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Report Card | From “It Girl” to “Edison Rex” to “To Be Or Not To Be”

by  in Comic News Comment
Report Card | From “It Girl” to “Edison Rex” to “To Be Or Not To Be”

Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.

So find out what we thought about the final issue of It Girl & the Atomics, the latest Edison Rex and more.

The College of Charleston’s selection of the acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home as recommended reading for incoming freshmen was criticized by the Palmetto Family, an advocacy group whose “vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model and sexual purity.”

“If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper,” Palmetto Family President Oran Smith is quoted as saying. “We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college.” The College of Charleston says it is standing by its choice.

The film 2 Guns, based on the comic by Stephen Grant and Mateus Santolouco, and published by BOOM! Studios, opened this Friday, bringing Grant and the publisher an increased level of media exposure. The film topped the North American box office charts, bringing in a very respectable $27.4 million, and the first issue of the comic book sequel, 3 Guns, landed in stores. I thought the film was much better than its “55” rating on Metacritic would indicate; it’s a smart action film with some great performances by Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington, Bill Paxton and Edward James Olmos.

More importantly, this is the first film from the BOOM! Studios library to make it to theaters, and the company and its “creator share” model have been front and center in news coverage. Most notably CEO and co-founder Ross Richie landed a guest writing gig with The Hollywood Reporter, where he detailed a lot of background comics knowledge on the Hollywood trade magazine’s audience. He some creator-owned comics history, dropping names like Don McGregor, Paul Gulacy and Jack Kirby over the course of his columns. And then there was the New York Times piece that follows the 2 Guns story from an “insulting” first paycheck to the “just shy of seven figures” Universal Pictures paid for the rights. “Ultimately, it’s become the most successful thing I’ve ever done,” Grant told the Times. And he wrote that Pope comic back in the early 1980s that sold so well for Marvel.

In a move similar to the one Image Comics announced right before Comic-Con, Thrillbent launched its own webstore, offering downloadable PDF files of its comics for a variety of different price points. Most titles are 99 cents, with Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Insufferable being available at a “name your own price” option. Thrillbent is also selling copies of the all-ages Aw Yeah Comics! series by Art Balthazar and Franco for $1.99 each.

Waid actually announced Thrillbent’s intent to sell DRM-free digital comics at the “Digital and Print: Friends or Foes?” panel at Comic-Con International. “Personally, I actually like owning the files,” he said. “I’m comfortable enough with cloud-based stuff, but given a preference, I’d rather own the files just because I don’t want to be in a situation where I don’t have internet connectivity and I suddenly remember that album I wanted to listen to or the comic book I wanted to read, and I don’t have access to the cloud at that moment.”

It Girl and the Atomics #12

Written by Jamie S. Rich
Drawn by Mike Norton, Natalie Nourigat and Chynna Clugston Flores
Colored by Allen Passalaqua
Lettered and Designed by Crank!
Published by Image Comics

In TV and comics, there are a couple of different ways to handle a series finale. My least favorite is to go out with a bang; have some big, important event that finishes the story and gives the series closure. That can be done well, especially with a series that was already focused on big, important things (see: M.A.S.H.), but too often it’s not. It’s really messy when the series has been slight and fun all along (*cough* Seinfeld). Fortunately, It Girl and the Atomics doesn’t go out that way.

Instead, Jamie S. Rich and Company shut it down in the best way possible: Cheers-style. The final issue of It Girl doesn’t feel like a final issue at all. There’s no sense that things are winding down or that the team is breaking up. In fact, the only major change that occurs in the issue is that the Skunk joins the team, something I’ve been hoping for since the first issue. Other than that (and the story’s being broken into parts, each illustrated by one of the three artists who’ve worked on the other 11 issues), it’s business as usual. There’s a great case for the heroes to solve in a really fun way and then we’re done. It’s perfect, knowing that these characters live on and have more adventures. Even if, for now anyway, they’ll be doing so only in my imagination.  —Michael May

To Be Or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure

Writers: Ryan North, William Shakespeare, “and YOU.”
Artists: Too many to list.
From Breadpig, Inc.

William Shakespeare has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a supporting character in Sandman. Sure, near-constant performances of his plays are nice, and the occasional movie adaptation is nothing at which to sneeze. Now, however, Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be allows readers to determine for themselves whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to turn to another page and see where that leads.

This is truly an impressive work. You can “play” as Hamlet, Ophelia, or even Hamlet Sr. — and while that last one does offer a quick trip to the undiscovered country, you might be surprised at what might happen next. In the path I chose first, Ophelia took time out from constructing an HVAC system for the castle to help bring Claudius to justice. This appears typical of North’s approach, which respects the material greatly but can’t help commenting on it. (Choosing to have Ophelia follow the play faithfully can earn the reader a series of “Really?” responses.) However, North’s breezy, witty style is engaging enough to keep the reader thumbing eagerly through various twists and turns; and the occasional Infocom-game reference doesn’t hurt either.

The book’s illustrations (mostly accompanying “The End” pages) come from enough cartoonists to fill a Globe Theatre, including Kate Beaton, Faith Erin Hicks, Ray Fawkes, John Allison, Tony Cliff, Christopher Hastings, Kazu Kibuishi, Marlo Meekins, Ethan Nicole, Jim Zub, and Chip Zdarsky. While I haven’t seen them all, I can say that the ones I have seen add just the right capper to whatever madcap adventure might have emerged. (So far my favorite has been Hamlet and his dad as ghosts, leading a spectral army against a far-future paranormal invasion.) Indeed, there are more things in this book than might be dreamt of in your philosophy, from rudimentary household heating systems to piracy on the high seas to an appearance by the Sugar Hill Gang.

To Be Or Not To Be is more than a parody, more than a tribute, and more than a gimmick. It’s a unique way to connect with one of the great works of Western literature, literally by taking it apart and putting it back together again. I look forward to an endlessly rewarding experience.

Still, maybe his next Shakespeare effort will include the original Klingon…. —Tom Bondurant

Edison Rex #8

Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Dennis Culver
Colorist: Stephen Downer
Letterer: John J. Hill
Published by Monkeybrain Comics

I am a sucker for Christmas in July angles. That’s exactly what we get in this Christmas-themed story where Edison Rex’s team goes into battle against Maul Santa. But the story opens with a Batman Beyond homage and the introduction of a new character of The Eclipse. As much as I love Roberson’s writing and Culver’s art–this issue is the one where I finally noticed Downer’s spectacular coloring. He has a knack for using the right combination of sedate background colors to allow his dynamic color choices (and the art) pop off the page. Another element that I do not appreciate as much with the digital platform is the ability to magnify scenes and enjoy the small details that Culver works into his pages (he does great innocent bystander reaction shots in the heat of battles).

If you have not tried Edison Rex and you like to laugh, you need to check out at least one issue (any issue) for the back-up story text-heavy feature, “Secret Files of Edison Rex” (in the Marvel Handbook-style with Base of Operations, as well as other factorids). With these simple text pieces, Roberson is slowly expanding the Edison Rex universe (for example, he subtly hints at a character named Count Sudoku in his Eclipse entry) in these Rex-voiced entries tinged with the character’s ever-constant snark. In the Maul Santa entry, Roberson has Rex go off the rails in his Strength Level element: “Maul Santa possesses the strength of …No, I give up. I’ve already got a foul taste in my mouth after thinking this long. I’m done here.”

There are moments in reading this series that I see an influence of Astro City–nowhere as ambitious in terms of the scale of world building, but more in the underlying sense of fun. —Tim O’Shea

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