Paper Girls Is My New Favorite Comic!

Ever since I picked up my first issue of Runaways, I’ve been a fan of Brian K. Vaughan‘s work. I didn’t know at the time that he’d already worked on some Batman comics that I’d enjoyed, but I appreciated the unique way that he handled teenage characters while also mixing in high stakes adventures and the drama that comes along with mixing those other elements.

He brings all of that to the table with Paper Girls, but enhanced by almost 15 more years of writing experience and the incredible art of Cliff Chiang. The duo came together to craft a 30 issue series that kicked off in 2015 and ended earlier this year resulting in not just my new favorite BKV comic, but one of my favorite comic runs around!

Continue reading Paper Girls Is My New Favorite Comic!

My New Favorite Things: Paper Girls, Greydon Clark & Box 13

favorite-things-paper-girls-hi-rider-box-13I’ve had a lot of good luck when it comes to entertainment choices lately and wanted to talk about them all in one place! First, let’s talk about comics. In addition to reading a ton of Guardians of the Galaxy and monster comics for Marvel.com I’ve also been going back through the 90s Aquaman series (which will get a post of its own soon) and also the first two volumes of Paper Girls from Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Image Comics. Continue reading My New Favorite Things: Paper Girls, Greydon Clark & Box 13

Wonder Woman Trade Post: Guts & Iron

wonder woman vol 2 gutsWonder Woman Volume 2: Guts (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins
Collects Wonder Woman #7-12

While ordering the first batch of Greg Rucka Wonder Woman comics from the library, I realized I’d read the first volume of Brian Azzarello’s New 52 Wonder Woman series, but hadn’t gone on beyond that. So, I looked around, requested the second and third volumes and started reading. But before that, I went back and gave the first volume a re-read because my memory is deteriorating at an alarming rate.

The major information points from the first book involved Diana discovering that she’s not made of clay, but instead Zeus’ daughter, meeting a young woman named Zola who’s carrying another child of Zeus and some of the family drama and politics that come from being a member of the Greek god clan. But all of that was really set up for these two volumes. The great thing about all three of these books is that Azzarello finds fun and interesting ways of giving the heroes what they want and then almost instantly taking it away in a way that shuffles a lot of characters around.

In the case of Guts, Wonder Woman teams up with Lennox, Hermes, Eros and Hephaestus figure out a way to get Zola back from Hades who wants her as his bride. Basically, these are the good members of the gods who feel sorry for this poor girl who happened to fall for the wrong guy. Without giving too much away, Diana ensures Zola’s safety, gets herself out of Hell and essentially saves the day, but things don’t go well for Zola’s baby by the end when it turns out that one of the people in their camp is a traitor.

wonder woman vol 3 iron Wonder Woman Volume 3: Iron (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins, Dan Green, Goran Sudzuka, Amilcar Pinna & Rick Burchett
Collects Wonder Woman #0, 13-18

As you might expect given what I said above, Wonder Woman’s new goal in the third book is getting Zola’s baby back to her. She’s still got most of her crew with her as well as Hera who adds a great deal of comic relief, but also a new comrade in the form of Orion of the New Gods. Along the way we also get to meet more of Diana and Lennox’s half brothers and sisters as they are all modern illegitimate children of Zeus. As with the previous volumes, there’s plenty of trickery going around on all sides, but at the end of the book we get something of a happy ending, but with another looming danger, which is exactly what comics should have.

One of the really interesting things Azzarello does in this book is doing something new and different with the Greek gods. These are characters who have been around forever and been interpreted in a myriad of ways, especially if you read Wonder Woman comics. I’ve seen them as the robe-wearing gods of myth, human-like business people and just about everything in between. Azzarello mixes some of that old mythology with his own new ideas and makes a family that’s often as interesting as the title character herself. Plus, there’s the addition of Diana’s fellow Zeus progeny and the connection to the New Gods that I assume gets fleshed out in later volumes.

As much as I liked these volumes there were a few odd sticking points for me, though I will admit right away that I might have just missed these points in Azzarello’s rapid fire dialog. I didn’t think the fact that Zeus had gone missing was very well conveyed. There was also the matter of Diana removing her gauntlets and being super powerful. Why didn’t she do this earlier when she was in danger? It was a cool move, but it kinda felt like something added in just to be a cool move. I also personally miss the majesty that used to come along with the character that’s basically gone in these pages, but were all over the place in Rucka’s run. Basically, these are two different takes on the character and each writer is doing or did their own thing which is great.

One thing that did surprise me is how completely separate this feels from the rest of the New 52 DCU. There’s next to no mention of any other heroes or villains, which is an interesting choice. Orion and Highfather of the New Gods show up, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t appearing anywhere else at the time. This is good and bad for various reasons. On one hand, this is a great story that should just do its thing. On the other, what’s the point of being part of a shared comic book universe if there’s no sharing? It’s a similar concern I have with Scott Snyder’s Batman, which is the other New 52 book I really love. As with Batman, I’m pretty much onboard for everything Azzarello wants to do with this character and I’ll keep checking in to see what’s going on in that particular book.

Celebrity OGN Trade Post: Get Jiro & Greendale

get jiro Get Jiro! (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, drawn by Langdon Foss
Original Graphic Novel

Call me crazy but I’m one of those people who gets a little peeved when general news outlets refer to comics or trade paperbacks as graphic novels. Aside from simply being the wrong term, it also carries with it a sense that the writer is trying to make comics sound more mature, a distinction that’s unnecessary to anyone even remotely familiar with the adult-oriented medium. What’s the difference? Well, a trade paperback is a collection of single issues brought together for an easier read while a graphic novel was created all at one time. It’s basically the difference between calling a short story collection exactly that versus a novel (well, not exactly because the issues are serializing one big story usually, but you get the idea).

The two books I’m writing about today actually are graphic novels, though and they also both happen to have been written or inspired by well known people. How much involvement said celebs actually had in the creation of the book itself, I have no idea, but that’s not really important.

I started off with Get Jiro because I needed a tonal shift after finishing another book of Y: The Last Man and this certainly gave it to me. As regular readers of UnitedMonkee and Monkeying Around The Kitchen know, I’m a pretty big fan of Anthony Bourdain having read both Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw and regularly watched No Reservations. One of the interesting aspects of reading through Jiro was that he and Rose put in a good deal of elements seen on various episodes of Reservations. You’ve got the little eels from Spain that only exist for a few weeks cooked simply over fire and the little birds you eat whole (except for the head) while wearing a towel over your head, plus others. This was an interesting experience because, while the thing being done was more described than shown, I had the images already in my head from watching the series.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself, what’s the book about? Set in a future version of Las Angeles, Get Jiro takes place in a city completely obsessed with food and nothing else. LA has become a zoned area where only the privileged can live on the inside eating amazing food made by one of two camps: money hungry Bob or ultra-hippie Rose. Niether are particularly likable  but that’s okay because they’re the bad guys. Our hero is Jiro, a sushi chef on the outer rim who garners the attention of both who want him in their camps, but more so don’t want him to join the other guys. All in all it’s a hyper-real, satire with healthy doses of blood and violence. The book really felt like a more light-hearted Frank Miller/Geoff Darrow book in both look and feel which is by no means a bad thing.

But, it’s not perfect. I thought the world-building was pretty light. I didn’t need everything completely laid out for and actually enjoyed the opening text the succinctly explained the world’s super foodie culture, but wish they would have explained the set up of the city in a little more detail or maybe just showed a map, that would have done it. It also felt like a lot of set up for a relatively quick payoff, I could have done with more of the big battle at the end, but I guess that wasn’t the story they were going for which is fine.

For his part, Foss is a delight to read. He packs so much into panels that he really is Darrow-like, a trait that more comic artists should aspire to and a trait that fits in really well with the graphic novel idea because guys like this tend not to be able to hit monthly deadlines. Still, I’d rather get larger doses of these kinds of artists a few times a year than one issue every year. There are times, though, when Foss lets his background characters look a little dead in the eyes which can be a little off-putting, but that’s a minor complaint.

I’m not sure how well this book would go over with people who aren’t fans of Bourdains because of all the cooking stuff, but it felt like there was enough explanation to bring in new readers (though the big blocks of text explaining such things might turn some people off) but if you are a fan or just like the gonzo craziness of something along the lines of Crank, then give this movie a watch. I just realized how insane a Neveldine and Taylor adaptation of this movie would be and now I want to see it!

Greendale Neil Young’s Greendale (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Joshua Dysart, drawn by Cliff Chiang
Original Graphic Novel

Greendale was pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum in every way from Jiro both as a piece of fiction and as a story that I interacted with. Neil Young’s name is on this book, but it’s basically based on his concept album-turned-movie from earlier in the 00s, neither of which I have any experience with. It’s also tonally and artistically different from the kinetic, hyper-real portrayal of reality seen in the other book. This is a much more grounded fantasy done in a softer artistic style. This is pure Cliff Chiang and looks exactly like anything else you’ve seen of his, but there seems to be a strange softening effect added to every single page, which was kind of a bummer because these pages really sing and could have used some brightness even given the darker elements of the story.

Speaking of the story, this one focuses on Sun Green who lives in the fictional West Coast town of Greendale. She’s a teenager trying to figure out who she is, how she fits into the grand scheme of things and how she really feels about all of the war and environment issues that went on during the Bush Administration (and still do, this story’s just set in that time period). She also comes from a family of women who tend to display supernatural abilities tied to nature and disappear when they feel like it. Sun meets a boy and starts thinking about heading to Alaska to try and stop off shore drilling when a mysterious man (who looked a like like Neil Young to me) shows up and starts messing with her cousin and brother.

After reading this book, I’m not completely sure how I feel about it. I think I liked it, though it was a little heavy handed at times. On the other hand, I like how it kind of presented the weirdness of this world as the story progressed and didn’t feel the need to front load everything. You’re just kind of thrown in, given a little information and figure things out as you go. I like that, I’m just not quite sure how I feel about that journey itself. It’s got a good “we can do it” message, but, at the end of the day, so does every high school/college movie pitting a bunch of kids against a corporation like Step Up Revolution. Does the way a message is conveyed make it any more or less meaningful? Maybe when it’s presented so many times that it becomes noise. On the other hand, it sure is a pretty looking book and did make me feel something, so I think I’ll keep it around for at least one more read.

New 52 Trade Post: Wonder Woman Blood & Deathstroke Legacy

Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins
Collects Wonder Woman #1-8

I’ve been a fan of Wonder Woman on and off over the years. She was the first comic book character where I realized how important the creators writing and drawing the book were to my personal like or dislike of the story. I started reading when Artemis took over and then moved into the John Byrne stuff which I have all of, but didn’t particularly enjoy. From there I went in and out reading some of the Greg Rucka stuff, but not really getting into it and then really enjoying Gail Simone’s run and even digging the first trade of JMS’s run. Heck, I’ve even read three of the four trades that collect the old school stories where she has no powers and is just super groovy. But there also a lot of stuff in there that I haven’t read or didn’t like, so she can be kind of a crap shoot.

When I heard that Brian Azzarello was writing, I was hopefully optimistic, but not super-jazzed. See, I love his Vertigo work (Loveless to some extent, but definitely 100 Bullets), but the DC superhero stuff he’s done has been hit or miss, though I haven’t read his Superman or Batman stuff since they first came out. I was super excited to hear that Cliff Chiang was drawing on the book and knew that they worked really well together on the Doctor 13 stuff. With all that, plus a pretty favorable review on Preferred Podcast Matt and Brett Love Comics, it was pretty high on my list of New 52 comics to check out.

And, I’d definitely add this to the pile of WW comics I dig. It wasn’t shockingly new or different from the other stories I’ve read, but I thought Azz did a good job of addressing some of the familiar elements in different ways. For instance, there’s a big drama surrounding Diana’s lineage which turns out to not be what she thought it was. I’ve seen that bit before, but it was handled really well here. I’ve also seen Diana leaving the Amazons and operating on her own, but the reasons and resulting strange family dynamic make it interesting.

That last bit, the odd family dynamic created as the first arc carries on, is what I liked the best. The whole selfless, awesome warrior woman thing is cool and I’ve seen done a lot both well and poorly, but setting that idea in what’s essentially a dysfunctional family that doesn’t feel tacked on is impressive. On a related note, I also liked how Chiang and fellow artist Tony Akins designed some of the familiar Roman/Greek (forget which ones) gods in fun and interesting ways. Hermes looks rad, so do Nepture and Hades because they actually look different than the ways you usually see them in Wonder Woman comics. I just scoped it out and it looks like Azz and Chiang have stayed on the book for a while, so I’m in for at least one more of these trades!

Deathstroke Volume 1: Legacy (DC)
Written by Kyle Higgins, drawn by Joe Bennett with Eduardo Pansica
Collects Deathstroke #1-8

A few months back when I read through about half of the New 52 number one issues, Deathstroke was one of the ones that stuck out to me as being pretty interesting. I didn’t think it was the kind of thing that needed a whole new continuity relaunch to make sense, but it was a comic I enjoyed and wanted to see more of, hence my acquisition of the first trade.

There are three elements to this story that I like to different extents. You’ve got the general idea that people art starting to think Deathstroke has gone soft, so he takes all these ridiculously insane missions to show how badass he is. That’s rad. Then you’ve got this idea that someone he’s killed parents keep paying people to wear a pink and green mask/costume, though each costume is different. Why? Because those were the victim’s favorite colors. Really? That just seemed silly and took me out of the story because of how silly they always looked. Lastly and this gets into SPOILER TERRITORY, but a big part of the story revolves around Slade discovering that his assassin son is not actually dead, but in fact working with the parents of the above-mentioned victim. At first I was bummed that it was so quickly getting mired in Deathstroke’s crazy family stuff that became such a big part of the Titans comics for so long, tiresomely so. But then I realized that the story contained in this collection is actually very well self contained and didn’t need any outside explanations for new readers, which was the whole point of the New 52 relaunch, so I’m good on that.

Altogether, I thought this was a good, fun story worth checking out if you’re down for some melodramatic violence and giant sword action. I also dug Joe Bennett’s art which has kind of a Jim Calafiore feel to it, but a little looser. He handled everything from Clayface monsters to crazy armor well. I don’t believe this creative team stuck around after #8, so I’m not sure how things went after this. Anyone read those issues?