April 6, 2015

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Panel Patter Quick Hits: Dylan Edwards, Williamson/Bressan/Lucas, and Sarah Lazarovic

After a week off, we return with more short thoughts on some things we've read recently. We'll begin with a collection from queer-themed publisher Northwest Press, Dylan Edwards' Politically InQueerect...


Politically InQueerect: Old Ghosts and Other Stories
Written and Illustrated by Dylan Edwards
Published by Northwest Press

Dylan Edwards, author of the wonderful, Lambda Literary Award-nominated Transposes, created the characters Todd and Archer for his 2000 strip Young Republicans in Love, an obvious poke at gay republicans (which, let’s face it, is fun and easy to do). However, as Edwards writes in his introduction here, Todd and Archer soon demanded to be more than one-dimensional characters and proceeded to develop their own full-blown personalities. Following their lead, Edwards renamed their strip Politically InQueerect and took the pair in new directions.

This new 48-page full-color comic presents the guys' first long-form adventure, "Old Ghosts," along with a baker's dozen of Edwards' favorite installments of the strip. The story involves the pair flying off to visit Archer's childhood home in Jolly Old England to pay a visit to Archer's ninety year-old grandmother, go through family heirlooms, and help her move. According to Grandma, the house is haunted by the ghosts of a long-dead infant and a former Lady of the House. (Cynical Archer denies all of grandmother's claims as codswallop.) It's a fun, clever story, somewhat akin to a drawing room comedy. Archer's disparaging bluster, running smack into the patient sweetness of his grandmother (and Todd's wisecracking easygoing nature), gives Edwards a chance to indulge his talent for snappy repartee and tart, character-based comedy. Todd and Archer are vividly drawn characters who mesh well. Crabby, kvetch-y Archer would drive most anyone nuts, but patient (and sexy) Todd knows how to keep him in check, put him in his place, and even love him. Together they're a winning pair and fun to spend time with; hopefully there will be further stories down the line.  (Review by Rob Kirby)


Birthright Vol. 1
Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Andrei Bressan
Colored by Adriano Lucas
Lettered by Pat Brosseau
Published by Image Comics


With so many terrific comics out these days, Birthright is a book that could be going a little under the radar. That would be a mistake, as it's Joshua Williamson's most ambitious work yet, and a great blend of several different genres (high fantasy meets family drama!) along with being a fantastic-looking book. 

There are few things more traumatic than the loss of a child.  In this story, a boy named Mike goes missing and is presumed dead. The father is a suspect, and it breaks the family apart. Only the thing is, he's not dead. He shows up about a year later, but he's a grownup now who looks like Conan the Barbarian and he's got an amazing story to tell about a fantastical world he's been living in, and dragons and evil wizards and heroes. This book then moves back and forth between the action here, in our world, and the world being described by grown-up Mike (but it's clear by the end of the first issue that all is not as it seems with Mike). 

To start, this is a great-looking book. I wasn't familiar with Andrei Bressan's work before, but he does a terrific job illustrating both our mundane world and the epic fantasy world that Mike describes. Grown-up Mike is big and imposing and powerful, and delightfully ridiculous wearing his medieval armor and brandishing a sword in the most modern, mundane of circumstances. A lot of the credit has to go to Adriano Lucas. Thanks to his skillful colors, these feel like different worlds.
For this story to work, both worlds need to be convincing. The "real" world should feel like our world; it should look like it, and the actions and motivations of the characters should be believable and understandable. That's the case here, as the fear and loss and anger and frustration of Mike's family feel real. The resentment that his mother expresses at being the "bad cop" parent while her husband gets to be the fun dad? That felt very authentic. Simultaneously, this is an epic fantasy story, so it needs to be big and mythic and full of fantastic creatures and danger and wonder. It also does all of that pretty well. The other thing it does by the end of the first arc is make clear that all is not what it seems; there's more to this story than has been told. (Review by James Kaplan)


A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy
Written and Illustrated by Sarah Lazarovic
Published by Penguin 

Sometimes I stumble upon a New York Times cartoon op-ed-y piece and get a little curious about the content and swear to myself that I’ll start reading cartoon shorter-form journalism more often. And then, of course, I forget. What can I say, I like a comic I can hold in my hand- webcomics rarely cling to my memory long enough for me to pursue them further. Helpfully, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic is a pretty, physical thing, that I bought (albeit at the used bookstore for 2 bucks hooray!), and so I’m able to look at it and contemplate it. But oh, the irony of buying a book about not buying stuff.

Sort of like the Maira Kalman illustrated edition of Food Rules by Michael Pollan, and designed in much the same style, A Bunch of Pretty Things is collection of lushly but sparingly painted picto-essays about becoming a more thoughtful and careful consumer -- the titular essay is specifically about clothing, but she also reflects on quality vs. convenience in home decorating, the allure of fast fashion, and how consuming selectively helps her diminish wants and discern needs. Putting this in a visual context is useful - for those many of us who consume on an aesthetic basis (and are not all comics fans among that bunch?) the act of consuming images is a pleasant substitute for consuming tons and tons of STUFF. However, as a self-professed hopaholic from a young age, Lazarovic deals with label envy and quality standards that are far beyond my making-Target-sweaters-last-for-ten-years style. As a think piece, it’s interesting, brisk, and philosophical. As a book to put a stop to
one’s hoarding tendencies, it is only moderately successful. I can get rid of clothes, I can get rid of furniture, I can get rid of excess toiletries, but all bets are off when it comes to books. This bright
orange beauty is among them. (Review by Emilia Packard)