War Stories #26 (January 2018)

War Stories #26

War Stories #26 is the last issue. Ennis and Aira go out strong. Most of the issue is a dramatic action sequence. Ennis has to keep it interesting, Aira has to keep it moving. Both succeed. Thanks to the omnipresent narration, Ennis is able to lay groundwork for the finale. Even though there’s still one last reveal.

Or maybe not last reveal but first. This story, “Flower of My Heart,” is some of Ennis’s most saccharine, but most humanistic work. The character study of the protagonist as he watches this foreign country change around him–as Italy goes from being fascist to Allied occupied–and how war changes or doesn’t change him.

Because protagonist Robin is a warmonger. Only he’s not. He’s forever scarred with what he’s seen, but he’s still naive. He only can exist for the one thing. Or can he?

It’s an excellent finish. War Stories has had its ups and downs, but Ennis really brought it together for the last two stories. And, while Aira is rushed with the talking heads here, he’s got the emotions of the characters down. Their faces, rough or not, intensely convey their feelings.

I’m going to miss this comic. Well, War Stories but not so much #26; I resent Ennis when he makes me cry because I know he knows he’s doing it.

CREDITS

The Flower of My Heart, Part Four; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

War Stories #25 (October 2017)

War Stories #25

Ennis’s gentle story continues. Robin, the British WWII flier, reflects on his life while flying missions in Italy. Italy’s just capitulated, the Allies have taken Rome, everything’s going fine. Except Robin doesn’t have anything else going on except the flying.

His Italian pal, whose life is fairly destroyed, maintains a more positive outlook. He encourages Robin to try to meet a woman, which Robin does. So a bunch of it is nervous Robin preparing for his date.

Aira’s art is rushed, but he takes the time on the expressions in close-up. There’s a very stylized feel to the talking heads scenes, the characters’ expressions, how much the visuals focus on them and nothing else. Some of it is probably just less backgrounds, but the emphasis works. Ennis is doing a character study, after all.

It’s good. Ennis doing this non-battle oriented War Stories arc has excellent result.

CREDITS

The Flower of My Heart, Part Three; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Tomas Aira; colorist, Digikore Studios; letterer, Kurt Hathaway; publisher, Avatar Press.

Peanuts: A Tribute To Charles M. Schulz (October 2015)

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz. “Over 40 artists celebrate the work of Charles M. Schulz.” It says so right on the cover. And Tribute is a fine celebration of Peanuts. There are some great cartoonists who contribute pieces for the collection. It’s 144 pages, which means contributors average less than three and a half pages each.

Collections of Peanuts strips, like the Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts, have three strips a page. So Schulz would have ten or eleven strips in similar page count. It shows just how magical he was with pacing those strips day-to-day.

There are some good strips, some okay strips, some cool strips. The Paul Pope Snoopy and Schroeder strip? Very cool. But given the whole grab is Pope doing these realistic looking Pope characters and them still operating on Peanuts logic. When Schroeder worries Lucy’s going to show up… well, Snoopy’s cute and all but I’d much rather see Pope Lucy. Beautiful art, though. Because Pope’s a lover.

There aren’t any strips non-Peanuts loving strips in the book. There are even strips just about loving Peanuts.

A few strips after Pope is Roger Langridge, who does a Snoopy the flying ace strip from the perspective of enemy pilots. It’s cute. It’s not great. Raina Telegemeier does a one page thing right after. Langridge got four pages. Her’s is cute. It’s not great. But she does it in one.

Stan Sakai and Julie Fujii do one of the best longer strips in the book, Escapade in Tokyo. Charlie Brown gets separated from the class on a school trip and spends the day with a cool Japanese girl. It’s anti-crap on Charlie Brown (most of the book, if not all of it, is anti-crapping on Charlie Brown) and it’s a nice story. Sakai and Fujii give it just the right amount of nostalgia and sentamentality without sacrificing the humor.

Terry Moore does something similar. Lucy vs. Charlie Brown only this time Charlie Brown’s going to kick that football. Moore mimicks Schulz’s style but sort of not enough to get away with the strip. Charlie Brown winning has to be perfect, like Sakai and Fujii did.

Chynna Clugston Flores does a “Why I Love Peanuts” strip. It’s good. It’s just a “Why I Love Peanuts strip”. There are some more in the book and Clugston Flores’s is probably the best but… Tribute is just a tribute. Sometimes the cartoonists interact with the characters, sometimes with the media itself.

Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm do a “Cthulhu comes to Peanuts” long strip and it’s inventive, beautifully illustrated (the style homage ages like Schulz’s did as the strip goes on), and kind of thin. Not many contributors do a riff on Peanuts without staying in Schulz’s constraints.

Except then there’s Melanie Gillman’s beautiful Marcie strip addressing her relationship with Patty. Liz Prince had a nice Patty strip earlier, but nowhere near as ambitious. Shaenon K. Garrity’s long, color strip about Patty taking on Lucy is good. It’s mostly in Peanuts constraints, just with some visual storytelling differences.

Peanuts: A Tribute is a good book for a Peanuts fan. To check out from the library. It’s a great proof of concept for a more ambitious project. I didn’t realize I wanted other cartoonists doing Peanuts until I read it. But I want them doing more, trying harder.

I also wish, given it just being this assortment of homages, Boom! had printed it more coffee table size.

CREDITS

Contributors, Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Paige Braddock, Megan Brennan, Frank Cammuso, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Chynna Clugston Flores, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman, Zac Gorman, Jimmy Gownley, Matt Groening, Dan Hipp, Keith Knight, Mike Kunkel, Roger Langridge, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Lemon, Patrick McDonnell, Tony Millionaire, Caleb Monroe, Terry Moore, Dustin Nguyen, Molly Ostertag, Lincoln Peirce, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Liz Prince, Stan Sakai + Julie Fujii, Chris Schweizer, Ryan Sook, Jeremy Sorese, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Tom Tomorrow, Lucas Turnbloom, Jen Wang, and Mo Willems; editors, Alex Galer and Shannon Watters; publisher, KaBoom!.

Vinegar Teeth #2 (February 2018)

Vinegar Teeth #2

The first issue of Vinegar Teeth made the protoplasm cop visually reasonable so the second issue goes all in with the writing. Nixey and Gentry explore the strangeness of Brick City, from its music clubs to its boy scouts turned bank robber.

There’s also a framing device (for a page), with lead copper Artie in trouble in court. The issue doesn’t come back to it; there’s some more with Artie in trouble, like when Vinegar Teeth gets assigned to be the lead detective, but not the courtroom. The courtroom’s a memorable scene. It sets the tone for the issue.

And the issue’s got those boy scout bank robbers and Artie’s interest in music, which are strange enough on their own. There’s also the green and yellow colors of Brick City. Guy Major does them. They make it all seem like spoiling vegetables, which means Vinegar Teeth is working.

There’s a soft cliffhanger for Vinegar Teeth and Artie, but also the end implication of an interstellar threat.

The writing also pushes against the fourth wall a couple times, which comes as a surprise but ends up being a fine fit. Vinegar Teeth can get away with a lot.

CREDITS

Writers, Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey; artist and letterer, Nixey; colorists, Guy Major and Michelle Madsen; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Evolution #4 (February 2018)

Evolution #4

Evolution #4 shows off the possiblities of the format–multi-writer, one artist. Each writer has a subplot they do, while artist Infurnari gets to draw the gross.

People are evolving only into monsters and there’s some Cthulhu-ish undertones of course. Because there are always Cthulhu-ish undertones.

The comic opens with a talking heads scene between Claire, who’s the protagonist of one of the subplots (and writer’s contributions), and her mysterious benefactor. I think she just saw this guy kill a monster a couple issues ago. Now he’s doing a backstory exposition dump and giving her a check. Infurnari gets the mood just right. It’s creepy but maybe not dangerous. But maybe dangerous.

Then it’s off to Rome to check in on the nun-on-the-run. She’s just seen the Church cover up some of the monsters. Her story is the most sympathetic, if only because Claire (who’s in L.A.) doesn’t realize the danger around her. The nun gets it. She goes off to see a priest who’s left the church (maybe he’s left, it’s unclear). And then there’s her backstory exposition dump.

The only story with an exposition dump is the scientist. He’s already had his backstory reveal. Now he’s just ranting to himself about how he’s going to stop the evolution and the monsters. His subplot is Evolution’s weak link. It makes sense–in that disaster movie sort of way, you need someone to do exposition dumps as things happen–but he’s an unlikable character. You can be working to save the world and be unlikable, apparently.

Evolution’s gross–Infurnari does blood, guts, and tendons enthusiastically; he also does general creepiness well–but almost a pleasant reading experience. None of the writers try too hard. It’s a methodical, “anthology” horror comic. The writers embrace the constraints to decent result.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros #5 (February 2018)

Maestros #5

Willy goes to Hell! To ask for help. Hell gives Skroce a lot to draw. Some gross stuff in terms of blood and guts, some gross stuff in terms of dick and fart jokes. Maestros has such an excellent balance between those two interests.

Skroce splits the issue between Willy negotiating with the Devil–I think he’s got a name, but I can’t remember. The Devil hates Willy’s family because Willy’s dad–the previous maestro–gave him all sorts of weird curses. Skroce goes for sight gags and he goes for jokes in the dialogue. Everything in Hell is very, very good.

The stuff with Willy’s mom and his love interest being attacked by the evil elf wizard? While at a CostCo? Not as good. It’s fine, but it’s not as good. Skroce doesn’t have any humor for it; in fact, most of it’s just distraction given the evil elf’s plan, which gets a cliffhanger reveal.

Good issue though, as usual. Some great art, as usual.

Maestros keeps on truckin’.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Kid Lobotomy #5 (February 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #5

Kid Lobotomy seems about ready to have a “Milligan moment.” There’s no exact definition to a “Milligan,” it’s just when Peter Milligan does one of those Peter Milligan things and the comic never recovers. Sometimes he makes it twenty issues. Sometimes he doesn’t make it one.

Did he make it five on Kid Lobotomy? It’s a great issue, for the most part; even the ominous material is good. It’s just the end of a story but not the end of the arc. Milligan’s got one more to go and he’s just introduced the idea of the writer as interactive creator. i.e. the characters can interact with the writer.

We’ll see.

But otherwise it’s one of the best issues in the series so far. Fowler’s got a lot of different stuff–an action sequence in a mental hospital, some flashbacks, lots of bugs. Great visuals.

Kid Lobotomy just needs to survive its writer’s more extravagant impulses.

CREDITS

The Boy With Two Hearts, Part Five of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

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