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John Parker

Thumbnail: Theme And Motif In ‘The Sandman: Overture’

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The things about The Sandman that I recall the most fondly aren't what most others think of. In my experience, an overwhelming percentage of readers are quick to talk about the characters, or the strength of writer Neil Gaiman's voice. I definitely can't argue against either of those, but what I really appreciated about The Sandman was Gaiman and his artists' ingeniously subtle tricks with symbolism and structure. The big points were always echoed in some very clever ways that never disrupted the natural flow of the story to point out how ornate the plot actually was.

Gaiman and J.H. Williams III have managed to condense pretty much all the major themes of the seventy-five issue run of The Sandman into The Sandman: Overture.

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The Reality of the American Dream in ‘Jupiter’s Circle’ [Review]

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Perhaps because he wanted to reveal more of the back story, perhaps because of Frank Quitely's legendary turnaround times, Mark Millar has teamed with artist Wilfredo Torres for Jupiter's Circle, a ten-issue companion series to Jupiter's Legacy. Does it actually provide something new, or is it more of the same? (I genuinely don't know, I'm writing this part before I actually read it.) One thing's for certain: it's one-hundred percent going to be finished before Jupiter's Legacy is.

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Thumbnail: ‘Casanova’ and Autobiography in Genre Comics

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With Casanova: Acedia now underway, and a new collected edition of Casanova: Avaritia available, now is the perfect time to discuss one my favorite sub-sections of comics: semi-autobiographical genre books. Yeah, it's a real thing.

When you parse out the world of comics, there are these great big bins that most everything gets thrown into: mainstream and alternative/independent. The overwhelming majority of mainstream books are in the superhero genre, while autobiography is easily the most prevalent type of comic among the independents. There's plenty of great work in those two larger categories, but things get really fascinating to me when they intersect.

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The Light and Dark of L.A. Noir: Return to the World of ‘Hit’ with ‘Hit 1957′ #1 [Review]

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Hit: 1955 was one of the best crime comics of 2013, a whiskey-soaked LA noir about a detective on a police hit squad that took on the mob. In their follow-up, Hit: 1957, the team of Bryce Carlson and Vanesa Del Rey dive back into the darkness for more.

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Vertigo’s ‘Strange Sports Stories’ #1 is So Good We’re Using Sports Metaphors

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Over the last several years, Vertigo has revived several forgotten anthology titles with good results: Strange Adventures, Mystery in Space, The Witching Hour and Time Warp. With Strange Sports Stories, Vertigo once again dips into comics history, drafting a lineup of heavy hitters and utility players for odd tales of sports and science fiction coming together in unexpected ways.

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Sex, Religion, Heroes, Fame, and the Cold War: ‘Red One’ Review

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In Red One, the Soviet Union sends a bombshell Russian soldier to infiltrate American society under the guise of a "real-life superhero." Her stated mission is to dissuade Cold War Americans from looking for Commies in every corner, but her true calling may be to help them take ownership of their sexuality.

With the hook it has, Red One could go in so many different directions: paranoid spy thriller, over-the-top action comic, political drama. Instead, the new book by Xavier Dorison, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson takes a route you never would have expected: a satirical look at America's obsession with sex, religion, heroes, and fame.

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Simon and Jenkins’ ‘Neverboy’ Finds Its Oddball Groove When The Drugs Run Out

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The imaginary friend isn't a super-prevalent trope in comics, but it's been deconstructed enough in some very good comics that it's hard to believe that something shockingly new can be done with it. Morrison, Gaiman, and Moore are all fans of the device; Jamie McKelvie's Suburban Glamour, God's appearances in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, and more.

Despite the territory that's already been covered, Shaun Simon and Tyler Jenkins have hit a hidden deposit in Neverboy, in which an unyoked imaginary friend takes drugs to stay in the real world. It's a clever idea, and it's definitely never been done before, but where Neverboy really strikes gold is when the drugs run out.

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Thumbnail: Francis Manapul’s Masterful ‘Detective Comics’ Layouts

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One of the most pleasant surprises of the New 52 relaunch was Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato's run on The Flash. With clever, Will Eisner-inspired titles pages and chaotic compositions that emphasized movement rather than structure, Manapul's layouts were impressive without being superfluously...flashy. Eye-popping, complex designs weren't slathered across every page; they were saved for the moments when it best served the story. So it's not too much of a surprise that his work on Detective Comics looks completely different.

Where The Flash was colorful and kinetic, the current story in Detective Comics is a dark mystery, and appropriately, Manapul takes a different approach.

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A Boy Named Sue: Father-Son Relationships in the Comics of Jason Aaron

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You don't have to look too hard to see the prevalence of difficult father-son relationships in the work of Jason Aaron. In Scalped with R.M. Guera, Dashiell Bad Horse was adrift in a sea of father figures, unable to choose his own path and incapable of avoiding the same fates that befell the father who left him. In 2014, Aaron launched Southern Bastards with Jason Latour, about a conflicted man who returns to the home of his dead father, a legendary lawman; and Men of Wrath with Ron Garney, is about a father-to-be on the run from his own dad, a hired killer.

Despite the prevalence of the topic in comics, Aaron has carved out his own niche when it comes to father-son relationships, with an unflinching perspective that rings truer than most.

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Rafael Albuquerque and the Time-Bending Colors of ‘Ei8ht’

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In Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson's Ei8ht, a time-traveler named Joshua crash-lands in the Meld, an illogical place where past, present, and future seem to collide. With frequent jumps back and forth, messages from the past, and flashbacks to the future, it could be very difficult for readers to know when they are, if not for Albuquerque's ingenious use of color.

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