Recent Comic Reads

November 30, 2008

Inspired by Judd, I want to talk about the comics I’ve read recently.

Three Shadows is a book by Cyril Pedrosa recently translated and published in English by First Second, a relatively new company that’s been releasing some neat stuff. There’s a nice excerpt of it right here, if you’d like a taste. Honestly, the art and story remind me of Jeff Smith’s Bone more than anything else, but it’s more of an allegory or fairy tale. More than any of these, reading it had a strong emotional impact on me which is hard to explain without spoiling the story, but I highly recommend it.

The Best American Comics 2008 is the third volume in a new series of anthologies that tries to show mainstream audiences the diversity of what’s currently happening in alternative comics. I say alternative because, despite an attempt by the guest editor of this volume to get a superhero story in — Paul Pope’s very “alternative” Batman Year 100 — there is not a cape in sight. In fact, nothing by Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, or any other traditional single-issue publisher; all excerpts from graphic novels or, in a couple cases, booklets. However, if you ignore the overly arrogant title of the book, it’s great. In fact, perhaps due to criticism of past editions of this series by my brother and others, there is a passionate defense of the anthology format by both the series editors and the guest editor, one that is convincing enough, perhaps, to ignore any prominent omissions one might want in this book. Besides, I wouldn’t have bought this if it was filled with stuff I’ve already read. The only thing not new to me was Gene Yang’s terrific American Born Chinese. If you like comics (as a medium, not just specific titles), you’ll like this.

Northlanders Vol 1: Sven the Returned is Brian Wood’s new pulp viking saga from Vertigo. If Wood’s doing what I think he’s doing — telling the story of the generations of Norsemen in the north of Britain, leading up to their ultimate defeat / assimilation in 1066 — then that’s pretty damn cool. The first volume gets off to a nice start, so I’m definitely planning on picking up the next one. There are some thorny issues with some of the Conan pulp vibe he brings that bother me, however. The misogyny demonstrated by the male characters would be easier to accept, I think, if the female characters seemed competent instead of being — as in “women in refrigerators” superhero stories — disposable tools by which the male characters demonstrate their emotions. For example, after the leading character breaks the bow of the Hunter’s Daughter, a wild Scottish outcast living alone, she is apparently incapable of making a new one, without his help. She can make arrows but not a new bow? How has she managed to survive on her own for so long? I really hope the child at the end of this volume, the one whom presumably the next volume will be about, is female. That would complicate things nicely. But, in any case, more good than bad here right now, so I’ll follow Wood a bit further.

Invincible Vol 9: Out of This World is the latest installment in Robert Kirkman’s new school superhero story, which used to be the best superhero comic being published. I say “used” because this volume is decidedly less awesome than previous volumes, which is a big disappointment for me. This is usually where I go to remind me how awesome superhero stories can be. The fact that it begins with an issue that is entirely filled with awkward exposition about everything that’s happened so far was a big buzz-kill. There are much better ways to do that. I’ll be around for the next volume, but this title is on probation, I guess. Read the first 8 volumes, though. They’re great.

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