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Bullet reviews of comics
I haven't written about comics in a long time and I need to get back into that habit.  Anyone who makes comics or art should talk about comics and think critically about of them.  I can't imagine an artist claiming to be proficient in their craft not being able to communicate about their art form.  I'm little rusty at this but I figured I would keep these short and sweet.

I should say that I've stopped reading Marvel and DC books.  There are too many issues going on right now that neither company seems too keen on addressing for me to buy their books and not feel like I'm screwing someone over.  Jack Kirby and Alan Moore are two of my artistic heroes and I can't support companies that feel it's okay to screw their legacies over.  Their works taught me better.  Thankfully there's plenty of comics out there that I don't feel too bad about leaving those companies behind.  

Lots of stuff I can buy on weekly trips to a comic shop and not feel guilty I'm getting comics from corporate overlords.

Infinite Kung-Fu by Kagen McLeod (Top Shelf Comix)
I read this on my move to Massachusetts and it was a good car reading experience.  Are there still comics labeled "cult comics"?  I ask because this comic seems like it's the very definition of one.  There are so many genres mashed up here; kung fu, fantasy, blaxsploitation, and anything else McLeod felt like throwing in here.  McLeod is clearly catering to himself instead of any kind of potential audience.  It's refreshing considering that most comics like this are trying so hard to please a specific audience.  That's what makes this comic enjoyable is that McLeod fuses these disparate strands of "junk" culture into this comic world that works as a cohesive whole.  It's a world so engrossing that you want to read more stories from it when you're done.

Lady Snowblood vol. 1 by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura
Maybe it's the total 180 visually that does it for me, but there's something really appealing about this book over other Kazuo Koike written books I own (and no Lone Wolf and Cub is in my comics library yet).  Kamimura is the exact opposite of two of Koike's more famous collaborators Goseki Kojima or Ryoichi Ikegami.  His style is almost graphic where those two are more illustration based.  It really works for this book where positive and negative spaces constantly battle each other on the page.  It's reminiscent of Hiroshi Murai's cinematography for The Sword of Doom (my favorite samurai film ever).  This really suits this completely fictional material where the real world intrudes on this almost cartoonish story of vengeance and violence.  There's a lot of flair in the action sequences which can range from masterful to the downright ridiculous.  It's nowhere near as serious as Lone Wolf and Cub and I'm very grateful for that.

Blade of the Immortal vol. 1-6 by Hiroaki Samura
Blade of the Immortal is a book I read a lot in High School and then for whatever reason (probably I became a lot too snobby to read manga after I got into "important" comics), I stopped reading it.  I had forgotten what an impact that this comic had on my young mind.  Samura's voice in the landscape of Japanese comics is still incredibly distinctive, both as an artist and a writer.  The best way to describe the comic is as "samurai punk"; it's not a period drama but it's clearly set in a world that's meant to emulate period stories. He's clearly interested in portraying various shades of grey, visually and storywise. Samura's a cartoonist that should be talked about a lot more than he is when it comes to genre comics.

Prophet by Brandon Graham and various (Image Comics)
Brandon Graham is clearly the most inspired person working at a larger publisher right now.  His take on Prophet is maybe the best sci-fi comic that has come out in ages.  Graham's approach to comics has resulted in something that's enjoyable while trying to get out of the cliches of comics.  It works really well here.  I was curious how this book would read with just Graham writing but he has a really strong voice as a writer and his choice in collaborators.  I'm glad seeing artists like Farel Dalrymple and Giannis Milonogiannis on this type of material and being game to try out whatever Graham throws at him.  Yet this is all Graham's show from his choice of collaborators, artists on back ups, and even the packaging.  The comic never fails to be an exciting ride.  This is how corporate comics should be.

Black Metal 2 by Rick Spears and Chuck BB (Oni Press)
Where's volume 3 already? 

Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
There's very few writers in comics right now who know how to write serialized, episodic fiction.  Writers for the last ten years have been writing just parts of a story for the eventual trade collection.  Brian K. Vaughn on the other hand seems to know how to please both audiences.  Saga is clearly going for the slow unveiling of the story where if you follow in collections it will make sense but at the same time if you're picking up the book on a monthly basis you won't feel cheated.  I can't really say that Saga is the best sci-fi comic on the market right now (fellow Image book Prophet beats it at that every month) but it's a book I enjoy plunking down $3 a month to read because I'm never failed to be entertained.  I like reading comics on a monthly basis and here's a comic that clearly is set on delivering a book that's worth reading every month.

The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius (Humanoids)
Speaking of sci-fi comics, here's the granddaddy of them all.  It's hard to write about this book without looking at all of the other sci-fi comics that I've just recently read and not talk about how this book has influenced them.  So I'm going to try and engage this book on it's own terms.  First off it's an incredible dense book thematically.  Ideas abound throughout the story without the characters spending unnecessary time examining them.  The work is more interested in proposing ideas, visuals, and themes than exploring them.  There's a lot of connections to Jodorowsky's interest in tarot and Jungian psychoanalysis.  Thankfully, Moebius's visuals really carry this comic so that it doesn't get bogged down in incomprehensibility.  I think if anyone else had tried to draw this book it wouldn't have worked.

Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD vol. 1 by Russ Manning (Dark Horse Comics)
I'm wondering when there's going to be a critical re-evaluation of Russ Manning's work on this comic.  I know the guy has an award named after him and it's not like he's been forgotten but when great comics from the 60s get mentioned how come no one brings up his run on Magnus?  Reading this book is such a strange and fascinating artifact.  Manning's art on the series is exquisite which is be expected.  You don't get an award named after you for nothing.  Still there's this clash of this visually gorgeous shiny future with these dark themes of man's descent into irrelevancy and a fear of a machinery and progress.  This is a run on a comic worth examining.

Ragemoor by Jan Strnad and Richard Corben (Dark Horse Comics)
I posted this on my  tumblr I'm really surprised I've no one talk about this mini-series.  I guess this is because in a US comics market where horror comics seem to be focused right now on specific monsters instead of sheer horror its a bit of an odd duck.  Anyways this comic teams horror artist extraordinaire Richard Corben with his Den collaborator Jan Strnad to do a Lovecraft-esque horror comics.  Corben's excellent at drawing this kind of apocalyptic, mutant horror and the atmosphere needed for it.  Terror here doesn't so much as build up but crawl and creak out of the pages.  The series gets more and more nightmarish before culminating in a pretty horrific final page.  Few artists doing horror comics are at Corben's level and Ragemoor is a good example why.

Sloth, and Speak of the Devil by Gilbert Hernandez (DC/Vertigo, Dark Horse Comics)
After a long time away from reading anything Los Bros Hernandez, I've been reading GIlbert Hernandez's recent output not connected to Love and Rockets.  It's interesting to see material that indulges in Hernandez's desire to just do whatever the hell he wants and make it work.  Sloth is the more challenging read of these three comics. There's no genre grounding it (Speak of the Devil in someways starts out as a superhero comic, Fatima is a zombie story) so I think it's harder to engage with as a piece.  Still there's something here worth engaging.  Sloth has this way of capturing the inertia of being a teenager a lot better than comics made by people younger than Hernandez.  This isn't alien territory to him.  Hernandez captured the boredom of youth in Love and Rockets X but the kids in that book were concerned about engaging society.  Here, the kids are trying to find various ways to escape it.  Speak of the Devil is the classic though. This is comic that never settles into any particular definition of what it's supposed to be and works better for it.  Hernandez's work has always been occupied with sex and violence which really comes to the fore with this work.  In fact, the work shifts being about one in the beginning to being about the other at the end.   Hernandez's use of black and white composition has never been used better to create this feeling of paranoia that permeates the comic especially towards the later chapters of the comic.  This is one comic I wish I had read when it was coming out on a monthly basis.  All in all, these are comics by cartoonist who has no desire to be comfortable in his skin and constantly challenging himself to stay on his toes.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (Top Shelf Comix)
This past League series has been extremely satisfying to read and it's been interesting to see what Alan Moore does in the longer format of each chapter of Century.  This might be the most melancholy thing I've read by Moore to date.  There's a deep sense of regret and loss that permeates this book.  I have a lot of thoughts on this book that I want to save for something later.


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