November 30, 2014

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Screw Job Anthology #1

Written and Illustrated by:
Blood Test by Box Brown
Shattered Dreams by Pat Aulisio
The Return of Wild Wanda by Lale Westvind
All Pig, The Book, and Adonis by Josh Bayer
Death to Hulkmania by Blake Sims
Folding Chair by Brian Ralph
Medico Asesino by Paul Lyons
Dear Deidre, Fantasy Role Model by Mickey Zacchilli
The Brief History of Limbslicing in American Professional Wrestling, Part 1 by Walker Mettling
Edited by Paul Lyons
Published by Hidden Fortress Press

Screw Job jumps into the anthology ring with several heavy-hitters, unrestrained creativity, and a nice variety of wrestling-themed stories in this 64 page mini-comic.

Wrestling and comics goes together like, well, just about anything and comics, really. I'm afraid that the interest in wrestling doesn't extend to me (I gave up on it sometime in the 80s), but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the enthusiasm that others have for the sport or an anthology themed around it. In fact, I had a lot of fun reading this one, as it features a lot of really imaginative works where the inner censor was not only turned off, but removed, smashed, set on fire, and then shot into space.

These are short stories that definitely fall into the raw, primal end of the genre. They'd fit right in with your copy of Suspect Device, and it's no surprise to find Josh Bayer here, along with frequent anthology mates Box Brown and Pat Aulisio. These creators understand that while anyone can make a raw comic, it takes talent and time to make something that takes that artistic freedom and craft a work that people want to talk about long after reading.

In the case of this anthology, it's clear that all of the creators involved are having fun working on a theme they'd happily talk to you all night about at a bar, if you were so inclined. While these stories are mostly fanciful (with the closing number by Walker Mettling going over the top, coming back, then finding his way over the top again), they are definitely based in a love of wrestling, then looking what the most outrageous ideas they can come up with are. (NOTE: In some cases, these stories may be based on actual wrestlers/events, and I'm not hip enough with the history to know. Any errors in noting fact from fiction are mine.)

Leading things off is Box Brown's story, which may be the most restrained of everything you see. Based on an actual situation (wrestler Abdullah the Butcher and an accusation of giving another player Hep-C), it's framed as an interview. Box's distinctive use of shapes and color works well here, highlighting the blood and matching it to Abdullah's shirt. It's a bit of an odd choice to lead things off, given how insane things go from there, but any chance to read more Box Brown comics is a good thing. Turns out that Abdullah really did do it, by the way.

A panel from Lale Wesvind's "Wild Wanda"story
From there, we move on to Pat Aulisio, with the color palate changing from the red-orange blood of Brown to a canary yellow, following a wrestler trying to face up to the fact that they didn't win a belt. This is Pat using his more abstract style, emphasizing patterns over figure work. [Edited to add: It's also about a real wrestler, Goldust, according to Pat.]

At this point, things go insane for the first time, with Lale Westvind's "Return of Wild Wanda," which features a female wrestler crashing on the scene via a motorcycle, violently taking down a plethora of male wrestlers, and ending with a rather creative use of ripped-off faces. It's filled with cartoon-level violence, and Westvind just barely keeps everything in line, using a style that makes all the characters big and blocky. Wanda grins despite the pain, and once she really gets going, her opponents lose more body parts than a broken Mr. Potato Head. It's really silly, laugh out loud funny--and will certainly only appeal to a select group.

Josh Bayer follows with the first of his three short pieces. Two of them focus around Freddie Blassie, who brags about his greatness and talks shit on everyone else, including the audience. Anyone who's read Raw Power or Theth will see some thematic similarities here, which also continue into the third short, which has Mister Adonis in the spotlight. All three comics relate to challenging the world, coming from the mouths of characters who are anything but likable. You'd think that Bayer would be one of the most outlandish creators involved here, but he's actually quite restrained, or at least it feels so, when you just come off reading a story where a person's spine is used as a weapon to skewer people. There's a lot of tight panel work, allowing Josh to fit in everything he wants Blassie to say, and the media figure head is appropriately vapid. There's a real consistency from panel to panel, as you're easily able to tell that it's Blassie by sight (if you know him), yet it still feels free-form. Just really great work, showing Bayer continues to get better with each passing comic.

Anyone sensitive about blasphemy will want to skip "Death to Hulkmania" which makes the dangerous choice to parody the death of Christ using wrestling figures, as Hulk Hogan is betrayed and taken down, only to rise again, which is appropriate, given that after a period of time, his career got a revamp as a darker figure. Blake Sims plays the art very straightforward, and really echoes the things that happened to Jesus before he was crucified. His figures remind me a bit of Fred Hembeck, which adds to the joke, and the offset red background coloring makes it almost feel like it was 3-D art. It's unlike anything else in the anthology.

As I mentioned above, however, the show-stopper here is Walter Mettling's "The Brief History of Limbslicing in American Professional Wrestling, Part 1." Set in the not-too-distant future, it takes the current need for things to become more and more outrageous and turns it into a vicious satire. As we move along, scientific advancements in transplant surgery don't make for better people--it leads to ever-increasing freaks of nature, as shark-arms, bear-bodies, and other "enhancements" lead to where we're inevitably headed--legalized murder on television. Mettling's line work is very thin, and often two-dimensional. If you've ever seen Daniel Johnston's work, you're not far off the mark here. Mettling's style isn't going to put him on the cover of The Comics Journal, but he more than makes up for it with visual gags that are hysterically funny. There's always enough for the reader to quickly understand what's going on, and whether or not it's in proper perspective isn't given a second thought. Once we get into bringing back former Presidents, it just goes into the surreal, and again--I just love the humor here, but as with most of the anthology, it's going to be something you either really dig--or really hate.

Screw Job is a niche work. Everyone involved knows this. But if you like wrestling and you like your comics spelled "comix" and are willing to brave the waters of the raw cartoonists, this is a lot of fun. Come for the names you know, and stay for the ones you'll be looking for later. This gets a hearty--but very specific--recommendation.

You can find Screw Job at the Hidden Fortress website.

November 26, 2014

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How Mystery Science Theater 3000 Changed My Life by Tyler Hauck

With the second year of the return of the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon coming up tomorrow, I figured this was a perfect time to examine this fanzine that Erica picked up (right before I was going to) at the Portland Zine Symposium in 2014. It's more than a typical fanzine, as Hauck uses the show's strengths (and sometimes weaknesses) to look at the show on a deeper level, all without going off on three thousand word essays or falling down rabbit holes of fandom that are interesting to talk about but make for boring reading.

I have a funny feeling most Panel Patter readers know about the show, but just in case here's the short version: Working within the spirit of Rocky Horror callbacks to the screen and stand-up comedy, Joel Hodgson created a show, with the help of others, that took really bad movies and talked back to them. Threaded loosely into the concept of being the plot of an evil scientist and his various henchmen and family members, Joel (and later, Mike Nelson), had to watch these movies to see if his will could be broken.

To survive, Joel created robots to help him make fun of the movies, which ranged from old black and white sci fi and horror to Japanese monster films to god-awful thrillers, beach movies, and more. Combined with skits that relate to the movie and references that are topical, obscure, and often laugh out loud funny, it went from being cable access to basic cable over its life, and things like Mike Nelson's Rifftrax and local movie viewings in Baltimore and other cities with "riffers" (as they're called) all come from this show.

It likely comes as no surprise that Erica and I big fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I believe her interest in the show predates mine, but to give you an idea of how important it is to both of us, my first-ever gift to her (before we were even officially dating, I think) was a VHS Copy of the first Mike episode, The Brain That Wouldn't Die. We used to watch at least one episode of the show every weekend before we moved in together, and even now, they're still in regular rotation, with some favorites (Mitchell, Pod People, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank) getting played at least once a year, sometimes more than that.

And in the spirit of "There Ain't No Tradition Like a New Tradition," we watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians every year on December 25th. Hooray for Santy-Claws!

While I am a fan of the show, I'm nowhere near the level of others, like Panel Pal Steve Seck, who has an entire poster devoted to MST3K, or Tyler Hauck, the author of this zine. Like my experiences with Looney Tunes, The Three Stooges, and other comedic vehicles, Tyler grew up on MST3K, as it began when he was eight. For him, watching the show "taught me my first lessons about deconstruction, the DIY ethic, intellectual history, and what is now called media literacy." That's an amazing description of the show's power--and why it endures when so many similar things tend to fade out over time.

This zine is a love letter to those lessons, broken down into 13 sections, such as "In someone else's trash, you can find treasures," "your heroes are imperfect," "it's okay to be a nerd," and "you don't need to be polished to be good." Each of these lessons gets a small explanation, discussing how the show taught Tyler this lesson, along with plenty of pictures from MST3k, typed out quotes, and background images from the show.

(As an aside, speaking as a person who creates zines, a huge shout out to Tyler for taking the time to ensure these pictures are clear and photocopy properly. It's not easy to get pictures to copy properly, and there are a metric ton of pictures in this zine. Well done!)

None of these sections are particularly long, but they are insightful and get right to the point. A typical example of this is from the section, "Mediocrity is the fabric of life," where Tyler lists actors who are extremely well-regarded (like Clint Eastwood and Raul Julia) that ended up in horrible movies for whatever reason. Tyler's point is that no matter how much we aspire, a lot of what we do won't be amazing--but that's no reason to give up. Similarly, echoing the imperfect heroes section, those we tend to admire have their moments, too.

That's really powerful stuff, and Tyler doesn't have to dwell to make the point. Some sections are barely more than a few sentences to reinforce the point. It's designed to make you think, and even long-time fans of the show like Erica and I were given reasons to stop and think about MST3K in ways we may not have before while also reinforcing some of our primary reasons for loving it and watching the same stupid jokes and awful acting over and over again.

But not Skydivers, which is so awful I have vowed not to see it again.

Speaking of bad-bad movies, Tyler's zine isn't all about being philosophical. Like many fanzines, there are also lists, such as "worst movies" which features Skydivers, along with the equally bad Castle of Fu Manchu, (not even watching Christopher Lee collect a paycheck can save that piece of @##&), and multiple examples of Coleman Francis, who Tyler argues may be the worst filmmaker in history). Best songs is there, of course, along with Tyler's favorite sketches. These are mixed in among the deeper discussions, are well-illustrated (with even episode name and number given), and provide a great breather.

How Mystery Science Theater 3000 Changed My Life is a great zine, and even if you are just a casual fan of the show, is well worth your time. Anyone who can quote riffs at will and argues the merits of Manos need to get a copy of this right away. You can order it online from Tyler here.

Happy Turkey Day, everyone! Watch out for snakes!
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Opus by Satoshi Kon


Written and drawn by Satoshi Kon
Published by Dark Horse

Fiction is a part of us. The life lessons we learn from the stories we are exposed to can not only define our personalities, but change our world views. Reading the right book, watching the right movie at the right time can truly change the course of one’s entire life. Satoshi Kon takes this a step further with his uncanny ability to seamlessly blend fantasy and reality – combining the sleeping world and the waking in ways that are almost always perfectly natural and never jarring. His work is often (if not always) an exercise in the application of dream logic to everyday life. Opus is Kon’s final, unfinished manga, created right before he began his career in animation and never completed before his death, and is metafictional proof that fictional worlds can be just as real as ours. Dark Horse’s newly translated version is an excellent example of Kon’s genius, and does much to gain Kon more much deserved recognition on this side of the Pacific.

Opus follows a seasoned mangaka as he finishes a long running work. The final page is drawn, a main character is killed off, and the story is finished. However, the creator gets sucked into the manga as the character breaks the fourth wall (as well as the walls of the universe he lives in) and steals the final page - voiding the ending and essentially introducing God into the world he created. As was stated before, Kon was never able to finish this story after putting it on hiatus in 1996 to concentrate on Perfect Blue (and launch his career in anime) before his death in 2010. However, he had planned out an ending, and Dark Horse was able to get a hold of and print the final chapters he had created. Mostly uninked, and with pencils that grow rougher with each page, it brings Opus from mind bending manga to full blown metafiction, and though it does not truly conclude the story, it makes for a perfectly satisfactory open ending that blows your mind and leaves you reeling.

There are a lot of things to say about Satoshi Kon’s work. His surreal originality made him a name in anime, and his animation style is both easily recognizable and rarely confusing (very important, considering the nature of the things Kon created). Before he did anime, though, he created manga, and it is easy to see in Opus why his transition was so successful. His style is filmic, every static image feels animated, every panel feels composed as if being viewed through a lens or on a screen. Opus in particular, being his final manga, carries these qualities well. The art is never boring, and keeps up a high and exciting pace. The dialogue is engaging, the translation never feels unnatural or strange. The story, in general, is excellent, a wonderful example of the kind of strangeness Satoshi Kon brought us, as well as the power of comics and how well they can be applied to mind bending metafiction.

If you have not yet experienced Kon’s work, this may not be the best for your first time (I would recommend Paprika for that). However, if you have even a passing familiarity with the man, this edition of Opus is everything you didn’t know you wanted (or maybe you did, I don’t know your life). It is full of all the things we have come to expect from Kon, from a time where things were rapidly changing in his life. The metafictional qualities of the book blew me away, which for me is reason enough to tell you to read it. However, it was also full of everything I want in manga, and I cannot recommend this book enough.

November 25, 2014

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Judge Dredd Vol 3 from IDW

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Nelson Daniel
Published by IDW

Out on his own, off in the wasteland, and forced to only use analog technology, Dredd sets out to stop the Circuit Court from destroying Mega-City 1 and setting up their own jurisdiction in a third arc that find this series really stalling out.

Stripped of some of the cooler parts of the first two trades (like the side stories that made it feel more like its cousin, 2000 AD), this trade was honestly a bit of a disappointment. While Dredd's character changes from writer to writer, it really felt like Swierczynski was straying pretty far off-model, finding the unswerving law-giver compromising in order to continue his quest to get at the circuit court. I haven't read enough Dredd to say, "He'd never strike a deal" but I admit, when I got to that point in the narrative, it had me thinking more about whether or not things were in-character rather than how the decision served the story.

Anytime that happens, it sours me on the story. I have no problem with stretching things a bit, to explore a new aspect of a familiar character, but when the stretch makes a reader want to cry foul, I think you have an issue.* Moments like that make me wonder why the story itself wasn't changed to allow for a different solution, especially since the moment literally hits the reset button for Dredd.

Differences over character approach aside, Dredd's move into the wasteland felt, well--wasted. He's got to get through the obstacles as quickly as possible, which is a shame because I wouldn't have minded at all spending an entire arc dealing with an amusement park full of demented rides and mutants OR a better fight against the cannibalistic Angel Gang and their unkillable chef, where the Ooze-ex-machina saves the day. It's rare to complain about a comic not slowing down sufficiently, but the whole thing feels rushed so that Dredd can get to the Circuit Court and be ready to return to Mega-City 1 by the end of the trade.

I don't think I'd have minded as much--after all, Dredd normally does things in 6-page chunks--except that the whole thing felt more about Dredd catching lucky breaks than Dredd making his own luck. Sure, he has moments where has to make the call--but it just felt like too often, just the right thing was available or something had to click in the exact sequence to work properly. It's just too many coincidences for my liking, and I'm hoping for better in the next arc.

Given entire issues to fill, artist Nelson Daniel doesn't disappoint, except that his mutants were a bit, well, muted. This was a chance to really explode artistically, and it came off more restrained than I'd expected. He still does a great job shaping the world--and illustrating some particularly disgusting concepts--but some of the variety he used in creating Mega-City 1 was lacking here. I'm not sure why the wasteland and the Circuit Court didn't get as much detail as the main city, but it could be the difference in having to draw a full comic.

That doesn't mean I didn't like what he opted to portray--the amusement park rides are demented, many scenes are extremely gruesome and brutal, and Dredd of course looks on-model the entire time--but like this series as a whole, it felt like things were held back. I absolutely loved the changed perspective for the mutant who can see variable futures, especially when how he "sees" these futures changes after he faces the cannibal gang. The layouts remained very strong and did the most they could with some of the weakest scripting moments the series has had so far.

Overall, this one dulled my enthusiasm a bit for the American version of Judge Dredd. Returning to the city should do a lot to help matters, but the problems I had from the start, most notably the fact that Swierczynski only takes on safe targets (like celebrity chefs), are still here. I was okay with that when the plots were strong, but another weak arc like this might find me letting this one rest and sticking to the original version only. Your mileage may very, but I can't say I'd recommend this one right now.

*The clearest example of this was when JMS turned Peter Parker into a bully. There's plenty of things Peter could be as a teen, but a bully? Oh hell no. That was my breaking point.

November 24, 2014

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Single Minded for 11/19: Dark Horse Presents More Good Stories

Been awhile since I looked at single issue comics. I'm going to try to get back into the habit. What better place than a week with one of the best anthologies out there, Dark Horse Presents?


Dark Horse Presents #4
Semiautomagic Chapter 1 by Alex de Campi (words), Jerry Ordway (line art), and Marissa Louise (color art)
Dream Gang Chapter 4 by Brendan McCarthy
Wrestling with Demons Chapter 4 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (words), Andy Kuhn (line art) and John Rauch (color art)
The Chaining Chapter 2 by Tyler Jenkins (words and line art) and Kelly Fitzpatrick (color art)
The Mighty Chapter 1 by Keith Champagne (words and inks), Leonard Kirk (pencil art), and John Kalisz (color art)
House of Fun by Evan Dorkin (words and line art) and Sarah Dyer (color art)
Published by Dark Horse Comics

The fourth issue of the newly revamped Dark Horse Presents (which has a 200th issue special coming up, even though the numbering has changed several times now) was extremely strong this time, helped by the addition of a new story from Alex de Campi and Jerry Ordway along with a closing number by Evan Dorkin that shows his razor sharp wit and total disdain for all humanity haven't lost a step.

While it's been a bit disconcerting that some stories are "to be continued elsewhere," something I don't really care for, I am happy to see things in full swing at this point, with some stories starting, others continuing, and one-shots like the Dorkin special. I hope that this time around, there's a greater focus on Dark Horse Presents as its own thing, not as a way to put together just enough material to release a one shot, as happened far too often in Volume 2--to the point that I gave up reading because I knew inevitably, there'd be a floppy collecting the ones I was most interested in.

I'd been eagerly awaiting seeing Alex work with Ordway ever since I'd heard about their collaboration and it doesn't disappoint. In just 8 pages, the pair create an entire magical world, letting you know that while it's set in a familiar place, something about the Yale we know has changed. Little touches like the extra eyes on a character or the fact that a cop isn't shocked when the main character begins drawing magical symbols on a comatose boy do more to set the stage than endless exposition.

Instead, de Campi can focus on the main character's internal struggles with what is going on. She's doubtful that things can change, and when a time-lost friend returns to warn her of danger, it sets the questions at the back of her mind in full gear--and leaves the reader eager to find out what happens next in chapter two.

This is a very tightly plotted piece, with no page space wasted. Ordway's ability to tell a story from back when a comic didn't need six issues to tell only two issues worth of information serves him well here, as he's able to depict exactly what Alex needs for her dialogue and narrative balloons. He goes from bored college kids inside a classroom to a typical New England suburb to displays of magical power without missing a beat. So many little touches (like cracks in the drywall of the house) or the flash of a concerned eye really take this story to another level.

With a great premise and two outstanding creators on the job, this looks to be a highlight of the next few months.

McCarthy's cover to Issue 3 shows off
his amazing visuals in Dream Gang.
Meanwhile, McCarthy's story, which I loved from its innovative use of dialogue balloons and amazing color palette, finishes off its first arc with things looking bleak for humanity's ability to dream. After all the color, we start seeing the drabness of life without dreams, introduce the heavies, and make it sure that our avatars are in for the fight of their lives--that many won't even know ever occurred!

Dream Gang reminds me a lot of something you'd find in 2000 AD, and I look forward to seeing its return at a later date.

Instead of spending a lot of time showing the demonic fights, which would have been a great use of Andy Kuhn's skills, we're moving forward rapidly in time in Palmiotti and Gray's Wrestling with Demons. Our hero has persevered, so now he saves his daughter--except that the rules of the game changed, because it's a demon setting the playing field. There's nothing new going on here, but it is a lot of fun to see Kuhn's illustrations. I just wish he'd gotten to do more of that and less of the human grit and determination sections.

After the second part of The Chaining, which I'm afraid isn't catching on with me, there's a new story involving Bat-scribe Peter Tomasi's The Mighty, which looks a lot like the main hero isn't quite as heroic as he presents himself. A skeptical cop has to keep him in line, no small task. I like Kirk's art here a lot, and the script is okay, but I'm not sure I need another anti-hero hero story in my life. We'll see where this goes.

So true, Dorkin. So true.
And of course, Dorkin brings the house down here with his closing number, a series of newspaper-style strips, some with recurring characters (like a zombie lounge act and a broken robot), that go for a quick gag that's often dripping with bile and acid. A typical example is the broken robot, who is even more horrified that he's opened a comic book shop than the time he may have killed a hooker. In another, Dorkin skewers himself for writing these comics in the first place. Some are more political in nature, like when he has God, sitting in a floating armchair, scream at faith-based healers for not using actual medicine or a hospital.

But the best of these is where a fan of the Dark Knight indicates he's willing to risk anthrax if that's what it takes to read about Bruce Wayne. It's that level of over-the-top, yell-at-the-reader style that makes Dorkin so entertaining. He'll exaggerate out as far as possible to make his point.

These strips are all small and tightly constructed, with a lot of close-up work and emphasis on the gag or the character design. We don't see a lot of detail, because it's a newspaper strip not a full page. Dorkin's able to show us just enough to nail each gag, and honestly, almost all of them are pretty damned good, something that's hard for anyone who works in parody comics to manage. I came away impressed and I hope Dorkin is able to do more comics work in 2015. He's seriously under-appreciated.

I'm a fan of anthologies, so it's easy for me to say "Go Read Dark Horse Presents." But honestly? Go read Dark Horse Presents, especially this month's issue. It's solid stuff, and I look forward to more.

Punk Mambo 0
Written by Peter Milligan
Line Art by Robert Gill
Color Art by Jose Villarrubia
Published by Valiant Entertainment

Living in the unlikely location of the Louisiana Bayou, Punk Mambo lurks among the dangerous swamps, using her connection to the punk scene to conjure up her magics. When she's given a vision of those who wronged her, she's off to seek revenge in London as this one-shot provides an origin for a character lots of people--including me--took an immediate liking to in the pages of Shadowman.

The idea of a British punk-rock kid who looks to Sid for inspiration--he's comically unhelpful--hanging out in Louisiana and still rocking her Mohawk while using voodoo dolls and accepting sacrifices from the locals is one of those things that's either going to appeal to you or turn you away. Milligan is clearly having some fun at John Constantine's expense here, especially as the story progresses and we find an aging magic user--who once tortured Mambo (nee Victoria) and others to sap their strength to grow his powers--trying to hang on in a world that no longer needs him. It's a bit of nose-tweaking to be sure, but Milligan mixes it in with so many other ideas and concepts--almost too many--that he can be forgiven. Mambo has her own story, and she's front and center here, confronting her past demons and finding out that sometimes it's better to just move on with your life and understand that going back to deal with those who hurt you isn't worth it.

Robert Gill's art style is far more realistic and straightforward than Roberto de la Torre, but he's still able to handle the magical elements well, giving them a sense of mystery and blurring the lines a bit when the story calls for it. Shifting from swamps to city and across time periods isn't easy, but there's a definite consistency, aided by Villarrubia's color work, which allows things to be dark without some of the obscuring issues we had in her original appearances. When the time comes for the creepy shit, Gill delivers, especially when we see the Constantine stand-in practicing his magics.

It's great to see Valiant branching out a bit like this to bring more female characters into its main rotation, which, given its 1990s origins, is a bit dude-heavy, as much as I enjoy many of the books. I'd happily read more of Mambo's adventures, which probably need to be solo, as I'm not sure how her talents would mesh on a team book. Regardless, fans of magical characters definitely should give this one a look.

Magnus Robot Fighter 8
Written by Fred Van Lente
Line Art by Cory Smith and Felipe Cunha
Color Art by Mauricio Wallace
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

What happens when all you were fighting for turns out to be something you didn't realize? You get a really jaded main character. I was iffy on this one after the first issue and the zero issue, but since I generally like Van Lente's work, I decided to go back and catch up to this point. Unfortunately, this still feels like a miss to me. Magnus's power levels are such that it's hard to believe he's ever in real danger, the idea of constant replication makes it feel like the whole thing's a video game, and the punchline--that Magnus was deceived for a greater purpose--just doesn't resonate for me at all.

When Magnus is laughing bitterly, I'm sharing his disappointment--and not in a good way. I understand nothing in comics is real, but I need something to ground me in a serious story like this one. I still feel adrift nine total issues later. The art team does a great job with the look of the book and the creation of the world, but it's not enough to keep me going. This one sets up a new jumping on point, but it's a jump off point for me, and I can't recommend trying it.

Sinergy 1
Written by Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma
Line Art by Michael Avon Oeming (main story) and Taki Soma (backup)
Color Art by Taki Soma
Published by Image Comics

They say sex changes a person, but it's never been quite so literal as when a girl loses her virginity and starts seeing monsters in this first issue that's visually innovative but features a flat story.

If you're going to do a book about a few select people who can see monsters where others can't, perhaps setting in in freaking Portland, Oregon isn't the best idea in the world. Effectively, this comes off as "What if Grimm were about fighting demons instead of fairy tales and legends?" and while that's not a bad premise, placing it in the same exact place as the extremely good television show means that if you aren't also note perfect, you're going to suffer by comparison.

That's exactly what happens here. The idea of sexual activity activating special senses is okay as far as it goes (after all, mutants in Marvel's world tended to get powers as they hit puberty*) but everything feels so ham-fisted. Dad bursts in while his daughter is having sex, for example. The girl has to come to terms with a new worldview, and that her father is a killer. (But don't worry, as we're told in a horrible piece of dialogue, "See, you're not all soul-sucking monsters. Fry's on our side!", he only kills demons that deserve it--another pale echo of Grimm.) The demons are gathering to fight against humanity.

If you think you've heard this all before, it's because you have. Now, I'm the last person to argue that things must be original. Heck, I just praised Punk Mambo for making allusions to Constantine. But if you're not going to be innovative, you need to at least use the tropes you're handling well. Neither Oeming or Soma convince me they're able to handle this copycat of one of my favorite television shows properly. While I give it a lot of points for having amazing color work (garish orange hair, green backgrounds, purple used as a featured shading for non-purple items, like a hockey stick) and trying to give the teen girl some agency, that's not enough to save this one. Unless you must have your dose of Oeming's blocky art style or are desperate for more Portland-based comics, this one is a pass.

That's it for this week! What did you read that you liked?

*Is that still true? I have no idea what's going on in the mutant world these days.
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Whit Taylor Interviews Dog City Press

I first picked up a mini-comics box from Dog City Press at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) in 2013 and was very impressed with the unique presentation, as well as the diverse array of mini-comics from a variety of up and coming artists, mostly Center for Cartoon Study (CCS) students and graduates. Since then, I have been keeping up with them and was excited to pick up their 3rd comics box at SPX. Publishers (and cartoonists) Luke Healy, Juan Fernandez, and Simon Reinhardt were kind enough to take some time to talk to me about their experiences curating these eclectic boxes.

[From left to right]: Luke, Juan, and Simon at SPX

Whit: How did each of you get into comics?

Luke: Well, I was never a big comics reader as a kid. Just a few here or there, as much as is normal, I suppose. I was always a lot more into animation. 

When I was 18 in my last year of school, a friend introduced me to web comics. I started following a handful of them, and I really enjoyed reading them, so I decided to start my own. It was so crappy. 

About a year later, during college, I was thinking of dropping out of my journalism degree, hated it. Comics were the only thing I enjoyed doing really, so one evening I googled cartoonist college degree, or something similar, and the trailer for the documentary about CCS "Cartoon College" came up. 

I wanted to attend, and I saw that they offered an MFA, so I decided to finish out my undergrad degree, and use that time to grind hard making comics so I'd have a strong application. 

Then yeah, it's been comics ever since, really.

Simon: I pretty much grew up reading comics. I was really captivated by superhero comics, even before I could read. I had a few uncles who were really generous with their childhood comics collections, so I ended up reading a lot of 70s Marvel comics, stuff like that. When I was in middle school, I definitely gravitated to the weirder ends of the mainstream and I started indie or alternative comics or whatever you want to call them around the same time.

When I was a kid, I definitely wanted to be a cartoonist, and I did make some comics, although I don't think I ever really finished anything. In middle school, I read Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics, which introduced me to the idea of mini-comics. Despite never having actually seen a mini-comic, I got kind of obsessed with them, and my friends and I would make our own on folded up sheets of notebook paper. 

I made comics, including mini-comics and strips for the school paper, throughout high school and college, but not super frequently or anything. It definitely wasn't my main focus. I would say I started to get more serious after college. I was living in New York, working at stressful, kind of unfulfilling jobs, and I started making mini-comics again for the first time in a few years. After I did a few, I felt like I was running up against my own limitations pretty quickly and that's more or less when I decided to go to CCS.

Juan: I attribute my affinity for comics reading and making to the fact that English is my second language. For most of my life I have struggled with reading and writing, both in English and in Spanish. It's really hard for me. I feel ashamed for it, but it is what it is. Discovering comics has offered me a language that I can speak with a high, natural fluency. I am so grateful for that.

I got into comics-making through Bill Boichel, the owner of Copacetic Comics. At Copacetic in 2009 he introduced me to the third issue of the Sundays Anthology. It blew my mind. It was three little booklets in a belly band. It was well crafted, honest, simple and oh so cute. It was full of comics by people I'd never heard. It was a magical little collection. 

Later, the second time I visited Copacetic in 2010 I bought Rachel Masilamani's Singing Contest. I was smitten with that little book. It was a $2 black and white story about a young woman who leaves her home to compete in a televised song contest for money. It was formally tight, yet playful and full of so much heart. I loved it and wanted to make my own. It was that book that motivated my first comic, Rinfon and Klaklou. After that I kept making booklets to share with friends or to sell at the local comics shops or local expos.



Whit: So, at what point did you decide to form Dog City Press

Luke: We formed Dog City Press during our first year at CCS. On Valentine's Day, I believe, so it would have been in February 2013. We were all in the same class.

I had the idea to make a cardboard box full of mini-comics as a sort of anthology, and I went to Juan and Simon to ask if they wanted to work together on it. Thankfully, they did, and we pretty much got straight to work on our first issue.

Over the course of a few weeks, we had worked out what we wanted the final product to look like, and had decided on the name, logo etc. of the press. Really, we all had equal input on each decision, and the whole thing came about through a lot of collaboration, late nights, and cups of coffee. We wanted the first issue to be a kind of showcase for both our work, and the work of our classmates. Pretty much all of the comics in issue #1 are re-designed versions of class assignments we'd made at CCS up to that point.

Simon: Luke's correct, it was on Valentine's Day that we first started talking about Dog City, although we didn't come up with the name until later. The first issue was conceived as a sort of a trial run, to see if we could get people interested in contributing, put the issue together, and sell them at shows.

So getting pre-existing work from people meant less risk and it also meant that we wouldn't be asking our classmates to make new work for us on top of what they were doing in school at the time. Also, we were really excited about the work that people in our class were doing and wanted to find a way to show it off.

Juan: I got really obsessed with Jordan Crane's anthology NON during 2012 and I was in awe of #5. As I mentioned, I loved how Sundays #3 worked as 3 separate booklets bound together as a single issue of an anthology. I got really excited when Luke came to me and Simon because I felt that I now had the opportunity to not only observe the tradition of the multi-object comics anthology, but rather could participate in it.


Whit: How do you decide on who to include for each box set? I've noticed that there are some people who have contributed regularly as well as new people. Do you stick with CCS people only?

Juan: The selection process has varied from box to box. 

We try to decide on who to invite based on what we think they would be interested in doing. Then, after putting together a suite of artists that we want to approach, we open up conversations with our desired artists to see what they want to put together for the publication. Sometimes people want to repackage old work, but most of the time people have wanted to make new work.

We don't stick solely to CCS people. In the second and third issues I reached out to cartoonists I knew in Pittsburgh: Christina Lee, Rachel Masilamani, Caitlin Boyle and Jennifer Lisa. 

Luke: We don't tell people what kind of comics to make. We always want to have people do work that they will enjoy and be invested in, so we more or less let them choose their own path. If anything, our only instruction is to think of the comic being made as a stand alone mini-comic, and not a piece from an anthology.

The whole idea behind using a cardboard box filled with comics, instead of a single bound book, was to preserve what makes a mini-comic feel special to begin with. Contributors' work can be any size and shape. We've had really big comics, like Dan Rinylo's comic from #3, and really small comics living in the same anthology without conflict. Books can read in atypical ways, like Jon Chad's piece for #2 which read calendar style, with a big fold-out page. Heck, even the poster has changed shape. The poster for #3 by Laurel Lynn Leake was a triptych, which I thought was really cool.

So, as Juan said, when we're looking for contributors, what we're really thinking is "Can this person make a really good mini-comic?" Basically we're inviting people whose mini-comics we like. This has mostly been people from CCS, since we've been asking people we know personally for now. But as Juan said, we've had some super talented Pittsburgh-based artists come on board for our second and third issue, and if we do another one, I'm sure we'd like to keep widening the circle.

I guess the only other thing we talked about when inviting people to contribute was the gender balance of each issue. We wanted to invite the same number of women as men, particularly when we were putting together issues #2 and #3. Issue #2 still ended up being quite male-heavy, due to a number of drop outs, but issue #3 is divided right down the middle, seven men and seven women. I can't speak for Juan and Simon on this, but I was really happy with that outcome. 

Simon: Like Luke said, we usually start with people we know personally. We don't offer very much money and it's a lot of work, so it's easier to gauge interest with people we already know. The first issue was deliberately mainly members of our class but after that we've tried to expand outward a little bit. It's a tough balance--speaking only for myself, I don't want the anthology to be exclusively CCS cartoonists or anything, but at the same time, there's a lot of people in the community making work that we're really excited about and that becomes a pretty natural starting place. Juan's Pittsburgh connections have been a real godsend in that regard. He's plugged into a great community there as well, and I'm really proud of the comics that have come out of that.

Repeat contributors are something we kind of figure out on a case by case basis. It's nice to have a bit of continuity from issue to issue but we also always want to have some fresh faces in there. I think that, other than Luke, Juan, and me, Iris Yan is the only person to be in all three issues. We're all big fans of Iris, and, although she has a big internet following, she doesn't have a ton of work in print that's accessible to the North American comics audience. Also, she's incredibly reliable, so we never have to worry about her blowing a deadline.

I'd also second Luke's comments about having an even gender balance in each issue. We did a pretty good job with the first issue but not as much with the second one, so I was also very pleased with the third issue.

Whit: What makes a mini-comic successful to you?

Simon: Well, I think you can make a successful mini-comic just by putting a good comic into print. But my favorite mini-comics, and the ones I'm most keen on including in Dog City, make use of the hand-made, small print run format to enhance the reading experience.

Some of the comics we've put in Dog City use the mini-comics format in obvious ways; for example, the do-si-do format of "Going in Blind" by Tom O'Brien and Alison Bannister couldn't exist in a standard square-bound anthology. But other comics make use of the mini-comics format in subtler ways--Jenn Lisa's comic "Garrettsville" has an immediacy and an intimacy to it that I think are bolstered by the hand-made format. You could easily include a comic like that in another anthology, but I think having it in it's own little book, designed by the artist, heightens the sense that you're getting a transmission direct from Jenn's hands.

Luke: I agree with Simon on the points he made. 

I love to see anything that feels fresh, and does something I've never seen before, especially if it's a new use of the words/pictures dynamic in a comic. But yeah, that's a bit of a tough question for me to answer. Mostly, I just kind of feel it out. The mini-comics I like the most have that je ne sais quoi, or x-factor, whatever you want to call it. Something special. If I like reading it on a visceral level, then it's a success for me.

I think something that strengthens the boxes over all, is the fact that each of us has slightly different tastes when it comes to comics and mini-comics. I am definitely most attracted to narrative work. I love to read a satisfying story, and a mini-comic seems like such a nice fit for a short, self-contained piece. I'd say that my tastes are probably a little more conservative than Juan and Simon's. I don't usually have a lot of patience for very abstract pieces, but I like to be convinced. So when Juan and Simon are both really excited about a cartoonist, or comic, it would take a pretty strong negative reaction for me to veto it's inclusion. And I think that works both ways. Or all three ways.

Juan: Part of the success of a mini-comic is how it uses physicality to its advantage. By embracing a physical format a comic can gain a lot of levels of meaning and feeling that effect how readers experience a comic. I believe that the best format for a comic is the format that ensures a reader bring to the reading experience the necessary state of mind, as desired by the author. 

I always ask myself, "Why should this comic exist in print?". If the totality of a comics' effect on a reader arises solely from the comics content, the comic might not gain much from existing physically. Something that I love about print comics is by existing physically it demands focused attention from the reader. There's a certain quieting of the mind that happens. There's a preciousness to the reading experience that I like.

For me, a successful mini-comic feels like an artifact worth preserving. I like for comics form and their content to be in tune with each other, or deliberately out of tune with each other. There a so many different harmonies that comics makers can elicit between the form and content of their mini-comics!  If it's a disposable story, I want a cheap disposable format.  Adding french flaps on a 16 page issue 2 of a sci-fi buddy comic or expensive, luxurious paper stock for a collection of autobio comics will likely have an averse effect on how harmonious the mini-comic reading experience is.



Whit: So, how do you distribute these box sets? I imagine it must be more challenging in some respects than single minis.

Luke: Truthfully, distribution has been somewhat of a headache from the start. Most of our sales are made at conventions, which is definitely the easiest way to get them out there, though it's not problem free. For example, when we went to SPX in 2013, we had a couple of issues transporting and storing so many comics. Since each box contains 10+ comics, it's like having to bring ten times the amount of comics you'd usually bring for an event. And then, once the boxes are assembled, getting unsold copies back from a show can be even harder. But it's definitely worth the effort.

Other than bringing boxes to cons, we sell the box directly from our website. Shipping can be a bit tricky, but thankfully, our readers are patient people, and the cost of shipping is included in the online price so we're not really taking any kind of financial hit by mailing out boxes. 

It was all fairly straightforward when we were attending school together, but since we graduated, and I had to leave the USA, Juan and Simon have both been great about working out a new system for shipping and distribution in general.

We've also gotten some copies into Copacetic Comics, in Pittsburgh, and we all think that it's really cool to have the boxes available in a physical store. In fact, Juan and Simon organised a launch event there for our third issue.

Simon: I would say our sales have been split pretty evenly between conventions and online, We sell copies at Copacetic for a few reasons. It's a great store, several of our contributors are based in Pittsburgh, and store owner Bill Boichel has been a big supporter. Furthermore, we've always been able to send copies of each issue with someone who was travelling to Pittsburgh, thus avoiding paying for shipping.

Otherwise, though, we don't really sell copies to stores. For one thing, the aforementioned shipping costs would be prohibited. For another, our profit margin on each box we sell is very small relative to the labor to produce each box. Most stores either operate on consignment or want wholesale prices, which renders our profit on each unit even smaller. 

We also have a very small print run--for this current issue we produced 150 boxes (which includes contributor copies, review copies, and copies that are unusable due to printing or other errors) and that was realistically about the upper limit of how many physical copies we could produce without either extra help or a lot more money on the table (or, more likely, both). What's fortunate about that is that we have so far been able to sell out our print runs pretty quickly. The first two issues sold out quick, it's a little early to say on the third, but sales have been good so far. So we don't really have to rely on stores to sell our boxes, which is nice.




Whit: I know that you all just put out #3 but what can we expect from Dog City Press in the next year? Also, are you all working on personal projects right now?

Luke: Well, we don't have any plans for the next year as of yet, but we've thrown ideas around in the past for post-issue #3 projects. 

Things have become a lot more difficult to co-ordinate and produce since the three of us are now separated by state and country borders. I can say that it won't be another box. We knew a while ago that #3 would be the last box. We loved doing them, but they're impractical to produce, especially without the resources at our school. We've done a trilogy, we're still proud of the final pieces, and I feel we've made our point. Mini-comics are great because they're mini-comics.

So while we don't have anything planned quite yet, I feel comfortable saying that working together was a positive experience for us, and has provided a lot of enjoyment and good opportunities. I'm definitely looking forward to working with Juan and Simon on something again in the (hopefully) near future.

As for personal projects; right now a story of mine is being serialized in Maple Key Comics. I'm writing the third and final installment. It's called The Exquisite Corpse, and it's kind of a genre-y sci-fi mystery about personal trainers.

I'm also working on a book-length comic, which is a non-fiction thing about Arctic castaways that should be done in 2016. I don't want to say too much about it right now, since it's a bit far off, but I love telling longer stories, so I'm really excited to be working on something a bit meatier.

Simon: I can cosign what Luke said--we aren't making any more of those boxes but we would like to work on some more projects together. We haven't figured out exactly what that will look like yet, but I know I would like to do more interesting print books of some sort.

The last thing I have to say about Dog City is just that it has been a real pleasure to work on. Both the editorial and production work with Juan and Luke, and getting to work with so many cartoonists work I admire, have been a great experience, an education, and a real source of pride for me. We have the best contributors, and it's been great to put all of their books together in these boxes.

As for my own work, I am focused on short form pieces for right now. Nothing that's really in a stage where I can talk about it yet, but I should have some new work online soon. And I'll be doing at least one or two conventions this spring, so I'm sure I'll put together some new mini-comics by then if not sooner.

Juan: Simon and Luke are on the money about Dog City future endeavors. There is a labor intensive project in the pipeline, but were remaining quiet about it until it makes its way into the world. The assets for this upcoming book are done and are beautiful. All that remains is the grunt work of producing this book. It's a very hand crafted book that requires a lot of care. Perhaps too much. I'm working full time in Pittsburgh so multi-day screen printing and binding sessions aren't possible.


 As for my own work, I'm a little lost right now. I'm trying to embrace this lack of direction and laying low publicly with my comics. I've been teaching small comics and zine workshops in Pittsburgh on my own. I'm also joining forces with Frank Santoro to organize monthly gatherings of cartoonists and comics makers to talk shop and work on drawing and writing exercises (often in the OuBaPo tradition, often in the Santoro School tradition). We're calling these nights the Pittsburgh Comics Salon, to hearken back to the salons of old. 

Thanks guys for taking the time to chat! For more on Dog City Press, check out their site!

November 23, 2014

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Celebrate New Year's Eve with new Roger Langridge

BOOM! Studios has announced that Roger Langridge's newest creator-owned project, Abigail and the Snowman will debut on December 31, 2014, bringing some pre-party cheer to those of us who are huge fans of Roger's work.

I first became aware of Langridge when he worked on the Muppet Show books for BOOM!, and I've become a huge fan of work, particularly when it's all-ages. This project was teased months ago, and it's exciting to have an actual release date attached to it.

Here's the premise of the series, from the release:
This heartwarming story follows young Abigail, the new girl at school with a habit of talking to imaginary friends. When her newest friend turns out to be a real yeti named Claude who escaped from a top-secret government facility, it’s up to Abigail to keep him safe from the “Shadow Men” chasing him.
I'm already picturing in my head the imaginary friends, the designs of the (probably somewhat clueless along with being mean) government agents, and the fun I'm going to have reading this mini-series. Anyone who's enjoyed Langridge's other work--and thankfully, there's plenty to like, given he's extremely prolific--definitely needs to keep an eye out for this one in a little over a month.

Abigail and the Snowman #1 is scheduled for a December 31st, release, and will be the standard $3.99, available in both print and digital, at your favorite shop or device.

November 22, 2014

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Small Bay Area Comic Conventions

More and more small conventions are popping up in the Bay Area of northern California, possibly to fill the gap left by Wondercon moving down to Anaheim a few years ago. More recently there was an announcement that the Alternative Press Expo will also be leaving San Francisco for San Jose next year. But here are some other great small cons you might consider attending: 



EAST BAY ALTERNATIVE BOOK AND ZINE FEST-

This coming weekend, Saturday December 6th, the Berkeley City College will host the fifth annual EBABZ. The event will run from 10am-5pm at 2050 Center Street, Berkeley, California. More information about the can can be found on their tumblr (ebabzfest.tumblr.com) at their facebook event page (www.facebook.com/events/718387144876330/?ref_notif_type=like&source=1) and at their website  (www.eastbayalternativebookandzinefest.com).


LUMA CON-

The high school librarians of Petaluma are teaming up with the local bookstores and comics people to create a small con specifically aimed at getting high school kids interested in comics, in reading, and careers in the arts. This hopefully annual event will take place on January 17th, 2015, in Petaluma. They want people for an artist alley! Email Nathan Libecap if you are interested at nlibecap@petk12.org. Here is the con's (very new) website:  http://lumacon.weebly.com/



BLACK COMIX ARTS FESTIVAL-

Also in January the NorCal Martin Luther King festival will be hosting the first annual BCAF. They already have a very exciting list of guest artists, speakers, films and panels lined up. Some of the guests include: Erika Alexander, Andrew Aydin, Kevin Grevioux, Keith Knight, Robert Love, Jeremy Love, Tony Puryear, Afua Richardson, Brandon Thomas, LeSean Thomas and David Walker. This con is still accepting exhibitor applications! You can apply for a table and find out more information about this event on their website:  http://bcaf.norcalmlkfoundation.org/


November 21, 2014

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The Wake

The Wake
Written by Scott Snyder
Drawn by Sean Murphy
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by Vertigo Comics

With its underwater industrial complexes, monstrous mer-men and the constant buzz of some impending doom, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake begins as a cross between H.R. Giger and Mike Mignola's nightmares as humanity loses and the forces of nature overtake the earth. Snyder and Murphy take us right up to that moment of inevitability, as a handful of scientists and adventurers watch the death throes of civilization as we know it. They’ve awakened a civilization of mer-men at the bottom of the ocean and those mer-men flood the coasts. Just as we watch the world as we know it end, Snyder and Murphy throw a wrench into the narrative and jump 200 years into the future. Previously in the book, they've shown glimpses of the past and future but now the focus is solely on the future as we see the world after the assumed apocalypse. Humanity struggles on but still hasn’t recovered from the civilization-altering upheaval that flooded the Earth. Within the span of this book, we go from Alien and the Abyss to Waterworld.

Murphy's artwork is nearly perfect for the first half of the book. Mostly set in an illegal undersea oil drilling platform, his dark, heavy lines are tailor-made for creating the claustrophobic environment. The characters’ oceanographic expertise doesn't prepare her for the discover of mer-men, the vicious and human-like race that we share this world with. With Matt Hollingsworth's softly luminescent colors, Murphy's artwork becomes oppressive, echoing the pressure of the ocean depths. He pulls you into the horror in that first half. You are there with the characters as they are lost and desperate at the bottom of the ocean.



The first five chapters make you think that you are reading a horror story. With his work on Batman and American Vampire, Snyder has built a pop-horror style that's fun and easy to read. The Wake delivers more of that but finds an artistic partner in Murphy who is able to suck the readers into the shadows. The characters in The Wake are clich├ęs (a divorced mother, a hunter, an academic bookworm) and Snyder never seems to want to make them more than that. He categorizes them more than he gives them personalities and stories.

But those thin characters hardly matter. You're not meant to empathize with them but with their plight. At the halfway point of the book, Snyder and Murphy jump 200 years into the future and pick up the story of Leeward, a woman who lives on a drowned Earth. The first half functions just to get us to the second half where the surviving mankind, as exemplified in Leeward, have to find out what it all means. They're left to live with the aftermath of the first half of the book but they're also responsible for finding the answers to the mysteries of the past. The underwater horror story is needed to lead into a futuristic pirate adventure on the high seas.

From the moody, suppressive horror, Snyder and Murphy begin channelling Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples as the future portion of the book more resembles Saga than anything that came before it. The wildly eccentric characters, the visions of recognizable societies disguised by sci-fi trappings and the whims of fancy Snyder and Murphy follow become a hardened Saga, without any of the family drama. Even the stories main character at this point, Leeward, looks a bit like Saga’s lead Alana, both having colored, short-cropped hair. The sense of fancy and fantastical in the second half of this book clashes with the darkness and confined pressures of the first half.

What links both half of The Wake together is the mer-men, the sea monsters who attack civilization in the first half and then continue to subjugate the world in the second half. These nameless creatures are the horror that Snyder and Murphy create that we're supposed to fear in the dark. For this story to work, they should be the creatures of our nightmares. Or at the least, they should be creatures that we understand the fear of. Instead, the mer-men are an anonymous threat, hardly terrifying or sinister as other horror creatures. There's the shock of them but they're never developed into anything beyond another deep-sea creature that we don't understand. Snyder and Murphy make them a threat in this book without ever making them threatening.


Maybe they are not meant to be the threat, though. In an odd swerve towards the end of the book, Snyder and Murphy try to bring the story full circle and look back to the cataclysms that flooded the world and even further back into time. The Wake isn't a book of us versus them but of them versus us, where maybe we are the invaders. That goes back to the initial pages of the book where Lee and the crew of scientists and adventures travel to the ocean depths to discover the mer-creatures. Mankind is less the victims in this book and more of the invaders. They're (pardon the pun) the fishes out of their water who awaken the mer-men through their intrusion into the corners of the world where man is not meant to be.

While the first half of the book is pure horror, the second half starts out as science fiction and uses that to begin exploring the ideas of what mankind may be doing to this world. The Wake is a gorgeous looking book that tries to be many things. It’s horror. It’s science fiction. It’s exploring. It’s adventurous. Unfortunately it never fully commits to any of these things so it becomes a patchwork story. Snyder and Murphy ambitiously try to tackle questions about the very nature of humanity but the book never tries to get us to ask those questions before it asks them for us.