Read any good comics lately?

I had started this over at PnP, and while it never took off as a big flier, yet and still, I think its worth having a thread like this. What have we read that we like, and Why? Or disliked, but again, Why?

Prohibado. We don't use this to talk about the works by regulars here. No Witch Doctor, Bomb Queen, Fetus Christ, Kagemono, OCP, Inanna's Tears etc. Plenty of other threads to talk about ourselves. This is for stuff you read, by people you (probably don't know).

So here I am in Boise, driving down Fairview, which is a super busy main arterial into the downtown area. (SO busy that I was only able to get on it to inspect the distresses between 6-7 AM. I'd have gotten on earlier if the sun was up) and what to my wondering eyes does appear, but a miniature LCS, (and used book store). I went in.

Interesting. Total Android's Dungeon. Dingy, dark, and EVERY comic book was pre-bagged. Shades of 1995! Overheard a comment between the clerk (owner) and a customer, "Do comics still sell?"

"They're 80% of our business."

This amused me because 80% of his floor space was given over to used paperbacks. Hmmm?

I bought four books. Two from IDW and two from Image. I had never heard of any of them before.

They ALL were perfect manifestations of why comics have trouble pulling the casual reader. Each was part of some longer story... each a part of a story without providing a beginning nor an ending.... just a bunch of act two. And all were obviously a part of some large, complex story that the respective writers had worked out in great and loving detail in their heads... and probably should have written as a novel, rather then a comic book. All had sharp graphics, professional and contemporary cover design. All had seen an enormous amount of love and attention to detail in their execution.

I'll start with IDW.

Locke&Key by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos. This was the 6th of 13 issues. The art was careful and well detailed, and if not quite the sort of high energy line work I prefer, I recognize it was very professional. Its about some kind of body jumping demon, and given that its the middle of a story, not too hard to pick up on. They do provide a handy-dandy precis/intro on the inside front cover... but still, its the middle of a long story, and if you're going to hook people at this point, you need a catch. The art was professional, but not seductive enough.The hook in the story was, I guess, the mutilations. So daring. But not for me. Not  world I care to re-visit.

by Abnett and Lanning, with art by David Messina and various helpers. Issue 2. This had more of a big two kind of feel to the art with the colorist dominating the linework, as has so often become the case these days. More careful, if staid, artwork. And even more pseudo-mysticism here with some kind of vampire-zombie mash-up/ secret organization and a big red guy with horns who wasn't Hellboy and managed to be utterly bland visually and in his personality. They seem intent of stopping some sort of hot chick bent on destroying four universes by becoming the same sort of combo vampire/zombie that evidently she is. Yeahhhh... no.


These were better, but ultimately suffered from the same sorts of problems.

Blue Estate by Victor Kalvachev predominately, with a couple of other writers and artists lending a hand. There's a beautiful painted cover that doesn't look like the artwork inside, although its by the same artist. The interior has the kind of quirky energetic art I favor and features imaginative color that doesn't overwhelm, and some memorable characters, or at least character designs. No mystical shit from what I can see. It seems to be about crime and sex and an inheritance. I might read another issue if I happened to see it again... on the other hand, its still only a few scenes of a story for $3.99. See more at their website

CarbonGrey by a whole bunch of people and I can't tell who is the driver, but this one I liked the best, although again, and more story for your 4 bux, but still only an episode. The painted interior art matched the cover and both were truly lovely. The digital lettering looked totally out of place and rather then puuling you into the story, it is distancing, reminding you that the images are paintings. I use digital lettering and its a godsend for me but it does have limitations and they are fully on display here. I was engaged and intrigued, but more than any other, this should have been a fantasy novel or video game.  oh yes, its an alternate reality history of WW I with a quartet of (magical?) sisters engaged to protect the Kaiser.

I'd read the novel.

So. What have you read lately?



  • I've been really enjoying the CHEW trade paperbacks, the latest 2 of which I picked up at c2e2. It's a police procedural with a really weird twist: The protagonist discovers clues by eating something: The victim, food, evidence, etc. And he's not the only one with weird powers. There's a restaurant critic who's such a good writer, you can taste the food she's describing. (I love that one.) It's funny, gross, odd in an X-Files way and funny. I said that twice, I know. I recommend it heartily.

  • edited May 2011
    The other day I bought and read The Color of Love by Kiyo Ueda (Digital Manga Publishing's "Juné Books" imprint). I was motivated mostly by a combination of principle and curiosity: Amazon just yanked it from the Kindle store for unspecified violations of their content restrictions, so I bought the digital edition from for my Nook. I ended up reading it on my Mac instead, however, because it doesn't fit properly on the Nook screen (apparently it's formatted for the new Nook Color, which is taller).

    It's packaged as if it were a graphic-novel length story, but it's actually a collection of shorts about different characters (the duo from the first one reappears in the last). In addition to the obligatory pairing of a blond with a brunet for ease of identification, they all have the same basic plot: A loves B, but is certain that B doesn't feel the same way about him, but ultimately something happens and B tearfully professes his love for A (or vice versa), and they end up all kissy-face (or more).

    The "or more" is tasteful and discrete, with not a single cock to be seen (still something of a taboo in Japan). It's about as far from tentacle-rape porn as you can get, while still including sex scenes. The closest they get to talking dirty is "I'm not hurting you, am I?" All I can figure is that someone at Amazon, unsure how old a character in his last year at a Japanese secondary school would be, and put off by their youthful appearance (i.e. like any manga character under 40), feared that some of what he was looking at was "kiddie porn", or could be accused of that.

    The stories are nicely and simply drawn, and to be fair, they do show some imagination (e.g. a character who starts out complaining about mixed vegetables ends up enjoying a mixed soft-serve ice cream), so it's not 100% formula. It's the sort of charming romantic romance that many sex-obsessed teenagers might benefit from reading, but a bit sweet and fluffy for my tastes.
  • Oh my god I love Orc Stain, you guys. It's the best.
  • I'm really digging Remender's Uncanny X-Force, though I feel like the first arc was definitely the best it's been.

    Unwritten is consistently one of my favorites.  Really good meta stuff, and just entertaining comics as well.

    I quite liked the first issue of Who Is Jake Ellis?, but the second issue sold out and I picked up #3 without reading it.  Which I think was a mistake.

    I liked the first issue of Nonplayer (and Nate's art is amazing), but it's going to be a while before #2 arrives, and quite a while before all six issues are completed and out.  I wish that story was being presented in a different format, so the gaps in production weren't so apparent.

    I picked up Warren Ellis' Newuniversal trade and a couple volumes of Morrison's New X-Men at Free Comic Book Day... and damn, that's still such good stuff.  I'd forgotten just how good Newuniversal was.  Shame it got choked in its crib.
  • @KellyTindall me too! Lovely book, Stokoe is one of my new favorites. I'm also really in love with Skull Crushers, that book hits pretty much every sweet spot I have. It's funny, fantasy and fighting.

    I'm also in the middle of reading Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches, it is exactly as brilliant as you would think a Tardi book should be. At the same time I ordered Shigeru Mizuki's Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths which recounts a Japanese platoons story during WWII. The first few pages I've read have all been great. Wonderful Gekiga.
  • @KellyTindall ; So what is Orc Stain about?

    @BrandonSeifert I liked the first issue of Who is Jake Ellis as well and haven't seen the rest. Looks like Toth at his most spare, and theb first issue at least set things up tightly.

    @SteveWallace mmmmm, love me some Tardi. I'll have to get It Was the War of the Trenches but I doubt if this guy in town has it. Very few graphic novels and manga.
  • @marvinmann yeah, I ended up ordering it from Amazon. Orc Stain is basically about orcs. :) It's follows the main character who's sort of a thief character through his adventures. The art is simply amazing and the overall feel is a lot of fun.
  • Orc Stain is insanely good. It's filthy, organic, and you can feel it touch you. Stokoe is great.

    Green Wake wants to give me nightmares in a bad way. The palette--or lack thereof?--works for me.

    NonPlayer--do I really need to say why?

    Batman, Inc. because I'm a Morrison whore. It's just my thing.

  • I really haven't liked much of anything lately. At least in the comic shop. There are a handful on the web I read regularly (and buy the collections). 

    I got the whole stack of Free Comic Book Day comics, flipped through them, and handed them back. Nothing made me want to read it, much less read more. 

    A friend gave me The Guild TPB - I loved this. Nice loose colorful art and fun to read. 

    Decided to check out the "competition" so I bought single issues of Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, L.A. Bank's Vampire Huntress, Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson: Moon Called, and a volume of Sherrilyn Kenyon's The Dark Hunters.

    The verdicts:

    Anita Blake: Hate the art. Just ugh. I don't like the body shapes, the dark coloring, the paneling and action seemed cramped and stiff. Story was okay.

    Vampire Huntress: The comic series is the epilogue to a TWELVE NOVEL SERIES. WTF? Obviousy this is for people that are already fans. Art looked exactly like Anita Blake. Didn't get past the 2nd page.

    Mercy Thompson: The cover art was horrible. Total Anita Blake ripoff. Fortunately the interior art was good. And the story was interesting. I'll be getting the TPB for this.

    The Dark Hunters: This one I love. Manga style art. Adaptation is by Joshua Hale Fialkov and it is GOOD. Only two things bug me - the lead female character has creepy eyes, and it's stupidly made to read right-to-left. 

  • @RyanBurton ; Actually I've never heard of Nonplayer, so I haven't a clue.

    @GregCarter ; I've seen the Anita Blake books and agree with your assessment. Uninvolving. I didn't know about the other adaptations, although I've read one of the Mercy Thompson novels this past year. What did you like about the interior art?
  • Ah... I see. I went to the Nonplayer website and saw a preview. Very lovely art with beautiful color. The color is complex and under control... it doesn't overwhelm the line-art, although it does appear that the line-art plays a supporting role in the illustrations. A very romantic vision.

    The story promise has promise, but hard to say from the preview how it plays out. The ten pages shown at the site had no dialogue but what I saw suggested that story didn't move real fast. Perhaps just a graceful, lingering introduction?
  • edited May 2011
    @marvinmann The art in the Mercy Thompson book is very open and has lots of movement. Not just in the drawings themselves but in the paneling and the whole page structure. It's much more like the manga-style of The Dark Hunters than Anita Blake, even though the characters themselves have no discernible manga influence. Also, it's not as text-heavy as Anita Blake. That's the quickest way to drag a comic down for me - too much tell and not enough show. The Mercy Thompson is heavy on the show and I appreciate that.

    Since someone on Twitter asked what webcomics I'm reading, here ya go:

    Red String - pure shoujou relationshippy goodness.

    Paradigm Shift - "Modern police thriller collides with classic werewolf tale..." pretty much sums it up.

    Errant Story - more of a traditional fantasy than I usually read. Great characters and art pulled me in and kept me there. ES is nearing the end of it's run.

    Otherworld - one I recently started, and it's still fairly new. By the artist that designed Lara Croft.

    dream*scar - another I found relatively recently. Vampires and other stuff. Still figuring it out.

    Red Moon Rising - says it's a fantasy steampunk, but I'm not so sure what that means. Also, like dream*scar, not sure what's happening and why I keep reading, but I can't stop.

    Khaos Komix - nothing other-worldly about this one. Just so, so good. Several intertwining stories.

    And good old Freakangels.

    Those are my "must-reads."

    [HTML fixed - JAQ]
    [Thanks JAQ! cut and paste fail on my part.]
  • @marvinmann — "The ten pages shown at the site had no dialogue but what I saw suggested that story didn't move real fast. Perhaps just a graceful, lingering introduction?"  That's pretty much it exactly.  The miniseries' inciting incident happens in the first issue, but other than that it's pretty short on plot.

    The issue with that is that it's a six issue miniseries, and each issue is going to take an unknown number of months to produce — that first issue took Nate a full year to produce, and he told me he's now moving at about a page a week.  So that's around two and a half issues a year.

    Still, it's a lovely book, and Nate's a good guy.  It's been really nice to see talent and hard work rewarded with buzz and sales!
  • Oh, and I hope everyone read Beasts of Burden. One of the best comics of last year, hands down.
  • @GregCarter: I'm thrilled to see Paradigm Shift on your list. Dirk Tiede is one of the nicest human beings I've ever met, and he does Great Booth at cons.
  • Not a comic, but based on one. I saw Priest tonight. Hollywood production design and craft at its usual stellar level, but exposition came without a trace of subtlety. Both plot and dialogue were paint-by-numbers.

    Was the book the same way?
  • I stumbled across another, better comic bok store in Boise (although they're still obsessive about bagging the things) and I picked up the latest American Vampire, the new Vertigo Strange Adventures, and The Walking Dead/Witch Doctor flipbook.

    I won't violate my "rule" about not commenting on the work of us folks who hang out here, but I will talk about The Walking Dead, which I had not picked up before. As I've said elsewhere, I'm not a big zombie fan, so this had no native appeal for me, and now, having read an issue, I can say that Kirkman is indeed a skilled writer of human interest stories, BUT, once again, my complaint about parts of stories holds true. This was like an episode of a soap opera... a few scenes about characters I don't know and I have little willingness to drop the money to get a few more scenes next month. The art was terrific, lean and just the right mix of detail and simplicity.

    The issue of American Vampire was one of the most satisfying comics I've bought in a while, simply because, it offered something like a complete story. I wasn't too crazy about the ravening "vampires" that looked just like the ones in Priest, and really, what's the difference between these and your standard run of the mill zombie, or for that matter, a pack of rabid wolves? Just generic beasties to be killed without remorse or reflection. meh.  But Albuquerque can really really draw! What a talent!

    Strange Adventures is a nice idea, and I can hope it succeeds. But I blanched at the $8 price point. I think it would be better if their were fewer, slightly longer stories. I like working at 6-8 pages, but it is a challenge to write, and including one 20 page story with a really stellar artist, coupled with the more experimental visual styles they seem to be open to would enhance the value and sales, or so it seems to me. Finding a well crafted short series, such as Fell was, might be an adornment as well. I hope Vertigo can continue to develop this idea... Strange Adventures could become a must buy anthology.

  • I can't imagine starting someone on Walking Dead with the current issue. You have to start from the beginning.

    But for those of us who are hooked, we'll read it to the end because we want to know what happens to these people. I have my own idea for the ending: They all are gonna die. The series has been too bleak, too nihilistic, for there to be a Disney ending.
  • Of course I bought it for Witch Doctor, which did provide more of a story :)

    But I figured it was a chance to put my toe into TWD. And for most people, the TPBs will provide more bang for the buck, but this series is into the high 80s now and at $4 a pop, a fan has over $300 invested in it. Whew!

    So the TPBs are the entry point, which seems odd on the surface-- a new reader "can't" enter at a $3 or $4 price point. So I'm back to my constant theme of the pamphlet comic not providing enough story for the money and I think this is a problem for comics.
  • It's like 100 Bullets, Y The Last Man or Ex Machina -- you can't start in the middle. That trend was popularized by Lost and other TV shows like that -- if you missed a few early episodes, there's no point in starting.
  • I think comics popularized that approach long before TV shows adopted it.
  • This isn't a comic book, but it is a comic (pause) book: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.  It's a novella about Her Majesty the Queen, in which she – quite by accident – becomes an avid reader several decades into her reign, and how the experience of reading enriches her life.  I don't want to spoil the ending, but it's one that I think any writer would appreciate.
  • @RussellLissau ; Mmmm... its popular enough and seen all over, but it does sound like a recipe for declining readership. Its the heart of the difficulty with mini-series.

    The work around for the problem of declining readership is the collection (or for TV the Season DVDs)... but I've seen a lot of stories produced as mini-series at a loss, and they simply can't build an audience. But if each and every issue that comes out is a gripping "slab of entertainment" to parrot Warren Ellis, then you have a chance to develop a readership.

    I've no doubt we can point to exceptions, but as a publisher, I would be very careful about this, and as a reader, I'm interested in at least a substantial chunk of story when I buy. As a creator, I prefer complete stories, rather then ongoing concepts.
  • Anybody else take a bite on Strange Adventures? Or did the price point (understandably) scare off readers?
  • edited May 2011
    I bought a french book about 1920ties Greece where the fascist dictator tries to eliminate the Greek Blues-singers. 
    It's called Rebetiko by David Prudhomme. 
    This is something a Fantagraphics or Drawn&Quarterly will be publishing some time soon, I'm sure.
    What I love about the book is the naturalistic cartooning and postures
    Here's hiw workblog:

    Buy the book from the Canadian amazon if you want to look at some excellent cartooning.

  • Ermm, this is not what I intended to post.
  • @marioboon ; Maybe not, but its lovely and makes your point about naturalistic cartooning. I'll have to look for this.
  • @marioboon, That Rebetiko stuff, love.

    I've got a big pile i've only just started scratching from TCAF. Read Chester Brown's "Paying for it" just after i picked it up in Toronto, still poking through the copious end notes but good book. 

     "Root Rot", "Project Romantic". "The Klondike", "Suddenly Something Happened" & "Duncan the Wonder Dog" are next up.

  • @marvinmann: I'm still not good with posting and linking stuff here :)
  • edited June 2011
    All of my new stuff has been "old," and I've been more engaged and excited about reading the next issue than I have been for a long time. 

    Currently on my nightstand, I have the Dark Horse edition of Dave McKean's collection, Pictures that Tick.  I've been a fan of McKean's since his early work with Neil Gaiman and was amazed at Cages, which is why it's surprising that I took so long to pick this up.  But am I glad I did.  McKean's artwork just speaks to me, and his stories are completely engaging.  I am loving this book and have been letting it sit for a few days because I don't want to reach the end.

    Also, I've been re-visiting my childhood and reading the old Justice League Europe comic.  It's fun, the Bart Sear artwork is over-the-top in just the right way, and I've been enjoying it more than I thought I would. 

    And I've been reading Jack Kirby's run of The Losers stories from DC's Our Fighting Forces, written and drawn circa 1975.  These are so good, and I can't really pinpoint what it is that makes them so resonant for me.  I'm not much of a war-story guy, but I love Kirby's work, and his stories here are really fun, quick paced, and mostly done-in-one to speak to Marv's point above.  I think it's Kirby's energy and the fact that he is trying to say something serious without losing the exuberance that can be found in so many of the most entertaining and best comics. 

    Plus, his writing here is very spare compared with his New Gods work.  It's probably some of the best-written Kirby books I've had the pleasure of reading.  Maybe the fact that he didn't need to world-build - like in OMAC, or the Fourth World, or the Eternals - is what allowed him to drop the heavy expository language.  Readers understood what a war comic would have, and would have had at least some passing knowledge of World War II, so Kirby wouldn't have needed to introduce situations and such. 

    I'm not sure; I'm kind of "thinking" out loud.  Anyway, Jack Kirby's The Losers is at the top of my pile right now.  After that, I think I'm going to check out the run of his Eternals I got at a show last month.  Can't wait.

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