“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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“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 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

“To be a fire when I feel like ice”- Cecil Castellucci delves deeper into madness and isolation with Shade the Changing Girl

comic, review

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School is Hell. School is madness, even for the displaced avian Lomo currently inhabiting Earth girl Megan as she returns to Amelia Bloomer High School, much to the confusion of her fellow students. Insisting on being called shade in her new amalgamation of body and personality. Her peers are obviously wary of her, assuming her strange and oddly calm behaviour is a result of her accident and resulting comca as she struggles to make sense of her place in the social strata of the school, her relationships with other students and even lunchtime.

Series writer Cecil Castellucci is crafting a strangely off kilter look at this world through the eyes of her uniquely alien, avian creation Loma. Far more advanced and intelligent then the primitive world around her she none the less has to work to make sense of her strange new home and the people around her already questioning her act of rebellion in stealing the M-vest. Thrown into school Loma has a lot more interactions this issue as we start to learn more and more about Megan’s life. Faced with the tense and confused reactions of Megan’s former friends, unaware the majority wanted her dead. While initially indifferent to those around Loma is still left with the creeping uneasy sense that she’s logged herself firmly into a human with a very complicated and prickly past than she might have first thought. So far there is no sign of the previous occupant, Megan, beyond her memories but it’s such a tantalising layer to add to an already out there story,  I have a hard time believing that Castellucci won’t bring some of this into the mix during her run.

Being no stranger to writing teens in her long career as a novelist or indeed the criminally overlooked Plain Janes for DC’s last teen oriented imprint, Minx back in 2008, She has an amazing grasp on writing what feels like authentic teens dialogue and speech patterns without ever slipping into groan worthy cliche or dropping in social media mentions and in fact seems to be actively avoiding this particular pitfall with Shade. The comic slips between this tone and Loma’s more poetic inner monologue beautifully. Ultimately I was left with the feeling that even if the alien elements were stripped out, this series is strong enough already that it would still work wonderfully as a story of identity, change and dealing with the preconceptions others bring into that equation. Working as it’s own unique story even for those like myself who might be coming to the book with only general idea of Shade’s long and esoteric character history.

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Matching this with some sensational art  from Marley Zarcone further sets this apart from the rest of the comics crowd, Imbuing the comic from start to finish with it’s own loose flow and momentum as the story drifts almost lazily and fluidly from one moment to the next. A page featuring Megan getting ready for school shows this in a single panel showing her movement from the room and time, fain versions of herself around the room almost like echos which emphasises the books dreamlike qualities and elements of madness. Despite the book’s solicitation saying “No one can have a little bit of madness” the visuals are toned down this issue letting the book breath a  little after the stunning visual spectacle of it’s debut issue. Subtle and effective when they are used, a small poster here, the madness takes over small parts of her surroundings almost seeping through into the panels.

“I have to study up. Do my homework to really live this life” Shade promises herself setting out her plan for the future as this issue itself does,  expanding on last issue this one treats us to just a little more of Megan’s life, a world that Castellucci makes you eager to explore and learn more about as Loma sets about discovering too. Gorgeous art and sharp writing sets this as perfect allegory for being an uneasy teen and a story of identity put through a psychedelic, kaleidoscope filter.

 

“Panic in Detroit Baybah!” Zac Gorman and Will Robson reassemble the Great Lakes Avengers

comic, review

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Calling the Great Lakes Avengers Z-list heroes would be an insult to other hardworking Z-listers. Indeed, an insult to the very concept of lists itself. Unless it’s a “most obscure Marvel characters of all time list”, which like most people is where my knowledge of this quirky little group of lovable underdogs both starts and ends.

Created by John Bryne, and subsequently deemed unfit to even be a part of the Avengers “brand” due mostly to the combination of crap powers and weird personalities, the team has always been a tongue in cheek, off kilter look at the world of well intentioned, yet hilariously inept superheroes. With the run of success from books with more humorous bent, such as former member Squirrel Girl it’s perhaps not surprising that Rick and Morty comics scribe Zac Gorman has brought the team back.

Thrown back together through a legal loophole and perhaps the most ridiculous fall out from the still ongoing second Civil War, the majority of the book revolves around getting the four team members; Flatman, Big Bertha, and Doorman back together. Eventually moving the team out to new digs in Detroit. Beyond that Great Lakes Avengers’ debut issue stubbornly refuses to offer up any solid hook for readers or indication of it’s direction beyond bored genius Flatman wanting to get the team back together to relive the good old days. For a first issue featuring a team with such an interesting history, the plot feels strangely low key.

Gorman does a great job re-introducing these characters and portraying their varied personalities and powers, but it’s just somehow never quite as funny as you’d expect it to be. It has a few solid moments early on with some perfect comedy pacing, with so much of the remaining humour feeling forced or flat. The funniest parts of the book centering around the group’s well meaning leader and his predictably squalid home as well as a great moment involving an ex-member’s recent rise to the big time. Overall it just doesn’t quite have the effortless delivery or laugh out loud moments that elevate the likes of North’s Squirrel Girl or Zdarksky’s Howard The Duck just yet.

Robson’s cartoonish, exaggerated artwork is what sets this book apart right now, ringing every bit of physical humour from the outlandish cast with his gorgeously over the top facial expressions and character design, each with their own distinct look and feel. He gives a strong sense of movement and action throughout, which helps in an issue with a lot of dialogue heavy set up, and callbacks to the characters past exploits. The introduction of new character “Good Boy”, a huge blue werewolf, is when the writing and artwork finally come together for one of the issues funniest moments. Although not the strongest first issue of any of the recent humour focused Marvel books, overall it’s still has a solid enough base to build upon in future issues, and hopefully establish more clearly what Gorman has in store for these misfit heroes in the months to come.

‘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.