Slush Pile: Papercutter #7, Recalcitrant Jones, The Red Star: Sword of Lies #3, Rose and Isabel, Septic Isle, Television
- Posted by Johanna on July 22, 2008 at 8:04 am
- Category: Indy Comic Reviews
All books covered are complimentary copies provided by the creators.
Most of this anthology is taken up by “Americus”, a story about a boy preparing to graduate middle school. It’s stylishly drawn in a simplified approach that suits the way the story functions based on essentials many of us are familiar with — Neil doesn’t fit in, he doesn’t have many friends, others laugh at him, he’d rather be reading than go to the school dance.
This doesn’t tread new ground, but it covers the basics well. The dialogue’s realistic yet entertaining (without being bogged down in the mundane) with an eye for the appropriate moment. I liked the way this wasn’t totally him vs. the world — he’s not right and everyone else wrong. You can sympathize with his discomfort, but they have their own lives, which might be just as valid. He makes his own choices, even though they make him miserable.
After a one-pager by Aron Nels Steinke, there’s a woodcut-looking adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen story by Andy Hartzell (Fox Bunny Funny). I hadn’t heard this tale before; it’s reassuring, and Hartzell’s pantomine escape of a shepherdess statue, complete with handing off the sheep to her partner, is amusing.
Recalcitrant Jones and the Dead Beats
This Comic Convention Special is a spin-off of the Students of the Unusual anthology, which you may have seen at a con near you. I still haven’t read any issues of that series, but this was a goofy light read.
Jones has sold his soul for a rock band full of dead stars. He gets the usual — Elvis, Janis Jimi — plus two unexpected additions that made me giggle: drummer Keith Moon and Lawrence Welk. This kind of humor is summed up by the character introduction page, in which each one gets a head shot and a cause of death, which as a list reads drug overdose, drug overdose, drug overdose, drug overdose, old age. (No, I don’t know why Welk was included, that’s never explained or referred to again.)
The art is bright and distinctive, with no black lines. (You can get a good idea from the look of the cover.) The result is candy-colored corpses. There’s no action, just heads talking to each other. The plot, such as it is, involves the touch of the band bringing other dead back to life. (Paging Pushing Daisies.) The story-telling is rather “and then this happened”, jumping madly from point to point, with the narration papering things over and over-familiar elements like a trip to Hell and an angel guide. It’s disjointed and ultimately forgettable, but mildly entertaining while you’re in it.
(One note: their miserable website design needs major improvement. They have a huge static image at the top. When you click a navigation link, only the bottom of the page changes — which was off the screen on my laptop, so at first, I thought nothing was happening.
They have a history of unique promotions to get readers involved, with the latest being a “create your own story” contest. Great idea! Unfortunately, the postcards they gave out at cons this season have no details about deadlines or how to enter, instead saying “check the website”. I couldn’t find any mention of the promotion at the site, which at this time of writing, hasn’t been updated in three months.
I know small publishers have a hard time balancing all the many tasks involved in successfully getting comics out, so the web sometimes falls behind. But if you make promises that you’ll have information there, you should follow through.)
The Red Star: Sword of Lies #3
by Christian Gossett and others, $10 US, Archangel Studios
I had no idea that this series was still going on. I remember recommending the first, oversized Red Star collection several website iterations ago (it was released in 2001). It was beautiful to look at, but as a war epic, it moved slowly. (I think that’s a characteristic of the genre.) With the huge scope and lots of characters, I didn’t feel like I learned enough about them to truly develop a relationship before the story moved on to others (and the ones I liked we never seemed to get back to), so I dropped the series a long while ago.
Now, this new series is promising the “origin story of the Red Star saga”. It’s as gorgeously illustrated as ever (it’s promoted as “colored by Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop”, to grab some reflected stardom), and larger than many comics at 64 pages, but they haven’t resolved the timeliness issues. There was one issue last year, and one so far this year. (Then again, that seems to be all they aim for, so they’re meeting their goals.)
But if you’re buying it for the astoundingly attractive art, the story and its pacing doesn’t really matter. So long as you remember which ones are the good guys and which the bad, you can always pick up on a war story. The lovely windswept sorceresses, the Russian iconography, the industrial fantasy, it’s all still there. This issue is debuting at the San Diego Con and will ship to comic shops in September. The graphic novel collecting #1-3 is scheduled for the end of the year.
Rose and Isabel
by Ted Mathot, $8 US, Self-Published
Right up my alley, this is the story of two young, determined women during the Civil War. Their soldier brothers have disappeared, so Rose and Isabel set off to find them, discovering along the way their family’s heritage of women warriors. Since Mathot is a story supervisor at Pixar, it should surprise no one that it’s skillfully told, with just the right choices for panels to give a strong sense of flow and movement and distinctive character designs.
It’s a simple story, but involving, with impressive vistas and emotional high points. Rose is a combination of Amazon and berserker when needed, while Isabel tries to steady her. This volume also includes a sketchbook section, showing the artistic development of the concept.
The story concludes in a second volume (which is twice the size of this 64-pager.) Mathot has also done a followup, Cora, about Isabel’s daughter that reveals more about these two characters as well.
by Andy Winter and Mick Trimble, $5.95 US, Moonface Press
A retired secret agent returns to battle neo-Nazi terrorists. There are lots of buzzwords in the plot, and the dialogue is flat and leaden. The wisecracks are repulsive instead of jocular. Everything happens too abruptly.
The art is about what I expect from mediocre self-published comics, by which I mean, standard poses and faces that differ in quality depending on how easy the perspective is. Heads sometimes appear as though they’ve been squashed in a vise. Characters supposedly standing next to each other look like they’ve been stacked, like paper dolls, on top of each other.
When they told me they were aiming at fans of work like James Bond and Queen & Country, I was interested, but I couldn’t make myself finish this.
The 52-page squarebound comic will be available in Previews next month for shipment in October.
by Ryan Alexander-Tanner, $3 US, Self-Published
This Xeric Grant-winner is a single-author anthology of short pop culture-influenced strips. The drawing is clear and streamlined; based on his website, I believe the author has commercial illustration experience, which is visible in the way the panels are structured as single, stand-alone pictures.
I think the concept is supposed to be channel-surfing, but it didn’t really come through for me. The pieces include a Bible-style story about James Brown, one where boy meets girl (but not really) on a bridge in 60s drag (with an ending you suspect long before you get there), and a black Dracula.
The one that struck me most was an interview with Kato Kaelin, just a series of pictures of Kato sitting in a diner talking about his life. It was different, something I hadn’t seen before, and A-T did a good job of capturing his poses and attitudes. The other pieces could have easily fit into any similar artist anthology by a young creator who has more pop culture knowledge than life experience. So in short, I like his non-fiction better than the more creative works.