The Con Haul: Three Great Comics From New York Comic-Con’s Artists Alley [NYCC 2013]
For all the flaws it might have, New York Comic-Con has one very, very important thing going for it: A gigantic, well-organized Artists Alley that takes up an entire convention hall all by itself, full of amazing creators showing off their newest comics. There's enough there that you can spend the entire con checking out great stuff and never have a chance to set foot on the floor, and come away perfectly happy.
I haven't read everything I picked up yet, but there were three things that looked so good that I couldn't even wait to get home to dive right in. They're the ones to watch out for, fresh from the Javits Center!
First up, Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare's Rocket Girl:
I've been a fan of Amy Reeder's ever since I first saw her art on Madame Xanadu, but I somehow managed to completely miss any news about Rocket Girl before it came out. Fortunately, someone shot me a message on Tumblr letting me know that it featured the New York Teen Police Department investigating Time Crimes, which, for the record, is exactly the kind of premise that gets me to buy something toute de suite.
Despite a little bit of dodgy kerning on that logo -- occasional CA contributor Dylan Todd pointed it out, and like the arrow in the FedEx logo, it's something that you can never unsee -- Rocket Girl #1 is one of the strongest starts I've seen. It moves super quick, bouncing around like a pinball between great ideas with exactly the kind of speed that you'd expect from the title. The title character is a time-traveling teen cop from an alternate (and suspiciously utopian) 2013 who heads back to the gritty New York of 1986 that we were all promised from various Dolph Lundgren movies to change the past. The thing is, she's trying to stop the perfect future by figuring out the sinister secrets her society's built on. It's immediately compelling, and -- as should be obvious to anyone familiar with Reeder's work -- absolutely beautiful.
Next up, Action Presidents #1, by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey:
In another hot bulletin from the Obvious Statements Department, Van Lente and Dunlavey are masters at making entertaining and educational comics. Action Philosophers and Comic Book Comics are already pretty firmly established on my list of books that everyone should own, and this weekend, they finally debuted their follow-up, taking the same accessible, irreverent and exhaustively researched approach to the history of the presidency.
As you might expect, they start up with George Washington, and they deliver the facts in a way that, while it's definitely a fun, breezy read, actually feels a little more dense than Action Philosophers. I imagine that's just down to sheer quantity -- rather than divvying up each issue between multiple subjects, Washington gets a full 20 pages of newsprint all to himself, plus an excerpt from the Philosophers entry on Thomas Jefferson.
If you haven't read Action Philosophers and you're curious about what you're going to get here, it also does a pretty great job of laying out exactly what kind of tone they usually work with:
This, for the record, is exactly what ballots still look like here in South Carolina.
Finally, one of the books I was most excited to grab at the con, Jason Baxter, Mac Hamilton and Derek Charm's Trip Fantastic #3:
Trip has been one of ComicsAlliance's Favorite Comics™ for as long as it has existed, mainly because it's a neon-soaked nightmare inspired by Baywatch Nights that opens with a pterodactyl crashing into a rave. There's nothing about that that isn't great, but in this, the penultimate issue of the saga, Hamilton, Baxter and Charm go full-on Kirby, and it's great.
The artistic influence of Kirby is pretty obvious, as Charm takes the book from a stark, black-and-white opening to a psychotropic dream sequence (two or three of them, in fact) and throws in one of those big double-page photo collage spreads for good measure, but it's there in the story, too. Hamilton and Baxter are going all in, dropping in stuff like deathtrap-filled amusement parks and big ideas like Sobriety Bullets:
It's the kind of dense, action-packed book that I love to read -- over 40 pages of it, even -- and it's great to get the next chunk of the story. It's one of those rare books that's worth the wait every single time it comes out -- and the fact that they have a new minicomic about Trip's friends experimenting with chemicals developed for an anti-depressant soda is just a great addition on top.
They're all great comics, and they're the kinds of things that you might walk right by in a jam-packed convention hall. So next time you're wandering through there or waiting in line to get a stack of books signed, check out the tables, even if they're creators you already know. They might have something new out there that's well worth picking up.