June 2015 Comic Book Reviews

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Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Volume 2 (1968-1969)
Writer: Whitney Ellsworth
Artists: Joe Giella, Al Plastino
IDW Publishing
Street: 02.03

This second volume of The Silver Age Newspaper Comics is absolutely fascinating and is the most complete collection of the Batman newspaper strips from Jan 1, 1968 to May 31, 1969. With only a few panels recolored or missing, the volume gives us rich context for the complexities behind the format of a newspaper comic strip. The demands, storytelling and drama behind it all provides an insider’s look at what weird things were happening during the start of the ‘60s Batman series and how that coincided with the weekly and daily newspaper strips and the on-going comic. This is a definitive collection of these strips, plus trivia and notes that document the Silver Age coming to a close for DC. We get all the black and white daily comics, the colored Sundays, unpublished art and all of the work behind it. Overall, it’s a compact history book with all the action-packed adventures of Batman and Robin, atomic bombs, and Aquaman (!). Among the interviews and annotations, my favorites were the snarky letters between Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman, and William Dozier, executive of the Batman series, squabbling over credit title scenes. It’s a total must for any Batman fan. –Taylor Hoffman

Cow Boy: A Boy And His Horse
Writer: Nate Cosby
Artist: Chris Eliopoulos
Boom! Entertainment
Street: 05.23.12

10-year-old Boyd Linney is on a quest to take down some of the worst criminals this side of the Mississippi, who all happen to be members of his family. Armed with his stickhorse, gun and bad temper, this book takes you through the first portion of a great Wild West tale and comedic adventure. The charm of a 10-year-old being a hardened bounty hunter doesn’t wear off, and the “cutesy” art style, tied with the gunslinger theme, accentuates the same dichotomy. This hardcover has lovable characters, and a few small twists and lessons to be learned along the way. If you don’t finish this hardcover laughing and a bit sad, then you truly have no soul. This is a must-have for your comic collection. –Thomas Winkley

Evil Empire: We The People Vol. 1
Writer: Max Bemis
Artists: Ransom Getty, Andrea Mutti
BOOM! Studios
Street: 04.14

This is one comic that I’ve always eyed because of the beautiful covers. Customers have told me how they love it, but it’s only now that I’m starting to get the appeal. There’s political drama, unnecessary romances, messy murder and plenty of jumping around in general confusion. Each issue begins with a flash-forward to the future Evil Empire that is America’s fate, and we’re reading about how it all goes down. What happens when people throw morality out the window because of ego? I love the main character, Reese—an outspoken, rad rapper who’s suddenly thrown into the political spotlight—It’s through her that we get the best perspective. While an enjoyable read by the end, I couldn’t get behind the long-winded speeches and other odd choices throughout, but the last issue in here got me hooked. Ransom Getty’s art and Chris Blythe’s coloring are a perfect pair for this story, and while Andrea Mutti’s art is fantastic, I think the former provides that uncanny tone necessary for this story.  Yes, this Max Bemis (Polarity) is the same guy from Say Anything, and I say he’s becoming a great comic writer. –Taylor Hoffman

 

Judas: The Last Days
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: John Amor
IDW Publishing
Street: 02.03

For me, sacrilegious blasphemy isn’t only a selling point but also teeters on erotic arousal. That said, reading Judas forced me to examine my psyche—as the entire time, my inner dialogue kept repeating the phrase, “wet dream.” Judas: The Last Days should be considered the most sincere retelling of Jesus Christ (aka JC) and his disciples. The entirely fictional character Iscariot is notoriously known for scandalously kissing JC, a kiss that ultimately leads to JC’s arrest and prosecution. The book explores Judas’s curse of immortality and his only wish in life: the ability to commit suicide. When Judas begins prying into how to have his everlasting life unwritten by gnome librarians, the world slowly begins to unravel. The cause for chaos is the charismatic former lover of JC, Paul the Apostle (the disciple formerly known as Saul of Tarsus), who, 2,000 years later, still hasn’t recovered from the break-up. With the help of his demon-pimping, cross-dressing, bisexual best friend, the Apostle Matthew, Judas begins to understand his own role as the Armageddon is taking place. As Paul systematically destroys all of humanity, there is a surprise appearance from the lord and savior himself—revealing that all of the “miracles” he performed were just really cool science experiments. I recommend reciting four Hail Marys after reading this gem, or alternatively, having a serious talk with your bishop. –Andrea Silva

The Realist
Writer & Artist: Asaf Hanuka
Archaia
Street: 04.28

The Realist is easily one of the most honest, funny and bittersweet comics I’ve read. Asaf Hanuka (Pizzeria Kamikaze) makes comics to make a living, for fun and out of necessity. This is a first-collected English translation of Hanuka’s autobiographical web comics, which focus on his everyday life in Tel Aviv. We experience another person’s life unfolding in every direction: it’s self deprecating, it’s heartbreaking, it’s hilarious. It’s an inside and honest view of living in Israel, recognizing the privileges and conflicts in Hanuka’s life ranging from family and religion to survival. Each page is a vignette that shows intimate and challenging moments like therapy, explaining to his son the difference between Hanuka’s brown skin and his wife’s white skin, and various levels of participating in protests. There’s always something special when a comic writer incorporates their love for comics, and some of the most amazing pages from The Realist include those influences in Hanuka’s life. Feeling like Superman while hanging a mirror, reinterpreting Watchmen every few years and remembering the comic festival in Angoulême are all integral parts of Hanuka’s story, which adds to his particular mastery of the medium. The Realist is absolutely addictive. –Taylor Hoffman

The Maxx: Maxximized, Volume 3
William Messner-Loebs, Sam Keith
IDW Publishing
Street: 02.10

It is difficult for me to not fixate on particular panels, pages or individualized snippets in The Maxx, so I won’t bother trying to avoid it. I’ve never been one to allow deeply rooted messages escape the pages of a comic or graphic novel. I try the best I can to keep comics my simplest form of entertainment—easy, guided and uncomplicated. This volume of The Maxx, however, gave way to one of the heaviest insights to character development I have ever read. While Julie is packing up her hoard of junk, the story cuts to her child-self. She discovers a half-living slice of rabbit roadkill and takes it home in a desperate attempt to heal it and have a friend. After her parents discover the bunny and move it to the garage, her mother gets up in the middle of the night and helps it die by thwacking it with a shovel as Julie watches from behind the door. Julie explains that her mother “takes care of it, or makes it disappear, so we don’t have to think about it.” As this scene ends her present day, the adult Julie then tells Maxx that she’s leaving. When he begs her to do the “right” thing, she says she will and walks away. While I feel that it certainly isn’t the most action packed volume I’ve read, the story is still compelling enough in its narrative style to keep my attention. I do favor Sam Keith’s pairing of each individual plot with its own unique illustration style to maintain the story’s fluidity. Dropping some acid wouldn’t be the worst idea a person could have before diving into the exotic worlds of The Maxx Volume 3.  –Andrea Silva

 

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, Color Hardcover
Writer/Artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Oni Press
Street: 05.05

When the original sixth volume of Scott Pilgrim came out to the public in July 2010, the film adaptation had already been finished and previewed by critics, giving fans their own version of the ending. So, when fans read the book’s version at the same time, they ended up divided about what should and should not have been included. Volume 6 does a fantastic job of wrapping up every storyline, giving practically every character (except Gideon) a shot at redemption or better days ahead. Now presented in full color, the volume kind of makes you wonder how much of the movie influenced the look of these hardcover editions. The bonus extras in the back are fantastic—you see every character’s incarnation to final design, as well as the transition from the original black-and-white drawings to the color version you read today. There is no question—if you love the Scott Pilgrim series, you need to own this. –Gavin Sheehan

The Sculptor
Writer & Artist: Scott McCloud
First Second
Street: 02.03

The Sculptor explores the heavily sentimental and emotional journey of artistry.  The story follows a sculptor named David Smith, who once had a shot at having his name out in the world but lost it all because of his shit attitude. While wallowing in self pity and getting drunk in a diner on his birthday, David winds up making a deal with the devil for the ability to sculpt anything using only his hands. Of course, any deal with the devil comes with a downside, and for David, it means having only 200 days to live. Scott McCloud’s storytelling clearly comes from personal experience—only an artist who has been so desperate as to create can portray the range of emotions that David so sincerely throws himself through. McCloud dissects not only what success as an artist really means, but also what inherently defines an artist. Shortly after his encounter with Uncle Grim Reaper, David falls into the lap of Meg, or rather, she saves him from killing himself via locomotive. Meg is the bipolar poster child for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a careless, insatiable heartbreaker with whom everyone falls in love, including David. While her role as a girlfriend is rather passé, Meg provides yet another catalyst of how the creative process can affect more than just its creator.  Straight down to the crisp and simple illustrations, everything about this book is inspirational. I wish I had some snarky cut to throw in, but instead I’m going to buy 50 copies of Sculptor and hand it to every artist who I find struggling to make sense of their creative compulsions. –Andrea Silva

Translucid
Writers: Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert
Artist: Daniel Bayliss
BOOM! Studios
Street: 04.14

The greatest tragedy that can come of a brilliant story concept is that of a rapidly deteriorating regression into typicality. Translucid portrays itself as the possible escapist world of the traumatic experiences of a boy named Cornelius, and ends up (ultimately) as nothing more than the backstory of the hero, The Navigator.  I would have preferred an open ending, where the conclusion is open to interpretation, a questioning of whether or not the omnipotent traits were of an alternate universe existing outside of Cornelius’ mind.  Despite straying from the psychologically profound beginning, the execution of the actual plot was still action-packed and compelling.  The story is composed through a series of flashbacks and hallucinations of The Navigator, which he is being forced to relive by his villainous counterpart, The Horse.  The dynamic between The Navigator and antihero, The Horse, can be described as nothing short of an “it’s complicated’’ Facebook relationship status.  Reminiscent of The Red Hood (Batman: Under the Red Hood), the struggle between The Navigator and The Horse is less about good versus evil, but rather about how these two characters define ‘‘justice’’. The Horse butchers pedophiles, rapists and otherwise evil men, and is resented by The Navigator for his methods.  Beyond begrudging The Horse, questioning his own moral compass is slowly tormenting the Navigator.  While the concept may seem a bit recycled, its execution is one of a kind. Daniel Bayliss’ illustrations and  Adam Metcalfe’s colors are fully submerged and married to Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert’s story, allowing the reader to empathize with each panel.  While still processing my own mixed emotions on the final reveal, I still will highly recommend this book—as long as it’s served with a heaping dose of mommy issues. –Andrea Silva

The Walking Dead: All Out War AP Edition
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Image Comics
Street: 10.21.14

For those of you unfamiliar with the land of comic books, I’m mostly gonna recommend you pass on any AP edition. Let’s be honest—you won’t appreciate it for what it is, and you’ll probably just post a negative review to Amazon about how “poorly done” everything looks. You see, “AP” stands for “Artist Proof”—it’s essentially the original version of the comic panels before they go to get inked and finalized. The Walking Dead: All Out War AP Edition collects issues No. 115N-126 (or volumes 20N-21), and Charlie Adlard’s pencil work is mind-numbingly beautiful. The All Out War storyline follows Rick Grimes as he unites and leads three communities of zombieapocalypse survivors into war against The Walking Dead’s greatest villain to date: Negan (and his “Saviors”). Fans of the comic series should be sure to pick this up to pull back the curtain and see all that goes into Adlard’s art—it’s impressive, to say the least. Fans of comic book art in general should grab this edition for the sheer appreciation it shows to the artists behind the work. But, if you’re a young artist looking to get into comics yourself, this book will benefit you the most—pick this up along with the regular All Out War volumes, and you’ve got a front row seat to the composition of comic books. –John Ford

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