Although it may seem like it, I haven’t forgotten my comics and graphic novels in 2016, I’ve just forgotten to post them. Today I thought I’d get started on posting the books I’ve read since the New Year started… nearly two-and-a-half months ago!
Scalped, Vol. 2: Casino Boogie (2008) Jason Aaron, R.M. Guéra (Vertigo)
I’ve read a fair amount of Jason Aaron’s work and in my opinion, his collaborations with R.M. Guéra rival anything he’s done with any other artist. The noir feel is excellent and although Aaron spends a little too much time exploiting stereotypes in the book (and perhaps the entire series), the book works more often than not. I think one of the reasons readers seem disappointed with this book is because it explores many other characters besides Dash from the first volume. We get lots of stories of lots of characters, but the problem with such storytelling is that it can lose the book’s focus, which Scalped sometimes does. Still, this is hard-hitting stuff that I plan to keep reading.
Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars (2015) Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen (Image)
After the galaxy has survived vicious attacks by the Harvesters (a group of planet-sized robots), robots are declared illegal. TIM-21 awakens not knowing this, yet he may hold the answers to why the Harvesters attacked in the first place.
Much of Lemire’s work focuses on adolescence (Essex County, Sweet Tooth), but Descender mixes things up a bit by making its story one of android adolescence. Nguyen’s watercolor art is spectacular and Lemire avoids practically all of the A.I. traps we’ve seen before. Although I wasn’t totally sold on how this volume ended (and there will be more), it’s still a tremendous read. Anything by Lemire is worth your time and Descender is no exception.
Teen Dog (2015) Jake Lawrence (BOOM!)
Gwen and I discussed this book on our January 2016 Young Readers edition of The Comics Alternative. It’s a very fun, mostly innocent book that I called on the podcast a sort of kinder, gentler Fast Times at Ridgemont High for younger readers. Teen Dog, however, isn’t stoned, but high on life (and pizza). You can read (and listen to) more about it here.
Feathers (2015) Jorge Corona with Jen Hickman (Archaia)
Another book Gwen and I discussed on the previously mentioned January show. Creator Jorge Corona himself has said, “If you think about it, Feathers is like Spider-Man in a Dickensian world.” Gwen and I both commented that Feathers is an engaging story with a European feel. Find out more here.
Dead Man’s Folly (2012) Agatha Christie, Marek (HarperCollins)
HarperCollins began publishing several Agatha Christie mystery novels and stories in the graphic novel format in the UK and Australia in 2010, apparently all illustrated by different artists. Curious, I picked up one at random, Dead Man’s Folly, a Hercule Poirot mystery with the Belgian detective investigating a murder occurring during a mock murder game at a local charity.
Sometimes adapting prose stories to graphic novels doesn’t quite work due to the elements and characteristics of the original format not translating well into sequential art. I think this is the case here, since mysteries in print require certain types of storytelling devices – such as gathering clues and talking to witnesses – that may not work visually, at least not in the same way. Or the problem could me that this is not one of Christie’s more compelling stories. Marek’s art is fine, but perhaps the story itself is at fault. Even though the book is only 48 pages long, it felt interminable. I was somewhat entertained, but not really engaged. Perhaps I will try another.
The Steve Ditko Archives, Volume 5: Dripping with Fear (2014) Blake Bell, ed. (Fantagraphics)
Talk about mixed emotions… This may be the last Steve Ditko Archives volume I purchase. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ditko’s incredible art, but these stories from Charlton Comics in the 1950s are – let’s be honest – really bad. You certainly can’t blame Ditko for this and I really don’t lay much blame at the feet of writer Joe Gill, who had to crank these stories out at an incredible speed, or editor Blake Bell for selecting them. It’s just how Charlton rolled. (You can read about Charlton – the good, the bad, and the ugly – in the introductions of these volumes.) Most of the stories start out well, but contain weak endings. Yet some of them – especially the science fiction stories – are quite good (even those with questionable endings). In this volume, at least, the sf stories allow Ditko’s wonderful imagination to flourish and basically go nuts. If you enjoy Ditko’s art and are especially interested in watching his skills develop, pick up these volumes.
That’s it for now. There will be more…