Bryan Lee O’Malley Trade Post: Lost At Sea & Seconds

lost at sea Lost at Sea (Oni Press)
Written & drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Two weekends back I decided to re-read my copies of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim books. Since I’ve already reviewed them back in 2010 after watching and loving the movie when it came out, I won’t be reviewing them again. I will say that, I really enjoyed myself this time around, probably more than I have any other time I’ve read those books. The “ums” and “whatevers” still drove me nuts, but since I was already familiar with the aspects that I didn’t quite like previously, I was already in. I also noticed more elements and details this time around making this a series that works more and more for me with each reading.

After having such a good time, I went to my library’s website and put O’Malley’s first and most recent graphic novels on hold. I knew the older of the two, Lost At Sea, had come in when we went to the library over the weekend, but was surprised to also find Seconds waiting for me because it just came out in the past few weeks. So, for the second weekend in a row, I spent a good chunk of my reading time with words and pictures by O’Malley.

Lost At Sea, finds an 18 year old named Raleigh on a trip from California to Canada with some classmates who thinks a cat might have swiped her soul. Why else would she feel soulless? While on the trip, Raleigh warms up to Dave, Ian and Steph and eventually comes to terms with a few of the things she’s processing.

She’s dealing with huge questions like why is she here, what is a soul, does she have one, what is her relationship with her mom, what is she going to do about this new love that lead her to Cali and that everlasting classic, what’s she going to do with her life? There are other questions that come up that I’d love to know the answer to like, did she really have sisters, was that picture really of her and why did she spend so much time talking about a best friend who doesn’t really have anything to do with the book?

Some of those questions might have actually been answered, but Raleigh is one of those characters who talks in a wildly noncommittal fashion. Whole statements will be followed by “or whatever.” Is that supposed to be the truth or is it whatever? I think this is just the way a certain portion of the population talk(ed) that I have difficulty tapping into because it’s like a snake eating its own tale. Also, if you barely care what you’re saying, why should I?

While I thought this book was generally really well done and a fine first outing for a cartoonist, it wasn’t really for me. I can remember those wildly complicated says when I was 18 wondering what I was going to do, but to a 31 year old guy with two kids, so much of that seems juvenile to me now. Reading Lost At Sea was like watching a really well done, emotional indie movie, but one I just wasn’t plugging into on that important emotional level. I see and understand how good it is and how intensely personal it must have been, but I just wasn’t as emotionally invested, partially because the characters don’t seem connected to much of anything, including each other.

secondsSeconds (Ballantine Books)
Written & drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley

I was far more on-board when it came to Seconds, which I think is O’Malley’s best offering to date. This is a 323 page graphic novel (his first work after finishing up Scott Pilgrim in 2010) with additional art by Jason Fischer, letters by Dustin Harbin and brilliant colors by Nathan Fairbairn. I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing, which was kind of a nice treat.

But, if you want some information, Seconds is about an almost-30 chef named Katie who helped open a restaurant that the story takes its title from. But, since she didn’t have any money to invest the first time around, she’s looking forward to the opening of the one she does own with her business partner, but the process is slow going. One night while hanging out in her apartment, which is above Seconds, she finds a book and a mushroom in her dresser drawer with basic instructions: write down a mistake, eat the mushroom, go to sleep and “wake anew.”

So those are the basics, I’ll label this paragraph SPOILER TERRITORY because it’ll get into a few more details. Katie starts using the magic mushrooms and talking to one of her employees named Hazel who introduces her to the idea of house spirits which play a huge part in the book. The one living in Seconds is called Lis and she’s not a big fan of how Katie winds up abusing the mushroom power, mixing things up and tampering with reality.

Alright, no more spoilers. I got a Neil Gaiman vibe while reading Seconds because it does that thing he does so well where very modern characters and put them up against very old supernatural elements and seeing what happens. Fantasy’s pretty far from my realm of expertise outside of comics and Gaiman’s books, but Seconds seems like a solid modern fantasy project that didn’t feel like a rehash of previously existing fairy tales, but instead something new inspired by a classic idea (though a classic I’m not familiar with, which puts it into Hellboy territory). I also appreciate that this graphic novel felt more researched instead of plucked from the author’s life. I’ve got nothing against pouring your soul onto the page with a variety of your longitme influences, but the clear research into restaurant life and food is also impressive.

I also really enjoyed the look of this book along with the feel. O’Malley and Fischer work so well together that you can’t tell that the former’s using a drawing assistant. The drawings of food in this book are actually mouthwatering. I wanted to eat these pages, but didn’t think the library would appreciate that very much. I was also blown away by Fairbairn’s colors. Lately, people have been doing a lot of talking about the credit colorists deserve on covers and whatnot. I’ll be honest and say it’s not the kind of thing I’ve thought of throughout much of my comic-reading career, but Fairbairn really brought it. He also did the colored Scott Pilgrim books, which makes me want to go back and pick up those versions! Hell, this also made me wonder if I could try my hand at coloring. I think I’ll look into that.

Anyway, after reading O’Malley’s full body of graphic novels in two weeks, I found myself picking up a few interesting themes throughout. Most of the main characters feel clueless and empty in some way. They also have a really hard time letting go of a finished relationship (though I’m not sure where Raleigh’s relationship really was). Numbers are also pretty important. Though Lost At Sea didn’t have one I noticed, Scott Pilgrim is set around seven evil exes and Seconds features 12 magic mushrooms. Oh, cats also feature prominently, though less so in Seconds.

Casting Internets

So behind on links again, but after a few trips, I think I’m going to be back on point (I hope).

I’ve done lots and lots of writing lately. I wrote about Nowhere Men, Point of Impact, Where Is Jake Ellis?, Star Bright and the Looking Glass, Multiple Warheads and Black Kiss II! Whew, that was a lot of writing.

Do yourself a favor and check out my pal Rickey Purdin’s new blog VHS Notebook. He watches movies, takes notes and draws, it’s a wonderful thing.

The question at the center of my pal Sean T. Collins’ review of Earth One: Batman over on TCJ is an important one that more comics need to ask: Why does this comic exist?

I don’t truly know what it means to be discriminated against or outwardly hated, but I do completely agree with this editorial by Lucas Grindley over on The Advocate when he says that homophobia is not a political issue, but one that can threaten a person and their families. People need to stop worrying about what’s going on in their neighbors’ bedrooms and start worrying about the starving, dying people all over the world.

Okay, on to less serious stuff. Everyone saw the BBC‘s latest preview of Doctor Who Series 7, right? It looks raaaaaaaaad.

I’ve been watching a ton of Olympics this week and will most likely do so next week as well. As such, I found this AP article about the decaying structures built for the Athens games to be quite interesting. What DO you do with an outdoor Olympic pool when all the people go home?

Oh man, there’s gonna be color versions of Scott Pilgrim? Oni‘s trying to get more of my money!

Flea released a digital EP of all original, weird, emotional soundscapes? Yeah, I downloaded that, now I just gotta listen to it. (Rolling Stone)

The possibilities of DreamWorks buying Classic Media are close to endless and very, very exciting. (THR)

I love reading interviews with Pat Carney from The Black Keys, like this one on Rolling Stone. I like how that dude doesn’t buy into the fame.

I’ve been slow on the uptake when it comes to Wreck-It Ralph, that is until I read this LA Times article about how the filmmakers scored rights to all those classic video game characters.

Denis Medri’s Steampunk Spider-Man characters look so cool, it would potentially get me to read something about Steampunk. (via Project: Rooftop)

Beau Smith suggests more comics have a little fun with their books. I agree their needs to be more humor in comics.Final Girl Stacie Ponder created this fantastic Casual Friday Jason Voorhees shirt. I like it very much.

Speaking of Final Girl, her next FG Film Club selection is Deadly Blessing which is great because it’s on Netflix Instant AND already in my queue. Now I just need to 1. remember, 2. find time to watch it and 3. write about it by August 13th. I CAN DO IT!

Finally, I was really saddened to hear about Tom Davis’ passing. He was such a huge part of SNL, one of the pillars of my concept of comedy. (THR)

Fantasy Trade Post: House Of Mystery Volume 4 & The Return Of King Doug

House Of Mystery Volume 4: The Beauty Of Decay (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Matthew Sturges with Bill Willingham, drawn by Luca Rossi, Werther Dell’Edera & Jose Marzan Jr. with Jeff Lemire, Richard Corben, Al Davison, Antonio Fuso & Michael W.M. Kaluta
Collects House Of Mystery #16-20, HOM Halloween Annual #1

House Of Mystery pretty quickly became my favorite ongoing Vertigo book. I had fallen off the 100 Bullets wagon (though I’m re-reading it right now) and never tried Fables (felt like too much to get through to catch up) and it certainly helped that it’s a fantastic book that takes bits and pieces of the old school horror comics that it takes it’s name from and, of course, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. If you’re unfamiliar with the basic HOM concept, it’s actually a bar that’s in it’s own dimension where people from various times and realities come together to share a drink. Some of them are stuck there and they make up the main cast, but in order for the other folks to get drinks, they have to tell a story which is written by a combination of series writer Sturges and Bill Willingham with a new artist every time. These stories are fantastic because they really expand on traditional stories and do something new.

This volume focuses on heroine Fig and her fellow residents of the House trying to figure out why they can’t leave. It’s not a good volume to start off with because it’s pretty steeped in what had proceeded in the previous volumes (check out my reviews of 2 and 3, if you’re curious) and explores a lot of the relationships between the main cast and each other as well as with some of the more iconic looking regulars. The series takes such a turn that I actually thought this might be the final collection in the series, but was glad to discover there are three more. Reading this volume made me not only want to go back and read everything all together and see what happens next, which means it’s a pretty damn good installment.

The Return Of King Doug (Oni)
Written by Greg Erb & Jason Oremland, drawn by Wook-Jin Clark
Graphic Novel

The Return Of King Doug was passed my why by my pal Rickey Purdin this summer. I checked out the cover and it looked interesting but I put it in my to read box along with tons of other trades and wasn’t sure when I would get to it. A few weeks back, I was flipping through said box, came across this book and thought, “What the hell? Let’s give it a shot.” And oh my goodness, I’m glad I did because this was a fantastically fun book that takes “real world kid in a fantasy world” conventions and updates them while also flipping a good deal of them on their ear.

We start off with a kid named Doug in a fantastical world where he’s being pumped up as this huge savior against an evil leader. He seems into it and then, all of a sudden, he runs away because he can’t deal with the pressure. Cut to Doug in his 30s, he’s a pretty huge loser with a son and winds up heading to his parents’ property that housed the portal to the fantasy land. As you’d expect, his son winds up finding the place and gets wrapped up in the ongoing drama of the people versus the evil leader and Doug has to figure out how he’s going to save his son and whether he’s going to help these guys out.

The book’s sense of humor is what really made me fall in love with this book. You’ve got lots of fun pop culture references and grown-up Doug is genuinely funny. Plus, the art is just wonderful. Clark has a very thin line that reminds me stylistically of Jeff Smith on Bone, though they don’t necessarily look similar (if that makes sense). To me, it’s kind of a mix of Princess Bride and Bone with some Scott Pilgrim sensibilities in there. If you like any of those things, do yourself a favor and pick up The Return Of King Doug, but you can’t have mine cause I’m going to keep it and pass it around to friends.

Scott Pilgrim Trade Post: All Six Volumes

After walking out of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (the movie), I was conflicted. I liked Edgar Wright’s direction a lot. It was crazy and frenetic and had a strong sense of being of a comic book. I don’t mean that in the colorful, over-the-top way most people do, but in the way he would have a conversation over several different locations with jump cuts acting the same way as your eye passing over a panel. It took me a while to understand that’s what he was doing, but once I did, I had a lot more fun. Plus, the acting was great as were most of the fight scenes and the casting was spot on. Seeing the movie did make me want to read the books again. I though I had read the first five volumes along with one of the Free Comic Book Day specials, but not the last and wanted to see how they compared.

So, I ordered them off of Amazon for  pretty good price and had them a few days later.Before I get too far into my reading experience this time around, I want to make a few comments about how I felt about the books going in. I knew it was a weird video game/action movie-inspired world going in, but thought the way O’Malley revealed it wasn’t so great and wished there had been more evidence of this being a reality where people have Street Fighter-like fights on a regular basis. That turned me luke warm on the first book. My impression of the others was that, while they were fun books, I guess I never really got why this book of all books was so incredibly popular.

I’ve heard the Scott Pilgrim books called the Harry Potter of comics, but I think that’s a ridiculous overstatement. I read the first Harry Potter book and while it wasn’t for me, I could see that J.K. Rowling had a clear grasp of storytelling, characterization, subtext and plot development, while O’Malley seemed to have a lot of cool ideas. When Michael Cera was cast as Scott, I had my doubts if he could pull off the manic, hyper character in my mind and he didn’t really, though I liked his interpretation of Scott in the movie. But, after thinking on it for a while, the only ideas I had in my head about Scott as a character were that he was really stupid, dimwitted, loveable and can and will fight hard for the love of a girl, meaning he felt fairly flat as a character. Basically, it felt like a lot of other indie comics I had read about slacker protagonists from Snakepit to Box Office Poison, but with fighting and explosions. I got that people like the lovable loser in love angle, but I’d seen enough of that for it to be super appealing to me.

I wound up reading all six volumes in about a 24 hour period which was actually a lot of fun seeing how writer and artist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s art, storytelling and timing had improved over time. It was also interesting seeing how Scott and Ramona’s relationship developed and fell apart as did Scott’s battles with her seven evil exes (I like how she makes a big deal of calling them exes in the movie instead of ex-boyfriends). I still wish the first book telegraphed the weirdness of the world a little earlier, but the second time around it didn’t bother me as much. The movie borrows heavily from this book, which makes sense because it’s all of the set-up for the following. I did a lot of comparing between this volume and the movie because of that and I applaud Wright for being able to pull so much wacky shit off, though I really wish they would have included the line about Scott being the best fighter in town. It’s a short, small line that helps the overall idea be understood better in the comic than the movie in my opinion.

After that, though, reading Volumes 2-4 was almost like reading a brand new book. I had very little recollection of what had gone on in those comics, which made it kind of nice and refreshing to read this stuff as if for the first time. I must have been really uninterested when I read them the first time around. They’re so short and easy to burn through (I read 1-4 in one evening) that I guess I consumed and moved on without really absorbing. This time around, though, I really enjoyed them, especially as they differed from the movie. There’s just so much more material to delve into, with flashbacks and explanations of how Scott and Kim started dating to Knives finding out about Ramona much earlier and actually fighter he in the mall (a cooler fight than Scott’s in this book for sure). You’ve also got a lot more history with Envy and Scott and Kim’s friend Lisa coming back into the picture. These volumes are interesting because they seem to almost crawl along. They’re still super fast reads, but you get your fights and then a lot of interactions between characters to build the emotional/personal world they’re dealing with. We also find out that their world involves Vegans having super powers and robot arms, which is pretty cool, though the personal world gets built much better than the sci-fi/fantasy world.

Then the fifth book comes in and pulls the rug out and develops lots of status quo changes from domiciles to characters coming and going. It’s the Empire Strikes Back of the series, for sure and it feels like the most plotted out of the books, like O’Malley had more in mind than “fights a dude” when he sat down to write. There’s so many beats that he needs to get to in order to set up his ending, but I think he nails them all pretty well, at a good pace and with his characters in mind, though, again, I’m still not sure who Scott is as a person. Is his naivete all an act? Is he a dumbass? I like him, but I kind of don’t want to. By the end of this volume you’re pretty firmly on his side because SPOILER he was wronged and Ramona just teleported out of her place, he got locked out and the cat ran away. At least he got a cool pad to live in thanks to his parents. 4 also has one of my favorite smaller bits of business when Scott’s trying to explain the X-Men’s ridiculous history to Ramona who’s focused on other things. I remember explaining The Death Of Superman in a similar way to my Grandma in the early 90s and her being nice enough to act like she knew what the hell I was talking about.

While the fifth volume felt like a lot was going on, but it was all paced well, 6 had kind of the opposite feel with a lot happening that didn’t seem completely necessary, like Scott spending SO MUCH time with Envy. I did like seeing him go around to see his other exes (for some reason, I never made the connection between this book/movie and High Fidelity, one of my all time favorite movies, until it was mentioned on the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast which interviewed O’Malley, Wright and Wright’s writing partner, I highly recommend giving it a listen here or on iTunes) and I thought the finale was really well done and full of potential danger (obviously I knew how the movie ended but wasn’t sure how the book would end). Overall I liked the ending and thought it fit well with the rest of the book. Oh, and I think I finally started to see Scott as a character.

One thing that the movie picks up more on than the comics do is that Scott has been building up a potential army of evil exes himself with his callous nonchalance masked in naivete. Again, I’m left wondering if he’s really that clueless or an ass. It’s hard to tell really. And again, I lean towards him just really being that clueless, though hopefully less so with the end of the series.

Something that bothered me this time that I don’t remember bugging me before was the inclusion of SO MANY “whatevers” and “or somethings.” Jesus, do people really talk like that still? It just seemed very 90s/Reality Bites. Then again, it might take longer for hip slang to make it’s way up to the Great White North.

Overall, I found reading these books to be a fun process. It’s like watching a romantic comedy written by a guy who’s played as many if not more video games than me and has a knack for making the ridiculous seem commonplace and for that, I give O’Malley a lot of credit. The series isn’t perfect and it’s defintiely no Harry Potter, but it still got me really interested in a different kind of comic than I usually read and seems to have done the same for a lot of other people because I saw a lot of younger kids leaving the showing before us and joining the missus and me in our showing. I’ll be passing these on to her next, by the way and am curious to see how she responds as she doesn’t have that video game base that many of us geeks have.

Best Double Feature Ever: Expendables & Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

How weird is it that on April 17th of last year, I wrote a post about how excited I was about Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and now, lots and lots of months later, I got to see both flicks in the theater on the same day? At least sort of weird.

I actually cleared my work schedule earlier this week so I could go see Expendables at the first showing in my town. It was the 11:20 show at the Destinta and I had an amazing time. The movie, which combines all the best action stars ever (okay, maybe there were a few folks not in the movie, but there’s never been a movie with this many of them) as a team of mercenaries doing jobs. The actual Expendables consist of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stahtham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. They’re going up against a drug kingpin (played by David Zayas of Dexter fame!) who’s working with Eric Roberts who has Steve Austin as a body guard. Stallone got the job from Bruce Willis when Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want the job. Oh and Mickey Rourke used to be an Expendable but he retired. I think that covers everyone.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much because, let’s be honest, who cares? If you haven’t seen the movie what you’re wondering is “Is it a solid action movie or a bunch of old men playing war?” It’s a solid action movie. Period. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sitting in the theater watching the flick. There’s all kinds of cheesy one-liners (to be expected), awesome team-ups and fights I never expected to see (seeing Stallone and Statham pall around is like a dream come true) and, as I hope you were expecting, tons of blood, explosions, punches, bullets, knives and body slams (not in a cheesy “hey look we’ve got wrestlers in the movie!” way, but it a way that makes sense).

Speaking of the fighting, I really like how each guy has his own specialties and sticks to them for the most part. Li’s obviously the martial artist, but Statham’s got moves of his own mixing knife and gun play. Stallone uses an array of weapons, Lundgren uses his caveman bulk and Couture just kicks ass. It’s fantastic. I will say that the fight scenes get a little shaky/jumpy, but I just kind of opened my eyes real wide and absorbed as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, but I still want to watch the movie again so I can absorb even more of it.

It’s funny because a few years ago the ToyFare guys and I created a group called The Manly Men of Action which was a generational grouping of action heroes starring Arnold, Dolph, Stallone and Bruce as the 80s team. We also dreamed up groups from the 60s and 70s, skipped the 90s and went on to the 00s which was the whole plot of the first story (check out some rad wallpapers here). So, it’s pretty awesome that Stallone reads ToyFare and turned our idea into a movie, but would it have been so bad to ask us to cameo? Just saying. Oh, also, the movie hints at a long history for this team and previous incarnations and I would be completely down for sequels and prequels and comic book adaptations and an animated series and anything else.

I was actually less excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but that’s only because my love of 80s action movies goes back further and is much deeper than my love of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I’m not that huge a fan of the series and haven’t even read the last installment yet. I was really more excited to see what director Edgar Wright would do with the source material and how he would bring a comic book aesthetic to film. And he did it using some crazy jump cuts, lots of sound onomatopoeia on screen, lifting elements from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s panels and creating some truly epic fight scenes.

The story, as most of you probably know, is about clueless Canadian loser Scott Pilgrim falling in love with Ramona Flowers and having to defeat her seven evil exes to be with her. Like aside, the fights are numerous as are the video game references (coins fall from defeated enemies, weapons appear from seemingly nowhere and people glow red when they’re close to death). But I wonder if that makes the movie a little too inside baseball for your average viewer. I went with the missus to see the flick and she hasn’t read the books nor did she play Nintendo much as a kid, so a lot of the elements I was laughing at along with my fellow audience members (there were actually more people at the mid day Expendables than the 7:50pm Scott) went right over her head. She said she dug it and I asked her to write a post about it, but we’ll see.

But, you might be saying, “Who cares what the newbies think, if they don’t get it, screw ’em.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. But, from a business standpoint, you’ve got to imagine that people like me were already pretty much guaranteed to see the movie, but people like her (norms as I call ’em) aren’t. If she goes to work and tells her friends she didn’t really get it, then they might not go. What I’m saying is that it might have made a little sense to explain some of the video game elements earlier in the movie so that EVERYONE gets the gag. There’s even a scene where Scott and his then-girlfriend Knives play a Dance Dance Revolution-type fighting game, but if the elements were foreshadowed there, I didn’t notice. I was just watching the crazy game.

Another complaint–though a minor one–I had while watching the movie is that sometimes, the fight scenes seemed a little stagey, like Michael Cera (playing Scott) was responding to the next move in the series of moves before the attack was coming. It’s a minor complaint because, frankly, the fight scenes mostly moved pretty quickly, but I definitely got that vibe a few times which was a bummer.

Speaking of Cera, I really had my reservations about him playing Scott in the movie. Like I said, I’m not a die hard fan of the books, but in them, the character is kind of an infuriatingly dull loveable loser who just doesn’t understand most of what’s going on around him, while Cera’s awkward movie persona didn’t really jive with that. I’m still not 100% sure on it, as the movie sometimes felt wobbly as far as Scott’s characterization, but that’s how things were in the book. You really like him one moment, then he does something stupid and you want to give him a wedgie. Overall, I dug his casting and everyone else, so good on Wright and Company for that.

Two more quick complaint and this one actually goes back to the books. First off, like in the first volume, I think it takes too long for the rules of the world to get established. You go from normal people to crazy superhero/video game fights in the blink of an eye without much of a warning. The other problem is that the books felt like they were running out of steam and rushed towards the last couple volumes (I can’t speak to the 6th volume). I mean, come on, two of the exes are twins? I guess it’s not necesarrily a bad thing that we spend time with the character of Scott before he and Ramona start dating, but some of the exes just feel rushed.

Okay, enough bitching. The effects are awesome as is the music. I think I might actually go out and buy the soundtrack (though as a music geek I’ve got to call bullshit that Scott can afford one of the most expensive basses around–the kind you have to call Musician’s Friend just to get the price off–and Steven gets such a good sound out of an acoustic that doesn’t look to have a pick up anywhere inside it). I LOVE the bass battle.

All in all the movie’s a lot of fun (at least for 20-something dudes) and, from what I can remember, follows the comics pretty well (though I wonder if deviating a little more might have helped make the story more accessible to non geeks). Anyway, if I had to choose one movie between Scott and Expendables to see again this weekend, I would definitely go with Expendables. I walked out of that movie just feeling awesome all over, but I’m really glad I got to see both movies in the theaters on opening day. I haven’t done that for just one movie in quite a while!

Trade Post: This Week’s Pile 7-17-09

I read a lot of trades in a week. In addition to the bursting-at-the-seems shelf of things I’ve read at least once, I also have two long boxes full of books I need to work my way through, plus things I borrow from other people and work. It’s a lot to get through, but with my train ride and nightly reading, I’m at least putting a dent in those boxes.

So far this week I’ve finished two books I started reading a while ago, read three complete books, started and quit one and and halfway through two others. That’s a total of 8 trades this week on top of Gulliver’s Travels which I’m slowly getting through. Anyway, here’s a few brief (I promise) thoughts on these books).

NORTH WORLD VOL. 2 (Oni) by Lars Brown
I haven’t read the first volume of this book, but I enjoyed this one enough to go back and read te original. The idea is that the main character used to be a fighter in the vein of World of Warcraft or something and has since settled down to do taxes with his dad. I’ve heard the first volume gets a bit mired in the MMORPG in-jokes, but Volume 2 doesn’t have those pitfalls. There are definitely aspects of the story I wasn’t very clear on, but I’ll chalk that up to me coming in part-way through the story and not as a fault of the author for now. Aside from entertaining me on the train ride home, I also used Brown’s book as a reference for how to draw cartoony figures and had some success. Figuring out how he drew his main character lead directly to the creation of the nameless party guy I drew yesterday.

I hate to double link to the same post, but I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been reading this brand new collection of all things Barry Ween from Oni for the past few days. I’m about halfway through and I’m loving the foul mouthed adventures of the smartest kid (person, really) on earth, his friend Jeremy and his love interest Sarah. If you liked Dexter and have no problem with a deluge of profanity and pop culture references (some of which have gone completely over my head), then you should definitely check this book out. I haven’t enjoyed a reading experience this much in a long time.

LIGHT BRIGADE (DC) written by Pete Tomasi, drawn by Peter Snejbjerg
AS anyone who read my review of the Nightwing Freefall trade knows, I really enjoy Pete Tomasi’s writing. So, when I was offered someone’s copy of his first(?) comics work Light Brigade I jumped at the chance. I’m also a big fan of Peter Snejbjerg because he was involved with the second half of James Robinson’s excellent Starman run (and the artist behind two pieces of original art I have from that last issue). The story focuses on a group of soldiers during World War II who get mixed up in the war between the renegade angels and God. I’ve seen a lot of stories like this (try and find a Hellboy comic that doesn’t mention deities and Nazis), but I liked the yarn Tomasi wove here, especially the character who’s a fan of DC comics of the time, going so far as to give their group a team name and make them shirts with a logo. Definitely worth checking out if anything above sounds even remotely interesting. Also, this is the best I’ve ever seen Snejbjerg. The colors really seem to leap off the page. Good stuff.

HELLBLAZER: THE FEAR MACHINE (Vertigo) Written by Jamie Delano, drawn by Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Alfredo Alcala
I first got interested in Hellblazer back when Brian Azzarello started writing the title. At that point I was heavily into 100 Bullets and would read pretty much anything with his name on it. Those were good comics, but I had trouble getting a grasp on exactly what John Constantine could do. I knew he had some kind of magical powers, but beyond that? No clue. I’m still not really sure about the dude’s powers even after reading this arc which comes from his earliest adventures (Hellblazer #14-22), but I still really like this enigmatic character. The funny thing about jumping into any Constantine story is that you have no idea if the old friends/acquaintances/enemies/lovers he runs into have been established in previous comics or just made up by the author. This story surprised me because of how far away from the John Constantine rubric it runs. You’ve got John joining up with some hippies, liking it, trying to find a missing girl and sporting (get this) a BLACK trench coat and even sunglasses, instead of a tan one. Remember how angry people were when Keanu wore the black coat in the movie?

Apparently it has precedence.

The story is very deep and involved and it took me quite a while to get through it because of waning interest and the absolute literariness of the whole thing, but by the end I had a great time and really enjoyed this seemingly atypical Hellblazer adventure. I’ve got one more Delano trade I’m interested to burn through now (PUNS!). I also want to get my hands on the Ennis/Dillon books.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Marvel) By Jim Valentino
If you’re like me, you’ve been enjoying the hell out of Guardians of the Galaxy which spun out of Annihilation Conquest’s Star-Lord miniseries. That got me curious about the previous incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, so when it popped up on someone’s Sequential Swap list, I swapped for it. And man, there’s no more 90s story than this one, which collects the first 6 issues of the series. The idea is that this is set in an alternate future where War of the Worlds happened on the 616 and wipes out all the heroes. This is way in the future and the Guardians end up fighting a group called The Stark who, through means I care not to spoil, evolved with full-on Tony Stark technology. I liked the “what happened to THIS character” feel of the story and would definitely read an Essential volume or two to see where the full story went, but, like I said, it’s very 90s. In addition to briefly explaining every team member’s origin, powers and home planet with almost the exact same wording every issue and coming in that same weird size as the Armor Wars trade I read, there’s also Taserface:

Nuff said.

CLASSIC G.I. JOE VOL. 1 (IDW/Marvel) Written by Lara Hama (mostly), drawn by Herb Trimpe (mostly)
I really, really wanted to love this book, but just couldn’t. The book collects the first 10 issues of the series originally done by Marvel, but IDW put out the particular volume I read. These aren’t bad stories, they’re just not all that interesting, which goes for both Hama’s stories and Trimpe’s art. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen so many spy/military-based stories that almost anything feels been-there-done-that. I had high expectations because I know a lot of people who sing the praises of this comic, including Kiel, so hopefully they’ll jump on to let me know what it gets really good.

BAT LASH: GUNS & ROSES (DC) Written by Sergio Argones, drawn by Peter Brandvold
I got interested in this book after reading the latest issue of Jonah HEx which features a very well spoken Bat Lash. Unfortunately, this mini doesn’t really pick up on any of those themes and just came off kind of boring to me. How cool would it have been if Sergio drew this bad boy though? That being said, I still really liked Bradvold’s art, though I’m not familiar with him at all. This is the book I didn’t get all the way through.

This is the other book I haven’t finished yet. That’s because the entire story is told in text boxes instead of dialogue balloons. It fits the story just fine, it just takes me longer to read. Tor’s a prehistoric character who got kicked out of his tribe for being smart and awesome and is having crazy adventures in parts unknown. So far I really like this book, it’s a great showcase of the senior Kubert’s style, which is one of the most recognizable in comics (I bet he could draw a stick figure and you’d still know it’s him). He definitely hasn’t lost his touch.

Anyone else read any of these books? Thoughts? If not, what are you reading and digging right now?


I read Oni’s smaller, digest-ish sized edition of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s Whiteout this weekend. It’s a pretty good read, though I feel like I’ve read or seen all the pieces of this story already between episodes of shows like CSI, The Thing and Bad Boys II (especially the scene where Carrie and Lily drive a Hummer through the arctic shanty town). But, hey, that’s not really an indictment on the book itself, I’ve often said that it doesn’t really matter the order that pieces of fiction come out, but the order you’ve seen them. For instance, I read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens well before I saw The Omen (well, I still haven’t seen the movie, but I DID read the novelization of the movie that I thought was the novel it was based on). Really, though, reading Whiteout made me want to watch The Thing again, that’s a freaking rad movie.

It also made me want to see the Whiteout movie starring Kate Beckinsale. What’s the deal with that flick anyway?

One last thing I want to talk about, more so than the contents of the book is the scale of the book itself. I will never understand why companies want to shrink down artists’ work to such a small format. It’s one thing with manga or Scott Pilgrim when the book was originally conceived in that format, but shrinking Steve Lieber or Frank Miller’s art (like in the Sin City volumes that came out around the movie) just boggles my mind. Their art is SICK, show it as big as you can! That’s why we have Absolute editions.

Okay, that’s my rant. What do you think of shrinking down artwork like that? Or Whiteout? Or Kate Beckinsale? Or The Thing?!