Monday, May 24, 2010


Jon D. W. throws down a good bit of his hard-earned cash on comics. (And sometimes, as in the case of Blankets, 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.

Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca

A lot's been said about this brilliant mash-up/send-up of '70s blacksploitation cinema and superhero comics, and deservedly so. It's no wonder I wasn't able to track down a copy of this book in an actual brick-and-mortar shop in Los Angeles County, instead having to resort to the lawless interwebs. The fruits of the search were well worth the effort, though: This is a gorgeous book, and the parody is spot-on hilarious, with the art--including great lettering, coloring and inking--perfectly matching the innuendo-laden subject matter. The story--like the hero--is loose, presented as though culled from a "collection" of old Afrodisiac comics published by "Aweful Comic Books." Afrodisiac himself, né Alan Diesler (or Deasler--his name and origin are prone to change from one story to the next, skewering every costumed hero from Spider-Man to Thor along the way), loves fast cars and faster women, and he runs his crime-fighting operations out of the night club Afroca. His nemeses include Dracula, ex-sidekick Tricky Dick Nixon and the supercomputer Megapute, none of whom stand a chance when confronted with Afrodisiac's uncanny street smarts. Adding to the sheer glee are a handful of faux advertisements, including my personal favorite for a line of female action figures dubbed "Afrodisiac's L.O.A.D. (Ladies of Action/Danger)."

an illustrated novel by Craig Thompson

I've been meaning to read Thompson's autobiographical tome since it was first published circa 2003. It would have been interesting to read it then, to be sure, but I think perhaps it's for the best I waited, if only because the intervening seven years provided enough distance from the age Thompson details that these pages won't push me deeper into the late-teenage angst and anomie this story charts. All the same, this beautiful, heartbreaking portrait maturation, teenage love and the loss of faith brought back a lot of memories, making the book a very raw read. The characters all feel fully three dimensional, but nevertheless it's easy to see myself, my friends and my family in the book's pages. This effect is certainly aided by Thompson's art, beautifully rendered and abstract enough to make identification all the easier. His layouts are similarly stunning, demonstrating a perfect balance between light and dark and a willingness to employ negative space to isolate characters and moments. "How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface," muses Thompson's inked alter ego. "To make a map of my movement--no matter how temporary." Amen, brother.

Dave Sim

Another longstanding goal of mine has been to read the entirety of Sim's epic Cerebus the Aardvark story, and now that I've begun, I'm only sorry I waited so long. Collecting the first 25 issues of Sim's 300-issue triumph of self publishing, this volume offers a fascinating glimpse into the early steps of the writer/artist; it's almost hypnotic watching Sim's art improve from one issue to the next as he becomes increasingly comfortable with both his own abilities and the book's evolving subject and tone. Conceived as a parody of Conan the Barbarian, Cerebus quickly begins flirting with politics, religion and the differences between the sexes (an issue that would bring Sim no small degree of controversy and notoriety later in the book's run), while still finding the time to skewer Captain America and Bucky, Swamp Thing and Man-Thing along the way. Complementing Sim's desire to experiment with subject matter, he doesn't shy away from experimenting visually with his black-and-white pages, employing a variety of inking techniques and page layouts and honing a phenomenal talent for lettering. Say what you will about the man, but Sim is a master cartoonist, and this collection has made me eager indeed to continue following his evolution through Cerebus' next 15 volumes.

Writers: Archie Goodwin, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas
Pencilers: Gene Colan, Johnny Craig, Jack Kirby, George Tuska
Inkers: Jack Abel, Dan Adkins, Sol Brodsky, Johnny Craig, Frank Giacoia
Letterer: L.P. Gregory, Sam Rosen, Art Simek, Irving Watanabe

I've mentioned previously that I wasn't exactly bowled over by Volume 1 in this series, but Volume 2 entertained me to no end. Part of it was likely me--this time around I was just in a better frame of mind for the absurdity of Marvel comics from the late '60s--but I don't think it hurt, either, that Gene Colan, Johnny Craig and George Tuska inherited penciling duties Don Heck. (God bless the man, but Heck's Iron Man work just didn't do much for me.) Some particular highlights included the addition of Jasper Sitwell, agent of SHIELD; Iron Man busting out roller skates to stop Titanium Man; and the Mandarin's madcap plot to prove Tony Stark and Iron Man are one and the same by setting a robotic Hulk on a rampage through New York. (Of course, a real stinker was when Happy Hogan was turned into The Freak not once but twice.) I'm honestly looking forward to picking up Volume 3 one of these days.

Story: Gerard Way
Art: Gabriel Bá
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Series Cover Artist: James Jean
Collected Edition Cover Artist: Gabriel Bá

Like the rest of the comics-reading population, I went into this book with a good deal of skepticism. I mean, what the hell could the dude from My Chemical Romance know about writing comics? Well, after reading Apocalypse Suite, I can safely say he knows a hell of a lot. This book scratched an awful lot of itches, from the wrestling space-squid on page one to the talking chimpanzees, time travel and hero in a gorilla suit named Spaceboy. Indeed, I felt as though this book had been made just for me. Making it better still is Bá's stunning, energetic art, beautifully complemented by the colors of James Jean, who's absolutely one of the best in the business. I don't want to spoil any of the adventure, but trust me when I say the next time you need to slake your thirst for Thrilling Pulp Madness, this book will most certainly satisfy.

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

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