creator table #II-06)

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, $5 (also available at creator table #Y-05)

VARIANTS SOLD AT CREATORS’ TABLES:

SEX CRIMINALS, VOL. 2 hardcover by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, $40 (Table #II-04)

WAYWARD, VOL. 1 hardcover by Jim Zub and Steven Cummings, $30 (Table #HH-11)

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, $5 (#Y-05, also available at Image booth #312)

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC #1 by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko, $10 (#HH-05)

WAYWARD #6 variants by Jim Zub and Steven Cummings, starting at $5, blank sketch covers for $10 or $25 with sketch (Table #HH-11)

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #9 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, $5 (also available at Image booth #312)

For a full schedule of Image Comics events at Emerald City Comicon, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dustin Nguyen, Emerald City Comicon, Image Comics, Jeff Lemire, Seattle

Emerald City Comicon in Seattle: March 27-29

Lady Killer #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Joelle Jones (500 copies)

Lady Killer #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Joelle Jones (500 copies)

Emerald City Comicon takes place this weekend in Seattle, March 27-29. For those attending, you are sure to find something special whether it’s a book signing, a panel, or a special ECCC comic book cover like the one above for “Lady Killer #1,” published by Dark Horse Comics. Lady Killer, by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich, is about a 1950’s housewife-turned-assassin. The story is set in Seattle during the 1960 World’s Fair. It’s great crime noir comics with an extra kick to it.

Visit our friends at Dark Horse for their full schedule at ECCC right here. Below is a complete rundown of Dark Horse exclusive covers for ECCC 2015:

EMERALD CITY COMICON EXCLUSIVES

A set quantity will be available at opening each day of the show. Limit of 5 per person per day while supplies last. Each comic is $5.00.
Frankenstein Underground #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Mike Mignola (1,000 copies)
Prometheus: Fire and Stone—Omega ECCC exclusive variant cover by Patric Reynolds (500 copies)

Lady Killer #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Joelle Jones (500 copies)

Past Aways #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Scott Kolins (500 copies)

Conan Red Sonja #1 limited-edition black-and-white variant cover by Dan Panosian (1,000 copies)
We’ll also have a variety of Dark Horse comics, graphic novels, art books, and collectibles for sale in our booth.

For more details, visit our friends at Emerald City Comicon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Emerald City Comicon, Joëlle Jones, Seattle

Review: PAST AWAYS #1

Past Aways #1 Emerald City Comicon exclusive cover in Seattle, March 27-29, 2015

Past Aways #1 Emerald City Comicon exclusive cover in Seattle, March 27-29, 2015

Do you ever look at a smart phone and think of it as merely a primitive cellular device that does little more than distract you? Well, if you do, you’re ahead of the curve. But you’d definitely think that if you came from the future and found yourself in the distant and scary past of 2015. That’s what happens to a crew of deep-time explorers from 1.2 million years in the future. That’s quite a lot of generations of iPads. Welcome to the first issue of “Past Aways!”

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Our explorers crash landed, with no way to get back for sure, plus the future is encroaching upon the past in a huge way. So, the crew is basically dealing with enough to make their heads explode. Matt Kindt’s script is relentlessly good as he introduces characters and juggles all sorts of sticky time travel issues. Scott Kolins provides us with pitch perfect art with a light and vibrant touch. Based on this first issue, it’s safe to say that we truly have here something special. The layers of complexity that are being meted out are flowing nicely. And never underestimate the value of a wicked sense of humor since that seems to be a good part of the glue that keeps this all together.

With more than a million years of evolution separating our main characters from, well, us, you might expect them to be more…evolved. That is hardly the case. They do have an assortment of very cool gadgets though. And they feel sorry for those struggling in 2015 amid never-ending conflicts and basic lack of progress. And yet, they don’t seem all that different from us. They can be just as petty, impatient, and even snarky. Oh, but there are differences. And those differences could lead to mass destruction. Wow. This is one of the most thought-provoking and just plain fun comics you’re likely to find now.

PAST AWAYS #1 is available as of March 25. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Matt Kindt

Review: HIT: 1957 #1 (of 4)

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Las Vegas. It’s a dead end for some and paradise for others. Maybe it’s a little of both for Bonnie Brae. It’s 1957. A lot of water under the bridge since things heated up a couple of years ago. The plan had been to go incognito, start a new life in San Clemente as Marie. But, no, Marie was not going to be left alone so easy. If you were a fan of Hit: 1955, or if you’re new to the party and looking for some good noir comics, this new Hit series is for you.

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You’ve got the team of writer Bryce Carlson and artist Vanesa R. Del Rey back to deliver more. Each page is teaming with intrigue graced by Del Rey’s fluid line and Carlson’s gritty narrative. Los Angeles is one big corrupt mess. We find our anti-hero Detective Harvey Slater pushing back on Domino and his Syndicate. He can’t catch a break from the boys in Internal Affairs. And Bonnie Brae is missing. But that is only the beginning. We have ourselves here a deep and dark tale unfolding. Much transpires. A new killer on the loose. And, of course, you didn’t expect Bonnie to just sit still all this time, did you?

Good crime fiction needs to establish a rhythm quickly and then maintain it. Set up your hooks and beats. Cue the atmosphere. Lower the shades. Carlson loses no time creating a pattern and evoking a certain kind of melancholy. You need doomed characters who don’t know they’re doomed. Carlson rolls out our ongoing theme: “Things change. But people don’t.” Del Rey works wonders with her brush: scribbles here form a shadow, overlapping lines there build up to loose crosshatching signifying lust, despair, and a cavalier stare back at death.

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“HIT: 1957 #1″ is available as of March 25. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under 1950s, Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews, Crime Fiction, Los Angeles, Noir, Vanesa R. Del Rey

Review: JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #1

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Okay, let’s get this figured out: “Jem and the Holograms” was an animated show that ran from 1985-1988. Now, was it a show and then it became a line of dolls? No, it was a line of dolls and then it became a show. You know, Hasbro. Same deal like Transformers. The Jem dolls were similar to Barbies (looks like the same mold was used) but with a glam rock vibe.

Yeah, talkin’ about Transformers, Jem is set to be very much a similar deal. The major motion picture comes out October 23, 2015. And, leading up to that, is this six-issue comic book published by IDW Publishing. Let’s take a closer look.

In the front seat writing the limited series is Kelly Thompson. I’ve read her pieces in Comic Book Resources over the years and I appreciate what she does. She sees herself as a voice for women. She does a good job although she has a weakness to overstate herself. She does this, I think, deliberately. You can see this as something of a style choice. Women in comics is her beat. She is certainly an unbashedly enthusiastic fan, the type that speaks of characters as if they were real people and the most awesome ever.

That type of enthusiasm has its place. Even in the relatively limited depths of this project, that enthusiasm can be misplaced. Getting too wrapped up in your characters being these living and breathing entities and, on top of that, being awestruck by them, leads to tepid writing. Your characters never ever do much of anything so as not to risk making them look bad. This is the wrong kind of character-driven storytelling. It takes away from a more challenging story. It does a disservice to young women readers who get a story with everything floating along the same mellow register.

You know that feeling of satisfaction you get when you go see a movie you weren’t expecting much from and then leave the theater impressed? That’s because compelling things were going on. It was good solid writing. What I’m getting so far from this first issue is very soft conflict and very soft focus. Was that part of the charm of the original Jem posse? I don’t think so. Exactly like the Transformers, Jem was and is an empty vessel. It’s not these totally amazing women, as Kelly Thompson endlessly refers to them in her afterword, a masterpiece of hyperbole. But, like I say, that’s how she rolls.

So, what exactly transpires within the pages of this first issue? Our lead singer Jerrica has got the worst case of stage fright in history. She’s a portrait of shivering inaction. Kimber tries to coax her back into the studio while Shana and Aja helplessly look on. There’s some bickering. Later on, we find the solution and it will not involve Jerrica taking responsibility for her actions. Will that change over the course of the story? Maybe so. In all fairness, maybe so. Overall, this issue just plodded along too much. There was room to bring in more elements.

But I don’t want to dismiss this comic. No, because I can understand that the original animated show did leave some comforting mark on a lot of childhoods. It stirs emotions. And, it is what it is. Who knows, maybe the major motion picture of Jem will be one of those movies that leaves me oddly impressed. I’m just thinking about how it can all be better. That said, one thing we cannot overlook is the other major force of creativity on this book, artist Sophie Campbell. Simply for having the sensitivity to have different body types for these characters deserves recognition. These are all distinct characters.

You know, I wish Kelly Thompson, and the whole creative team on this book, the best. And, if we should meet at some convention, I’m sure we’ll have a good conversation. I’m serious when I bring up these writing issues. The mellow pace to the story and then the gushing over the characters in the afterword just left me concerned. The best piece of advice I can offer, not that anyone is asking, is to know that characters like these have got a lot of potential to go far. Forget how awesome they may seem. Just let them go and then don’t be afraid to push them, have them fall, and then push them again. They won’t break. Maybe then you, as the writer, will have the characters, and the story, do something truly amazing.

JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #1 is available as of March 25. For more details, visit our friends at IDW Publishing right here.

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Filed under animation, Comic Book Resources, Comics, Hasbro, Jem and the Holograms, Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell, Television

Kickstarter: Janelle Asselin Fires Back With FRESH ROMANCE

Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada

Fresh Romance Issue 1 Cover by Kevin Wada

It was one year ago that comics professional Janelle Asselin was in the middle of a raging storm regarding the comics industry’s ongoing problem with the distortion of women. Catch up and/or refresh your memory on that right here. So, to find Ms. Asselin undertaking a whole new way of addressing this issue is quite inspiring. Sometimes, you just gotta go out and show them all how it’s done, right? Enter FRESH ROMANCE.

FRESH ROMANCE is a new generation’s answer to romance comics. This is part of a new imprint, Rosy Press, brought to you by Janelle Asselin, Senior Editor of ComicsAlliance.com and former DC Comics editor. If funded through the now-live Kickstarter campaign, Asselin’s new imprint Rosy Press will debut FRESH ROMANCE in May 2015. This Kickstarter campaign ends April 22. Visit it right here.

The first issue of this monthly digital comic magazine features sundry stories ranging from a clandestine, queer high school love affair to an impeccably researched and illustrated Regency-era romance. In addition to three forward-looking romances, each issue of FRESH ROMANCE delivers a relationship advice column by a quartet of divorced writers, behind-the-scenes art coverage, and a fashion report.

Full press release follows:

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Filed under Comics, ComicsAlliance, DC Comics, Feminism, Fresh Romance, Janelle Asselin, Kickstarter, Romance, Romance Comics, Rosy Press, Women