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.
Well, between Comic-Con, clearing the work from Comic-Con and one or two other developments behind the scenes, I’m a little late with the July edition. Enough that it’ll have to serve for both summer months. But never fear! I haven’t stopped reading comics and there are plenty to look at and cheer for. Let’s get started.
Above the Clouds #1: A find at Comic-Con’s small press area! Writer/Artist Melissa Pagluica is an outstanding talent. Above the Clouds, reprinted from her webcomic of the same name, represents her first foray into comics and it is already a showcase of staggering talent. The story concerns a young maiden in a (fantasy?) Scottish realm who is given a half-written book by a local warrior. The warrior is utterly embarrassed by his need to write, and freaks out when she demands more pages of the story during a dinner celebrating all of the local warriors’ prowess. While the Scottish section is told without dialogue, the warrior’s story is and provides such a sharp contrast to the lives lived in both stories. But throughout is Pagluica’s breathtaking art. Both dream-like and filled with remarkable expression, it shows what is possible when an accomplished artist comes to comics. Three chapters are in print so far, so I highly recommend picking them up.
Fables Vol. 22 – Farewell: Doubling as the final issue of the series, Farewell doesn’t quite stick the landing. Like the previous volume, the primary conflict is resolved with a brief conversation instead of a major confrontation. The text explains why, but it still seems like backing away from the momentum of the last several books. But where the main story falters, the side stories excel at showing us the “last” story of characters not covered last time. These are definitely worth it, as is a brief cameo by a long-dead character. The main art team of Mark Buckingham, inkers Steve Leialoha, Andrew Pepoy, Dan Green and Jose Marzan Jr. with Lee Loughridge on colors pull out all the stops page after page for one of the best looking volumes in the whole series. Also, a great selection of guest artists illustrate the shorter “last” stories … but at the same time, this is strictly for readers invested in Fables for the last decade. And, like I said, the main story backs away from the seemingly intended confrontation. To a certain extent, the story was over two or three years ago; a fact the characters even acknowledge. Though it is sad to say farewell to these characters, they were very close to overstaying their welcome.
Doctor Fate #1-2: Part of the recent DC soft reboot, Doctor Fate takes the golden age concept and finally puts the helmet of fate on the head of an Egyptian immigrant who only wants to keep his family safe, attended medical school and maybe fool around with his girlfriend. Written by DC stalwart Paul Levitz with phenomenal art by Sonny Liew and color by Lee Loughridge, this is, to me, the most exciting of the new DC titles … even if the story is moving slowly. I suppose that pace is a problem of modern superhero comics as a whole, but Doctor Fate combats that with a truly novel reinvention of an old concept and kick-ass art. The Dr. Fate concept always used ancient Egyptian mysticism to power its main character and story, but by introducing modern Khalid Nassour to the mix, Levitz creates the possibility of sharp contrast between the two eras and what it means to contend with that history. Though we’re only two issues in, the possibility — and the talent involved — make this one to watch.
Black Canary #1-2: Another of the DC soft reboots sees Dinah Lance, with her sonic cry and martial arts training, take up the role of lead singer in a rock band named “Black Canary.” Since this takes place in the newer DC continuity, I’m unsure how much of Dinah’s history is in tact, but it doesn’t matter. At it’s core, the book is about a band taking on the only thing stranger than a rock star: a superhero. While Dinah tries to hide her past, she’s forced to train the band to fight. Key here are the visuals, supplied by Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge yet again on colors. It sparkles to life and immediately establishes its own identity. While it’s still early going, it, along with Doctor Fate, represent my two favorite new DC books that look to emphasize character and style over crossovers and event tie-ins.
Pang The Wandering Monk: Vol. 1 – Refuge of the Heart: Ben Costa’s Xeric-winning graphic novel is a marvelous example of cartooning. Pang, the lead character is far more abstracted than the characters and world around him, but it makes quite expressive and sets him apart from the 18th Century China that surrounds him. For his part, Pang is a husky monk at a Shaolin Temple who must flee when one of the waring factions in a recent civil war lays siege to the temple. He arrives in a city under Qing rule and must hide his association with Shaolin in the hopes of finding other monks. He also meets a girl along the way. It’s charming and well-researched with copious footnotes about the history of China at the time, pronunciation hints and even a few highlighting the different regional dialects used at the time. It does take some time for the story to get going and some of the layouts are a little more ambitious than they need to be, but by halfway though, the story fires on all cylinders and you’ll want to pre-order vol. 2 as soon as you can.
So that’ll do it for the month. Plenty of excited stuff out there and comics feel pretty vital and exciting right now, even if people wring their hands about the comics getting lost at Comic-Con. Surely, the proliferation of webcomics, offbeat mainstream titles and self-published efforts, there will be even more reasons to shout Yay for Comics.