November 30, 2015

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Monstress #1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress #1
Written by Majorie Liu
Illustrated by Sana Takeda
Published by Image Comics

It's time for a confession about the times that I lose my objectivity when deciding whether or not to purchase a title: animals doing human things and the steampunk genre. Unfortunately, lots of media that falls into the latter category chooses the aesthetic first and then worries about slotting the plot in alongside it. Luckily for us readers, and as confirmed by Liu's letter on the final page, this series isolated a solid plotline before concerning itself with showing off the elegant and beautiful world that it exists in.
Our protagonist, Maika, has a certain demeanour that allows you to easily root for her, but there's something that stops you from completely connecting. Despite how it sounds, this is not to the detriment of the character and instead adds to the overall mystery that surrounds her. Seeing how easily she connects with people and the strong relationships that she maintains let you know that she's a kind and compassionate person at heart. However, it's easy to observe that she's been profoundly affected by her past which is clearly the thing that keeps her moving forwards.

One thing that you couldn't say about this book is that it lacks depth; granted, the enormously oversized first issue helps, but the sheer amount of information that you learn about the world is staggering. Managing to avoid all of the expositional dialogue that fills up the opening sequences of most fantasy books, the information is subtly dropped into conversation in seemingly throwaway lines and the world gradually opens up. Not only that, you quickly discover what makes this world distinct from others of its kind. It borrows from steampunk, Ancient Egypt and classic sword-and-sorcery to make something that you won't be able to find anywhere else.
A common complaint in regular epic fantasy stories is their inaccessibility and the need to adapt to a new vocabulary in the first few chapters to follow what's going on. I've always accepted this as a staple of the genre and have come to expect it when adventuring into a new world, but Liu proves throughout this entire story that this doesn't necessarily need to be the case. By using common and familiar words in a different context, you realise that they have different meanings in this universe, but you are able to instantly grasp what those are.

Now the art; we really need to talk about the art. None of this could be possible without the phenomenal landscapes that have been constructed to breath life into these ideas. The level of intricacy and care that can seen on all of the ornaments and statues that sit in the background of scenes is astounding. Each scene shows off the level of forethought that has gone into the construction of this world as well as the influences that have inspired this beautiful design. Portraying light and shadow effectively is something that always impresses me so, as Maika sits in a cell and the light from the window falls across her, it's a very atmospheric moment that permeates through the rest of the scene.
The broad range of characters that we see have been afforded the same level of care as the world that they exist in. We encounter so many different people of all shapes and sizes and each one is given their own personality and implied backstory. However, Kippa the fox girl is absolutely the stand-out character from her very first appearance helped, in part, by the brighter colouring that is used for her. The pure innocence that Takeda imbues within her every movement will cause you to fall in love; her constant embrace of her tail has to be one of the cutest and most accurate representations of a terrified child that I've seen. The understanding of the complexities of body language shows off the pure talent here.

Stories are infinitely more fascinating when you can imagine the story unfolding from the perspective of both sides of a conflict and you would still have a compelling protagonist. The vast majority of the scientists that we see are not inherently evil and you can see that they genuinely don't think that they're doing anything wrong. You could easily and effectively argue that the maiming of small children puts them on the wrong side, but everything that Maika is doing isn't exactly free from scorn. This book raises the question "When does justice become unbridled revenge?" and then leaves the reader to formulate their own answer by letting the material speak for itself.
A review of this series wouldn't be complete without the mention of its strong female leads. While this is a problem that has definitely been improving in recent years, there's still a long way to go. Although it is not the be-all and end-all test for a piece of media, the fact that this comic can pass the Bechdel test on the second page speaks volumes about the equality here. Saying that, this book isn't here to promote an agenda; it's here to tell a phenomenal, creatively fresh and gorgeous series and, with so many other outlets also seeing the light, this book is going places. It's the perfect balance between everything that it draws influence from, and is trying to be, and it absolutely deserves all of the praise that it's getting.

November 27, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for November 27th, 2015-- Redefining the Mainstream

** We here at Panel Patter hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and a fun Black Friday (if that's your thing.)

** The panels that were worth pattering about this week.

** Diversity Is Reality, Mainstream Comics Needs to Catch Up: Interview with Spike Trotman (Women Write About Comics)- There's a lot of talk about mainstream and superhero comics going on so having O'Malley's tweet and WWAC's Spike Trotman interview cross over into may various feeds this morning was an interesting confluence of events.
The readership of comics is changing, regardless of what [The Big Two] do. They’re just exercising good judgement by trying to change with it. It’s not unusual for the small press and underground to lead the charge when it comes to subject matter, but there’s more than a diversification of genres going on right now; there’s a diversification of the audience. There are so many more types of readers and readers that aren’t afraid to ask to see themselves in the books they buy and read. It’s no longer socially acceptable to ignore them or a financially sound idea.
O'Malley's tweet is more about breaking into the comic business, which is something in a later tweet he says he never did, which feels like an odd thing to say for someone who had a movie made based on his most popular comic book.

This segmentation of comics is something that I hoped we would have been done with by 2015 but it'll probably never really end.  And part of it is that I don't think people want it to end.  There's this us-versus-them mentality that people cling to in almost every type of fandom and then spills into the creative cultures as well.   I wish that this division of "mainstream" and whatever we're calling its opposite today ("Indie?" "Alt?" "Art comix?") was just done and over with.

My personal view is that I want to embrace a new mainstream and actually I think that's happening more than these creators recognize.  Image Comics (which O'Malley has a book coming out from sometime in the future) is defining a new mainstream but it's also Archie's attempt at revitalizing their characters.  It's Boom Studios embracing the Nickelodeonization of comics and storytelling.  It's Dark Horse and Oni Press, even as their trying to find their own intellectual property to develop and exploit, giving creators a chance at doing something different.

There's a lot of good comics out there coming from so many different sources.  While DC and Marvel are the main focus of the direct market road of comics, they do not define the mainstream of comics anymore.  If anything, like Trotman says in the interview, they're reacting to the mainstream as they try to stay relevant to the developed and growing audience that's so different than what their core has been for ages.  As we continue this us versus them mentality, let's remember that the "us" in this is actually winning at this point in time.  Marvel and DC are noticing and reacting.

** Jillian Tamaki's Early Stories continues with Part 2.

**“I Had Moments Where I Just Broke Down Crying’: An Interview with Bill Griffith (The Comics Journal)- This interview/transcript of a Bill Griffith panel at this year's SPX is enlightening.  I've never really read much Zippy the Pinhead but his new book Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair about his mother and her affair with a forgotten cartoonist sounds fascinating.
Lariar wrote three cartooning books. His approach to cartooning was the same as his approach to everything: Make a buck, do what they want, get it out there, don’t be too arty about it. In the book I imagine if he had indeed mentored me, as he suggested – by the way, I know this from my mother’s novel. My mother wrote a 84-page novel about a family saga, going back to her parents, into her life, all the way up into the late 1960s. I’m the only character in the family not in the book, which I wonder about. I’m kind of grateful [muted laughter]. My sister comes off a little bit complicated.

** The Revolution Will Be Illustrated: Two SF Graphic Novels Whose Politics Are Most Relevant Than Ever (Barnes and Noble)-- The headline may be a bit a slight bit hyperbolic as B&N tries to make the call that Invisible Republic and The Omega Men are the political comics that we need right now.  
Today, terrorism and revolution permeate our world, from the Middle East, to Europe, to homegrown terrorists in America. Two current comic series, The Omega Men, by Tom King and artists Barnaby Bagenda and José Marzán, Jr.; and Invisible Republic, by Corinne Bechko and Gabrial Hardman, focus on terrorism and revolutions in the far future, but they have much to say about what’s happening today.
Both of these comics hint at what the author is trying to get at in this ultimately promotional piece so it'll be interesting to see where these comics end up and whether they live up to the idea that they have "much to say about what's happening today."

** HATKE, STURM, KNISLEY, YANG (ICV2)-- ICV2 highlights First Second's spring/summer lineup of books.  I'm particularly looking forward to Knisley's new book.

November 25, 2015

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Huck #1

Huck #1
Written by Mark Millar
Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque
Colors by Dave McCaig
Letters and Design by Nate Piekos
Edited by Nicole Boose
Image Comics

You know those situations where someone is very publicly giving you a gift and you're surrounded by family or friends and feel like you need to tell them how much you love the gift and be demonstrative on how much you love it (regardless of how you actually feel about it) because that's what everyone's waiting for?  That's how I felt reading Huck.  It's a book I wanted to love, but about which I ended up having profoundly mixed feelings.  There's plenty to enjoy here (particularly the gorgeous art from Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig) and it's an interesting premise, but it's wrapped in self-consciously "un-cynical" feel-good packaging that didn't quite work for me, along with a few story elements that felt off-putting.

Mark Millar knows how to tell an engaging, highly entertaining, accessible story as well as anyone, and because of his history of success and his generosity to his artistic co-creators, top artists want to work with him. I consider The UltimatesOld Man Logan and Superman: Red Son among my all-time favorite comics, and recent works like Jupiter's LegacyStarlight and Chrononauts are all stories I've loved in recent years (particularly Starlight). That being said, I recognize that he's also a divisive creator, as he creates comics that are self-consciously "edgy", brutally violent, sometimes make light of rape and other serious issues (or just use them as story elements in problematic ways), often come across as profoundly cynical (e.g.: Wanted, Kick-Ass, Nemesis, some parts of his run on The Authority) and can have a sense of meanness and ugliness to them. 

So, this may be one of those times when I realize that I am being influenced by something outside of the four corners of the comic book itself, which is either exactly the right way or exactly the wrong way to review a work of art, depending on who you ask. In this instance, I am aware that Millar wrote a recent post where he stated that Huck was self-consciously intended as an antidote to some of the violence and cynicism that he sees in popular culture (in part as a response to the violence of Man of Steel). To quote Millar:
But we have to remember that these characters were created in the Great Depression to lift our spirits in the darkest times. When things are tough we maybe need a nice, uncomplicated hero a little more and so, like I said, I’m trying this once just to see what happens. As a reader I’m desperate for it. As a writer, it’s been a sheer joy. But both myself and artist Rafael Albuquerque have created something we haven’t seen in a very long time with our new book and that’s a lovely, sweet, Jimmy Stewart/ Tom Hanks/ Steven Spielberg kinda good guy. It’s out this week and we called this thing HUCK...
We really need something to make us feel good right now, this week perhaps more than any other in recent memory. Our job as writers and film-makers is to entertain as well as naval [sic] gaze about the human condition and Huck is my response. I wanted to create a ‘feel-good comic’ like Forrest Gump and ET and The Goonies and It’s a Wonderful Life are ‘feel-good movies’ and I want to see the impossibly-likeable Channing Tatum as Huck and Rihanna as the beautiful girl in town he’s too shy to talk to.
It is in this context that I looked at Huck.  Can something feel utterly sincere and completely calculated at the exact same time?  Because that quantum duality is the feeling I got when reading this comic.  As far as the story, Huck is a simple, kind, generous guy living in a small town that knows a secret: he's got incredible super powers (speed, strength, durability, etc.).  Huck does one good deed each day, and the town keeps his secret.  They've got a good thing going; his good deeds benefit them, and he's sweet and harmless (Forrest Gump by way of Hercules). Eventually this status quo is upset by new folks coming to town, and by Huck deciding to take his good deeds global (which gets people's attention). It is on this note that the first issue ends.

It's probably just in my head, but I feel like saying critical things about this comic is a little bit like yelling at or criticizing a puppy. A self-consciously earnest, cloyingly sentimental, and "feel–good" puppy, but a puppy nonetheless. So, while it ultimately didn't work for me, there's a lot to like in this comic. Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig do some really wonderful work here. The first 5 pages of the comic are almost wordless and the art team does excellent work in establishing the feel and tone of the series. Albuquerque's line work is tighter here than it was in the fantastic EI8HT (where a loose, scratchy line made perfect sense given the weird wasteland setting) and his character design is detailed and fills each character with life and distinct personality. Huck's personality really does come thorough in the art - kind, straightforward, goofy, a little odd. For those used to Albuquerque drawing vampires or very scary people doing very bad things, it's almost unsettling to see him draw non-murdery people.  This is a quieter, more atmospheric book in parts, with some fun action as you see what Huck can do, and Albuquerque is a highly skilled visual storyteller who excels at both dynamic action and quieter moments. 

The coloring from McCaig is similarly skillful. The night skies are starry, the town is sun-dappled and sepia toned, and Albuquerque and McCaig do great work in establishing the feel of Huck jumping from car to car roaming freely (you can almost feel the evening breeze). Their art also very clearly establishes the setting of the story as a mid-fifties to early sixties America somewhere in the Heartland; the coloring does a lot to establish the classic/old-timey feel of the comic (you expect to see lots of kids with crew cuts riding their bikes around the neighborhood). Everything from the cars people drive to their clothes says "Happy Days".  So it's sort of unsettling when you see Huck watching TV and he's presented with a story about the Boko Haram group, a very modern phenomenon.

This is a well-made comic, and Millar's direction and dialogue work within the context of the story.   Huck's kindness and motivations come across.  So what's my problem then? Why not just leave well enough alone and enjoy a well-made comic? I think (apart from the general observation that it's a critic's job to look critically at something and not just say "that was fun") there's a few things that just don't work for me in the comic, along with the fact that it's not just that the comic was expressly designed to be "feel-good" and anti-cynical (which in a way is its own version of cynicism), it's that I can feel that precise motivation coming across and it dampened my enjoyment of the book. 

There's a couple in the story and they're new in town. Huck finds the wife's (Diane) missing gold chain under the water and secretly brings it to her. Later on an older woman in town invites the woman over for coffee and tells her about Huck and how he's the town's wonderful secret and how kind he is. Like many people presented with evidence that Superman lives down the street from them, the woman can't just accept this as face value. However, her incredulity (and that of her husband) at this situation is just presented as cravenness. Diane asks why Huck wouldn't just use his powers to make himself rich, and then when Huck takes action on a more global scale, Diane's husband wonders how much they can get from bringing this to the media. These characters feel to me like a built-in defense to any critique of the story, as the only people who question the wonderful feel-good miracle that graces the town also seem to have only one other defining trait - greed. Who knows, maybe they'll be like the Grinch and they'll come around, but the whole thing feels like an argument that you (the reader) would have to be greedy and cynical not to just love the comic for its heartfelt positivity. 

I also had a problem with the sequence involving Boko Haram. It doesn't surprise me if villains in a Millar story are cartoonishly villainous, but there's something that felt slightly off to me about this lone white guy making his way over to Africa to use his fists to solve difficult problems. I think it's an effort to feel topical and current, but it felt forced.  Given the classic Americana feel that's been strongly established through the art in the story, the trip to Africa to solve terrorism feels incongruous (and makes me confused about when the story takes place).  And it also may be just my take on the story, but Millar chose as an antagonist someone who's evil is beyond dispute and without question, so only a a pure cynic would question Huck's actions (and by extension, the story).  Here's someone (an African terrorist group) who doesn't believe in Huck, and they're terrible (which, I get that Boko Haram is actually terrible). But the characters in the story either believe in the wonder and magic of Huck, or are greedy/evil.  In a way this is somewhat similar to Millar's work in Starlight, where the secondary characters that don't believe in the main protagonist come across as selfish and small, and the villains are cartoonishly evil.  I think these ideas worked more seamlessly there, as Starlight was an homage to Flash Gordon style pulp adventure stories (and all the evil is set on an alien world, as opposed to being a very real, topical evil); maybe this story is best read in a similar light. 

But Huck is a really well-made comic, so it almost, almost works for me. I honestly would recommend the comic, because it's a beautiful book with an interesting premise (and your mileage may vary). I'll likely pick up future issues, because I'm curious to see whether Millar does something interesting and non-obvious with the premise (and because I've enjoyed many of his stories before).  But Huck did not have its intended effect on me.  Maybe I'm a cynical heartless bastard, or maybe I just don't like everyone waiting for me to tell them how good the feel-good gift makes me feel. 

November 23, 2015

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7STRING - Volume 1 by Nich Angell

Written by Nich Angell
Illustrated by Nich Angell
Published by Big Punch Studios

Finding your way through life and prioritising your own personal goals without compromising the dreams of others is a dilemma that everyone faces at one point or another. Now imagine that this journey is set against the backdrop of a musically-imbued universe where your very being is held together by the song that drives you forwards. Everyone has their own inner tune and rhythm that defines their life force and people are required to define their own solo while also attempting to harmonise with everyone around them. Oh, and people fight with weaponised instruments; that's also kind of important.
Falling into the standard fantasy mold, Angell fills the speech with familiar and yet wholly unfamiliar terms that force you to adapt to a new way of thinking. Instead of the brand new and unpronounceable words that you usually encounter, this is recognisable musical nomenclature that establishes that, while the words are familiar, their usage most definitely isn't and this isn't the world that you think you know. By setting this up early on, when they are included in quick succession later, it doesn't matter that the usage clashes with your existing frame of reference and you are able to enjoy the new language for what it is.
Accompanying this brave new world is a beautiful realisation of the music that runs through the veins of daily life. Creating a physical representation of something that usually only exists in non-visible forms could have easily backfired; the smooth feeling that has been imbued into each panel allows you to easily connect with it and believe that, if music were to have a form, then it would look like this. By then combining this swirling aesthetic into the actual structure of the panels themselves, there’s a true feeling of totality so that, in the space of the three issues, you already get the feeling of a very established idea that has been lovingly and painstakingly poured onto these pages.
Confrontation in a world that is built on the foundations of a usually passive construct like music isn't immediately apparent. There was a chance that it would manifest itself in a metaphorical “Battle of the Bands”, such as in the Scott Pilgrim series that Angell clearly draws influence from, but it's taken in an entirely unexpected direction. This series will take instruments that you think you know and use them in ways that wouldn't even consider; it's clear that each style of fighting is fully fleshed out and it will amaze you with its simplistic complexity.
The Melodia seen so far has been divided into four great nations, as any legendary fantasy is, where each group are masters of a different kind of weapon. Woodwind, electronic, strings and percussion instruments have become so ingrained in the culture that it has affected their very way of life. Our protagonist, Zachary, fights with a guitar/sword combination that has to be one of the most majestically constructed weapons I think I've ever seen.
He channels his musical prowess with the mythical 7-stringed instrument to generate a weaponised form of his talents which he then projects back at his foes. My favourite moment in the volume that epitomises the unexpected story beats was the reveal of the electronic nation's unique abilities: a character samples what would be a devastating blow and sends it firing right back into his aggressor's face. Not only is it a shrewd demonstration of a new ability, it continues to show off what you can create in a book when you think outside the usual confines of the panels.
Looking at the beauty of the battles themselves will bring delight to your eyes from the unconventional integration of the panels with the action to the bright colours that fill up your vision. There is a certain aura to the action that falls somewhere between a cartoon such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and the exaggerated motion from anime such as Sword Art: Online. One particularly impressive shot is where Zachary emerges from another realm and, in one clean motion, leaps into the air, slices open the roof of the car and then lands, sword drawn, on the road behind. It makes you feel as though you're watching an true animation and that is an extremely rare feeling.
Bringing a certain majesty and intricacy to the design only adds to the sense of realism that oozes from this title. There are some truly fascinating designs that invite so many questions about the world and invite you even further in. My personal favourite example of this, and the splash page that is going to remain in my mind for quite some time, is the view of the Hanging Village of Trill; it's such an impractical and unstable design that the history behind its initial construction and the way that people exist on it during their day today lives is unbelievably intriguing. While this village hints at the hidden depth, it is by no definition the only proof and you are going to find your own piece that keeps you coming back for more.
After all of this plot, there are a pair of two-page spreads in the third issue that begin to explain the deities that rule over Melodia and start to delve into the aforementioned themes that run as an undercurrent to the main story. There are people in the lore of this book, known as soloists, that are meant to pave the way for success and are destined for greatness. However, what these pages emphasise is that, even though this may be so, that doesn't make what everyone else does less important. Every single person is the protagonist of their own story and their harmonies are what make life worth living; this sings out to me from this book, and it's a message that I can really get behind.
This volume is a fantastic introduction into a phenomenally strong world that, while it unloads a lot of information on you, is so rich and vibrant that decoding never becomes a chore. With the information contained within the last few pages of this collection, there seems to be endless possibilities for what Angell can do as everything continues to emerge from the cocoon that he's begun to set up. Fantasy can often constrain itself to standard sword and sorcery tropes, but these established approaches have been utilised in fresh and innovative ways. You can't help but imagine the soundtrack that would accompany this title if it were adapted into animation and, with a book that generates such a strong auditory response, I truly believe that it would make a fantastic accompaniment to your life.

November 21, 2015

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Graphic Nonfiction: Maritsa Patrinos Discusses Con Life

When you read this, I'll be at the Oregon Science Fiction convention here in Portland, where I'm honored to be a significant panelist for the first time, including three related to comics on Sunday. So I thought I'd share this comic from a little while ago, in which creator Maritsa Patrinos discusses life as a person who tables at comic cons.

While this panel shows the fun part, there's definitely more to it than just fun, games, and stacks and stacks of cash:

And if you are reading this and are planning to be at Orycon, please say "hi!"

November 20, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for November 20, 2015-- Superhero comics aren't just for kids anymore!

** And let's all be thankful about the comics that were pattered about in the last week.

** Jupiter's Legacy: Its real legacy will probably be a not-very-good movie (Warren Peace Sings the Blues)-- It's almost like Matt knows what's sitting in my to-read pile right now and is trying to warn me against going down this particular rabbit hole.  

Here's the thing with Millar: he tries to seem relevant, or at least new, when he's creating these takes on superheroes, but there's never anything going on below the surface. In this case, he seems to be going for a generational story, possibly commenting on where society is now versus where it was when superheroes were first created. But he doesn't actually have anything to say about either generation or time period; they're just the latest mold into which he can pour a violent superheroic conflict.
Now, it's interesting timing to see this because James K. and I have been talking a bit about Millar this week.  I honestly can't remember the last things of his I've seriously read.  I really enjoyed his Ultimates when it was coming out but the legacy of that title makes Millar's work on it really suspect (as if his own writing hadn't done that.)  And that Communist Superman story really could have been something if it hadn't tried so hard to be Alan Moore (and from Matt's review of Jupiter's Legacy, I think that book is trying to be Alan Moore as well.)  And at least Chosen help up decently after a second read a few years ago.

Millar's a writer I try to like but who I just don't trust. I like to think he's being honest when he creates his comics (even though they're pretty much movies before the first issue hits the stands) but so much of his comics are built on their simple Hollywood pitches and I don't know how much farther they go than that. I've got Jupiter's Legacy and Jupiter's Circle sitting on my to-read pile because the artwork looks lovely in both of them.

It goes back to that big F-U at the end of Wanted. Ever since then, I just don't know whether Millar's joking with his audience or subconsciously in contempt of them. The truth is probably a little bit of "a" and a little bit of "b."

** Alias Was Marvel's First Adult Comic That Was Actually For Adults (the site formerly known as io9)-- Because, you know, butt sex.

(That's a bit of a cheap shot.  And not to go too far into the weeds of Panel Patter: Behind the Scenes, this is a series that Rob M. and I recently were discussing in prep for the Netflix show.  I have read all of Alias and its followup The Pulse and fondly remember them.  Jessica Jones and Luke Cage's relationship was probably the best thing in Bendis' interminably long Avenges run.  I really need to check out this comic again to see if it holds up better than Bendis' Powers, another of his books from the same time period that feels so much a part of its time that what he and Oeming are doing now reads like them trying to recapture that lightning in a four-color bottle.)

** DK III The Master Race The Bait and Switch

So this poster has been hanging in the front window of my comic shop for a while now and I'll admit that I bought into the hype.

Can we count the things now wrong with it?

1.) The Epic Conclusion to The Dark Knight Returns Trilogy? (The first quote is from an interview Miller did for Vulture.  The second quote is from Newsarama's latest interview with him.)
How did DC’s publishers react when you told them you wanted to do a fourth installment? " 
Absolutely not," they said. They said it wouldn't sell. ... Of course they were up for it!

2.) Frank Miller?
Newsarama: Frank, I know you always wanted a third part to the story. Did you always know what this third part would be about? 
Frank Miller: It is in Brian Azzarello's hands right now, and I thoroughly applaud what he's doing. But now that he's doing his, it's now a four-part series. I'm doing the fourth.
And perhaps only mildly surprising, neither site published any kind of followup aksing about his involvement in the next week's Dark Knight III, even though it was pushed from the very beginning as Miller's return to the character.

Heck, here's even the current ad on Comic Book Resources that's running as I was trying to look up their original announcement of DKIII.

Written by Frank Miller?

Or as CBR quoted Jim Lee back in April, 2015?

"We are thrilled to have Frank back home at DC writing Batman," Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Co-Publishers for DC Entertainment, said in a joint statement. "The story he and Brian have crafted is an astounding and triumphant conclusion to this seminal body of work which influenced and shaped generations of readers and creators alike."
Oh, well,  Maybe we can start living in hope of All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, written by Frank Tieri.

November 19, 2015

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Plans We Made by Simon Moreton- "We were sure we'd never see an end to it all"

Plans We Made
Written and Drawn by Simon Moreton
Published by Uncivilized Books

On his website, Simon Moreton has a great explanation for Plans We Made: “It’s about being young, but probably about being a grown-up, too.” Looking back at his youthful summers, beginning when he was only twelve, Moreton keeps his storytelling so simple and elegant that it makes his experiences very universal. His own childhood is tied to South East London in the late 1990s but Plans We Made is not about any specific place but more about the experience of being a kid and having the world be as big as the neighborhood around you.

Telling stories of being young, hanging out and having days of no worries other than what he’s going to do that night, Moreton’s book is a languid piece about times that feel like they’re always on the verge of ending. “Nothing gold can stay” as the poet says but Moreton and his friends, like so many kids before and after them, are existing merely in the moment. And Moreton, with his sparse narration and wonderfully gestural drawings, makes these moments that you can linger on and recall your own similar experiences.
"We used to meet at the postbox by the cornershop."

Moreton isn’t trying to recreate his own experiences in any great detail but, his storytelling suggests more the essence of his teenage summers. Of course, the simpleness of the story may be a universal nostalgia for our own teenage years. His drawings, more impressions of memories and events, lack any details that creates any specificity but, it allows you to fill in the people and events with your own friends and memories. And maybe it’s a universality of suburban childhood but that simpleness in the story transverse a continents and decades.

The way that Moreton illustrates these moments of his teenage life are wonderfully suggestive and open. His loose, sweeping lines adds to the unending feel of his summers. The abstract spaces he creates are without boundaries so that the world feels large and full of possibilities. But his drawings are suggestive enough though to make the experiences in those spaces feel authentic and contained. Even though the world feels wide open, there’s only so much freedom that can be experienced and Moreton’s drawings capture that conflicting expanse of possibilities and the limits of experience.

Suggesting the chaos of a party

And like all good stories about growing up, there has to be the loss of innocence. There are many ways for it to happen but for a book so aware of its environments, its Moreton’s final September at home in 2001, that becomes that moment. For so much of Plans We Made, the space and environment he creates is about his specific small plot of his planet. It’s a suburban existence that doesn’t look at any kind of life beyond the suburb. At least it’s that way until the world forces it not to be. And it’s a great and surprising shift because Moreton brings that exact moment back for his readers as well. Just like the shape and form of the world didn’t change, Moreton’s drawing doesn’t change but your experience of everything before September 11th and everything after is changed in that moment. For as much that didn’t change, there are also ways that everything changed.

Simon Moreton’s Plans We Made is a book about growing up at a time when the world drastically changed from what it was into what it is now. It’s a book about remembering what life was like in more innocent times. Moreton draws a comic that’s about memories. They may not be your memories but the way he abstracts the moments, they become shared experiences that even if the specifics aren’t the same, the general impressions and emotions stirred up by his drawings strike universal chords.