Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary











December 8, 2007


Emptying the Big Basket 02

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CR receives two to three comics a day. That adds up. It's more than we can handle in our 200-plus formal reviews a year.

Some comics are reviewed right away. Some comics are never going to be reviewed. The remainder go into a giant basket. When the basket is full and must be emptied, it's time to run whatever commentary we can muster. It may not be a full review -- and even that ain't much -- but least it's something.

We greatly appreciate you sending in your material for review. Thank you. It helps us track what you're doing, and what's going on in the field. All of it gets read. If it doesn't end up reviewed that's my fault for not coming up with a proper idea. I hope you'll forgive me.

Below please find today's skeleton of reviews, a skeleton that will be filled with words throughout the day.

*****

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Title: My Life as a Foot
Creator: R Suicide
Publishing Information: Conundrum Press, soft cover, 80 pages, October 2007, $15
Ordering Numbers: 1894994264 (ISBN10), 9781894994262 (ISBN13)

The nicest thing about a collection of work from an artist like Richard Suicide is the most fundamental one: this is like the only Richard Suicide book that many folks would want to own, and now they can. That's not something to dismiss in a comics industry where work can be spread out over 30 different publications, some of which go right into the trash seven days after being put out. Suicide combines a kind of underground big foot energy and socially questioning eye with that textured comics feel you get form many artists working out of a fine arts tradition. The collections allows us to see how many different variations Suicide manages in what seems like a limited approach -- I think I like a couple of the older and rougher-looking short stories the best, but it's also fascinating to see what looks like a couple of one-page reportage assignments, social observations if you will.

*****

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Title: Awkward and Definition
Creators: Ariel Schrag
Publishing Information: Touchstone, soft cover, 144 pages, April 2008
Ordering Numbers: 1416552316 (ISBN10); 9781416552314 (ISBN13)

I'm looking forward to fully reviewing this work at some point in the spring closer to their re-release by Touchstone; I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that Touchstone is doing three books with Schrag in the new year. This one and Potential are out in April, while a new edition of Likewise will be out in September. I'm kind of surprised they didn't find a new title for this particular re-publication of two works, but I'm convinced all three will do well.

*****

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Title: The Cynic: Jugs, Beavers and Exploding Balls
Creators: Jeff Swenson
Publishing Information: Self-published, soft cover, 132 pages, 2007
Ordering Numbers:

This is a selection of strips from the more recent years of Jeff Swenson's daily striop The Cynic, which has been going in one form or another since 2000. I've only seen the strip a couple of times; it's not my sense of humor, not by a thousand miles, but god bless anyone who's worked in the strip format for that long a period. Reading a bunch of them at once I'm struck by how much I don't like the lettering, enough to make it a major issue in my getting to read it. Talking about a craft element like that is something that often enrages web cartoonists who feel that such things shouldn't matter because they've said so, or because it doesn't matter to the majority of their readers. But for me it made everyone seems as if they were talking in an agitated, warbling voice, like being yelled at by Julia Child. This was exacerbated by a staging that seems to feature a lot of individuals with their mouths wide open and the figures kind of gripping that mouth, as if they're once again shouting to be heard. While many may argue that to talk about these elements misses the wider point of the strip, I can't help but think I'd see the humor and the interpersonal relationships in a lot different light if I could better process how they're presented to me. I might still find myself on a completely different planet than the kind of jokes being told, to put it lightly, but I would have suspicions that there are different ways to read them.

*****

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Title: Everyman #1
Creator: Justin Crouse
Publishing Information: Low Key Comics, comic book, 24 pages, October 2007, $2.50
Ordering Numbers:

I kind of like that cover, at least the design choices to go with a strong purple and shove all the technical information to the bottom. Imagine my surprise when I open up the book and it's a superhero parody. The twist this time is that it's a middle-aged garbage man that gains power rather than college student or whatever. There's nothing in the black and white art and fairly straight-forward characterization that indicates there's going to be a lot that's special about the author's exploration of this single, not-very-dramatic twist. If it's like dozens and dozens of similar titles that have come out in the last 30 years, it won't stick around past a few issues so that we'll see.

*****

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Title: PVP Vol. 2 #37
Creators: Scott Kurtz
Publishing Information: Image, comic book, 24 pages, November 2007, $3.50
Ordering Numbers:

I'm not certain why people have such a strong, negative reaction to Scott Kurtz's comics. It may be that we live in a rocks/sucks world at which gaming culture teeters on the cutting. It could be that people simply don't like Kurtz whom I recall is known as an outspoken creator. Or maybe they just have a straight-up reaction to the work that I don't share. While it's not my sense of humor, the work seems solidly constructed in a way that serves its jokes, it's cleanly designed and there are some interesting formal elements -- I'm not sure I know another creator who makes frequent use of a five-panel grid, for example. Another thing I always hear is that PVP is somehow baffling if you aren't immersed in gamer culture, but I have yet to encounter a joke I don't understand and the last game I played was a basketball video game in 1991 that let me load up by ball team with all of the LA Lakers' useless back-ups, much to my opponents' disdain.

Where I do see some signs of danger is in the strip become too cloistered or repetitive over time, something that hits a lot of features several years in. While the strip is set up to represent a variety of opinions as they pertain to gaming, I'm not sure that all of them are equally versatile in areas of interest outside of that, the kind of things that become more important as a strip shows its age. There's no shame in that; some strips have a longer life than others. I'm not just certain what kind of feature PVP is in those terms, at least not yet.

*****

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Title: Fearless #1
Creators: Mark Sable, David Roth, PJ Holden
Publishing Information: Image Comics, comic book, 32 pages, November 2007, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:


 
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