“Gravity’s just a habit that you’re pretty sure you can’t break” – Low G fun in Henderson and Garbett’s ‘Skyward’

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“Don’t stop,Can’t stop
Until you feel it goin’ down
I wish I had said the things you thought that I had said
Gravity’s just a habit that you’re pretty sure you can’t break”

“I’m tired of dystopias. I think we’re all fatigued by them” claimed John Henderson in a recent interview about his debut comic , Skyward “This is a world where something terrible happens, and then humanity moved on.” Created with artist Lee Garbet, Skyward is certainly a comic more in line with societies tenacious nature, peoples’ tendency to pick up the pieces and just, you know, get on with it. Certainly as far as dystopias are concerned, it’s been a long time since one we’ve breathtakingly dangerous yet appealing. Dare I even say…cool?  Truthfully I didn’t initially pick this up when it was released, it took a few days of daydreaming about the simple yet alluring premise of Henderson and Garbet’s world, the double page spread of our young protagonist Willa leaping gracefully and effortlessly between Chicago’s skyscrapers that I was compelled to pick it up. It stuck with me and made me smile the way a half remembered dream does. The fact that flying is a sleepy time staple only reinforces this even further in a book already created to appeal to that child like fantasy of flight, that sense of wonderment at seeing and experiencing the world a new.

Henderson succeeds in delivering to us with both a dystopia and a joyous story too, achieved in part through the flip in perspective from how a story like this would usually be presented. Henderson choosing to present a post “G-Day” world not through the eyes of the more experienced Nate, but instead his high spirited daughter Willa as she leaps and bounds across the windy cities skyline, using places and spaces as they were never intended to be used all the while sporting an unshakeable smile and and sense of delight. Born just after the Earths gravity diminished, Willa knows only this strange new world, which to her is now simply just ‘the world’ not matter how strange it is. Even in her first appearance as a child she seems perfectly calm and wide eyed floating around her nursery. Early on we see relics of the old world treated with humour and derision, stuffy artefacts best left in a boring and dusty past. It’s a compelling way to present a story about the distance and differing experiences between generations using a sci-fi setting. Hinting at friction between conflicting world views, in particular her scientist father who is literally being held down in this new world by the past and personal tragedy while his daughter makes the best of it, setting up the dynamic that looks like it will be at the centre of Skyward going forward.

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Although a regular length comic, most readers will find themselves breezing through Skywards debut issue in a matter of minutes and might feel a little slight to many, but it’s mostly down to the light and speedy pacing, not surprising when Henderson hails from a TV background (most noticeably, the fluffy yet impossible not to enjoy Lucifer). To me at least it’s perfectly suited to a story focused around movement and low gravity. It feels like there are countless things that could be explored in this environment and this issue hits the perfect balance needed for a first instalment, setting up likeable and intriguing characters and showing just enough of the world to want to see more without falling into a front heavy exposition trap with the bulk of this task left up to Garbett to show visually.

Gabbet’s art captures the quick paced, gravity defying parkour like action and free flowing movement of it’s characters and even in the comics few dialogue filled pages, favours character designs that only further serve to illustrate the subtle difference in this world, presenting the effects of the low gravity world in visually inventive ways. Willa’s hair billows and flows about and when embarrassing herself in front of her legless coworker slumps upside down onto the ground in an exaggerated show of embarrassment and defeat. His pages are filled with small background details of the differences in this world such as impossibly high up advertising signs, entrances and safety ropes that are just begging to be explored in future issues.

Although feeling like a breezy and slightly light read at times, Skyward’s first issue still packs in all the joyful exuberance of a hazy, dimly remembered flight dream brought to the page with a stylish and youthful flair.

Skyward issue 1 released April 18th with Issue 2 to follow on 23rd May

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“At least you can hiss pretty good”- Jenny Mure tackles despression in candid Possum comics

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One thing I’ve briefly alluded too but never directly addressed is feeling ‘down’ over the course of the last three years, maybe more if I’m being brutally honest with you. It’s harder to admit even after eight months of the stabilising effects of Citalopram that it had, without me really noticing, swallowed up the largest part of these years. I struggled along from day to day and mood to mood believing I could just “shrug it off,  Stubbornly refusing to even acknowledge it for what it really was, barely even able to say the word, depression.  Admitting it to others was one of the biggest hurdles and even after finally reaching out and getting help last year I still find the hardest part is just the sheer difficulty in talking about it without truly understanding why I feel this way. Selfishly it’s  one of the reasons I’ve been attracted Jenny Mure’s possum books, the closest paper and ink, maybe any medium has come to depicting the roller coaster of emotions and the even worse bottoming out and endless emptiness that follows . I know,  I know,  “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing” but hear me out anyway, please.

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Unlike the rest of Mure’s polished, predominantly fantasy based work her two volumes of Possum comics are undeniably rough and ready with a done in one, raw immediacy that perfectly fits a diary comic about the everyday struggles that go hand in hand with mental health and art. Sketched in black ink with unequal slanted frames (if any) and following no set format they show Mure living with the ups and crushing downs of depression over a two year period. “At times like these, Opossums talk to my soul more then any other animal” declares a sketchy inked Possum on the opening page and as suggested by the title, she discusses and explores these experiences through a Possum alter ego, perfectly capturing the feeling of not quite feeling like yourself when depression tightens it’s grip on you. Even though everyone experiences it differently and the finer details may change, I was surprised by how many I could relate too and would strike a similar chord with other readers such as peoples well meaning advice to just stop being “such a gloomy motherfucker”. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s impossible to know how hollow, annoying and  useless even a well intentioned tit-bit like that can be.

One that really struck me and stuck with me more then I’d like to admit is when Mure explores setting prohibitive standards and worry onto her possum comics. In a strikingly simplistic sketch of a possum who details the lack of possum comics and attributes it to setting unusually high standards where no one else is expecting them. Essentially stripping the comics of their cathartic purpose and deftly showing how depression and works to break down any of the flimsy coping mechanisms you might have dared built up to protect yourself.

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Her second in the series, So I’m still a Possum, tackles the thorny subject of people appreciating and admiring a piece of work that might be difficult for a creator when it’s origins lie in such a dark and difficult time in their life. Mure describes her trepidation about the first volume being the most popular ‘zine in her shop and at shows whilst being “scrappy and unpolished”. It’s something that caused me to hesitate time and time again when I decided I wanted to show my appreciation for her work,not wanting to add to add anything negative to anyone else’s state of mind. Don’t come to Mure’s comics expecting any advice on how to cope with depression or tackle mental health, it’s not that kind of comic, not by a long shot.  Yet, they are all the better for realising this and not reaching out for a resolution or offering hollow advice. It’s a stark and painfully  honest account of her own experiences coping with depression and hopefully their popularity is derived from people like myself being able to hand it to others when our own words wither and  fail us and say “this”. In the very same strip, Mure succinctly sums up the dark, uncomfortable appeal of her Possum work, “All I can hope is it can do the same to other people in some small way. Something to nod and say me too” she explains through her Marsupial alter ego “To feel a little less alone, if nothing else”

Jenny’s artwork can be found at her website, littlemure.com and tweets here.

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Wednesday Adventures 11th April

comic, Comic spotlight

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

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Exiles 1- Marvel Comics

I hope the image book below make up for choosing this in the face of my complaints about Marvels up and coming re-blandening exercise as an event, “Fresh Start”. Barely any of the titles stand out to me. I hadn’t intended to pick any up. I know, What can I say? It’s the X-Men. Everyone has their pull list weak spots and wouldn’t you know it, X-Men is mine. Look, a book about misunderstood misfits will always,always have a space on my shelf and there is none more misfit then the Exiles. Plucked from all manner of mismatching alternate realities to fix the multiverse it was a comic with a delightfully silly mixture of beloved series’ Quantum leap and Sliders. With its comic hitting all the highs that made them such great shows. Larger overarching plots but essentially smaller mini arcs of bizarrely cool and  far fetched “What if” scenarios every issue, ensuring it was anything but boring. I’m hardly surprised that while  looking for a preview I found that new writer Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt) has said pretty much the same thing in interviews.

All this without even mentioning a new secret star merely two issues away! Peggy Carter: Captain America! All the loud cries of “it’s only an alternative reality version!” that always come up, or the dismissal owing for her apparently unforgivable ties to a video game, don’t care. I’ll take my Carter action wherever and whenever I can get it thank you very much. The other, much more excited half of the Internets enthusiastic reaction upon the reveal makes me feel that this could be an interesting take that will end up informing the character in general going forward.

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Dry County 2- Image Comics

When he’s not busy with she wolves and aquatic spy stories, Tommaso has been carving out his own little niche of criminally good neon-noir crime comics with the lies of Dark Corridor. This time around billed as “the everyman crime series”, Dry County finds Lou Rossi in the backdrop of a neon soaked nineties Miami trying to track down a woman he met one night in a laundromat.

Like a lot of Tommasi’s books, this ones taking a while to get up to full speed, and it helps that his past projects has proven he is very much worth sticking to with in this regard.

 

 

 

Rocketing from Avery Hill to a Retrograde Orbit in Kristyna Baczynski’s new graphic Novel

artist spotlight, comic, Comic spotlight, First Impressions, interview

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Over three years ago, and twice as many old fashioned’s, I found myself so completely  moved and drawn in by Kristyna Baczynski’s comic “Vessel” that I somehow ended up writing close to a thousand words about it. Diving deep and gently dissecting it.

A little excessive maybe for a comic comprising eight pages? Well, you can imagine the strange mix of excitement and trepidation I was feeling this week as the Leeds based creator announced her first full length graphic novel to be released by Avery Hill Publishing this September to nicely coincide with her home cities celebration of comics, Thought Bubble. You can expect a full review here around about this time 2019. Maybe.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, for years really. Alongside my other freelance commitments and part-time jobs, making a longer comic book could never quite fit into that scenario” said Baczynski of her previous work on her shorter self published comics, including the poignant and touching “Hand Me Down”, nominated for best Graphic Short in the 2016 Eisners. Having quit her lecturing job to go into comics and illustrations full time, Retrograde Orbit will mark her first foray into full length graphic novels and the first to be picked up by a major publisher. “Avery Hill had always been interested in and supportive of my work so we decided to finally get the ball rolling together” Baczynski commented on the subject of her new home with the publisher, who also announced new books from B.Mure and Tillie Walden to be released this autumn, “Avery Hill wanted the ball to be science fiction, so that was a nudge that started things off”.

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While another of her stories, the quietly sweet and hauntingly introspective “A Measure of Space” featured sci-fi elements with it’s cosmic disaster, Retrograde Orbit already feels like it’s fully embracing the genre, set on a mining planet at the edge of the solar system and the experiences of Flint as she grapples with her own notions of home and the possibilities of leaving it. Her unique composition and panel layout is something I talked about endlessly before and Retrograde Orbits structure clearly sets out to firmly launch her latest works sci-fi premise beyond just the, admittedly gorgeous, looking futuristic set dressings  “The mechanics of the story are based on the cycle of planets in a solar system, so that took some time to get right. I’m also trying to avoid sci-fi exposition. As much as I love Geordie LaForge and his technobabble, I wanted the science fiction world to be an immersive setting, a narrative metaphor, instead of something that needs explaining all the time”

Coming out in September it should come as no shock that Retrograde Orbit’s launch will coincide with this years Thought Bubble which as well as being a genuinely welcoming and uplifting showcase of comics talent, has also snagged a fair few exclusive releases for their comics celebrations in past years. “Thought Bubble 2018 will be my tenth show. That’s wild. So, we decided to pitch the release date for then” shared Baczynski when asked about the seemingly cosmic connection of convention and release dates “I absolutely love Thought Bubble; it’s my hometown show, they have always been supporters of my work and raise the profile of my home city. Not to mention all my comics friends visiting for a weekend every year. It’s the best. I’m so excited to share the book with them in September.”

A big thank you goes out to Kristyna for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to me. You can find more of her work here and learn more about Retrograde Orbit over at Avery Hill.

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“If an idea resonates with you, as a creator, there’s absolutely an audience for it” -The world of furry cartoonist Lobst

anthro, anthropomorphic, comic, interview

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Growing up on a diet of sci-fi and fantasy, transformation stories were the ones I loved and could always rely on the writers of most shows to fall back on one of it’s most loved tropes. For me they were always the most frustrating though, as characters spent their time trying either freaking or trying to change back, usually both. Frustratingly they almost never explored a person staying that way, gaining a new perspective on the world. It’s something I’d find renewed interest in when encountering the Furry Fandom and finally found quite literally in the works of Lobst, a furry comics artist who uses their anthropomorphic characters and an individual take on magical realism to express their unique experiences as a trans person.

As with the bulk of their work two of my favourites, both adult comics, prominently feature transgender characters and story lines. A Slightly Different Role follows the exploits of two huskies, Connor and Alex, the latter of which with the aid of a suitably gothic book of curses, magically endows the other with a vagina. The second, more science-fiction orientated That Curious Sensation takes the subject in an entirely different, rarely explored direction. Distracted from work by unwanted erections red panda Clover strikes upon the idea of nullification, quickly achieving his goal with an easily obtainable injection. In both instances the initial transformation is dealt with quickly and often humorously, instead shifting the focus onto how characters react and adapt to the changes, rather than the change itself as a way to explore other parts of a trans individuals experiences and struggles beyond the post surgery aspects that a lot of mainstream representations fixate upon.

Lobst tells stories and presents her trans and gender fluid characters in an interesting and entertaining manner without the fetishization often present in a lot furry comics staring trans characters. Their artwork explores them in entirely different ways ,and using the fantasy elements as a springboard to ask more intimate and rarely asked questions about individuals in the trans community through anthropomorphic characters. Despite the ears, tails and fur, her extended cast appear on the page fully rounded and human. Ultimately what sets Lobst’s work apart is the warmth and tenderness it exudes in both the ways their characters interact and the playful way they write about a complicated and multifaceted subject, tackled both playfully and honestly.

Has art always been a part of you life or something picked up later? How did your art change after coming into contact with the furry fandom?

I’ve always drawn artwork, although it took quite a while for me to start developing original ideas that spread out into stories.  I was a furry-in-denial for a very long time, since the “mainstream” of it — at the time, comics like Sabrina Online and Jack — either seemed too cloying or edgy for my tastes. It took a long time for me to realise that like any other fandom, furries comprise a wide spectrum of interests, so there was a gradual shift from anthro-animal comics like Cigarro & Cerveja/Living In Greytown to Gene Catlow/Kit & Kay Boodle to Associated Student Bodies, Circles, and the webcomics by my friend Moult, after which I spent yet another very-long-time producing furry media “ironically” in groan worthy “extreme” ways. And I think it was only around 2007 or so (yes, seriously) when I started actually looking at furry art, that I learned how to successfully draw furry snouts; until that point a besnouted face was seriously just a box in front of the standard comic-artist human face shield.

“A weirdness creeping around the edges of things” – Jeff Lemire unearths family ghosts in Royal City-Next of Kin

comic, review, Uncategorized

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“and then nothing turned itself inside out”

Yo La Tengo

Ever since learning about, and subsequently becoming hooked on Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth I quickly and almost slavishly devoured everything he’d  put out, reading back from his indie roots in Lost Dogs to his more recent work with the more established stable of super hero types for the big two. Indeed some of my favourite stories of his feature the “long underwear” lot, making me deeply invested in characters I had no previous interest in such as Old Man Logan, or following up already acclaimed runs of both Hawkeye and Moon Knight to pull and stretch them, twisting their own recently established styles and motifs around and back in on themselves to surprising effect. Between this and his Image work like Plutonia and Descender there really hasn’t been a shortage of stories to enjoy from the prolific writer. Still, there’s something truly magical when Lemire swaps powers for the powerless, spandex for flannel with his more personal projects. Taking over both art and writing duties, this years Royal City is the book I’ve really been waiting for.

Struggling to write his make or break third novel Patrick Pike is unexpectedly and reluctantly drawn back to the squat, broken down city of his youth after his father suffers a stroke that leaves him in a coma. The once thriving city and the families relationships have both seen better days as Patrick quickly become entwined once again in the lives of his mother and his two elder siblings. Noticeably more grounded than a lot of his other recent work, a quick description of Royal City makes it’s initial premise sound very simple, which at first, it is. However, the real draw here is how intricately and complex and raw he writes each member of the Pike family.

In lesser hands it’s easy to see how they could be reduced to simplistic one note characters. The Bitter arguing couple, the burnout, the beleaguered father and passive aggressive mother, Royal City takes it’s time to explore these characters where other books would skim the surface. Lemire digs deeper here and mines the darkest and most destructive elements of the family, yet still manages to round them out and humanise them into a deeply flawed yet relateable cast. Slowly peeling back the years of familial resentment in it’s first five issues, it presents everyone as a lot more complex then they at first seem, showing the choices and circumstances that shaped each of them, including the devastating event at the centre of the book that haunts the family. Lemire even uses the familiarity some might be feeling with both the set up and his work to great effect here, the subtle supernatural element at work throughout is used to show each character failing to deal with the loss that it leaves the reader wondering if there really is “something different about this place” or simply the effects of psychological trauma on the family. For those waiting for a high concept twist, Lemire teasingly dangles one in front of the reader early on and instead turns a reference to his one of his previous works into a poignant and succinct summation of the relationship between Christopher and his wife Greta.

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Expecting artwork more akin to Sweet Tooth, I found myself reading it back at the same time and was instantly struck by how even more stripped back and stylistic the artwork of Royal City is. This book is probably the most “Lemire” of his work and we see him as an artist stripping everything back to it’s simplistic forms and telling a deep and moving story in the most economical way possible. There’s a deserted abandoned feel to the eponymous city and the gaunt, troubled faces of it’s inhabitants. His lines are loose and expressionistic, complimented with a muted pallet and washed out watercolours. Sparsely beautiful and haunting in it’s own unrefined way.

While I loved reading Royal City monthly and enjoyed the wait between issues and the time to re-read and speculate about it’s developments, Lemire is telling a very slow burn human story and some issues don’t have a ‘story shaped’ conclusion or cliffhanger in the typical way comics readers might be looking for. Despite all the back material, essays, playlists and the like, it might make for a more satisfying experience collected as a trade for the majority of readers. Royal City succeeds in giving readers something wholly fresh and compelling out of instantly recognisable characters and settings by pausing to look at their motivations. Lemire’s choice of a slower pace to allow them to time and space to play out in detail over the course of it’s first arc, becoming more complex and nuanced every issue. The paired down artwork and minimalist approach to dialogue makes the book initially feel a lot simpler then it turns out to be, quietly obscuring all the hard work being performed on every page and every panel right in plain view. Five issues in and Royal City is a title that Conveys perfectly the feeling of lost time and potential through both the Pike family and the ailing city, that permeates through it’s engrossing first story arc.

Royal City Next of Kin is released September 27, 2017

Royal City Issue One playlist

WEDNESDAY ADVENTURES- 16th AUGUST

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

 

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Spy Seal- Image Comics

Straight from the then thirteen year old imagination of the writer and artist that brought us the hauntingly beautiful She Wolf  comes action! Espionage! Seals? Thought up when Tommasi was just thirteen, his new book over at image takes heavy inspiration in both tone and aesthetics of the Franco Belgian comics such as Tin Tin as we enter the the world of suave Cold War spy Seal, Malcolm Warner.

Tommasi’s debut issue centers around the charmingly Sam Spade named “The Corten Steel Phoenix” that has out hero bumping into the pre-requisite mysterious stranger, a buxom rabbit who quickly embroils the seal in a high stakes museum heist  and a journey to join MI6 and become England’s “slickest spy”. Action and anthropomorphic espionage mix,with Spy |Seal looking to deliver the qaulity quips, daring action and globe spanning spy-hijinks of a classic Connery Era Bond film.

 

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Secret Weapons- Valiant Comics

I’ve professed my love before (a lot) on this blog, for Marvels stable of teen X-men and their school based mutant adventures. A love that has been tested many times before and endures no matter how many killings or cancellations they go through. From Wolverine and the X-men, Academy X and Generation X I’ve read them all but it’s the latest reboot under the Generation X title that has really, really tested my love. A forgettable line up and bland characterizations for them pretty much killed any interest stone dead. The biggest compliment I can give Heisserer’s Secret Weapons is that it does in two issues what Generation X is struggling to do with five.

Even with a universe I’m unfamiliar with beyond a smattering of Archer and Armstrong  issues, the team makes easy work of catching readers up. Teens left with esoteric and seeming useless power shipped off to be forgotten about, we follow four such teens Owen , Nikki,, Martin and Sunil under the guidance and protection of Livewire. An exhilarating exploration with some genuinely relateable and interesting characters all trying to make their way in a world with some seriously duff powers.

Wednesday Adventures 9th August

anthro, comic, First Impressions

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

 

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“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” – Marcus Aurelius.

Mister Miracle 1- DC Comics

From the unravelling of the best made plans or mice and sythanoids, deep dissections of the inherent darkness of Batman’s sprawling playground to the horrors or armed conflict, Tom King has quickly proven himself to be one of the comic industries top talents. This time he delves back into DC’s roster for a politically charged take on the master of escapism, Mister Miracle.

Part of Jack Kirby’s sprawling Fourth World saga, the future Mister Miracle, Scott Free is imprisoned on the tartarus planet of Apokolips before escaping to the sanctuary of New Genesis. This twelve issue series promises to explore Mister Miracle, still haunted by his time on Apokolips and take the cosmic grandeur of Kirby to tell a trademark personal King story. Early previews show Mitch Gerads, artist on King’s Sheriff of Babylon, using an impressive and immersive range of comic visuals from Ben-Day dots, watercolours and other visual distortions to give Miracles adventures a rougher, grounded feel.

King is a master of heady yet accessible storytelling and his new series is already garnering a lot of pre-release buzz and should be a great entry point for readers like myself who have yet to full dive into the world of one of comics true greats.

 

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“They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” -Sapphire (Almost Famous)

The Wicked and the Divine 30- Image Comics

Magic, music and mayhem continue to lead the cast of Gillen and McKelvie’s Wicked and Divine on a merry and mystical dance. Continuing the pairs Imperial Phase arc the focus this issue is on Dionysus. Drawing on Gillen’s obvious passion for music with knowing nods with musical archetypes and subcultures, the series has offered a real world hook before Gillen lays his deeply intricate mythos of gods, humans and the music that irrecoverably ties their fates together. 

Wicked and Divine is akin to falling in love with the music again, each and every issue and like the rest of his comics perfectly capture the energy, pain and passion of loving a band or song.

 

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 23- Marvel Comics

Although solicitations, especially Marvel ones, are usually the place for hyperbole, bombast and grandiose statements, describing North and Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as “the complete package, really” rings true! Come on folks, stop being so self deprecating, it really does have it all! Friendship! Fun! Computer Science! Dinosaurs?

Yeah, if you expected fourteen years of hilarious Dinosaur comics to have gotten giant reptiles out of his system, then think again as this issue continues Doreen and Nancy’s trip to the Savage Lands (that of X-men and big freakin’ dinos fame!) after taking a break from school and thankfully the off putting events of Marvel’s Secret Empire. Brilliantly presented as a pun filled Dino theme park, the pair are tasked with saving it and all it’s Triassic glory. While Henderson’s art ranges detailed to deceptively simple when letting a joke or scene breathe, last months issue really let her indulge with spreads and spreads of squirrel and giant lizard fun!

 

 

 

Wednesday Adventures- 26th April

review

 

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“The superhero is the kind of last, small, broken ideal of what we might all become one day if we just get it together and stop being assholes”- Grant Morrison

Doom Patrol 6- DC Comics

Fantabulous first arc complete! DC’s most obtuse and outlandish band of superhero misfits continues to be the perfect place for Way’s seemingly endless stream of delirious ideas and deranged pop punk poetry dialogue. As ambulance driver Casey brink comes to terms with her origin, the team finally reunites against the Vectra to defend Danny Le Street from becoming intergalactic street food

A dadist infused, psychedelic romp that serves as both a love letter to the Doom Patrol’s legacy and the enduring power of super heroes and comics, Way and Derrington have found the perfect midway point between the outlandish and perplexing antics the roster of strange characters have to offer and the good bright fistpumpimg super-heroics in the strongest and strangest title from the Young Animals imprint so far.

 

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Infamous Iron Man 7- Marvel Comics

Despite my criticism of the first few slow paced issues, Bendis and Maleev’s re-introduction of Victor Von Doom and his newly aligned moral compass is the one title I quietly look forward to each month with it’s perfect inversion of superhero characters, motivations and interactions as it skewers the rivalry against Marvels first family, eventually pitting the new found hero against The Maker.

Seeking redemption for a life of tyranny and the combined might of the villain community and SHEILD pursuing him, Doom finds the hardest thing to escape are his own reputation and actions. The idea of an inverted Victor was around in Axis and here Bendis writes that concept in widescreen, big and bold in it’s action set pieces whilst at the same time small and intimate when exploring it’s troubled protagonist.  The slow pace that bothered me at first actually gives the story breathing room letting Bendis pull off a more poignant and complex examination of the once power mad Doom. For all it’s cinematic superhero action, at it’s core the Infamous Iron Man is revealing itself to be a fascinating study of a man at war, with himself

“I only want to do good things”- Gerard Way is rebuilding the Doom Patrol, Brick by Brick..

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“Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there!-

Grant Morrison

Three months into the new Gerard Way penned Doom Patrol and issue one still seems to be kicking around the place with it’s peelable, Warhol inspired gyro sticker still clinging defiantly to the front cover, taunting me. I can’t help but fret over what’s underneath? Am I missing something vital? Pealing it off seems obvious, right? One flick of the wrist is all it takes, and yet..surely Gerard knows the average comic readers mentality? No  matter how cool and hip you make your new imprint, the strongest instinct is to store these away like priceless artefacts, bagged and boarded, catalogued and cared for. Not very rock and roll is it? Not exactly what a ‘dangerous human’ would do. A dangerous human would have stepped out of the comics store, peeled it off immediately without even a second though and months later found it at the bottom of an increasingly precarious pile of these beautifully inspiring but ultimately disposable objects, the delicious sticker stuck onto the fridge among crappy takeaway menus, gig tickets and terrible snapshots. Fuck it! I’ll probably just go and buy a second copy…

I only mention this because looking back it seems the perfect representation of his Doom Patrol work, even for a series only on it’s third issue. From to this little hoarding, compulsive tic, Way knows how our minds work, how His mind works. He knows us, he is us. It’s been clear from the get go, issue one, the cover, that he’s going to use all that against us. It’s not going to be an easy ride. “Think you know the Doom Patrol?” you can almost hear Cliff Steele snarling from the page “think again, Jerk sauce!” In any given issue Way can take a Morrison idea, turn it through itself  and twist expectations, your own preconceptions against you.  Just in case you thought you’d got a grasp on Doom Patrol, he makes what at first seems familiar into the unfamiliar again with a few simple twists and tweaks into a different directions. A lot of the imagery might seem similar with its stylistic callbacks to iconic Morrison moments almost as a stepping on point, but the delivery and pacing is pure Way. It’s the Doom Patrol at a breakneck speed with a rock star sneer, lyrical dialogue and confident cocksure attitude. It’s the comics equivalent of a dizzying wall of feedback buzz, the clatter of drums and hum of guitars as he splices in the DNA of a fizzling, defiant two-minute-something punk-pop song onto the printed page with the pure unbridled energy you’d find in any of his music.

“I’m going to put it in a fucking blender” claimed Way before the first issue when asked about the Doom Patrols history and legacy and three issues on he’s not shied away from this claim as we enter issue three, as questions are answered while more sneak up behind your back. No matter how far into weird and experimental areas of comics writing Morrison’s went into during his tenure, the book always had a solid anchor in the characters he explored as part Doom Patrol roster, all with bizarre, grotesque yet simple origins and ultimately relatable drives and personalities. It’s a trick that Way has continued here to great success already. In this respect this issue is perhaps the most conventional and straightforward of the new Young Animals incarnation, not to say that the easy read makes it any less creative when this issue turns out to the be super secret origins issue of new protagonist, Casey Brinke in more ways than one. It’s an origin story told perfectly in step with the Doom Patrol style.

dpa_3_2Last issue Casey found herself face to face with the man of muscle mystery, Flex Mentallo and we pick up with the Hero of the Beach welcoming her through the Perpetual Cabaret and on to Danny Le Street as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol, her strange origin finally revealed to her. Taken on a “it’s a small world after all” ride in Danny-Land, he introduces her and new readers to the team of misfits greatest hits album, The Scissormen, The Painting that ate Paris all rendered like cheap, wooden  carnival dressings for her to walk around. Elsewhere we get caught up with Cliff and Larry dealing with Way’s new spin on the negative spirit with some terrifying and stunning panels courtesy of artist Nick Derrington, who brings a sharp visual style to the title. Some pieces fall into place at least thematically this issue, as we start to realise the small  touches that make this such a fascinating read. At first it seemed Flex Mentallo showing up was a welcome, if random callback, while this issue reveals why Danny felt it best for him to the be the one to usher her towards joining the team as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol.

Storywise, this series third issue once again goes a long way to re-introducing elements of the Doom Patrols now pureed ‘legacy’, establishing it’s own idea and also firmly re-cementing the team’s roles as DC’s finest band of outcasts as they both deal with the sorts of threats that would send the average hero mad and provide refuge and a purpose once again for the misfits and outcasts. Like Danny-Land this comic is one hell of a ride. Chaotic, confusing, and gloriously silly.

Also posted to Graphics Policy