Category: Image Comics

Chris’ Comics: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #6

tumblr_o199gy2Mcg1uxdbsko1_1280Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #6

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Tom Humberstone

Image $3.99

The final issue of The Immaterial Girl, which is also the final issue of Phonogram in general, is an extremely satisfying read. Creators Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles and Tom Humberstone come together not only to deliver a fantastical final issue, but to eulogize and pay tribute to a part of Kieron Gillen’s life. It’s an extremely personal story, and that’s part of the appeal of it to me, as we rarely get comics that discuss what it’s like to be in your 30s as in-depth as P:TIM girl does (especially with that B-side drawn by Tom Humberstone).

In past reviews of this mini series, I’ve stated multiple times that this is Gillen at his most Grant Morrison-y here, only instead of weird magics and silver age comics, Kieron pays tribute to pop music from over the last couple of decades. Also there is magic, hence the Morrison comparison. However this final issue, the various references to bands and song lyrics, and very distinct Kieron Gillen dialogue reminds me of another favorite comic creator of mine: Chris Onstead of Achewood fame. At first glance, Achewood and tumblr_inline_o1byuiTjOz1qa75wn_540Phonogram couldn’t any more different (if anything WicDiv and Achewood make the better comparison, given the fact that both properties have cats who don’t wear much clothing in them) , but when you blow off your day job responsibility to really think about it, there’s a lot more in common between then one. More than just that fact that one could easily see Kid-With-A-Knife screaming “BONE! BONE! BONE!, making lewd gestures while David Kohl looks on in disgust/embarrassment.

First and foremost is that both Phonogram and Achewood make some deep music cuts (as well as ones that aren’t as deep, i.e. Emily referencing both Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga in this final issue), without much care if you’re on their level in terms of recognition. But what comics force to do is to learn their specific languages to ensure you fully appreciate them. Morrison does this sort of referencing too, but you can still enjoy a lot of his comics without fully being clued in on what he’s talking to. Not so much with Phonogram and Achewood, which REALLY force their audiences to almost re-learn how the English language works in a way. But once you do, it pays off immediately. Also both Gillen and Onstead do a superb job of creating a wide range of characters with their own distinct personalities. By doing so, it’s really easy for the readers to connect with the casts, even if the represent some less than desirable traits.

Screen-Shot-2016-01-19-at-10.32.07-PMI feel bad spending so much time talking about Kieron Gillen and noted-owner of Airwolf, Ray Smuckles, and not mentioning the art in this issue. Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson are so damn good, as per usual, and always find new ways to blow your mind. They do stuff with blood in this issue that’s so good you’ll want to quit drawing/coloring immediately. And that’s only the tip of the iceburg, as there’s some fantastic page layouts, panel composition, pallet choices…the first 10 pages of this comic are some of the best and inventive use of art I’ve seen since the pair’s work on Young Avengers. Even the quieter stuff towards the end of the issue is great, as you can see what the years of magic-related drama have done to these characters. Also it’s nice to see Jamie draw characters who aren’t model gorgeous all the time, and I feel better about that slight winter gut I got now.

Phonogram will probably never be the breakout hit The Wicked and the Divine is, which is a shame, because I love it just as much. It’s the “3 Cheers for Revenge” and “Killjoys” to WicDic’s “Black Parade”, which makes me love it all the more, because I’m a bit of a snob and prefer the works that don’t get as much love. The Immaterial Girl is a perfect ending to pair of mini series I’ve read dozens of times over the year, and I cannot thank the creators involved enough for this journey.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Kaptara Volume 1- Fear Not, Tiny Alien

kaptara-vol1tp-cov-webKaptara Volume 1: Feat Not, Tiny Alien

Chip Zdarsky, Kagan McLeod

Image  $9.98

::: Wipes forehead in relief:: Phew, almost went 3 weeks without mentioning a comic written by Chip Zdarsky. Glad I put a stop to that!

2015 was the year Chip Zdarsky went from being Matt Fraction’s chum who drew Sex Criminals, to Chip Zdarsky, Matt Fraction’s chum who draws Sex Criminals as well as plethora of covers, writes Howard the Duck for Marvel, as well as Jughead for Archie. It was the year that saw Zdarsky grow as writer, not just as artist and a guy who favorites a bunch of stuff I say on social media.  And while his work for hire stuff is great, those books didn’t get to show off the Zdarsky brand like Kaptara does.

Kapata, drawn by Kagan McLeod, was original sold as “Gay Saga”  when it was first hitting the stands/being marketed. In reality it’s “Intentionally Gay Masters of the Universe”, which is something I think is fantastic. It stars Keith Kanga, a scientist who’s Kaptara04_Preview_Pageship crash lands on the planet Kaptara, and find out that the Earth is in grave danger. However, Keith isn’t sure if he wants to actually return to Earth, or continue to live among his new acquaintances.

In my defense, art aside, the first issue of the series wasn’t as strong as Chip’s debut on Howard or Jughead. I decided to wait for the trade, which turned out to be my prefered method of reading Kaptara. Once the initial cast/naked shape shifting wizard is introduced, and the plot is establsihed, the book begins to take off, mixing Zdarsky’s trademark humor with some gorgeous work from McLeod.

Kagan’s work on this book is stunning, managing to recreate the Kirby meets Robert E Howard look of He-Man, only taking it to the extreme. McLeod creates such interesting visuals as a Smurf-like race of Mushroom people who are the actual worst, Cat Tanks, oh and like 50 new characters all with names and M.O.s in the span of 2 pages. McLeod is artistic tour de force, and Kaptara’s all the richer for having him attached to the book. His pages are filled with lush colors and wonderfully bizarre characters and setting. McLeod was absolutely stunning on Infinite Kung Fu, and he’s equally wonderful  on this book.

screenshot_2015-05-20-19-07-302I’ve sung Chip’s praises as a writer plenty of times before, but with Kaptara, we get to see his skills as a writer that are more in the vein of Sex Criminals than his work for hire, as he and Kagan have created everything from the ground up. Like I said earlier, the book suffers a little bit early as the cast/plot is established, but once Keith lands on Kaptara, the book really takes off. We get to see Zdarsky’s trademark brand of humor mesh with some interesting character building, letting us see a different side of Chip’s skill sets. It’s some solid work, and shows just how talented Zdarsky is as a writer.

Kaptara Volume 1 includes the first fives issues of the series, a cover gallery,  breakdown of the final 2 pages of issue 5 (this will make sense once you read it!), and autobiography/tale kaptara02_preview_page5-jpgof sexual conquest by Dartor (Prince of Endom!), really making this $9.98 (Chip will NOT be undersold!) package all the more attractive. Overall, Kaptara is a really charming book, well charming for a sci-fi fantasy comedy adventure book with sexist Mushroom folk. I know Image isn’t exactly short on comedy books OR sci-fi comics, but between Kagan McLeod’s psydelic visuals, and Zdarsky’s witty dialogue, Kaptara is a book worth checking out if you haven’t yet.

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Paper Girls #4

PaperGirls_04-1Paper Girls #4

Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chang, Matt Wilson, Jared K Fletcher

Image $2.99

One of these days I want to read and Image book and be disappointed with it. For starters, a review fueled by rage and HOT TAKES would be easier and possibly some fun than thinking of new ways to praise books that deliver month after month. But no, Image gotta Image and release quality comic after quality comic, forcing me to up my game and find new ways to praise their books. Unlike Marvel and DC, who throw me a bone every so often and do something dumb, helping me find new ways for me to toss shade at them.

This month’s issue of Paper Girls is another solid one, as team creative team produces a ton of cool visual and narrative moments once again. Yeah I know, another great comic by Cliff Chang, Brian K Vaughan, Matt Wilson and Jared K Fletcher, big shocker there. But at least they give me plenty to talk about, which I’m grateful for.

First and foremost, and slight spoiler,  I’m intrigued by the decision to make one of the girl slightly homophobic. While their words aren’t as harsh as they were back in issue 1, it’s still not great, just slightly less offensive. To have a lead character act like that is bold cb3c481590c0d42e112bf54a45b914ff._SX640_QL80_TTD_decision, as it could result in some readers dropping the book, despite this sort of behavior not being entirely unheard of in the 80s. And in the creators defense, they make sure that she’s called out on it by the other leads, so it’s not like her actions are condoned, and she’s certainly young enough to change her stances as the book progresses. It’s something worth keeping an eye out, but given Chang and BKV’s track record, it’s safe to say they’ll handle this correctly.

Something less controversial to touch upon is Chang’s art for this issue. There’s a bit where a character has a flashback of sorts, and I how Chang and Wilson go with the 9 panel layouts with black borders for 4 wordless pages, and that those pages are printed horizontally. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a book printed out like that, and it’s jarring in all the right ways, giving the chaotic nature of the scene. Chang is stellar as usual on this issue, giving us more bizarre characters and creatures, but this sort of story telling through visuals only is really something else. Vaughan has shown a tone of restrain in this series, and the results have work in the book’s favor, letting the gorgeous art tell the story instead of going with a ton of scene-chewing exposition.

All joking earlier aside, Paper girls #4 continues to be a quality read, deserving your attention along with BKV’s excellent Saga. It’s a fun sci-fi book with some really clever nods to it’s late 80s setting, and the gorgeous visuals and design make it unlike anything else on the market. The first arc will wrap up next month, and it’s hard to predicate how this whole thing will end, which is exciting in it’s own right. Visually stunning, Paper Girls is a shining example of how good Image Comics is right now, and is worth your attention and money.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Bitch Planet #6

STK674615.jpg.square-true_maxheight-285_size-285Bitch Planet #6

Kelly Sue Deconnick, Taki Soma, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

The Feel Good Book of 2015 returns, with all the smiles, jokes, and sexiness you’ve come to expect from Bitch Planet. No wait, that’s all lies. Bitch Planet #6 is a bit of a downer, and an exceptional comic that covers a variety of topics rarely covered by comics. That’s the Bitch Planet we’ve come to know and appreciate.

Comics with parental advisory ratings slapped on them is nothing new to the medium Bitch Planet #6 however, is the first comic from a major publisher I’m aware of with a trigger warning for sexual assault, which is something I appreciate, even as a Cis White Dude. NOTHING in Bitch Planet is ever glorified, and writer Kelly Sue Deconnick and guest artist Taki Soma definitely put in some thought and consideration before doing what they did in this issue. Which, in case you didn’t pick up on the sarcasm above, makes for a depressing read, especially when you consider how issue 5 ended.

Bitch Planet #6 tells of how and why Meiko Maki landed was incarcerated.  It’s a tale of family, blackmail, casual racism, and revenge, making for a powerful comic that will make you feel 91b79f76075ba039b72f8e44051f9ad9._SX640_QL80_TTD_AWFUL once you’re done with it. Oh sure, Kelly Sue does toss in a few jokes to lighten up the mood, but it’s far from a fun read. Artist Taki Soma’s style is perfect for a flashback comic, as her styles gives off a nostalgic, Mad Men vibe. Her more simplistic, grounded style is perfect, for establishing the tone, and I love clean and minimalistic it is. There’s some excellent use of negative space, and Soma absolutely slays KSD’s violin metaphor. And most important all of her characters are super expressive, which really enhances the dialogue. New series colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick is a perfect fit for Taki, as her retro style color palette really gives the book a cool, exploitation era vibe, and the yellow, ageing look for the pages are a clever way to remind readers this a flashback. Clayton Cowles’ choice of fonts are all too fitting, as you would expect from a master-class Letterer like him. I’m impressed on how good Bitch Planet continues to look with rotating artists, and I hope to see this continue.

Bitch Planet continues to be some of the best work of Deconnick’s career, as she puts so much into every script. What we get in 24 pages of comics is so good, intelligent and fresh it really makes it hard to want to talk about other comics. Even when we get an issue like that that’s super depressing, you can really appreciate the level of craftsmanship involved in it.  And to sweeten the pot, we get some great back matter, including a nice pair of essays and a really important response to a well-meaning but ultimately insulting letter from a reader. For $4, you can do a lot worst.

Bitch Planet has always been one of the more rewarding and thought-provoking comics released in recent history, and issue six is no exception. The creators set out to tell a horrifying story, but make it so if you risk being triggered by it, you can skip over for it and wait for assault-free recap when issue 7 drops. It’s that sort of dedication to the reader/inclusion that I really appreciate, but am not surprised by given how thoughtful of a person Kelly Sue is.

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Chris’ Comics: The Goddamned #2

TheGoddamned_02-1The Goddamned #2

Jason Aaron, r.m. Guera,, Giulia Brusco, Jared K. Fletcher

Image $3.99

 

I really wish this review was just me giggling inappropriately. Granted it would be the vaguest review, it would also be my cutest. Or creepiest I guess, depending on your perspective. Either way I should start doing video reviews for this blog.

The Goddamned #2 is more of the same insanity as issue 1 was, which is the breed of bonkers I love from my comics. This issue is split between Jason Aaron & r.m. Gueras take on Noah and his clan, and Kain, who stumbles across the distraught mother trope. There’s a lot for me to like in there 20 pages, even though it kind of stinks that the first female character we’re introduced to is a damsel in distress of sorts.

The-Goddamned-2-preview-mjmplajmuwohka5h64nauee8jtjzd0vdfa13tw2p1oNoah was introduced in the final pages of issue 1, and this issue sees him a little more fleshed out. Aaron and Guera’s Garth Ennis influence shines here, as we see Noah portrayed as a  righteous religious man who fully believes in carry out God’s work, just in the most violent of manners. He’s a fascinating character, and given his history, I’m excited to see his story play out.  A shame the same can’t be said for said female characte,r who doesn’t even get a name this issue.

While I’m less than pleased with how the book’s only female character is handled in the Kain portion of the book, I love what Guera and Aaron do with the character in this issue. While Kain throws down with a new tribe of foes, Aaron recalls the various methods Kain has tried killing himself. It walks to the line between ridiculous and tragic, because we feel for Kain in a way, but he’s also the dude solely responsible for the way the world is. I do appreciate Aaron and Guera finally giving the readers a reason to get behind Kain as a lead, and how they manage to let the reader know how bad the world is strictly from dialogue and visual cues.

Aside from the great narration and dialogue from Aaron, we get some fantastic stuff from the art team of this issue. Jared K Fletcher‘s choice of fonts really give the book a Prince Valiant/ old timey look, which I dig for a biblical action book.  It pairs well with the colors The-Goddamned-2-2015-Page-22used by Giulia Bruscowhich give the book a nice painted look. And of course r.m. Guera is fantastic. I like the various body type he uses for the book’s cast, especially when so many fantasy type stories only stick or two or 3. He really does a fantastic job of creating a sick and twisted world, while drawing some fine dinosaurs, and uses dark black inks to invokes shadows in some interesting wats. He also shines when it comes to drawing the action pieces in this issue, creating some really brutal art that hard too look directly art, but gorgeous in it’s own way none the less.

The Goddamned is pretty much everything I wanted from the team who gave us Scalped. It’s a violent fantasy book with a killer hook, and small but intriguing cast. Given what we know about the Bible & the Old Testament, we have a rough idea on how this whole thing is going to play out, but it’s fascinating none the less. Guera and Aaron managed to create a captivating narrative quickly, and with Brusco and Fletcher, and visual style that blend European style comics with some Games of Thrones level violence. It’s a book I can’t recommend enough if you want something a little more brutal from Image.

 

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Chris’ Comic: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4 and The Wicked and the Divine #17

PhonogramIG_05-1_263_405_s_c1TheWickedAndDivine_17-1Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

The Wicked and the Divine #17

Kieron Gillen, Brandon McCarthy

Image $3.50

I’ll confess, I’m a little sad that this is the last WicDiv/Phonogram same shipping day  that we’re possibly ever getting. It’s a real shame, because I’ve really enjoyed the last 4 months of having my heart torn out when reading the former, and then being confused in the best sort of ways when it came to Phonogram. 2015 has been a fantastic year for fans of Kieron Gillen comics, and it’s only appropriate the final month of the year gives us a penultimate issue of one series, and the end of the arc with the other.

CWTGfPkWsAIH-szPhonogram: The Immaterial Girl #5 features the return of Kid-With-A-Knife, who is the best character. That it not an opinion, mind you, it is fact. Also it’s the first issue in a long time that focuses on David Kohl, who’s clearly based on Kieron Gillen, and is the closest thing Phonogram has to a main protagonist.  Having Kohl as the issue’s central character seems appropriate, he was the first character we were introduced to, so it makes sense that he sets up the ending of Phonograms.  Once again, Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, colorist Matt Wilson and letter Clayton Cowles are brilliant, taking everything they created specifically for this minute and showcasing it in this issue. It’s been a incredible run so far, and I’m excited to see it all come to a head next issue. And props to artists Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt, who handle the art to the B-side story for this issue. Higgins and Brandt create some gorgeous art, art that actually rivals what McKelvie is capable of creating. It’s another delightful installment of my favorite mini series of the year, as every creator really shines in this issue.

 

Over in The Wicked and the Divine #17, the final chapter of “Commercial Suicide” focuses on the Cat-demigod Sakhmet, drawn, colored and letter by  Brandon Graham. I really like how this issue is a play on the excessive partying Rock Star stereotype, with a the-wicked-and-the-divine-17-statuetwist that is horrifying, but makes total sense given Sakhmet’s M.O.. Graham is a fantastic talent,  and having him work with Gillen is a treat for readers. His more manga/graffiti mash up art style couldn’t be any more different than regular series artist Jamie McKelvie, but it’s so good that you shouldn’t mind. Gillen’s dialogue is as sharp as ever, and particularly dig the page in which cat and dog people are mentioned. And speaking of McKelvie, his final page of this comic sets up the next volume quite nicely, teasing at the return of a character who’s presence in this book has been missed. It’s a fantastic finale, and surprisingly easy on the reader’s nerves for a change.

Kieron Gillen’s creator owned output in 2015 has to be highlight of sorts for him, because it definitely is for me as a fan. The Immaterial Girl has exceed my expectations, and the Commercial Suicide arc of WicDiv has been nothing sort of incredible. Of course him being surrounded by a murder’s row of artistic talents helps a ton as well. It’s going to challenge for him and his team of creator to wow me as much come next, but if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s Gillen and co.

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Chris’ Comics: Papergirls #3

PaperGirls_03-1Paper Girls #3

Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chang, Matthew Wilson, Jared K Fletcher

Image $2.99

Brian K Vaughan has been accused of being “Too Clever” a lot these days by my peers. I’m not entirely sure if I get that claim, as I am the type of dude who laughed and clapped when I reached the final page of this issue of Paper Girls #3.

Paper Girls #3’s starts off on several “OH #$#%” moments and ends on one. The book throws a ton of high stress moments at you, expecting the reader to toughen up and take it all in, not unlike the Walking Dead. It’s torture via weirdness, as one of the girl’s lives hangs in balance as some insanity befalls her friends. And it climaxes in a twist no one will see coming, changing the entire dynamic of the book and how you view certain characters. It’s no different than Saga in a way, which makes sense given BKV’s involvement, but also reminds me of the writer’s excellent run on Runaways with Marvel.

Colorist Matthew Wilson is a beast on this issue. As if he wasn’t satisfied experimenting with colors on his Gillen/McKelvie books, Wilson goes all out on this issue of Paper Girls. He drenches the books with purples, red and blues, giving a night sense of night as well as dim lightning PG-3-color-page-01-banner-817x350when need be. It does a fantastic job of setting the scene, and it clashes nicely when he uses brighter colors like white, silver and yellow. Paper Girls attempts to stand out amongst the crowd visually do not go unnoticed, and it’s great to watch them attempt to shake things up.

As for co-creator and artist Cliff Chang, it’s business as usual, which means fine looking comics! No surprise there, as Chang’s simplistic but detailed in all the right places style has resulted in some gorgeous visuals plenty of times. So let’s get into some spoiler talk yes? What I really loved about the end of this issue was the reveal that the black-outfitted weirdos are some sort of time traveling #TEENS. Again, no one saw that coming, and it seem safe to assume that there’s some sort of conflict between said teens and #ADULTS Screen-Shot-2015-12-02-at-8.32.05-PMrocking some Jack Kirby-inspired armor. Anything that allows Cliff Chiang to channel Kirby again is welcomed (See his Orion during his Wonder Woman run), especially when it involves future narcs riding dinosaur. This weirdness actually meshes quite well with the suburban drama that Chiang channeled, and it’s insanity makes for an incredible fresh experience.

The big reveal regarding the visitor’s identities has changed my outlook on this title. It’s gone to self-aware Spielberg comic to Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chang channeling the Forever People. Of course I may be reading into things a bit, but this book managed to once again pleasantly surprise me in a way I found delightful. Paper Girls special brand of crazy is certainly welcomed in an age where comics and being spoiled before they’re even released, and it’s being as unpredictable as it is really works in its favor.

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Chris’ Comics: Saga #31

tumblr_ntarc9gbIX1u6xizko1_1280Saga #31

Fiona Staples, Brian K Vaughan

Image $2.99

 

Hello once again Saga, I’ve too have missed you bunches!

While The Wicked + The Divine has been quite excellent at destroying me emotionally as of late, I’ve missed the pain I can only get from Saga, a type of pain I’ve grown to accept and love to an extent. Oh sure, Paper Girls is also a book that gives me some of that sweet sweet Brian K Vaughan cliffhanger love, but neither that or WicDiv have Ghus, the best character whom I’m mentioned several times before. Yes, tiny seal man/men are very important to me when it comes to comics, which I’m sure is a surprise to absolutely no one.

Saga #31 was a comic I was expecting to love from the get go. What I wasn’t expecting was that Hazel, the book’s narrator, and someone who’s gotten plenty of screen time as a plot point, as this issue’s lead. It’s nice to see an issue through the character’s eye off screen and on, as it freshens up the book a bit. Plus she’s cute as a button, which helps the reader overlooks some of the more tragic elements of this story.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-25-at-11.16.43-AMSo obviously this is another great issue of Saga, that goes without saying. But you may be asking yourself “Hey Chris, aside from Kindergarten shenanigans and the amazing creative team of Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan, two of some of the most creative people currently working in comics, why is this book so great?” That being a mouthful aside, let me tell you why dear readers. For starters, we’re 31 issues in and Saga still manages to surprise me in ways that never insults my intelligence, and shocks comes off as earned, not chills thrills. It’s a book where ultimately no one is safe, and the only thing you can expect is the unexpected. That being said, there’s also a ton of emotional moments in this issue thanks to BKV and Staples creating some deep and complex characters, so you’re genuinely invested in their story. Unless of course you’re some sort of soulless monsters who hates well crafted comics, which in that case, congrats, you’re the actual worst.

Saga 31 manages to stay fresh and interesting by introducing 2 new characters. Saga’s known for adding in new character every arc, but 31 introduces a character that demands to be noticed, signifying that they’ll be playing a role in this arc soon. And what I find most intriguing is that this new badass is extremely LGBT+ friendly in a way that has not be represented in the book yet. BKV and Staples have a pretty good track record when it comes to handling under represented queer characters, so I’m excited to see what they do with this new character, knowing that they’re being introduced in a way that fits the story, not as cheap heat. And if that’s not enough to at least peak your curiosity, the book ends on a cliffhanger that once again walks the thin line between being terrible and hilarious. Or it’s intended to be terrible, and I’m just a psychopath who find humor in the wrong thing. Can’t rule either out.

tumblr_nye1hbzRBN1ro3xdro1_1280Having Saga back on the shelves is always an exciting time for me as a comics reader, despite knowing it’s going to end in tear and me cursing the creative team names ( I prefer to yelling VAPLESSSSS instead of yelling their individual names for the record). It remains an inventive title that always manages to entertain while causing me great distress. Yrs, I’m well aware I sound like a mascogist, but trist me, Saga #31 is an excellent comic that you should already be purchasing by now. Assuming you’re of age, and do not plan on reading it in public.

 

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Thanksgiving Eve at Forbidden Planet NYC and, While I’m At It, Thanksgiving 2015

76194133395310101 Frank miller new Batman release Forbidden Planet NYC fpnyc.com

It’s Tuesday November 24th and we’re at the shop preparing tomorrow’s new comics, graphic novels and toys, like we do on Tuesdays, with our hands plenty full. 

The hard work’s well-worth it though. Traditionally, Thanksgiving Eve is one of my favorite days of the year to be working at Forbidden Planet. Lots of familiar faces come back in through our doors and it’s a pleasure to catch up with old chums. People need little presents for family members or a board game or something similar to occupy the weekend and from my customer service perspective it’s always a treat to recommend stuff that’s going to be enjoyed in such a manner.

And, oh yeah!, comics publishers and many toy manufacturers usually release a crap-ton of great new reading material and toys the day before Thanksgiving in advance of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. This year’s no different.

Whether you’re braving the horrors of the NJ Transit or the long flight to Walla Walla or the constant chug of the Staten Island Ferry or the bus to Philly or the subway home to your tiny NYC apartment… Wherever you’re off to, here’s some of this week’s highlighted new releases to get you through the trip.

Have fun! We’re closed on Thanksgiving. Mebbe I’ll see ya tomorrow or Friday?

(Dark Knight 3 pictured above and available 11/25/15)

Saga #31 – New Story Arc! Picks up after trade paperback Volume 5. Don’t forget your coupons and receipt (wink, wink) if ya got ’em!

Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Saga #31, forbidden planet NYC

 

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Chris’ Comics: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

PhonogramIG_04-1Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

Common sense would dictate that you shouldn’t jump into a mini-series when it’s halfway over. “But Chris, the cover is a Scott Pilgrim reference, and I love Scott Pilgrim!” That’s cool, I GET that, I too love Scott Pilgrim. And hey, there’s plenty more of references on the inside. BUTTTTTTTTT, chances are if you didn’t read Phonogram: The Singles Club in addition to Scott Pilgrim, this book will confuse the hell out of you, despite it being a very good comic. To say that it’s required reading is an understatement.

For those of you who actually have both those books and currently reading The Immaterial Girl, you are in for a treat! Issue 4 of this mini series focuses on Lloyd, aka Mr Logos and his love/hate relationship with Laura Black, all while playing homage to Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s massive hit comic. Of course it’s done in the most Kieron Gillen way possibly, which means references to Blondie, with some amazing art. This fun done in one is a bit of side story, focusing on some character that have appeared in past volumes of Phonogram, but does not touch upon the the events of T.I.G. much.

PhonogramIG04_Preview_Page2-932x1415So I want to talk about those lovely Scott Pilgrim homages first. What I really dig about team WicDic Phonogram’s tribute to SP is that it’s entirely done through visual cues in the book’s art. Letterer Clayton Cowles, who’s brilliant, uses several font styles found in SP v1: Precious Little Life (I actually have my copy next to me as I typed it to serve as confirmation, look at me, I’M DOING ACTUAL RESEARCH FOR A REVIEW!). Artist Jamie McKelvie frames the opening page exactly the opening page of said book, and like O’Malley’s art, the majority of this book is in black and white. Colorist Matthew Wilson goes the extra distance, giving McKelvie’s black and white art that manga influenced-zine-esque look, while masterfully coloring the pages that allow for color (And there’s a reason for those pages to be in color this issue, which is a story telling technique I love).They could have easily made a “bread make you fat?” joke (No offense Chip and Joe ) and called it a day, but no, they went the extra mile, because they are a gifted bunch.

As for the non-SP influenced content, I really like how Kieron Gillen writes the relationship between Lloyd and Laura. It’s a interesting love/hate relationship, and it PhonogramIG04_Preview_Page3speaks much of Kieron’s talent that he managed to make it so deep and complex in a span of an issue. Additionally, Gillen excels at having a least ONE brilliant phrase per comic and here we’re treated to two that were so good, I actually stood up and cackled a bit. It also helps that Jamie McKelvie’s art is so expressive, so the book looks as good at it sounds when you’re sitting in your living room reading dialogue to your cat. Yeah I do that some times, what of it?!

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4 is a done and one that allows the story to breathe a bit, and shines some light on some fun characters. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and am absolutely loving what this return to Phonogram has given me so far.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Goddamned #1

TheGoddamned01-Cvr-ab5f6The Goddamned #1

Jason Aaron, r.m. Guera, Giulia Brusco, Jared K. Fletcher

Image $3.99

With Image Comics putting out new hit IP after new hit IP, comparsions to 90s Vertigo Comics have popped up. For all you younger readers, 90s Vertigo was the business, giving us such excellent comics like Preacher, Sandman, The Invisibles, and some hella fine Hellblazer comics. There were some really groundbreaking titles coming out from the DC imprint, which helped launched the careers of a ton of amazing creators, but what really won over TEEN Chris was the profanity, violence and nudity, aka things I wasn’t seeing in whatever Spider-Clone comic I was buying at the time. TEEN Chris did not have the best logic when it came to buy good comics back then folks, the Joe Kelly Deadpool run aside.

The current Image renaissance has given readers a plethora of wonderful comics, but none of their acclaimed titles really scratched that ultra violence Vertigo itch for me. Oh sure a lot of these titles are arguably better made comics (hi Saga), but sometimes you don’t want 169021_764322_4_1a deep, thought provoking comic. Sometimes you just want blood , profanity and a generous helping of profanity.

Thankfully, two creators who have some Vertigo experience under their belts finally published a book through Image that’s exactly what I’m talking about. The Goddamned is the first creator owned worked by superstar writer Jason Aaron and ultra-talented artist r.m. Guera since they wrapped up their acclaim run on Scalped. The Goddamned is a Conan meets The Old Testament type comic, in which Cain, the “man who invented murder” wanders a forsaken planet not unlike Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star. It is a concept that is VERY MUCH my jam,and Jason Aaron should get an award of some sorts just for that bit about Cain inventing murder that I quoted.

The Goddamned is a bizarre high concept book that I was sold on immediately when it was announced this past summer at the Image Expo. It’s been some like 1600 or 1700  years since the fall of Eden, and Cain is forced to walk a truly evil earth as an immortal. This first issue gives us the basic premise, introduces Cain as a lone wolf badass, and gives us a TON of brutal fight scenes. While it’s an extremely violent book, Guera’s style never review-image-comics-the-goddamned-1_1really glorifies it, and the brutality never got to me thanks to his over the top, animated style. It’s very much in the spirit of Marvel’s old Conan the Barbarian comic, only with a hard R rating.

Jason Aaron’s dialogue would do Preacher-era Garth Ennis proud. There’s some choice dialogue that may offend any religious folk, but it absolutely delighted me. Aaron does not attempt to go with any sort of period accuracy for this book, which is fine, because this dude is at his best when he’s telling revenge stories with a violent lead. And I like how he doesn’t try to justify Cain’s past actions as any given point, which makes me wonder if the book will actually have a likable protagonist as any given point.

The Goddamned was a book I was very much hyped for, and it delivered on ever level. The art from r.m. Guera and colorist Giulia Brusco is ugly in the best ways, and Jason Aaron’s dialogue is Dirty Harry cranked up to 11. It’s the type of comic I missed reading, and final page is some Brian K Vaughan level of cliffhanger. If you don’t mind your comics on the violent side, pick up the Goddamned immediately.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked and the Divine #16

Wicked+Divine16_Digital-1The Wicked and the Divine #16

Kieron Gillen, Leila Del Duca, Mat Lopes

Image $3.99

Up until this issue, the guest artists attached to the last few issues of WicDiv were all relatively new to me. With issue 15, we get a art team I’m very familiar with, thanks to their excellent work on the Image series Shuttered. Having Leila Del Duca and Mat Lopes come on board to work on this comic is pretty exciting for me, especially when it involves 2 of my favorite characters. This month, the Morrigan and Baphomet are the focus of issue 15, giving us an origin issue that’s very much a (NONE MORE) goth romance story. It’s the perfect story for Del Duca and Lopes, who have plenty of experience in working with young adult characters, and it gives writer Kieron Gillen excuse to make references to LARPing and painting miniatures. It’s also home to by far the MOST Kieron Gillen pun to date, so all of you who’ve blocked/unfollowed Gillen on twitter, be warned.

WickedDivine16_PreviewPageMy love for  Shuttered aside, having Leila Del Duca and Mat Lopes draw and color this issue couldn’t haven been any more perfect. Del Duca’s style is softer, more animated than Jamie McKelvie’s, channeling Babs Tarr in a way while giving WicDiv a more grounded look. I love McKelvie’s art a ton, but it also seems that the dude is incapable of drawing unattractive people. Leila manages to make the demigods very human in their pre-awakened state, and gives the book a cool, indie film look. I’m also a fan of what she does with  the Morrigan and her various looks, resulting in some absolutely stunning imagery.  And Lopes’ manages to perfectly re-create the bright, futuristic colors that Matt Wilson established for us for the present day content, while toning it done and giving us more drab and bleak colors for the flashback material. The final product looks nothing like what the duo do for Shuttered, but is an spectacular looking comic none the less.

In terms of tone, this particular issue feels like a mash up of what Gillen did over on Young Avengers with a dash of Phonograms. It also reminds me of the excellent tumblr_nxoniddzFl1qbolnoo1_1280Becky Cloonan and Brian Woods maxi series Demo, which also focused on young lead characters with supernatural abilities. It’s as nerdy as it is clever, and actually way less soul crushing as the previous installments have been. By doing an origins issue, Kieron Gillen gets to show up as side of the Morrigan and Baphomet that we’ve never seen before. The pun dropping Baphomet ( aka the true face of devil Kieron Gillen) is given some much needed development this issue, making him a way more sympathetic character, and hinting that there’s more to been seen regarding his involvement in the murder of a demigod. Seeing him being a crappy youth with the Morrigan is a bit of treat for me, as I’m a fan of slice of life romance tales. Granted it’s a brief look, it’s a nice change of pace from the usual macabre, soul crushing theatrics we’ve seen as late. Also it’s nice to see him sneak another My Chemical Romance reference in one of his books.

The 3rd volume of Wicked Divine continues to be some fantastic comics. The book has benefited immensely from the done in one origin issues, which have fleshed out the cast while carefully moving the story forward. Having an artist like Lana Del Duca swing by and put her spin on these characters was a fantastic choice, and arguably my favorite guest artist on the book to date.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Paper Girls #2

PaperGirls_02-1Paper Girls #2

Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chang, Matt Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher

Image $2.99

It feels almost pointless to review a book drawn by Cliff Chang, written by Brian K Vaughan, and colored by Matthew Wilson these days. Given the collected works by these 3 creators have product throughout their comics careers, you know the book will be worth your time, and that this trio will bring their A-game to the table. To tell you that Paper Girls is easily worth the $3 should go without saying by now.

What I do want to talk about today is how good this book’s packaging and design is. Letterer Jared K. Fletcher handles the book’s design and it’s quite wonderful. Fletcher kicks the issue off with a phrase in the “alien” language that debuted in the last issue on a page that apparently is also a pull out poster. The book’s back matter, a letters column, and a survey that may or may not get the reader some cool swag and information in the future, is crafted as to match the 80s setting of the book. I love the creative’s team dedication to the single issue format, as if they want the readers to know they’re appreciated for supporting the book on a monthly basis. And I dig the fact that the 3 ads in the back of the issue are for the creator’s others projects, which is a cool way for any new readers to check out some other great comics by the creative team. Team Paper Girls is trying to build a strong community, and I applaud them trying to go about it in such an old school and traditional method.

tumblr_nxaxklv5Gr1s8erfco1_1280Let’s talk about the book’s visuals now. I really like what Cliff Chang and Matt Wilson are doing with the covers. They only use 2-3 colors, but use such an unusual palette that it’s bound to stick out on the shelves. It’s a bold strategy, but effective, and also iconic in a way. The first 2 issues of Paper Girls are designed in such a way that I want to frame them and display them like vinyl record, like some sort of comic book hipster. The interiors are unsurprisingly great. Chang does a fine job of keeping the characters looking period accurate without it ever going too deep into the nostalgia. He and Wilson also absolutely slay when it comes to the weirder elements introduced in this issue, furthering the mystery of what exactly is going on. There’s enough material to make some solid guesses with this small Cleveland suburb, but nothing that’s strong enough to confirm anything yet.

Paper Girls is an incredibly well crafted that can easily double for a celebration of the medium. Vaughan, Chang, Wilson and Fletcher are channeling Steven Spielberg with this book, but in an mature and self aware sort of way. It’s hard to explain, but the book does give off a vibe of 80s cinema, but not in cheesy, lust for the past sort of way. Paper Girls remains a stellar, creator driven comic that is up there with Saga as some of the finest comics being published today. It goes without saying that this book is worth reading immediately, despite the urge to wait for trade. In my opinion, it’s meant to be enjoyed issue by issues, especially with the sort of cliffhangers BKV comics are known for.

 

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Bitch Planet: Extraordinary Machine

BitchPlanet_vol1-1Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine

Kelly Sue Deconnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV, Cris Peter, Clayton Cowles

Image, $9.99

When I reviewed the debut issue of Bitch Planet late last year, I made the claim that this it was the best thing Kelly Sue Deconnick had written to date. I’m a big fan of KSD’s work, but there was something so fresh, so different and high concept about the book that struck a nerve with me in a way her previous comics haven’t. I sadly fell behind on the title due to a move, and several other life-related reasons, but that’s no longer the case! The first trade has hit the shelves, I had read it, and now I will do my best to sell you on it.

If you’re not in the know, Bitch Planet can be described as a twist on exploitation in a 92b603a210042716f7488054742d7551._SX640_QL80_TTD_sci-fi world; in the future women who don’t fit into a super sexist society’s norms are tossed into a space prison known as the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, aka the Bitch Planet. An all women’s prison setting may sound a bit risque, but Kelly Sue and artist  Valentine De Landro are aware of that, and let the reader know that it’s far from the case. Granted the book IS gorgeous, the cast is never sexualized, making it the opposite another popular women in prison series “Orange is the new Black”. Deconnick has gone on the record stating she’s never seen the show, and the content of this trade is proof of that. We’re introduced to a cast of female prisoners that are all bad ass, and face an enemy that views them as less than human. There’s a lot of parallels to today society, and while most of them are taken to the extreme, a lot of the antagonistic character’s actions and dialogue may leave you feeling uneasy. But these ladies are “Non-Compliant”, and are not about to lay down and die.

There’s a lot to like with Bitch Planet, assuming you’re not the type of person who thinks harassing women on the internet is a good use of time. The book is ambitious, as the creative team touches up/comments on all sorts of topics like sexism, body shaming, racism, sports and media corruption… a lot of things really, which is impressive, given that it’s only five issues of content. And like I said, it’s visually stunning. Regular series artist 4540639-penny_rolle-bitch_planet#3Valentine De Landro has a cool grindhouse look to his art that is fitting for the vibe of the reto-future book. I also dig seeing a cast of characters with various body types, which is refreshing, and makes the book feel grounded. I’m also a fan of the clean, Mike Allred-esque work of guest artist Robert Wilson IV, who’s contributions to the done-in-one origin issue of fan-favorite character Penny Rolle are fantastic. Equally important to the visuals of Bitch Planet is colorist Criss Peter, who constantly changes up his style to fit the story. Bitch Planet is as every bit as good looking as it is clever, thanks to this trio of artists.

And I honestly don’t know where to begin with signing praise to Kelly Sue’s contributions to this book. Her dialogue is razor sharp, and it injects so much life into the cast and the world they inhabit. It reads and feels like 100% pure DeConnick; unafraid to go into some dark territory, challenge the readers, and inspire them in ways her past work hasn’t. I loved her Marvel work and her other creator owned book, Pretty Deadly, but those books pale in comparison to what KSD brings to Bitch Planet, and I want more of it immediately.

Bitch Planet is a tremendous comic, one that’s easily worth your time if you want your views challenged. The creative team has created one of the most important comics in the last 5 years in my opinion, and for $10, you’d been foolish to past it up.

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked and The Divine #15

TheWickedAndTheDivine_15-1The Wicked & The Divine #15

Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles

Image $3.50

The Wicked and the Divine has never been shy about the fact that it’s as much about fans and fandom as is about death. I approve of this sort of examination from the creators’ perspective, as fandom is something rarely discussed in comics aside from the occasional cosplay joke, so to see it explored the way it has been in WicDiv makes the titles one of the most relevant books on the stands, and has made the creative teams a trio of darlings on social media platforms like Tumblr.

Tumblr is a platform that I use sparingly, but one I enjoy a lot. As someone who’s in his early 30s (#KILLME), I feel ancient on the platform, given the average user age is nearly a decade younger, and also the fact that my random dick jokes tend to go over better on Twitter. But I’m well aware that it’s generally the most progressive of all of the social media platform, even though some of those folks are well meaning but still “doing it wrong”. This particular issue of WicDiv touches upon that, making for a fantastic comic featuring a fan favorite character while discussing appreciation vs appropriation.

tumblr_nw81rrxqfQ1rn4nneo3_500Amaterasu was the first goddess we met in WicDiv, yet she’s barely had much exposure since her appearance in that debut issue. Drawing the red-headed goddesses’ tale is Stephanie Hans, who’s worked with writer  Kieron Gillen over on Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery and Angela in the past. She’s a great choice, as there’s something that screams “epic” about Hans’ painted style. Of course I mean epic in the sense of Homer’s Iliad, not as an overused buzzword. It’s a fitting description in my opinion, and a fitting choice of artist, given the fact that it’s about Amaterasu, a goddess who was also featured in a video game Okami, which also had a painted, water brush style as the basis for it’s graphic engine. And since Kieron Gillen use to be a video game journalist for a number of publications, I doubt it’s much of a coincidence! Origins aside, I like how Hans uses the color red in this comic well, as it’s striking when used property. Her character acting is superb, show the cast portraying a number of emotions and looking great while doing so. Hans was the first artist that came to mind when McKelvie’s temporary departure was announced, and seeing her slay on this issue was an absolute treat.

the-wicked-and-the-divine-15-hospitalGillen and Hans have made a really clever comic with this issue of WicDiv. There’s a internet flame war played out as a stereotypical super hero fight that looks great, and gives Amaterasu some need depth Hans’ use of color mixed with Gillen’s sharp dialogue is great here, and it’s Clayton Cowles lettering that really brings the whole thing together. The entire scene is so bombastic and over the top it’s hard not to laugh when you realize why what Amaterasu is doing is so wrong, and the follow up conversation and ending make you incredibly sympathetic towards her.

There’s so much to enjoy with this issue of WicDiv. For starters it’s the first issue in a while that didn’t devastate me emotionally, so that’s cool. But more importantly Gillen and Hans give Amaterasu a some depth, while showing the reader that’s she’s far from perfect but still likeable. It’s a book that’s visually stunning, really smart, and isn’t afraid to have some fun at the audience’s expense. Stephanie Hans is a welcomed addition to this arc of rotating artists, and I hope to see her revisit the title again down line. But as it stands, this is a perfect done in one issue of WicDiv, and one that should be read immediately based on the level of talent exhibited by the creators alone.

 

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