Report Card | ‘Superman,’ ‘Tropic of the Sea’ and more

by  in Comic News Comment
Report Card | ‘Superman,’ ‘Tropic of the Sea’ and more

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 about SupermanTropic of the Sea and more.

Akram Raslan: Feared Dead

Almost a year ago, Akram Raslan, a 39-year-old Syrian cartoonist who worked for the government-run newspaper Fedaa, was arrested and charged with sedition for his political cartoons critical of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. His trial, initially scheduled for June, was indefinitely delayed.

This week, in a larger CNN piece focusing on the dangers of being a cartoonist in the Middle East, Robert Russell, the executive director of the Cartoonists Rights Network International (a U.S.-based organization that defends the human rights and creative freedom of social and editorial cartoonists), expressed his fear that Raslan is dead. Russell noted that news of the trial’s delay had given the organization, which had lobbied for Raslan’s release, some hope at first. But that optimism was dashed two weeks later when CRNI sources were informed it was believed that Raslan was dead.

While the term “IPO” is being bandied about in reference to ComiXology, that speculation is tempered by CEO David Steinberger’s seeming insistence that he wants the company to reach some additional milestones before it is ready to pursue an IPO. Speaking of ComiXology milestones, one has to assume that after needing three years to cross the 100 million download threshold, the company must be pleased to have crossed the 200 million mark in one year.

The British Comic Awards unveiled its shortlist, in the next stage leading up to the actual November 2013 ceremony at the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds. Among those that made the cut (from the larger longlist) are: The Listening Agent – Joe Decie (Blank Slate Books) and Soppy – Philippa Rice (self published) [Best Comic Nominees]; Mrs. Weber’s Omnibus – Posy Simmonds (Jonathan Cape) and The Nao of Brown – Glyn Dillon (Self Made Hero) [Best Book Nominees]; Isabel Greenberg (The River of Lost Souls) and Will Morris (The Silver Darlings) [Emerging Talent Nominees]; and The Sleepwalkers – Vivianne Schwarz (Walker Books) and Playing Out – Jim Medway (Blank Slate Books) [Young People’s Comic Award Nominees].

After initially seeking to find them privately, this past Thursday, Neal Adams and his family turned to the public to track down two portfolios believed to have been left behind in an unidentified New York cab trunk in early September. The two portfolios contain around 120 pieces of original Neal Adams art. Adams is offering a reward of either money or an original piece of his art to whomever finds the highly valuable portfolios.

Superman #23.4 (Parasite)

Writer/artist: Aaron Kuder
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics

It was a close call between this issue and the spotlight on the First Born in Wonder Woman, but the Parasite won out thanks to Aaron Kuder’s offbeat style. This version of the Parasite is a jaded slacker bike-messenger whose eventual nom de crime comes from his mooching personality. He sees Metropolis not as a fantasyland protected by the world’s greatest superhero, but as a never-ending source of unimaginable headaches. When he ends up stabbing one of those headaches — in his words, a “giant booger monster” — with a live power line, it earns him a broken leg and the interest of STAR Labs. Subsequently, their experiments turn him into what looks like a purple version of The X Files‘ Flukeman — which isn’t a criticism, mind you, but an appreciative acknowledgment — with a hunger for energy.

Kuder’s visuals sell the Parasite’s story quite effectively. A montage describes the unappreciative recipients on the proto-Parasite’s messenger route, and oversized single-word captions underscore the turning points which lead him down the dark path. Indeed, the whole issue combines a cartoonish, caricature-heavy sensibility with the atmosphere of a horror movie, and it makes the Parasite … well, not exactly sympathetic or relatable, but easier to understand, and ultimately chilling.

On a more practical note, the issue has gotten me eager to see what Kuder does with Greg Pak’s scripts on future issues of Action Comics. If Kuder’s work is going to look like this, it’ll bring a new kind of energy (as it were) to the series. — Tom Bondurant

Tropic of the Sea

By Satoshi Kon
Published by Vertical Inc.

Satoshi Kon, who died in 2010 at the age of 46, is best known as an anime director (Paprika is his signature work), but he began his career as a manga artist and in fact was the assistant to Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo for a while.

None of this matters very much, though, because Tropic of the Sea, his first manga, is a book that not only stands alone just fine, without any additional context, but is very accessible to people who don’t usually read manga. Kon has a clear, uncluttered drawing style and although his story has some twists, it unfolds in a straightforward way.

The story is set in a small seaside town with an odd tradition: The villagers care for a mermaid egg, returning it to the sea after 60 years and then getting a new one, and in return, the mermaid protects them. The story focuses on Yosuke Yasuhiro, a teenager whose father is the priest in the shrine where the egg is kept. While Yosuke and his grandfather both believe in the tradition, Yosuke’s father is dismissive. When developers come to town to build a resort, the town splits, with some (including Yosuke and his grandfather) wanting to stay faithful to tradition while others (including Yosuke’s father) want the benefits that modernization and an influx of cash can bring. While this is a classic plot, Kon throws in some curve balls and brings it to life with a solid cast of characters who all feel real. The manga is complete in one volume, and it’s a very satisfying read. — Brigid Alverson

All Crime Comics Vol. 1

Cover by Bruce Timm
Written By Paul Grimshaw and Erik Warfield
Drawn By Ed Laroche and Marc Sandroni
Colored by Tony Fleecs and Andrew Siegel
Lettered by Tony Fleecs
Published by Art of Fiction
Digitally released by ComiXology Submit

I will not lie, I was immediately drawn to this project solely due to the sexually charged/faux damaged pulp cover by Bruce Timm. Do not expect the interiors to have a hint of Timm to them. That being said, artistically the art has a strong mixture of gritty pulp by Laroche (in chapters 1 and 3) and retro pop art by Sandroni (in chapter 2) to it. The pop art vibe of chapter 2 really works thanks to Siegel’s coloring.

The crime story offers a great mix of pulp romance, a substantial level of (be advised) graphic violence (admittedly to be expected) and just an underlying element of classic betrayal. I hope this project is not a one-trick pony and that the story delivers as strong a plot in the next installment. —Tim O’Shea