Happy Comic-Con week, and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest contributors are Jim Demonakos and Kyle Stevens from the Seattle nerd rock band Kirby Krackle. The band, whose newest video features Wolverine, is currently in Florida for Nerdapalooza, and will be in San Diego later this week at booth #1803. So stop by and say hi if you're going.
See what the boys from Kirby Krackle, as well as the rest of the Robot 6 crew, have been reading lately after the jump ...
Having gotten through Blackest Night the other week, I spent some time with Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps Vol. 1 and 2. These are the books that collect the various non-GL tie-ins, like Black Lantern: Wonder Woman, Black Lantern: Teen Titans, etc. It's about as up and down in quality as you can imagine, most of it being rather bad. The Teen Titans and Wonder Woman sequences struck me as being particularly noxious due to poor storytelling. The only one that really worked for me was the Flash tie-in; I suspect that's because Geoff Johns was the writer in that instance and therefore had the best affinity to the material. For the most part, this felt like a long run of placeholder comics, warming the bench until the next chapter in the main saga, which, I suppose, is the case for just about all tie-in comics in these multi-part crossover stories these days. Though I seem to recall Zero Hour had a lot less baby-killing.
There won't be a lot of specifics from me this week. If this feature were called "What Are You Planning To Read?" I would be a lot better at it. This is because I am planning to read the 15 issues of Secret Society of Super-Villains -- if there's no Showcase Presents, I might as well buy the back issues -- as well as the last volume of Diana Prince: Wonder Woman. Comics I have enjoyed in the past seven days include the four issues (so far) of American Vampire and Superman #701 (to which, of course, I devoted Thursday's GOF). I am also re-reading the five Scott Pilgrim books and regretting once again coming to that particular series so late.
I was very disappointed that Atlas has been canceled yet again, especially since this week's Gorilla Man #1 was so good. I don't think Jeff Parker has written a bad issue of anything Atlas-related, and if there were any way I could pay him directly every month to tell me stories about these characters, I would.
Otherwise it was a pretty good week for the superheroes: I liked Batman #701, the first issue of the Astro City: Silver Agent two-parter, the double-shot of JLI with Booster Gold and Generation Lost, and X-Files/30 Days Of Night #1. I thought Girl Comics #3 was fairly well-done, but I didn't recognize either of the characters featured in the last two stories.
Finally, I have to say that the Watchmen Ultimate Edition DVD set is an impressive package. It's about as thick as two or three Scott Pilgrim books, and it has 5 discs: one for the extended ('Black Freighter"-ized) version of the movie, one for the regular version, one for special features, and two for the motion comic. I had mixed feelings about the movie when I saw it in the theater, so I'm driven mostly by curiosity here....
I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that Diana Thung’s Captain Long Ears is not a rip-roaring adventure about a rabbit-hatted space ninja and his bowler-wearing gorilla pal. I mean, it’s not marketed that way or anything and even the cover is much more sweetly playful than aggressively awesome. But even so, I wasn’t prepared for how dark the story actually was. There’s no twist ending or anything; you figure out very quickly that Captain Long Ears is actually a young boy named Michael who has an active imagination, that Jam the ape is actually a stuffed toy, and that the Captain Big Nose they’re searching for is actually Michael’s missing father. The mystery is in what actually happened to Big Nose (though that’s not hard to guess either) and – more importantly – whether or not Michael will survive the search. There may not be actual monsters and pirates to threaten him, but Michael is sick to the point of being feverish and he’s been missing from home for almost a day. I worried about him in a way I never would’ve worried about a space ninja with an ape sidekick. It’s a powerful book, but reading it was an emotionally wrenching experience.
The Aviary reminded me a bit of Lost. Crazy, non-linear storytelling, but everything comes together in the end to not quite make sense. At least it had a gin-swigging robot, a talking dog, and some genuinely deep observations about love and loneliness.
Sean T. Collins
A couple of anthologies and the coolest Swedish import this side of Ikea were what I read this week. Click the links for reviews!
pood #1, edited by Geoff Grogan, Kevin Mutch, and Alex Rader: I really dig the format and production values in this Wednesday Comics-sized newsprint alternative-comics anthology, but I'm lukewarm on the content overall.
The Troll King, by Kolbeinn Karlsson: I was hugely impressed by this ballsy (in more ways than one) and beautiful monster-comic parable from Top Shelf's Swedish Invasion.
Mome Vols. 17-19, edited by Eric Reynolds and Gary Groth: Fanta's venerable anthology series turns a corner with three issues' worth of darker, stronger material.
I picked up Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man from the library on the strength of recommendations I have seen for it all over the web, and it didn't disappoint me, although I feel it could have been better edited. Tyler has a nice diary style that seems intimate and friendly but is also quite sophisticated. The book is ostensibly about Tyler's father, and how he experienced the trauma of war and was left with deep psychological scars, but the book ends before the climax, the terrible thing that left him scarred for life. At the same time, a lot of the book is about Tyler—her curiosity about her father's experiences, her attempts to cope after her husband leaves her, her relationship with her teenage daughter. In the end, I felt the book was too much about her trying to get her father to talk and not enough about what happened to him. Still, that criticism aside, I really enjoyed the book. There aren't too many comics about middle-aged women, and it was nice to read about something other than youthful rebellion and angst for a change.
Two Cents Plain is another memoir by a contemporary of Tyler's, and it touches on the war in a different way. Martin Lemelman's parents were Jews who lived through the Holocaust and met in a resettlement camp after the war. They moved to New York and eventually settled in the Brownsville area of Brooklyn, where they ran a candy store. Memoirs of growing up Jewish in New York used to be so numerous that they were practically a genre of their own, but mostly they were heartwarming and glossed over the bad stuff. Lemelman tells his story matter-of-factly, sparing no detail—his father's drinking, his mother's attempts to shield him from the evil eye, the cramped quarters they lived in behind the store, and eventually, the animosity that sprang up between them and their new neighbors, as the neighborhood changed and mutual acceptance turned into violence. Lemelman breaks the book into a series of vignettes, and his realistic style, peppered with photos of real documents and knickknacks from the store, brings this bygone era to life.
Kirby Krackle's Jim Demonakos
Having been a fan of Hellboy for what seems like forever (I actually bought it when it first came out in... (wait while I check the always accurate Wikipedia), yes, confirmed as forever, 1994!), it's been really great that more and more of Mike Mignola's universe is being explored in the pages of B.P.R.D.
The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense's history spans all the way back to 1944. The B.P.R.D. comics are cleverly presented and easily digestible in basically a monthly miniseries format, anything from one-shots to six issue arcs. In fact, there have now been more B.P.R.D. comics than Hellboy comics! What's great is that, with Mignola at the helm co-writing most everything along with John Acrudi, the B.P.R.D. has created a massive story that both intertwines with Hellboy's own story, but also lives on its own with fantastic stories and an array of characters who I've come to know and care about. Not to mention the fabulous art by Guy Davis, who has illustrated a majority of the stories.
I'll also add that it's been cool the last couple years that B.P.R.D. has explored the past history of the organization with it's 1946 and 1947 miniseries' (and soon to come, 1948), adding weight to the entire Hellboy mythos and enhancing the current comics at the same time! Great stuff!
I love this book and I'm pretty thrilled it's been coming out regularly from Image Comics lately, saving it from limbo. I first discovered this book as part of TokyoPop's line of Original English Language graphic novels and was totally taken by it from the get-go. Sadly, there was only ever one volume and then TokyoPop folded its OEL business. Thankfully, there was an agreement made with Image Comics who started re-publishing King City as a monthly book, starting with all the material from the OEL and then transitioning to all-new material!
Enough history, back to the book. It was like Brandon Graham (the creator/writer/artist) took a bit of all the things I love like girls, monsters, hip hop, video games, comics (both US and foreign), food, aliens, anime and so much more and put them in a blender to make King City just for me. Everything about it screamed 'awesome,' from the main character Joe's use of a cat as his main weapon (he gives the cat shots to make it do what he needs it to do) to brain thieves, sexy girls, secret organizations, weird puns and so much more.
The book really grips you from the get-go and has an overwhelming sense of 'cool' to it. Graham's art is also very open, no extraneous lines, I wouldn't insult it by calling it simple, but it's very graphic and the double page spreads are filled with a ton of hidden gems.
I could go on and on, it's a top-of-the-pile book for me and I highly recommend it! Also, check out Graham's blog -- it's perpetually entertaining and full of cool art, what more do you want?
Kirby Krackle's Kyle Stevens
The Walking Dead
When I was asked to contribute what books I'm reading, the first answer popped into my head, as it always does, was The Walking Dead.
It's a book I've exposed many a new comic reader to and still years later, a series I must instantly read in the car after buying my books every Wednesday. Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard have done a beyond amazing job at taking the reader on a journey (next week #75 hits the stands) though the darkest and most tantalizing of human paranoia; what happens when life as you know it stops and you're forced to pull your will to survive from a depth you never knew existed?
The black & white tone of a comic has never looked better in my opinion as it does in TWD, and month after month I find I care more and more about the characters that, as we've seen, can be wiped out without any time for regret. And really how can you when roamers could pop out of the bushes at any time? I can't wait to see what the years ahead hold for this book, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone more excited than me about the upcoming TWD TV series.
Our song "Zombie Apocalypse" was a direct tribute to our love for TWD, and should be a must read for any fan of comics in general. I only wish I had the luxury of discovering it again for a long rainy day of trade reading. If you've been holding out, do yourself a favor and do the same. Lucky bastards...
It feels just like yesterday when I had to hide my Punisher War Journal books from my parents behind the dresser in the room I shared with my sister, and despite what my KK bandmate Jim will tell you... that wasn't last week. I grew up on Frank Castle and his special brand of crazy, and like you all, have loved his recent runs with Ennis and Way behind the writers helm.
Recently though, I've been made a revived believer of vigilante justice thanks to the new run by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon. Dillon's thin-line style and amazing facial expressions on paper have always been something special to the world of The Punisher, but has bloomed into something completely different thanks to Aaron's take on the origin of The Kingpin and especially Bullseye. He's made the character somebody who is actually scary again (cringing at the thought of Colin Farrell with the forehead scar), and taken us into the mind of the the killer.
The scene in issue #8 where he "joins" a family like Castle's to "live like Frank lives, and think like Frank thinks" is truly disturbing right up until the meet their predictable if not necessary end. I can't wait to see where this book goes and how it keeps up the already high bar of pace and creativity I feel it's reached to all of our benefit. For those looking to fall in love with justice again...check out PunisherMax.