Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dylan's Sequential Theology 07.25.2012

It's a big week for humor this time around. I'm reviewing an issue of Eric Powell's the Goon, and the first issue of Axe Cop: President of the World by Malachai Nicolle (age 8) and Ethan Nicolle (age 31). There's Angel & Faith, BPRD, and Matt Kindt as well. Plenty of fun for your lunchtime tablet reading, or one more thing to check out before you leave your local comic book store.

Angel & Faith #12
Story by Christos Gage, art by Rebekah Isaacs
As big of a Buffy fan as I am, I never really got that far into Angel. Especially when his time-torn son showed up to take revenge against his neglectful father. As "comicbooky" as that concept is, I don't always want that from my television (Michelle Trachtenberg's addition to the Buffy cast was hard enough). So when I read this issue and saw who the focal character was, I can't say I wasn't hesitant. Connor returns to the Buffy-verse, as Angel, Faith & Willow visit the hell dimension where he was raised in order to find a way to bring magic back to our world after its ties were severed in an earlier story. Hweew. Christo Gage has a lot of fun with this book and does what the Buffy-verse does best, plays with expectations. When they arrive in this hell dimension, they soon realize that Connor is scorned as the antichrist to these demons, and his very presence has them scared senseless. While waiting for another portal to open so they can jump, Sliders style, to another dimension that is a touch more friendly, they chance upon a tribe of demons that worship Connor as a god for giving them "the gift of love." I couldn't stop laughing. 
Apparently, when Connor was growing up under the care of his tenacious human guardian, he said that love would always protect him. One of these demons happened to be present at that moment, latched onto that concept, and they have been living as a community instead of a rabble of demons bent on eating and crushing for the sake of slaughter. I'm sure it's been done before, but it still managed to make me more interested in the character than I had been before.
Rebekah Isaacs art gets the job done, and the characters look like their real-life counterparts without seeming photo-traced. Everything is readable and nothing gets lost, and while I'm not paying her any terrific compliments so far, her flying bisected-arm lamprey eels were frightening.

Axe Cop: President of the World #1
Story by Malachai Nicolle (age 8), art by Ethan Nicolle (age 31)
Axe Cop has been a web comic for the past three years, and Dark Horse has recently stepped in and graciously started publishing self-contained mini-series of this incredible oddity. If your not familiar with the conceit, the writer is 8 years old and his much older brother is an amazing cartoonist. Ethan Nicolle does an incredible job of taking his younger brother Malachai's ideas and "crafting them into a coherent story." If you ever made your own comics when you were a kid, imagine if you could have a professional illustrator draw them for you. It's a really great series full of unending imagination, and is one of the best things to help reignite that creative spark.
One of the best parts about this series, is the subtle layers of additional context Ethan adds to his brother's ravings. In this story Goo Cop wants to seek revenge against the aliens that abducted his family and turned him into goo. But the world needs saving, and President Axe Cop has other things on his mind! So while they are defeating the evil penguins that plague the planet of talking gorillas that stand on their tippy-toes, Goo Cop looks constantly miffed and constantly inquires when they will "get back to saving his family." I love this series, and I really encourage you to pick it up.

BPRD: Hell on Earth: Exorcism #2
Story by Mike Mignola, art by Cameron Stewart
Whenever a series has more than one subtitle, you tend to be in over your head as a new reader. Expect lots of characters you've never read before, talking about things you've never seen. They tend to happen when a line of comics get caught up in a story too big for a single series, so they plaster a second title on it to show it's part of said event (see: DC's Blackest Night or Marvel's Dark Reign). In this case, the Hellboy/Mignola-verse is wrapped up in the event Hell on Earth, and this particular miniseries is all about (you guessed it) an exorcism.
This series is missing the "what is going on?" to a large degree. Yes they talk about things you've never seen, yes there are plenty of characters you haven't read before, but the story is simple enough. Travel to a demon realm, release a demon from his fiery prison, and then kill its inevitable earthly host. Everything else is like sprinkles (or jimmies if you prefer) on your hot fudge sundae. And Cameron Stewart's art is pure whipped cream (or the ice cream itself if you're not into that). When he was working at DC during the mid-oughts, I always thought his characters were somehow wooden and unrelatable even if they were impeccably drawn. Here, his art is expressive, much more cartoony and his figures seem to be ever-moving. I was so shocked that it was Cameron Stewart, I had to go back an reread it looking for some artistic tick that reminded me of his work. I love this shift and hope he continues down this road a while.

The Goon #40
by Eric Powell
I always wanted to have a drunken fever dream about drag-racing Franken-greasers during prohibition... what?! This comic was hysterical. A great done-in-one of non-stop thrills in what feels like a MAD parody of an EC horror comic. (wonder if Harvey Kurtzman ever got the chance to do that?) From the opening monologue of our kindly drunken narrator abut the horrors of our disposable culture, to the ever increasing absurdity of the Goon peddling moonshine during prohibition, I just kept thinking, "Why aren't more people talking about this title?" 
It's a series that has been going on for 13 years, and it seems like it's only ever mentioned when Eric Powell is outspoken, and preaches about the necessity for a diverse comic book landscape (something we strive for ourselves). He can't turn off the sarcasm switch, and when he talks about "the big two" he has a tendency to spew a bit of bile about comics he wouldn't want to create anyway. Yeah, his methods probably will divide more than unite, but luckily, the series isn't just his musings on the myopic comic marketplace. THERE'S DRAG-RACING FRANKEN-GREASERS!

Mind MGMT #3
by Matt Kindt
This is my first time reading Matt Kindt, and I'm already jonesin' for more. Looking back, and trying to remember what happened in the book just makes me think about the design of the pages themselves and what it brings to the story. It seems as though Dark Horse did direct color scans of his original art boards, because you can see the photo-blue guidelines for the printer, and the white gutters are anything but. Matt Kindt uses ink and watercolor with digital lettering for the bulk of the work, and it only adds to the texture and warmth of the issue. All of the accidental hand smudges of every person that touched the boards before getting scanned are visible, and it gives a tactile feel to the story. It's not about immersing you with its polish, but immersing you with its craft. Some may find it distracting, or gimmicky, but I'd rather see the brushstrokes and the effort of the artist, than a simple flat scan of their work. But enough about the  art, lets talk a bit about the story before I invariably get sidetracked back to the presentation.
Meru & her recent ally Bill Falls are searching for a man named Henry Lyme, a man who seems to bring danger wherever he goes. The story finds them in China where they talk to dolphins, get in adventures on a riverboat, get separated, and Meru meets up with an old man with a skewed perception of reality. All the while the small print on the left hand side of the page gives the reader a running commentary from the Mind MGMT field guide. Supposedly this group is out to control the populous with advertising. Clean crisp Mondrian-esque simplicity which removes humanity and injects an idea into your brain directly. And Matt Kindt attempts to contrast these harsh typefaces with the hand of its creator. It's a wonderful book and if you're into comics that have quite a bit bubbling under the surface, this is definitely one to try.

Disagree with my reviews? Prove me wrong.

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