December 14, 2017

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Breaking the Code of Larry Marder's Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb'l Burb'l

To be quite honest, I’m never too sure what I’ve read after finishing any of Larry Marder’s Beanworld books. It’s almost like Marder is cartooning in some kind of code, sending out messages to those with the decoder ring that never ended up in my box of Cracker Jacks. With his latest peek into the world of Mr. Spook, Professor Garbonzo and the quartet of Pod’l’pools, Marder continues to tell his story in this code, expressing spiritual, environmental and existential truths through the simplicity of beans.

There is a way that Marder’s stories function. Beanworld is almost a perfect, self-sustaining cycle. The various elements of this world mesh together to feed and provide a purpose for all of these characters. Marder has warriors, scientists, soldiers, and artists all existing in this harmonious encapsulation of reality. Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l begins with this harmony. Mr. Spook leads his Chow Sol’jers into the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd to get Chow and leave their Sprout-Butt as their way of feeding the cycle of life. This is life in Beanworld. But that’s merely a self-perpetuating cycle and Beanworld is about growth.

The cycle is broken when one of the Chow Sol’jers injures his arm during the raid. This kicks off a series of events that introduces uncertainty into this fairly staid circle of life. And this gets to the heart of Marder’s Beanworld stories. There’s a system to Beanworld which is fairly self-regulating but Marder knows that this “perfect” system doesn’t require the characters to grow at all so he throws conflict at the characters, whether it’s an injury like what happens to one of the Chow Sol’jers or the idea of forces outside of Beanworld like the flighty Dreamishness’s brothers who are introduced in this book. To grow the system, Marder has to break it by introducing uncertainty into it.

Marder’s ecosystem develops and changes because he keeps breaking it and then has to create a new and evolved status quo from the system he just broke. It’s the beauty of a system that it needs conflict in order to evolve. And Marder’s storytelling is systematic but it’s never impersonal or stilted. The self-sustaining nature of Beanworld showcases a world that works together to support itself. There’s conflict but that conflict is actually part of the system and helps to nourish this population. It feeds off of itself while also feeding itself if that makes any sense.

But there’s a difference between what happens in Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l and what it means. Marder’s cartooning works in the symbols he’s created through the various classes of beans in his story. In his odd balancing act between individual characters like Beanish and Mr. Spook and the non-individualistic groups like the Chow Sol’jers, the Boom’r Band, and the Pod’l’pool, this book focuses on the changes that can occur within the groups thanks to outside influences. Marder describes this book as the beginning of a new cycle of Beanworld books so maybe it’s a bit too early to understand just what he’s getting at with this book.

Marder is working in parable, using a simple story to reveal a larger truth. But as is often the case when looking at parables, that larger truth isn’t always self-evident. Marder cartoons in symbols and metaphors and only provides the barest of keys to his mystery. The only real key he alludes to in the afterward is that Dreamishness, the one being who exists outside of the cycle of Beanworld, is modelled on his Cory, With that, it would be easy to understand Beanish, the artist of Beanworld, as Marder’s presence in this story but you could probably draw lines from Marder to all of the other characters in this book. That makes Beanworld an incredibly personal story for Marder that’s actually very humanistic. Marder may be all of the characters but he also projects that identification onto the reader as well. We’re artists, scientists, warriors, musicians, children and even hoarders.

Beanworld is billed as “A Most Peculiar Comic Book Experience,” and it certainly lives up to that in Marder’s newest comic. Ultimately that’s what Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l is, an experience. As a reader, you experience this world with its creator and its characters, Marder’s wonderfully parabolic cartooning allows this story to be about the personal experience of change. While Marder also peppers in his overarching themes of the right order of the world into the book, he also acknowledges our own personal growth and change that is essential for us and for our society. Hoka Hoka Burb’l Burb’l is the experience of change but it’s also a lesson about the inevitability of change.

Beanworld Volume 4: Hoka Hoka Burb'l Burb'l
Written and drawn by Larry Marder
Published by Dark Horse Books

December 12, 2017

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 13th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to four single issues or trades for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it. 

James' Picks:

Lady Killer vol. 2 by Joelle Jones and Michelle Madsen, published by Dark Horse Comics.
I loved the first volume of Lady Killer which was based around the general premise of "what if Betty Draper was secretly a mob hit-woman on the side?"  It had an engaging, violent story and sexy, stylish, terrifically detailed and period-accurate art from Joelle Jones. This time around Jones is writer and artist, and I'm very excited to check it out.

Rumble #1 by John Arcudi, David Rubin and Dave Stewart, published by Image Comics.
Rumble was a terrific series written by John Arcudi, with art from James Harren and colors from Dave Stewart. It was a terrific dark urban-set fantasy series, and was highly engaging. It looks like the series is being restarted, this time with David Rubin on art. I'll miss Harren's work but I absolutely love Rubin's work, so I think the series will continue to be in terrific artistic hands, particularly given that Stewart will be providing excellent colors.

Retcon #4 by Matt Nixon, Toby Cypress and Matt Kroetzer, published by Image Comics.
This has been a delightful and weird surprise this year. It appears to be wrapping up and I suggest getting it in trade. Retcon is a fantasy/sci-fi series, where each issue it becomes clear that there's more and more going on. It's an engagingly absurd story, and if you want to draw the weird and psychedelic, there's few better than Toby Cypress to take that on. He's a fantastic artist, and this is a fun book.

Dept. H by Matt and Sharlene Kindt, published by Dark Horse Comics.
I just really love this book. It's an engaging story that continues to build, as we've simultaneously followed a cast of characters trapped at the bottom of the ocean, and we've taken looks at the past of each of these characters. Everyone has a complicated history, and this book really is delving into each of their lives in a deep way. Matt Kindt's art (with terrific colors from Sharlene Kindt) has never been better, this is really worth a look.

December 5, 2017

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Catch It at the Comic Shop December 6th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it. (Or you know, Rob totally cheats and goes three trades and a single issue. Well, they are the head writer...)

Rob's Picks:

Judge Dredd: Mega City Zero by Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, and Dan McDaid, Published by IDW.
Ulises Farinas isn't afraid to make bold statements, and his work on this Dredd series was no exception. Imagine the man used to upholding The Law finding himself in a world where it doesn't seem to apply? Trying to make law and order out of a world that's not his was a brilliant take on the character, one that is worth visiting. McDaid's art makes the whole thing feel a little surreal by using a style that doesn't quite bring things into sharp focus, and his big, bulky, blocky Dredd is top notch. This is good for long-time fans or those who just know the general gist of the character, too!

Whiteout Compendium by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, Published by Oni Press.
This is the series of books that made me a now long-time fan of Steve Lieber's art. The story itself is pretty cool, a thriller set in a remote location, where the intrigue abounds but the land itself is just as big of a threat. But the art! My God, I've never seen anyone use white a color like this. Steve's linework manipulates blank space the way others master heavy blacks. It's a tour de force, and I'm so glad to see this back in print for others to discover and enjoy the way I did.

Be Your Own Backing Band by Liz Prince, Published by Silver Sprocket.
I've been a fan of Liz Prince for longer than I can think of, going back to first spotting her in the pages of zine-style anthologies and a few minis. This is a collection of her shorts based around music, collected together by one of the best publishers going, Silver Sprocket. Liz's no-holds-barred approach to her work, willingness to spoof herself, and lines that express a ton of emotion all combine for a great collection I highly recommend.

Faith's Winter Wonderland Special #1 by Marguerite Sauvage, Francis Portella, MJ Kim, and Andrew Dalhouse, Published by Valiant Entertainment.
Since her introduction a few years ago, I've been a big fan of the character of Faith, a young woman who really wants to be a hero, in a world where there's a lot of darkness. She's got the mindset of Superman (or someone raised on good Superman comics), but not as much power. Additionally, as a character of size, Faith represents something we rarely see in comics. (The only other one I can think of easily, Amanda Waller, was de-sized by DC, in a shameful move.) This issue can only be described Like Faith's imagination used to its fullest, a great pun in the title (that I won't spoil), and some solid linework from the artists. It's a heartwarming story that might just help you if you're ready to give up on the world. Faith's positiveness is contagious.

Mike's Picks:

Batman: White Knight #3, by Sean Murphy, published by DC Comics
Last week, I mentioned that I’ve been loving DC’s renewed interest in Elseworlds’ type tales. Sean Murphy’s take on a Bat-world flipped on its head has been absolutely remarkable. His reimagined Joker, fashioned as some sort of populist hero, resonates without feeling forced. This is a thinking person’s Bat-book, even if most of those thoughts boil down to “wait, what?”

Superman # 36 by Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Doug Mahnke, published by DC Comics
When Tomasi, Gleason, and Mahnke get together, we get incredibly well-executed Superman stories. This issue is a big payoff for readers who have following this storyline since the waning days of The New 52, and it serves as another building block for a revamped New Gods mythos in the Rebirth era. This is high concept Superman with impeccable characterization courtesy of the deft writing of Tomasi and Gleason.

The Mighty Crusaders # 1 by Ian Flynn and Kelsey Shannon, published by Archie Comics/Dark Circle
Archie’s “Dark Circle” imprint has been as sporadically published as it has been consistent in tone and substance. Nonetheless, I’ll bet on this title on the strength of Ian Flynn, who penned the original revival, New Crusaders, back when the imprint was still known as “Red Circle.” This has the potential to be a very fun book, steeped in nostalgia but devoid of continuity conundrums.

The Senses by Matteo Farinella, published by Nobrow Press
Nobrow has a knack for putting out beautifully constructed books. Everything from their paper stock to their quirky publication choices help to set Nobrow apart from other indie publishers. I re-read this solicit a few times, and I’m entirely intrigued. The Senses, by cartoonist and neuroscientist, Matteo Farinella, looks to be an exquisite publication that attempts to distill the feeling of each of our senses into something that can be illustrated on a page. I’m fascinated, to say the least.

James' Picks:

Black Bolt Vol. 1 TP by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward, published by Marvel Comics.
This has been one of the great surprises of the year for me. I've always found the character of Black Bolt interesting, as the ultimate model of male repression of emotions (his voice is deadly) but other than in the work of Jonathan Hickman, I haven't been too thrilled with the stories about Black Bolt. This wonderful book from writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward gives a great insight into the mind and character of Black Bolt by taking him out of his regular environment and surrounding him with memorable characters like Crusher Creel who comes off here as a pretty sympathetic character. Ahmed is a talented writer, and Ward's art is fantastically trippy, and this is a terrific read.

Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus HC by Jack Kirby, published by DC Comics.
I'm sure I don't really need to tell you about the greatness and importance of Jack Kirby. And this omnibus is $150 so I expect it'll be a while before I pick this up. But I think it's really worth a look. I remember reading the Kirby Fourth World stories maybe 10 or so years ago, when I was first getting back into comics, and they were a revelation. There's a lot of stuff going on, some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn't but these are comics that feel like pure energy. They feel like pure unfettered Kirby. As a visual stylist he is and remains unmatched. So, I'd say definitely give this a look if you're at the comic shop.

Violent Love #10 by Frank Barbiere and Victor Santos, published by Image comics.
I've enjoyed this series from writer Frank Barbiere and and artist Victor Santos, which is wrapping up with this issue #10. It's (as you can tell from the title) a crime and romance story, and I think it's successful on both counts. There's some pretty unflinching portrayal of crime and the violent consequences of crime. And the chemistry between the two main characters in the story really comes across. Barbiere is an engaging, accessible writer, and Santos really brings his A-Game with stylish, classic, gorgeous and gritty art.

Rock Candy Mountain #6 by Kyle Starks, published by Image Comics.
This book has been one of the fantastic surprises of 2017 for me. It's a little disarming of a book, in that Starks exaggerated, cartoony art style doesn't necessarily tell you that you're going to be reading a poignant and emotional comic about a character dealing with PTSD and loss, but that's what this comic is. It's also a hilarious and absurd book where the devil is a character and there is occasional absurdly horrific violence. Not only that, but this story is a pretty good education on the life of a hobo circa mid-20th century. This is a great, engaging read.

November 28, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop November 29th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

Mike’s Picks:

Super Sons Annual # 1 by Peter Tomasi, Paul Pelletier, and Jorge Jiminez, published by DC Comics
This book has Krypto, Titus, and according to Peter Tomasi’s Twitter feed, Bat-Cow. Pete Tomasi is, in my opinion, DC’s strongest writer dating back to around the time of the New 52 relaunch. If you don’t necessarily agree, you should still probably agree that any book with Krypto and Titus on the cover is a must buy, right?

Reactor # 1 (Interceptor Vol. 2) by Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett, published by Vault Comics
There have been some very interesting mecha comics published recently. In addition, Vault has been releasing excellent sci-fi comics, and the company really seems to be hitting its stride. If you haven’t had the chance to read the first volume of Interceptor, this issue still offers a great introduction into a world of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genre bending.

Batman: Creature of the Night # 1 by Kurt Busiek, and John Paul Leon, published by DC Comics
I love that DC has felt revitalized by Rebirth to the point that the company has opened itself up to the odd Elseworld(ish) tales that captured my attention so strongly in the 90s. Does this fit into a multiverse of 52 worlds? Who cares? Kurt Busiek is writing a metaphorical Batman story!

I Am Not OK With This by Charles Forsman, published by Fantagraphics.
Forsman is one of those cartoonists whose core ethos speaks to a certain inclined niche, but who also manages to bend genres and motifs around in a way that transcends a specific audience. I’m inclined to like to sardonic, sometimes flippant wink-wink analysis of teenage angst and repression. Forsman is adept at a style of satire that deftly toes the line between stoic an soulful. 

James' Picks:

Eternity #2 by Matt Kindt, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn and David Baron, published by Valiant Entertainment.
I really like when this creative team gets together, as they have for the various Divinity miniseries. Those are among my favorite Valiant books. This is the progression from those books.  Don't try reading this series unless you've read the Divinity books, but when you do, you'll be treated to some big, weird, engaging science fiction comics. 

The Ghost Fleet: The Whole Goddamned Thing by Donny Cates, Daniel Warren Johnson and Lauren Affe, published by Image Comics.
Thi comic went mpletely under my radar when it was coming out in single issues. I wasn't familiar with either of the creators (Donny Cates and Daniel Warren Johnson) at the time. But now?  Now I'm very excited to check it out. Cates wrote one of my favorite comics of the year in God Country, and Johnson is the writer-artist of the fantastic Extremity, one of the year's other noteworthy books. I'm very interested to see what they made together.

Batman: Creature of the Night, Book One, by Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon, published by DC Comics.
I loved Superman: Secret Identity. I loved the way that it told a kinda-Superman story but set in the ostensibly "real" world. I'm excited to see Kurt Busiek tell that sort of story again, this time about Batman. As with Superman: Secret Identity (where Busiek's artistic partner was Stuart Immonen), Busiek is working with a wonderful artist in the talented John Paul Leon. Leon's work is very much in the school of Mazzuchelli-Phillips-Epting-Aja, and should provide a great, gounded look for the story.

Silver Surfer Vol. 5: A Power Greater than Cosmic, by Dan Slott, Michael Allred and Laura Allred, published by Marvel Comics.
I've spoken here before about how much I love this book, and I recently reread the first 4 trade paperbacks, and it affirms that it really will end up being one of my all-time favorite books. It is just filled with such joy and a sense of wonder. A really fun and emotional story, and incredible art from the Allreds. 

Scott's Picks:

Batman Annual #2 by Tom King, Lee Weeks and Michael Lark, published by DC Comics.  
Oh no, we're turning into a Batman site!!!!!!  The team behind what is possibly the best single-issue of the year, Batman/Elmer Fudd, add in Michael Lark to tell a story about the early days of Batman and Catwoman's courtship.  Can King and Weeks recapture the magic that they had in a crossover with Batman and Elmer- *#&*!ing- Fudd?  If they do, I think we write them in as creators of the year.

John Wick #1 by Greg Pak and Giovanni Valletta, published by Dynamite.
C'mon, aren't you the least little bit curious about this?  I'll admit that I wouldn't really give this a second glance but it's Greg Pak so this book deserves a look through at the very least.  Valletta's artwork looks like early Stuart Immonen so this book could be quite a surprise. 

Kill or Be Killed #14 by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser, published by Image Comics.
I think that Brubaker and Phillips have been producing comics together for so long that we maybe take them a bit for granted nowadays but KoBK shows that the two creators are still producing great crime comics. 

I Am Not OK With This by Charles Forsman, published by Fantagraphics.
I hate to say this but I prefer Charles Forsman in this cartoony-but-introspective mode rather than in his Slasher mode.  
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Spirit of '85- a look at Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen #1


With the release of Doomsday Clock #1, DC Comics, Geoff Johns, and Gary Frank are looking to the past of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen to ground the current DC Universe. In his constant way of trying to rewrite Alan Moore (see Green Lantern,) Geoff Johns is engaging in his own brand of weaponized nostalgia and trying to drag a company’s’ entire output along with him. So instead of following Johns and Frank in their nostalgic cynicism, let’s try to imagine a bit of what it would be like to read and write about Watchmen #1 without having any idea what it was going to become.

Reading it some thirty odd years later, Watchmen #1 reads like surprisingly small and intimate comic even while it introduces gods and sociopaths disguised as superheroes. Beginning with a murder mystery, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons turn the story of brightly costumes do-gooders into a story murder and conspiracies. This first issue isn’t the beginning of anything new but signals the end of an era for these characters. In the opening pages, as we watch a beefy, older man get pummeled and tossed out a window, Moore and Gibbons end an age of innocence.

Now even before this comic, there had been a darkening of comics, one you could trace back to the 1970s and a reaction to post-Vietnam America. The colorful optimism of Batman Superman and Spider-Man roles into the biting satire of Howard the Duck and even Moore’s own Marvel Man and V For Vendetta. Frank Miller tapped into and grew out of the same zeitgeist, culminating in his own The Dark Knight Returns. But unlike the Comics which preceded them, Miller, Moore, and Gibbons questioned not only the world around them but the heroes we used for escape from that world.

Watchmen #1 introduces “heroes” who outlived their usefulness by at least 10 years. They had basically been legislated out of existence in 1976, driven into retirement, secret government service, or underground to carry on their crusade. With silver-aged names like The Comedian, Rorschach, Nite Owl, The Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan, Miller and Gibbons begin to explore what comes after the age of heroes with the death of one of those characters.

Laying the foundations of their story with the murder of The Comedian, Moore and Gibbons begin their story with death. It’s just the death of one man but thanks to the conspiracy theory that Rorschach puts together, that someone is out to kill all of the costumed heroes, it’s one death that’s just waiting for everyone else to catch up to it. With this one man’s death, a cycle of more death is practically a given thanks to the way that Moore and Gibbons build their story. If any other character had picked up on the death of the Comedian, maybe there would have been a chance for another possible outcome but since it’s the hero with the weakest grip on reality, Rorschach, it’s hard to see how there could be any happy ending to this story.

This issue isn’t about following clues or trying yet to figure out who killed the Comedian. It’s about Rorschach warning his allies, probably the closest things he has to friends, about his deepest fears. He thinks someone is out to kill all of them so he goes to warn them. Read that way, Watchmen begins on a surprisingly humane level. On some level, it’s about a man trying to protect the people who mean the most to him. Of course, that man is more than a bit of a sociopath with delusions of grandeur so your mileage may vary on just how touching Rorschach’s actions are.

Those “friends” all accept Rorschach in different ways. Dan Dreiberg, once the hero Nite Owl, sees in Rorschach the man who was once his partner is simpler and more innocent days. Dreiberg is the only one who seems concerned about Rorschach and what he’s going through. Adrian Veidt sees a reminder of his past and what he’s come from. The smartest man on Earth has turned his days as a costumed adventurer into a huge business. And for Dr. Manhattan and Sally Juspeczyk, the government's secret weapon and his tenuous connection to humanity, Rorschach is just another pest, one to be disposed of as quick as possible so that they can get back to their own protected world and work. And these are the people that Rorschach is looking out for. Without revealing everything about these characters, Moore and Gibbons skillfully navigate this cast to begin peeling back the layers in subsequent issues.

Watchmen is a mystery and it’s all right there in the first issue and even in the first pages. While everyone likes to think that the question behind this book is “who watches the watchmen?,” it’s really “who killed the Comedian and why?” Maybe we could have more reliable detectives to this mystery than Rorschach, a vigilante who, at best, is barely tolerated by his contemporaries and, more realistically, disgusts them with his own barely tenable grasp of reality. Not the best detective to solve a murder mystery. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s first issue tells us everything we need to know about this world and these characters. It’s a solid foundation for them to continue to explore and expand this world and these characters.

Watchmen #1
Written by Alan Moore
Drawn & Lettered by Dave Gibbons
Colored by John Higgins
Published by DC Comics

November 26, 2017

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Comic Sales for Your Holiday Weekend

It's that time again! As we finish picking turkey out of our teeth, all of our favorite publishers are offering sales over Thanksgiving Weekend and into Cyber Monday. I took some time to collect them for you here, along with a few recommendations for each publisher.

We'll update this post if we find more.

In addition to these sales that you can participate in from your computer, cell phone, or tablet, there's also a good chance your local comic shop is also offering discounts over the weekend. Now's a great time to stop by, especially if you haven't been there lately.

Now, let's see what's going on, online. These are in alphabetical order, so make sure you scroll all the way down.

2000AD is running a half-off sale for awhile, but get to them quickly before they sell out! Best known as the place that publishes the British version of Judge Dredd, 2000AD (aka Rebellion) also collects other characters from their seminal weekly mag, many of which are on sale here, too.

Rob's Picks: Dan Dare is an interesting variant on the human space hero concept, and I liked it when I read the collection awhile ago. The Daily Dredds cover when the Law was appearing in the newspapers, too (can you imagine that today?) Defoe is the unlikely placement of zombies after the Great Fire and despite my general zombied-out feeling, I liked what I've read of this. (Can you spot a Pat Mills pattern here?)

Here's all the details you need for the 2000AD sale.

Drawn and Quarterly's 40% off sale is back, and it's a welcome sight. This Canadian publisher offers a wide range of books, from the strangeness of Michael DeForge to the satire of R Sikoryak. They also publish some manga, children's comics, and more. They're a very diverse publisher that takes full advantage of the help businesses like theirs can get from Canada. While we in the US can wish we had support for our arts, we don't have to wish to pick up great comics from D&Q.

Rob's Picks: Okay, keeping it to a few--which was very hard. Sikoryak's The Unquotable Trump is a must-purchase, as he shows off his skills as an homage artist while ripping the current US President a new one. (He also has Terms and Conditions, which is the actual Apple Terms and Conditions, illustrated in too many styles to list.) Sarah Glidden is one of the best at graphic nonfiction, and Rolling Blackouts is a great way to experience her craft at educating through visuals, not just text. Anything by DeForge is worth your time, and then there's the Aya series, which I need to re-read soon. Those would all top my list.

Here's all the details you need for the Drawn and Quarterly sale.

NOTE: CYBER MONDAY ONLY: Fantagraphics, like Drawn and Quarterly, often runs a sale around this time, and it's a Cyber Monday only one for them. They'll be offering 30% off most of their comics, but as of "press time" I don't have exact details. (I do know it can't be combined with other offers such as the 20/20 club, doesn't work on subscriptions or pre-orders, and will be limited on box sets.) One of the oldest indie publishers, Fanta does a lot of great work, and their Fall 2017 lineup is absolutely astounding, ranging from Chuck Forsman to Robert Reich in terms of variety. Most Panel Patter readers probably already have some Fantagraphics books in their lives, but it never hurts to get a few more.

Rob's Picks: There's plenty of older material, of course, but let's stick to 2017. There's the re-release of Forsman's The End of the Fucking World, one of my favorite comics (and soon to be hitting America's TVs via Netflix). He also has the new I am Not Okay with this, which I got to see as a preview copy at Short Run. Robert Reich's Economics in Wonderland features his essays against extreme capitalism combined with cartoons. Katie Skelly's My Pretty Vampire is on my long list for best books of 2017. Last Girl Standing is Trina Robbin's look at living in the underground scene. And of course, the new Fanta Anthology series, Now, is out, well, now. So many options and those are only the ones form this year!

Hermes Press is an upscale publisher that works in the same area as the high-end Fantagraphics material, reprinting classic comics, biographies of comics history, and issuing a few single-issue works, like a new Phantom series. They are doing a sliding scale sale: 25% off as the base, 30% if you spend at least $130, 35% off if you reach $250, and 40% off if you go all the way up to a $400 order. Given the heft and print quality of their comics, that's not very hard to do, if you find a niche work you're really into.

Rob's Picks: I loved The Phantom growing up, so I'd be naturally drawn to their Phantom archives, particularly the set that covers the period that Joe Aparo (Batman) drew the comic for Charlton. I already own Babes in Arms from Trina Robbins, which is also recommended. There's also Pogo reprints and Buck Rodgers, which look tempting. Lots of great stuff, if you want to do a deep dive on a favorite that's hard to find elsewhere.

Here's all the details you need for the Hermes sale.

Radiator Comics is relatively new, but they have some great books. They're offering 10% off with the code GIMMEADISCOUNT.  Radiator is a mix of mini-comics and a few select graphic novels and are a publisher to watch!

Rob's Picks: Chronicles of Fortune is a strange beast about a woman who fancies herself a superhero--who really doesn't do anything super. As her world grows stranger--she lives with a thinking mountain--you become engrossed in her blending of fantasy and reality. Highly recommended, and on my list for consideration as a year's best. Also excellent is Melissa Mendes' The Weight and Neil's The Plot.

Here's all the details you need for the Radiator sale.

Sparker Monthly is also running a sale, and that's great news if you're an OEL Manga fan! They offer free and paid material on the website, which is a collection of comics that are western, but influenced heavily by Shojo manga, which is of course, awesome!

Rob's Picks: Personally, there's only one clear pick here--get the gift subscription! You can even use it on yourself!

Here's all the details you need for the Sparkler sale.

Taneka Stotts and Genué Revuelta are friends, and I'm more than happy to point out their 20% off sale with the code SMALLBUSINESSROCKS. 

Rob's Picks: Um, hello? Elements anthology, of course! But there's also the Catarina pin collection, some awesome prints, and more.

Here's all the details you need for their sale.

November 19, 2017

Catch it at the Comic Shop November 22nd, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

James' Picks:

Dept. H #20 by Matt and Sharlene Kindt, published by Dark Horse Comics.
I continue to love this book. A number of the recent issues of Dept. H have been intimate explorations of the pasts of the various characters that have been trapped at the bottom of the ocean. One of them is a murderer, and we don't know who, but we've learned that each of these characters have been through a lot. This has been a great murder mystery along with an emotionally resonant story, and Matt and Sharlene Kindt's art continues to be wonderful.

Thanos #13 by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, published by Marvel Comics.
I'm very interested in this comic because of the creative team.  Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw last collaborated on God Country, one of my favorite comics of the year.  So, I'd pick up anything they did, but seeing them on Thanos should be interesting.  Cates has proven he can handle both big epic storytelling and intimate moments, as depicted in God Country. And Shaw is a fantastic artist who's clearly at home drawing any situation. So, I'm curious to see where they go with this character that (to be honest) occasionally feels a little one-note to me.

Doomsday Clock #1 of 12 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, published by DC Comics.
Not exactly a small indie pick, but I have to say I'm incredibly curious about this comic, despite our not receiving pancakes. Is it a sequel to Watchmen? Something else? I think this is going to be the place where they lay out the full scope of how Watchmen is tied into the DC Universe.  Beyond curiosity about the story, I like the creative team involved here.  Johns and Frank have collaborated previously, most notably to me on a terrific run on Action Comics, along with the wonderful Superman: Secret Origin.  I'm a huge fan of Frank's depiction of Superman as it's a Christopher Reeve homage. S, I'm just incredibly curious to see what this is.

November 17, 2017

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Nothing touches a critic's heart quite like pancakes! (Weekend Pattering for 11/16/2017)

This and That

** At DC Comics, An Editor Rose Through The Ranks Even After Being Accused Of Sexual Harassment (Buzzfeed)-- Even at a week old, it almost feels like this is old news but Buzzfeed did some great reporting about Eddie Berganza, the DC editor who was fired following this report because of repeated harassment issues.
Within an industry that has created some of the most influential American fiction serving as the basis for blockbuster films, TV shows, and video games, Berganza has become notorious for the contrast between his personal conduct and professional success. Professionally, he’s moved through the ranks at DC from group editor to executive editor and back again, shepherding properties like Superman and Wonder Woman — properties that grow more valuable by the day as superhero movies dominate box offices and define pop culture. Berganza has become a quintessential company man at a big company inside an even bigger company; DC Comics is part of DC Entertainment, which is owned by Warner Bros., part of Time Warner Inc.
You really need to read the whole thing as it does a great job at shedding light on actions that have long been talked about but never really investigated.

Following the firing of Berganza on Monday, others have been named as harassers, including cartoonists, publishers, journalists and even a recently hired VP at Marvel Comics.  This week at Panel Patter, we've removed pieces reviewing/promoting some of these alleged harassers work as well as removed our banner for the time being. 

2017 has been a year of controversy, pain, and hatred in comics and in the world.  Back in July when writing about Howard Chaykin's morally ugly and racist cover to United States of Hysteria #4, we said: 
But Panel Patter is a place that will always be a home for those who might be rejected elsewhere. And we will continue to speak out against hate within our community.
We mean this now more than ever.  With all of the recent events, we stand with the victims of abuse and support you.

** Missing the point: The Eddie Berganza story (Smash Pages)-- Brigid Alverson points out that the firing of Eddie Berganza for harassment is only part of the story here.
The only way DC can make this right is to change their corporate culture and make a determined effort to hire more women. (Please do not say “They should hire the best candidate for the job.” The whole point here is that by not hiring women, they haven’t been doing that for years.) During the dark period when DC was covering up for Berganza and god knows who else, more enlightened comics publishers were hiring and promoting women. There are plenty of qualified creators, editors, and managers out there, and DC should be seeking them out and preferentially hiring them.
Firing Berganza is a start but DC still has to address why they've known about this for years and have sheltered Berganza as he's edited high profile books.


from Watchmen #1 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

I honestly have no idea what this is but if I spotted this cover on the racks at the comic shop, I'd definitely pick it up because it doesn't look like anything else on the stands.  Looking at artists Maaren Donder's website, I think he's an artist I need to familiarize myself with right away.

Current Mood

November 15, 2017

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Repeat Review: Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker by Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston

(Note: This review first appeared on Wednesday's Haul on January 10th, 2013 when the hardcover edition of this book was released.  With the release of it in softcover, we are reprinting the review here.)

Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker is the book the teenage me wanted to make back after reading The Dark Knight ReturnsWatchmen and American Flagg! With a cover which looks like any generic report cover bought at a Walgreens adorned with its magic marker scribblings of a title and creators, to the anything-goes approach to storytelling and artwork, Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston write and draw a story that features everything there is to love about the deconstructionist superhero comics of the 1980s. There’s sex, drugs and rock and roll (or at least the attitude of rock’n’roll.) There’s disregard for authority and a take-no-prisoners approach to the works and pictures. Everything is laid out there on the page, as visually captivating as any page Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz ever laid to paper. And it’s not all just surface sheen as Casey and Huddleston also create a story that approaches those old stories about un-heroic heroes and dares us to say we like them because the heroes are “real” or “cool” or even question whether they’re really heroes at all.

Joe Casey must have read too much Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Howard Chaykin because this book channels the spirit of rebellion all three of those creators infused their career-making works with. Casey creates a story that’s a blend of 1970’s Marvel cosmic, infused it with the narrative decadence of the 1980s and views it with an ironic 2012 eye. His story of a hero that’s equal parts the Comedian from Watchmen and Captain America, with a bit of US 1 thrown in for good but obscure measure shows how much we accept as heroism is really just a blatant narcissism of a supposed do-gooder hero.

The Righteous Maker isn’t a hero. He isn’t a role model in any way but Casey and Huddleston pattern him on the patriotism of Captain America. While he may wear the colors of Cap, he stews in the same moral filth as Alan Moore’s Comedian. Like Moore's repugnant anti-hero, Butcher Baker is a hero by reputation who has long outlived his usefulness. While starting out that way, Casey and Huddleston really create a Dark Knight Returns-type story for a character who doesn’t have the same historical or cultural cache that Batman does. They create a hero who’s living in a future he never thought he’d live long enough to see and show him just as lost and purposeless as Miller’s Bruce Wayne is at the beginning of DKR.

Instead of following the maudlin and melodramatic leads of Moore and Miller, Casey and Huddleston take their tonal cues from Chaykin, injecting a heavy dose of satire and irreverence into the story. They follow Chaykin’s sarcastic lead in The ShadowTwilight or Blackhawk, books that are really easy to read on that surface level and accept that surface as the thoughts and intentions of the creators. It’s the easy way out to read a Chaykin book and think the characters are thinking and saying what Chaykin would say. Peeling back that surface, you can see how Casey and Huddleston are using this story to look back and react to the works that so inspired them.

While Moore and, to a lesser degree, Chaykin have moved on from their subjects or tones of the 1980s, Miller has moved forward with time and continued to evolve (or some would say devolve) along the same lines as a storyteller as shown in All-Star Batman and Holy TerrorButcher Baker actually reads very much like the more recent work of Miller, taking on this superhero as the ultimate moral authority approach to storytelling. But where it really is hard to separate Miller from his ethnic screeds in Holy Terror, Casey and Huddleston give you all of these clues throughout the book that Butcher Baker needs to be partially read as a comedy.

Huddleston takes on credit there as it’s hard to view a lot of his artwork as anything less than having outrageous fun with Casey’s story. Embracing the trucker/superhero debauchery, Huddleston throws every weapon he has in his artistic arsenal at the page, determined to outshine Casey’s madness with his own. Unlike a lot of contemporary artists who approach a page very seriously and cinematically, Huddleston draws comics with outrageous proportions, unreal colors and he realizes that a panel of a comic book is still a part of a comic and not a still frame plucked out of a movie.

The art in this book makes you remember the joy of surprise and the enjoyment of the image that Bill Sienkiewicz put into Elektra Assassin and Stray Toasters. That joie-de-art is what gives Casey’s story the bump up from being one massive joke about superheroes to being an explosion of comic booky goodness. Huddleston makes every panel an event, building off of the previous one and depicting a moment in an entirely new way. Never taking the story too seriously, Huddleston uses every artistic tool at his disposal to create moments in time that can only exist in comics.

The mixture of art styles, particularly the way that Huddleston mingles simple black and white drawings with splashes of color on nearly every page, creates a bit of mystery as you’re reading the book. There is no singular Huddleston style that you can get used to and gloss over as you read this comic. The thrill of turning each page, of seeing the stunning explosions or soft whispers of color pull you through the book. Huddleston’s visual strategies change every couple of pages, showing you something that can be pulled off wonderfully only in comics.

Imagine if Elektra: Assassin had the influence on comics that Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns had on nearly every comic after 1987? If every comic after Miller and Sienkiewicz’s masterpiece had been influenced by it instead of the “grim and gritty” imitations that we got. Then every comic would have looked like Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker and superhero comics would have been a lot more fun for the past 25 years.

Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker
Written by Joe Casey
Drawn byMike Huddleston
Lettered by Russ Wooten
Published by Image Comics

November 14, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop November 15th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

Mike's Picks:

Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys: The Big Lie by Anthony Del Col, Werther Dell’Edera, and Fay Dalton, published by Dynamite Entertainment
Anthony Del Col, one half of the duo who brings us Kill Shakespeare, updates the two icons of adolescent detective fiction quite well in this recent series. Both Nancy and the Hardys have been “reimagined” before, and they’ve been translated into comic adaptations as well. It is Del Col and Dell’Edera’s new approach that makes this edition vital. This series manages to find that ever so difficult balance between reverence and relevance.

November 13, 2017

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Quick Hits: Hadrian's Wall

I feel like “murder-mystery set in space” has actually become its own sub-genre at Image Comics. It makes sense - people love a good mystery, and setting the story in a space station or aboard a ship affords interesting narrative possibilities. It’s your classic locked-room mystery (Murder on the Orient Express, Clue) But you can add interesting futuristic elements and take the story in different directions.  Below, I take a look at a terrific example of that sub-genre, Hadrian's Wall. Soon I hope to write about and Southern Cross, which I caught up on (through the first two trades) recently. Each is interesting in its own way and each takes the genre in different directions. 

Hadrian’s Wall
Story by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel
Art by Rod Reis
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by Image Comics

Hadrian’s Wall is a great, stylish and engaging space-noir mystery, and a story I very much enjoyed. It’s got some classic murder mystery and noir elements (a confined setting, an investigator with a substance abuse problem and a dark past, bad blood between him and the murder victim, and a lot more) and fantastic art and design choices that create a very appealing, engaging visual world. Hadrian’s Wall also tells a complete story in a single volume, something more writers should consider. I highly recommend this book. 
A lot of the fun of Hadrian's Wall for me was soaking in the visuals, and the very specific look the creative team was going for. The illustration and colors are from Rod Reis, and he does some fantastic work here. Reis has an engaging watercolor style with realistic, angular and highly expressive line. This creative team previously worked together on C.O.W.L., which was a terrific story which I’d describe as  “superhero murder mystery in a Mad Men world”. There, Reis did terrific work establishing a slightly different 1962, one where the city streets of Chicago were patrolled by superheroes employed by the city. Reis has terrific thin lines, and I think his work on Hadrian’s Wall represents a creative leap forward even from his great work on COWL. I would describe the style used in Hadrian’s Wall as being retro-futuristic, not in a 60’s space-age Jetsons kind of way, but very much evocative of the styles and technology of the 1980’s, and a number of different science fiction stories of the 1980's.

There are a lot of great detailed touches that make clear that the motif of the story is that it brings to life a vision of the future, as imagined through the lens of the style and cultures of the 1980’s. The look and feel of the ship is daily industrial and utilitarian (like the ships on Alien). The computers aren’t flat screen (they’re fairly big and bulky), everyone is using dot matrix printers, and the lettering on computer monitoring has a very bare-bones, MS-DOS look to it. They’re on starships, but all the technology just looks like a more evolved version of the popular tech of the 1980’s. At one point you even see characters listening to a recording on a small cassette recorder. Similarly, some of the fashion choices echo 80’s fashion - the space suits have a slightly 80’s quality to them, and Annabelle (one of the main characters) wears an outfit with shoulder pads that feel like it would’ve been at home in Working Girl.  The decision to set the story in this sort of “future as seen from the 80’s” world immediately won me over as it’s not only a fun choice that provided a nice sense of nostalgia, but it also illustrated something really interesting about depictions of the future generally. This really does feel like something someone would’ve created in the 80’s when imagining the future a century later. The reality is, we have no idea what the future will really look like. People thirty years ago could anticipate flying cars and fusion reactors but they thought fax machines would still be commonplace and couldn’t have anticipated wireless technology. It makes one wonder, what are the things that will become commonplace in the future that we aren’t even anticipating now?

I won’t say too much about the story in Hadrian’s Wall, except to say that it feels like it has a lot of classic detective story elements, but done in a fresh way. Detective Simon Moore is investigating the murder (aboard the ship Hadrian’s Wall, owned by Antares Interspace) of his former supervisor (Edward Madigan) who also happened to be married to Simon’s ex-wife Annabelle, who’s also aboard. Suffice it to say she doesn’t want him aboard, but there’s even more going on than it seems in this story. There are other people who don’t want Simon’s investigation to go anywhere, and a number of other people with differing agendas. All of this takes place in the right confines of a starship where there’s nowhere to run off to. The creators do a great job making it clear there could’ve been a number of suspects. They also make Moore, Annabelle and Madigan all sympathetic (or at least understandable) people. Annabelle initially comes across as a little stereotypically cold and shrewish, but we see there’s a complicated history and she’s got every reason to feel the way she does about Simon (and she's certainly given some agency and depth in the course of the story). There's business, politics and murder at play in a confined space, which makes for tense, compelling storytelling. The intersection of murder and big business and politics brought me back to L.A. Confidential, and if a story can do that, it's always going to be something I enjoy.

Ultimately, Hadrian's Wall is a very engaging story with a satisfying outcome. But even beyond the plot of the story, the creative team here has given us an interesting world to explore with creative and very specific visual and stylistic choices.

November 7, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop November 8th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

James' Picks:

Port of Earth #1 by Zack Kaplan and Andrea Mutti, published by Image Comics.
I like very much what Zack Kaplan is doing in comics thus far, and it's not just because we share the same last name.  I've really enjoyed his future-people living underground mystery series, Eclipse. It's a strong premise with great art and solid storytelling.  With Port of Earth, he's going even bigger, and having already read the first issue I can tell you it's a terrific read that serves to set up the premise of the story but also lays out the central conflict in a very effective way.  The art from Andrea Mutti is terrific, detailed, grounded work, and this is great pickup for fans of smart sci-fi stories.

Injection #15 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, published by Image Comics.
Injection is a weird, dark, fascinating series. I wouldn't actually recommend you start with this issue, but instead that you go back to the very beginning. Warren Ellis is fascinated with people working in the shadows who have a better, weirder, more interesting understanding of the world. In Planetary they worked hard to preserve the uniqueness of the world and save it from nefarious ends. In Injection? Well, they kind of screw up and make things worse. And that makes for some fantastic, intelligent storytelling. The art from Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire is fantastic, and if you're looking for a book to increase your sense of existential dread, this is a great choice.  

Paper Girls Deluxe Edition HC Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson and Jared K. Fletcher. 
I really love Paper Girls. I think you'll love it too.  If Brian K. Vaughan is involved, it's a story you're going to want to check out, and Paper Girls is no exception.  Vaughan is a master of creating real human characters with whom a reader can empathize and relate, and likely learn to love (I've really come to care very much about the characters in Saga). He also has a real ability to make even absurd situations feel grounded and relatable; while the situations may seem ridiculous, the emotions are real and honest. 

Moon Knight #188 by Max Bemis and Jacen Burrows, published by Marvel Comics.
I've enjoyed recent runs on Moon Knight from the team now working on Injection, and more recently from Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood. He's an interesting character that's not just a Batman ripoff, but a great way to explore introspection, mental illness, mystical gods and supernatural occurrences. I liked Bemis' work on Evil Empire (a weird, twisted and prescient series about an amoral, fascist dictator) and I'm curious to see what he does here.  

Rob's Picks:

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman, Published by Iron Circus Comics.
Melanie's webcomic gets a collected edition courtesy of Spike's press, and I couldn't be happier. It's about a teen who's not sure she believes in God...who gets sent to a Christian camp. I got my copy in the Kickstarter, but if you haven't had a chance to read this award-winning series from a great creator, make sure you pick this up tomorrow.

Force #1 by Shawn Pryor, B. Alex Thompson, and Jay Reed, Published by Action Lab.
This project started as a Kickstarter and is now finding a home at Action Lab, where Pryor works, giving it a chance at a wider audience. I've known Shawn for a long time, and he's a great guy who wants to see more characters of color in comics, with more creators of color working on them. Force puts Shawn's money where his mouth is, featuring both. Force is the story of a football player at the end of his time, and it reminds me a bit of something you'd read in manga--the action of the games mixing with the drama of the characters. This isn't your usual comic, and that's a good thing. Check it out!

Hack/Slash vs. Vampirella #2 by Shawn Aldridge and Rapha Lobosco, Published by Dynamite Comics.
I loved the first issue of this series, which features two women who kill monsters for a living meeting up for the first time. Like Mr. Pryor, I've known this Shawn for a long time, too, and he's also a great guy. He also absolutely nails the personalities of the characters involved. His Cassie is pitch-perfect, his jokes are terrible (in a good way), and his Vampirella is really scary. The whole thing has a nice air of sensuality, without tipping into exploitation, which is a big credit to artist Rapha Lobosco. This is a romp in the best possible use of the word, and I can't wait to read this issue and the rest of the series.

Kong on the Planet of the Apes #1 by Ryan Ferrier, Carlos Magno, published by Boom! Studios.
I know absolutely nothing about this. It's King Kong mashed up with the Planet of the Apes, and really, that's all I need to know to get my interest. How about you?

Mike's Picks:

Batman Lost by Scott Snyder, Doug Mahnke, and Oliver Copiel, published by DC Comics
DC’s Dark Nights: Metal has felt both familiar and novel, a fact that stands as testament to Snyder and Co.’s ability to innovate while tugging at the threads of the DC universe. If you’ve been a long time Snyder/Capullo Batman reader, the Metal event has been all that more fulfilling. This one-shot follows Batman as he descends into the dark multiverse. I hope Mahnke’s art is as gnarly as it was during Superman: Black Dawn.

Mister Miracle # 4 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics
I love that DC has realized they can have books like Mister Miracle, Ragman, and the entire Young Animal offering without worrying about where exactly such books “fit.” Nonetheless, I’m consistently vexed with my inability to pin down MM’s canon. Is this niche, or is it definitive? I don’t know. I know it’s good though.

1985 Black Hole Repo by Seth Sherwood and Josh Bivens, published by Heavy Metal
I bought by first copy of Heavy Metal ever a few months back. I was intrigued, if somewhat lost. I’m not going to pretend to know what I’m entirely in store for with this series. But I saw a preview for it in said issue of Heavy Metal, and I feel like I’m kind of supposed to buy it since it seems to be a nostalgic 80s cyberpunk adventure with crazy worldbuilding to boot.

Trillium Deluxe Edition by Jeff Lemire, published by Vertigo Comics.

Quite frankly, I’m surprised the original Trillium collected edition was a trade paperback. Lemire’s work deserves the deluxe oversized hardcover treatment. Prolific creators occasionally become repetitive. What has always impressed me about Lemire is his ability to consistently create new series drenched with originality. Trillium is truly a beautiful read, and this oversized hardcover should do it justice.