Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today our special guest is Jamaica Dyer, creator of Weird Fishes and Fox Head Stew, which can be read over at MTV Geek. She also recently did a concert report in comic form from San Francisco's Noisepop for Spin Magazine.
To see what Jamaica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Even if there was a lot less weird in Animal Man #7 (written by Jeff Lemire with a prologue drawn by Travel Foreman), I still enjoyed Steve Pugh's return to the character. The issue was more straightforward than the previous arc had been -- packs of demonic animals wreaking havoc while the Bakers head cross-country -- but it was good and creepy all the same. Especially effective was a splash page showing the last moments of a doomed pickup truck.
Likewise, Swamp Thing #7 (written by Scott Snyder, drawn by Yanick Paquette) has been consistently good at blending the (sometimes-literally) twisted world of ecology-gone-bad with the trappings of everyday life. This issue (SPOILER ALERT!) features Alec's ultimate transformation into Swamp Thing, which I'd seen described elsewhere -- including at the LCS -- as "seven issues for the main character to show up." However, I think that prelude helped this issue earn its pathos. Snyder and Paquette have rebuilt Alec/Swampy from the ground up, as it were; and along the way they created the feeling that the old rules might not necessarily apply.
Not really comics, but I have been watching the Criterion blu-ray of the original Godzilla. It features a much stronger connection to the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with one main character wanting to study Godzilla's apparent resistance to radiation. Everyone else in Japan wants to kill the monster, though, and for good reason: he's an unstoppable force of destruction, smashing and/or incinerating everything in his path. Naturally, it got me in the mood to revisit Marvel's Godzilla, helpfully collected in Essential form a few years back. I'm sure the tales of Godzilla vs. SHIELD and superheroes will be pretty well sanitized by comparison.
Villains for Hire #4: Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning throws the faithful readers of this mini, as well as the Heroes for Hire ongoing, one last curveball. The sales were never there for this series, which bewilders me on one level—because it was so well-executed. But on another level, the series was a collection of B-grade heroes and villains, which inherently make for a hard sell.
The Amazing Spider-Man #681: A few weeks back I praised the presence of two-part arcs on this title. And while I enjoyed the Human Torch/Spidey team-up that played out in 680-681, if I am honest with myself I have to question if it was a story worth $8. By the way, with Johnny Storm alive and all, how much longer do the heroes have to go around in those goofy Future Foundation costumes? And it really looks lame in this issue where Johnny is wearing one.
The Manhattan Projects 01: An alternate view of World War II with Robert Oppenheimer as one of the main focuses is just built to hook my attention. Hickman’s portrayal of the secret inventions/prisons in this alternate universe are elements that artist Nick Pitarra clearly relished rendering. Have you ever seen an artist and thought to yourself, this guy is gonna team with Grant Morrison at some point. Pitarra is one of those artists. Finally, I love how Hickman introduced readers to the main character, General Leslie Groves.
Hulk #49: Writer Jeff Parker and artist Elena Casagrande give readers that rarity of rarities in 2012 comics—a done in one story. If this issue was a giant audition for the creators to do a project with The Eternals (who guest star in this issue), consider me in full support. It was either that, or The Eternals seemed poised for a bigger story down the road—be it in this ongoing or as one of the event books Marvell has planned. Parker gives Casagrande a lot of fun scenes to tackle (Machine Man firing drill bits to open a hole in a volcano, a slugfest between Hulk and Ikaris). The latter of which is really great as Ikaris lands one punch that seems to almost re-set Hulk’s jaw. It was a great perspective on a fight scene and infused it with a great deal of kineticism.
Green Arrow #7: DC figured out the only way I would check out this title. Hire writer Ann Nocenti. (Side note to DC editorial: what is up with listing her as Annie on the cover and Ann in the actual book). It Is too early to tell if Nocenti is going to work without too much editorial interference, but if left to her own devices I am hoping for great things with this series. The creator of Mavel villain Typhoid Mary, Nocenti is clearly working the mentally unhinged angle with the triplet villain, The Skylarks. Artist Harvey Tolibao did not particularly impress me in this issue, reminding me of a very rushed Scott McDaniel. Nonetheless, I will be back for issue 8.
I knew that Seth's The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists was a mix of fact and fiction, but I didn't realize how much of it was fiction until I started Googling some of the more interesting cartoonists and comics. I was disappointed to find that Kao-Kuk, the Eskimo astronaut, Pierre Lacombe--Voyageur, and the provincial priest Father Robert are all just figments of Seth's imagination. And what an imagination! He has created an entire world of cartoonists and their creation, and housed them in a fantastic building (with an even more amazing array of igloos for their archives). Seth works with great deliberation; he sticks to a nine-panel layout on almost every page, yet it never seems dull because of the way he varies the space, sometimes spreading a single image across all nine panels, other times breaking it up in interesting ways. The man has a gift for composition. The monotony of the text boxes at the top of each panel is a bit harder to take. Because the panels are so small, the narrative is broken into a series of short statements, which gets a bit wearing. Still, Seth's boundless imagination, deft drawing style, and clever compositions make this beautiful little volume a real gem.
Switching gears entirely, I'm catching up with American Vampire, reading the trade of the second story arc. I love what Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are doing with the whole vampire concept, turning it into a New World vs. Old World conflict and then weaving it into some really interesting episodes of American history. The first volume had a dual storyline set in Hollywood in the 1920s and the Wild West; this one takes us to Las Vegas in the 1930s, at the time of the building of the Hoover Dam and, as a direct result, the rise of the casinos and brothels. The story is complicated but well told, so I can appreciate the complexity without losing the thread, and Albuquerque's art is amazing.
Right now I'm reading Bowie in Berlin and it's a fascinating look into Bowie's life after Ziggy, and through his evolution and production of "Low." I'm fascinated by his friendship with Iggy Pop and how they were both young, famous, suffering through drug addiction, and pushing each other to make new music. Bowie's influence on "The Idiot" is huge! Following his downward spiral in LA, and subsequent recovery in France and Germany while collaborating with Brian Eno, it's all a very interesting look at one of our most intriguing pop stars and all the issues he had, and how he grew past them to develop even more amazing music.
For fashion, I read The Fashion File: Mad Men and really enjoyed reading wardrobe tips from the costume designer of one of my favorite shows. This is, honestly, the bible for how to dress like a stylish, classy lady. I read things in this book that completely changed my wardrobe, from buying my first pair of heels to learning how to accessorize with jewelry and fit it all together. It's a bit vapid at times, but hey, it's all about the details, and this book is illustrated with lots of great fashion drawings and ideas. And for the guys: it tells you how to pick out a suit, too!
I picked up the first issue of the new Conan the Barbarian,c and I'm kind of bummed out by how cool it is. Becky Cloonan's art is amazing, Brian Wood's writing is compelling, and not only is Conan pretty fun to look at, but the Queen is dead-hot. The fantasy sequences are really well-done, though the action sequences are a little hard to follow. Why am I bummed out by it? Because I was dreaming of doing an indie adaptation of Conan, and it appears that the king and queen of indie comics just took up the mantle. You know what they say, "Conan, what is best in life? ..."