So, a million years ago, Paul Pope drew an illustration of his THB protagonist, HR Watson, jumping for joy and exclaiming “Yay for Comics!” It is a reminder that the medium is filled with excitement. Yet, it can be difficult to enjoy comics with the sexist and violent tirades of certain fans, the thin margins under which the industry operates and the continuing racial and gender inequality in the creative sector of the business, but there are still things to love about it. Things that make me jump for joy, just like HR Watson.
This month sees me trying a number of new series, finally reading a few trades sitting in my pile and enjoying the medium. So, let’s get to it!
Pretty Deadly Vol 1: Kelly Sue DeConnick’s western tale is odd. I mean that in the best way possible. It has a similiar atmosphere to a Nick Cave song. It’s moody, filled with mist and Death has a starring role. The story is told in a rather elliptical way, which makes sense considering the narrator appears to be an animal carcass. The story concerns Death’s attempt to prevent his replacement from taking her rightful place and, perhaps, ending the cycle of life in the process. While it’s all more suggested than the typical comic, it’s wonderfully illustrated by , who give us wonderful looking characters like Fox, Sissy and Ginny. It appears Ginny will be the main character in subsequent stories and I look forward to it.
Annihilator #1: Grant Morrison, freed from the shackles of the major publishers, takes on his most overt Philip K. Dick inspired tale. While Morrison has always been fond of time loops, fiction coming to life and inverting expectations, this is the first time he straight-up uses Hollywood and its excesses as the starting point. Though, we also get ten or so pages of one of the most nihilistic sci-fi stories printed in comics in a good long while. It remains to be seen just how that sci-fi world merges with the suicidal screenwriter who appears to be our protagonist, but I’m excited to see where it goes.
The Mercenary Sea: The spiritual successor to Corto Maltese and a welcome Johnny Quest-esque cousin (in fact, Dr. Quest and Race Bannon make a small cameo), The Mercenary Sea brings adventure back to comics — a genre the medium never does enough of for my tastes. Kel Symons’ story is set in the Pacific before the U.S. entry into World War II, the book centers on a rag-tag crew manning a stolen Chinese sub. While they mainly smuggle goods around the island, Captain Jack Harper looks for clues to a local Shang-ri La like island. There’s also some spies, an Japanese Army base and friendly natives thrown in for good measure. What sets this apart is the style provided by Mathew Reynolds. It almost looks like stills from an animated movie with great use of rack focus techniques from panel to panel. I’m sure a computer was used to achieve the style, but it’s one of the best uses I’ve seen in a good, long while.
Teen Dog #1: He might look like Poochie, but Teen Dog’s chill demeanor makes him the best-liked kid in school. Even the self-styled enemy of Teen Dog, Thug Pug, can’t help but like him. The brain child of Jake Lawrence, Teen Dog is one of those books I pick up on a whim and I’m glad I did. It’s another all ages comic with fun one-page strips and a group of great characters, Thug Pug included. It’s currently an eight-issue miniseries, so I imagine a plot will appear in subsequent issues. For the meanwhile, I’m glad to have met Teen Dog and picked up his positive vibe.
I Kill Giants: This was given to me as a birthday gift several years ago and I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner. Written by Joe Kelly with art from JM Ken Niimura, I Kill Giants is a story of loss, anger and dealing with the inevitable. It also has some magic if you choose to see it. The main character is a young girl obsessed with fantasy and role playing games and she’s using her fascinations to cope with … ah, but that would be telling. This is the big winner of the month for me. The story is amazing, the characters instantly relatable and the art so different and amazing. I might be the last person to see this book for what it is, and if so, read it again. It’s just so good.
The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #1: I’ve never read a Valiant title before. I’m not entirely sure why, but the cover to the first issue seemed intriguing. It introduces a woman who can talk to the dead, except for her own late husband, and consults on macabre cases. I have no idea if Doctor Mirage is a preexisting Valiant character and I don’t really care. I’m happy to learn about this corner of the Valiant world by way of Shan, the world-weary title character. As she digs deeper into the first case, I found myself curious about the spin on the dead that will eventually be revealed.
Well, that’ll do it for this week. I’m off to Long Beach Comic-Con this weekend and perhaps I’ll discover some new treasure to keep me positive about this whole comic thing. And even if not, we’ll be checking in with Fables next month and I’ll see if the new take on Batgirl gets me to shout yay for comics.