Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/14/2019 – 04/20/2019

Believe it or not, we’ve only got two first issue this time out, so we’ll start with those, and then delve into the other stuff —

Mary Shelley : Monster Hunter #1 hit LCS shelves this past Wednesday courtesy of the writing team of Adam Glass and Olivia Briggs and line artist/colorist Hayden Sherman. I suppose the conceptual and artistic triumph that was Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence was impetus enough for other creators to give the “famous writer who knew what they were talking about all too well” premise a whirl, and while I won’t pretend for a second this is anywhere close to being in that class, it was a fun and well-paced introduction to a world where — well, the title proves to be literally true. The story didn’t blow me away or anything, but the esteemed Mrs. Shelley comes off as being strong, likable, and more than competent, and Sherman’s art and colors are as well-suited to these period atmospherics as they are to the sci-fi vistas of Wasted Space. I had the same reaction to this as I’ve had to any number of other Aftershock series, which essentially boils down to “can’t say I’m committed to it for the duration, but I’m game to give at least a couple more issues.” In a pinch, I suppose, that’ll do.

American Gods : The Moment Of The Storm #1 is a debut issue in name only, as any publisher other than Dark Horse would probably just keep the numbering going and label this as precisely what it is : the start of a new — and, as it turns out, the last — “story arc” in this particular series. We’re at the point now where the chess pieces are being moved into place for the big final meeting/confrontation between the various largely-dormant gods that’s been building for some time, so if you’ve been digging P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton’s very literal adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this installment, as well. Kind of an ugly cover from Glenn Fabry and Adam Brown this time around, but that particular “art crime” is more than made up for by the fact that Russell handles some of the interior illustration in here as well, of course, as the script. I’ve come this far, so rest assured, I’ll be sticking with it to the end.

Gideon Falls #12 is, in fact, the “proper” beginning of a new “arc” in Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s vaguely Lynch-ian horror series from Image, and frankly this is starting to have a feel of finality about it, as well. Sorrentino’s endlessly inventive art is always a marvel to behold, and ditto for Dave Stewart’s amazing colors, but if Lemire isn’t ramping things up toward some sort of climax here, I’ll actually be kind of disappointed, seeing as how everything seems to be coalescing/dove-tailing in terms of the two formerly-separate plot threads now becoming one. I’m not in a huge hurry to put this book in the rear-view mirror or anything — it’s been, and remains, quite good — but it’s hard to see where things would be headed if, in fact, they were to go on for much longer. I’m more than willing to be pleasantly surprised, though — and this comic usually manages to do precisely that.

Port Of Earth #9 is likewise the kick-off point for a new “arc,” and this series from Image/Top Cow had been sidelined for so long that I was beginning to wonder if it was ever coming back. Writer Zack Kaplan seems to be alternating between this and his other sci-fi book, Eclipse, and the same is true for artist Andrea Mutti vis a vis this and Infinite Dark, and what the hell — the de facto “rotation” works for all of ’em. The premise of alien/human relations becoming strained over Earth setting up a landing port for various intergalactic travelers and traders who then proceed to bust every rule in sight feels new again by dint of its absence — even if the TV segments that Kaplan over-relies on are starting to seem anything but — and characters and events have “moved on” in directions that make logical sense. Mutti’s stylish and “loose” art continues to get stronger and stronger, as well, which is indeed high praise as it was pretty goddamn good to start with, and Jordan Boyd’s color work is always serviceable, if well shy of spectacular. Glad to have this one back.

And that was the week that was, so now the only remaining order of business is to remind you all that this column is, as always, “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. There’s a whole lot of stuff posted up there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support. Please take a moment to check it out and consider joining up by hopping on over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

Check, Please : Liam Cobb’s “The Inspector”

Confession time right at the outset : I actively despise what’s generally known as “foodie culture.” Mind you, I absolutely appreciate the fact that there is a real artistry to good cooking and that restaurants which practice things like the so-called “farm to table” philosophy are certainly going about their business more ethically than, say, McDonald’s is, but let’s be honest : every goddamn chef thinks he or she (and it’s far too frequently a “he” — a major problem with the restaurant industry is the male domination of, and the resultant culture of misogyny inherent in, most kitchens) is at the very least a local, if not a national, celebrity; menus have become pretentious, ego-driven, and hideously expensive; wait staff act like they’re the stage performers a good chunk of them wish they were — the whole experience of eating out has become a nauseatingly garish production.

Which, I suppose, is fine for dinner theater, but for a weeknight out with your significant other? No thanks, I’ll stick with a burger and a beer at the corner tavern or tacos at the neighborhood Mexican joynt. I never want to be seen in a place full of people with their heads so far up their asses that they have the unmitigated gall to critique food on such disgustingly frivolous grounds as its “presentation” and “flavor symphony” while a good half of the world is literally starving to death. There’s something not just tone-deaf, but seriously sick about all of this wretched excess.

Liam Cobb gets this — or, at least, I assume he does. Anyone who’s read his 2018 Retrofit/Big Planet-published graphic novel, The Prince, can tell you that misdirection, ambiguity and maybe even a kind of casually callous amorality are prominent features in his work, and those are all present and accounted for in the tone and tenor of his latest work, the short-form The Inspector, released at the very tail end of last year by Breakdown Press. The target of his satire (or maybe we can just shorten that to his ire) herein is obvious enough — but he also seems to offer no real alternative to the gluttony he’s skewering, nor even any particular reason to do anything other than go along with its flow.

Which, fair enough, may not really be his job, and a “we’re fucked no matter what” attitude can make for something of a conceptually exciting reading experience in and of itself. I don’t particularly need my hand held through a comic, and am perfectly capable of forming my own opinions along the way and conclusions at the finish, but it would be less than honest to say that this story — which focuses on a careless, thoughtless, Michelin Travel Guide restaurant critic who’s well and truly an embodiment of the company’s famously weird mascot — wasn’t tinged with a strong undercurrent of resignation bordering on nihilism. If that’s cool with you, then you’re gonna get plenty of food for thought, as well as a generous serving of belly-laughs (some in spite of yourself) from this comic. If not? You’re in for not so much a disagreeable time as an empty, maybe even a pointless, one.

If all of this sounds eerily reminiscent of the pros and cons offered up over the years in regards to existentialism, that’s no accident : Cobb’s cartooning oeuvre seems to echo Camus or Sartre more than it does, say, Crumb or Kirby , but there’s a sharp wit at its core that steers it well clear of the bleakness of a Ware or a Clowes. In short, he’s managed — and  in a fairly brief period of time at that — to establish an authorial voice entirely his own, one that’s equal parts alluring and alienating, realistic and absurd. Reading his stuff is challenging, but in no way off-putting — yet there’s an observational quality to it, a detachment that may not go so far as to push you away, but doesn’t exactly work overtime to draw you in, either.

There is, for instance, no real plot “progression” in The Inspector until the very end — our Michelin Man simply goes from town to town, eats ludicrously grandiose dishes prepared by pathetically self-important chefs, and acts every bit as self-satisfied (not to mention self-indulgent) as the assholes preparing and serving his food. At the last second he learns the disturbing secret behind some “mystery meat” he’s about to consume, and then ends up relaxing on a tropical island with a beautiful woman. He may have rumbled onto a scandal that serves the restaurant industry a well-deserved comeuppance, but he’s still leading as charmed a life as ever, more by dint of dumb luck than anything else. Maybe Rod Stewart was right, after all — and that’s the first and last time you’ll ever hear me say that.

This balancing act of the droll with the intentionally bizarre carries over into the artwork, as well, with Cobb’s austere and economically-delineated illustrations here counter-balanced with garish riso-printed pastels that catch the eye but almost seem chosen to deliberately conflict with the workaday simplicity of so much of the linework. It’s effective, don’t get me wrong — as is the juxtaposition of jam-packed, tight grids with sprawling, double-page “splashes” — but it’s a study in contrasts designed to jar every bit as much as the disparately-paced narrative, which essentially runs in place until it hurries up to the finish line.

All of which leads, more than likely entirely by design on Cobb’s part, to the ultimate irony — and as blindingly obvious as it is for me to describe it as such, it’s a little bit of a delicious one. Much like the exercises in conspicuous consumption it mercilessly and deservedly lampoons, The Inspector works because of the combination and interplay of its ingredients. It may not make for the most delicious “meal” you’ve ever tasted, but it’s unquestionably a memorable one, and chances are you’ll come back for seconds, as well as feel suitably compelled to see what the chef who crafted it comes up with next.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only enables me to keep it going, but also to provide a steady stream of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Please take a moment to check it out and consider joining. Here’s a link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Some 411 For 420 : Box Brown’s “Cannabis : The Illegalization Of Weed In America”

As a matter of course, I’ve found the now-annual works of non-fiction cartooning from Box Brown published under the auspices of his deal with First Second to be enjoyable, if not exactly groundbreaking, and I’m highly (pun only slightly intended) grateful for the stability they no doubt bring Brown, therefore giving him enough financial “breathing room” to continue his ongoing Retrofit publishing program — so please keep all that in mind if it sounds like I’m damning his latest graphic novel, Cannabis : The Illegalization Of Weed In America, with faint praise.

Such, I assure you, is far from my intent. As with his “graphic biographies” of Andre The Giant and Andy Kaufman, and his historical overview of the Tetris video game phenomenon, this is a highly readable, often-times engrossing work, sensibly laid-out, agreeably illustrated, and convincingly argued in terms of advancing its point of view. But — and you knew this was coming — one gets the sense, at this point, that he’s settled into something of a rhythm with them, and could almost crank one of them out in his sleep.

Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to be interested in trying to do that, and a reasonable amount of effort and research clearly went into this extended anti-drug war polemic. It’s also probably worth noting, however, that he’s pretty much preaching to the choir with this one — and I do have to wonder how much of what’s contained in these 200-plus pages (which First Second has now deigned to publish in hardcover format, with a $24.95 price tag attached) is really going to be new to its readership, heavily immersed as many of them no doubt are in the minutiae of “cannabis culture.”

For my own part, not being much of a “pothead” these days myself (although I had a few distinct periods earlier in life where I was, not that I think that necessarily makes a huge difference to my reading of the material — I guess I’m just throwing my bona fides out there in case anyone wishes to reflexively dismiss this review as the product of a “square” critic), I found the book’s early going to be its most interesting part, given that the connection between cannabis and the Hindu myth of creation was something I knew nothing about, and ditto for the plant’s ubiquitousness (I realize that’s not actually a word, but give me a break — neither is “illegalization”) among the Aztecs post-Cortes. This stuff is really quite impressive, as is the clever and more idiosyncratic cartooning that Brown employs to convey these scenes of “ancient” history, a mix of his usual smartly-constructed figure drawings with Keith Haring-esque abstraction and dynamic mythical flights of fancy. So far, so damn good.

It’s when things got more contemporary — and more consequential — that, bizarrely, my interest began to wane a bit.

I’ll be the first to admit, however, that we’re very much into “your mileage may vary” territory at this point, as readers who have little to no idea of the racism that’s been part and parcel of the “drug war” since well before it was even labeled as such will probably find the “meat” of this book — you know, that whole “illegalization” aspect — quite fascinating, and more power to those folks. They’ll derive a ton more enjoyment out of this than I did, and probably walk away from it suitably furious at the travesty that “reefer madness” has always been. That’s clearly the reaction Brown’s aiming to elicit, and his grimly accurate depictions of such historical villains as original racist “drug warrior” Harry Anslinger, Richard Nixon, and Ron and Nancy Reagan will no doubt get the blood of any novices on the subject of weed history among the audience absolutely boiling. But, again, the question that pushes its way to the forefront of my mind is — how many people who aren’t intimately familiar with this shit are really going to bother picking this thing up in the first place?

Maybe I’m approaching everything too logically here — I figure that if I know most of this history already and I almost never get high anymore, the people who are really into “smoking out” are probably sure to know everything Brown relates here, and them some. If the book was called “Weed History For Dummies,” that’d be one thing, but as it’s pretty squarely aimed at the “stoner crowd,” I’m sort of failing to see why they really need a regurgitation of the litany of abuses, injustices, and deprivations unleashed in the name of cannabis prohibition. I don’t buy into the stereotype that it’s impossible to get “potheads” off their asses and motivated to act, but it seems to me that it’s going to take more than this “un-greatest hits” compilation to do the job.

I also have some qualms with Brown giving short shrift to the threats posed by the prison-industrial complex and the militarization of police, but he at least takes the time to rail against the absurdity of mandatory minimum drug sentences and to justly laud the efforts of various “buyer’s clubs” in providing assistance to folks who absolutely need medical marijuana to ease their suffering. There’s certainly plenty to admire here, not least of which is the sheer fluidity of the book’s narrative thrust, which sews a lot of seemingly-disparate threads together into a reasonably cohesive whole. No one can accuse this of being anything less than a highly competent piece of work.

And yet — nowhere does it feel inspired, and anyone who’s read any of Brown’s more personal comics knows that when he cuts his imagination loose, he’s one of the very best cartoonists working today. The strictures of the remit he’s operating within at First Second are beginning to feel like they’re hemming him in, and as generally solid as his work for them is — this book being no exception — this is still “it is what it is” stuff.

I’m appreciative of the fact that “what it is” consistently makes for good reading — and fairly brisk reading, as this book can probably be finished in just a few hours even if you’re high as a damn kite — but I’m ready to see Brown challenge himself again. When he does, I’ll be first in line to check out what he’s come up with — but as things stand, I think I may be “checking out” of his continuing efforts with First Second. I like it all just fine, but I’m more than ready to love Box Brown comics again.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only enables me to keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. There’s a lot of stuff up on there already, so rest assured that you’ll get great value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Tana Oshima’s “Vagabond” Heart

Here’s the thing — most “indie” comics creators, and even most “indie” comics readers, fancy themselves as “outsiders,” to one degree or another. Not only do we work on, or take pleasure from, an art form that is on the “margins,” but one that is on the very margins of those margins, divorced entirely from the industry that most people think of when they even do think of comics in the first place. When the small press and self-publishers are your “bag,” then you are, by both definition and default, “way out there.”

I think that sometimes we romanticize this “outsider” status, as well — I mean, we probably have to since none of us are in it for the money. We speak a secret language known only to us, one loaded with references and terminology those squares out there in the “straight world” could never understand. We’re interested in, writing about, making, or otherwise involved with a “scene” that is well and truly our own. I’m proud of how inclusive that “scene” has become in recent years, but who are we kidding? It’ll always be exclusive simply in terms of sheer numbers — because they’re so small. There’s no secret handshake or anything, it’s true, but there’s no real need for one : only a small handful of people will ever be into this stuff.

And yeah, that’s cool — it means we’re all automatically part of a community of like-minded cartoonists, readers, or both. We tend to “get” where out “fellow travelers” are coming from. We have different tastes, sure, but we’re all absolutely committed to a medium very few will ever bother to concern themselves with. And yeah, sue me, I think that’s pretty great.

It’s one thing not to fit in by choice, though, and another thing altogether to never even be given the option to do so.

In the 12 densely-packed pages of her 2019 self-published comics ‘zine Vagabond, Tana Oshima composes a kind of visual poetic monologue that cuts to the heart of not belonging, of knowing that one has and will never belong, of finding oneself on the other side of a societal firewall that won’t let her belong.

Whether or not she wants to “fit in” is almost immaterial — the point, eloquently expressed herein, is that she’s not allowed to.And I’m sorry, but there’s something fucked up about that.

As an exploration of imposed loneliness, Vagabond is almost without equal in terms of its impact — an economy of quickly-scrawled lines lends visual immediacy and balance to words that are obviously chosen with care and precision and that even employ, by accident or design, a kind of measured tempo and meter, the cumulative effect being that both visual and narrative “languages” coalesce into an organic whole that is certainly unique to Oshima’s own experience and perspective, but one that holds within it, and consequently expresses, something universally understood and felt. We’ve all “been there” so to speak — but we haven’t all lived there, as Oshima does. As she’s forced to.

Recurring motifs drawn directly from her subconscious accentuate her full-time “Exile On Main Street” reality, even if they may seem unreal on their face, but go with the flow here : you needn’t be an immigrant, a child of immigrants, or even within a few generations of immigrants to feel your way through Vagabond — you simply need to be open-minded and open-hearted enough to listen to a voice that too frequently goes unheard, one as valid as anyone else’s but very (hell, depressingly) often overlooked for the sake of a kind of monolithic commitment to convenience and to not being bothered. If this comic upsets you, seriously — get over your privilege, get over yourself, and get real. Tana Oshima keeps it real from first page to last, and has crafted one of the finest comics in years.

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You already know where you can get this, don’t you? Domino Books, of course, where it sells for $8. Here’s a link :http://dominobooks.org/vagabond.html

Also, this review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support, so if you’re feeling generous (not that it costs very much), please take a moment to check it out at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

They Really Do Say So Much : Summer Pierre’s “All The Sad Songs”

The connective tissue linking music and memory is very strong indeed — most of us can remember fairly clearly where we were and/or what we were doing the first time we heard a favorite song; hearing one we haven’t heard in years often takes us right back to what was going on in our lives during the period when it was in heavy rotation; feelings attach themselves to songs permanently, inflexibly, the record in question causing at the very least faint echoes of the same particular mood or frame of mind again and again and again.

But there’s a lot more to it than “that song always cheers me up” or “oh my God, this one  makes me think of  (insert former lover’s name)!” Melody and memory are so inextricably entwined that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients often respond to songs from their younger years while words and even tactile sensations have no effect on them. The union of the two is so powerful, in fact, that it might even be argued to be primal in nature — so the idea that a cartoonist would tell the story of her or his life (or a part of it, at any rate) by means of musically-anchored reminiscences seems like a natural. And there’s probably no one better qualified to make such a conceit work than Summer Pierre.

The auteur behind Paper Pencil Life hails from a musically-rich family background, and is no stranger to singing, songwriting, and guitar-playing herself, but her own personal musical journey isn’t precisely what her 2018 debut full-length graphic novel, the Retrofit/Big Planet-published  All The Sad Songs, is about. Rather, it’s about how music has shaped her life on the one hand, how her life has shaped her shifting taste in, and relationship to, music on the other — and how the two have become symbiotic halves that make up the whole of her identity and existence.

Put like that it probably sounds more grandiose than Pierre ever intended it to be, but this is truly an ambitious and innovative graphic memoir about her life in the early 1990s, a period that saw her move from California to Boston, follow her musical inclinations into the city’s open mic “scene,” and subsequently attempt to navigate her way through a series of interpersonal relationships that largely sprung from it. Nothing, perhaps, terribly ground-breaking on paper, but it is the method that is key here.

It’s not only her own music that informs these proceedings, you see, far from it : Pierre also affixes events in time in around albums that were contemporary with them and, even more interestingly, she extracts rich veins of memory from the mix tapes that she made for people she knew (for you youngsters out there this is how we used to do it in the days before slapping together a playlist for someone — it took hours, and was often a genuine labor of love) and the ones that they, in turn, made for her. She has many of these tapes to this day and literally remembers people through music, while also remembering songs in relation to the people who introduced them to her.

I made brief mention of the relationships Pierre forged while part of the Boston folk milieu, and much of this book’s dramatic tension stems from the fact that, it has to be said, not all of them were entirely healthy — and it’s one particularly tumultuous one that not only leaves her suffering from PTSD, but re-evaluating her relationship with music altogether, eventually setting her on an entirely different path of creative expression. There’s a wistful tone to this work on the whole, as one would expect given its subject matter and essential character, but this de facto “break-up” with something woven so deeply into the metaphorical “DNA” of her being — hell, of her soul, if you prefer such a term — borders on the harrowing, and whether or not she makes it through with a new, healthier perspective or ends up a shadow of her former self seems very much an open question for a time. It’s probably not “spoiling” things to say that it all works out in the end, but it’s a difficult and painful period that’s communicated with admirable, even disarming, emotional honesty — and keep in mind this is a comic that places readers pretty deeply inside the cartoonist’s mind and heart more or less from the outset! So, yeah, like all lovers worth remembering, music puts Pierre through the wringer.

Her new medium of choice is sure proving to be an inspired one for her, though, it must be said — Pierre is one of those rare artists who uses every last millimeter of space in every panel to communicate information visually, her detailed cross-hatching, thick black shading, and precise rendition of minor details forming a highly emotive backdrop for her naturalistic figure drawings, and the candor and un-pretentiousness of her narrative tone is mirrored perfectly in the faces of her characters, each a truly singular individual with expressive reactions and mannerisms utterly unique unto them. Even the folks we meet briefly make an impression — go ahead, say it, just like a lot of songs.

I’ll be the first to admit that the fact I’m roughly the same age as Summer Pierre may go some way toward explaining why this book resonated so deeply, even indelibly, with me — I remember these times, I was young then myself, and there’s a character and ethos to the “slacker” or “Generation X” years that simply can’t be communicated with any sort of authenticity by someone who wasn’t a part of it. But you know what? None of the music Pierre was into was anything I could even remotely stand. I was heavy into black metal and post-industrial stuff back then, with a smattering of misanthropic “power electronics” on the side. I fucking hated “grunge” (except for Nirvana) as well as the popular acoustic singer-songwriters of the time — and I still do. Yet All The Sad Songs still knocked me for a loop, and not just for the overwhelming sense of nostalgia it engendered — nope, I was (and remain) in awe of the work of one of the very best cartoonists in the here and now, one who is fully arriving into her own and knows how to make every one of her pages sing.

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This review, and all others around here, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only allows me to keep things going, it also enables me to keep on providing plenty of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Please take a minute to have a look and consider joining up at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/07/2019 – 04/13/2019

Welcome to another Weekly Reading Round-Up, where first issues aren’t just a job, they’re a way of life. Here’s another four, from this Wednesday last —

Faithless #1 comes our way from Boom! Studios and the writer/artist team of Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet, and it’s kind of hard to get a handle on what this one’s even about, much less where it’s going. A kind of occult take on the “erotic thriller,” I guess, revolving around an amateur practitioner of the magick arts named (big surprise) Faith, who makes herself a mysterious new “special friend,” gets pretty intimate with her pretty fast, and then — well, shit gets weird. Azzarello struggles to write youthful characters with any kind of authenticity, and he also struggles with the balance between erotic and prurient, so the whole story ends up feeling more than just a bit “off.” Boom! is going all-in on the variant cover hustle to move units with this one, one of which is an opaque-wrapped number by Tula Lotay, but Llovet’s vaguely Paul Pope-influenced art is strong enough on its own for no gimmicks to really be necessary — unfortunately, it’s wasted on a substandard, confused script that provides nothing so much as further evidence that Azzarello just ain’t what he used to be.

Orphan Age #1 is another Aftershock debut, this one from Ted Anderson and Nuno Plati, and while it didn’t knock my socks off or anything, it seems at least reasonably promising, even if its central its central premise seems like a riff on Liz Suburbia’s Sacred Heart, only this time the adults didn’t all split, they died. Now it’s 20 years later, and the kids they left behind are all grown up and trying to rebuild civilization. An outfit known as the New Church has risen to fill the power vacuum, and it looks like our protagonists make up a makeshift resistance movement against the rising tide of religious totalitarianism. The story here is fairly well-paced and involving, the art has a pleasing animation cel look to it, and the core concept is fairly wide open, so what the hell — I’m game to give it a few more issues and see where the whole thing goes.

Fairlady #1 marks the start of a new fantasy/adventure series from Image scripted by Brian Schirmer and drawn by Claudia Balboni that offers a complete, self-contained story in each issue with plenty of backmatter material at the end fleshing out their imaginary realm of The Feld. The art brings to mind Scott Godlweski’s work on Copperhead and is just as as good, and the story, centered on a private eye by the name of Jenner Faulds, is a fun and smartly-written yarn that grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go until the end. I really love the idea of each installment telling a full tale with a beginning, middle, and end of its own, I dig the intricate “world-building” that’s going on, and there are some relevant feminist political messages under-girding the action that have clear and obvious real-world parallels. Count me as being along for the ride with this one.

She Could Fly : The Lost Pilot #1 is our “saving the best for last” entry this time around, as Dark Horse/Berger Books take us back into the world created by Christopher Cantwell and Martin Morazzo, picking up some months after the first series as Luna returns home from her stay in a mental health facility and tries to re-integrate into her school while solving the mystery of the flying woman that she just can’t shake. What’s up with her grandmother? What’s up with her dad? And which one of our cast members from last time comes to a sudden and violent end? There are intrigues galore in this comic, Morazzo’s finely-detailed art is gorgeous as always, and Cantwell does a nice job of weaving his larger points about mental health into a very solid, expansive storyline. One of the best mainstream books of last year returns, better than ever.

And thus we reach the end of another week loaded with new number ones. Which leaves us with the usual item of “housekeeping” at the tail end of things, your constant reminder that this column is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only helps keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. I would be very pleased to have your support, so if you feel so inclined, please take a moment to check it out and consider joining by heading over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Adventures In Post-Modern Lethargy : Julian Glander’s “3D Sweeties”

Somewhere on a colorful and computer-generated plane of existence, a semblance of “life” trudges along, oddly familiar in both tone and content to the world we know : the denizens navigate their way through a media-saturated landscape, waste too much time on the internet, immerse themselves in various fan “communities,” celebrate the vacuous non-achievements of both themselves and complete strangers, and attempt to forge communication and connection with others — but give up when it proves to be too daunting, time-consuming, or both.

As the Dead Kennedys once said, “give me convenience or give me death”! Oh, and a little bit of attention wouldn’t hurt, either.

Welcome to Julian Glander’s 3D Sweeties, just unleashed upon the comics-reading public via Fantagraphics (in a suitably innovative three-dimensional “hard”cover package) and capitalizing on its author’s recent wave of exposure on Vice, in the pages of Now, etc. The prosaic has met the Purple Slime Mold, and shit’s about to get real — for the unreal.

Clocking it at 176 pages, this collection of short strips — all of which are thematically interconnected even if only a handful are narratively — is pretty much exactly the right length ; enough to keep you consistently amazed by, and intrigued with, what this 3D artist comes up with next, but not overstaying its welcome. A key element of Glander’s work is its sheer innovation, and nothing seems innovative once you get well and truly used to it. Even another 20 pages may have run the risk of this stuff seeming “old hat,” and that simply won’t do when staying a step ahead of expectations and even sensibilities is crucial to a book’s very reason for being.

Kudos to the editors, then, but let’s save most of the praise for the cartoonist himself, whose deadpan observations play off his off-kilter humor to tremendous effect, making the satirizing of frankly pretty easy targets — gaming streams, consumerism, work avoidance — seem considerably more fresh, exciting, and interesting than it probably has any particular right to be at this point.

It’s funny how the old can not only seem, but be made, new when it’s conveyed by the likes of Cuppy the coffee cup, wannabe YouTube “star” Susan Something, and the aforementioned Purple Slime Molds, and while the flavor, subject matter, and even “person”ages in these strips will seem awfully familiar to those who’ve read Becca Tobin’s Understanding, Glander has a singular outlook that would differentiate his work from Tobin’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter), even absent the 180-degree shift in terms of his medium of choice. It’s impossible, in other words, to envision these strips as anything other than 3D computer rendering — and they really wouldn’t work as anything else, either.

By way of example — on a purely logical level, we all know that neglecting eating and sleeping for hours on end because one can’t tear oneself away from social media or a gaming livestream is absurd on its face, but such things have become so commonplace in this day and age that it’s easy to forget how weird (to say nothing of unhealthy) they really are. Having globular, pastel-hued CGI creatures do it, though, reminds us all over again.

There’s an argument to be made, I suppose, that communicating a critique of the virtual “world” by means of its own tools is a bit too self-consciously ironic for its own good, but I think people who go right to that metaphorical “card” are missing the point — 3D Sweeties works because, even though we mere humans don’t appear in its pages too terribly often, there’s nothing more bizarre than the lengths we’ll go to in order to keep ourselves entertained, enthralled, infatuated, or even just distracted. Anything to avoid focusing on who we are what the hell we’re doing with our lives, I guess.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only allows me to keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. I’d be immensely gratified if you’d take a moment, check things out, and consider joining up.  Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I’d be very pleased to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse