“Quote From Deadwood” – David Milch, Western Comic Recommendations

Bar fights are a must for any Western.

A reader requested more Western Comic Book recommendations. I’m honestly a little lacking in that area, but here goes:

Scalped by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra. I’ve only read the first volume of this series, and it may be better to classify in as a modern western noir than a straight up western, but it’s damn good. A Native American FBI agent is sent undercover, back to the life on the reservation he left behind. Sex, murder, and intrigue ensue.

All Star Westernby Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Moritat. You ever see that episode of Batman: The Animated Series where they made an AWESOME episode with only 60 seconds of Batman? It was the one with Jonah Hex in it. Jonah Hex is pretty much your typical Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Western badass, but horribly disfigured, thus upping his awesomeness. What I’ve read of All Star Western so far also seems to dip the Western genre into a little bit of noir, with Hex teaming up with an awkward doctor to solve a series of murders eerily similar to Jack the Ripper. Moritat’s art is colored by Gabriel Bautista, Jr who gives the book an overall muted, gray tone that matches Hex’s Confederate uniform.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller by…oh wait, this doesn’t exist as a comic. It’s a Robert Altman film, and it’s spectacular. If you want to get all film schooly, it’s Altman deconstructing Western myths and heroes. It’s a beautiful film, with dark, muddy colors except in perhaps the final act of the film, which is brightened by snowfall and blood. I also love The Searchers and Once Upon a Time in the West.

Also, Deadwood, a television show and not a comic, is amazing, and you should watch it. You will be better for having done so.

But back to comics. I’ve also previously recommended The Sixth Gun, American Vampire, and Dead West, all of which could fall under horror, or supernatural westerns. So it turns out, I’m not too well versed in the Western genre as far as comic books go.

Anyone who’d care to make some further recommendations, jump on in!

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Folks Talkin’ Bout Comics 2 (Resisting Electric Boogaloo Joke): Transmetropolitan Volumes 3-4

This is something resembling a feature, “Folks Talkin Bout Comics,” where I’m joined by a friend via Google Chat to talk about a comic book that we both enjoy. Maybe it’ll entice you to read this comic, maybe not. In the case of Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, it’s a book that inspires a lot of discussion on humanity, the future, and politics (don’t worry, those feeling drained by political coverage, it’s FUTURE FICTIONAL POLITICS, though Forrest does ponder how it relates to the current election…that jerk). If you haven’t read our first chat, you can do so here, and if you haven’t read Transmetropolitan, or aren’t up to volumes 3 and 4 yet, be warned, there are spoilers discussed freely. As with last time I’m joined by Forrest “I wish I was a Foglet” Karbowski.
 Forrest: So, should we talk Transmet?
 Paul: Lets! So we’re talking Volumes 3 and 4, which really kickstart (my heart) and the plot of the series.
Forrest: True story. Up until now it’s been a bunch of loosely linked vignettes with some plot rearing its head from time to time, but we start to get into the meat of the overarching story here. The “plot arc” if you will.
Paul: Yup, with some vignettes sprinkled in, but Ellis and Robertson bring in politics, and they bring it in…hard.
Forrest: Gotta say, it’s interesting reading these in an election year.
Paul: It is, cause it goes back to the “well, the candidates or parties are really just the same,” or “you’re voting for the lesser of two evils.” But “The Beast” and “The Smiler,” while both awful, are pretty different. The Beast, like many politicians (both real and fictional), is there to preserve the status quo, while The Smiler simply wishes to “fuck with people.” Fucking with people is something Spider can’t stand for.
Forrest: I think the book’s cynical disregard for our political system goes even deeper…but let’s get to that later. The first thing that hit me on rereading this was how The Beast’s running slogan, “America for Americans,” is so similar to Romney’s (and, it turns out, the KKK’s, once upon a time) recently announced slogan, “Keep America American.” (Or are those the other way around?)
Paul: I don’t recall (nor do I bother to do any research while editing this), but The Beast also has the poster that reads “Hard job, Hard man,” while Callahan (The Smiler) has his smiling face “Callahan for a new USA.”
Forrest: It’s interesting that Ellis chose these two extremes – the fascist man’s man VS the nihilistic, powergrubbing yes man.
Paul: Aren’t they both kind of fascistic? Although, maybe The Smiler isn’t outwardly so until post election. But I guess I’m skipping ahead in that respect, when he starts killing Spider’s columns.
Forrest: I’m having a tough time remembering, which is why this re-read is good for me! But so far, I think the Smiler is more interested in power for power’s sake, to the point where he’ll do or say anything just to get it. Whereas, to paraphrase, say what you will about The Beast, but at least he has an ethos?
Paul: This is true. Aside from his pantsless chat with Spider, and his posters around the city, he doesn’t seem to be doing any active campaigning. He believes that he’ll win, and he really believes that he’s the best man for the job. He may not think much of the people he’s doing the job for…he almost seems to see himself as maybe a prison warden?
Forrest: Right, or a big, angry, abusive dad.
Paul: Yeah, I was tempted to go the dad route…but a dad…you elect (NOTE: What I was really searching for was a way to make a joke out of it. I suppose ultimately it would be an elaborate joke involving a sitcom called “President Dad” where both his kids were voting age and it’s an election year. There would be constant threats by the children to vote for his opponent and he’d be campaigning to his kids. It would be awesome, you’d love it, America).
Forrest: Whereas the Smiler just wants the power, regardless of whatever is best for the people.
Paul: But I guess there’s plenty of folks in authority who see themselves as a “Dad” to a group of folks (I like the word folks)
Forrest: You’re nothing if not folksy!
Paul: As is Spider, who buys a little girl’s stuffed animal back from the pawn shop for her.
Forrest: I like the dichotomy of these two volumes, showing Spider championing the New Scum even as he sort of loathes them.
Paul: We’ve talked about Robertson’s skill for comedy and gore, but I don’t think we’ve talked about his ability to convey touching moments.
Forrest: There was that bit where Spider wrote about the girl who was cryogenically frozen, who makes a return appearance here. Like a lot of people, I suspect, Spider likes the little guy, but he hates it when people are small, if that makes sense.
Paul: Totally.
Forrest: (Small minded, small hearted…)
Paul: I also love the bit where a bunch of protestors or performance artists kill everyone’s technology in a roped off area. We’ve seen a lot of technology tied into humans in this series, and this group’s argument that people have forgotten how to be human is a very Spider, and very Ellis argument.
Forrest: Right, and the funny thing is, it doesn’t really change anything, which prompts Spider to scream “I FUCKING HATE YOU!”
Paul: Nope…”I’m the only one who’s remotely fucking interested”
Forrest: Yeah, but keep going.
Paul: The small people acting small. Not too worried about who wins the election as long as they get their blow job every day, just like The Beast said. It’s just that The Beast underestimates the desire for a slightly better blow job.
Forrest: Heh
Paul: That’s ultimately what swings Spider to The Smiler’s side, albeit temporarily. The fact that Vita Severin, an intelligent, idealistic woman is working for him, makes Spider believe in a candidate.
Forrest: Oh, Vita. So tragic. I knew it was coming, and I still was surprised when it happened.
Paul: That panel f’d me up when I first saw it.
Forrest: It’s disturbing!
Paul: It still does….her head…it’s just GONE!
Forrest: In a manner of speaking. Bits of it are still there…everywhere.
Paul: What’s really interesting for me, as someone who’s adopted digital comics, is how this would play out for the first time for those readers, where they’re reading panel by panel. Cause one panel…head…next panel: NO HEAD.
Forrest: And the thing is, you actually do care about her, like Spider does.
Paul: Yes, she seems to be a genuinely good person.
Forrest: One of the few we ever meet!
Paul: It’s even shocking to see her funeral and everything…I think I wondered if maybe they faked her death with their new fangled hard sci fi technology.
Forrest: I think it’s doubly shocking because of how they condense the time between death and funeral. Only separated by one splash page.
Paul: Yeah, definitely Spider’s shock to Spider’s mourning.
Forrest: It’s a great example of something you can do in comics that you can’t quite do in other mediums. Certainly there are ways of condensing time, but that particular trick wouldn’t work as well in a book, or a movie…
So do you think Ellis is completely cynical? Are there no honest politicians? Will the little people ever open their eyes and give a shit? Are we all just reading Spider’s column for laughs? Is there only one sane man in the world, and does he have to take a cocktail of stimulants, hallucinogens and various other drugs to remain sane?
Paul: At this point, in the series, I’d have to say YES, though later on, NO, as we are introduced to more people who are inspired by Spider, but it does seem to require his actions to get them going.
In volume 4, there’s a scene with a man who lost his legs saving The City.
 Forrest: Yeah, oh man. That.
Paul: He’s bitter that he doesn’t see any money because of that. That’s an interesting bit of foreshadowing. Or could be read as such.
It could also be read as a take on The Beast. Someone who keeps the trains running on time, but is ignored except when trying to get votes (or spare change).
Forrest: It made me think, briefly, about how much of a shit I am for passing by all the homeless people on the street each day. Who knows where they came from, who they used to be?
Paul: Yeah…I go back and forth between cynicism and feeling like an awful human being on that front. The other character in that scene is the journalist, who listens, like Spider would, but pays the legless man in drugs.  I don’t think Spider would do that. Or at least do it so …emotionlessly? If anything, we’re constantly reminded of his empathy with his subjects through this nameless journalist’s apathy.
Forrest: Yeah, I don’t know? I think he’d find another, better way to help him.
Paul: This guy, who is presenting an unfiltered feed of this man’s words, doesn’t care to contextualize it, he’s just aggregating content.
Forrest: Exactly. I love that sequence a few pages later, where Spider watches the weird cyborgs having intercourse via their various ports and outlets. Even with all this plot and social commentary going on, Ellis and Robertson take time to show us what a funky, far-out place the future could be.
Paul: And then we get another great moment with Mary, the revival. Her face when she gets her camera, very similar to the little girl who gets her Sex Puppet back.
Forrest: “All we’ve actually got is each other. You decide what that means.”
What does that mean?
At first I thought that last line was a cop-out, but I think it’s more a challenge from Spider to the New Scum.
Paul: I agree…throughout the series, he’s challenging his audience. Probably the same way that Ellis may have felt he was challenging comic book readers. I don’t think he’s ever someone who’s really labored under the superhero genre…he’s MOSTLY done his own thing. But there’s got to be some frustration as a non-superhero writer in comic books.
Forrest: Spider seems to be a pretty clear analog for Ellis. Even though his opinions in the book are about a sci-fi universe, it’s pretty clear he’s talking about society now. Humanity doesn’t change much, in the long run. But we COULD.
Paul: I’m not gonna lie, I got excited and read ahead a little…and I think the moment I’m thinking of is in volume 5, but there’s a point where a monitor on the street talks about all the technological advances of this (Transmet’s) society, and how it would still be MILLIONS of years before it was a truly advanced society.
Forrest: They have a bit like that in volume 4 as well. The whole thing about the Type One, Two and Three society.
Paul: Oh, ok, that’s what I was thinking of…just couldn’t find it skimming right now.
That shit depresses me.
Fuck you, Warren Ellis!
And fuck Michio Kaku, too! Whenever I read his books about what SciFi stuff is actually possible, or how long it would take to BE possible, man…it’s hard to cheer me up from that. So maybe that’s why this series speaks so well to me…cause no matter what kind of gadgets we get, we’re still not going to see any kind of true advancements for humanity in our lifetime.
Fuck.
Forrest: Man, now I’M depressed 😦
Paul: At the same time though…there are the wonderful humanistic moments that keep us going. Cause no matter how stupid we are, we have each other.
Forrest: But at the same time, speak for yourself. I plan on becoming a Foglet.
Paul: For better and for worse. Just like newly married couples!
Forrest: Ha! Yes!
Paul: Man, if I intro this by saying how long it took for us to write part two cause of you getting married, this’ll all feel very thematical and such.
Forrest: I like that. Themes and motifs and shit. On that note – I think I need to go apologize to my wife for being snippy with her earlier :/
Paul: Uh oh. (Insert hacky comic wife joke)
Alright, well i think we’re in a pretty good place for 3&4
Forrest: Definitely, I think we covered it pretty well.
Stay tuned, faithful readers! Volumes 5 and 6 will be coming…SOONISH!

I Do Not Even Know How This Got Out The Door, Defenders #1-6

Seriously, this is one of those books that I can’t believe Marvel has published. I’m not trying to say that in a stuck up manner, but they’re a fairly conservative publisher when it comes to trying new or expiremental things and it’s just so…weird and fun.

Credits! Defenders is written by Matt Fraction! I have been gushing all over his work…GUSHING…as you’ve seen in my reviews of Hawkeye and Casanova. I can’t say the dude has done no wrong because when he turns off his weirdness and tries to write modern-y superhero stuff or crossover work it comes off pretty bland. But when the man’s writerly equivalent of Hulkamania is allowed to run wild, it runs wild. And it does so in Defenders.

He’s aided by artists who each bring unique styles to the different genres that Fraction plays with by focusing on each Defender. Terry Dodson brings a very bright, super-hero-y vibe when the whole team is brought together. Michael Lark gives the book a dark, 70’s vibe that fits perfectly with issue 4’s focus on Doctor Strange’s blend of magic and failed relationships. While Mitch Breitweiser takes us underwater for a tale focused on the undersea King Namor; and Victor Ibanez’s issue 6, which is all about Iron Fist, echoes the pulpy feel of both Hawkeye and Fraction’s work on The Immortal Iron Fist with Ed Brubaker and David Aja.

Doctor Strange, he’s got problems. Interpersonal problems. This is laid out for you, along with the fact that he’s a magician, fairly quickly without the baggage of years of comic book continuity. You can pick this book up and read it without having spent thousands of dollars on comics (or wasted dozens of hours reading summaries of comics you no longer read on Wikipedia — oh, self loathing!) like me.

Anyway, yeah. Dr. Strange, he’s bad with the ladies. Probably the only person to de-Hulk a Hulk-ified person through sexual grossness. His general inability to deal with womenfolk, and with normal people, is mostly played for comedy, but issue 4 really takes a look at a guy who knows he’s messed up, and that he’s made mistakes.

But in spite of that knowledge, and a willingness to make amends or do better, it’s not enough. He can’t make that connection.

I’ve really honed in on Doctor Strange, probably cause I’m weird and awkward myself. But Fraction puts together a whole team of misfits and weirdos, and is fairly straightforward with what role each character is playing. The book is alternatingly narrated by an omniscient third person narrator, as well as each of the series main characters, Doctor Strange (weirdo, possible sex-werido–the dude has probably bought phone sex…but through a crystal ball), Namor (haughty, yet lonely king), Iron Fist (Kung Fu adventurer and billionaire, down with the swirl), Red She-Hulk (used to be married to The Hulk, now a Hulk herself, she’s a tourist through the Marvel Universe), and The Silver Surfer (an outsider looking in). Characters like Molly (Strange’s love/hate-interest) and a first-issue guest starring Hulk are also given their own chapters to narrate, giving even guest stars equal footing with main characters. Sometimes the narration overlaps for some fun moments where characters gang up on Doctor Strange by thinking the word “creep.” Basically there’s a lot of narration in this series and a lot of personality to it.

This kind of casual (?) narration is really enjoyable to read. It’s not the “This is the greatest thing you’ll ever read this month” style of Stan Lee, but more of a friend telling you a story vibe (A fairly dark story about people getting molested and such. OK, just that one guy, but still).

When I read that title, I knew I was going to love this series. And then Hulk says it later in the same issue (though sadly, he’s a coherent, Hulk and does not say “Hulk hate self and want to die.”)

Here’s an example of more awesomeness in this book. Not only is Red She-Hulk yelling at a Tiger-man about a big-ass sword, but it’s also got something you may have noticed in some of the other panels. Random text, perhaps commentary from Fraction that appears at the bottom of most pages of each issue. I almost missed this reading this panel by panel, but when I zoomed out, I saw it. Sometimes it fits into the story, “Shut down the engines. Save the universe.” Sometimes it’s random like above. And sometimes, it’s promotional blurbs for either current Marvel books, or books that don’t exist like Werewolf by Night Nurse (which I am very sad doesn’t exist).

This was me last week. And this week too, but I’m trying to fight through life and read more comics!

But yes, there’s a team in this book, and the team finds a series of machines that seem to be able to alter and rewrite reality. A character in the first arc is wiped from existence, while The Defenders find themselves in entirely new costumes at the blink of an eye. They also find that they can’t talk about the machines with any other characters. Defenders seems to be about comics, and really the superhero genre in general. So many feel barred from the super hero genre because of years of backstory and continuity, but Fraction and his team show how that all doesn’t matter. Sometimes creators come in and change things around, or ignore what other creators have done before them. Fraction is riffing on this. On the malleability of comic book characters and their histories. Characters are wished into existence and comic book series that didn’t exist are referenced through the running commentary/editor’s notes.

So much comic book criticism, or criticism of the medium of comics (or rather dismissal) focuses on inaccessibility. Defenders is dense, and full of history, but it’s all accessible within this story. And it’s a story that’s ending, with issue 12 in November. It’s a great series. It’s a weird series. But it’s a lovingly created series, and that’s the kind of comics I want to read. The kind that creators create in order to tell a story. Not to get characters from point A to point B for a marketing tie in, but because they have a story they want to tell.

Zombie Westerns Are The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Of Genre Mashups

In real life, when bored, distracted, or annoyed, I will wish upon a star for zombies. This started soon after playing Resident Evil 2 in 1998, which began my love affair with zombies. I would sit in class, or at work, and ponder what I would do if a zombie outbreak were to occur at that very moment (NOTE: I would be awesome, no matter what the scenario, as it was MY imagination. Put in the more serious context of a “realistic” hypothetical zombie outbreak scenario, I’d probably still do fairly awesome barring any encounters with fellow human survivors who are actually well versed with weaponry). Point being, that sometimes, fiction has bored me and made me insert zombies on my own. P.S. I Love You? So much better when you imagine Hillary Swank and the entire cast being consumed by the undead. The Baz Lurman Australian epic, Australia? Well, no, not even zombies would make that film watchable. But you get the point.

Zombies can also ENHANCE something that’s already awesome. Like westerns. Imagine Eastwood’s Man With No Name against a horde of the undead.

“No more room in hell” is the best description for zombies ever. Simple and to the point. First utilized in Dawn of the Dead (1978).

Oh, wait. You don’t have to. Someone already did that for you (and several years before the video game Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, which is fairly awesome itself).

Written by Rick Spears. Art by Rob G. I present to you, Dead West.

White people kill a Native American tribe, the last survivor of the tribe puts a curse on the town that raises the dead. Into this mess come stand ins for Eastwood’s Man With No Name as well as Eli Wallach’s Tuco from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Cowboy and zombie shenanigans ensue.

This is a quick, done in one graphic novel. A lot of stock western characters and tropes are burnt through quickly, but in a fun way, not in a “check this off of a western genre list” way. There’s lawmen, prostitutes, bar keeps, more prostitutes (but with hearts of gold!) and spirit animals for good measure, too.

Cowboy/Zombie Native American showdown. It’s all the eyes. The rotting, undead eyes.

Rob G’s art is fantastic. It’s got a rough, scratchy feel. Not that it feels unfinished, there’s a definite commitment to each line, but it’s rough in a…well…manly sense that’s befitting a western AND a horror book. He also draws some HILARIOUS death scenes. That’s something people forget about the slow, shambling zombie, that he can be much funnier than his running rabid, not really a zombie counterpart. Slow zombies can creep up on folks for hilarious “what’s that behind me” deaths, and Rob G, nay, MR. G, draws these very well.

Rick Spears has a great handle on the characters. Not that they’re all well defined, as I’ve said, they’re mostly types. But he defines them just enough for you to understand their role in the story, while still caring just enough whether or not they live or die.

His hero bounty hunter and mexican outlaw characters are fearless in the face of the zombies, still seeking to kill each other above all else. The fact that he doesn’t let their detour into another genre deter them from their ultimate goals is Blazing Saddles-esque. That’s right, Blazing Saddles-esque! If you haven’t seen Blazing Saddles, let me describe it for you in detail. Let’s see…JUST KIDDING. If you haven’t seen Blazing Saddles

That’s what I want to do to your face. Go watch Blazing Saddles. Or at least YouTube the ending. It’s not required viewing for this comic, but it’s required viewing for life. But in the context of this post, it’s about characters from one genre playing it straight upon sidestepping into another genre. There’s no pause to take stock of the surroundings, it’s just cowboy business as usual.

If any of my horror recommendations, especially horror western recommendations like The Sixth Gun or American Vampire, have tickled your fancy, this would be right up your alley. It’s a wonderful mashup of two great genres, its action packed, a little scary, and a lot funny. You sadly cannot purchase this digitally, but you can get it on Amazon for a pretty reasonable price, and might be able to find it at your local comic shop too.

Stuff I Bought, Week of 9/15/12 (SUPER VALUE EDITION!)

First off, I bought the latest issue of Saga, which was not really a new comic, but the price dropped on Comixology, so I purchased it! And then wrote about it, along with the previous two issues, here! But on it’s own, issue six is a nice bridge from the world building that’s been going on into UNIVERSE building. Here’s a shot of Hazel, Saga’s narrator, and a character I completely forgot to mention in this week’s review. She’s still a baby as far as the story goes, her future self jumping in with some poignant narration from time to time.

I also purchased Revival #2.

Damn, that’s creepy. Seeley and Norton are bringin’ it. I’m upping my recommendation from READ THIS COMIC to…READ THIS COMIC HOLY CRAP GO DO IT! I might say that I’m more suggestible towards a horror comic at this point due to the Fall season, but really, I will read and/or watch horror at any time of the year. I’ll just get to drink a pumpkin beer while reading these initial issues. This also recently dropped to $1.99 on Comixology. Allegedly the physical issues are selling out and hard to find so collectors are upping the price on eBay. F that noise…either wait for the trade paperback or buy the digital version. It’s a great story, but there’s no reason to overpay for it.

Finally (maybe), I purchased The Sixth Gun Volume Two, which is on sale on Comixology this weekend (so I might also buy Volume 3 and the rest of the issues available). If my first post on this subject didn’t convince you to buy it, well then maybe these things (in addition to the fact that it’s .99 an issue right now) will:

1) The second volume keeps up the energetic pace of the first while still balancing the horror and western genres.

2) Western Genre Awesomeness example:

3) Horror Genre Awesomeness Example (There’s way more awesomeness in the book itself, but you’re not getting it unless you read it, however, IS THIS NOT AWESOME LOOKING AND CREEPY?)

Even without the sale on I would be chomping at the bit (look at that bit, it’s practically chomped to nothing!) to buy more of this comic. Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt are doing an amazing job with this book. Again seriously, drop everything and read this. Also, this volume contains Voodoo (the dark magic, not the crappy 90’s comic book character), as well as possibly werewolves. I say “possibly,” cause werewolves are mentioned, but then so are skin-changers. And the guys in this volume look a bit more like bearded skin-changers.

Really, all three of the books I bought this week are exciting examples of what can be done with the comic book medium, and all three are owned by their creators. So buy them, read some good comics, and support some talented artists.

 

 

 

 

 

Saga Issues 4-6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples…For Reals This Time!

So, I got sidetracked last time, by some well drawn, and some might say hilariously drawn, female anatomy. And my own immaturity. But, I’ll make the claim that I was actually stalling for the 6th issue of Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples to come out! These three issues continue to build a fantastic universe, as well as some three dimensional, well-rounded characters. There’s no bounty hunters or Sith lords that look cool only to say nothing and get taken out like punks. (Oooh, sweet burn, Star Wars!)

That’s The Will. He’s a bounty hunter, or in the slang of this universe, a “Freelancer.” So far we’ve seen him defeat giant monsters, and argue over the phone with his spider-lady ex, The Stalk. He turned down an opportunity to hunt our heroes and their baby because he wouldn’t get an exclusive contract. The Will gets results, chief!

Except when you threaten Lying Cat. Then The Will’s results are lessened. Lying Cat is the breakout character of this series. At least on the internet. Cause Internet = Cat Love. And this is a giant cat that can tell when people are lying. It is a giant cat that can tell when people are lying, and it SAYS, “Lyyyyinggg.” I don’t actually recall if they draw it out like that, but that is how a talking cat would sound. They would not have the cool Bill Murray-ish voice of Lorenzo Music.

Anyway, we get to see more of Marco and Alana in battle. Specifically, Marco, he does THIS to a dude’s arm…

…and then THIS to a sword! Take that sword! And then they all take off in a spaceship!

Take that, spaceship! Oh, the spaceship’s supposed to do that? Then…carry on, spaceship! (Did I mention they made it to the Rocketship Forrest which was an ACTUAL ROCKETSHIP FORREST?)

Anyway, I don’t really want to go into plot details. That doesn’t get you to read this comic. But like I said, Vaughan and Staples are still creating. They haven’t just set us off on an adventure with a couple of stock characters, they’re continuing to reveal more about Alana and Marco, while also exploring characters like The Will, Prince Robot IV, Isabel, and even giving a little depth to the planet full of hookers. Not the actual planet mind you, but to the hookers living on it. What I’m getting at, is that there’s no throwaways in Saga. Nothing is done for the sake of being “cool,” or selling an action figure, though I’d definitely buy up all these action figures. This series is looking like it could very well live up to the definition of it’s title, Saga, which means “epic work of fiction.” I’m in it for the long run, and hope you’ll continue to read it along with me. Feel free to consider the comments section a spoiler and story discussion area…let’s talk about this comic!

“Would you prefer yellow spandex?” LOL, Movie Cyclops! New X-Men by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Etc

There’s two things I really love about Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and BOTH of them begin with the letter U. But first, for those  hearing about X-Men and mutants for the first time, mutants are super-powered beings whose mutations (super powers or deformities) manifest at puberty. The X-Men are a team founded by Professor Charles Xavier to protect mutants from a world that fears and hates them. And on a metaphorical level, Mutants are young people, they’re teenagers, they’re minorities, they’re anyone who FEELS like a minority (again, teenagers).

1) Uniforms: Grant Morrison and his artists put the X-Men back in uniforms (for awhile they all wore…whatever. There were pouches…so many pouches). The first X-Men movie did this first a few years prior, but these were way cooler. There’s kind of a variation of these in the film X-Men: First Class, but I think they worked a lot better on the page.

2) Ugly Mutants: For the most part, “ugly mutants” in X-Men comics were blue. Fuzzy and blue. Essentially Muppets. Yeah, there were some weirdos living in the sewer, but where would they fit in a swinging soap opera with super powers? No one wants to bang an ugly mutant. Well, except for OTHER ugly mutants, and the trashy girl who smokes (she makes out with this dude).

But Morrison really took the X-Men to a point where he boiled them down to their essential concepts.

  • Mutants are feared and hated.
  • Mutants are the next stage in human evolution (And he makes it FOR REALS this time, when we find out that humans will be extinct within a few generations).

For the sake of not having an absurdly long title, I cut mentions of the artists. BUT, here’s who collaborated with Morrison on New X-Men: Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Sciver, Igor Kordey, Lenil Francis Yu, John Paul Leon, Keron Grant, Phil Jiminez, Chris Bachalo, and Marc Silvestri. Each one contributes their own unique style, but maintains the “try to keep up, gonna throw a lot of weird stuff at you pace” that comes with a Grant Morrison comic book. Lenil Francis Yu draws one of the more experimental issues of the series, which is entirely “widescreen,” in which the character of Xorn, a mutant with a star for a brain in an iron prison (see weird stuff, thrown at YOU!), is introduced while Cyclops, Wolverine and the gang indulge in some espionage.

This is probably the best X-Men comic. Period. Whether you’re new to the concept, or coming into it from the movies, or grew up with them as a kid. Morrison and the artists he’s paired with never let you forget that this is all inherently weird.

Hmm…I don’t think I’m doing a great job selling this, but I’m still gonna publish it, and keep this line in pondering it. BUT, this is the best X-Men comic. Beyond boiling the X-Men down to their basic concepts and doing it right, there’s ALSO aliens, evil twins, designer mutant drugs, harvesting of mutant organs, and as I’ve mentioned, weird bird guys making out with skanky girls with wings. If any of my terrible musing on this has interested you, you can buy this on Comixology, or get a couple of beautiful trade paperbacks like I have (that I am TERRIBLE at photographing as you can see from the panels above).

(Insert other teen rebellion song) OR, Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma

So let’s kickoff with the “Why you should read Morning Glories if you’ve liked X” portion of things first. If you’ve dipped your toes, or gone all in for television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Supernatural, etc. Really if you’ve enjoyed character based Sci-Fi or Fantasy in general, this could be for you. Also, according to my good buddy Seth, there are people who like stories about boarding schools. So if you liked the Harry Potter series, The Catcher in the Rye, or the third Mighty Ducks film, this could be for you too. Also, the book’s writer, Nick Spencer, has pitched it as “Runaways Meets LOST.” So to expand on that, if you have enjoyed Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s comic book, Runaways, or the TV show LOST by JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse, this is probably for you. You can buy it physically or digitally in any of the ways I’ve told you about (Your local comic shop, Amazon, Comixology).

Morning Glories is about a group of teens selected to attend the prestigious Morning Glory Academy. Very quickly, they learn that things are not what they seem, and there’s danger around every corner. And mystery. Oh, the mystery.

Spencer, along with artist Joe Eisma, are about 20 issues into this series. They’re not revealing much yet. The two are layering mystery upon mystery. It’s a seven layer cake of mystery, and I’d say roughly only 2-ish layers are done. (Supposedly this book is planned to run 100 issues, so my math kind of works here). But what I’m getting at, is they’re in this for the long run. There isn’t a rush to reveal anything. Morning Glories is a slow burn book that re-uses phrases as well as scenes without feeling repetitive or padded.

Within the first six issues, the phrases “For A Better Future” and “The Hour Of Our Release Draws Near” are seen frequently. Below are just three examples of this:

The students are imprisoned at the academy, but somehow, I don’t think the phrase is that literal. I don’t think it has anything to do with their being freed from the school. If anything, the phrase is more likely to involve (crazy theories to follow) the afterlife, moving onto another plane of consciousness or breaking free from a time loop.

On top of everything else, this is probably also a horror comic, too.

That gentleman’s death comes courtesy of a ghost-like (or possibly unstuck in time??? my own theory–plus there’s a shit ton of travel through time AND space in this book) wraith who appears to be named David and seems to get off on moving around creepily and reaching through people’s heads. Eyeballs are falling out everywhere.

Now while the mystery and horror are all nice, as is the snappy dialogue (which is almost on the verge of being too heavy on the pop culture references), without a solid artist, it would all fall pretty flat. Eisma’s art has really grown in a short time as the series has progressed, really giving each character their own unique personality. He’s also done a great job at conveying emotion. See? Terror!

I mentioned this comic involves time travel, yes? Not only in a Pulp Fiction-y, jumping around the narrative way, but actual time travel! Jade, who’s a pretty insecure character as seen in the panel below:

…grows up into a confident, assured woman, who seems to have a real good idea of what’s going on with everything. And Eisma does a great job of keeping Jade looking like herself, while also gaining that physical and emotional maturity. There are some artists who can make you feel like you’re in an action movie, and there are also those like Eisma who can make their characters act (and act well!).

So again: Mysteries, murder, teen characters. Plus some romance, some bromance, some betrayal…really, there’s a lot of everything in this series. Another phrase that’s repeated is “What did you see when your eyes were opened?” The characters often don’t have an answer. Their eyes haven’t been opened yet. Well, most of them haven’t. And those that have, I don’t think they fully understand things yet either. They’re like those of us reading the book, thinking we have an inkling of what’s going on, when in reality, we know nothing. But I’m excited to keep reading Morning Glories to see if I’m right about …well…anything. 

Casanova: Gula or Bear With Me As I Talk About Comics and Emotions

I’m going to do something weird here, so bear with me.

Ok, ready to indulge me? Of course you are! I’m not going to start with the beginning, or with the most recent volume. Today, we’re talking about Casanova: Gula, the second of three volumes of Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Fabion Moon’s Casanova series. You most definitely should start with the first book, Luxuria, and read the follow up Avaritia. And then read the four books that are to come (there’s supposed to be one for each deadly sin).

I’m talking about Gula, because as I mentioned in my post earlier this week, this book really moved me.

“I’ve told a lot of lies. Pretended to be a lot of things to a lot of people.” THIS. Man, on man. THIS. First off, this (again with the this?) is the titular character of the series, Casanova Quinn.

SUPER QUICK PLOT DOWNLOAD! Casanova Quinn is an international thief, hunted by his father and sister who are super spies UNTIL he’s brought into a parallel universe where HE is known as a super spy and his sister is a super criminal AND…shit, well, it’s complicated. And that’s mostly setup and dealt with in the first volume, Luxuria. This volume, the above panel? Well, it’s where shit gets real. 

But that panel, and the scene that it’s a part of? I felt it. I really did. I could go into the anxiety I feel in being someone different to different people, but it would get all rambly. Short version, this comic book series gets me. On both a “real shit that I feel” level and on a “crazy fantastical action-adventure level.”

That page? Both levels at the same time. Art talk: Gula is drawn by Fabio Moon, while his brother Gabriel Ba draws Luxuria and Avaritia. They’re very similar, but I feel like Moon draws everyone just a smidge bulkier. I love both their styles. They manage to pull off kinetic balls to the wall action while making their characters emote like crazy. Also, Cris Peter’s colors are insanely good. Aside from this book and Hawkeye (which Fraction also writes), I don’t know of too many that use colors so effectively. And this series started out as a book with a two-tone color scheme in order to save money on printing and keep the costs down (It’s great in two-tone as well, but THE COLORS, DUKE, THE COLORS! Um, disclaimer I guess…if you are color blind, you may not appreciate this book on a color level like those of us that aren’t color blind do).

I tend to, or at least used to tend to read comics fairly quickly. Sometimes missing things and needing to go back. Reading panel by panel digitally has helped with this, but Fraction adds a suggested soundtrack to some of his comics. I haven’t done this yet, but I want to attempt to read a comic, with the suggested soundtrack, at the pace of the music. I will report back when I do so.

SEX!

On top of you know, emotions and all that, this book is DRIPPING with sex. And not in a “Hey nerds” kind of way, but in a “We’re artists from Brazil, so we’re going to draw sexy art in a mature, artistic, sensual manner” sort of way.

And I think I mentioned balls to the wall action? What about…boobs in your face action? Like the “using an empty gun as a weapon move” that I’m so fond of, the “distract the opponent with boobs, then kick them in the face move” is one that isn’t used enough, despite it’s innate practicality, efficiency, and high success rate.

So I started kind of deep and then covered myself up with a few layers. This comic goes back and forth with that as well. There’s a lot of “Matt Fraction, Comic Book Writer” in this series, and how that makes him feel.

Casanova: Gula is something that worked for me. The book appealed to the part of me that loves over-the-top action (und comedy), to the part of me that loves slow-cooked food, to the part of me that loves sex (and sexy things), and to the part of me that’s gotten gut punched emotionally. It is most definitely not for everyone. But for those who know me, and in reading this site have gotten to know me a bit, if you feel we’re pretty alike, then you should most definitely READ THIS COMIC!