Book Reviews

Book Reviews

The Auteur, Book One: Presidents Day
Rick Spears, James Callahan, Luigi Anderson
Oni Press
Street: 09.10.14
Full-frontal nudity, blush-worthy language, copious amounts of detailed violence, regular and explicit drug use, and at one point the main character utters the words, “I barfed on my dick”—yeah, this is my kind of graphic novel. The Auteur is the tale of a washed-up Hollywood producer’s descent into madness and love after enlisting a nearly convicted serial killer into being the villain in his new horror movie, and it doesn’t let up for a second. Main character and unreliable narrator Nathan T. Rex is a wiener and a slime ball. His depravity and insanity are hilarious, especially during his drug trips and nightmares full of violent, revolting fantasies. I’ll also add that I particularly enjoy the unholy Willis—especially the scene where he dives into the ocean to tear out a shark’s jawbone. While Spears’ insane and disturbing story would be entertaining enough on its own, Callahan and Anderson use the bright colors and gut-wrenching detail of the artwork to bring it to excruciatingly graphic life. I cannot illustrate enough how fucking disgusting this comic is, and how much I loved it. Buy one, sicko! –Matt Brunk

City: The Mind in the Machine
Eric Garcia
IDW Publishing
Street: 10.08.14
When a company is trying to invent intuitive surveillance, there is no better way than melding it to a real human being. While this sort of power can be utilized to protect the citizens, City: The Mind in the Machine takes a look at the negative social and societal repercussions. While the premise is interesting and the art is incredible, some of the interactions between characters in panels feel forced. That aside, the premise is interesting enough that a sci-fi lover would find themselves easily adapting to the idea—even if the awkward date conversations hurt a little bit. This trade sets up potential for a vast world and a more-than-likely conspiracy theory. If you can see everything, you’ll probably micro-manage everything. This is a great pickup for sci-fi fans. –Thomas Winkley

Andre Parks
Oni Press
Street: 12.03.14
As many of my friends are aware, my biggest pet peeve is having the satisfaction of a yawn cock-blocked by the intrusion of one of their grubby fingers making a run for my uvula.  Ciudad promised such satisfaction and ended with the same sense of devastation.  The black-and-white panels held no reservations for the slaughter of henchmen by the notorious Tyler Rake in the city of Ciudad del Este.  Tyler was hired to retrieve Eva Roche who was kidnapped in an effort to overthrow her drug lord father and bleed him of his territory and wealth.  The whole city is out to murder Tyler and Eva, as they break for Brazil. I loved the action packed murder spree. What can I say? I hold an affinity for drug kingdoms and their down fall.  Well, SPOILER ALERT—they make it to the border and then, for no fucking reason, Tyler abruptly falls in love with Eva and she winds up going to art school in Paris. WHAT?! In only 5 pages, Ciudad crumbled into a complete abomination, falling into the sad cliché of “hero gets the girl.” While it may seem to be an over reaction to trash the whole comic for this, the infuriating manner in which it was done implies an extensive volume of laziness from Andre Parks. –Andrea Silva

The Collector
Sergio Toppi
Archaia/BOOM! Studios
Street: 10.15.14
The late Sergio Toppi, who passed away in 2012, was one of the most influential Italian comic artists of the last few decades. His collection of short stories, The Collector, was posthumously published in English by Archaia (an imprint of BOOM!) in October of 2014, after only being available in Italian since its original publication in 1984. Toppi’s adventures of a man known only as The Collector are set against exotic backdrops of years gone by. As his name implies, The Collector is on a quest for items of great value, and the story follows him through the 1880s from the mines of Missouri, to the salons of Paris, to jungles in Borneo. Toppi has a distinct artistic style that can be described as beautifully detailed chaos. Published in stunning black and white, Toppi’s line work and attention to detail make even the most mundane exposition pages a joy to look at, and each one stands on its own as a gorgeous piece of art. One look through The Collector and the influence on greats like Sienkiewicz, Simonsen, and Bianchi is clear and deserved. –Trevor Hale

The Complete Far Side
Gary Larson
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Street: 11.25.14
Comedian Mark McKinney once said on the sketch show The Kids In The Hall, “What weighs more: The Bible or a compilation copy of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons?” It appears that The Complete Far Side has the good book beat by about 15 lbs. and, is probably an easier read. The word “complete” on the front says it all—this is about as good a collection of everything created between 1980-94 as you’re going to get anywhere. Divided into three volumes, you get every single strip, including those originally produced in color, with the original awkward text from newspapers and calendars. The added bonus to this collection is the random letters from fans (often explaining how they don’t get the joke in the panel next to their letter), essays and introductions by Larson from his many compilation books, year-by-year musings from Larson himself and rarities that never saw the light of day. This is the only real must-own book for any Far Side fan, or as Larson himself calls this collection, “1,278 pages of therapy.” –Gavin Sheehan

Exile In Guyville (33 1/3)
Gina Arnold
Street: 05.22.14
Bloomsbury’s impressive 33 1/3 album series continues with this exhaustive take on 1993’s highly revered Exile In Guyville, the debut by the now mostly forgotten Liz Phair. To be fair, I never saw a point to the heaps of praise this album garnered then, and, as I now listen to it online, I’m afraid my perspective hasn’t changed much. Phair herself never really bothered me, but her shrill voice and boring chords did—as both lacked any melodic foundation. Her at-times shockingly frank sexual lyrics were refreshing—though hardly as revolutionary as Arnold tries to persuade the reader—but presenting them in such monotoned musical and vocal structures seemed counter-productive. Arnold is a good essayist, but she is also fond of cloying generalizations, like “Liz was a champion of the long-missing feminine perspective in indie rock,” forgetting (or perhaps just ignorant of) pioneers such as PJ Harvey, Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega, Kristin Hersh, Kim Deal, etc. who, like Phair, have had flirtations with mainstream success, but basically remain indie. Most interesting is her in-depth, track-by-track comparison with The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., which Phair has always insinuated her album to be a response to. –Dean O Hillis

I’m The Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax
Scott Ian
Da Capo Press
Street: 10.14.14
Scott Ian grabs your attention with this autobiography and doesn’t let go. It’s almost as if you can hear him telling you the stories. He starts with his dysfunctional home life and what inspired him to get into making music. Then he proceeds to tell you how some poor kid goes from being broke to playing in the largest arenas with his music idols. You don’t want to put the book down as he rats himself out about his experiences on the road living the rock-star lifestyle—they always seems to include sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and destroying hotel rooms. He comes clean with his personal relations and the women he was closest to. It was also interesting to read how the tracks “Caught In A Mosh,” “I’m The Man” and others came into creation and the fight to keep the sound they wanted, which was to play as fast as they could. He also goes into details about the early beginnings of Metallica and how they lived in a rundown studio space—as well as an accurate description of what really happened to Cliff Burton. This is an interesting history of thrash metal. –Mistress Nancy

Matthew Roberson
Street: 03.01.14
If you could break down the daily habits of an American middle class family into bite-size imperatives, chances are you would reveal the many clauses, additions, failures, hopes and problems of our country’s largest social status. In his narrative-style poetry collection list, Roberson succeeds in bringing an alarming reality to the day-to-day mundanity of the average American family. Roberson writes with a steady, even tone that continues unapologetically through the mass of small details which ultimately snowball into significant meanings—triumphant or tragic. Throughout the story, events are placed adjacent to each other in eerie pairings that capture both the highs and lows of the family unit’s lifespan, and I couldn’t help but see little fragments of my own parents and grandparents depicted in the struggle of his characters.  I recommend his writings to anyone who’s ever taken a stab at adulthood and sincerely wondered how anyone survives. –Nic Smith

The Observable Characteristics of Organisms: Stories
Ryan MacDonald
Street: 09.30.14
The Observable Characteristics of Organisms is a collection of stories by Ryan MacDonald. The definition of stories was loosely draped in this context, as many of them seemed to be nothing more than half thoughts: a collection of dream-word soup missing too many handfuls of sentences to successfully deliver the punch line. This is perhaps why I found the anthology to be so interesting. I wouldn’t ever suggest a cover-to-cover pass with this one. It should be digested like apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon a day, and the taste will grow on you. The stories are drenched in confusion and absurdity, with an almost lost subtext. My favorite story ended with a father expressing his being terribly jealous of a rhinoceros’ trembling as she gives birth, wanting “to be a mother, if only to tremble, to feel the warmth of the creature leaving me.” My only concern for the book is the notion that it may result in an increase of emergency calls from psilocybin aficionados convinced they’re inside a David Lynch film, unable to escape. –Andrea Silva

Zack Matheson
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Street: 10.17.14
The book Porndance starts with a loving dedication to maniacs. This sets the tone long before the author has a chance to speak. We already know that there’s humor and that crazy shit will happen. The book is a fun-if-you’re-nasty tale about gentleman and accomplished cook Daniel Quinn, who moves to Park City for a job that pays more than he’s ever made before. Shenanigans commence, and this story becomes a blast to read. Porndance is a sequel to the Island of Lost Souls, but this is a brand new adventure for Quinn. The title is derived from a porn festival happening during a Sundance Film Festival, in the nearby town of Kamas. This event is organized by a friend of our hero and serves to be an elaborate joke on the upper-crusty Sundance goers. Author Zack Matheson has a firm grip on this story and keeps the jokes coming while never letting the story wander aimlessly. Matheson’s characters are developed to the point where you feel as if he’s writing about people he already knows, and Park City is explained in guide-like detail. There’s a level of cynicism that creeps among the humorous situations, and since the narrator is talking about himself, you chuckle again because the story is just gosh-darn clever. I highly recommend it. –Benjamin Tilton

Robocop Vol 3: The Last Stand Part One
Frank Miller
Boom Studios
Street: 12.10.14
This trade single-handedly explains the love that Robocop should always be given. Not only is he a robotic boy scout, but he is also a dedicated killing machine that can be rebuilt into anything. This is not your usual dark epic from Robocop, and while it is still fraught with violence, there is a heart-warming twist as the citizens of a destroyed city unite. The art in this book is well put together and has the classic ‘80s comic feel without keeping the cheesy vibe from earlier generations of comics. Anyone looking for a vintage throwback to an incredible character needs look no further than this compilation. It’s a great read for all comic fans. –Thomas Winkley

Ruth’s Journey: The Authorized Novel of Mammy from Gone With The Wind
Donald McCaig
Atria Books
Street: 10.14.14
My integrity would severely be depleted if I didn’t admit that after first sitting down with Ruth’s Journey, I dreaded the idea of trying to finish the damn thing. I was at first intrigued by the book’s concept, a backstory for the character Mammy from Gone With The Wind. After 217 pages, I gave up on the book entirely. Claiming a novel to be something of a prequel to any book is a great undertaking, especially if the focus is supposed to be centered on a single character. Even after Ruth’s Journey, I have yet to be convinced that such a task can be accomplished by anyone save the original author, especially considering the countless chapters that took place before the actual “journey” of Ruth began. If you stripped away the novel’s pretenses and changed the name to “A Series of Romanticized Civil War Events in the Everyday Life of a She-Slave; As Told By a 74-year-old White Male Sheepdog Trainer,” the lowered expectations would give the book a chance. In fact, I probably would have finished the book had that been the case. It does after all retain a very Uncle Tom’s Cabin-meets-The Forsyte Saga vibe. I’d rate Ruth’s Journey at a solid two stars—somehow I’ve read worse. I recommend it to those who suffer from insomnia. –Andrea Silva

Sigur Rós ( ) (33 1/3)
Ethan Hayden
Bloomsbury Academic
Street: 08.28.14
When I picked up Ethan Hayden’s 33 1/3 treatment of Sigur Rós’ ( ), I was expecting an adventure into the beautiful soundscapes of their semi-instrumental masterpiece, filled with beautiful language describing the experience of listening to that album. Instead I got a mostly dry college course on linguistics and the cultural significance of the gibberish Hopelandic language that Jónsi uses for the entirety of the lyrics on ( ). These books have the potential to be really cool and interesting looks at monumental albums, and I can’t help but think this one has failed. I still love ( ), but reading this book made me want to hate it just a little bit. Though it’s not completely without interesting insight into the actual music, I couldn’t recommend anyone read this book. –Alex Gilvarry

The Sixth Gun: Book 7
Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, Tyler Cook, Bill Crabtree
Oni Press
Street: 09.24.14
The only real criticism of the seventh volume of The Sixth Gun—Not the Bullet, But the Fall—is that we’re getting close to the end. This volume takes us through issue 41 of the series, and writer Cullen Bunn has said he plans to wrap things up by issue 50. That means it’s time for Becky Montcrief and her ally Drake Sinclair to get down to the business of destroying the powerful guns once and for all. Problems arise, as they always do, because there are people—Missy Hume and the Grey Ghost—that would rather see our heroes dead—and the Guns in their possession. The Sixth Gun is at its best when the supernatural, horror and western genres are all clicking as one, and as the finish line starts to come into view, Bunn, Hurtt and Crabtree are firing on all cylinders. There’s still no way to tell what will happen, because Bunn likes to throw new twists and old surprises at us along the way, but whatever is at the end, we’ll be sad to see it go. –Trevor Hale

Tag: Deluxe Edition Hardcover
Keith Giffen
Boom! Studios
Street: 09.24.14
Zombie stories are already slightly personal. The need to kill someone you know who has been infected or see someone close be torn apart by the shambling horde has a way of knocking a point home. Tag takes it to a whole new level. This unique twist on zombie lore makes one consider handing the problem to someone else. It can only be one person, and the curse chooses for you, but to save yourself, you destroy another. The characters in the story are interesting in the way that you don’t exactly love them, yet you still feel for them. The gradual deterioration is beautifully shown through the stylized art and environments. Seeing the internal struggle from someone presented as a sociopath is a fun and confusing jaunt into your psyche. This is something a horror fan can’t be without but that the general public may not find completely enthralling. Zombie lovers apply inside. –Thomas Winkley

Talent: Deluxe Edition
Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegosk
Boom! Studios
Street: 08.19.14
Talent is a strange blend of a newsprint-styled comic with a Bourne Supremacy-style story line. A seemingly dead-man finds himself immortal and hunted by a clandestine government agency. This is a perfect blend of supernatural action as the main character sees friends and family destroyed as he discovers what has happened to him. Watching Nicholas Dane channel his former dead passengers’ talents is a lot of fun (especially when he caves in an assassin’s face as a boxer). This is a unique spin on superpowers and a great for those looking for a little more oddity from their comics. Besides, wouldn’t you want super powers to just… happen? –Thomas Winkley

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate
Noami KleinSimon & Schuster
Street: 09.16.14
Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) provides a brilliant and well-researched explanation of the most important crisis to define the 21st Century: capitalism and its abhorrent effect on the Earth. Klein draws upon topics that are both controversial and enlightening to highlight road blocks to the profound changes needed to tackle this threat to our very existence. These road blocks come in the forms of the perpetuation of the free market ideology that emphasizes a for-profit system, the reckless policies of extractivism, such as fracking, and the failure of putting faith into billionaire messiahs like Richard Branson to properly address the issue, since they are tempered by their own bottom dollar. Rather, we need to radically rethink our relationship with the Earth and with each other. This is “decade zero,” and how we continue to exist on this planet will be determined by our actions today. Though certainly a heavy subject, this book makes that perfectly clear a few pages in. It is well worth the read and essential to understanding what’s going on. The struggle is here, so tune in, for dropping out is no longer an option. –Nick Kuzmack

Matt Hawkins and Linda Sejic
Top Cow
Street: 12.03.14
The first volume of Wildfire sets up the obvious directionality of the GMO debate and anti-media concern. L.A. is reduced to ashes after genetically altered dandelion seeds turn it into a box of kindling. The biologist responsible, is the world’s only hope to stop the spread of plant mutations! Don’t worry though—while the plot for the first volume is dramatically poised for exaggerated plausibility, it’s kind of enjoyable. While “comics for a cause” tend to bore me (I never could get behind those vegan animal rights comics like Liberator), the over-the-top nature of Wildfire is highly amusing.  Linda Sejic’s artistic talent gleams in her sweeping landscape panels and twisting plants. I’d probably rock a Wildfire hoodie if given the chance.  What credits can be given to Matt Hawkins’ lack of narrative and exploration of such a hot topic. It is almost taken away by his lack of trust in his readers and in himself. The last twenty or so pages include not only a relatively in-depth examination of both sides of GMOs, but also a needless justification of the graphic novel’s elements—explaining everything from the tropes he chooses to put into place, to apologizing for his not-so-subtle hate for modern-day media representatives.  I would have appreciated a warning to skip those last parts and come to conclusions on my own.  I will be picking up Volume 2 after its release next year, primarily because of allusions to giant bugs, or at least an insect infestation. If I’m lucky, a giant bug invasion. –Andrea Silva