If you asked me who my favorite writers were in comics today, Scott Snyder's name would be right up there at the top of the list, but I'll be honest with you: That's entirely because of his work on Batman. There's very little of his work outside of my favorite superhero that I've read, including American Vampire -- and that alone is pretty weird when you consider that it's got Dracula in it, and he's a solid #2 on my personal list of the best bat-themed characters in fiction. As a result, I've ben looking forward to checking out some of his other work for a while, and Wytches, the new book coming out from Image, felt like a pretty good place to start trying.
It is, after all written by Snyder and drawn by his Batman: The Black Mirror collaborator Jock, and if there are two creators that I like enough to give a new book a try sight unseen, it's them. Having read the first issue, though, I can tell you that it is very good, but very, very dark.
Here's the thing about reviewing Teen Dog, the new comic from cartoonist Jake Lawrence: Doing so is almost completely unnecessary. Not only is it one of those beautiful high concept books where the entire premise is summed up in the title, but let's be honest here. If you are the kind of person who doesn't already want to buy a comic called "Teen Dog," then I doubt there's anything anyone could say that would make you change your mind. You already know, deep in your heart of hearts, whether Teen Dog is for you.
That said, if you are the kind of person who's going to pick up Teen Dog when it hits comic shop shelves this week, you are in for a treat, because it is every bit as radical as the title makes it sound.
In my experience, the best comics are the ones that answer questions that you didn't even know you were asking until you saw them, and Wild's End #1 does that pretty beautifully. The question: Wouldn't War of The Worlds have been better if it was about a sleepy English hamlet populated entirely by friendly anthropomorphic animals? The answer: Yes. Yes it would be.
As weird as that premise sounds, it's not that shocking that the book would turn out great. It's the product of writer Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy) and artist INJ Culbard (Brass Sun), and if there's one thing I've learned from previous experience with those creators, it's that they're more than capable of taking strange sci-fi premises and running with them to create something incredible -- which is exactly what they've done here.
Theodore Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, is one of the world's most beloved authors and illustrators, a man who, over the course of six decades, worked as a cartoonist, screenwriter, and commercial illustrator – but whose claim to immortality rests on his role as creator of some of the world's most beloved picture books. From The Lorax to Bartholomew Cubbins to Thidwick The Moose to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, his characters have become part of the language and landscape of American culture, and his knack for metered rhyme and invented language has influenced generations of creators.
And though Geisel passed away in 1991, next week, Random House Children's Books releases a brand-new Dr. Seuss book entitled Horton And The Kwuggerbug, which collects a quartet of long-lost Seuss short stories that originally saw print in the early 1950s in Redbook magazine.
If there's a Hall of Fame for comic book titles, then Giant-Size Kung Fu Bible Stories deserves its own wing. You put those words in that order on the cover of a comic book, and I'm going to buy it, no questions asked, and I'm pretty sure I'm not exactly alone in that way of thinking. To be honest, though, I will admit to being just a little bit disappointed that it's not an accurate description of the contents. I mean, is there anyone who wouldn't want to read a treasury-sized extravaganza about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego busting out forbidden martial arts techniques in order to fight their way out of the oven? I would.
That said, what we actually have -- an extra-sized $20 tome edited by Bruce Timm and Erik Larsen -- is still pretty amazing; an anthology of stories from fantastic creators that accomplishes that rare feat of being an anthology book where every single story is highly entertaining, even if they're not about Esau mastering poison styles to take his ultimate revenge on Jacob.
I'll be honest, folks: I have very little interest in Future's End as a line-wide crossover. DC Comics' tactic of derailing their books into weird tangents every September, a tradition that goes back to the relaunch of the "New 52" universe, never quite works as well as I want it to, and when you throw in the fact that we're peering into the dim and distant future of a world that we've only actually had for three years, and, well, no thanks, I'm good. What really had me worried, though, was Grayson.
I've really been enjoying what Tom King, Tim Seeley and Stephen Mooney have been doing with this book over the first few issues, but as I think we all know, there's no faster way to derail a brand new comic's momentum than to drop it into a crossover after two months. I almost didn't bother to read it, but I'm glad I did. It turns out that King, Seeley and Mooney have taken their Future's End tie-in as an opportunity to produce one of the most enjoyable single issues I've read in a long while.
Comics are weird. I mean, that's part of their charm, right? And it makes sense that they would be. You take a medium that allows people to put whatever they want to on the page, have it defined by the offspring of pulp heroes and sci-fi and let it marinate for a few years, and you're going to get weird stuff like Superman with a lion head and the backstory of any given member of the Summers family. With the debut issue of God Hates Astronauts from Image, though, Ryan Browne has taken weirdness to an entirely new level.
Seriously, this is without question one of the top five weirdest comics that I've read in my life, and other than being held together with two staples and having the words in more or less the right order, it's weird in every way, with something freshly bizarre on every single page. And it's also one of the most fun comics of the year.
Geof Darrow made a welcome return to the pages of the Dark Horse Presents anthology recently, in the first issue of its latest relaunch, with a new Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot story. Missing was Darrow's collaborator on the original 1995 comic, Frank Miller; in an interview prior to the release of the new short story, Darrow said he'd talked to Miller and hoped he would still come on board to write some dialogue, but it didn't read as overly convincing, so it wasn't a surprise to see him listed as the sole author in this edition. Needless to say, a Miller-less Big Guy makes for a very different reading experience.
Like a good pop song, if a genre comic is going to keep you interested, it has to have a hook. It really doesn't matter if the art is exceptional, or it has an inventive structure or well-written characters. If it can't be distilled into one intriguing sentence of less than ten words, then it's not going to keep your attention. Blind guy fights crime; orphaned billionaire is world's greatest detective; six guns control the fate of the world; this Avenger is a freaking mess; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. But you can't just have the hook -- a comic with bad art, poor writing, and a fantastic hook is still a mediocre comic.
Dead Letters Vol. 1: The Existential Op by Christopher Sebela and Chris Visions, is far from mediocre, with strong writing, captivating and kinetic art, and a hook that will grab you from the get-go: amnesiac detective joins gang war in Purgatory.
Also a contributor to the recent volume of Batman: Black and White, Cho does a very good job with the characterization of his Shoplifter protagonist: grumpy, wry yet oddly affable, and smart. She's both a familiar and refreshing protagonist and serves well as a universal conduit for the emotions and experiences portrayed. I'm usually the first person to shunt the concept of "quit your day job, and do what makes you happy" à la Zen Pencils, Cho's an accomplished enough writer that his presentation of Corinna's decision to pursue her creative passion is more the result of a cumulative desire to change what isn't working for her, an acknowledgement of the problems she's having and possessing the strength and fortitude to realize only she can enforce a difference. She's under no illusions about what the future may bring, but for now, she's done enough to make herself feel better, and hopeful, and that will do.
Shoplifter's a short book -- 90 pages or so, and the concise length serves it well -- there's no flab here, no room for distracted interjections, no complaints. It may be slight, but it's elegantly executed, and I like the fact that Cho didn't feel the need to draw this out, the story's assured and cogent (although spending more time with the character would perhaps leave a greater impact on the reader). Visually, it's as attractive as you'd expect from Cho, alternatively surrounding Corinna with beautiful rendered city and then leaving her swathes of space; she's as lost in one as the other. The rose and black color scheme is a gorgeous combination that does much to imbue the narrative with a sense of warmth and closeness, and also to dispel any notions of otherwise suggested tone. It's rare that you read something so evenly handled yet characterful and uplifting, but Shoplifter manages it.
I chatted to Cho about the new Pantheon book, its themes and the process by which it was created.
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