Comics are the most important creative medium. The idea of graphic visual storytelling is as old as humans, if you consider cave paintings and hieroglyphics a form of comics. Telling stories with recognizable images can cross all language barriers and instantly suck readers in. As the film world and the recognized high art gallery scene die under their own weight, comics will be fiddling and watching them pass. That said, half the comics I got since the last review column really sucked.
The Portable February
Boring and generic. It's like a watered down David Shrigley and that guy also sucks in my book. The guy that made this is in a band I never heard of called the Silver Jews. When I brought it to a coffee shop the waitress noted that she'd read David Berman's poetry. I should have left the book as a tip.
Quality of My Life Week 22 (5/28 - 6/3/09)
I was lazily munching down some tacos when local hardcorer Jesse Gasface approached me. He was sporting a new beard, some aviators, and a pink tie-dye -shirt. I didn't recognize him at first and asked him if he was in disguise. He handed me this zine of his and moved on. Quality of My Life is a weekly one-page foldover zine in which Jesse discusses what's good and bad about life, notable events that occurred during his week, and some record reviews. The good things in this issue were that he had Vietnamese sandwiches and had fun without drinking. The bad things were that he broke his alarrm clock and someone stole his wrench. I am in love with this thing. New issues are available at Academy Records on N. 6th street each week FOR FREE. It's simple, direct and I like it.
Various artists; edited by Andrei Molotiu
Most of this book feels forced, like the artists were doing what they thought was expected of an abstract comic. It's not all shit. Panayiotis Terzis, Jason T. Miles, Jason Overby, Blaise Larmee, and Henkrik Rehr all delivered the goods. Crumb, Panter, and Moscosco are great but they gave birth to this world and it's a real "Yeah, I know" moment when you see them in here with people you might not already know about.
As we talked about in our interview last month, this is a total departure from previous stuff for Johnny Ryan. It's mostly fight scenes and there are very few attempts at humor. The pacing is slow and it's drawn with scratchy pen lines. This thing is great and an essential read since so few new good comics get made. There's more good moments of abstract comics in the backgrounds of this comic than in the Abstract Comics book. If you love or hate Johnny R. you gotta get this shit. It is important. Buy buy buy.
Love And Rockets Volume 3 Number 2
Every issue of Love and Rockets is a winner and I am never bored by anything the Hernandez Brothers do. The comics have been so consistently good since the first one came out in 1981 that there's almost no point in reviewing it other than to say,"Hey, it came out so go to the store and you can buy it now."
This is a weirder issue. Maggie's story is now dominated by superheroines which she both reads about it in old comics and interacts with in real life. It's hard to say if this is "really happening" or if it's part of a fantasy Maggie's having. Gilbert's main piece is a nighmare-ish piece with no dialogue.
Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'N' Roll Life
By Bruce Paley and Carol Swain
This comic is an auto-bio story about Bruce Paley as he goes from an annoying hitchhiking hippy in the idealistic 60s to balding heroin addect in the skanky 70s. It's kinda like Forrest Gump. The comic kept moving forward and the stories were interesting but the feeling I was left with was that I do not like the main character. I know people like him and they struck me as soulless, selfish, smug, and shitty people. If you have skateboarder friends then you know the type.
All And Sundry
How this hack ever got a fancy book celebrating his illustrations and sketchbook drawings is beyond me. At times he seems to be aping Ware, Clowes or Millionaire. Paul's lines lack the sophistication of the people he imitates and his understanding of facial structure is often wrong. I see what he's reaching for and he's failing to meet that goal while other, better artists are.
Arkitip # 51
Arkitip is this signed and numbered art journal that comes numbered and is packaged with prizes. Some are good and some are bad. It's $25 an issue if you subscribe but goes fo $30 to $200 in stores, usually depending on the quality of the prize it comes with.
This one is all about Shepard Fairey. I hate Shepard Fairey. It comes with two signed prints in a nice little box and is a decent retrospective of a guy I don't care about. If you loved that Obama poster and want to buy my copy then let me know.
The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book
This is a pretty ugly Tintin knockoff. Instead of Tintin and Captain Haddock for main characters you have a guy with a chinstrap beard and his best friend, a hippy who makes didgeridoos. I don't want to talk about it anymore.
West Coast Blues
Jacques Tardi and Jean Patrick Manchette
Hooray! Fantagraphics has started printing English translations of Tardi's work, which is huge. I don't get why Fantagrpahics are so into having titles at weird angles on their book covers. It seems like half the books they sent me have titles at twelve degree angles. If you're going to make shit funky with your crazy angles they have to be parallel with something else. Look at the cover of Kraftwerk's Man Machine as an example of good stuff that is at an angle.
Tardi is a legend of European comics and it's wonderful to have hardbound English translations of his work. This comic is full of beautiful drawings of Paris, people, cars, fights, and rural life. The story deals with the human condition and what it means to be a man and civilization versus nature while the main character hides from hit men in the mountains.
This book feels much more like an updated Tintin than that Red Monkey Double Happiness book.
You'll Never Know: Volume One A Good And Decent Man
I couldn't get past the fifth page. Too boring. Death to old-timey comics about old timers, old times, blues music, and how things aren't the same any more. Fuck you, the past.
You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! More Comics of Fletcher Hanks
Edited by Paul Karasik
Back in the Golden Age of comics there were few comic auteurs but Fletcher Hanks was one of the few. He made some weird and grim comics. His superhero, Stardust, flies facedown so it looks like he's a dead body floating in a pool. All of his comics seem to focus on the heroes' punishment of the villains. The stories are weird and grim. The art is unprofessional and beautiful.
The Complete Peanuts 1973 - 1974
Peanuts was an amazing comic. Charles Szhulz was an amazing artist. Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series are great and this is the best one yet.
The humor is unparallelled and the stories are great. Snoopy is nominated for the Daisy Hill Puppy Cup and proceeds to bully and blackmail the neighborhood kids into writing testimonial letters for him. When he loses he runs around with his arms over his head shouting,"I hate the world! I hate everybody and everything in the whole stupid world-wide world!!"
It also contains the "Mr. Sack" storyline, which was brought up in the Schulz biography. In the story, Charlie Brown has hallucinations of baseballs and gets a rash on the back of his head that looks like baseball stitching. He wears a sack over his head and becomes the president of the summer camp he's going to. Everybody loves Mr. Sack until he takes the bag off his head. It's about how Schulz felt about other people's relationships to him. Charles Schulz was a sad and funny guy and this book features him at his saddest and funniest. If you bought some of the earlier volumes in this series and then forgot about it, then it's time to catch up.
Mazzuchelli is the guy who drew the Frank Miller-penned Batman Year One and Daredevil Born Again, two of the best comics of the 80s. He's done some other shit since then but this is his biggest thing since those things. This thing...Let me tell you about it.
Asterios Polyp is the name of a college professor who teaches theoretical architecture and lives only to reinforce his own beliefs about himself. When his selfless girlfriend dumps him he goes crazy and has to leave the place where he's in control to see what kind of person he actually is. Re-reading that synopsis doesn't make it sound super appealing but it is.
The art's great, the story and characters are engaging and interesting, and it gave me much to ponder on. Is it great? I don't know but it definitely merits ownership and at least a few readthroughs.
I have no idea what's happening in this comic but there's a logic to it and I like it. Matthew Thurber's work usually gives me a lot to think about with his dialogue and use of scratchy lines and thick black shapes. The main character seems to be a mouse named Groomfiend. If you like CF's Powr Mastrs maybe you could like this too. (PS: There's a release party for this tonight at Desert Island.)
Strange Tales #1 of 3
This is another comic where alternative cartoonists do comics about superheroes. If you've see the Bizarro books that DC put out then you know what this is. Paul Pope did a beautifully drawn comic about Lockjaw, the giant teleporting dog that's pretty good and looks beautiful. Molly Crabapple drew some corny/horny garbage. Junko Mizuno did an amazng comic where Spiderman and Mary Jane move to a town populated by giant spider people. Dash Shaw did a comic about Dr. Strange that has beautiful color but ugly lines. James Kochalka phoned in a Hulk comic. Johnny Ryan did a super hilarious comic about the Punisher forcing kids to do their homework. Pete Bagge did a pretty good comic about the Hulk hanging out with bikers.
The shining star of this issue was Nick Bertozzi's comic about Modok, the giant floating head with arms and legs growing out of it. In four pages the comic spans four decades as Modok attempts to complete his life's work and co-habitate with his girlfriend. This comic was funny but only in the way where all the things that are horrible in life are funny. If you enjoy superheroes or don't this is worth reading. It's a fat 47 pages of comics, great for reading outside during the last few days you can still pretend that it's summer.
Drawn & Quarterly
If you liked A Drifting Life then check this out. It's from the gekiga school of manga but I don't know what defines gekiga. This book is a series of ghost stories and fables about Japanese people from a long time agao acting kind of like noble cavemen. Sexual intimdation and rape is a recurring theme in these stories as well as vengeful forest spirits and stuff. The supernatural elements of the book seep in slowly enough that it's a little surprising once the stories turn out to be about kids hanging out with frog monsters.
Luke Skywalker, Last Hope For the Galaxy
I love Star Wars but most of the comics aren't about characters I care about. This book has all the best comics about Luke in chronological order from the days when Star Wars comics were published by Marvel to now. It even has the complete Dark Empire series. It is a massive 900-page thing and comes in a slipcase and has a ribbon bookmark and everything. Oh my, how I love this thing. Please make a Han Solo or Boba Fett book to follow this up, pleeeease. The book costs a hundred bucks but it's $63 on Amazon.
If you want to send in your comics for review contact Gazin@viceland.com or just send them to the Vice office c/o Nick "Sweet Nick" Gazin.