THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (8/18/10 – Brendan McCarthy! Shaky Kane! Émile Bravo! The Image Founders! Grapes!)
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
In an effort to maintain some continuity between these little(?) post introductions, I’ll note that the same Dark Fantasy Productions I mentioned last week had at one point planned to publish the work of Croatian-born Danijel Zezelj, who at that point had just recently arrived in the United States. Specifically, they were going to release an American edition of his 1995 book Rex, a crime comic about a hulking ex-cop smashing out of prison to exact revenge on the people that ruined his life. The material was finally released in a North American edition in 2008 by Optimum Wound Comics, which also posted it online; there’s some interesting mixed media stuff going on with some pages, and an extended coda that seeks to hoist the content entirely into some oddball poetry space.
Zezelj had developed a lot since then; the image above is from one of my favorite recent finds, the artist’s 2004 short comics collection Caballo, published in English by Petikat, the art workshop he co-founded. The image above is from Reflex – Marinara, one of five segments in the book named after an earlier project, 2003′s graphic novel and live performance piece Reflex. These shorts are wordless, typically exercising some interest in comics pacing, or perspective; as seen above, the readers perspective seems to zoom in incredibly close to Zezelj’s representational slashes of image, abstracting the scene until briefly backing away to reveal a different image, one apparently suggested by the preceding abstract image. This is the sequence, perhaps improvisatory, but keenly unified: scenes flickering in and out of solidity.
But Caballo on the whole functions more as catalog of Zezelj’s formidable adaptability, which has assured him places in Marvel and DC comic books and graphic novels, typically working with scriptwriters in a pared-down, heavily shadowed representational style, often washed over in monochrome – like David Lloyd with edges you might cut yourself on. Zezelj’s Petikat work, in contrast, even material adapted from a Jurij Olesha novel or positioned under text by Moreno Miorelli, seems considerably more restless. Playful too: one story deliberately evokes his old Rex, as an anthropomorphic tiger in a trench coat pursues a mission of vengeance against a zookeeper. Here, even the Reflex stories explore varied arrangements of storytelling:
This is controlled gridwork, following a variety of characters on their business until they notice an aircraft flying overhead – the solid black panels indicate scene breaks, punctured in the end by the child’s mask tearing through the blackness itself for his own look. Are they looking for escape? Are they doomed, like the sky watchers at the close of Roy Andersson’s movie You, the Living? Zezelj only studies interruption here, his child’s ripped-out gaze opposing the annihilative connotation of those black panels, yet there remains an ominous tone, perhaps soaked in from another story:
Now those planes carry an unmistakable threat, high over the matchstick metropolis, a city of kids playing deadly hockey with razor sticks and a heroic young girl hunting soldiers to win their medals – a childlike adaptation of its own, of violence’s presence in a continuing war. All the while, Zezelj’s art grows colder the more detailed it becomes; it’s as if drawing closer to depicting ‘reality’ in an illustrative manner forces a greater acknowledgment of violent struggle. The artist’s brushy smudges, in contrast, form a liquidic reality less observed than sensed, a sweeter realm of the subjective, becoming ecstatic in abstraction. But Zezelj can’t stay there, and neither can we.
Speaking of staying, here’s a few new tenants of your (or someone’s) local comic book shop:
Sammy the Mouse #3: Yes, now is the week of new Ignatz comics from Fantagraphics/Coconino Press (Ignatz #36-39, in case you like filing these like your Marvel Graphic Novels) – oversized (8.5″ x 11″) dustjacketed 32-page deluxe comic books. My first choice would be the new issue from Zak Sally, again following slightly mutated cartoon archetypes through a series of journeys and conversations apparently at the beck and call of persuasive, godly forces; $7.95.
Grotesque #4 (of 4): Other series are wrapping up their finite runs, like this Sergio Ponchione suite of small character studies, mostly reprised from earlier issues, mostly concerning dissatisfaction over life’s elusive meanings – dynamic visuals both segregate Ponchione’s characters from one another (spatially, design-wise) and suggest a unity of anxiety across varied human experiences. Fun cartooning, at the very least; $7.95.
Interiorae #4 (of 4): Also concluding – Gabriella Giandelli‘s story of an apartment building and the mystic cartoon forces that serve as its roving eyes and the roiling collective unconsciousness of its stressed, depressed, idle tenants; $7.95.
Niger #3: And still ongoing – a lushly scratched sociological allegory by Leila Marzocchi, not entirely unlike Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions in its gathering of woodland creatures to discuss odd happenings, but more whimsical and ‘cartooned,’ despite a real lingering atmosphere of threat; $7.95.
Little Lulu’s Pal Tubby Vol. 1: The Castaway and Other Stories: Your fun-for-all-ages reprint of the week and the start of another Dark Horse run at the venerable Marjorie Henderson Buell naughty children franchise, as related to comics great John Stanley. Specifically, this 224-page color book collects issues #1-6 of Marge’s Tubby, a spin-off (begun in 1952) of Dell’s primary Marge’s Little Lulu comic book series, focusing on rotund boy character Tubby Tompkins. It also proved to be a focus on Stanley, who both writes and draws much of the material collected here (as opposed to his prolonged collaboration with artist Irving Tripp on the Lulu series proper). Preview; $15.99.
Seedless: Or, if you prefer your fit-for-all-ages comics in a modern style, here’s a new Image collection of a pulsing-color webcomic by Corey S. Lewis, specialist in manga & gaming-informed action projects like Sharknife and Peng! – expect lots of movement for its own sake, characters all but throwing themselves against panels, posing and quipping, even despite the modular page-based construction of this particular serial. Living grapes team up with a human girl to stop an additionally grape-based alien invasion; $12.99.
Goldilocks and the Seven Squat Bears: Oh what a wonderful time your children live in! Manga specialists Yen Press here present a 32-page, 9.5″ x 7″ wacky children’s book by no less than Émile Bravo, of assorted MOME shorts and the well-received Fanfare/Ponent Mon release My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill. It looks to be a takeoff on fairy story stuff (published in France in 2004), with two sequels already in existence and a third on the way in October; $14.99.
Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story: Being a new hardcover crime comic from Vertigo — although not, apparently, part of the Vertigo Crime line of hardcover comics — from writer Mat Johnson (of the 2008 Vertigo suspense production Incognegro) and artist Simon Gane. A pair of losers paroled in Texas decide that Hurricane Katrina marks the perfect opportunity to invade a flooded city for a bank robbery, although sinister forces in authority’s costume may have similar ideas. Preview; $24.99.
Sweets #2 (of 5): But that’s not all the shit going down in Louisiana! Thibodaux native Kody Chamberlain also has this Image miniseries, also a crime story, also set in New Orleans, but broadly cast over mourning detectives, dirty prosecutors, strange doodled interludes and a recipe for pecan pralines. Preview; $2.99.
The Bulletproof Coffin #3 (of 6): Lots of Image stuff this week, actually. Here’s that Shaky Kane/David Hine issue you’ve been waiting for. Preview; $3.99.
The Weird World of Jack Staff #4: Or why not some Paul Grist in glorious full color? Preview; $3.50.
Image United #3 (of 6): Or how about as hard a ’90s throwback as you can get, with all the Image founders (minus Jim Lee) jamming on a gigantic superhero team-up contraption scripted by non-founding Image partner Robert Kirkman. I am contractually obligated to note that the delays in production are period authentic! Preview; $3.99.
Age of Heroes #4 (of 4): BRENDAN MCCARTHY ALERT!! Yes, this is another one of those Marvel miniseries that actually forms a themed anthology — the theme here being ‘adventures of random characters in the Marvel Universe’ Heroic Age status quo, which is a status quo involving superheroic acts occurring in the Marvel Universe — and among this final issue’s participants is the good BM, working on Captain America in collaboration with Daily Show contributing writer Elliott Kalan. ***PLUS*** The suddenly omnipresent Nathan Fox reunites with Dark Reign: Zodiac cohort Joe Casey for an update on that particular character’s whereabouts. Ty Templeton’s in this too! Samples; $3.99.
The Spirit #5: RELATED (sort of) – Your multi-story DC comic with a veteran artist on board number one of the week – Michael Wm. Kaluta draws the Spirit, from a script by David Lapham. Note that David Hine (of The Bulletproof Coffin, in case you’ve forgotten) is writing the main feature, with continuing art by Moritat (of Image’s Elephantmen); $3.99.
DC Universe: Legacies #4 (of 10): And number two – the latest installment in writer Len Wein’s updated man-on-the-street tour of the present continuity, noteworthy here for a new Sgt. Rock story by Joe Kubert (sans son Andy, who pencilled Kubert’s contributions to issues #1 and 2). Also featuring Teen Titans stuff with José Luis García-López & Dave Gibbons; $3.99.
The Boys: Highland Laddie #1 (of 6): A ‘new’ project from Garth Ennis & John McCrea, actually a background-filling tie-in to Ennis’ ongoing superhero decadence series The Boys, which, if the last Boys-related miniseries is any indication, might just function as a means of publisher Dynamite putting the series out bi-weekly for a while with alternating storyline chapters; $3.99.
Hellblazer #270: Peter Milligan, still writing the adventures of John Constantine and Shade, the Changing Man; $2.99.
Ex Machina #50: And finally, I can’t say I’ve been following this Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris political action superhero series for a few years now; its mix of flashback-fueled suspense novel plotting and bluntly declarative social issues debate, visualized through Harris’ increasingly stiff, broadly-’acted’ character drawings, eventually just wore me out. But I know it’s got a lot of energetic admirers, and I know there’s been a wait going down the end run here, so here’s your notice as to the double-sized concluding chapter; $4.99.