BOTH BOOKS ARE BLACK AND WHITE
That's all I have for a unifying theme this week. Don't look any further.
LOVE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE (Oni Press, $5.95) is the new series from Comic Book Idol Chieftan J. Torres. Formatted similarly to Korean comics, it tells the story of a Canadian living in Korea teaching locals to speak English. It's a fairly popular program in both Korea and Japan. Comic book artist Zander Cannon recently spent time in Japan when his wife was in a similar program.
The whole set up gives Torres the proper framework to tell an entertaining serialized story dealing with concepts of romance, homesickness, and more.
In the story, Torres introduces us to Joel, who has spent more than enough time abroad after a ten-month teaching stint. The boredom of the job along with the frustrations of being a stranger in a strange land are wearing him down. As the title suggests, though, the possibility of a love interest perks Joel back up again. That, however, doesn't kick into motion until the last section of the book.
This first issue gives us smaller stories of what Joel's life is like overseas. We see how he eats, socializes, lives, and works in a series of quaint vignettes. If you've read any manwha (or even manga), you'll recognize the story structure. Stories are short, the pages are fairly wide open for the artist, and plot is often an afterthought. It builds up nicely on itself, though, and before you realize it, you've been introduced to a cast of characters and you care about what's happening to the lead.
The art is by Erik Kim, who is apparently new to comic art. It's an impressive debut. The characters are expressive, with occasional morphs into cartooniness to convey an extreme emotion. There's great care taken in the inking stage to include what I assume is the Photoshop equivalent of DuoToning. At first glance, you'd think this is an independent book from 15 years ago. The word balloons also have that square uneven look that manga translations often have.
LOVE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE is an interesting North American attempt to recreate the Korean comics format for a love story set in Korea. To be completely truthful, this first volume is uneven and the sometimes scattershot approach to storytelling takes some getting used to. In the end, though, I care about the characters and I want to see more. I was entertained by the book. That's all I can ask for.
This is the first issue of a (theoretically) quarterly series, clocking in as a 66 page chunk in digest format (with a spine) for $5.95. The first issue hit shelves last week, so you might still be able to find it on your local store shelves.
1000 STEPS TO WORLD DOMINATION is the greatest example ever of how to take a very simple idea and transform it into a piece of comedy gold to be quoted and cherished for years to come. "Gird Thy Loins!" is getting a lot of play at Pipeline World Headquarters.
Rob Osborne's semi-autobiographical comic tells the story of a cartoonist working a dead end sales job to pay the bills while fumbling for comic strip glory. His life changes, however, the instant he hits upon the idea of a lifetime: World domination. Everybody talks about it, but whoever does anything about it? Rob does. This is his story.
Originally an award-winning mini-comic, 1000 STEPS is a collection of mostly one-page gags. These are small nuggets of varying quality. It's hit and run comedy, with many more hits than misses. Some bits are obtuse. Others are surreal. There are visual gags and comic hyperbole. Even with all those adjectives, it's still hard to describe. One running gag follows the classic tortoise and hare storyline, with both characters (especially the tortoise) injected with a heavy dose of attitude. The hare, though, gets the laugh of the book from me for a simple three panel gag in chapter three that's one line of dialogue, a sound effect, and two drawings. Simple but effective. God, Himself, makes several memorable appearances in the book, as does a hallucinatory monkey. Every comic book worth its salt, after all, must include a monkey. Why do you think Y THE LAST MAN gets such great reviews?
Here is one of God's monologues: "It's me. GOD. You want something? Things not going your way? I don't want to hear any belly-aching. This whole sense of entitlement thing is getting way out of hand. Pray to me… But row for shore."
The monologue works slightly better with the proper balloon breakdown, showing again how valuable strong lettering can be.
I can't explain much of the humor in this book. You'll either fall into its rhythms and unique sensibilities, or you'll groan under the scattershot approach and scratch your head whenever someone quotes it with a wry smile.
Reading this book is like reading a daily diary of a cartoonist looking to put to paper whatever comes to mind that day. This one, of course, follows his lead character's journey in the pursuit of world domination.
Remarkably, this silly idea that Rob and his wife (girlfriend?) take so seriously actually leads to a real life change. In the middle of the rampant lunacy, there's a real story going on here. An actual arc takes place when you're not looking. That's impressive.
Rob Osborne's mini-comic is collected for the first time from the publishing house of AiT/PlanetLar. The book is a small one, presented as a seven inch square book, closely imitating the original mini-comics size, I'd bet. Each page is one strip, and each chapter is vaguely themed and begun with three well-selected quotations. For $12.95, it's one of the better giggle-fests I've read this year. It runs 136 pages, and deserves a flip test at your local comics shop, if nothing else. I can't guarantee that it'll tickle your fancy, but it isn't like anything else on the stands today. Give it a shot.
Watched the DVD movie version of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN this weekend. It's not nearly as bad a movie as I feared. It has its moments. Taken as a whole, it's a "so what?" film, but there are parts to get lost in and enjoy. The DVD picture and sound quality are both high, particularly with the surround sound during the louder moments. Machine guns, car chases, and boats rushing through water sound great.
The director clearly fell in love with the Nautilus far too hard. Every time you turn around, there's another long shot of the Nautilus cruising through waters somewhere. My subwoofer hated me when the movie was done.
The bonus feature includes behind-the-scenes stuff showing how the movie was made, costumes were tailored, sets were designed, etc. It's filled mostly with a camera capturing the "action" of the movie being filmed, with lots of caption boxes appearing on screen to fill us in on the details. It's very comic booky of them. Sadly, they use the comics sans font, and always include the capital-"I" with crossbar in the middle of words. I even caught a couple of typos in one section. Not good.
Some deleted moments and an anti-drug commercial round out the package. For ten bucks, it's a worthy addition to my comic book movie DVD collection. As a movie on its own right, not something you need to own.
Caught THE INCREDIBLES in the movie theater on Friday night. Like everyone else has already said, it's either the best James Bond movie or the best FANTASTIC FOUR movie you'll ever see. I caught myself smiling through much of the last twenty minutes of it, for no particular reason other than that I was enjoying myself so much. There's a brief moment when the superspeedy son realizes the extent of his powers and has a quick emotional change from "whoa" to "really cool" that stays in my head. It's something terribly subtle, but hilarious. And that's as close as I'm going to get to spoilers. It's a well-designed movie with impressive animation. It's a must-see for comic book fans.
I'm definitely getting back to see this one in the theaters again before it hits DVD - which would likely be in the late spring or early summer (at the absolute latest.)
While we're talking DVDs, don't forget to check out the new special edition of Brad Bird's THE IRON GIANT, due out in stores this week. I'd list it near the top of my favorite animated films of all time without hesitation.
Be on the lookout for the extended Director's Cut edition of DAREDEVIL in the coming weeks, also.
ODDS AND ENDS
One correction to last week's column, in case you read it earlier in the day Tuesday before it was corrected: I referenced Marvel's THE CALL at one point when I should have said COMBAT ZONE: TRUE TALES FROM GI'S IN IRAQ. I used THE CALL as a placeholder until I could look up the right comic's full title. Silly me forgot to go back and look it up before sending it off for publication. Next time, I'll revert to my old standby of inserting a row of asterisks to stand out better.
SketchBlog of the Week: Let's go with Karl Kerschl's blog. This link will take you to the gallery section, although clicking "HOME" will get you back to the blog section of it.
Yes, I do realize I'm severely stretching the definition of "Sketchblog" for this one. Work with me here.
Website of the Week: In this much more general category, I have to point to Disney Comics Worldwide, which has a most impressive listing of the Disney-licensed comics all across the world.
Pipeline Commentary and Review returns next Tuesday, because this is a habit I can't break. Look for a special two-part look at QUEEN AND COUNTRY starting up in a couple of weeks, as well.
Over at Various and Sundry this week: The Lexus hybrid car has a ship date. Snow falls. Firefox 1 rocks the net. (Welcome to the party, everyone.) ELEKTRA and HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY have trailers. MicroSoft continues to screw up and say stupid things. What's a "faux mitzvah?" WinAmp dies. And more.
And while you may THINK there's nothing left to talk about post-election, you're wrong. Move over to VandS Politics for more classic conservatism, crazy politicism, and fun.
More than 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are also still available at the Original Pipeline page.