Tuesday, August 30, 2011

100 Books 48 - Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD

I'm not sure what we did to deserve the punishment McCarthy has meted out to us in the form of this bleak, bleak book, but I am sure we're sorry.

Oh, there are candidates of course -- fossil fuel dependency, deforestation, soil abuse, war, industry, monoculture, nuclear energy and weaponry, your onus here -- but McCarthy has been at pains to conceal the culprit/culprits for the utter devastation of the world's entire ecosystem down to, it would seem, the soil bacteria. All is ash and ruin, a few sorta-survivors picking through the mess for canned food and gasoline and matches. We're not meant to know how or why it happened; we're meant to suffer its consequences helplessly along with the nameless man and his son as they trundle a cart full of scavenged goods along what's left of a major highway, following the ancient homing instinct south and to the sea. And suffer we do through what has to be the bleakest book ever.

I had to admire it though, even as it nearly drove me mad (both with despair and annoyance), for the artful way in which this perfect bleakness was accomplished, even as the gimmick used irritated the hell out of me. For, you see, I've probably used as many verbs in this blog post -- or will have by the time it's done -- as McCarthy did in the whole damned book; a good 85% (no, I haven't done the math; just what I feel is a fair figure) of the text is sentence fragments.* Verbless fragments. Over and over. The constant lack of verbs. The repetitiveness a constant grind. And then every once in a while a lone, complete sentence for which the reader becomes absurdly grateful. The complete sentences sparse and uncommon like cans of food in the wasteland.


But I see what you did there, Mr. McCarthy. Oh yes. That's your fancy (and absurdly difficult, as I just proved to myself above) way to convey the complete lifelessness of the landscape; when nothing lives, nothing can act, and when everything is ash, nothing can really be, either, so why muck about with verbs, which only appear in this book in the odd complete sentence in which the man or the boy or, very rarely, one of the other hostile humans they encounter, is acting or being.

I admire the patience and determination writing like that must have taken, and as ideas go it's very literary and highbrow, but in practice, as a reader, again I say: whatever it was I did, I'm sorry.**

*For a long time I gnashed my teeth at this and wanted to shake everyone who told me this was a good book until his or her teeth rattled; the same reaction I had to Annie Proulx's awful The Shipping News, a book in which Proulx seems deliberately to have used as few pronouns as possible. Did McCarthy see how much praise she got for that book, I asked myself, and decide he needed a similar reader-punishing gimmick? And the thing is, despite my eventual admiration as outlined above, I'm still not sure this isn't the case. He could have set out to write a novel with as few verbs as possible, and just happened to find the perfect milieu and material for it, for all I know. Oh, and since this is my first McCarthy book, for all I know this might be his style all the time, in which case ARRRRRRGH.

**You may have noticed my blog posts getting shorter lately. I have been diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow but when it's an office worker like myself being diagnosed they call it mouse elbow. Whatever you want to call it, it hurts like a sonofabitch, further complicated by my allergy to most pain medication and such a bad shortage of workers available at my day gig that overtime is practically mandatory. So typing this post has taken a very long time indeed, mostly pecked out with one hand, and it seems appropriate to mention this here as I ponder this most punishing and painful read I finished today. Except, well, the read had its bleak sense of reward whereas the elbow just keeps on hurting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday Comics Round-Up - August 28

Yesterday was "Read Comics in Public" day and you'd better believe that I celebrated. After all, I had last Sunday to make up for. And I'm still behind! It never ends! Which is a good thing.

BODYSNATCHERS, Issues 1 and 2


Bodysnatchers is written and drawn by Pakko Massimo, colored by Barbara Ciardo, and released by GG Studios, your American home for crazy/weird and occasionally awesome Italian comics. Andrea Plazzi translated it into English.


A story with retro sci-fi flare and a visionary dystopian saga, Bodysnatchers is a pulsing narrative set in the future city of Ecumenopolis. Bodies are disappearing as the city's foundations are eaten away by an internal threat. A civil war between castes ignites, as Black Eightball, Aristoi, Cives, Bodysnatchers shamans and White Eightball struggle for supremacy. - from GG Studios' website


Eep. Already two issues of #TheBodySnatchers on my stack. When did GG Studios get so prompt and timely?

Cover features a very angular/geometric woman in weird body armor on top w/bikini bottoms, holding 2 swords.

She's vaguely Lara Croft-like. And jumping from a skyscraper in a full tuck into some kind of fray below.

Like a lot of GG's books, I'm finding this a little impenetrable. Not sure if it's cultural or what.

"You make the prisoners, asscrat." Umm... whut?

I *think* this aristocrat (?) with her hair in the severe red bun is the same person as the sword chick ...

I get a Transmetropolitan vibe from the street scenes and the way the characters talk about commoners.

I wonder if #TheBodySnatchers are stealing prole bodies (still in use) for spare parts/regeneration for old aristos?

Guess not. But it seems our now-widowed heroine is in danger from some ill-defined plot and on the lam. OK.

Maybe things will get clearer in Issue 2? I can only hope.

Opening with a flashback. Visually striking, white lines delineate figures against dark burgundy/green BGS.

Yeah, bog standard aristo descending into the underbelly tale going on.

OK, the "TeenToys" got my attention. And one is referred to as "Perky Pat!"

The TeenToys are quite striking and creepy. A lot like the dwarf-robots in BladeRunner. I hear those voices for the TTs dialogue.

Still a little O_o after Issue 2 but intrigued by the Dickian elements and aesthetic.


I realize now that it wasn't GG being timely at all; the first issue came out in March! I just had it filed to read later because I view a lot of GG product with suspicion; the first book they solicited, Mediterranea, is basically a big dumb slab of cheesecake eye candy, its techno-Byzantine populated by a serious overabundance of pneumatic, doe-eyed, practically naked women, and here comes Bodysnatchers with a sword-wielder in bikini bottoms on the cover. Issue 2 finally came a long and I realized I needed to have a look and make a decision about whether to keep my subscription going. Having read these two issues back to back now, I'm still not sure. There's some intriguing stuff here but I'm still not sure what's supposed to be going on except that it's a cyberpunk world, with the standard high-tech/lowlife schtick straight out of early William Gibson with perhaps a dash of the Bruce Sterling of Heavy Weather. I find the protagonist pretty boring and none of the other characters have their hooks in me. What does have a modest barb is the art: the gritty city is excellently rendered and intriguing and the character designs are pretty cool. It's possible that no matter what exertions Plazzi makes in translating the dialogue it's just not going to come across? I don't know anyone who isn't having a problem following this story at any rate.



This one is very much writer/penciller/inker Joe Benitez's baby; he's wearing all of his (steampunked) hats here, teamed up with Peter Stiegerwald on colors. Aspen Comics is publishing this one, sporadically. Honestly, I don't know if it's the press or Diamond who keeps Aspen's, Moonstone's and other indie titles coming to me at such random and long intervals!


Specializing in the occult and paranormal activities, Lady Mechanika solves the confounding mysteries of the supernatural others cannot. However, it is the mystery of her own origin that drives her unflinching determination. She is part human and part metal, but must use all of her wits to uncover the truth about her creation. It is a path leading her directly into the sights of Lord Blackpool, a malevolant, and deadly, arms dealer with the answers she seeks about her life— and the power to end it. Lady Mechanika debuted in the fall of 2010 and quickly became one of the best selling independent comic books of that year. The genre smashing title has captivated the hearts of steampunk and graphic novel fans around the world. - From Aspen Comics' website


How about some #LadyMechanika now. I wonder if I remember enough of what's going on in this one. Long time since #1.

Wow. This is a really talky comic. Art overwhelmed by speech balloons.

All the dialogue is one person, too. And I really want her to shut up. Graceless exposition. Bah.

Ha! And then she complains about #LadyMechanika's "incessant drone." Projection, much?

"He decimated us. Decimated us all." Bleargh. #LexicalPetPeeves #ReducedByATenthMotherfolklore

Argh. Another character just spewing backstory.

There is serious talent at work in #LadyMechanika, but the story is feeling stale. And the ravishing art is covered in words.

This issue felt mostly like padding. All the scenes could have been shorter, or at least less wordy.


I should be enjoying this comic way more than I am. It's a glorious steampunk adventure and the main character is a Victorian cyborg, for pity's sake. What's not to love. But this issue really did feel padded out to a degree I'm disinclined to forgive. There really are whole pages where you can't see anything but speech balloons overwhelming the characters, so what should be exciting -- Mechankia meeting her nemesis who was once her mentor (itself a pretty cliched superhero trope, but Benitez has spent a lot of his career churning out superhero books, so yeah...) -- just made me roll my eyes and wait for it to be over. And the issue never recovered from the speechifying, which just bled over into other scenes. Mechanika is at risk of becoming Lemmiwinks, kids. I'm pretty disappointed.


This one's from Image Comics. The story is by Viktor "Heavy Metal" Kalvachev and Andrew Osborne, with art by Kalvachev, Toby Cypress (who's done everything from Batman to X-Men to Star Trek, but whom I chiefly did for the issue he did of C.B.G.B.) and Nathan Fox.


A powerhouse team of Hollywood and comic book veterans (along with special guest artists) presents a fast, funny, 100% cool new series for readers of all stripes. On the mean streets of Los Angeles, an alcoholic hit man and a desperate starlet dodge Russian mobsters, Italian gangsters, ninjas, hippies and the L.A.P.D. in a scheme to steal millions from a psychotic action movie hero. - from Image's website.


#BlueEstate is next on the stack. Lurid tabloid-y pulp crime fiction with lots of Hollywood seediness troweled on.

Smashing up yard gnomes with a tire iron. Cover your eyes, @JeremyCShipp*

The stuff with the wigs is pretty funny.

Groan. "What's he doing out there, sudoku?" And so when the 'ho emerges from his car, they call her Sudoku.

Hee hee. Termites. A wannabe real estate tycoon's best friend. Hee hee.

The OTT cartooniness of the art is perfect for this farcical story.

I don't feel as much like I need a shower as I thought I would after reading an issue sub-titled "The Money Shot"


This comic is growing on me. At first I thought it was trying too hard, and while it still is, it's succeeding a lot of the time. This is a very convoluted crime story -- actually several crime stories all interwoven in amusing and intriguing ways (each new issue starts off with a helpful diagram to illustrate the complexities of the relationships between the characters it highlights): money laundering, murder plots, real estate tomfoolery, and the making of stupid B-movies starring the head bad guy's Russian girlfriend. Neither the HBG nor the RG are in this issue, but I didn't notice their lack until the end, watching henchmen hench (and fiddle around with a lady's wig collection). It's all presented in a hilarious cartoony style that reminds me of John K. (of Ren & Stimpy fame) and some really great coloring. Really great -- the coloring is what first caught my eye. If you wish Quentin Tarantino would lay off the French film snobbery and kung-fu kookiness and just go back to making stuff like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, this is the comic for you.



B.R.P.D. is a Dark Horse book, a spin-off of Hellboy, created by Mike Mignola. This arc is written by  John Arcudi, penciled by Tyler Crook and colored by Dave Stewart.


Trapped in a weird trailer park full of hillbilly cult fanatics, Liz Sherman must fight her way through the high priest of trash for safety! - From Dark Horse's website.


#BRPD: Hell on Earth: Monsters Issue 2 next. Yeah, the title/issue #s get complicated in the Hellboy universe.

Gotta say, I've enjoyed this Liz-centric arc a lot more than I thought I would. She's not been my favorite character.

Ahh yes. We're still among the hillbillies. One of whose ass Liz kicked last time XD

Oh no! Chased by possessed rednecks!


Has Liz ever been this badass? And still barefoot, mind!

Meanwhile, back at HQ, WTF?


As I said above, Liz has never been my favorite character in the Hellboy universe, but she's quite enjoyable to watch here; instead of angsting over how her power (she's a firestarter) isolates her or over her complicated relationship with Hellboy, she's drawing on her training as a Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense agent and using her brain to figure out what's going on in this trailer park, and her fists and feet to make it out alive -- despite the betrayal by someone she thought she should be able to trust. This is all -- with developments in the Hellboy comic -- building up to something major, and it's going to be great and terrible, especially if that someone who seems to have died back at headquarters really died back at headquarters. Um. Wow.



Feeding Ground comes from Archaia Comics and was created by Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski and Chris Mangun. The six issues in this awesome miniseries are written by Lang and drawn and colored in fantastic, folk-art style by Lapinski.


This new series is ripped right out of the real-life drama unfolding on the Mexico-Arizona border! Feeding Ground reaches a large and diverse audience no matter your personal point of view on the issue. In this factious story, a famine caused by Blackwell Industries drives Diego Busqueda, a noble “coyote,” to lead a band of Mexican border crossers across the unforgiving Devil’s Highway, a desert cursed with blistering days and deadly nights. Back home, Diego’s daughter Flaca discovers that something hungrier prowls the factory fields. Stalked and persecuted, can the Busqueda family maintain their dreams of immigration or will the horrors of the desert tear them apart? - From Archaia Comics' website


Now, a long-overdue helping of werewolf/illegal immigrant mayhem. It can only be #FeedingGround

I love that these are bilingual flip books. I dig testing myself with the Spanish version first.

I wonder what @MYMHM's** grandma, who loves Sleep Dealer, would think of #FeedingGround. Similar themes. But werewolves.

Oh man. Oh man. Flaca, don't eat your daddy. Please?

This storyline is getting pretty intense.

OK, killing that daddy instead is a little better. But only a little.

And this last issue of the series ends with a big ol' question mark. As perhaps it should.

Lots of cool pin-ups in the center of this one, including one by GB Tran! Neat 8).

That's a book I'm really glad I took a chance on. There's a hardcover soon. Get it.


I reviewed this comic fairly extensively for The Functional Nerds when Issue 4 came out back in April. I stand by that very favorable review; this is truly a stand-out comic for its topicality, its art and its incredible dramatic tension as well as its publication as a bilingual flip book, and I am delighted that it ended with potential for more storylines in the future. Werewolves and illegal immigration are not an obvious pairing but Lang and Lapinski made it work. If you missed this, get on over to Archaia's website and get you some, single issues or I guess you can wait for the hardcover but the flipbooks are just so cool! At any rate, go!



Avatar Press produces this book, written by David "Crossed" Lapham and drawn by newcomer German Nobile, who has so far worked exclusively for Avatar Press. That all should be warning enough.


David (Crossed) Lapham unveils a new tale of ancient Rome and the most feared emperor of all time. The one name that still speaks volumes of how absolute power can corrupt - Caligula. Assassination attempts against him have failed and Caligula now demands blood vengeance. Can Felix keep his focus and sanity in the face of so much misery and horror? A modern master of horror, Lapham digs deep into the world of Rome 37 AD and offers a unique epic of sin. Joined by new talent German Nobile who promises to serve up fully-painted pages dripping with blood, this all-new, full-color series will be six issues of evil that will make any Crossed fan smile with glee. For in the age of Caligula, all roads lead to Hell.


What's up, #Caligula, you sick, scary bastard whom they found a way to make even sicker and scarier?

"I wasn't feeling well and so stayed at the palace while #Caligula went to the ampitheater to mete out more death." XD

This caption accompanying a splash page with what appears to be a minotaur brandishing wolverine claws. Neat.

I believe I've said before that German Nobile is the next Jacen Burrows? He totally is. His art is depraved.

Of course, the subject matter Nobile is given to portray is depraved. Chicken-egg problem? XD

Ew. Yeah, that's more the kind of wrong I was expecting. And also: ew. #Incitatus

If Felix refers to him as "husband to a murdered wife, father to a murdered son" I'm throwing #Caligula against the wall.

OK. He came close but didn't directly quote.

"What would I tell him anyway? The emperor's immortal and his horse is a talking beast from the depths of Hades?" XD

Weaving in actual shit #Caligula did like "riding across the Bay of Baiae" is a good touch.

Oh, and effect this issue ends with #Caligula proclaiming "No more Mr. Nice Immortal Evil Emperor" XD


Caligula is gruesome and moronic and over the top and taken on its own merits could give comics a very bad name indeed. Its every page brims with pure and unadulterated wrong, as befits its subject matter: the only way the real Caligula could have been crazier or more evil would have been if he was unkillable, as this version of him is. The Felix of whom I tweet is our point of view character, someone whose family was murdered on Caligula's orders and has already tried to murder the emperor in revenge, only to find that yeah, he couldn't. But now he's stuck in the position by which he infiltrated the palace; he's part of Caligula's entourage, has attracted the attention both of his sister (I can't tell if she's supposed to be Drusilla, Agrippina or Livilla, all three of whom were real pieces of work) and his horse, Incitatus, whom the real Caligula made a Roman Senator but who is here imbued with a whole 'nother kind of evil: Incitatus talks, and likes to rape strapping young men. Ew. Which is all to say that this is a bad, bad book and that I'm probably a bad, bad person for liking it, even though I mostly just want to see where else Lapham is going to find to embroider on the already lavishly awful story of Little Boot.



Baltimore is another entry in the Dark Horse's vast and teeming Mignola-verse. This comic series is an offshoot of a novel Mike Mignola co-wrote with Christopher Golden, and they both have a hand in the series as well. Ben Stenbeck, a major Dark Horse/Mignola workhorse, is on pencils and here, too, Dave Stewart is on colors.


Monsters are overrunning Europe, and Baltimore, the only one who can put an end to these horrors, must find and kill Haigus, the vampire responsible for this chaos. Following reports that Haigus is holed up in a cloister, Baltimore finds a haven full of death and black magic, and the creature at the heart of his obsession! - From Dark Horse's Website


Another I feel I've waited forever for. New #Baltimore!

#Baltimore is a late 19th/early 20th century monster-hunter in the Mignolaverse for those who don't know him.

#Balitmore is still chasing the one-eyed vampire he failed to destroy during WWI. I remember now 8)

#Baltimore vs a whole den of vampires. Gawd yes.

Bwahaha. Standard "cool guy walking away from explosions" panel. #GuessTheyCouldntResist

So it appears #Baltimore has picked up a journalist sidekick. Ho hum. But as long as he's amusing.


Lord Baltimore is a great, tragic character, who lost his family to the same vampire he now hunts. As Stenbeck draws him he is unprepossessing, with just a hint of badassery as he tracks down Haigus. What I've chiefly enjoyed about this series to date (an earlier arc "The Plague Ships" wrapped up a few months ago) was its exploration of the idea of vampirism as a disease that was camouflaged and perhaps aggravated by other European plagues through history and by the flu epidemic that accompanied World War I. The sidekick he has picked up wants to make a name for himself writing the definitive guide to modern ("modern" in this case being "post WWI") vampires who has imposed himself on our hero as the price for sharing his clues about Haigus' doings and whereabouts, which is not terribly original but as I said, I'll tolerate it if he stays amusing. So far, so good. We don't know, as yet, how this supposed "Curse Bell" relates to what else is going on in the story but I trust that we will before long. This isn't great comics storytelling for the ages, but it's a solidly enjoyable title that looks to continue as same. It may be suffering slightly from comparison with the comic I read next...



It's Hellboy. Original creator Mike Mignola is scripting this very important story arc and the great Duncan Fegredo is bringing it to glorious eye-loving life, with, of course, Dave Stewart on colors.


While Hellboy makes one last stand against the Queen of Blood the war between the forces of good and evil rages on the battlefield with heaps of dead monsters and knights! - From Dark Horse's website


OK. Finally up to Issue 3 of #Hellboy: The Fury. @inkybat and other pals have been raving over this one

Picking up right where we left off. #Hellboy vs a trash talking dragon. @duncanfegredo run amuck destroying a village 8)

I love how this beast resembles the prow monsters on Viking ships.

Love all the monsters frolicking in Mab's mind's eye. They look positively playful on the scorched earth XD

Now THAT's how to end an arc. Holy crap. I can see why everyone's so excited about where #Hellboy is going.


Okay, right off, I was wrong about this issue ending the arc; there's one more to go, though I'm not sure where it can go from here; it looks awfully like Hellboy established a pyrrhic victory over his nemesis at the end of this one. Maybe he's just resting, and I was just overreacting to the teaser ad for the next big arc, Hellboy in Hell, due out next year. All that aside, this is proving a fantastic culmination to a long collaboration between Mignola and Fegredo (and Stewart, who simply exceeded himself in coloring this eye-popping stuff). It's apocalypse done as gorgeously as possible and portends yet more greatness.



The fantastic Chris "I, Zombie" Roberson is writing this brand new entry in Michael Moorcock's multiversal tales of the Eternal Champion in his many incarnations, with Francesco Biagini continuing to impress me on pencils and Stephen Downer coloring the madness. Boom! Studios is the publisher.


Signs continue to appear throughout the Multiverse that the Cosmic Balance is in peril, and the Eternal Champion is caught in the cross-hairs! Across worlds, Elric, Hawkmoon and Corum begin to face the force that threatens to overpower them all, while Eric Beck, a modern-day video game designer, must acknowledge that his reoccurring dreams of a Pale Prince aren’t all in his head. - From Boom! Studios website


#Hellboy vs Nimue put me in the mood for more of #Elric: The Balance Lost. How fortunate that I have issue 2 here!

Oswald Freaking Bastable. Oh, hell yes.

Continuing theme of mouths were they don't belong, you guys gotta see this one demon.

Not just vagina dentata, but boob dentata, jaw dentata (one mouth, four (?) jaws), maybe even armpit dentata.

Ooh, @chrisroberson "Spammer's Fishlings" is my new favorite expletive!

My detect allegory senses are tingling big time about this Cult of the One Arrow 8)

I say, the page visualizing the multiverse is a bit sublime. Would be moreso without the dreary inset panels across the top though.

Haw haw! The realm of the dentate demons used to be the "Republic of Texas" and they let the chaos in because it was an energy source.

The dentate/deranged buildings are a lot like how I picture post-Melding Plague Chasm City #AlastairReynolds

This continues to be a pretty groovy take on the Moorcockian Multiverse. Applause!


It's hard not to see the Tea Party and its in Roberson's Cult of the One Arrow, imposing its version of order with military and political force in whatever universe it finds itself, in its different (but perhaps more plausible) way just as icky and horrific as the disgusting chaos monsters Biagini has imagined for the worlds where the balance is tilting the other way. Couple that with the moral message of the Republic of Texas, tapping into "color spots" where chaos was originally trickling into that world and tearing wider gaps through which it could spill in and be harnessed as an energy source, to that world's ruin and you can see why my allegory sense tingled so. This is a Comic with a Message, but it's one that Moorcock surely must approve; his heroes are servants of the balance, not of either side. Roberson and Biagini keep drawing on that pool of heroes, too; I may yet get to see my dream of Jerry Cornelius popping up (though hey, Oswald Bastable is close!). If you love Michael Moorcock (and who doesn't?) you should definitely be getting this series. And if you don't know him, this is as good a place as any to start finding out what you've been missing.

'68, Issue 3


Hey, I couldn't get through Sunday Comics without something from Image, could I? This one is written by Mark Kidwell and drawn by Nat Jones and Tim B. Vigil, strangers none of them to comics and to monsters.


Visions of home-brewed hell take center stage as an anti-war protest on a California college campus turns into a cannibalistic massacre at the clawing hands of the hungry undead. Two lost soldiers fight their way across a jungle wasteland teeming with rot. And in Vietnam, Agent Declan Rule reveals his true reasons for being in country. - From Image Comics' website


Issue 3 of #68. Zombies in the Vietnam War. Oh yes.

Haw. Was wondering why this issue was "Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies" - the morgue is called Penny Lane... #68

...Because they've laid tin on the floor &put pennies on the corpses' eyes. If they rise as zombies you hear 'em moving XD

Oho! The zombie plague has reached the states and is spreading through anti-war rallies. Didn't see that coming.

ZOMBIE HIPPIES! And yes, you can tell the difference.

Wrist slit bathtub suicide hippie zombies! This just gets better and better (and gorier)

Well, developments are certainly developing. #68 is still giving up the good stuff 8)


This book was already a weird one, going way beyond what you'd expect from a zombie/war mash-up, and that was even before this issue took the story to the home front, where we not only find our hero's girl two-timing him with a bunch of hippies and hooked on drugs, but she's soon to go participate in the famous anti-war demonstrations at Berkeley, where a provocateur is planning to shoot some cops under cover of the riot. When his shot hits the wrong target and that target is reanimated as a hungry hippy zombie, the chaos is unbelievable and hilariously narrated by a reporter hovering over the scene in a chopper. There is possibly more allegory coming on here, as a lot of this issue is focused on the irony of a peace ralley degenerating into a cannibalistic orgy, but it doesn't work as well as Elric's if that's indeed the intent. Regardless, it works just fine as a ridiculous spectacle. ZOMBIE HIPPIES. They're the ones with faces full of blood, coming right for you with bared teeth.



Mark "Unthinkable" Sable is writing this one, also for Image (who is being either brave or reckless in publishing two zombie/war comics at once; I can't decide), with Paul Azeceta on art duty.


The new C.O. of a remote outpost in Afghanistan has his hands full. If the terror of the Taliban and the mutiny of a Marine sniper weren't bad enough, his squad is now under attack by the undead! GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES doesn't just show you the face of modern warfare - it rips it right off. - From Image Comics' website


Issue 2 of #GraveyardOfEmpires now. More military madness for #SundayComics

I haven't seen this many zombie-ish naked old men since Rare Exports*** XD

Flashbacks give a nice look at what it must be like for ordinary Afghans to live between the US forces & Taliban demands.

And in the present day, the bullet impacts' resemblance to poppies is surely not coincidental. Strong iconography.

Is... is that guy stabbing himself in the eye?

Mad doctor implanting bombs in zombies. Really? Apparently so.

The cultural clash is really brilliantly handled in this one.


Mark Sable first came to my attention when, famously, he and his early script for Unthinkable were detained by the TSA at an airport. Unthinkable concerned a think tank whose job it was to dream up horrible scenarios as yet not dreamed up by terrorists and other America-haters, and to try to design ways for us to cope with them and so yes, it featured a whole lot of imaginary terrorist plots. It was ridiculous that he got detained for it and, while I'd been planning to read Unthinkable anyway, this incident only strengthened my resolve. In Graveyard of Empires, Sable continues to show considerable talent for occupying the mindset of the other side; in this case not so much the enemy as the ordinary people caught in the middle. This issue largely concerns the plight of a farmer, who was growing wheat at the U.S. occupation's behest until the Taliban threatened his family to coerce him to grow opium poppies (as I tweeted, much is made of the poppy as an icon for this series, its stylized image doubling for a fresh bullet wound in firefights. It's very effective), and then is later visited by U.S. forces wanting to know why he won't grow wheat for them. I'm not sure, but the poor guy seems eventually to be one of the undead naked old men attacking the U.S. compound; even in death he gets no rest and can't sit out the conflicts. This is sobering, devastating stuff, for all its zombie-killing thrills.

And that's it for this week. Back soon with more Sunday Comics!
*Jeremy C. Shipp is a writer of bizarro fiction with whom I enjoy collaborating on stuff (we're in an anthology together and I frequently narrate audio versions of his stories for podcasts) and who has a well-documented affection for garden gnomes.

**MYMHM is the Twitter handle of Juan Bagnell, half of the daffy duo behind the Movies You May Have Missed video podcast and website. Click here for their review of the fascinating Mexican sci-fi extravaganza, Sleep Dealer.

***Rare Exports is a Finnish film I saw at last year's Toronto International Film Festival: a Christmas/Horror/Action/Comedy in which Santa Claus is an ancient Lovecraftian horror entombed in ice and his helpers, hordes of naked old men with long white beards, rampage about the landscape in all their naked old man glory. Once seen, it cannot but unseen, but you'll be too busy laughing your ass off to care.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

100 Books 47 - Victoria Houston's DEAD DECEIVER

As everybody knows by now, I'm one of those serial-compulsive readers; if there's a series, I avoid jumping into the middle of it and insist on starting with the first book if at all possible -- and in this day and age it almost always is possible, one way or another. But this one is not only not the first but the ELEVENTH in the "Loon Lake Mystery Series," which I did not know when I was browsing around for something new and different on Tyrus Books'* website. I was drawn in by the schtick: a murder mystery set during an ice fishing derby -- once upon a time, I was the sucker in charge of organizing the ice fishing derby for my tiny Wyoming town, you see.

Alas, the ice fishing derby is just a backdrop/window dressing for an otherwise ordinary series murder mystery, and not even much of that. I found I didn't mind that too much, though; every once in a while a nice murder mystery is just the thing to while away a few otherwise unproductive hours (series mysteries are insanely popular among my co-workers), and this series has a lot of charm to recommend it.

From what I can gather, all of the series' titles are derived from fishing flies, and have a strong fly-fishing theme to them; the characters are all fly fishers at varying stages of expertise, and this is an enchanting world to explore, full of arcane lore and terminology and famous as a source of poetry and metaphor. The grace and difficulty of the sport makes a nice counterpoint to police procedurals, coroner problems, blood spatter, ballistics and the eternal whodunnit. In addition, the main characters, a female police chief named Lew, her boyfriend-cum-forensic dentist Dr. Osborne, photographer and ne'er-do-well Ray and assorted other types, are engaging. I can see why this series is popular.

This outing had them exploring cybercrime, after a fashion, in the midst of investigating the shocking murder of a wife and mother who got lost snowshoeing and asked the wrong guy for help. The cybercrime angle was vaguely interesting but too neatly wrapped up and felt mostly like an excuse to bring a new character or two onto the team. But that's okay; nobody's going to pick something like this up expecting a techno-thriller or a primer on spammer tracing, and series fans probably dug the fresh new angle.

Am I going to rush to read the prior eleven? Probably not. But nor do I regret my little visit to Loon Lake, Wisconsin. Towns full of fishing nuts are nice places to hang out, as I know, having grown up in one.

*Tyrus, new home of my boy Seth Harwood, is one of two publishers whom I treat as reliable places to find quality stuff even if I don't know the author. The other, if you're interested, is Angry Robot.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

100 Books 46 - William Hope Hodgson's CARNACKI THE GHOST-FINDER

It's hard to read something like this collection of short ghost stories from the turn of last century as anything but historical research; so much that I love is derived from them, alludes to them, perhaps even just outright rips them off. I feel I've read them already. I know Carnacki's oft-consulted Sigsand Manuscript from its frequent use by Warren Ellis' character Gravel, for instance; references to his patented electric pentagram abound everywhere. And ghost stories share a common DNA, don't they?

So yes, it's hard, but not impossible, to simply read these stories for pleasure. It helps if you like ghost stories, which I do on occasion; it helps also if you like detective stories, which I also do. For Carnacki is above all else a detective, albeit of a very special kind; an ancestor with Stoker's Van Helsing of all the ghost and monster hunters that have populated the the bookshelves, longboxes, movie theaters and TV screens since Carnacki first started hosting his dinner parties and telling a select group of friends of his adventures -- a common feature of each story is a rather abrupt dinner party scene as a sort of intellectual throat-clearing on the part of Hodgson and his character, an excuse to tell a spooky story, from back when it was thought such excuses were needed.

Delightfully, Carnacki and his stories do not require supernatural beliefs to enjoy them; indeed, Carnacki is in many ways the pioneer of the Scooby Doo ending (though perhaps the Sherlock Holmes of "The Speckled Band" is its true baby daddy), in which his meddling efforts at unraveling an apparent ghost story instead reveal human motives and machinations.

At other times the haunting has no mundane explanation. I refrain, though, from tellling you which stories are which: find out for yourself!

Also delightfully, it doesn't matter which is the case for Hodgson to genuinely raise chills. He has a vivid, cinematic imagination and the narrative chops (dinner party bookends aside) to make me see and hear and even smell the spooky. There's a reason so many other creators have paid him homage, and it's not just because he didn't have a copyright troll in his corner.

Good stuff!

Monday, August 22, 2011

100 Books 45 - Patrick McLean's UNKILLABLE

MAN, I tore through this one once I got started; I could have finished it in one night were I not newly motivated by the awesome game HealthMonth to stick to my bedtime. As it was, only the thought of losing life points got me to tear myself away from my Kindle for the night -- nicely ironic because, well, look at the title.

And indeed, the protagonist of Unkillable has become so, but only after being brutally murdered with a screwdriver. I'll attribute to this sad fact said protagonist's rather annoying repetition of the refrain "how screwed am I" since really it's one of only a toddler's handful of flaws in this macabre romp of a novel.

Unkillable borrows an old chestnut from comics and the movies, the hero who has to solve his own murder (see Deadman, Haunt, The Mask, etc and ad nauseam) but turns it ever so slightly on its head to make it feel fresh and fun. Our ne'er do well, Dan, knows perfectly well who killed him and dispatches the killer's accomplices with gleeful abandon almost immediately after coming to life (via another hoary old chestnut, the pact with the Devil, in this case, a Rat), but getting to the bad guy himself is another story. Of course.

But what sets Unkillable apart from the run-of-the-mill revenge tale isn't the supernatural trappings (though the voodoo stuff is fun), but McLean's voice. McLean is a scotch-swillin', wise-crackin' sonofabitch, and it's his cleverness and wordplay ("how screwed am I" repetition aside) that propelled me through the story. He's a craftsman and a humorist and his prose is a pleasure to read.

Funny as he is, though, McLean shines, too, in more serious and emotional scenes, where he comes through with unexpected depth and wisdom -- unexpected not in that I don't expect it from McLean, but that I wasn't prepared for it in this tale. What has been a fun, snarky romp finds a real heart and center about 2/3 of the way through, so that by the end I cared as much about Dan's fate, and that of his companions (an apprentice undertaker [who lets Dan drive the hearse, yuk yuk] and a reluctant voodoo queen) as I did about anybody in a certain set of GRRM doorstops. And those fates -- I did not see those fates coming.

And that's why I picked up my Kindle again, first thing this morning, and tore through almost nonstop to the end. And then tore through to give it five stars on GoodReads.*

And then started hoping for a sequel.
*This from someone who hates bestowing stars.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

100 Books 45 - James Curcio and Jason Stackhouse's FALLEN NATION: PARTY AT THE WORLD'S END (Volume 1)

Stop me if you've heard this one: Jesus, Dionysus and Loki walk into a bar... except wait, they don't walk into a bar, they escape from a mental hospital and Jesus is a purple-haired shemale and...

Thanks for stopping me. I suspect that I suck at telling jokes. And I suspect that a joke is not exactly what the authors are going for in this trippy little novel, the first in a series of I-don't-know-how-many, though bits of it are awfully funny.

As I said, though, I don't think Curcio and Stackhouse are out just to amuse me. Like Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy before it, Fallen Nation has more than a little bit of a didactic/allegorical bent amidst the wildness. The sense that the authors are in some sense trying to program, or at least awaken, readers to some non-apparent truths about the world is that strong; an unmistakable pulse of urgency beating through the cacophony. Sometimes too urgently; Curcio has claimed to me that he only knows how to write non-fiction, which meta-knowledge only strengthens my impression that Fallen Nation is meant as an allegory. But for what?

Well, I'm not sure. But I find hints, like an observation early on that on 9/11 "the terrorists didn't just fly planes into buildings. Somewhere in that twisted rubble lies the shattered remains of this country's sense of  humor," and later "Ground Zero is just ground" -- observations that I can only share as I ponder the rise of the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, the ongoing advance of CCTV cameras, your own gnawing annoyance here. As a society we've gotten extraordinarily uptight and rigid; we need, Curcio and Stackhouse think, another Ken Kesey busload of pranksters to take us Furthur.

The narrative itself mimics this, of course. After Jesus, Dionysus and Loki escape from the mental hospital -- due largely to Loki's craftiness; he seems more a personification of ingenuity than mischief/evil in Fallen Nation's pantheon -- they somehow come across one Lilith, who appears to be a descendant of Crowleyite superstar Jack Parsons and does indeed have scarlet hair, and before the crazies know what's happening next they have formed a rock band and are on tour with some groupies in the ultimate magic bus, Furthur, Hunter Thompson's White Whale, Arky Mavranos' suburban and Hagbard Celine's submarine all rolled into one. Hijinks in the real world and the world between death and birth ensue. Hot tub orgies. Traffic stops. Concerts. And a police investigation, for you'd better believe the law is on these maybe-demigods' trail, with, well, the kind of results you'd expect; demigods always  have it rough.

At bottom, what Curcio and Stackhouse are trying to do is write modern myth - mythology in the modern world is their obsession, as anyone who has ever visited Curcio's website knows (and, by the way, this book has me looking forward to Curcio's upcoming nonfiction compilation on The Immanence of Myth even more than I was already). I'm not 100% convinced that they have succeeded in this, here.

But I'm mighty glad they tried.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

100 Books 44 - Gav Thorpe's CROWN OF THE BLOOD

I remember a while ago in, I think, the 90s when it looked like the hot new genre was going to be "sandalpunk" - "punk" in the sense of cyber- and steam- but set in an alternate Roman Empire. I was pretty excited at the idea but I never got to see any examples and my interest sort of got filed away in the "coulda been cool" drawer.

Then I got my hands on this book. Or rather, its sequel, which is part of Angry Robot's big bundle of ebooks deal I subscribed to earlier this summer. A compulsive completist who hates coming into the middle of the story, I, well... I had to pick this up first.

Crown of the Blood isn't about Rome per se, but a sort of semi-fantasy version of it. An even more brutal version in which generals leading their legions ride giant man-eating battle lions against barbarian hordes who, in turn, sic what we can only call dinosaurs on them. And a version in which all the pagan pomp we associate with Rome, the temples and shrines and tombs and ancestor-worship, have been pretty much secularized; the Brotherhood that has replaced them teaches that man alone, not the spirits, guide destinies. Oh, and there are things called landships, which are just what they sound like -- big ol' triremes, complete with benches of slaves on the "oars", "rowing" across the countryside.

In other words, it's a version of Rome just made for pulp fans.

But this is far from being a Robert E. Howard ancient/pre-historic fantasy, Conan the Legionnaire -- though I, for one, wouldn't mind if it was, not one bit. What we have instead, though, is still good, though more along the lines of a different schlocky classic from my youth, Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant* with just a few of the Expected Fantasy Tropes thrown in as we follow the trajectory of one Ulsaard. Ulsaard is an outlander, a soldier who has risen to the post of general and whose power in that post involves him in dynastic and other struggles in the Askhorian Empire's capital even before a certain secret is revealed that leads him to wage all-out war all over the empire.

Thorpe is obviously a big fan of ancient history with a fascination for military campaigns, as shows in his detailed, plausible and interesting depictions of military life. One almost wonders why he wrote this as a genre novel at all; dinosaurs and lions aside, the fantastic/magical elements are even more rare here than in, say, George R.R. Martin's quintuple-doorstop Song of Ice and Fire. It's quite interesting enough on its own, for my money -- in the midst of everything Crown of the Blood poses some tough questions about loyalty and duty and trust -- so that at times I caught myself rolling my eyes at the fantastical elements that did crop up, though I see why they were there: in this universe, royal blood really is special.

If you like detailed examinations of military strategy and tactics (admittedly executed over imaginary terrain) or accounts of life in a Roman legion or depictions of a society that really does have a problem of too many wives for too few husbands (Askhorian legions euthanize soldiers who are too wounded to keep marching, so the numbers of eligible men back home must indeed be small; didn't I tell you that this version of Rome is WAY more brutal?), city sacking and battles, this is the book for you. That's not what I look for as a rule, but I'm happy when I find it.

And that's another sequel I have lined up for next year.

*Oh, come on, you read it, too.

100 Books 43 - Philip K. Dick's CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON

There aren't a lot of books of Philip K. Dick's that I not only haven't read, but haven't read multiple times. What's left as new for me is the stuff that is generally rated as "not masterworks" -- his hackier stuff, his less visionary, his less polished. And Clans of the Alphane Moon pretty much fits into this category, except in that it definitely stands apart as perhaps one of Dick's most uncomfortably personal books.

It's all Emmanuel Carrere's fault that I was interested in this one at all - Carrere drew on it somewhat heavily for his odd biography of Dick, I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick (which I do recommend for any fan of Dick's; it's as much a companion volume to Michel Houellebecq's literary mash-note to H.P. Lovecraft, H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life as it is a biography of the strange man himself). Having read it now, I can absolutely see why he did, for all of the major PKD tropes are there: a boob-hero that makes Vonnegut's avatars of same seem positively Titans of capability, a wife that is not so much shrewish as actively bent on the boob's utter destruction, a paranoid police state in need of constant propagandizing to function, human-like androids (simulacra, in Dick's favorite term), aliens who with strange powers and possibly unknowable motives who are nonetheless mostly integrated into human populations, employers with too much power and too little ethical sense.

Which is to say that in some ways, Clans of the Alphane Moon reads like a perfect pastiche of Philip K. Dick that just happens to have been written by the man himself. But this isn't what makes it an uncomfortably personal read.

The titular Alphane Moon was originally the site of an Earth colony in the form of a giant mental hospital, one that was left to its own devices when Earth and the Alphane system went to war. The hospital went to pot, the patients escaped, and in the 25 years since the demise of the institution and the beginning of our story, those patients have gone on to found their own society; each clan is a category of mental disorder, mostly different flavors of schizophrenia. Pares are paranoid schizophrenics, Hebes are hebephrenic (disorganized) schizophrenia, Manes are manic, Deps are depressives, etc. As we watch Dick describe this uncontrolled laboratory experiment gone amok, it's kind of like watching him struggling to diagnose himself, like watching him try out each flavor to see if it suits him -- all while spinning out a psychodrama of a marriage gone to pieces, its battles ultimately literalized in the boob and his wife firing laser guns at each other on this distant moon. It's a sad and creepy read; one I'd say is for PKD fans only.

And even they might sigh and wish they hadn't bothered. Might.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sunday Comics Round-Up - August 14

My reading and tweeting got cut short yesterday by circumstances I won't go into here, but I had an interesting, if relatively brief (for me, anyway) time of it while it lasted. This week I blundered into some stuff that I really didn't like, and rather than dwell on it here, I'm going to gently pass it over - one book got mixed into my subscription drawer that didn't belong there as I discovered when I raced to unsubscribe myself (my wonderful FLCS, Heroes Only, allows customers to manage their subs via web page - I hope all stores have taken this step, as it's very convenient). That comic was Mysterious Ways and this shall be my only mention of it. I had problems with another one, too, but there was a lot to like so I'm leaving it in.

Something I should maybe note in general and for the future: I read the solicitations in the Preview Guide and pick what sounds good, and then pretty much forget about them until they show up in my subscription drawer; so here in these blog posts is often the first time I've read "THE SCHTICK" since then; I like to dive into my comics with as few preconceptions as possible so a lot of my tweets are of the "oh, so this is what's going on" variety -- which probably seems odd right below the schtick.

I experimented a bit this week, and wrote my tweets from a new social media site, SubJot, which is very Twitter-like except in that it allows 250 instead of 140 characters (thus explaining some of my slightly longer tweets) and requires that each "Jot" be tagged with a subject. What makes it stand apart from Twitter is that people who follow one on there choose what subjects on which to follow me. Thus, say, those who were only interested in my SundayComics tweets could choose only to follow me in "comics" and ignore, say, "entomology" or "music" or "society." It's got some potential, that site, though I do sort of find having to tag everything with a subject a little tiresome, sometimes. Anyway, if you want to check it out, click here.



Writer Dave Elliot's work is new to me; he seems to be a switch-hitter in comics, having had a career as a penciller and inker as well as a writer on a bunch of titles I'm not familiar with. Penciller Javier Aranda's work may be familiar to fans of the Star Trek: TNG comics. The colors are by Jessica Kholinne, whom I know mostly as a cover artist on the remarkable Echoes, that so impressed me earlier this yearDavid Baxter is also listed on Image's website with a "story by" credit but I have no idea who that is and my crutch, the Comic Book Database, is no help there. Mysterious!


Sixty years ago the oil ran out and debts were called in. Civil war followed that splintered America into warring fiefdoms. New San Diego is a technocratic utopia that offers the last bastion of peace and prosperity, provided you live within its walls. Drake McCoy is its best protector. McCoy, an expert marksman, defends the city from the numerous threats in the wasteland outside the walls. But when the oil rich Lone Star state sends a powerful army to steal New San Diego's energy technology, even Drake's leadership and skill may not be enough to fend off the siege. - from Image Comics' website.

Starting off with #Marksmen, from Image. Don't remember what it's about but it has a sniper and an evil-looking dog on the cover.
Inside cover blurb: "60 years later, the ancestors of those Navy Seals still protect the city as The #Marksmen". FAIL.

Unless there's time travel. Since this is post-economic collapse America, chances are what's meant is descendants.

Our hero seems to bear a strong resemblance to Sean Bean. And he's just found a wolf-like doggie. Hmm. #GoT*

FINGER CAMS. There should totally be finger cams. Reach around the corner and point to see. Yes.

Savages about to attack have laced-up faces. No doubt descended from hipsters.

All this over a hard drive? Is it for the information on it or just the fact that it's intact and usable?

Just as I was admiring that the token chick is in full clunky battle armor just like the men, she's stripped it all off and has her shirt tied under her boobs to bare her midriff. And fights in *that* pose.

I repeat: she was in armor. Until she entered a melee combat. Also her hair is long and loose so any pudknocker could yank on it in a fight .

And while she poses in combat, it is she using that word "pudknocker." My will to like this comic is plummeting.

Oh wait. There are two chicks. They just happen to look way too much alike. Eyes rolling at lower intensity for now.

So San Diego is run by godless scientists powered by solar/nuclear energy. Lone Star is a theocracy powered by oil.

The Deacon has convinced the Lone Stars to go after New San Diego by force and bring the word of god to the heathens.

Ugh. Now that she's standing up, I see the armored chick's armor is pretty ridiculously boobtastic.

To be fair, our hero's armor is also fairly manboobtastic. And washboardtastic. Would anyone really wear that?

New San Diego, home of the hopelessly networked brave, looks pretty cool though.

They could have gone all dark cliche Bladerunner-y but instead it's tones of yellow. It looks hot & dusty & desolate.

"They need your solar tech to survive in the long run. In the short, God and oil are on their side." Hmmm...

There is a token (DRESSED) brainy gal who looks exactly like I pictured Greta in @bruces' DISTRACTION. Which is cool.

Oh. She looks respectable because she's our hero's momma.

So basically this is a post-apocalyptic Cowboys & Aliens, with some scientists and soldiers in the role of aliens.

The allegory is pretty heavy-handed &I'm not crazy about the art (except the coloring). I'll give it one more issue.


I was prepared to like this comic a great deal. The idea behind it is intriguing and I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic tales, especially ones involving theocracies, which stories I find way scarier than anything with zombies or ghosts or werewolves or psycho-killers because they seem actually possible. And this setting seems quite possible; we seem to be galloping towards it at a breakneck pace (even if you don't "believe" in Peak Oil). And the world looks great; a post-technological dustbowl given a poisonous intensity by Kholinne's colors - the palette tends toward the acid yellow, emphasizing the heat and unpleasantness of a world without air conditioning and still, perhaps, recovering from its overdose of greenhouse gases. But as I commented, the allegory feels pretty heavy-handed and my annoyance at the stereotypicality of the female characters (and I am not normally given to knee-jerk feminism, as any reader of this blog should know by the complete absence of feminist rants) has severely diminished my interest. And yes, it turned out to be two different women, so my outbursts about the stupidity of a woman taking off her armor to fight are invalidated -- but the differences in character design were very small: the faces both feature big beestung lips (but one woman's eyes are brown and one's are green! Though that's hard to discern in battle scenes), both women have long loose dark hair and model-perfect bodies, so this still counts as a fail. And then there's this: even the token smart woman is pretty much a caricature, there only because she is our hero's mother and was, apparently, spurned by our hero's father and is being bitchy about said father's return to the fold. That she is also apparently one of the brains-in-charge of the techno-city of New San Diego quickly fades in light of her status as Woman Scorned. Sigh. So while I said in my tweet that I was going to give it one more issue, I found myself cancelling my subscription. Life is too short and there are too many really good comics out there to waste my time and money on one that might not keep annoying me.



David Hahn is another switch-hitter, and did the pencils/inks and the writing on this Image Comics release. You may know Hahn from his work on titles like Fables and Spider-Man and a lot of other books, mostly for the Big 2. There's no colorist because this is in beautiful black and white.


Kit Bradley is a 20 year-old art student and petty criminal who knows it's time to leave her delinquent past behind, but isn't ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. Her social headquarters is an all night diner, and while trying to put the 'off' on an on-again-off-again boyfriend, she runs into an old flame, and an enigmatic loner named Martha, who alters Kit's life forever. - from Image's website


Moving on to one I know I did pick (XD) Issue 1 of #AllNighter.

Ooh yeah, it's black and white. And a bold, cartoony style. Yes.

Cool. This is set in a diner. And our heroine has a strict but weirdly flexible moral code w/r/t lying & stealing.

We may have an unreliable narrator here. Which I totally dig.

"Once they outgrow new wave music, there comes a time when every teen must decide... heavy metal or punk rock?" XD

Art students. Explains the poverty and the incipient larceny XD

I LOVE the boldness of this art. It's abstract but still depicts emotion wonderfully.

I want to know how/why our heroine, Kit, killed her mother. And they're NOT TELLING ME!

Aww! She just smashed a roach in the "borrowed" car! 8(

This is reminding me a little of #NewYorkFive and a lot of #Go (the film). Awesome.

And a nice little soap opera cliffhanger. Nice.


David Hahn should always get to do his own books completely. I like everything about this comic, from the art to the characters to the subject matter. I don't think I'm getting the unreliable narrator I sort of dream of (and why not, comics folks? Comics are a bi-sensuous medium, after a fashion; a narrator who's lying his/her head off while the truth is presented visually, or vice-versa seems a natural for it!) but Kit's soap opera-ish troubles have me hooked. I want to know what's up with the mother, I want to see if she and her silly boyfriend get busted or get away with it, and I want to see what's up with her and James (though Image's marketing copy above gives away who he is in a way Issue 1 itself did not - an old flame. Sigh). The scenes within the diner are especially enjoyable; the interior bristles with detail without ever being busy and everything looks great. Was an early candidate for my favorite of the day, but something else stole my heart.

SPONTANEOUS, Issues 1 and 2


Spontaneous, from Oni Pressis written by Joe Harris, of DCU fame - I chiefly know him from Batman: Battle for the Cowl, one of the rare forays I've taken into superhero comics. Harris also, I believe, drew the cover for Issue 1 of this book. Another switch hitter! But here he's teamed up with Brett Weldele, whom I first discovered in the prequel graphic novel for Southland Tales and rediscovered in last year's searing (almost literally) The Light but who's also done a lot of other good work, even for Marvel. I recognized Weldele's style before I noticed his name on the cover because I don't usually look at names until I'm in love with a comic and want to know whom to thank. Then I saw his name. Aha.


Driven to discover the truth regarding his father's mysterious death many years prior, Melvin Reyes seeks to prove the existence of Spontaneous Human Combustion after fresh outbreaks of the phenomenon reveal a pattern only he can see, a predictability model only he can read, and the terrifying realization that whatever phenomenon consumed his father is also boiling inside of him, just waiting for release.


Sadly moving on. I gotta wait until I've got 1 and 2 of #ZombiesVsRobots. Which I happen to have of #Spontaneous

Oh sweet!!!! #Spontaneous's art is by Brett Weldele. LOVED his work in #TheLight and this is very similar.

Weldele does a sort of ink wash/watercolor thing (I'm not an art critic so don't have the right terms probably) and then inks in lines.

Ooh, is he experimenting with spatter techniques now? I like it!

Hmm. Our focus is on a fast food worker with unusual insights into the medical condition of a customer.

YES! #Spontaneous combustion. And you'd better believe the light from it is perfectly handled.

New character. Emily Durshmiller, Investigative Reporter At Large. "At large? Sounds like you're on the run."

Ooh. So our hero is actually a student of #Spontaneous combustion and think's he's got a predictive model.

I was going with the theory that he was someone who could cause them XD 

VERY happy to have Issue 2 of #Spontaneous handy since 1 ended with a bang XD 

Wait. Revising my earlier assessment I think. Melvin has more going on than I thought maybe?

Nice scene in the E.R. police chief Donna and her daughter Kaylee interview our duo 8)

I like this reporter chick. She wants to know why Melvin just observes instead of warns.

"Erin Brockovich didn't just go after a book deal... and she didn't fight the power just to get Julia an Oscar."

Nice points about anonymous sources, too - but subtly done.

Have decided Weldele isn't spattering; just an effect of really textured watercolor paper, maybe? Like it a lot.

Checking microfiche/film scene showcases the strength of this art style perfectly. 

HAHAHAHA Continuing the newspaper theme, looks like the next "burner" is named Horace Greely.

The plot has thickened very satisfyingly. Hmm.

Um. Whoa.


This is the comic that completely stole my heart this week. These are quirky characters exploring an enjoyable, X-Files-ish story and very much being themselves. I like that the reporter hasn't made up her mind yet whether she's doing a story or not; I like that Melvin is changing his mind as a result of having met her. And it's a beautiful, beautiful book. Weldele handles light better than any other comics artists I've seen, whether it's malevolent, almost sentient light in The Light or the glare from microfiche screens, torching human flesh or sodium street lights, as here. I'd compare his work to what I've loved so in Ridley Scott's Bladerunner or Peter Greenaway/Sasha Vierny's Drowning By Numbers (two of my favorite films!). And his character designs are great, too, very honest and real. The female police chief is slightly dumpy and extraordinarily patient and kind-looking; Emily looks fiesty and brainy and beautiful and altogether believable; Melvin very much the schlub with secrets. And what secrets they are!



Repulse is an original graphic novel from Image Comics, and was written and drawn by Szymon Kudranski, whom I know for his pencils and cool cover of 2009's Zombie Cop but who has also done a lot of work on Batman, 30 Days of Night, Spawn and many others.


In the near future, when robotics and other high-tech solutions help solve the most awful crimes, a unit called After Crime allows detectives to taste, feel and see what murder victims experienced before death. Sam Hagen is an After Crime detective, a broken man with one chance for redemption catching a serial killer who preys on Hagen's fellow cops. Will the solution save Hagen, or doom him?


Onward to a big fat one-shot (at least I think it is) from Image, #Repulse. "Can a robot remember his past life as a human?"

Philip K. Dick much? More than a bit. And looks like another black/white/grey beauty.

I like the cranky, washed-up exposition guy, ranting about implanting a murder victim's brain cells to solve a crime.

It's a riff on PKD's "Pre-crime" - After Crime solves crimes via dudes tripping on dead guys' last experiences. Ick.

Dark, check. Moody, check. Gritty, check. Unsettling, check. Digging it. 

Page & panels conveying the experience of implanting victim's brain cells is effective, but exactly what I expected.

These characters address each other by name way more often than ordinary people do. Is there a reason? 

Just figured out whose art this is reminding me of: @Rekedal's. Which, as you know, I like a lot.

Dude. Serial killing robot stalking a chick. So pulpy! SO PULPY! 

Ooh. Serial killing robot killing all the suspects in a murder case.

This is proceeding fairly predictably so far, but I like it. 

Oh. Souls. Yawn.

Wow. A land line phone hanging on a wall. Cord and everything. Huh?

OK, could have done without the religious mumbo-jumbo at the end but still a pretty cool book.


I didn't realize until just now, as I assemble this blog post, that Kudranski had done Zombie Cop, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and not a little because of his work. His style is slightly cartoonish but still realistic enough to give the moody, noirish feel this subject matter required; the result was very bladerunnerish. What really sold it was the robot itself, its stark, abstract, emotionless face draped in a big hooded coat and often appearing in near-silhouette, like Bruce Willis's character in Unbreakable. Where this one-shot kind of lost me was when it diverted from its straight-up cyberpunk story into ill-explained mystical gobbledygook about souls, which was entirely unnecessary, since the brain-sampling tech could have been used easily to explain all. Still it's a nice book to have in my collection. Which reminds me -- I need another longbox. Gah!



The multiple-award-winning Matt Wagner (Grendel et al -- many al) is writing this book from Dynamite Comics, with Esteve Polls, who has done most of Dynamite's Zorro books, on pencils and inks. No colorist is credited.


The one and only Matt (MAGE, GRENDEL) Wagner returns to conclude his epic story of Zorro! We return to the story as Alejeandro de la Vega finds out that his son, Don Diego, is pulling double-duty as Zorro. How will this affect Zorro's continuing crusade against the alcalde of Los Angeles, Luis Quintero? 


Now, according to Dynamite, #Zorro Rides Again! To which I say: yippee!

Starts off with a sword fight and banter. As it should.

Nice twist with the father.

Holy exposition disguised as dialogue, Bat - er - #Zorro

I feel like I'm watching an old-fashioned movie serial, except it's in color and stuff XD 

"You worry too much about that dramatic popinjay, Luis! I have met his blade and have no fear of his petty antics!"

"Enough, murderous swine! You've spilt enough blood this night!" #Zorro silhouetted on his rearing stallion against full moon. 

The potential for visual drama of a long, cracking whip is fully realized. Fully. Realized.

This feels like a reprint of a very old story indeed, but the story is new and fresh. Bravo.


I find I don't have a great deal more to say about this book than I did in my tweets. This is old-fashioned comics storytelling, earnest, slightly hokey and very broad. The art is fine -- Dynamite seems to be evolving its own house style, not daring, but not bad -- but nothing I'm going to exclaim over (apart from the exuberantly swirling whip, which made me chortle; Polls must have had a very good time drawing it). If you like pulp and pulp characters, you'll like this. If you don't, you probably don't bother with anything Dynamite puts out.

SEVERED, Issue 1


Another great one from Image, Severed is written by Scott "American Vampire" Snyder and newcomer Scott Tuft, with pencils by Attila "Percy Jackson" Futaki, whose work I've not seen before but I'm digging a lot.


A man haunts the roads; a man with sharp teeth and a hunger for flesh. When 12-year-old Jack Garron runs away from home, he'll see how quickly the American Dream becomes a nightmare. Be there at the beginning of the series that everyone will be talking about! From Eisner-nominated writer SCOTT SNYDER (American Vampire, Detective Comics), SCOTT TUFT and ATTILA FUTAKI (NYT Best-Selling-Artist: Percy Jackson) comes the most terrifying horror series of 2011--SEVERED.


And here comes #Severed. There's been lots of buzz about this one. Lots of buzz. 

The illustration style here is more like something from a young adult novel than a comic. It really stands out.

The title is #Severed. The viewpoint character is an old man who lost his arm. And there is a line "Gimme your foot"... 

Wasn't sure how the story of the orphan hooking up electricity &our hero's were going to hook up until the last panel 

Love the period setting, too - 1916. Glorious. This one lives up to the buzz. 

Has a bit of a Ray Bradbury/Something Wicked This Way Comes feel.


I didn't tweet a lot about this book because I was just sucked in and enjoying it. This is a book that is exploiting the interesting potential of the gulf between its lush, Rockwellian art style (the character designs are downright pretty, and extraordinarily lifelike) and its grim, sad and creepy subject matter. A sense of dread is very subtly built, so the reader doesn't necessarily consciously notice it, distracted by Jack's early ventures into hobo-dom, until it all comes together in a last, horrific panel. I'm hooked.

(Note: I next ventured into Alan Moore's latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but it's been way too long and I've missed way too much to make any sense of what was going on there, so I put it aside for much later when I've managed to catch up. I say this to explain the first tweet for the next book here.)



This Top Cow book is written by John Mahoney and Filip Sablik, with art by Thomas Nachlik - more about them from a previous Sunday Comics post here.


Immortality is the most sought after gift in human history. When does it become a curse? When the only thing you want to do is die. Alec King is a small time criminal and three time loser. When he gets his partner and best friend killed, he tries to commit suicide and finds out the hard way that he can't die. Now he has to find a reason to keep living. - from Top Cow's website


Something I damned well do remember what's going on is in #TheLastMortal. He met a chick who is probably also immortal

"My name is Alec King and for the fourth time in 48 hours I am going to die." Yeah, like that 

Oh, see, maybe I was wrong. Awesome!

Very interesting development - that also ties all the college flashbacks in well. 

For a politician's wife who once almost got rufied, this chick is pretty badass. Ouch! 

"I am a superhero. I am an utter failure." XD #TheLastMortal #SundayComics #YouShouldSeeThePictures

#TheLastMortal also continues with the awesome music quotations.

HAHAHA "I was going to get shot either way. At least this way, that bastard is dead in the process."

Gunpoint revelations: always good for twisting the story all over the place. Awesome.


I continue to be in love with Thomas Nachlik's work here, though with the transition to interior scenes instead of the train yard of Issues 1 and 2 his greatest strengths aren't quite as well-highlighted. To put it this way, I didn't notice the art as much. The story continues to intrigue -- I am relieved to find I was wrong in my interpretation of that last scene in Issue 2, when a mysterious woman arrived to pick up a wounded Alec. I had the sinking feeling that she was a part of a secret society of other immortals, come to show him the ropes; instead, she became something much more interesting: a figure from Alec's past who is now playing a very different role in his present, not quite an ally but not quite an antagonist. And those gun point revelations? Awesome. This continues to be a comic I look forward to getting each month.

*GoT is the general Twitter hashtag for Game of Thrones.