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

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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

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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.

“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

“Doom will consider your request!” -Victor Von Doom suits up as the Infamous Iron Man

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Tony Stark is dead. Sorry, spoilers I guess. Although considering this is only one of two Stark-less Iron Man books hitting the shelves it should hardly be a surprise that everyone’s favourite playboy, billionaire, philanthropist would be taking time off from heroics and calling in dead for the foreseeable future. Along with the invincible Iron Man Riri Williams, longtime villain Doctor Doom on a questionable path of redemption after Secret Wars will be filling the shell head’s Iron shoes as a more, infamous hero.

It’s a headline grabbing premise and one with a proven track record, even as recent as Doc Oc becoming the Superior Spider-man and now as Doom becomes the latest of the Marvel rogues gallery to start “breaking good”.  Although here it somehow doesn’t feel as natural a fit as Slott’s tale. Whilst ‘rescuing’ Sheild’s Maria Hill and demonstrating his own brand of heroics, Victor gives a brutal  verbal strip down of a c-list science villain and whilst it’s a cool moment in a book sorely lacking them it does highlight why this first issue lacks any real conflict or excitement. Stripped off all the bombastic, larger than life theatrics Doctor Doom comes across as creepy, rather than menacing. Bendis sets Doom up to be an intimidating presence even in a regular business suit but it feels like we are the ones who are following a c-list bad guy rather than one of the companies most feared and wildly popular characters.

While Bendis has always had his fair share of detractors from his pacing and decompressed style, this issue feels almost glacial in it’s pacing. Opting to spend the bulk of the issue reiterating Victor’s desire to atone for his past, moving along slowly until a first reveal of him suited up in new Iron Man armour. Considering the character has spent the majority of his time already encased in metal, what should have been a jaw dropping final page feels decidedly underwhelming and doesn’t have anywhere near as much punch as I suspect the creative team intended. While Doom’s debut as Iron Man sets up some interesting ideas with his struggle to prove he can do good in the world whilst struggling with and exploiting his reputation and could make this an interesting series, the sheer lack of exciting moments and it’s slow pacing left me without any real interest or indication where the story might lead.

Picks of the week 19/10/16

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Even a few titles in, Gerard Way’s ‘Young Animals’ is already proving to be a shot in the arm for DC’s comics line, with the My Chemical Romance front-man and his team embracing the weird and cherry picking the most obscure and weird characters from the company’s vaults.They don’t come any more obscure than Cave Carson, the one with the cybernetic eye, first appearing in four issues of the ‘Brave and the Bold’ in the 60’s before making his way onto the aptly named “Forgotten Heroes” along with Animal Man in the 80’s.

“Inspired by the visionary work of DC’s experimental past, but shaped and focused on the absurdity of today” is the imprints mission statement and it would seem that Way and Rivera are taking the spelunking hero down a psychedelic, self exploratory path as he struggles with his grip on reality after his wife’s death.

Following in the footsteps of Doctor Octopus as Superior Spider-man, this month Iron Man becomes infamous as the leader of Latveria dons Stark’s armour. One of two characters taking over the Iron Man Mantle along with Riri Williams it remains to be seen if Bendis and Maleev’s Victor is truly on a path to redemption or working an angle to a new devious master plan.

While his last big plan saw Doom elevate himself to the status of God of the newly formed battleworld, can one of the biggest and most complex villains of the Marvel Universe really step up and become a true hero? With the series’ second issue featuring long time adversary and sure to be sceptical Ben Grimm, it’s sure going to be an interesting look into an already layered character.

‘For the usual fee–plus expenses’- Bendis and Gaydos are back with new Jessica Jones series

comic, Comic spotlight, review, Uncategorized

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“Everybody feels beleaguered at some point, That’s the universal truth of punk, that you are going to feel, in whatever role you’re living, that everybody is against you”

– John Darnielle

Say what you like, Jessica Jones is a character who is at her most compelling when beleaguered, set upon and troubled. Alias reveled in seeing her overcome great odds and her own actions and although her appearances since her own title had her finding some semblance of peace and happiness it’s clear that on returning and picking up her story after over a decade away, Bendis isn’t interested in a happy Jessica either. With original artist Gaydos back on board as well we find our reluctant heroine, with a few tweaks here and there, pretty much back where they left her all those years. This issue finds her fresh out of prison and stubbornly dodging questions about the mysteries mounting up in her own life, her marriage, her incarceration and most importantly what, if anything has happened to her daughter, Danielle.

Barely skipping a beat, Bendis drops us back into her world weary frame of mind as if we were picking up the story from last month, never mind over ten years ago. His characters voices are all distinct and sharp, never more so than when they are giving a knowing wink to the changes in the Marvel landscape since Alias wrapped up. Although it’s comforting to once again to hear Jones’ jaded inner monologue, this time we can most definitely see where it might trip her up. Over the years she’s tussled with superheroes and seen incredible things, but when her new client mentions her husband’s unusual behaviour and outlandish claims of having lived another life, started “eight months ago”, dismissing the obvious answer and leaving us on the edge of our seats as Bendis teases us with a mystery of a character who is either on the con, or an unwitting casualty caught up on the wrong end of Hickman’s recent cosmic reshuffling. Reminded in part of the classic Astro Cities storyline, “The Nearness Of You”, with average citizens caught up in universe altering events they can scarcely comprehend, let alone react against, it sets up one of the books many, many mysteries.

Gaydos’ art for the first issue is as despondent and melancholy as it ever was. His tired and worn out characters set against his un-superheroic, washed out New York City managing to feel both fresh and familiar, emphasising just how unusual his style and tone is to comics even on the second time around. It’s thrilling to see the recently formed Champions striding through New York in Gaydos’ gorgeously grimey and downbeat style as Jessica sits on, suitably nonchalant at the public posturing and heroic antics around her.

“Is she a big deal or not?” asks a prison guard early on in the book, with some firmly tongue in cheek Bendis dialogue, daring the reader to answer. While the more cynical might point out his earlier remarks on having written everything he wanted with Jessica, or the success of this years Netflix show for his  sudden return to the world of Alias Investigations. Let’s face it comics are based on “never say never” and this issue seems almost genuinely reluctant to trade on the success of the TV show or even show off about getting the band back together, so to speak, lest the book stray too far from it’s scrappy underdog roots and with a subtle first issue might have just pulled it off. While some might be put off by Bendis’ deliberately slow pacing or knocking Jessica down once more for the sake of restoring her status quo somewhat,  the first issue sets up some intriguing conflicts and mysteries, all with the chance of her coming back stronger than ever.

 

“You’re a Dublin Aunt!”- Looking back on ‘Roasted’ and Andy Riley’s coffee shop wasters

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More widely know as the mind behind the winningly inventive self destruction of lapins in the hugely popular Bunny Suicides,  Andy Riley also charted the minutia and obsessions of the world as it stumbled blearily into the early noughties in the weekly comic strip Roasted and the venomous wit of reluctant Barista, Karl. On cold Sunday mornings delivering papers (good lord!) it was the one strip I’d read, before eventually chancing upon the neat little collected hardback. It’s an overlooked gem that I’d been looking for an excuse to write about for a while now. Riley’s new book and a recent craving for cereal finally gave me the perfect one!

Originally running in the Observer Magazine for a whopping eight years, Roasted follows the lives of three “coffee shop wasters”. Karl, sardonic, beleaguered and firmly on the wrong side of his thirties and his long suffering co-workers the dim but amiable Nev and the overly anxious Lottie. All three work, or more accurately, have found themselves stuck in a boring but comfortable Coffee Shop gig as they work their way  through the early 2000’s zeitgeist with it’s complicated coffee, charity wristbands and iPod inadequacy.

The excuse for this little look back at Roasted is the main reason I finally got around to writing it. It’s funny, I mean really funny. Going out for cereal recently I was encouraged by a health conscious husband to buy Muesli, Bran Flakes or Weetabix, basically anything that wasn’t “choconut choc frosted sugar nut choc loops” in reference to Lottie’s shocking choice of breakfast foods and my own struggle to stay on course and act like an adult in the cereal aisle. It’s unsurprising really, with Riley having worked on Black Books and a number of comedies that Roasted has all the punch of a great sitcom and the same instantly memorable, laugh out loud quotability. For me at least they have wormed their way into my brain alongside all the TV, film and pop culture references and  after years of living on my coffee table a lot have become in jokes with friends whenever confronted with similar situations as Riley’s trio.

While it’s only been a scant six years since Roasted ended a lot of the strips are almost cringe inducingly perfect time capsules. “It looks like some mind control device from some nightmare future society” comments Karl on Nev’s Bluetooth headset “It makes you look like an agent from the Matrix” and he’s right. Looking back on these strips in particular it was particularly hard to remember a time before all of these devices became ubiquitous and became socially accepted rather than looking, you know, weird?  Ultimately it’s the reliability of the characters and their situations from the bad jobs, terrible life choices and bewilderment at popular culture that still makes it so funny and darkly humorous.

While working on screenplays, pilots as well as his second book in the more kid friendly and brilliantly titled, King Flashy Pants and the Creature from Crong, Andy found time to answer a few  questions on the days of Roasted.

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Are you ever tempted to revisit the Roasted cast and see what they are up too, or do you think it’s better to leave things rather then revisiting them?

I have drawn them for my own amusement once in awhile, but after the strip ended, I never considered carrying them on somewhere else. I decided I would leave them there, still in that coffee shop. However! I have adapted the face of Karl for the villain in my new children’s book, King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor. It’s an entirely different character though. But you’d recognise the beard.

Reading Roasted back a few of the strips are almost time capsules. The mention of flash mobs made me visibly cringe! Are there any strips in particular looking back that make you despair at the early 00’s?

When you look back at a different time period, it’s always interesting to see how quickly an amazing new thing becomes an accepted part of life. Maybe the second or third strip that I did – So this would be 2002 – was about camera phones. The observation was to do with how sending pictures around really meant that we were all expected to be CCTV cameras aimed at each other, so we would inevitably sacrifice our privacy. And that is more or less what has happened since.

It was the decade when digital technology became something which surrounded us, rather than something which you turned on and off as and when you needed it. I’m still not quite comfortable with that fluffy digital cocoon. Mostly if I look back at these strips, I keep thinking: why didn’t you draw that one better? It took me about two years to really get the hang of drawing the characters. Even then I seemed to get Lottie wrong more times then I got her right. To my eyes anyway. If I cringe its at my own line work when it gets shonky.

The larger strips not included in the book is one of my favorites, what brought about the idea of doing something more epic in terms of the story and the layout with that one?

The Observer magazine gave me extra pages for Christmas and I jumped at it. This happened a few times over the years, but the first one, where Karl goes home for Christmas and meets an ex-girlfriend, then nearly gets hit by a train, is my favourite. They were too big to fit in the compiled book though, sadly.

Do you still prefer to “kick it old school” now in terms of your comics work or do you find yourself using technology in your art since Roasted finished. Why do you think inking and painting works more for you and why did you choose it for Roasted?

I only got a tablet at the beginning of last year. Until then I had never drawn anything on a computer at all. At a young age I learned to draw with pen and ink – the kind of spidery nib which you dip into a pot of Indian ink. I enjoyed it so much, I just couldn’t understand the impulse to draw on a screen. As time went on I rationalised it in a couple more ways: I noticed that The technology was de-skilling parts of the cartoon business. You know, the kind of web comics where people draw the head of the main character, and then just paste that same picture file in again and again with different speech bubbles. That drives me up the wall. Some people won’t even draw heads any more, just letting the machine draw a circle for them. Ugh. So, I thought: I will carry on drawing by hand, and my characters will continue to be expressive from frame to frame, thank you very much. Anyway, i’m not drawing manga where everything must be smooth: I like my style to be a bit blotchy and rough around the edges. software will militate towards making things clean looking, so blotchy stuff actually takes longer on a tablet because you have to add it in on purpose.

At the beginning of last year I made a concerted effort to learn how to draw using Manga Studio, but in the end real pens and paints were getting me the effects I wanted quicker. And here’s the thing I discovered: digital is not necessarily quicker. When I am doing the grey wash on the cartoons for my children’s book, I just use a single number five brush, and I can get so many different effects with just a split second flick of the wrist. On a computer, I would have to scroll through lots of brushes to get all these variations. Drawing on a computer means you can keep taking back what you do. So it opens up a terrible vista of fiddling, fussing, adjusting. I like drawing in a decisive way where you really commit with each line. It’s more visceral. So I don’t use the tablet much. Except for cleaning up the artwork. Removing unwanted smudges, adjusting a tiny line in the wrong place, that sort of thing: infinitely quicker on a computer. Saves me a lot of time with tippex and white paint.

I’m 46, so old enough to have learnt about drawing when digital drawing didn’t really exist. I was just drawing, using physical tools, the way that people had since the dawn of time. It’s how I learnt, and I like it. Back then it wasn’t something I had to justify. In The 21st-century, just carrying on like that has become a stylistic decision as far as the world is concerned. I knew I was out of step when, a few years ago, I did an email interview for a Belgian comics website which asked me, regarding the Bunny Suicides: “do you draw the whole thing on the tablet, or do you sketch with pencil, then scan it in and just do the inking on the tablet?” The idea that I did the entire thing on a sheet of paper, with no tablet involved, simply hadn’t occurred to this person.

The Pull List 31/08/16

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Art Ops 11 (Vertigo Comics)

Guest artist Rob Davis pits the Art Ops team against a centuries old monster, from a legendary artist rumoured to have painted deaths very essence into a painting in “The Boy Who Painted Death”.

My interest in Vertigo’s Art Ops waned for a few issues when Mike Allred’s art was restricted to him contributing covers, and this months inclusion of Warhol’s Silver Clouds means two of my favourite pop artists in one. This might not be a problem for everyone, but I’m a sucker for Allred’s insane pop art style so the change was slightly jarring at first. Even with Brundage taking over full time art duties, bringing a much rougher hewn style to the page, Art Ops continues to be inventive both in it’s storytelling and visuals to bring us a true sleeper hit.

Howard The Duck 10 (Marvel Comics)

The penultimate issue before we have to say goodbye again to the avian detective and Chip Zdarksy’s hilarious run before he heads off to more cosmic affairs with Star Lord later this year. Last issue saw Howard deep in full meta commentary territory, with ratings chaser Mojo addressing his sporadic appearances in the Marvel Universe over the years. Issue ten promises the reveal of the mastermind behind the ducks most recent series of misadventures. A series that’s continued to be both hilarious and subversive, so let’s hope we aren’t waiting as long for another writer to realise Howard’s potential.

All New Wolverine Annual 1 (Marvel Comics)

In the wake of Logan’s death  readers saw Laura Kinney, formerly X-23 taking on the mantle of Wolverine, seeking out clones of herself and aiming to help them whenever possible. An exciting series from the start, Marvel have cemented her as the new Wolverine by embedding her deep into the post Secret Wars landscape with Laura joined by a number of allies this year from Doctor Strange, The Wasp and even Old Man Logan as she unravels the mystery behind her “sisters”. The first Wolverine Annual is no exception, with fan favourite Spider-Gwen swinging in for an all new Freaky Friday-esque story with the character find of the year, Jonathan: Actual Wolverine.

 

The Pull List 20/07/16

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She Wolf #2 (Image Comics) – Last month Rich Tommaso’s gorgeously illustrated and written take on the horror genre, She Wolf introduced us to gabby (her of the title) as her life was thrown into turmoil and intrigue after she is involved with the death of her boyfriend on the schools grounds. Reluctantly returning to classes under the cloud of the entire schools suspicion and fear, she tries to hide a bigger problem and the truth behind that night, lycanthropy.

That is if we are to believe the newly turned teenage shape shifter, as issue one delivered a story that blurs the diction between waking and dreaming, truth and lies. Tommaso’s She Wolf has a completely compelling narrative and structure as he begins to tell Gabby’s story through a dreamlike feverish flow of flashbacks and horrifying imagery. Soon neither reader nor Gabby can tell between the two, demonstrated by the beautifully drawn chase scene that incorporates this slip between states effortlessly. Hopefully issue two will build upon the first foundations as we begin to peel away the layers and discover the truth at the heart of the She Wolf‘s Tale.

Rumble #12 (Image Comics) – Arcudia, Harren and Stewart’s frenzied tale of the undead barbarian Rathraq rolls on into its third arc with its trademark nonstop action and it’s onslaught of punches both physical and emotional. Rumble is the sleeper hit of the year for sure with its frentic fight scenes and deep mythology, with Rathraq finding the modern world filled with shadows and grey moral areas as he fights on for his body and soul.

The Pull List 27/01/2016

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Island #6 (Image Comics) – Even with the ever so slightly reduced page count, you can still count on Island to be the greatest anthology out there in terms of casting its net far and wide to bring attention to new and unheard of comics talent on a monthly basis. The highlight this month is the story “Badge of Pride” featuring a group of young anthropomorphic guys as they navigate the social minefield of their local Pride event. Having followed his work on and off for years now it’s thrilling to see Onta’s work shown to a more mainstream audience and I was fortunate enough that he had time to answer a few of my questions last week about his new, more personal and story driven outing for Island.

This month also presents work from Gael B as well as a recoloured, reprinted sci-fi classic in the form of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse.

Saga #33 (Image Comics) – Thirty Three issues in and Vaughan and Staples sci-fi epic shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to shock, thrill and delight in equal measures. Staples beautiful cover shows that the adorable journalistic couple Upsher and Doff are back after being warned off reporting on the story of Marko and Alana way back in the books second arc. While only briefly touched upon I look forward to seeing how Vaughan develops the relationship between the pair as they become embroiled deeper in conflict and conspiracy. It’s been briefly hinted that the pairs society doesn’t look kindly on same sex couples and it will be fascinating to see what the writer has to say on the subject in a series that really pulls no punches with its social commentary.