Month: July 2010

100 Days, 100 Comics #85: ‘Batman and Robin’ #13

Posted by – July 14, 2010

“Batman and Robin” has been a fun ride just for the sake of seeing Morrison reunite with his former “Seven Soldiers” collaborators, and I walked away very pleased with his use of Frazer Irving in Batman and Robin #13. In all honesty, these barren backgrounds wouldn’t work in just any superhero comic book context, but Irving’s art is a real smart bomb for getting Morrison’s material across in this particular case, and his Joker is likewise frigidly effective. Issue #13 kept the momentum alive from #12, and the concussive story beats that were absent from some of this series’ earlier issues were alive and well this time around.

In fact, the biggest detractor from issue #13, is how much it makes me want to go back to this series’ weaker installments and see them redone with this level of success. It draws on the storyarc and mythos elements that Morrison has been seeding for years now, it’s very well paced as a single comic, and it brings its moments of tension to climaxes at just the right speeds. I might even go as far as to say this is the best new Joker comic I’ve read since seeing “The Dark Knight” in theaters — at least in terms of its approach to the character and the way it framed his inner workings and scheme.

It’s remarkable how few rapid action sequences there are in this issue, but those don’t really play to Irving’s strengths. Thusly, this comic may not resonate with the punch-punch-punch, fight-fight-fight crowd. For the New X-Men and Morrison JLA lovers, however, especially those who have been on since Batman and Robin #1 or before, it should be worth the $2.99 plus tax.

100 Days, 100 Comics #84: ‘Werewolves of Montpellier’

Posted by – July 14, 2010

A lot of the $3.99 books I can be heard complaining about day-to-day off of the Internet could take a few notes from Jason’s $13 single stories from Fantagraphics. Sequence by sequence and page by page, the re-readability of his stories and scenes consistently offer more densely fulfilling reads than any three or four new $4 books books you could package together and hand to me off the mainstream racks like one of those old hermetically sealed Toys “R” Us deals they used sell by the baseball cards.

“Werewolves of Montpellier,” like many of Jason’s books, draws from existing genre material — this time, it’s werewolf stories. The book exemplifies his quirky unique methodology, which I can’t think of how to describe in any terms other than “chamber comics” because of his use of a minimal number of visual elements and character faces. This reductionist approach to his story telling feeds the timelessness that results from the lack of period-anchoring fashion or uniquely stylized characters that would otherwise draw clear lines between his individual works. Instead, the small cast of animal types and distinguishing characteristics that he employs serves to create continuity in his larger body of work with ham-fistedly working in overt self-referencing. It was a strategy that worked for Ingmar Bergman, and it works for Jason as well.

This particular story ends in a graceful, yet awkwardly suspenseful and open-ended manner, but as with Jason books I’ve encountered before, this landing contributes to the matter-of-fact delivery he often employs in making you feel like you’re witnessing a story sliced out of a larger saga.

100 Days, 100 Comics #83: ‘Sweets’ #1

Posted by – July 14, 2010

Kody Chamberlain is a comics creator that I’ve been following and respected at least since since I encountered his project Punks, which he co-created with Joshua Hale Fialkov. His work on Marvel’s Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu One-Shot last year really caught my eye, though, and had me interested in his new Image-published crime comic Sweets from the time I first saw him tweet about it. As the writer and artist on Sweets #1, Chamberlain invested a great deal of time, thought, and inspiration into this book, and you don’t have to read his letter in the back to realize that. It’s a comic from a mind with an affection and detail-literate eye for New Orleans, and as an opening to a five-issue mini-series, issue #1 measured out its ingredients well and poured them into an ornate composition.

There are so many Bill Sienkiewicz and Ben Templesmith knockoff artists floating around in comics that when you see an artist with his own style who knows how to create real mass and meaningful shapes while still evoking mood and movement in some of the same ways that they do, it’s really something to be celebrated. Chamberlain’s visual style in Sweets leverages color, texture and character postures to breath life into his story about a priest’s murder and the world and events surrounding it. His attention to page-by-page pacing and architectural detail, meanwhile, keeps it all at a good rhythm with an undercurrent of flavorful setting.

Economy is definitely one of his biggest strengths, both with his scripting and ability to understate violence without letting the comic fall into lucid passivity. In fact, the modulations in tone just have me more keen on seeing what other tricks and strategies he has left to show off in issue #2 and onward. I’m on board for the first few issues at least right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Sweets goes.

100 Days, 100 Comics #82: ‘Poseur’ #3

Posted by – July 14, 2010

Covers go a lot further with me when picking minicomics than they do with superhero books — mainly because with independently published titles on the individual creator/creative team level, it can represent an extra step that someone went through to exhibit craftsmanship and care to affect how their work as an object is being presented. Poseur #3 grabbed my attention on the rear-wall rack at Chicago Comics mostly for this reason. I’m not familiar with the previous two issues, so I can’t comment on its scenes in the larger context of the series. Nor am I familiar with the creator, Nat. The book is a brilliant example, however, of how to chain together disparate serialized stories in a way that makes sense and challenges the reader on a surrealist level while packing enough concrete scenery, characters, themes to make the stories themselves interesting both individually and in the grander scheme of the work.

Self-inflicted electrocution in various contexts and spontaneously erupting physical forms from amorphous organic blobs are the two major motifs at play here, and if you appreciate extremely confined perspectives that leave a great deal to the imagination while you read, this is a minicomic worth picking up. The art isn’t refined in a traditional sense, but it really comes into focus around figures like the Cthuloid/Starro-ish figure who jumps out of the sidewalk and the microwave scene toward the end. In fact, the imbalance between the detail invested in the surreal elements versus the human characters in the art really drives home the notion of the sci-fi and fantastic forces at work in the story being in control. It’s a neat nuance and made for a worthwhile $4 pull.