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Report Card | From ‘Unwritten’ to ‘Gamma’ to dragons

by  in Comic News Comment

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 read on to find out what we thought of The Unwritten #51, Gamma and more.




Comic-Con International wrapped up on Sunday, following five days of publisher announcements, celebrity sightings, cosplay, protests and general wackiness in San Diego. Kevin has a rundown of the major comic announcements made right before and during the show, while Corey looks at some of the more surprising announcements. No doubt there’s still some news items to come, as reporters continue to clean out their notebooks and turn in their panel reports.


Following the announcement in May that the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival was ending, Desert Island Books, which is owned by BCGF co-founder Gabe Fowler, announced Comic Arts Brooklyn for Nov. 9. The event will take place at Mt. Caramel Church and the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and will feature Paul Auster, Michael DeForge, Lisa Hanawalt, David Mazzucchelli, Art Spiegelman and Adrian Tomine.


Author Chuck Palahniuk announced a sequel to his 1996 novel Fight Club — not as a novel or movie, but as a series of graphic novels.

“Chelsea Cain has been introducing me to artists and creators from Marvel, DC and Dark Horse, and they’re walking me through the process,” Palahniuk told his official fan site. “It will likely be a series of books that update the story ten years after the seeming end of Tyler Durden.”



Gamma

Story by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas
Cover and Interior Art by Ulises Farinas
Published by Dark Horse

Gamma didn’t quite turn out to be the rip-roaring adventure that I thought it would be, but in its way it’s even better. The premise is pretty much as promised: an Ash Ketchum analogue named Dusty Keztchemal lives in disgrace after letting down the planet during an infestation of kaiju. He’s unhappily married and his only friend is the local bartender, who also manages the business of letting people punch Dusty in the face for $50 a whack. What Dusty makes in that endeavor, he immediately spends at the local whorehouse. It’s a miserable existence and Farinas and Freitas do an amazing job of making me feel bad for Dusty even though he’s a pathetic, unrepentant coward.

Where the book deviates from my expectations is when a woman shows up to ask for Dusty’s help. I read that in the solicit blurb and assumed that this was Dusty’s shot at redemption. It sort of is, but only in a roundabout way. Dusty’s too far gone to come back just by helping a damsel in distress, but his willingness to stand up for her starts a chain reaction that at least puts him on the path to redemption. I sincerely hope there’s more Gamma to come, because I’d love to watch Dusty make that journey. –Michael May


The Unwritten #51

Writers: Mike Carey and Bill Willingham
Artists: Peter Gross and Mark Buckingham, with Russ Braun
Colorists: Chris Chuckry and Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klein
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

The meta gets pretty deep in The Unwritten #51, part 2 of “The Unwritten Fables.” At one point a Fable describes Tommy Taylor and friends as “stories told by stories made up by the stories to whom we are only stories.” Pretty dense stuff, but it reinforces the metatextual vein of power Tommy wields, and on which the Fables are counting to defeat Mister Dark. Indeed, much of the issue concerns Tommy, Sue, and Peter’s mission to free Bigby Wolf from Dark’s dungeon in the bowels of what used to be Manhattan. If you’ve ever tried to figure out whether an Imperial Star Destroyer could beat one of the Starships Enterprise, you’ll appreciate the general thinking which goes into their raid. Although I haven’t read Fables in at least ten years (and that was just the first volume, which really didn’t grab me), the combined creative teams did a good job establishing the proper mood and making the villains both sufficiently menacing and credibly threatening. On one level this is a very simple issue; but again, that’s not the only level.

While the divisions of labor aren’t spelled out, I suppose that Carey & Gross did much of the heavy lifting for the Tommy-centric sequences, while Willingham & Buckingham handled the Fable-dominated scenes. Russ Braun’s finishes gave a rougher edge to the issue’s climactic fight, where Tommy, Sue, and Peter face off against what I presume are some of Fables‘ more powerful bad guys. However, overall everyone’s work blends together seamlessly. Actually, I should say that you can see the differences, but you really have to look for them. Even letterer Todd Klein gets into the act, using slightly different styles for the different groups of characters. (The Unwritten lettering is more rounded, while the Fables letters are slightly thinner and more angular.) I can only speak from an Unwritten reader’s perspective, but so far this is a fine, fun team-up. It’s true to the book’s own philosophy, but it incorporates its “guests” effortlessly. —Tom Bondurant


The Deep: Here Be Dragons #1

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: James Brouwer
Editor: Wolfgang Bylsma
Assistant Editor: Gary Edwards
Publisher: Gestalt

There are a slew of comics that escape my notice on a weekly basis. Initially released in Australia in August 2011, this digital repackaging of the work (released as part of the Comixology Submit Independent initiative), The Deep: Here Be Dragons, caught my eye upon its re-release this week. Tom Taylor is a name that more people are noticing thanks to his work on DC’s New 52 line. This story about the Nektons, a multiethnic family of adventurous aquanauts, actually was awarded the Aurealis Award for Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel in 2012.

The element of the story that ultimately hooked me was James Brouwer’s art–he brings a Disney-like vibe to his character and page designs. There’s also a dash of Cartoon Network, or more exactly the kids in this family have an infectious energy/snark that reminds me of Judd Winick’s (with designs by Mike Kunkel) 2005-2007 show, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee. A family of explorers is by no means a unique concept, but the theme of all-ages adventure tinged with comedy is a relative rarity. I love how the colors of the book effectively sell the underwater elements of the story–and the logo is spectacular. —Tim O’Shea


The Reason for Dragons

Writer: Chris Northrop
Artist: Jeff Stokely
Colorists: Chris Northrop & Andrew Elder
Letterer: Chris Northrop
Editor: Rebecca Taylor
Publisher: Archaia

This is a short, beautifully drawn coming-of-age story about a nerdy teenager, his macho stepfather, and a knight. Sixteen-year-old Wendell is at that awkward age, and after a contretemps with his stepfather, Ted, he stomps off to the woods to be alone and read his novel (Moby Dick). Then some bullies come along and dare him to go to a burned-out Renaissance Faire nearby, which is rumored to be haunted. When he gets to the fair, he meets a man who thinks he’s a knight and wants to fight the dragon he believes burned down the faire. Wendell and, eventually, the adults must figure out who the knight is and whether his dragon is real or an artifact of the trauma of the fire.

The story mixes up reality and fantasy in an almost believable way; the characters are solid, and the action is well paced. I particularly like Ted, a macho guy who nonetheless has a human side; despite his frustration with Wendell, he really is a caring stepfather. Jeff Stokely’s art is wonderful, and he not only makes a set of very different characters work convincingly together but also handles action scenes and transitions very well. Since this is an Archaia book, the production values are fantastic, and there’s even a removable pamphlet from the Renaissance Faire in the front of the book. The main story is not very long, but the book also includes several short stories about the characters by different creators (which gives us a chance to get a bit of Ted’s backstory) as well as drawings by other artists and notes on the creation of the graphic novel. This sort of thing often feels like filler, but in this case it’s unusually well done, and the whole thing adds up to a very nice package. —Brigid Alverson