Tagged: clayton cowles

Chris’ Comics: The Wicked & The Divine #22

 

TheWickedAndTheDivine_22-1The Wicked & The Divine #22

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelive, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

The timing of this issue of The Wicked + The Divine couldn’t be better, given the current drama surrounding the Steve Universe fandom.  Toxic Fandoms are something that affect comics on the regular, i.e. anytime a creator gets death threats for taking a book in an unpopular direction, and it’s cool to see WicDiv attempting to have another discussion about that while pushing it’s narrative forward.

The Wicked & The Divine #22 wraps up the current arc, with an ending that can be best described as “THIS IS FINE!” While I won’t be spoiling the ending here, I’m glad to say the finale of this arc isn’t as much as of endgame for the series as I previously imagined. Yes it definitely wraps up this action heavy arc, but how this book ends sets up a few more arcs nicely. The downside is that the potential for disaster for these gods remains YoUChildrenat an all-time high, as someone may have bitten off a little more then they can chew.

Matt Wilson and Jamie McKelvie’s art for this arc has been nothing short of career defining, and this issue is no different. We get the artistic duo’s most graphically violent scene to date, and I say that well aware that this is a book where heads and people explode on a semi-regular basis. There’s also an amazing double spread (accompanied by some choice Kieron Gillen dialogue) and a nice visual callback to another character at the end that will have long time readers worried about the remaining cast members. McKelvie’s lay out and facial expression are top notch as always, but Wilson really takes things to the next level. “Neon ultra violence” is the best way to describe the colorist’s contributions to this book, with blood reds playing off of bright greens, blues, pinks and whites.  Issue 22 is another gorgeous issue, and it’s hard to imagine a better artist/colorist duo working in comics than McKelvie and Wilson.

Writer Kieron Gillen is also doing some amazing stuff with this book’s dialogue. The humor in this book is great, being perfectly self-aware when it needs to be and completely devastating for maximum effect. There’s a bit where a character does something absolutely savage, but the reasoning behind it is all too sound. It’s shades of gray characterization like that make Gillen such a fantastic writer, and makes the book all the more compelling. There’s also a bit of running gag between Amaterasu and the Norns this issue that’s simultaneously funny, but also manages to show wickedandivine26 (1)how immature and naive Ammy is. Again, I adore how complex and layered this cast is, and am fully expecting to feel all sorts of awful once the creative team starts killing them off.

The Wicked + The Divine is a rare book that somehow gets better with every arc. While this issue ends one threat, it unintentionally sets up so many other potential problems, which is both exciting and terrifying to me as a reader. It’s a book that continues to be a fantastic read every issue as well as incredibly topical in an era where some fans have problems accepting actors/actresses based solely on their skin color or sex.

Christopher Troy is a freelance writer/editor/snarky jerk on the internet. He can be found here weekly, on Twitter@TheAnarCHris, and is the co-creator/writer the webcomic “In The Name of Thy Mother”. Please don’t @ him with your scorching hot film TAKES.

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The Wicked + The Divine #21

TheWickedAndTheDivine_21-1The Wicked + The Divine #21

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

While The Wicked + the Divine has definitely had its share of fight scenes in the past, I can’t recall there being an arc that has been this heavy on action. That’s not a critique mind you, as artist/co-creator Jamie McKelvie’s ability to draw pretty people hurting each other, with breathtaking colors from Matt Wilson, is something I enjoy immensely.

WicDiv #21 sees bitty demi-goddess Minerva returned to Ananke and Woden, which is less than great for her, as the duo has some less than great plans for the wee deity. Obviously this does not sit well with Laura/Persephone and her allies, which means fighty time, fighty time, blood blood blood! This is not exactly the deepest issue of WicDiv, but again, McKelvie and Wilson excel at drawing fight scenes, and writer Kieron Gillen does a Wicked+Divine21_01damn fine job with the dialogue that it’s still a super fun read.

“Fun” may be the wrong word to use. Two minor characters meet their untimely fates in this issue, but since they weren’t exactly the most fleshed out nor beloved, their deaths seem to serve no purpose other than a reminder that Ananke isn’t a nice lady. But this more restrained Kieron Gillen thrives with his abrupt, straight to the point, dialogue, Baphomet and Baal have been bitter opponents throughout this arc, but their beef may finally be squashed when Baphomet drops 16 words that completely changes his opponent’s views. Dionysus finally has a break out moment, and it’s a less than 20 word affair. And my personal favorite is an exchange between Ananke and Woden, in which she #micdrops him in 10 words. It’s quick brutal and and a fine example how good Kieron Gillen’s dialogue is. Clayton Cowles also deserves props for his lettering contributions, especially when it comes to font choices and word balloon placement. Letterer’s are often the unsung heroes of the medium, and considering what Cowles brings to this book, creators like him deserve more recognition.

That being said, McKelvie and Wilson’s art is the real selling point of this issue. McKelvie once against manages to draw some brutal fight scenes, mixing what he did with Young Avengers with a heavy manga influence. And Wilson is incredible this issue, from his ability to set scenes with his palette choices, to incorporate some many effects into the art. Wicked+Divine21_03As well choreographed as Dionysus’ scenes are by McKelvie, Wilson’s colors bring those pages to a different level, injecting a level of energy very few colorists are able to. Woden and Dionysus alone are proof of that, but when you factor in the other 4 characters with their own signatures palette and visual effects, it speaks volume about Wilsons talents. Also best nicks and bruises in the business.

The Wicked + The Divine #21 is a VERY good fight comic which some fantastic visuals. It’s the type of comic that really takes advantage of the medium, overloading the reader’s eyes with fantastic and colorful visuals. It also feels like working towards an endgame of sorts, which is odd, because the end of the book hasn’t been announced. It’s the type of comic that will leave you both satisfied with what you got, but will leaving you dying for more.

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked & the Divine #19

tumblr_o6mfzkAJHN1tuoa2wo1_1280The Wicked + The Divine #19

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

DID YOU KNOW: Marvel isn’t the only comics publisher focusing on a Civil War these days. The cast of The Wicked & The Divine finds itself in the middle of feud, as secrets, murder, and secret murder have several characters at each other’s throats.What this means is that Jamie McKelvie gets to draw a lot of pretty peopling throwing punches at each other’s pretty faces for this arc. A while I love how smart and inventive this title usually is, and it’s commentary on fandoms, having McKelvie drawing big fight scenes again is nice. He did a bang up job on that sort of thing back during Young Avengers, and having him do an action heavy arc is a welcomed change of pace.

The Wicked and the Divine #19 sees Baal and the gods aligned with secret murderer & den mother Ananke go after the newly resurrected Persephone and her allies, as well as the return of party god Dionysus. We also learn about some additional plots involving murder, become holy crap, this is a VERY dark arc! While there’s a some trademark whimsy and snark to this book’s dialogue, for the most part Kieron Gillen’s writing plays it straight, letting the readers know we’re in for serious business. It’s very much in a Wicked+Divine19_01similar vein of what Gillen brings to his Darth Vader book over at Marvel, versus the low stakes, slice of life type stuff he did on Phonograms or the first volume of WicDiv.

Moving back to the subject of art, Matthew Wilson continues to do no wrong.  His work on Black Widow and Captain Marvel impresses me month after month, but what he brings to WicDiv is something entirely else. Issue 19 is a very dark issue in the literal sense, and Wilson’s colors do an excellent job working off a lot of pages where black plays a massive role in the design. Wilson also excels in the brighter panels, doing some fantastic stuff in the chamber where the Parthenon meet, giving it a clean, sterile look. I also dig the way he uses colors to show injury, especially in the case of Baal, enhancing McKelvie’s line art in the process.

Clayton Cowles’ font choices also remain inspired. I’m not going to lecture y’all on the importance of good letting in comics, but Cowles’ work on this book definitely deserves Wicked+Divine19_05some recognition. He’s a gifted letterer and much like Wilson colors, his choice in placement and design are brilliant.

The Wicked and the Divine #19 is a great comic. It gorgeous, dramatic and pushes the narrative in a very interesting direction. While it’s not as though provoking as some issues have been in the past, it being a more action oriented comic definitely livens things up a bit, while raising some fascinating questions. And it appears we’ll be getting some answers next month, which is a neat way to get reader to get excited for the future while thoroughly enjoying the present.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked + The Divine #18

1The Wicked + The Divine #18

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.50

Hooray, The Wicked + The Divine is back! Quick, come grab a copy for yourselves immediately, shoving and or trampling anyone who dares get in your way!

DISCLAIMER: It is impossible to discuss this book without mentioning some spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up on WicDiv, skip this review.

The title for The Wicked + the Divine #18 is “Don’t Call it a Comeback”, which is WAY too appropriate. Series lead Laura Wilson returns, reborn as the Goddess Persephone, and she has a score to settle. Writer/co-creator Kieron Gillen made a joke that this arc was the WicDiv equivalent of Civil War (The Marvel version, not the historical one), and that’s a pretty fair description of the event of this issues. This issue also sees the return of Artist/Co-creator Jamie McKelvie, who will remain on art duties for the book until it ends. More details on that over the coming months. Both returns are welcomed, as the artist and colorist Matthew Wilson create one of the most action packed issues in quite some time. It’s McKelvie meets Shonen Manga in the best sort of ways, as Wilson’s bright, Wiced+Divine18_002energetic colors give the book a cool look that also reminds me of the action scenes in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim adaption. The use of pinks, greens and blues are the types of colors usually not associated with action scenes is a nice touch, and really gives the book a distinct look.

Kieron Gillen also said that Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood video serve as inspiration for this comic. That much is obvious, given Laura’s dialogue, and the way McKelvie draws her. Before her “death” Laura came off a naive, an excited fangirl walking amongst gods. Now she’s drawn with more confidence and swagger, obviously looking to settle the score with Ananke and her co-conspirators.  I love the way McKelvie handles body language, and the devil may care smile on Laura’s face is fantastic.  Also look how he arranges the panels on the 2 preview pages I posted; you can switch the first two on each page, and the comic still makes sense. And the range of emotions McKelvie can draw is some next level stuff, and I’m thrilled to see his return to this title being nothing short of spectacular.

Kieron Gillen seems oddly restrained in this issue. That’s not so much a critique as it is an observation, which makes sense, as this issue really feel like more of a celebration of the art team. That’s not to say that Gillen doesn’t make any worth contributions to the issue.There’s still plenty of good to be mined from the dialogue, especially the scenes Wiced+Divine18_003involving Baal and Baphomet. Seeing two lovers scorned go out it twice in this comic gives it some really emotional weight. Well more emotional weight, can’t forget Laura’s return and all that. The team also begins to shine some light on X, who’s probably the least developed of Parthenon, and it’s revealed that she’s in a really unique position due to her age.  There’s a lot to enjoy from this issue, which is no surprise, given how good this creative team can build worlds.

I really missed the lack of The Wicked + The Divine in my life, and am over the moon that is came back as strong as it did. It’s a title that’s gone from something I was really digging, to someone that gets read immediately once the newest issue drops. The way Gillen, McKelvie and Wilson choose to explore fandoms and icons makes for an fabulous read, and issue 18 is more proof that they’re one of the most consistent, creative,  and thought-provoking teams working in the industry today.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Saga #33 & The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

Saga_33-1Saga #33

Fiona Staples, Brian K Vaughan

Image $2.99

Finally, a issue of Saga that isn’t a ground breaking reinvention of the medium, but one that’s simply good! Granted it’s a little disappointing as a reader, it makes my job as a critic slightly more easier!

Issue 33 sees the return of the reporter and photographer duo of Upsher and Doff (Upsher reminds us that the “Writer gets the first byline”), in a story that acts a bit like a series recap for the first 11 pages. It’s a neat way to get people caught up, but also not exactly the most exciting thing to read. The rest of the book DOES see the return of fan favorite character, which helps pick things up, and end the issue on the high note. I applaud Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples trying something new with the recap, as both the dialogue and art are solid, but it does feel like the first half of the book is spinning it’s wheels. It was nice to check in on a few minor supporting characters, and even get to witness a little sexy time, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen this creative team do before and it’s not even that great of a recap to be honest.

With the potential for more intriguing things to come, Saga #33 was a good issue from a series that usually gives us great issues. It sounds like a nitpick sure, but when your exceptions are set so high for series, anything less does feel a little off. It’s still worth your time as regular reader, but you should lower your expectations a bit going into it.

5013574-sqgirl2015b004_dc11_lr-0The Unbeatable Squirrel Girt #4

Ryan North, Erica Henderon, Rico Renzi, Clayton Cowles

Marvel $3.99

Dear Erica Henderson, I appreciate the hell out of the Katamari Darmancy homage on the cover, great job, your pal Chris.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is that the creative team does a fine job of making the threats Squirrel Girl face quite creditable. Granted she’s Unbeatable, Ryan North has constantly forced the characters to overcome their problems mostly through non-punching means, which helps build tension and makes for a more interesting read.

Issue 4 is unique because it’s technically a fight that Squirrel Girl has already lost. Time travel shenanigans has old timey Doctor Doom already triumphant in the present, so Ms. Doreen Green and her pals got to figure out how to stop him the past. The problem is this incarnation of Doctor Doom may be too much for SG in direct combat, so the sophomore CS students got to figure out a way past him.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4 gives the reader everything they would expect from this proven creative team. Ryan North gives us smart, engaging dialogue that’s hilarious and reads unlike anything else coming out from Marvel. If Erica Henderson’s art isn’t isn’t you thing, it’s your loss, because her energetic lines and super expressive characters on detail backgrounds are fantastic. Rico Renzi‘s coloring is fantastic as usual, especially  when it comes to portraying energy and heat.

I have zero complaints about the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl once again, because this book is entertaining as hell. North, Henderson and Renzi manage to impress me in new ways with every issue, and I’m glad to see this book survive as long as it has in today’s market.

 

 

 

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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: 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’ 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: 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: 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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Chris’ Comics: Diesel #1

4741654-diesel_001_main_hesseDiesel #1

Tyson Hesse

Boom/Boom! Box, $3.99

Writer/Artist Tyson Hesse is a creator I’m familiar with from his late webcomic Boxer Hockey, but I was sold on this new mini series, Diesel, the minute the preview art hit the internet. Completely missing out on his run on The Amazing World of Gumball, it’s nice to see Hesse’s art improve so much since the last installment of Boxer Hockey. Diesel #1 is a gorgeous book, just one that’s a little light on content.

Diesel tells the tale of Dee Diesel, who’s apparently the heir to a awesome airship that also doubles as a small mobile community. The book reads like a Miyazaki movie, only less whimsical and more sarcastic and comical. The majority of the book introduces us to the cast of the book, and a hint of backstory, but mostly focuses on Dee. Dee is a fun lead, and a lot of the humor associated with her is solid, but she also reads a lot like the cliche bratty lead who’s got a gift but is also kind of a pain due to her over confidence. Diesel wears a lot of it’s influences on it’s sleeves, and while the premise is near and a lot of the jokes land, it also feels very familiar.

That being said, the book looks great. Tyson Hesse, with help from Mariel Cartwight, create a fun world with characters who are very expressive and animated. The character’s “acting” go a long well to help sell the jokes, and the visuals are very clean and fluid. The art really does a lot for this book, making it an entertaining read.

I understand that first issues are difficult to nail, so I hope this promising start improves with it’s next issue. Diesel is a great looking and funny book, it’s just a little light on the story. With the cast now introduced, I expect great things from future installment. It’s a cool all ages book with some charm, and fan of The Legend of Korra and Japanese role playing video games ought to check it out.

Phonogram_vol3_02-1Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #3

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image, $3.99

Jamie McKelvie y’all.

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #2 is the comic Jamie McKelvie drew “for real” this past week and my god, it’s gorgeous. Given arguably the MOST Kieron Gillen script in some time, McKelvie not only draws fantastic looking characters with gorgeous outfits, but also pays homages to 2 iconic music videos in this issue and completely nails it. His character’s acting is flawless, perfectly capturing the look and energy the 2 videos he pays homage to, but also puts his own feels to it. It’s incredibly good looking, and impressive how he can change his style mid book and then go back to his default setting with no problem. And as someone who’s read the previous installment of Phonograns, I’m amused of how we get to see David Kohl aged and become more Gillen-esque in appearance with every passing volume.

Helping Jamie set the mood as per usual is colorist Matthew Wilson, who’s also having an amazing week. If killing it on WicDiv wasn’t enough for Mr Wilson, he also changes up his palettes multiple times in this comic, and it all looks terrific in the end. Same with letter Clayton Cowles, who swaps up the fonts to help differentiate the narrators. This may be Kieron Gillen’s semi-autobiographical story about critics, but the artists are clearly having a blast telling this story, having the freedom to experiment with their styles as they see fit.

Phonograms: TIG isn’t any more accessible than the first issue, but you don’t have to be in the loop to appreciate how good this book it. It’s brilliant even if you don’t get the references without the help of glossary, which I am grateful for. Plus the gorgeous back up illustrated by Jamaica Dyer is worth your time and money. It’s certainly not a book for everyone, the the 2nd issue of The Immaterial Girl is a terrific experience for the target audience.

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Chris’ Comics: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

STK680389Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

Phonograms has a special place in my heart. I bought both previous collected volumes of the series directly from creators Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson several years ago, and I’ve made it a point to re-read the 2nd volume at least once a year ever since. I’ve been asking Gillen about the long teased 3rd volume at conventions as far back as 2012, and I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally here.

That being said, if you’ve never read Phonogram before, this is not the book to jump on with. Gillen has said the series is always been a mixture of self-indulgence and autobiographical, and that’s very much the case with the first issue of The Immaterial Girl. Gillen points out that this issue is probably the most read single issue of Phonograms to date, which is ironic to me, because I honestly think you need to read The Singles Club (volume 2) at the very least to get a basic idea what’s going on with this book.

759ad8c5-f0a0-4de9-812b-189563614783-bestSizeAvailableAs someone who’s read both volumes, I was very pleased with what I got, despite it feeling weird to be reading this book in a single issue format. The Immaterial Girl’s lead is Emily (or possibly Claire, it’s complicated to explain without getting into spoiler territory), who got obsessed with music videos at an early age, and struck some sort of deal with a magical deity. In case you’re not in the know, music is a type of literal magic in the world of Phonograms, and mucking with it tends to lead to bad times.

Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson skills have come a long way since the last installment of Phonograms, so this book looking as good as it does doesn’t come as surprise at all. While it’s been cool to see McKelvie delve into super heroes over the last few year, seeing him draw an urban fantasy book like this just feels right to me. Wilson has always killed on whatever he’s colored, but him working with Jamie usually results in the best things from the both of them. What I found interesting about this collaboration is that for the most part it’s actually pretty straight forward & traditional story telling, versus some of the more experimental stuff that we’ve seen from the pair on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine. That is until we hit the final 2 pages of this book, where McKelvie completely changes his style to channel a iconic music video. It’s incredible, caught me completely off guard, despite it being something set up early in the book.

tumblr_nsxedorfil1qav783o1_1280As for the words, as I said earlier, this is Kieron Gillen at his most Grant Morrison. He assumes everyone is operating on the same level as he is, with little disregard for those who aren’t. I love it when creators expect readers to get on their level, as the comics that result from those expectations are generally excellent. In Gillen’s defense, he does include a glossary at the end of the issue to explain some locations and bands he name drops in this comic, BUT it doesnt cover everything and everyone. BUT if you’re caught up to Phonograms at this point, you should be able to enjoy this book well enough, even with it being VERY much part autobiography. Letterer Clayton Cowles is put to task this issue, but he absolutely delivers, and does some cool things with the narration boxes that falls together nicely towards the end of the book. Cowles, along with Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sarah Gordon contribute to some fun and brief B-stories at the end of the issue, which are cool little additions to this comic.

The first issue of The Immaterial Girl is a incredibly well crafted comics that’s for serious Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson/Cowles fans only. I adored it, but I imagine not everyone is going to spend some time of Spotify researching the bands name dropped in this game. But if you’ve read Rue Britannia and The Singles Club, get on it ASAP, unless you’re waiting for the trade or some junk.

 

 

 

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Troy’s Toys but with Comics: Young and the Restless edition

This week’s unintentional theme for reviews is #Teens. It would have been #JamieMcKelviecovers, but Kris Anka did the cover to Ms Marvel, also, that hashtag would be crazy long.

STK655085Ms Marvel #10

G Willow Wilson/Adrian Alphona/Ian Herring

Marvel $2.99

After an unexpected hiatus, Ms. Marvel returns to deal with troubled teens and murderous robots via a mad scientist cockatiel. Also yes, I was giggling in delight as I typed those last 3 words, I am an adult.

With issue 9 revealing Ms Marvel’s roots (hint/spoiler: Inhuman), issue 10 is a return to form for the series, using the generational gap in America as a source of inspiration for the issue’s plot. It’s something I haven’t seen done as well since Brian K Vaughn and series artist Adrian Alphona were on Runaways,  mixing actual TEEN issues with comic book super villains. Is it a hoot.

G Willow Wilson was recently signed to an exclusive contract with Marvel, and the dialogue for this issue is all the proof why that was a smart movie. Everything that comes out of Kamala Khan’s mouth sounds genuine for a teenager in the Marvel universe, even when it’s calling for her teleporting pet doggie. Kamala as a  representation of the modern teenager works as well as Hawkeye as the 3o yr old uncomfortable in his own skin, cough cough me.

Alphona and colorist Ian Herring continue to be brilliant on this book. It’s trippy, colorful and so expressive, making it a unique looking book even in Marvel’s wonderfully diverse art styles. Each panel is crammed with details that contain fun little sight gags, Easter eggs or just some funny looking stuff.

Ms Marvel continues to be the best comics to debut from Marvel this year, with the most likable lead to be introduced into the MU in some time. Any and all the success and praise the title has received is warranted, and it’s well worth picking up, as per usual.

wickeddivine_06_2The Wicked + the Divine #6

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.50

It’s weird to have an Image book go on hiatus for only a month, but it’s certainly welcomed.

I believe in the concept of a multiverse. Somewhere, I’m sure artist Jamie McKelvie didn’t get into comics, but fashion instead, and is brilliant. Luckily we live in the universe where McKelvie draws pretty people who are insanely well-dressed.

The Wicked+The Divine #6 takes place one month after the events of issue 5, and sees our lead still in mourning. I reminds me a lot of the beginning of the recently conclude Legend of Korra season, only with less bending and more…British? Anywho, Laura’s a hot mess, we’re introduced into a rad new character, and the subject of fandoms and conventions are woven into the narrative.

It’s hard to picture a creative team more “With it” then Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen. Despite WickedDivine being urban fantasy, everything feels so realistic and modern, from the dialogue to the use of certain technology. Even Laura’s cracked iphone will make you take notice and give you a sense of familiarity.

Matthew Wilson is arguably my favorite colorist in comics at the moment, and reading his stuff digitally is the best way to experience his talents. His work really makes McKelvie’s art look as good as it does, as his choice in colors ultimately unit McKelvie’s pictures and Gillen words, making for a beautiful package, not to mention a terrific looking book.

This volume of The Wicked + The Divine is off to a smart start, and I’m super curious as to how the subject of fandoms will tie into the story. Their gods murder mystery book is somehow the most human book on the market, and a testament of how talented this team is.

 

 

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Troy’s Toys But With Comics: Inside Baseball edition

In a year we’ve had a lot of great books drop, this may be the strongest week for comics all year. And no, I’m not just saying that because Sex Criminals dropped with an a incredible reference to another hit Image title. Spoilers, that joke is all sorts of wrong in the best sorts of ways. There’s also another pair of books that dropped that were rad, although one of them has some troublesome elements. Let’s discuss yes?

4264340-batgirl+01Batgirl #37

Cameron Stewart/Brenden Fletcher/Babs Tarr/Maris Wicks

DC $2.99

If I could recommend this book based on it’s cover alone, I would. It’s sharp, clever and easily one of the best covers to drop in 2014.

Be warned though, I’m sad to say that the villain of Batgirl #37  issue is bit of a problematic trope. Which is unfortunate, because anyone should be able to enjoy this book, as it definitely one of the finest coming out from DC these days.

If you don’t mind that particular rough element though, you’re in for a visual treat. Babs Tarr‘s storytelling is incredible (also reminder that Cameron Stewart does the break downs) and Maris Wicks’ coloring is definitely on another level. There’s a lot of glizz and glam in this issue, and Wicks’ coloring makes it almost look 3-D, which is an super impressive feat in itself. There’s a panel in this issue that could have easily ruined the book for long time Batgirl fans, but it’s handled so well it got an audible “Holy Crap” from me when I read it on the subway.

Batgirl continues to be a fun revamp of a beloved character. And while all the Instagram/Uber references may date the book in a few years, it still feels like the most relevant and fresh book coming out of DC these days. Even with the problems this issue faced with the villain, it’s still a good issue early in it’s fan favorite run.

bitchplanet_01aBitch Planet #1

Kelly Sue DeConnick/Valentine De Landro/Cris Peters/Clayton Cowles

Image $3.50

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve gotten to talk about Kelly Sue Deconnick book, so you may want to prepare yourself for some serious gushing soon.

Bitch Planet has been on my radar since it was announced earlier this year at the Image Expo in San Fran. The original pitch made it come off as campy sci-fi space drama, but the first issues reads more like “Oz” than “Orange is the New Black“, and I couldn’t be happier.

Kelly Sue Deconnick is one of most favorite people currently working in comics, and I couldn’t help but love how fresh and unapologetic it is. It’s a unique concept (women being tossed in a planet-sized prison for any number of reasons) that’s illustrated beautifully by the talents of Valentine De Landro and Cris Peter. Visually it reminds me a lot of Michael Walsh & Matthew Wilson‘s work on Secret Avengers, but  a little more cleaner line work and with a little more psychedelic color palette. Paired with KSD’s razor sharp dialogue, it’s amazing debut, with 2 pair of fantastic new characters that will get your attention immediately.

DeConnick, De Landro and their team have created a book that feels important, with it’s strong feminist message, characters with body times usually not associated with comics’ protagonists and it’s “our way or the high way” approach. The type of book comics needs, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate creative team to deliver it. Bitch Planet may be Kelly Sue’s best work to date, and it’s worth your time.

 

 

 

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