Joe Rice Media Review 4/19/07

For those three or four people still reading what I write here after I made fun of Harlan Ellison, welcome.  I hope at least one of you is female so you can repopulate the world that is my readership after this dreadful catastrophe.  I have always believed my readers are of good stock, so we shall soon breed a race of super nerds, able to ridicule and praise things on the internet with the power of 100 normal nerds.  Either that or we will kind of awkwardly look at each other and never make the first move.  WHICH SHALL IT BE, FOLKS?

OK, I've tried a couple times, but I can't really force my way through Army@Love.  That could very easily be my own problem.  I would love someone to, in the replies here, explain why this is a good book.  I feel like it's a very smart book, but the art's semi-sloppiness combined with the textual overload really makes it a tough sell for me.  I can't recommend it.  Some one else do it for me!

DMZ, on the other hand, seems to be covering slightly similar ground but in a much more appealing package.  A new storyarc starts this issue, with a wonderful Brian Wood cover.  Seems like this might be your classic Rashomon-style "multiple-view" story, as Matty interviews various folks involved in what seems to be the worst massacre in the war so far.  Guest artist Nathan Fox handles the flashback sequences.  I like his work a LOT.  It's got a wonderful Paul Pope influence, except with an even stronger cinematic manga streak than said comics sex god.  Jeremy Cox also does a great job with the colors, with the muted greys of the flashback occasionally punctuated with bright warm colors.  This is a great chance to try this book.

I was recently talking about how it's often harder to write about monthly superhero comics than less-frequent indie cousins.  What do you say about a book that's probably consistently bad or good and just one part of an ongoing story?  Well, I have the same problem with Love and Rockets.  It's great, yeah.  I really don't know what else to say about it.  Jaime's story about Frogmouth keeps going and develops interesting twists.  I'm still not sure what's going on in Julio's Day but it looks nice.  And Emanon was an awesome wordless short bit I really enjoyed.  One of comics' greatest ongoing treasures.  You have to heart it.

I really think I missed an issue of Ex Machina.  Did I?  I really think I did.  I don't have a clue as to what's going on.  What's this future guy doing?  Did the blackout start last issue?  I need to find the previous issue before I judge this, because I can't imagine it would suddenly get so confusing.

The Spirit continues to be a wonderfully-drawn entertainment.  With an incredibly creepy birdlove sequence.  Was Mr. Carrion like this in the old Eisner bits?  Yeek!  But in a good way.  By the end of the story, Carrion comes off pretty well, in spite of himself.  This was more of a spotlight for him than anything else.  And, of course, a neat, one-off story.  And it made me hungry for pork and beans.  God, pork is good.  Some funny bits and the art is drool-worthy, but it's not going to change your life.  It doesn't need to.

Well, as I said, my delight at the previous issue of Mighty Avengers dwelled largely in the interesting use of thought balloons.  Otherwise, it was just an above-average superhero comic.  This second issue falls more squarely in the latter category.  The balloons are played with a bit, as are Iron Man technical caption narration.  There are some funny little bits throughout the issue, but not enough to finish distracting me from Cho's ridiculous boobified artwork.  I'm not quite quitting the book; I'll give it another issue or two, but this isn't anywhere nearly as fun as New Avengers this time.  I can see how traditionalists might like it more, though.

Oh, and this week I read Garage Band, by Gipi.  I don't think I've seen a work in any medium that quite captures the manic, fraternal (not as in khaki shorts and Dave Matthews ballcaps) feel of being in a band when you're a teenager.  The book is paces kind of like an EP, in a way, with the chapters kind of feeling like songs.  There are touches of deep trouble in the boys' lives, but, like a good song, you are left with impressions you can extrapolate in your own way.  The art is loose and expressive, and the book itself is a light delight.  Well worth your time and money.

I also got The Last Sane Cowboy and Other Stories by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey.  And before I review it I should note that Merl is an old friend of mine I've known for some 11 years or so now.  I've never reviewed something by a friend before and I'm honestly a bit uncomfortable to do so.  If I give it a bad review, I'm a bad friend.  If I give it a good review, I might look like it's only because they are my friend.  But thankfully, Merl's work is beyond that stuff.  First off, his art isn't for me, really, but it's stiff posed nature is a part of the process.  It adds to the disquieting, unsettling dreamstate of the work.  And the stories themselves are wonderful streams of subconscious that wind their way through your brain and make you feel kind of funny.  And they ARE funny.  A lot of modern-day surrealists either try to hard to be funny and fail or just take themselves too seriously.  But Merl's got an easy way with it, and reading his work often feels like listening to a great story while heavily intoxicated with a good friend and a weird guy you both met at the bar.  Merlin gives you a reason to read AIT books now that Wood and Fraction are gone.  Do try it.

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