My sincerest apologies for the tardiness of the first impressions this week! There was a bumper crop of comics last week, coupled with a lot more life happening to me than usual. Thank you for your patience!
Best Comics this week:
Princess Ugg #2
Atomic Robo: Knights of the Golden Circle #3
Eye of Newt #2 – With a name like Newt, I should have realized that this is a tale of Arthur Pendragon. This comic continues to be a wonderful adventure in what feel like the now-lost style of the great fantasy novels of the 70’s. The art is far from perfect, but in this case, that only adds to the nostalgia factor. Some of these creatures could have crawled directly from the pages of the first edition D&D monster manual. The pace is still brisk, but that suits the overall feeling of the story just fine. There’s a little bit of the old school here that I don’t like, such as one female character (and a rude one at that) amongst a sea of male characters, but I am more willing to tolerate that kind of ridiculousness in the face of everything else this book has to offer.
Bad Dog TP vol. 1 – I wasn’t too excited for this one based on the description, but the introduction page gave me hope. There were some references to some anime in there – good anime, like Cowboy Bebop – and the first 20 pages or so gave off a bit of a Porco Rosso vibe as well, what with the main character who has chosen and animal form and refuses to change back due to a lack of faith in humanity. By the time I was halfway through, it became woefully apparent that this book was more about a lot of cheap jokes about poop, homosexuality, fat women, old women, racists, and as much profanity as possible than it was about any sort of soul-searching plot. The main character does actually have a few meritous moments of self-reflection, but they are few and far between, and I have little patience for the amount of garbage in between. Dudebros and 13-year-olds will rejoice at this book, but I happily closed it.
Cap’N Dinosaur One-Shot – Well, that was a surreal homage to all sorts of things rolled into one redonk adventure. The love for old school comics, crime shows, the original batman tv series, and monster movies permeates the pages of this retro-adventure set in the cold war era. No tribute to golden age comics would be complete without a tribute to the ads they had for all kinds of mail-order schlock, as is evidenced by the sea monkey right there on the front cover. I dug it.
Dark Engine #1 – Does your life not have enough naked chick monsters dismembering other monsters in it? Then have I got the book for you!! Seriously though; the death-dealing nudey who fills most of the pages of this comic is actually a creature who was conjured to assassinate some as-yet-unrevealed person or persons. In the meantime, she kills everything else she comes across. There are a few other characters in this first comic, the appearance of which demonstrates that the artist does not understand how tears or pants work. (Maybe that explains the main character’s state of undress…) Soooooooooo like I said, you want to see some stuff get chopped up by lady with no clothes on? This is your dream comic!
Manifest Destiny #8 – Manifest Destiny : The Survival Horror issue, featuring more deadly creatures than Australia on steroids. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but the crew does seem to be accosted from all sides in this ish, and there’s a definitely tone shift from previous issues. It’s almost as if the writer decided that their readers might not want to stick around for the excellent long game they’ve been playing and threw in some instant gratification for the A.D.D. readership. There’s no lapse in quality though; another excellent chapter.
The Wicked + The Divine #2 - Well, this issue wasn’t nearly as interesting as the first one was. Satan has a few great one-liners, but I’m worried that she’s going to devolve into nothing but a cheap shot factory based on the rest of the story presented here. The first issue had drama with purpose, and was clever. This issue had drama for the sake of drama, and didn’t really go anywhere. The cliffhanger on the last page was more disappointing than anything else. It’s early in the series, though, so I’ll give the next one a shot.
Adventure Time #30 – A great stand-alone issue! Marceline’s “zine” ish is as varied and awesome as the yearly Adventure Time Annuals. Honestly, it’s worth buying for the note from Marceline alone, and that part isn’t even comics!
Anomal GN – Cute yokai stories! In a market that seems to be overwhelmed with mediocre yokai-centric manga, this one really holds its own. There’s some laughable anatomy here, but the storytelling is strong enough to make this book a keeper.
Atomic Robo & The Knights of the Golden Circle #3 - I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am, dear readers, at the turn this arc just took. Not only did the color palette expand, but reading it was a pure joy from start to finish. That classic robo humor finally made an appearance, and the action was thrilling in that robot-in-a-gunfight way that robo does so well. Bliss! (Spoiler alert: I think Robo is going to have a commander data-esque adventure through time.)
Auteur #5 – One billion points for the utterly ridiculous and completely fictitious spider in this book, “The jamaican rasta widow”. This comic was completely insane from start to finish. I rarely enjoy something that goes out of its way to be ludicrous, but in this case, I loved it. It was disgusting. It was perfect. It was perfectly disgusting.
Black Market #1 – This book is FULL of shock value violence. The base description makes it seem like it’s all about the moral quandary of sacrificing one life for many, but the execution belies the true purpose, which is to show people suffering. The very concept - that the cure for many diseases lies in the blood of superheroes, but those heroes are not willing to give that blood - is flawed, and reveals that either one of characters is obviously lying, or the whole premise is garbage. Either way, I don’t really care to find out.
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds GN - Bryan Lee O’Malley excels at writing immature characters who make horrible decisions that land them in intensely awkward (if not downright deadly) situations, and Seconds is no exception. O’Malley’s name in the title belies the fact that the publisher is hoping pure notoriety will sell this book to Scott Pilgrim fans. I did enjoy the first few volumes of Scott Pilgrim, but as it wore on, I really wanted to punch Scott in the face. Though the overarching story in this book is completely different, the same thing happened again, i.e., I wanted to smack some sense into the protagonist.
Seconds provides some interesting commentary on regret, romantic relationships, friendships, and growing up, but it is practically mitigated by sheer volume of selfishness the main character exudes. I almost felt like I was just reading another story about Scott, only he had been reskinned.
O’Malley’s skill in both storytelling and art is undeniable, but his books are not my favorites for the same reason that I don’t watch romcoms or sitcoms; I don’t enjoy seeing people suffer through awkwardness of their own manufacture. I’m the kind of person who feels embarrassed FOR and WITH the people on the screen. The same thing happened when I read this book. The fact that it generated so many emotions in me is a testament to the power of his writing, but they weren’t feelings that I enjoyed. I wanted to grab the main character by the shoulders and shake her, but his character development was so complete that I know it wouldn’t work, even if I could.
In the end, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I want to acknowledge the strength of the craftsmanship that went into this book, but there was definitely a “more of the same” feeling about it. I loved the cute art and the supernatural elements, but the protagonist was just so damned stupid that I wanted to throw the book across the room. O’Malley likes a train wreck piloted by a supremely self-centered character, and that is what he serves up here. If this book was a restaurant, I don’t think I’d go back.
The Last Broadcast #3 – That’s it. The art in this book is just unforgivable. When your work is so damned dark and blurry, I can’t even make out what an object is until character mentions the item 3 pages later (it was a stun gun, btw), you’ve failed the visual half of the medium that is comics. When you depict the movement of the characters with sound effects rather than actual art – same conclusion. The few splattered colors of the muddy palette serve to fill the vast, empty white spaces that would otherwise fill this book. The faces of individuals are left completely uncolored, giving the unnerving impression of a bunch of floating heads and highlighting their lack of facial structure. Combine that with pages of exposition from the characters, and I’m officially done.
Lust TP – I’m not a fan of this style of comic at all; a lot of dark, muddy, sometimes abstract full-page illustrations overlaid with text. There are two distinct stories here. One appears to actually be paired with the images; the other does not. I gave it a little bit of a read before putting it back on the shelf.
My Little Pony #21 - I’m not a fan of the round rubber ball look the artist chose to depict the ponies, nor did I find this arc particularly exciting. I guess Trixie is going to be a major player in the comics, because she just keeps showing up. Looking forward to whatever arc comes after this one.
One is Enough GN - This is the worst kind of fanfic-y, tropey BL manga. The quality of the writing and art is so poor, I’m shocked that it was picked up by any sort of publisher. Gen should have left this one underground.
Princess Ugg #2 – Ted Naifeh knocks it out of the park with this second issue. The unique timbre that he lends to all of his works comes through loud and clear in through the actions and dialogue of all of the characters, but especially those of the judgmental, petty princesses that surround the main character. The concept of a strong character faced with an enemy that she cannot overcome by physical means is a fascinating one. Naifeh’s works typically champion an underdog, but this is the first time that the underdog has started in a place of strength and suffered a loss of such strength for social reasons. I don’t want to shower too much praise on a book that is only in its second issue, but I am currently in love with Princess Ugg.
Ringworld GN part 1 – I never read the original novel by Larry Niven, so I had no idea what to expect from this comic. The first few pages absolutely reeked of classic sci-fi, so I was not surprised at all to learn that the prose book was written in the 70’s. Unfortunately, like a lot of old-school fantasy, there’s only one female character in this book, who (I discovered after some page flipping) hooks up with the attractive human male main character not too far along in the story. She’s also invited along on this very special mission of elites as a “good luck charm.” The other two members of the team are, of course, wonky aliens. This book may be a classic, but I don’t have the patience for writing like this anymore. As for the art, it’s acceptable, but not great.
Sanctum HC – Survival horror. Wants very badly to be a movie, which I was able to confirm by the afterword touting its cinematic qualities and how much the writer believes it belongs on the big screen. Further reading of this afterword reveals that the writer was deeply influenced by many films, including The Abyss, The Hunt For Red October, Alien, and Crimson Tide. If this ever DOES get made into a movie, I hope the audience is patient, because the damn thing will be at least 3 hours long. If you like extremely slow burn thriller/ horror films, this is the book for you. I absolutely hate that sort of film though, so I put the book back.
Squidder #1 – Well, the art is phenomenal. No surprise there; Ben Templesmith turns it out every time. The main character is such a badass full of self-loathing that he makes Wolverine and Batman look like emo kids sneaking smokes behind the 7-11. Post-apocalyptic, evil alien overlords, lost war, end-of-the-world, cthuluvanian, super-soldier stuff going on here. What really surprised me were the little gems of a decent moral code peppered throughout this book. Despite the extreme violence and testosterone-fuelled pissing contests, Squidder (the main character) is offended by the idea of human trafficking. The sign on the way into town reads that rapists will be castrated. Not common fare for manly-man gorefests. I’’ll be back for more Templesmith magic.
Substrata: Open World Dark Fantasy SC - There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this book, and it’s all over the map. This makes perfect sense, considering that this is a compilation of the works of over 80 different artists on one simple theme. It’s nice to flip through.
The Devilers #1 – Another comics that I didn’t have very high hopes for manages to surprise me by not being completely awful. This setup issue is a crash course in the main character’s history, and then a rushed intro to the Planeteers of exorcism: a male caucasian catholic priest, a female caucasian rabbi, an indian false yogi, an arabian demonologist, a japanese shinto schoolgirl, and a male caucasian athiest. The first demon is a little vag-tastic, but we’re quickly introduced to many more demons that don’t look like a cult classic underground film monster. The real comic will start in the next issue, which I will actually be reading.
The Last Fall #1 - Another war story; another angry soldier runs off half-cocked to throw himself impossible odds, against the orders of his hothead superior, and somehow makes it out just fine. A few panels of the main character that are meant to depict his past with his wife and child make him look like a child himself; so much so that I had to go back over that pages and infer his intended age from the dialogue. There just isn’t anything special going on here to hold my interest.
Youth is Wasted GN - – While I enjoyed the art, I didn’t really have the heart for this series of (mostly) depressing stories. Bizarrely, they are interspersed with upbeat(ish) fairy tales, one of which was written by the Brothers Grimm. A few of the stories are not about self-hating dudes. Fans of dark humor will enjoy this book thoroughly. Though I wasn’t very enthused about this book during my first read-through, I don’t want to give the wrong impression; I bought it. This is the kind of book that grows on you after you have had time to reflect upon it.
Knuckleheads: Fist Contact TP – I wasn’t planning to give this one a chance, but the pinup in the back by Chris Giarusso shocked me into reading it. I figured, if Giarusso likes it, there must be something going on here! (I also crossed my fingers that Giarusso didn’t just do it out of politeness or some weird artists politics reason.) A fairly predictable story of lazy-bum-turned-superhero, I get the feeling that the writer really loves The Big Lebowski. The one unexpected element is how resourceful and intelligent the main character’s crew turn out to be; like a swarm of Pennies to the main character’s bumbling Inspector Gadget.
Alone vol. 1: The Vanishing TP – It’s refreshing to read a graphic novel that introduces several protagonists of varied ethnicities within the first few pages. There’s a little stereotyping going on, but for the most part, this European comic about a band of children that must come together after everyone they know mysteriously disappears is a winner. I was taken aback by the amount of crying that happens in this book, but given the age of the kids, it makes perfect sense. I’m ordering the next one!