Welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what's on the night stands of the Robot 6 crew. This week our special guest is Kody Chamberlain, who you might know from such comics as Punks, newuniversal: 1959, The Foundation and his latest, Sweets, from Image Comics.
To see what Kody and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below ...
I was already enjoying Jen Van Meter & Javier Pulido's Black Cat four-issue miniseries before interviewing Van Meter. But when she shared part of her take in the interview ("...She's a thief. And she fully intends to be the best thief, for all the same good and bad reasons an athlete or chef might aspire to be the best: ego, competition, drive, morale, you name it. Not only does she love what she does, I don't think she can imagine herself doing anything else.") it shows an understanding and appreciation of the character that firmly convinced me Van Meter could write this series on a regular basis. I hope enough folks agree with me via their wallet-power. Issue 2 was as entertaining as ever.
I hate Paul Cornell, I hate him for making me enjoy a Lex Luthor story. Mister Mind messing with Luthor's mind in Action Comics #891 allows for Cornell to toss Luthor into multiple classic genre stories in one issue. Imagine Lois Robot Lane as Bride of Frankenstein, that's just one of the offbeat, engaging moments of this issue.
Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee have given us a Thor that smiles. As simple as that sounds, it's a radically different version of Thor than one we've ever read (well it comes close to moments of the Walt Simonson era [my favorite Thor run], but in a very different way. Go get Thor the Mighty Avenger #2 (and 1 if you didn't already).
When Ben Zmith handed me a copy of his and Adam Hansen’s latest Rooster Jack mini-comic at SpringCon this year, I told him, “Adam’s writing these for me now.” I’ve loved every Rooster Jack comic they’ve made (and I can’t say that about most quest-fantasy parodies I’ve read), but throwing mermaid warriors into this one raised it up several notches for me. As did Laura Ault’s grayscales, which do wonderful, classy things to Zmith’s linework. And as for Zmith, his mermaids are as frightening and dangerous as Rooster and Company are funny and inept. These guys may not really be making these just for me, but I can’t tell it from the finished product and it’s nice to pretend.
I also read The Children of the Phoenix, a single-issue sequel to Radi Lewis’ graphic novel by the same name. Though the graphic novel was interesting enough, I didn’t much like the amateurish, confusing presentation of the story. Some of that’s been corrected with the new issue, but not everything. As the titular children try to make sense of what happened in Volume 1, people withhold information from them apparently for no other reason than to prolong the reader’s suspense. I hate when that happens in stories. “Yes, I know what’s happening to you, but no I’m not going to tell you because either a) I’m mysterious and enjoy speaking in riddles or b) you’re not ‘ready’ to know. Both of which actually meaning that the author just isn’t ready to reveal it to his audience yet.” Also, there’s nothing to distinguish between the title of this issue and the graphic novel. Volume 2 in the title would’ve been good, but since the story is to be continued beyond this issue, it’s kind of inexcusable not to put at least an issue number on the cover. Still, progress has been made and the art has improved a lot since Volume 1.
Reading Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches, I realized just how short most American war comics fall in portraying the reality and horror of war. Sgt. Rock, The Haunted Tank, The 'Nam, even a good portion of Harvey Kurtzman's war tales (though certainly not all) on down through the line fail to do little more than offer simplistic "war is bad" bromides. That is, if they're not catering to the usual gung ho Americana jingoism.
That's unfair I suppose. Many of those comics were written for a younger audience that Trenches certainly seeks to avoid. You can hardly expect something like Weird War Tales to offer depictions of soldiers attempting to crawl through the entrails of their comrades in order to reach safety. Certainly Maus and Safe Area Gorazde qualify as "war comics" and they both look full on into the abyss (though neither of those books deal with the "battlefield" per se). Still, I do think there is something to the notion that most war comics produced in this country have been kidding themselves about the true nature of their subject matter.
Not Trenches. Tardi has one point that he hammers again and again and again until you -- yes you reader -- get the message through your stupid, thick skull: World War I not merely brutal or ugly, it was an abomination, lacking utterly in justice, honor or mercy. The kind of war where getting separated from your unit or failing to do the impossible could lead you to being shot for dereliction of duty. Where the enemy advances with village women and children in front of them and you're told to fire anyway because, well, they're German. Where you have to bribe the medics if you're wounded, because otherwise they'd leave you there to die.
Tardi brings every ounce of his talent to the task of trying to articulate the sheer horror of this war. And while he doesn't flinch once, neither does he resort to trite "war is bad" or "good versus evil" oversimplifications. He merely puts you directly in the soldiers' viewpoint and then tries to relate their experiences to you. Except for the very end it avoids any cute visual metaphors or formal trickery. It's a raw, uncompromising, devastating book, and, I'm kind of sad to say, unlike anything that's been published on these shores.
Besides Mad Magazine, I never read comics as a kid. I started reading in the early 90's, so I've been playing catch-up by buying collected editions of out of print work, and slowly picking up back issues when I find something that catches my eye. Unlike some industry pros, I do still love going to the comic shop on Wednesdays and picking up new books. So my current reading list is a mix of new and old, but they're all sitting on my nightstand this very moment.
CREEPY ARCHIVESby Variousfrom Dark Horse ComicsIt's amazing to see how much talent passed through this anthology including Al Williamson, Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta, Steve Ditko, Joe Orlando, John Severin, Wally Wood, Angelo Torres, and more. I re-read these constantly and I enjoy going back to study certain panels to try to absorb some of the 'awesome' found within. I've been spending lots of time studying the Gene Colan shorts, some of my favorite comic art of all time. The harsh black and white line work is flawless, and his ability to control ink wash is truly inspirational. I'll be making my way through the EERIE ARCHIVES next. I'm also thrilled to see Dark Horse Comics putting out new CREEPY comics with new stories. I've got a few short CREEPYesque stories of my own I'd like to pitch, so as soon as I get a minute I'll be knocking on Dark Horse's door.
CRIMINALby Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillipsfrom Marvel Comics' IconCRIMINAL is a solid book from top to bottom and Brubaker and Phillips are one of the few creative teams in comics that read like a single creator. I know that's probably a very subjective concept, but I can often see a bit of separation between art and story when I read comics. That separation doesn't exist with Brubaker and Phillips, everything just clicks into place. I've enjoyed each of their collaborations so far, but the overall value for CRIMINAL is fantastic because they toss in a healthy dose of bonus features into each issue. I tracked down Sean Phillips at Comic-Con this past week since I've been trying to get my hands on a copy of INTERSECTIONS, the sketchbook conversation concept he did with Duncan Fegredo. Thankfully he had a few with him and I've been studying the book ever since. Do yourself a favor and pick up CRIMINAL and INTERSECTIONS.
HELLBOYby Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredofrom Dark Horse ComicsWhen I heard Mike Mignola was bringing in someone else to draw HELLBOY so he could focus on the writing, I was upset. Spin-off books are fine, but having someone else draw the core HELLBOY book? No thanks. But the second I heard Duncan Fegredo's name as a possible choice, I reversed my opinion. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Hey, didn't you already mention Fegredo?" Yes. I did. I've loved Fegredo's work since I first picked up ENIGMA and I've bought pretty much every comic he's drawn and/or painted since. Fegredo is an artistic chameleon and can flip styles so drastically you'd think it was a completely different artist. He's got the rare ability to do each style so well, you'd think he'd been doing it all his life. At some point on Sunday, Phillips brought Fegredo over to my table at Comic-Con and we had a great chat about tools, painting, sketchbooks, and more. I left the convention inspired, and humbled. Both Phillips and Fegredo could have easily shown up in those 1960's CREEPY comics and would have fit right in beside Toth, Williamson, and Colan.
JIMMY CORRIGAN, THE SMARTEST KID ON EARTHby Chris Warefrom Pantheon BooksIt's kind of hard to describe Chris Ware's work, it's a crazy mix of cartooning, graphic design, and raw emotion. Having been a fan of the ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY hardcovers, I picked up JIMMY CORRIGAN expecting to find more short, one or two page comics. But instead, I found myself sucked into the 380 page graphic novel about a single character awkwardly making his way through life. The comic felt semi-autobiographical at times, and other times seemed like complete fantasy. There are laugh-out-loud moments and times where you can't help but feel a bit depressed. It's a brilliant piece of fiction done entirely by one man. I've recently started re-reading this book for the third time, it's one of my favorites.
Lastly, I'm reading two books done by very close friends, so I'm probably a little biased. But since they're both on my nightstand at the moment, it'd be irresponsible to not mention them.
CHEWby John Layman and Rob Guilloryfrom Image ComicsRob Guillory has been a friend of mine since college and his studio is right across the hall from my studio. I used to read his comic strips in the VERMILION, our college newspaper, so I was a fan long before almost anyone in comics. From the moment Guillory and Layman hooked up to collaborate on CHEW, I knew it would be a hit. I'm currently reading the second collected volume, and it's fantastic. Sadly, I see all the original art in progress as the pass across my scanner, so there's no way around the constant spoilers.
TUMORby Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazonfrom Archaia Studios PressI worked with Fialkov on our creator owned book PUNKS, and it's easily one of the best collaboration experiences I've ever had. Fialkov is a fantastic writer with an imagination unrivaled by anyone in comics. It's interesting to see how well he writes humor on a book like PUNKS, and then compare that to his more dramatical work like ELK'S RUN or TUMOR. I'm only a few chapters deep with TUMOR, but I'm hooked. Tuazon's art is minimal, but effective. Fans of WALKING DEAD's Charlie Adlard will also appreciate this book. The logo is also very nice. :)