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Review: SNOTGIRL #1

Your Fashionista, Snotgirl!

Your Fashionista, Snotgirl!

“Oh boy! It’s really been a while, hasn’t it? But it’s like they say: life is what happens between blog posts. Right??” That is “Snotgirl,” the new comic created by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung. Meet Lottie Person, your fashionista, your Holly Golightly with a blog. Not in a long while have a enjoyed such a pleasing mix of sexy and cute as with this new comic.

Holly Golightly with a blog

Holly Golightly with a blog

A comic like this almost writes itself. Thankfully, we have a thoughtful script by O’Malley and engaging artwork by Hung. When has snot ever been a recurring motif in a story about twentysomethings? Maybe it a comic strictly for kids, like Dennis the Menace or Peppermint Patty covered in snot. But not someone so poised and elegant as our Lottie! The poor thing suffers form allergies. So, she is never too far from a tissue. And those allergy pills don’t seem to be reliable.

I blog, therefore I am.

I blog, therefore I am.

If you are reading this blog post, chances are you write a blog of your own! We’re all doing it. Feels good, right? Or does it? You could say it depends on why you’re doing it. This is at the hear of this story. What makes Lottie tick? What if all her social media was suddenly withheld from her? Would she exist? And then there’s a surprise twist at the end of this first issue that lets you know for sure that all is not what it seems. Great first issue!

SNOTGIRL #1 is available as of July 20th. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Bryan Lee O'Malley, Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics

Review: THE FUN FAMILY by Benjamin Frisch

Fun Family

“The Fun Family” is the debut graphic novel by Benjamin Frisch. It is a satire of wholesome family comic strips with a decided focus on Bil Keane’s “Family Circus.” I think Frisch is a decent cartoonist but this work does not make me want to poke fun at family-oriented comic strips that are supposedly shallow and trite. No, instead, it makes me want to defend all comic strips, especially the masterful work of Bil Keane! That said, I do appreciate what Frisch is after here. He has set up an ongoing gag where he has the anti-Family Circus family crumble before our eyes. Meet the Fun family, they are not what they seem.

Frisch goes about his task with a good deal of precision. We are swept right into the family dynamics as each member recites what they are thankful for before dinner. We observe a hearty and classic nuclear family, all Ozzie and Harriet pleasantries intact. And then little junior picks up the phone and is given the news, via an automated message from the hospital, that grandma has passed away. This event triggers a downward spiral that just keeps going downward. This hits Robert Fun, the patriarch, especially hard. How can he continue to draw his world-famous circle-shaped newspaper comic strip celebrating the wholesome American family?

Perfectionist Robert Fun reveals his secret porcelain doll family to his son.

Perfectionist Robert Fun reveals his secret porcelain doll family to his son.

Everyone in this comic within a comic is drawn in the old-fashioned spit polish style of a family comic strip except all vibrancy has been replaced with a certain strangeness. The artwork is keyed down, all the characters either look lifeless or ugly compared to the original Family Circus characters. You think that family fun is the norm? Frisch tells you to think again. It’s an undeniably intriguing concept for a graphic novel. The narrative weaves its way through showing up how families are not perfect and how quack counseling can make matters worse. We also have an interesting mirroring of events going on as little Robby follows in his dad’s footsteps and creates his own successful family comic strip.

This is a well-constructed graphic novel. No real argument there. And the humor may hold up for some folks. As for me, if feels like Frisch is hammering away at something that is not exactly all that subversive as that is clearly his goal. The Simpsons series, reveling in family dysfunction, has been on TV for nearly 30 years. It is common to ridicule a tepid and disingenuous slogan like, “family values.” So, I can’t back down on feeling compelled to support Bil Keane’s life work, now continued by his son, Jeff Keane. What’s next? Are we going to bash Hank Ketcham and Charles M. Schulz? Surely, I ask this with tongue in cheek. It’s not that I can’t take a joke and I do believe that Frisch is capable of telling a joke.

Great satire is great satire. You just know when it comes together. All you need to do is read Mad magazine and read how it has cleverly satirized family comic strips over the years. In the case of “The Fun Family,” the point is made about family dysfunction in a didactic fashion that may prove to be too much of a good thing. That said, you may be alright with the tone to this book. I definitely look forward to more of Frisch’s work. How about a satire on this satire? Now, that could prove to be very interesting and Frisch could prove to be just the right cartoonist to take that on.

“The Fun Family” is a 240-page full-color softcover graphic novel. For more details, visit Top Shelf Productions right here.

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Filed under Bil Keane, Comic Strips, Comics, Humor, Satire, Top Shelf Productions

Review: DARK PANTS #3

DARK PANTS #3 by Matt MacFarland

DARK PANTS #3 by Matt MacFarland

I am a big fan of Matt MacFarland’s DARK PANTS series. You can read my review on the previous two issues right here. The third issue is now out and it follows Phil, a teenager in Silver Lake, California, circa 1988. As Matt described to me in an interview, each new issue focuses on a different time and place in the Los Angeles area. The motif is a mysterious pair of black jeans and the sexual awakening they trigger in whoever wears them.

Page from DARK PANTS #3

Page from DARK PANTS #3

For our hero, Phil, life has been hell as he struggles with his sexuality. Phil is navigating in a very oppressive environment. The last thing he wants to consider is being gay. But, once his fate crosses paths with those alluring dark pants, he gains enough confidence to explore his options a little bit. MacFarland is relentless in his depiction of Phil’s inability to be true to himself. It seems as if his embracing his truth is filled with nothing but pain. Gradually, MacFarland hints that Phil may ultimately find pleasure but it sure won’t come easy.

Reading DARK PANTS #3

Reading DARK PANTS #3

The easiest thing that Phil can rely upon is his imagining having sex with teen heartthrob John Stamos. It’s a pretty funny and sobering fact. Phil thinks about it and he knows he likes it. But he’d rather hide. Things come to a head, so to speak, when Lisa, his supposed dream girl, lures him away to a bedroom. It’s his big chance to prove he’s not gay to his confused and frustrated self but all he can think about is…John Stamos. As for Lisa, she will have her day. It looks like she is the subject of the fourth issue set in Eagle Rock, California, circa 2016.

No matter how empowering those dark pants are, they are no match for an awkward teen. Phil is simply ill-equipped to harness his new raw power. He makes some progress but not quite what he might have expected. MacFarland’s drawing and writing is highly accessible. He immerses the reader in the inner turmoil that his characters are going through. With just the right touch of humor, MacFarland offers us stories of missteps of the heart that will stay with us.

Matt MacFarland Los Angeles

If you are in the L.A. area this weekend, be sure to see Matt MacFarland on Saturday, July 16th, from 5-7pm at the Los Angeles County Store in Silver Lake. Find out more right here.

Find Matt MacFarland and DARK PANTS right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comics, Gay, Independent Comics, LGBTQ, Los Angeles, Matt MacFarland, Sex

Review: BLACK HAMMER

Black Hammer Jeff Lemire

BLACK HAMMER is the latest entry in the fish-out-of-water superhero story. For this first issue, Jeff Lemire tries out a bunch of scenes with his cast of misbegotten superheroes. And the twist at the end of this first issue, should leave you wanting more. Dean Ormston’s artwork compliments Lemire’s script with a light and ethereal quality similar to Lemire’s own artwork. And Dave Stewart rounds out the core creative trio with plenty of those spot on atmospheric colors: autumnal oranges and sunset pinks. Where all this is headed is still unclear but the overall offbeat quality is winning me over.

These are superheroes with a Golden Age vibe to them. The real deal type. And it fell upon them to make some big sacrifices they’d all rather not talk about. But talking things out is good, right? That’s what Abe would say. Of course, Gail would never listen. And Barbalien would just laugh. There’s this one scene where Gail, who happens to be stuck inhabiting a 9-year-old, goes off to sit and brood on a rooftop. Along floats by Barbalien looking like this really big demon. He plops next to Gail and the two of them chat. It’s a good scene but it reminded me way too much of the sitcom, “3rd Rock from the Sun.” You know the show? It has a similar premise: aliens from another world stuck on planet Earth. You can imagine Joseph Gordon-Levitt up there on the roof with a hoodie feeling bad about himself and then John Lithgow comes out to join him.

I don’t think it’s such a good idea for this script to resemble a sitcom too much unless we’re heading down a particularly ironic path. There’s also a scene with ole Abe going into town to see his sweetheart, a waitress at the diner. That too has a squarely sitcom quality to it. I am willing to see where this goes. Then there’s Talky-Walky. He’s a robot determiend to invent a way to get off the island…uh, I mean planet. I sense that Lemire really wants to be very playful. So, if you’re in the mood for something whimsical, and ironic, this may end up adding up the further along you go past this first issue.

BLACK HAMMER is available as of July 20, 2016. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Jeff Lemire, Satire, Superheroes

Review: LADY KILLER 2 #1 by Joëlle Jones

Joëlle Jones Lady Killer

LADY KILLER, written and drawn by Joëlle Jones, is a landmark in comics. To have a second season kick off is pretty awesome indeed. This is as tightly written as it is exquisitely drawn. And, hell yeah, you get quite a freaky entertaining story to enjoy. This is why people get hooked on comics and great storytelling. Here’s the deal, it does get bloody but it’s never creepy. Well, creepy can work really well sometimes. But, you know, then there’s super-creepy torture porn stuff and this is not that at all. Think more in terms of Alfred Hitchcock just to give you a solid point of reference.

Our story finds Josie picking up where she left off. The horrible things that happened in Seattle are now in the past. The Schuller family has moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida–where a whole new set of horrible things can happen! It is circa 1962, with the American dream flying high with a house full of kids and Tupperware parties. Josie, if she towed the line as a typical housewife, would take orders from her husband and simply recede into the background. But Josie is different. For one thing, she’s a serial killer.

Lady Killer Joëlle Jones

Jones deftly plays with the housewife/serial killer dynamic as stylishly as if it were coming from Hitchcock. It is a sheer delight to see her balance the gore with understatement and just the right touch of humor. She does a great thing by replacing all the blood with ink. Well, the blood is the color of black ink. Black has a way of delightfully messing with your mind in ways that red would not. It adds a different kind of impact: the abrupt and stark black commands your attention. It’s negative space, negating life, summoning sharp thoughts of death, finality, the great void.

For a comic so invested in death, it is definitely one of the most alive and vital comics you can pick up.

LADY KILLER 2 #1 is available as of August 3, 2016. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Alfred Hitchcock, Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Horror, Joëlle Jones

Kickstarter: ‘The Nowhere Man Book 1: Nothing, Never, Nowhere’ by Jonny Bloozit

Nowhere Man 02

Nowhere Man 01

Jonny Bloozit is a Boston area creator with a cool new project that’s running on Kickstarter this month. It’s called “The Nowhere Man,” and it’s the story of a man trapped in the spirit world. You can read the beginning online here.

“The Nowhere Man Book 1: Nothing, Never, Nowhere,” seeks your support. The Kickstarter campaign runs to July 29, 2016. Support the campaign right here.

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Filed under Comics, Humor, Kickstarter

Review: Girl Over Paris #1 (of 4) (The Cirque American Series)

Jules Maroni out to prove them wrong.

Jules Maroni out to prove them wrong.

Jules Maroni is a celebrity tightrope walker connected to the supernatural in the latest comic from Amazon’s Jet City Comics. I love a good story with complications. Part of the fun of reading a comic that is hinting at something spooky around the corner is how it creates its trail of breadcrumbs. “Girl Over Paris” sets the tone for a spooky adventure with style and joie de vivre.

Part of Gwenda Bond’s CIRQUE AMERICAN universe, this story, written by Kate Leth (Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, Adventure Time: Seeing Red), follows Jules and the gang as they fly from the U.S. to France in order to perform at a big event and allow Jules to regain her stature after a long hiatus. Artwork by Ming Doyle (The Kitchen, Constantine: The Hellblazer) and colors by Andrew Dalhouse enhance the pixie-romantic quality to this tale.

Reading "Girl Over Paris #1"

Reading “Girl Over Paris #1”

There’s a lot of luscious detail to this comic that sets it apart. I like the gentle pace too. Ms. Leth does a wonderful job of allowing us into the innermost thoughts of Jules: she is making a comeback, opening up to her new boyfriend, and confronting a supernatural entity. That’s quite a lot for a first issue.

Girl Over Paris #1 (The Cirque American Series) is available as of July 6, 2016. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Adventure, Amazon, Amazon Publishing, Comics, Comics Reviews, France, Gwenda Bond, Jet City Comics, Paris, Young Adult

Review: DIVINITY II #3 (of 4)

Divinity II #3 variant cover by Carmen Carnero

Divinity II #3 variant cover by Carmen Carnero

DIVINITY II is a satisfying time travel thriller. I love a good time travel tale and this series from Valiant takes us to some very interesting places. You can well imagine that if Vladimir Putin was ruling over the only superpower on the planet that he’d be quite alright with that. A chilling thought but just the right frame of mind to enjoy this comic. Great script by Matt Kindt and a very kinetic style to the artwork by Trevor Hairsine.

A whisper in Gorby's ear.

A whisper in Gorby’s ear.

We have one rogue character, cosmonaut Myshka, with the potential to shift the balance of power in favor of the Soviet Union that she so dearly misses. Hey, you learn quick that changing history is not exactly a piece of cake. You can’t just whisper into a world leader’s ear, suggest a change of course, and then expect to de-wrinkle a moment in time. Just not gonna happen. Of course, you need a very persistent sort to keep trying and that’s our Myshka. She’s set to give pep talks to everyone from Stalin to Gorbachev. Stay resolute, dudes, Communism is here to stay!

Fun stuff! We’ve seen way too many time travel tales about killing Hitler and saving JFK. That said, I wouldn’t mind a whole series, at least a one-shot issue, dedicated to Jeb Bush going back in time to kill baby Hitler. You remember Jeb Bush, right? Oh, how time flies!

Awesome variant cover by Carmen Carnero.

DIVINITY II #3 is available as of June 22nd. For more details, visit Valiant Entertainment right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Communism, History, Matt Kindt, Russia, Time Travel, Valiant Entertainment

Seattle Focus: The Crocodile’s 25th Year

What we can always use is more love. Here is something special put together by cartoonist Noel Franklin that touches the heart of all us Seattle locals. This is Noel’s tribute to one of our great landmarks, one of the best music venues in town, The Crocodile nightclub. Here is a link back to where it appears at Seattle Weekly.

Noel Franklin's tribute to The Crocodile in Seattle Weekly

Noel Franklin’s tribute to The Crocodile in Seattle Weekly

And be sure to keep up with Noel Franklin right here.

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Filed under Comics, Music, Noel Franklin, Seattle, The Crocodile

Review: METROLAND #3 by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie chats with Ziggy Stardust

“Metroland #3,” published by Avery Hill, is the best yet of this quirky series. Of course, you want to read it all as it builds! The hints have been made from the start that there is something unusual, perhaps other-worldly, about rock stars Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust. They keep abandoning their band, Electric Dreams, leaving them cooped up in a small castle in Greenwich just outside London. Not the worst thing in the world, mind you. Although not until you take into account that the mysterious activities of Jessica Hill and Ricky Stardust could bring about the Apocalypse!

Alright, so the world’s fate may hang in the balance. But this comic’s main appeal is its style and humor. Let me tell you, it’s a particularly British club scene thing going on here but it’s also quite applicable to any scene. The recurring theme is looking and acting cool. Go to a club. See a show. Pose. Make pithy comments. The humor and the style are priceless, way before snark was ever born–and much better. It’s a world-view honed over generations. Funny I should say that, given the nature of this narrative.

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum!

Ah, yes, this is a story spanning generations–or should I say it goes much deeper than that. This is unnatural. This is cross-polinating generations! Let me come clean: Jessica and Ricky are compromising the space-time continuum in a huge way. Ever hear of President Elvis? No, that wasn’t supposed to happen. So, yeah, we’ve got a mad helping of Doctor Who with just the right hipster vibe.

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

Where is Ricky Stardust and Jessica Hill?

You see, Ricky Stardust has been leapfrogging all through rock ‘n’ roll history making adjustments as he pleases. Rumor has it that he’s Ziggy Stardust and that he’s set into motion some cataclysmic jinx. Not the sort of thing the David Bowie we all know and love would ever do. Ricky Miller’s script has such droll humor and Julia Scheele’s artwork has such devilish wit.

Henry the Blogger!

Henry the Blogger!

As for comics about gloriously misspent youth, this is one I highly recommend. Come for the repartee and stay for the characters. There is even a middle-aged pop culture blogger who proves to be a pivotal character. Ah, there’s hope for me yet. Well, I must admit the character is pretty spot on in a lot of ways. Eerie, his name is Henry and my name is Henry. Okay, that alone gets my attention! Did someone travel back in time just to spook me? Ha, ha, I do like this Henry the blogger character!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

Kevin refuses to meet with Henry!

“Metroland #3,” by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, is a 36-page full-color perfect bound comic. For more details, visit Avery Hill Publishing right here. You can also venture over to Retrofit Comics and find Metroland right here.

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Filed under Avery Hill Publishing, British Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, David Bowie, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, London, Music, science fiction, Time Travel