Saturday, August 13, 2016

MARSHALL ROGERS-SHADOW OF THE BATMAN

                                                          MARSHALL ROGERS
The character of The Batman has inspired many fine interpretations by artists since his creation in the 1930s. One of these artist certainly has not gotten the respect and recognition in recent years that he deserves. Marshall Rogers (January 22, 1950 – March 24, 2007) came to prominence illustrating the Dark Knight in the pages of Detective Comics back in 1977-78. His collaboration with writer Steve Englehart was, for many years, held up as one of the shining moments in the character's history. 

While artists like Neal Adams presented a muscular Batman, Rogers' though was lanky, athletic, tall, but not bulky. His Joker, was as memorable: extremely thin, perfectly dressed, wide mouth revealing the whitest of smile. Perfectly creepy.

Not to be forgotten, Terry Austin's solid inking style gave Rogers' art an angular, precise quality that was integral to the look of the art. 

There is no currently available trade paperback or hardback collection on the market and honestly the production value on the latest incarnation was lackluster. I would urge you to seek out the last 4 issues of the reprint collection Shadow Of The Batman, published back in 1985. In those, Rogers had the opportunity to re-color the issues and the whole presentation was of high quality.
While Rogers continued producing work on a regular basis until his death in 2007, none of it quite achieved the high level of his Batman work.

Monday, August 1, 2016

WANTED

WANTED
Written by Mark MIllar and drawn by J.G. Jones. Published by Image Comics.

Cubicle-dwelling Wesley Gibson is a coward and he has a dull life. His girlfriend respects him so much she cheats on him with his best friend every chance she gets. He knows it, but he is in such a state of utter pussyness that he does not dare say, or do anything. He's treated like shit by his boss who ridicules him every chance she gets. He learns his father, recently killed, was one of the baddest super-villains of all time. In this world, the super-villains rule the earth from the shadows. They eradicated the goods guys (after a three months brawl in 1986!) and divided the world among themselves. The peace signed between them is rendered fragile by the death of The Killer (Wes' dad). Wesley learns the ropes of super-villainy in order to take the torch which he inherited. 
Wanted's humor is in the same vein as Millar's Authority run; black like the night. It is cynical, violent, with brains splattering everywhere. It is very indicative of a period in the writer's life when every character was tainted by darkness. Make no mistake about it, Wes is not a good guy and he does reprehensible thing throughout the story so your tolerance for following his journey might vary. However, there is a charm to the story, it evolves, moves and the characters, as bad as they all are, you just want to see how they all turn out, which makes all the difference. 

The drawings are dynamic, the graphic storytelling tight and well handled. The renderings attractive. When this was originally published, artist J. G. Jones was being praised as the next big thing (health issues have kept him out of the spotlight since then). Easy to understand by looking at the work in Wanted

Get the book here:

Friday, July 29, 2016

THE RED SNAKE

THE RED SNAKE

Written and drawn by Hideshi Hino

"For as long as I can remember I've always wanted to get away from this house"

A house so big that nobody knows its real dimensions, nor even visited all of its parts, a dilapidated maze encircled by an impenetrable forest: such is the oppressive stage of The Red Snake. The last born of an obviously disturbed family, no doubt from many generations of inbreeding, and obviously the most balanced inhabitants of the manor, this young boy penetrates in the heart of the residence, releasing by accident the demons which lives in it. The tone of the story is announced in its very first page as the boy stares into the immensity of the house. His grandfather has a large growth hanging from his jaw, his grandmother believes she is a chicken and lives in a nest, his father, who raises chickens with sadistic affection, aids her dementia by giving her baskets of eggs that he claims she laid herself, his mother tends to grandfather's boil with far too much tender loving care, and his sister fondles insects with erotic glee. As if the poor kid doesn't have enough to worry about, his grandfather tells him that the large mirror in their house is, in reality, a barrier that blocks the gates to Hell. 
Cartoonist Hideshi Hino presents a gallery of baroque characters all of them disturbing, touched by degradation (physical or mental). Among this ensemble, the principal character feels insulated, a prisoner of the house. The young narrator will soon become witness to the events which he started, and that he is unable to stop. The Red Snake can be seen as an allegory of a person retreating in oneself against an unbearable reality. An illusory refuge, leading quickly to psychosis, finishing in an inextricable loop in time that finds the central character in a mental prison quite as effective as the physical prison that was the house. 

In Hino's world, death is not an escape. Relying heavily on symbolism, The Red Snake is difficult to understand at times, the reader is confronted with the madness of the narrator and wonders where reality really is . Phantasm? Deformed actuality? One closes the book in a state of confusion. One thing is certain, The book is not read, it is experienced. It leaves the reader in shock, appalled at the horror, the strangely erotic danse macabre that the characters play with each other. Hideshi Hino is a terribly effective horror writer & artist. The works is both repugnant and attractive. The faintness which one feels while reading The Red Snake is the best proof of an immense storyteller.

The book is no longer in print but can be found second hand on Amazon or EBay.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

SEX CRIMINALS VOL.1: ONE WEIRD TRICK

SEX CRIMINALS VOL.1: ONE WEIRD TRICK
Written by Matt Fraction, drawn by Chip Zdarsky, published by Image Comics.

What if your orgasms stopped time? I mean, not for you, but the world around you? Everything freezes. except you. And for several minutes to boot? And oh, why not take advantage of that and rob banks?!? That's the high concept in Matt Faction's Sex Criminals. Under that, there's the exploration of sexual awakening, relationships, gender imbalance and that's truly the most interesting aspect of the story. The fantasy side is just an interesting distraction. The characters seem a little too self aware, that they are in a comic book and Fraction tends to get a bit too precious with it sometimes, but it is an enjoyable read.
Chip Zdarsky's art is clean and crisp, realistic and cartoony at the same time. The visual storytelling is wonderful and imaginative. You could literally just follow the story from the art alone and that is a talent that many artists seem to lack in comics nowadays.

Certainly one of the most original series of the last few years. Get the book here:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

BONE

BONE

Written and drawn by Jeff Smith. Published by Cartoon Books.

After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins, are separated and lost in a vast uncharted desert. One by one they find their way into a deep forested valley filled with wonderful, terrifying creatures and people who'll change theirs lives forever.
One of the biggest fantasy sagas ever created in comic book form. 12 years in the making, 55 individual comic book issues. The series rounds out at more than 1300 pages, entirely produced by cartoonist Jeff Smith
The great quality of this saga was the consistency that the author demonstrated throughout the project. Of course, like any story, Bone has strong times and more introspective ones. But even in the quiet moments, everything works thanks to its sometime subtle, sometimes grotesque and sometimes delirious humor. The characters, from Fone Bone, The prototype of the nice hero: shy but with a heart of gold. Phoney Bone,  Smith's thinly veiled homage to Carl Bark's Uncle  Scrooge. Grandma Ben and her peculiar sport of racing cows. Each one of the characters is a successful mixture between caricature and realism. Even Smiley Bone, the seemingly simple minded cousin, who just seems to be coasting through life with delirious abandon, is often the one which utters the most judicious words at the right time. 
The art from Smith adapts remarkably well to the various tones and situations of the story. He is able to handle the ridiculous concept of a cow race or portray a battle worthy of The Lord of the rings. One of the most gifted cartoonist the American comics scene has seen in the last 25 years, Jeff Smith's output has been small since the conclusion of Bone, and while some of those other works have been enjoyable, this saga remains his crowning achievement.

Get the book here:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

DRUID

DRUID 
Written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Leonardo Manco. Published by Marvel Comics.

Druid, published in 1995, was a truly nasty piece of work from Warren Ellis' early career as he took a second-rate Doctor Strange-like character called Doctor Druid, and gave him a Vertigo-ish treatment.

There's truly nothing redeeming about this character's interpretation here and one can only feel sorry for the supporting cast, who have basically ventured into a Lion's den. It's a morbidly fascinating comic book work.
Artist Leonardo Manco's somber, scratchy art is well-suited for this dark tale, making this a truly hellish, uncomfortable reading experience.

Originally pitched as an ongoing series, the book had to end abruptly with it's fourth issue. No trade collection has been published so hunting for back issues through online comics retailers and conventions are your best bet of getting your hands on this oddity.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

BRIAN K. VAUGHAN - THE PRIVATE EYE

BRIAN K. VAUGHAN - THE PRIVATE EYE
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Marcos Martin and colored by Muntsa Vicente

Brian K. Vaughan has proven to be one of the most respected comic book writers of the last decades, while not the most prolific (working in the more lucrative TV series arena has taken time away from his comics work), every time he does a project it becomes an event. 
A tale set in the future, where the internet cloud bubble burst and everyone's secrets spilled out for everyone to see. In this future privacy is the way of life. Almost everyone wears a disguise (sometimes, several). Activities are conducted in total anonymity and the population's home life is sacred.

When a private detective is approached by a woman to investigate her sister's murder, he discover a plot that will threaten society as it is now.

While not one of Vaughan's best works, The Private Eye is a clever, and original premise, that delivers plenty of thrills, patented BKV twists and an exciting ending.


Kudos to artist Marcos Martin for really going to bat with his imaginative costume designs that truly bring the reader into this world. Imaginative layouts, simple but appealing renderings make this story a truly fun read.

Serialized in digital form at http://panelsyndicate.com (Where you can acquire the entirety of the story for whatever you'd like to pay!), it was also collected in hardcover form from Image Comics, which you can purchase through this link:


Friday, July 15, 2016

THE PRO

                                                                       THE PRO 
Written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti. Published by Image Comics. 

Garth Ennis' disdain for the superhero genre is not a secret and the few ventures that he has made into it, certainly shows his feelings on his sleeve.

In The Pro, a decidedly less visceral approaches is taken and Ennis drives his point about the genre with humor and, dare I say it? A certain melancholy. 
The Pro tells the story of a prostitute who gains superpowers and joins a super team. It contrasts two very different worlds, one very much set in the comic book world of a Justice League of America circa-1965 and the gritty reality of a woman who has chosen prostitution to make her way through what was without a doubt a very difficult life. The book would be depressing if it wasn't for the protagonist's "that's just life" attitude and Ennis' clever handling of the situations and humor.
Published in mid-2002, this was a relatively early work of penciler Amanda Connor. While not as polished as some of her later works, it does present clear visual storytelling, well rendered figures that convey body language and emotions.

The humor is crude, but in many places, laugh out loud funny.

Get the book in print, here:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

THE HUNTING PARTY

THE HUNTING PARTY 
Writer Pierre Christin and artist Enki Bilal's classic tale of the last days of Soviet Russia is a quiet, subdued masterpiece.

The Hunting party is a graphic novel which attacks the taboos of communist crimes. Christin and Bilal take the subject head on: The purging, the systematic elimination of the opponents to communism, the hunting for the Trotskystes, the Kominform, the Spring of Prague crushed under Russian tanks, the massacre of the peasants' resistance to collectivization... Christin's slow but hypnotic plot is carried over the story's 82 pages by the powerful dialogues. It is with abandon that the author plunge us by flashbacks, in a maze of past repressions, crimes and terror. 
Enki Billal's art is atmospheric. His quiet drawings conveyed the desperateness of the last days of Soviet Russia. It's a style full of decrepitude and it goes well with this nauseating political history. With Bilal, no wall is without cracks, not a street without holes, nor is a face spared the ravages of time and bad decisions. Even the trees seem exhausted. His use of visual metaphor's and allegories to display the emotionally charged scenes, bring resonance to this story of power and control.  Bilal does not use colors to embellish, but to generate emotions. One can only describe The hunting party's visual atmosphere as, unhealthy. 
Reading this graphic novel does require some minimal knowledge of contemporary history, but the true Russian aficionado will be able to seize all the subtleties of the graphic novel, in particular the contents of the propaganda posters. 
The hunting party is not only one of the best political graphic novels in the history of the Ninth Art, but also reveals itself to be a work of conscience and recollections.  Even more, it was a formidable prediction of the explosion of the Eastern bloc.

Get this seminal work here:

Monday, July 11, 2016

THE COWBOY WALLY SHOW

THE COWBOY WALLY SHOW
Cartoonist Kyle baker's first graphic novel, first published in 1988, is a comics masterpiece of satire and social commentary.

Forget Jean Autry and Roy Rogers those Cowboys of your childhood, paragons of virtue and moral fiber, Cowboy Wally took their place today: fat, a cheater, weak, vicious, rough, profit minded and completely stripped of scruples. With such "qualities", one would not be astonished that he made his career in movies and television. The book, cut out in chapters, presented in non-chronological order, resembles a success story in reverse. Wally the cowboy tries it all, cinema, theme parks,TV shows, toys... and fails at it all with equal mediocrity.
This story of a D list TV movie/actor who just lucks into monetary success is a testament to the entertainment industries' valueless regime and the public's lowest values and tastes. Interestingly enough, one gets the sense that Wally knows his shortcomings but also realizes the chance he's been presented to give himself a good life and he exploits that to the last drop. Wally is the every day man, the slob who just has an incredible run of luck.
A sharp script and brilliant comedic timing make this book one of the best modern satires in comics. Kyle Baker's art is clear, sparse but full of expressive bravado. His graphics are classic and modern at the same time, combining clear storytelling and attractive imagery. 

The Cowboy Wally Show is a must in any serious fan of the medium's library. get it here:

Saturday, July 9, 2016

XIII Vol.1: THE DAY OF THE BLACK SUN

                                           XIII Vol.1: THE DAY OF THE BLACK SUN 
Written by J. Van Hamme and drawn by William Vance. Published in English by CineBook.

Comics (and bandes dessinées) have always mined other mediums for ideas (and vise-versa). Sometimes that fact is quite obvious as in J. Van Hamme and William Vance's XIII. One could believe that the protagonist, named Alan in this first story, lives on a parallel plane of existence with Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne character.

Obviously, the man in question here is either military or spook. But since he lost his memory, not even he can be sure. All we know is that a whole bunch of people are after him and that he might have committed a murder worthy of national ramifications.

Old pro J. Van Hamme delivers a script that is just top notch. The plot is solid, the pace tense and the dialogues effective.

Another veteran, William Vance, handles the art chores and just like vintage cars, his style never goes out of fashion. One could almost compare him to a Belgian version of the late-great John Buscema. An accomplished draftsman and graphic storyteller, his art is direct, without bells and whistles and is concerned in telling the story in a clear manner.

Originally published in French in 1984, the book is available in English from CineBook and is the first of many albums in the series. Get it here:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

UNKNOWN SOLDIER

                                                              UNKNOWN SOLDIER 

Written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Kilian Plunkett, published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Over the years, writer Garth Ennis has shown a love for both the western and war genres. One of his first forays into war stories, was this revival of the old DC Comics character, The Unknown Soldier. Having read a few stories from its original iteration, this particular story certainly doesn't look at its subject matter in the same manner and infuses decades worth of political cynicism into it. 
A tale that doubles as a mystery and war story, Ennis' take on the character is at times horrifying and rings unfortunately true in many of the scenarios it presents. Surprisingly, he is still able to introduce jokes and farcical situations that only make the story that much more powerful.

Artist Kilian Plunkett's scratchy art style imbues the various tableaux with the necessary gravitas, verve and visual flair to make this story one that will stay with you long after you've finished it.

Get the trade paperback here:


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

CRYPTOCRACY #1

                                                               CRYPTOCRACY #1 
Written by Van Jensen and drawn by Pete Woods. Published by Dark Horse Comics

Since before recorded history, nine families have controlled and orchestrated society, people and regimes from the shadows. Deeper than the illuminati, they have professed the world's best interest from their viewpoints. But a flaw in one of the family's plans might have triggered a coup from one or several powerful entities who were unknown to even them.

Fascinating premise to this series from Van Jensen, who in one issue packs a lot of information, world building and character development without losing its' readers in unnecessary exposition.

Great art from Pete Woods that skates the line between realistic and cartoony making the various goings-on a lot easier to accept. Woods even makes the quieter scenes dynamic never losing the reader's attention along the way. The coloring (also by Woods?) is flashy but works to enhance the line art.
Another great series from Dark Horse Comics who is proving to be one the most ballsy "mainstream" comics publishers these days.

Available through your local Comic book shop or digitally from Dark Horse Digital: https://digital.darkhorse.com/profile/6831.cryptocracy-1/

Sunday, July 3, 2016

SOUTHERN BASTARDS

                                                     SOUTHERN BASTARDS 
Written by Jason Aaron, drawn and colored by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, published by Image Comics.

Earl Tubb is a beast of old man with unresolved issues. Euless Boss is a high school football coach with no patience for anyone who doesn't want to play his own way. And that's just a sampling of the bastards on display here.

Certainly a contender for best new comic book series of the last few years, this southern tale of corruption, murder and football will shake you to the bone. In the first volume, Here was a man, I have never wanted to kill a fictional character so much in my life. In the second one, that character's history comes into light and while my dislike of him is undiminished, I understand why he is that way. That is one of writer Jason Aaron's talents: to take us deep into his characters, make us see what makes them tick. 
The story is overflowing with testosterone and the art from Jason Latour sweats from the settings it portrays. As much as the script shines, the gorgeous drawings are next level good. Almost a masterclass on minimalist line use. Alex Toth would be proud.

The issues can't come out fast enough, but you can catch up with the first 3 trade paperbacks here:

Friday, July 1, 2016

MOON KNIGHT: FROM THE DEAD

                                          MOON KNIGHT: FROM THE DEAD
 
Written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Declan Shalvey and colored by Jordie Bellaire. Published by Marvel Comics.

Moon knight has always been viewed as the poor man's Batman. A character that has had a hard time holding on to any regular publishing schedule since the 1980s. Many talented creators have taken a stab at him, but the idea of a vigilante afflicted by multiple personalities disorder, a great concept mind you, is tough to realize successfully. While writer Brian Michael Bendis explored that aspect in a run a few years back, it is strangely this iteration written by Warren Ellis that really sings. 

Marc Spector rides along (and alone) in a strech limo helping out the police on the more...peculiar cases that they encounter. The multiple personalities aspect is lightly threaded but it just serves as background to this interesting, strangely straightforward take on the character.
Artist Declan Shalvey Take on the character is equally as interesting as Moon Knight never truly wears his traditional superhero costume but rather, impeccably tailored suits that are totally white (brilliantly visualized by a total absence of color on him, except when he takes off his mask. just part of the brilliant color work of Jordie Bellaire).

Unfortunately, the fun only lasted 6 issues but what a ride this was. get the collected edition through here:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

CHEW

CHEW
 Written and lettered by John Layman, drawn and colored by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics.

Officer Tony Chua is a Cibopathic. When he takes a bite out of something organic (be it plant or human) he can see its life. Obviously, such a special skill has made him a very practical officer in the F.D.A. Who, in this near future, is the most powerful law agency in the states.
 

In essence a comical series that has serious, sometimes tragic elements thrown in. A diverse and crazy cast of characters that you learn to appreciate, love and in cases, hate over the years. Writer John Layman keeps us interested, and most importantly, entertainment throughout.

Artist Rob Guillory's art is in the cartoonish vein, with an angular style that might take a few pages to get accustomed to but definitely grows on you. While the scripts are hilarious in places, don't discount Guillory's many, many visual gags and Easter eggs.


The series is now winding down in its monthly form and when finished will be a much beloved one to re-read over and over.

Catch up on the serious laughter with theses trade paperbacks:


Monday, June 27, 2016

DEADLY CLASS

DEADLY CLASS
Written by Rick Remender, drawn by Wes Craig and Colored by Lee Loughridge. Published by Image Comics.

the idea of a school for gifted youngsters is not a new concept. The idea originated with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's classic X-Men. Deadly Class, however offers an interesting spin on the concept by making the school a place where teenagers go to learn to be assassins. Even with that twist the most interesting thing about writer Rick Remender's series is the exploration of teenage angst. At that age, emotions are at fleur de peau (raw) and everything that we feel and experience is over-dramatic and life-important. Except that in this series, everything really is. Your past chases you and death is always around the corner. Remender has distilled the teenage experience into a thrilling, tense, violent and totally engrossing comic book series.


Artist Wes Craig's contributor is an important one as his stripped down style and imaginative layouts conveys the stories perfectly and lends a sense of hypertension to the various goings-on.

Wonderful, moody colors by Lee Loughridge and subtle, but effective, lettering by Rus Wooton.

Deadly Class is among the very best series published today. Catch up with the trade paperbacks:



Saturday, June 25, 2016

ALEX TOTH - BRAVO FOR ADVENTURE

                                            ALEX TOTH - BRAVO FOR ADVENTURE
Written and drawn by Alex Toth

Legendary cartoonist Alex
Toth (June 25, 1928 - may 27, 2006)'s magnum opus, Bravo for adventure, is the story of an ace pilot during the 1930s who doubles as a stunt pilot for the moving pictures and pilot for hire. A great concept that due to various publisher problems never really took off. Still, the stories that Toth got to produces are extraordinary both in it's story, pacing and art.
The stories are intricate but simply told, with various moving parts that flow with an ease that certainly couldn't have been easy to achieve. Toth was a well-known perfectionist, who only got more critical of his own work as the years passed by. The artwork is, simply put, masterful in its clear layouts and visual storytelling. Every line of ink is there for a reason and the fact that the work seems so restrained is deceptively perfect. This should be required studying for any would be comic book artist. It should also be in every serious comic book aficionado's library.

Out of print for 30 years, all of the stories were reprinted in an handsome, oversized hardcover by IDW which you can get here:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

WEIRD DETECTIVE #1

WEIRD DETECTIVE #1
Written by Fred Van Lente , drawn by Guiu Vilanova, Published by Dark Horse Comics.

Detective Sebastian Greene is a weird guy. He seems to talk like movie and TV detectives. He's stiff and hard to get a read on but he's a hell of a detective in New York City's Minor crimes unit. Problem is that he wasn't always this good. That fact is not lost on his superiors who want to know why he got this good.

Give credit to writer Fred Van Lente who reveals the truth almost right off the bat but it in no way makes it less interesting. Shades of the 1980s movie The Hidden and to some degree, another great series from the very same publisher, Resident Alien. It is reminiscent of various genre tropes but it is executed extremely well and with a wicked sense of humor.

Very good art from Guiu Vilanova, that tells the story quite well and conveys the small moments as well as the more outrageous ones

First in a five issue miniseries that is well worth picking up. Available through your local Comic book shop or digitaly on Comixology: https://www.comixology.com/Weird-Detective-1/digital-comic/378637