Weekly Reading Round-Up : 11/19/2017 – 11/25/2017

I survived the abomination that was Doomsday Clock #1 by the slimmest of margins, and with that in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take a look at stuff that arrived at my LCS or via the USPS this week that I actually liked

The fifth and latest self-published issue of Alex Graham’s magazine-sized solo series Cosmic BE-ING (yes, that’s how you spell it), originally solicited for Winter 2016, is finally here, and to say that this lady is one of the most intriguing cartoonists in the small press scene these days is an understatement of quasi-criminal proportions. Graham’s juxtaposition of the otherworldly and the mundane is meticulously delineated by means of painfully intricate “head-trip” designs and a keen eye for everyday observation. No one else is even trying to do the sort of comics Graham does; she truly exists in a sub-genre unto herself. This time out the third installment of her long-form strip “Angloid” takes center stage, as protagonist Angela Lloyd falls behind on her rent and struggles in ways both comical and poignant to make ends meet without completely compromising her much-vaunted (to herself, at any rate) artistic integrity. Singularly brilliant stuff, more than worth the $7.00 cover price. Get it from John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half or from Graham directly at http://cosmicbeing.storenvy.com/

Cash Grab! is an amazing mix-n’-match selection of miscellany from the mind of the great Aaron Lange — portraiture, sketches, discarded strips, gags, old stuff, new stuff — it’s tough to predict what’s going to be on the next page, but you know it’s going to be something interesting, hilarious, disturbing, disgusting, or maybe even gorgeous. Hell, it’s often most, even all, of these things in combination. Lange’s in the process of relocating from Philly back to Cleveland — let’s hope and pray his creative output only increases once he’s back in his old stomping grounds. You can (and by all means should) get all six issues of this ‘zine for the bargain price of $25.00 from https://thecomixcompany.ecrater.com/

I’m always curious to see what Marvel and DC do with Jack Kirby characters and concepts that have been sitting on the shelf for awhile — usually to my regret. But, sucker that I am, I keep coming back, and there’s literally no way I’m gonna pass on a new Etrigan series, even if I should. Fortunately, writer Andrew Constant, penciler Brad Walker, and inker Andrew Hennessy serve up something more than a bit interesting in the first chapter of new six-parter The Demon : Hell Is Earth, which sees Jason Blood hiding out from his other self out in the middle of Death Valley — and at the bottom of a Jack Daniel’s bottle. A nuclear explosion might (okay, does) change his plans, though, as does an approaching Madame Xanadu, who’s now apparently a Harley rider. Constant’s script is briskly-paced, his characterization is fairly solid (if revisionist), and the premise seems kinda cool. The Walker/Hennessy art is big, bold, brash, dynamic, and has some nice Kirby-esque touches, like squaring off Etrigan’s fingers. I’ll probably stick with this one all the way through.

For whatever reason, Tim Seeley always seems to do his best work at Vertigo, and if the standard of this first issue is kept up, the same will be true for Imaginary Fiends, his new mini-series done in collaboration with artist Stephen Molnar. Rolling with the premise that childhood “imaginary” friends are quite real, but only visible to a select few, a traumatized and incarcerated Minnesota teen finds herself recruited by the FBI to join up with a paranormal-esque unit that investigates crimes committed by these other-dimensional entities — one of whom, to her chagrin, is joined with to at the hip. This is the kind of old-school Vertigo horror story that grabs you from the word go and reels you in page by page, scene by scene, “reveal” by “reveal.” Molnar’s art is smartly constructed, realistic with just enough of the wispy and ethereal, and his character design for ghoulish apparition Peachpit Polly is brilliant in its simplicity. Special “props” also go out to colorist Quinton Winter, who did an amazing job on Clean Room, and does the same here.

I think that should be more than enough to keep you (assuming there is a “you” out there that puts any stock in this weekly opining of mine) busy for the time being — next week’s a “fifth week,” which means that the output from the major publishers is going to be rather minimal, but I should still have plenty to talk about thanks to a few packages headed my way that’ll be showing up at my doorstep any day here. See you back here in seven days!



Weekly Reading Round-Up : 11/12/2017 – 11/18/2017

Next week DC promises to “change everything we thought we knew about the universe” or somesuch bullshit with their wretchedly insulting Doomsday Clock cash-grab, so before that hits let’s take a look at what the final week of the world as we used to know it had to offer, shall we? Time for another dive into what LCS and the US Postal Service brought my way —

I’ve never been able to get a firm handle on Tim Seeley, finding his stuff to be wildly up and down (often within the same series — I’m looking at you Revival), but when he’s on, he’s on. Before it had a premature and all-too-convenient “ending” forced on it, Effigy was shaping up into something flat-out amazing, and given that some of the same themes of media obsession and instant celebrity seemed to be at the heart of Brilliant Trash, the new series he’s scripting for Aftershock, I decided to give it a go. So far,though, results — as well as my opinion — are decidedly mixed.

For one thing, it’s not clear who our protagonist even is here — at first it appears to be a masked super-being calling herself “Lady Last Word,” whose outright obliteration of the Old City of Jerusalem goes as “viral” as you’d expect it would, but then we meet an internet “journalist” who’s looking to find out all she can about the incident (and its perpetrator), and in turn we’re introduced to a “frenemy” competitor of hers and the focus seems to shift yet again. The pacing is nicely frenetic, the political content reasonably though-through, and the dialogue and characterization both sharp and smart — but if this turns out to be just another “what would it be like if super-heroes were real?” story, albeit one for the so-called “internet age,” count me as being among the unimpressed. The first- issue “cliffhanger” seems to imply that’s the direction we’re heading in, but I’ll give it one more installment — and four more bucks — just to make sure. Newcomer Priscilla Petraites does a nice job with the art, shifting moods and styles subtly according to the dictates of each scene and delineating perceptual differences between what’s “really” happening and what’s “only” playing out on computer screens with admirable ease, so hey, there’s that.

I’d never dived into Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey’s Jenny Finn before, but now that Dark Horse is re-issuing it in single-issue format with coloring by Dave Stewart, what the hell, I’m game to give it a go. Part one establishes its time period, locale, and personages amazingly well, Mignola’s plotting is tight, and Nixey (who really should direct another movie, goddamnit — Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark was all kinds of creepy fun), while betraying a bit of Sam Kieth influence at the margins, has an art style that’s heavy on the atmospherics but not at the expense of his human (I think, at any rate) characters, all of whom look incredibly unique and are instantly memorable. Jack The Ripper meets The Shadow Over Innsmouth? I’m down for four issues of that, no problem. This one’s well worth both your time and $3.99.

Brian Canini sent some more of his Drunken Cat Comics-published minis my way (for which I’m thankful), and if there’s one among them I’d rank as a “must-buy” it would be Blirps, a surrealistic collection of drop-dead hilarious one-page strips featuring long-necked, tentacled, mechanical monsters all plagued by various debilitating neuroses and illustrated in Canini’s engaging minimalist style. I don’t know if they live on a planet of their own or here on Earth, as they’re occasionally seen interacting with us mere mortals, but it doesn’t really matter, anyway — juxtaposing the bizarre with the all-too-familiar is the order of the day here, both physically and psychologically, and the results border on the downright sublime. $1.99 for eight full-color pages is a pretty solid (enough) deal in today’s small-press scene, so I have no reservations whatsoever about giving this one a full-throated (and even fuller-necked) recommendation.

Less successful is Glimpses Of Life, a continuation of Canini’s diary comics, now four issues in and focused more or less exclusively on the early-days development of newborn daughter Izzy. Don’t get me wrong, I have no beef whatsoever with the subject matter, but a cartoonist’s diary is one of the rare exceptions to my “floppies are a better format than trades and/or graphic novels” rule. As I mentioned a week or two back in my pretty-damn-glowing review of the same author’s The Big Year, it really does take a good 30 or so pages to get into the flow of how he approaches the entire exercise of diary cartooning, and any chronicle of day-to-day life is going to benefit from being absorbed in big chunks rather than small simply because so many of the subtle changes a person goes through seep in slowly over time. The 16-page format here simply doesn’t give one adequate opportunity to “get in the groove” given that you’re done reading the thing in five minutes and, essentially, nothing has happened.

Which probably sounds like a more harsh condemnation than I mean it to, now that I think about it, so let me just say this — when Canini collects all this stuff into a single volume I’ll absolutely buy it and just as absolutely enjoy it (at least if past performance is anything to go by), but three bucks a pop for these short installments? I can’t really give that a “thumbs-up.” I also hope that he comes up with a better title for the inevitable collection, as well, because Glimpses Of Life, while certainly accurate, is too precious and cloying for its own good.

Okay, that’s enough for this time around, I think — see you back here on the other side of the Superman vs. Doctor Manhattan dust-up that nobody (at least nobody in their right mind) was asking for.