Friday, January 22, 2010


Jon D. W. throws down a good bit of his hard-earned cash on comics. (And sometimes, as in the case of Chew and The Lone Ranger, he borrows the comics from friends.) Here, he spills the beans on whether or not it was worth it. But to paraphrase LeVar Burton, don’t just take his word for it--you should read comics too.

written & lettered by John Layman
drawn & coloured by Rob Guillory

In the world of Chew, chicken meat has been outlawed in the wake of what is purported to be an outbreak of bird flu, although more than one character accuses the government of a vast conspiracy. Against this backdrop, cibopath (basically, someone with a sense of taste that goes way deeper than just the buds on his tongue) Tony Chu joins the FDA, where he’s partnered with Agent (and fellow cibopath) Mason Savoy. Savoy is a badass: Wielding sais, he takes out a group of Yakuza ninja. Chu, meanwhile falls for saboscrivner (someone who can write about food so poignantly that readers can taste her words) Amelia Mintz, food critic for the Mercury Sun. It’s a terrifically original idea, backed up with Layman’s solid scripts and Guillory’s expressionistic art, which beautifully complements the underlying absurdity of the story. This creative team isn’t afraid to put as many as 16 panels on one page when the story calls for it. They also aren’t afraid of vomit, which there’s a lot of. And I won’t lie--there’s a bit of cannibalism, too. Great fun, this.

Brett Matthews: Writer
Sergio Cariello: Artist
Dean White: Colorist
John Cassaday: Cover Artist & Art Direction
Simon Bowland: Lettering

I’ve fond memories of watching Clayton Moore bellow “Hi-yo, Silver--away!” on TV when I was growing up, and to this day a Lone Ranger action figure stands sentry in my office. Despite my nostalgia-infused affection for the character, however, I’d never really known a thing about him other than he wears a mask and rides a horse named Silver while fighting for justice alongside an American Indian named Tonto. Fortunately, Dynamite Entertainment tapped Matthews and co. to take the vigilante back to his roots as Texas Ranger John Reid. This is a hell of an origin telling, keeping the character mythic even as it reveals the man beneath the mask, and giving substance to all of the points mentioned above without ever coming off as sentimental, coincidental or contrived. For its part, Cariello’s art is a good fit, with an expressiveness that seems to owe a thing or two to Will Eisner, although from time to time his horses are too small for their riders. I’d actually picked up the first two issues of this book back when they were fresh off the presses, but the pacing plays out much better with the entire arc presented in one volume.

Brett Matthews: Writer
Sergio Cariello: Artist
Paul Pope: Artist (wolf sequence)
Marcelo Pinto: Colorist
Simon Bowland: Letterer
John Cassaday: Cover Artist and Art Director

Butch Cavendish, whose gang sabotaged Reid and his fellow Rangers back in volume one, here drops his political persona and embraces his role as a bandit and an outlaw. The devolution of his character is brilliantly handled, from him telling off a Senator and taking his money to suddenly smashing a shot glass of whiskey in a stranger’s face. All is not depravity, though; the Lone Ranger himself continues his crusade for justice even as he operates outside the law. Cariello’s layouts show an increased deference to widescreen framing, which generally suits the Western vistas and cinematic pacing, and his pencils (seen in the previous volume’s bonus content) are brilliant--tight and easy to read. I’m not thrilled, however, with his inks, which are looser and just don’t seem as considered. (Also, you can easily make out the inconsistent black densities of his brush pen, which I found somewhat distracting on the book’s glossy paper.) Paul Pope also contributes a few pages of art, which is always welcome, for a story Tonto tells of a wolf. Pope lets his panels bleed off the edges of the page, which on top of his unique style, helps distinguish Tonto’s parable from the primary narrative.

Harvey Pekar: Writer
Dean Haspiel: Artist
Lee Loughridge: Gray Tones
Pat Brosseau: Letters

There’s little here that hasn’t been touched on before in Pekar’s long-running American Splendor, but it’s never been presented in such a dedicated, sequential chunk. Here, Pekar takes his story back to some his earliest memories, and he speaks openly about his own struggles with depression. There’s much that’s left unsaid--for example, whether Pekar ever reconciled with his parents, and how his first marriage crumbled--but I can’t fault the man for not wanting to open any more old wounds. The lingering questions don’t take anything away from what is told, and fortunately for the reader, Pekar’s humor makes what could often be devastating material palatable and relatable. Also, Haspiel’s art (with Loughridge’s gray tones) is gorgeous; his layouts show an organization that parallels Pekar’s own attempts to make order out of his memories.

Writer/Artist: Walter Simonson
Inkers: Terry Austin (issues #342 & #346) & Bob Wiacek (issue #348)
Colorists: George Roussos & Christie Scheele
Letterer: John Workman Jr.

I’d read the first issue here collected a good many years ago and spent the intervening time believing that Beta Ray Bill had enjoyed a long stretch as the god of thunder. I was more than a little disappointed to see his story wrapped up just a few issues after he was introduced. However, I was outright perplexed when Odin separated the bond between Thor and Dr. Donald Blake, and Blake was never seen from again. I mean, Blake was his own man before he ever stumbled across Mjolnir, so I’m hoping he’s not just dead. There may be an answer waiting in a later volume of these collected Simonson stories, so I’ll let you know if I ever get around to reading it. Anyhow, this is an overall enjoyable read; Simonson’s art seems a perfect fit for Thor’s mythology, and his writing captures the heady melodrama of Lee and Kirby’s early tales. Also worthy of note, Workman’s lettering is an uncanny, seamless match for the story and the art.

All images copyright their respective publishers. Text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

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