Michael Allred’s art is completely distinct from that of the rest of the comic world. Though it would seem impossible, somehow Allred’s art both closely resembles the classic comic art of the 60s while looking completely original and unlike anything else in comics. The work of colorist, Laura Allred, contributes a big part of what makes the art in this book so great. The husband and wife team have long standing partnership and that continuity means their work supports each others styles and never clashes.
For readers who might be unfamiliar with what a colorist does, the nature of work is contained right there in the name. The colorist takes outlines from the penciller and inker and fills in the colors of the art. If this sounds like a mechanical or simple job, it absolutely isn’t. For evidence, compare the work of this book with that of the classic Vertigo comics of the early 2000s. It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong, it’s that the choices of the colorist completely change the tone and feel of the book. A muted pallet can suggest ambiguity or uncertainty; a brighter higher-contrast pallet makes a book feel more exuberant. Beyond style, there’s a simple issue of skill. Colorists can obscure the detail of the original pencils if they don’t work carefully, golden age comics often suffer from this. Read more
In some ways, Paper Girls is a classic Brian K. Vaughn comic. It tells a strange, unpredictable, fantasy adventure story. Paper Girls intrigues and maybe even confuses its reader by moving fast and saying little. The first issues of a long series usually have a lot of explaining to do, especially when they can’t lean on established worlds and characters. Paper Girls, however, doesn’t stop and chat. There are a number of wordless pages. There’s more showing than telling, and it’s not just a series of fights, there’s a lot to look at in the way characters dress and interact and there are images in the background that help guide the audience through the unusual world.
Comic books are a distinctive medium in that there is such a small group of fans that read them that the authors really end up speaking to a certain kind of fan. In the worst circumstances, small audiences lead derivative comics, but in the best circumstances, it means authors don’t have to hold their readers’ hands. The self-selecting group that reads comics knows to pick up the traces in the background, they can infer what happened between panels. Paper Girls rewards attention. Read more
We Can Never Go Home
I picked up this book because I was drawn to the strange, spare covers. One in particular shows a shopping cart full of improvised weapons, and it hints at a book that balances the silly invincible feeling of being a teenager with a grim real world. We Can Never Go Home tell a story of super powers, high school in the 80s, and robbing drug dealers. It combines genres and styles. The wild story is grounded in reality by the art. Wal-marts and cheap motels look real, even when they share pages with bullets bouncing off our heroes.
We Can Never Go Home is a teen romance, adventure, superhero story by Mathew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon and Josh Hood. The characters are distinct, feel real, and demand your sympathy. The story elements are familiar at times, but the mix is what makes the book feel original. If you’ve ever felt like an underdog or made a mix tape, you’ll probably like this book.
Comics aren’t storyboards for movies. An artist alone with her/his imagination can create impossible-to-build cityscapes and monsters. They can cast their characters in whatever way they like, not limited to which people will act them in the film, who L.A. thinks is cool or, even, what humans look like. Fiona Staples is one of the artists that shows what’s possible in comics. Her work on books like Saga, and Archie is truly remarkable.
Sameness dogs the comic arts. The body types, the colors, and the heroes crouched on roofs or next to gargoyles repeat unendingly. Even within a single book, there are often multiple characters with indistinguishable faces. Nostalgia in comics, which, when harnessed can lead to great things, can also result in laziness and repetition. Read more
This is a blog with varied interest, but I want to make sure it’s easy to find the comic book content. So here’s a quick post linking all the Trade Waiter reviews from the last three months:
- Astro City by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross
- Deadly Class by Rick Remender and Wes Craig
- Jupiter’s Legacy by Mark Millar and Frank Quietly
- In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
- Low by Rick Remender and Greg Tochinni
- The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin
- Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
- SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
Also, I was recently asked about the name “Trade Waiter” this comes from a bit of comic book reader jargon. Someone who waits until issues are collected is sometimes called a trade waiter. I thought this name was appropriate because I only review books that have been collected into at least one trade or are a complete graphic novels. Happy reading.
Low inhabits a strange dark future. The world looks like a kind of inverted Mad Max, where the future is trapped underwater instead of stuck in the desert and, while the setting is specific and engaging, this is not a quiet atmosphere story.
The book plays at full volume and it’s more than worth listening to.
The emotional wallops hit like a hammer. Writer, Rick Remender is a student of the kill-your-darlings school of writing or at the very least the rip-out-their-eyeballs school. The book is dark, sexy and gross at times, maybe immature — but the stakes matter. It’s not wallowing in filth just for its own sake.
Tocchini’s art calls back to the classic 70s art style of sci-fi paperbacks, rendering underwater future babes and horrible sea monsters with aplomb. The art suggests more than it details. The style’s more painterly than what you might associate with a tech-heavy future and that keeps the art from being as accessible as a more traditional comic would be. But it’s that same strangeness that makes the art remarkable. Read more
Wes Craig and Rick Remender’s Deadly Class features some of the most striking covers in comic shops right now. Just look at them:
Astro City won its first Eisner Award two years before the founding of Google. No wonder it’s recognized as an institution.
When I first picked it up the series, five years ago, it blew me away. The stories are so personal and specific. They concern people’s work and their lives instead of some monster of the week. Astro City, the place, feels like a real city in part because the people there are as likely to be doormen and secretaries as they are to be cosmic juggernauts.
This book is about what it’s like to love a difficult person, what it’s like to get older, and it’s about punching evil doers dressed as chess pieces. Like the rest of the series, it documents details and specifics, it tracks and builds consistent evocative settings without feeling small or atmospheric. It adds to a terrific body of work.
This graphic novel reminds us that the world is crawling with unsavory underground markets. People in the rich world sometimes feel uncomfortable about the existence these grey economies, but they rarely go out of their ways to do anything about them, not because they’re bad people, but because it can be hard to know the right thing to do. This issue sits at the heart of In Real Life.
Writer, Cory Doctorow, and artist, Jen Wang’s, story concerns a middle school gamer girl, who’s a powerful fighter and a skilled player in a male-dominated world of massive multiplayer games. The hero, named Anda, in an oblique reference to Ender’s Game, discovers gold farmers (players employed to acquire and sell in-game items) who she sees destroying the economy of the game. Anda gleefully begins to taking these farmers out and to collect real cash bounties. The moral quandary comes out when she realizes that these gold farmers are people in poor countries who depend on farming for their livelihoods. Read more
Writer, Mark Millar, and artist, Frank Quietly, earned reputations as two of the most exciting and popular creators working in comics over the last decade. They’ve both created Eisner-nominated comics, including The Authority, which they worked on together. So their first creator-owned work, Jupiter’s Legacy comes with a great pedigree. But does it deliver on the promise?
Not immediately, but there’s enough ambition in the violent superhero soap opera’s first trade paperback to keep me excited for the next book.
I don’t review comics I don’t like. There’s so much great stuff being written I don’t want to waste my attention on the mediocre stuff. So let me first say that this is a well-crafted comic. The characters want things, the plot chugs and the art is fantastic (nobody in comics draws greasy hair like Quietly).