Friday, February 21, 2014

Remarks on recent comics (2014.02.21)

More recently read comics, or if you prefer, graphic novels.  No, no one prefers that?  Okay, comics. In particular, these:


BATTLING BOY (2013) by Paul Pope
HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT (2011) by Luke Pearson
BAD HOUSES (2013) by Sara Ryan & Carla Speed McNeil
PUNK ROCK JESUS (2013) by Sean Murphy
A WRINKLE IN TIME: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (2012) by Hope Larson, adapting Madeleine L'Engle
STAR WARS. VOLUME ONE, IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN (2013) by Brian Wood & Carlos D'Anda


And, if you missed them, I recently had slightly longer comments in separate posts on these:

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS (2013) by Joe Kubert (editor)
THE BOJEFFRIES SAGA (2014) by Steve Parkhouse & Alan Moore


BATTLING BOY (2013) by Paul Pope
Paul Pope's most recent book, the first in a series of four, apparently. I've always found Pope pretty interesting visually, but haven't been able to get into the story in most of his work that I've read. I found this one much more successful on that front, and it was the most I've ever enjoyed reading one of his long works. With over 200 pages to work with, he's able to play with the storytelling, linger over some purely visual bits but in a way that's still in service of the story.  Overall impression will depend on the follow-up books, which hopefully won't take as long to come out (I think this one was announced about five years before it was published), as Pope throws out a lot of big ideas and hopefully will develop some of them.

Also, while I normally like the compact format First Second uses for most of their books, and find the art in most of them suits the format, in this case I think a larger page size would have really helped. The artwork felt a bit cramped, the lettering a bit small.


HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT (2011) by Luke Pearson
Part of an on-going series of books by Pearson featuring young girl Hilda in various fantasy adventures, in this case involving a tiny invisible village and a strange giant. Very fun little book, attractive and clear artwork and an engaging almost dreamlike stream-of-consciousness flow to the story. Maybe more after I read a few more books in the series.


BAD HOUSES (2013) by Sara Ryan & Carla Speed McNeil
This is an original 160-page story set in a small town in Oregon, centred on the business of estate sales, people who come in and dispose of the unwanted possessions of the recently deceased, and using it to tell a story about the value of possessions, history and memories. It's a nice little story by Sara Ryan, who manages to create some interesting characters and use the details of the unusual occupation to bring out their stories and create (or uncover) connections between them. Very nicely done, kind of reminds me of the movie SUNSHINE CLEANING (2008) in the subject and structure. I've never really been able to get into Carla Speed McNeil's long running science fiction series FINDER, though I thought the artwork in it was very attractive. This is quite a change of pace from FINDER, and nicely shows off her ability to draw a variety of people, getting across genuine emotion and placing them in well realized detailed settings. Overall a very nicely realized little book, with both creators playing nicely to the strengths of the others.


PUNK ROCK JESUS (2013) by Sean Murphy
This is a collection of a six-issue, hm, let's call it science-fiction series by Murphy from 2012. It starts off pretty good, with the story of a future world where a corporation is creating a clone of Jesus Christ to raise on a reality TV show. If you can accept that premise, the early parts work nicely, setting up some characters and conflict. Unfortunately, it all falls apart about half-way through, eventually winding down to a completely unsatisfying ending. Shame, that. Murphy's art, in black-and-white here, was much more readable here than I've found it in some earlier colour comics of his I read. Still a bit muddled sometimes, especially later in the book.


A WRINKLE IN TIME: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (2012) by Hope Larson, adapting Madeleine L'Engle
Kind of oddly, I don't think I read L'Engle's original novel when I was of the age to first read it, even though it seems to be right in the wheelhouse of what I was reading at the time. Anyway, this is a recent comic book adaptation of the 1962 science fiction novel. Larson's artwork is stylish and readable. I liked the first half of the book quite a bit, which made the second half all the more disappointing. I assume it was faithful to the novel, in which case I guess it's just as well I didn't read it back then.


STAR WARS. VOLUME ONE, IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN (2013) by Brian Wood & Carlos D'Anda
A direct sequel to the original STAR WARS film, set between it and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Seems like a good idea, but pretty disappointing overall.  The artist spends a lot of time rendering the tech stuff, and that's fine, but could stand to pay more attention to the humans. All very inconsistent, sometimes on-model, often not, and just not strong at telling the story. Nothing too special in the writing, it hits a lot of the expected notes, but often feels a bit off on the characters. Brings in a lot of things from the later movies (Boba Fett, the new Death Star) in ways that don't feel natural. Worst of all, despite collecting six issues, it only really starts to tell its story, which seems a bit slow considering we know nothing major can happen and where the characters have to end up.

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