Tag Archives: comics

quasi review – igor: occult detective

Don’t normally review single issues of comics but I haven’t updated El Blogorino in ages and this might just be worth it. So, being the season for diving into comics, namely that period where going outside is not typically worth the increasing limbic numbing, and finding myself with nothing doing I happened upon 215Ink‘s first issue (free by the way, via their app) of  Igor: Occult Detective, a new release from writer Kyle J. Kaczmarczyk and artist H. Crawford.

I was snared instantly. Dark and smoky in ambiance, it’s a fine aspiration of the 1923 NYC (it works, don’t question it) cobblestone and the accompanying shades of a dimming late October evening. There’s good texture to the art…swaths of shadows blending into tinted greens, blues and yellows sickly illuminating an ominous air of mystery and old-timey soot and grime.

As established as the atmosphere and sketching may be, the story and characters, while not underdeveloped, definitely show potential. Apart from the series namesake, Mr. Frank is a pleasant standout, humorously demure while providing the investigative muscle of the operation. Igor, handling the business side, is predictably crotchety and aloof. Again, room to grow from such a brief initial peep.

In sum, this maiden offering of Igor is a droll glimpse into what could be a creepily catchy and adventurous romp somewhere nestled among Skullkickers or Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse fame. Definitely a new comic to watch.

review – king city

I never thought I would be comparing Brandon Graham’s King City to Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan, but alas, I feel the similarities are sound. Each are set in a future within an arguably pulsing beast of city, filled to the gills with an impunity of common alien interaction and even baser though humdrum human depravity. Places where the expectation is that the graffiti outnumbers the tabula rasa by magnitudes.

Where Transmet excels in propelling humanity’s collective neuroses in a bubbling, angst and drug-fueled supernova against our impending future failures of corruption and over-consumption, Graham shrugs, writing a softer, more rounded-edged comic. King City is quite a finely balanced, smoothened world-building of urban locale and inhabitants over the importance of story itself (as Graham will honestly explain). At first glance it’s a future candyland of youthful crime syndicates, secret sasquatches, and homages to Street Fighter and Dumb Donald of Fat Albert lore. But what’s more interesting is the subtle social commentary: Graham introduces a future that belongs solely to youth; where at least in this city, no one above age forty is to be found anywhere. Where technology is based more on moving organic parts, not necessarily gears. A city where the economy is based on the exchange of goods and information between a myriad of local weirdo coteries.

Perhaps Graham’s work is an echo of the gen-x slacker ethos represented through no better avatar than the cat. Joe is his main protagonist, Catmaster extraordinaire, just a regular guy though always within arm-length of his bucket of cat-in-waiting death vortex. When not casually “paint bawlin” or couch-slouching with friend Pete observing the latest ninja swarm, the duo is performing their next score for an unknown employer, paw-picking locks, or slinking through every inch of King City unseen.  Yes bad dudes are afoot (the menacing Eye Focus cadre is well depicted), but Graham’s preponderance upon the cat is a fascinating juxtaposition against a future feline domination of say of Paolo Bacigalupi.  Not necessarily gods, but furry receptacles of menace and utilitarian potential, cats symbolize for Graham a yin-yang of slack-action, “slacktion” if you will, a perfect balance of pacific naptime and frenzied claws to the face. Wielded in the right hands, the cat-and-master hybrid is a fascinating conception of domestication redefined.

In addition to Graham’s compulsion to deftly drop pop-culture wordplay (pun times, man) in nearly every panel, King City is a setting where Joe (and even Pete – whose side-quest is just as noble) can choose sit out the current apocalypse to lend a hand to help a friend. There will always be another one to fight, as Graham places heavy emphasis on small acts of decency that are too easy to dismiss amid a festering saucepan of urban future-crazy.  This compiled edition is excellent as it contains bonus stories and supplemental material as Graham provides needed background on his Catmaster history (Mudd is an intriguing and too underwritten character in my opinion), as well as stellar guest contributions.  Amid a gonzo future-culture critique, King City is a surprisingly insightful and deep comic collection.

review – planetary

Full disclosure: I am an ardent Warren Ellis sycophant. Though I haven’t yet read all his work, his fiction hasn’t yet disappointed. That’s putting it boringly. Rather, I should write that he hasn’t yet not astounded me with his breadth and acumen for writing speculative, traditional and historical science fiction. So rather than simply slew gratuitous praise, I’ll say a few words about Planetary.

Planetary defines the science fiction genre, whether in graphic form or otherwise. Science creating fiction, and fiction literally inspiring science. Constantly feeding off one another. Inventive and all-consuming with magnitudes of possibility. Ellis’s imagination is only tempered by the scope of the four volume arc in which his characters unearth mystery incarnate. If it weren’t for said characters, he’d have a wild, unboundedly orgasmic multiverse to populate on paper. Something never be fully realized, of course; so we have but a corralled current of enthrallment, advancing via strangely disparate heroes less captivated with themselves than the mystery of possibility itself. Briefly, Planetary involves restoration and preservation, of memory, old friends, of the past, of earth and most everything on it; not just earth but more importantly what the earth offers the nascent potential to reveal. Secrets in plain sight, others buried deep or quarantined by other unseen authorities. Joyous secrecy from a group of unlikely archivists.  Secrets in space, earth civilization, multidimensional factions and realized fiction.

As far as character development, I’ll venture that Ellis deliberately understates, instead focusing on the expeditious mind-bending flashes in which they participate. That he never explicitly explains the abilities of Elijah Snow and Co. is for the better, leaving the reader to surmise their perhaps unearthly origins. On the other hand, his is the first example I’ve come across to deftly shatter the “black man always dies at the start” premise. No, it is better to invite the fascination from such issues as “Mystery in Space/Rendezvous”, “Magic & Loss”, “Creation Songs” and “The Gun Club”, all top tier stories and so nebulous as they linger in the reader’s mind.

Planetary is just writing and illustration of awe. Universal awe of not what can be achieved in human endeavors, but comprehended.  A bit tangential, but that’s what both science and imagination do. Carrying one to places never thought possible.

review – skullkickers

Though creator Jim Zubkavich will say it’s little more than a tribute to his Dungeons & Dragons nostalgia, I believe his Skullkickers series was created more as a modern classic. Modern in the sense that he’s imagined an uber-messy mélange of happy violence, not dissimilar to the hearty hemorrhage of bloody guts and uneasy fun witnessed in Jesse Bullington’s novel The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart. Classic in that his duo is an immediate and colorful harkening back to the comics like the Asterix & Obelix chronicles, sprinkled with a touch of Dragon’s Lair aesthetic. In truth, Zub succeeds, as Skullkickers is a finely-polished effort providing eager appeal for audiences of comics, graphic novels, and general fun.

Set in a pseudo-feudal fantasy, Skullkickers tells the story of two hardened thugs-for-hire (I’ll label them Baldy and the Dwarf) and pretty much the implosion of everything around them. In Volume one (1000 Opas and a Dead Body) the pair is enlisted to help locate an allegedly injured, uppity chancellor abducted from the infamously unimportant village of Mudwich. Volume two (Five Funerals and a Bucket of Blood) continues  their travels to the more cosmopolitan Urbia, detailing their highfalutin masquerades and encounters with a more fantastical cadre of environmentalists. Each volume details countless hackings, poisonings, corpse kicking and fist pummelings, inflicted upon and from a host of demons, summoned minions and their monstrous grotesqueries. Absorbing the violence itself is a fine read for a rainy weekend, especially cathartic for channeling one’s healthy aggression after a long day at work spent with annoying colleagues.

What sets the work apart, though, is the clever and humorous dialogue and narration. Expectedly, the protagonists are base and gruff, weirdly enlightened, or at the very least enchanting. Aside from the excitement from inflicting their pain-for-hire, they’re less interested in worldly matters other than properly supporting their “jumblies” and the refilled tankard at the local Gizzard. They’re discriminating brutes, not half bad, really. Even the supporting and disposable characters are as amusing as they are impermanent, helplessly ho-humming just before learning their grisly fate. But beyond the amusingly chippy back-and-forth, the narration really stands out in the series. Adding to the more traditional action descriptors one may remember from the Batman television show, the creators get innovative.  Just as much for the artwork, descriptors such as “Disgusting Spray!”, “Misplaced stab!” or my personal favorite, “Butter Knife Trauma!” had me in several bouts of chuckles. The narrative subtitles of various victims added on account of “mashed faced chatter” is a nice touch as well. Unrelentingly brutal though the sketches may be, the humor from these aspects provided a great balance to an otherwise intriguing concept.

My main descriptor of the artwork is that it’s simply vivid. Whatever skullkickery takes place, there is always a movie-tinged coloring to the panels. Especially captivating are the multitudes of lavender and purple depicting nighttime sequences. Combined with heavy uses of bright red and orange, the combined aesthetic action provided from Zub and colleagues Edwin Huang and Misty Coats never stops throughout the work.

Skullkickers is an entertaining read for those looking for a little brutal levity. My only near-criticism is that it seems that after only two volumes collected, the creators have set a high bar of quality that may prove hard to sustain over the long haul of publication. But with the passion Jim Zubkavich places on creator-owned comics and books, he seems the sort to not let such a slide happen. In the meanwhile it should be enjoyed thoroughly.

when you think of librarians…

Forwarded by a friend…Cat and Girl.