May 26, 2017

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For Your Eisner Journalism Consideration (Weekend Pattering for May 26th, 2017)

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week


In space, no one can hear you squee in joy that a new James Stokoe comic is out and that it's a new Alien book!  Here's the cover from Alien: Dead Orbit #2.

This and That

To do something a bit different for this Memorial Day edition of Weekend Pattering, I would like to highlight some of the Eisner-nominated writing on this site done last year.  As you may remember, we're one of the nominees for this year's Eisner in the Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism category.  

All of the nominees this year are great and you should be checking out all of them regularly.  

Here are this year's nominees for best comics journalism of 2016:
Since voting is still open for professionals to vote for another couple of weeks, here is a sampling of some of the best writing on Panel Patter in 2016.  You can click on the link to go to the full article.

From Paper Girls

*** Paper Girls (1-3) by James Kaplan
Much like Vaughan and Staples on Saga, this book feels from start to finish like there's real synchronization between all aspects of storytelling. I really can't say enough about the precise, deliberate, thoughtful visual storytelling and scene setting from Chiang and Wilson. As you can gather from my introduction, this era is important to me, memory-wise and emotionally. I was thrilled with all the small touches and ways that they got this era right. From the Far Side calendar on Erin's desk (a staple of late 80's life), to the posters to the fashion choices for each of the girls, this feels like 1988. That's one of my gripes about comics or other media set in the 1980s, is that most people choose to go with incredibly facile, obvious choices, or they think that everything is the same throughout the entire 80's. 1988 was not 1984 or 1985.
from HAX

*** Favorite Comics of 2015: "HAX" by Lale Westvind by A.J.
One undeniable sequence where this style of reading fails is on the bottom half of page 11, where three or five women appear to drink from the ocean, as if they were the Chinese man in Claire Huchet's Five Chinese Brothers, and then spit out the water as lightning bolts towards the airplanes divebombing over their heads. With tarot cards the action happens off-page between the panels, but there are too more panel sequences like the one above, depicting specific actions, for HAX to work as a tarot card style reading.


*** Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart by Scott Cederlund
Hart’s haggard drawings reflect the cartoonist’s state of mind throughout this book. Like his writing, Hart’s artwork feels like it’s searching for something as well. You can see all of the emotions that Tom and Leela are experiencing but the pain they feel is manifested through Hart’s sometimes aggressive brushwork. From the joys of Rosalie, through the pain of losing her, and leading to the numbness that follows that pain, Hart allows the emotions of the moment to be reflected in his mark making. He even allows more a more cartoonier, more similar to his Hutch Owens art, to intrude into the book now and again to illustrate the more self-aware reflective moments of his storytelling.

from Carnivore

*** Graphic Nonfiction: Mari Naomi Plants a Story from Her Life by Rob McMonigal
I'm most familiar with Mari's work in black and white, so seeing her add color here is extra special, bringing a new dimension to her overall layouts. What's interesting to me is that she doesn't try to color everything, or even completely color any particular object. That means that the reader's eye is drawn to whatever she opts to color. It's also fun seeing Mari portray herself as she looked during this time in her life. And of course, as I've noted before, her ability to adjust the pictures on the page to suit her needs, such as the really cool eyes at the top of the page above, and the variety between tight panels and larger looks is what puts her above most in the autobiographical comic field.
from The Wendy Project #1

*** The Wendy Project #1 by Melissa Jane Osborne and Veronica Fish by Mark Dickson
Colour is lacking from the world around Wendy, compounding the sense that this is a bleak, yet entirely recognisable world. Everything is told from her perspective, allowing the art to completely reflect her current state of mind. Whenever a splash of colour appears on a page, it instantly lets the reader know that something special is about to happen: it comes to represent the magic of Neverland and all that entails. As the book progresses, you eventually view it as moments where Wendy’s perspective on the world is starting to slip and that it might be the sign of something far more sinister.
from The Fix #1

*** The Fix #1 [Advance Review] by James Kaplan
The art in The Fix is a study in contrasts and small moments. The character whose facial expressions are normally happy and upbeat, all he has to do in one moment is give a serious facial expression in the implication is pretty chilling. There's so much skillful work on various characters' body language and facial expression; given the number of jokes per page it's easy to lose track of these subtle touches, but they're there, and they ground the storytelling. Lieber is also a master of panel construction. There's a scene where the characters are mid-robbery and they're being chased, and the panels flow in such a way that it's almost like a diagram; but this isn't some sort of cold, clinical chart; you see the chase brings the characters in a circle back to the person who's chasing them, and the panel flow and timing of it works so well that you can practically hear "Yakety Sax" (i.e., the old "Benny Hill" music) playing in the background.
from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

*** All-Ages or Small-Ages #4 (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by Katie Cook, Andy Price, and Heather Breckel) by Mark Dickson
There’s such a large cast of core characters that there’s guaranteed to be one that you latch onto. As much as I can’t believe I’m about to write this sentence, Pinkie Pie is definitely my favourite of the bunch. She epitomises the enthusiasm and unrivaled ability to make leaps in logic that makes this series what it is. There’s a definite element of repetition in the humour that Cook relies on; once you’ve seen a character’s shtick, that’s what it’s always going to be and you have to put up with it. That’s not a component of Cook’s writing but of the franchise itself. There’s never any true change in children’s cartoons and that’s part of what makes them work so well.

from Satellite Falling #1

*** Satellite Falling #1 Should Be in Your Reading Orbit by Rob McMonigal
And that's without mentioning the absolute heartbreaking moment when Lilly finds out just how horrible some of the creatures in Satellite are in how their treat their fellow aliens. Thompson knocks it out of the park, showing how pathetic the victims are, how much Lilly's target dismisses them, and how the whole thing impacts on Lilly personally. It's so very powerful, with each panel decision making the most of its space, including a 3-panel segment that sets Lilly off--and should bring a strong reaction to readers, too--without falling into shock value. It's one of the best sections of a comic I've read so far in 2016, and I'm not saying more because I want you to feel the impact for yourself.
from Reason Magazine

*** Graphic Nonfiction: Peter Bagge Goes to Cuba by Rob McMonigal 
Bagge's observations are really interesting, given that, quite honestly, most of what I've read about opening Cuba has been unrelentingly positive OR the usual knee-jerk "Screw Castro!" screeds. He notes that job duties often have racial overtones, for example. One of Bagge's concerns about merging Cuban Culture and United States Culture is that the latter, due to its overwhelming power, will destroy the former, showing this in humorous remarks about the bootlegged music that's made it to the island. In the end, though, he brings up a great question, especially for a Libertarian like Bagge: What right does he have to say they shouldn't be allowed Starbucks, even if he doesn't like the chain?

from Hellboy in Hell #10

*** Requiem-- a review of Hellboy in Hell #10 by Scott Cederlund
What’s stunning in Hellboy in Hell #10 is just how silent Mignola’s story is. As he spins his tale about giant demons fighting for the fate of Hell, Mignola, and colorist Dave Stewart pull back from the banter and repartee (even though both are present in unique sidebars) and tell Hellboy’s final story through the power of the images. Paring his drawings down to abstract Kirby krackle, shadows, and his minimalistic-yet-evocative designs, words aren’t needed to get to the heart of Mignola's story. As Hellboy confronts big concepts like destiny and fate, it’s important that Mignola doesn’t explain a lot. After 20+ years of story, Mignola shows us the final story without a clear explanation of the meaning of the final actions of the character. He leaves a lot of the meaning and symbolism of his story up to the reader's own interpretation.

from Adventure Time Volume 1

*** All-Ages or Small-Ages #12 (Adventure Time Volume 1 by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb) by Mark Dickson
Scattered sporadically throughout this volume, there are sometimes mini comic strips or brief samples of text at the bottom of a page. More often than not, they make some form of self-aware joke that shows that these characters are aware of their current state in a comic. For example, one of the supporting characters, Princess Marceline, chides you for turning the page and leaving her alone to confront the Big Bad of the arc. It’s a simple styling of humour, but it’s a layer that would only really land with an older audience.

from Alien Beings

*** Rob Kirby's Review Roundup: August 2016 Edition by Rob Kirby
Through it all the lyrics of pop music on the radio describe love and romance in a way that doesn't jibe with the marriage of her parents or her own experiences. Though at heart a coming of age tale of a typically confused adolescent, Alien Beings is also about the attempts we make at controlling or at least making sense of the chaos of human relationships, and the malleable nature of perception. Laura Ķeniņš, an artist stationed in Halifax, Canada, successfully juxtaposes the wan nature of her narrative by rendering it in soft pastel colors, and her slightly naïve style fits the young narrator's voice perfectly. It's a compact, insightful comic.
from King-Cat #76

It’s this universal experience portrayed through specific events that make Porcellino’s comics unique. The ways that he observes the moment when how a dream leads to a memory that’s a decade old or the emotions that seeing an old lady and a man stir up in him strike a chord that’s resonant as part of the human experience. But it’s also in the way that he observes nature that shows how Porcellino makes something specific into something broad and understandable. A one-page joke is a review of radishes (“weird and earthy”) but another one-page cartoon is a drawing of bird tracks in the snow. Both of these comics are the right amount of weird as he called out in the opening essay but also perfectly at home thanks to the observational characteristic of Porcellino’s stories.
from The Black Monday Murders #1

*** The Black Monday Murders #1 by James Kaplan
Coker has a great line, and I'm already a huge fan of the way he creates his characters. The people depicted here feel completely realistic as far as facial expression and body type (none of the comic exaggeration of illustrators such as Dragotta or Pitarra is used here). Coker's character depiction reminds me of that of Leinil Yu (for the strong, muscular line that's conveyed in characters' faces and emotions), Tula Lotay (for the wry expressions and the striking beauty of several of the characters) and Michael Lark (for the painstaking, detailed work done in world building, along with the careful facial acting) but Coker's style feels very much like his own. His body language and facial acting all feel very precise and on point for the particular mood or reaction that needs to be conveyed.

*** SPX Spotlight/Graphic Nonfiction: Kevin Budnik Reflects on Life by Rob McMonigal
Along with his reflective nature, Kevin uses a very thin line style with an emphasis on shapes, which draws attention to the backgrounds. In the case of this example from a recent contribution to The Nib, we return again and again to the theme of the bathroom tiles, but there's also an echo in the square books on the shelves or the checkered bed cover. Are the squares meant to show how boxed in Kevin feels, reflecting on his life? Eh, I'm probably overthinking it. But it's still a very cool visual effect to think about. Rounding out the drawings with watercolors that aren't allowed to cover all areas perfectly, we get a strong sense of Kevin's internal mind.
from The Fiction

*** SPX Spotlight: David Rubin by James Kaplan
The Fiction makes a nice contrast to the grayscale Battling Boy prequels, as it's fascinating to see Rubin's work paired with Garland's lush coloring. The Fiction is a story of literature and lost worlds and imagination, and Rubin and Garland collaborate terrifically here, as Garland's bold, atmospheric colors complement Rubin's dynamic, emotional line work.
from Last Look

*** Lives Worth Examining in Charles Burns' Last Look by Scott Cederlund
Like in his classic Black Hole, Burns uses his fantasies to explore the emptiness in us. Transitioning into and out of the stories of Doug and Johnny 23, Burns switches up art styles a bit. Johnny 23’s story is told in a faux Hergé style, using the Belgian cartoonist’s clean line style to set the world apart and to also make it feel a bit more simple and safer than it really is. Burns’ use of this style suggests a more innocent world and character in Johnny 23 even if his world is full of all kind of oddities and horrors. Doug’s story is, arguably, the “real” world but it’s a much harsher image of existence even though it’s an everyday vision of our lives. But in all of the pages, the imagery has this ability to portray the drama of the moments.
from Lumberjanes Volume 1

*** All-Ages or Small-Ages #27 (Lumberjanes Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Maarta Laiho) by Mark Dickson
Allen's art immediately allows each character to feel unique and are recognisable from a cursory glance. Far too many characters are only discernible from their clothes and hair, which is still the case here, but Allen takes this a step further. Each member of the gang has their own body language and manner of facial expression. The gangly Jo always looks as though she's slightly uncomfortable in her body whereas the youngest, Ripley, constantly feels as though she's about to burst with excitement and anticipation. It allows you to form instant and concrete bonds with these characters from their very first appearances.

from Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

 *** Pounding the Journalistic Pavement with Sarah Glidden in Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Scott Cederlund
Glidden’s cartooning breaks down a lot of the barriers between us sitting in our comfortable homes reading this book and the lives of the refugees. In most cases, we would read accounts like this as prose, with an author painting these images with words and phrases. But like Joe Sacco, her spiritual predecessor when it comes to this type of comic storytelling, Glidden has the power of the images. She shows people eagerly answering their questions or pulling back when they learn they are talking to Americans. The observational and conversational nature of her cartooning makes these complex politics and emotions easy to follow. For as complicated as the issues that Glidden covers are, her approach to telling these stories is as clear and concise as possible. It’s this clarity that makes Rolling Blackouts a must read to understand the lives of refugees around the world.
from The Wake

*** The Wake by Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth by Rob McMonigal
Snyder does a great job of using Murphy's extreme talents to tell the story, rather than talking over it. We don't need to get into endless explanations, except in a few parts, because Murphy makes the scene clear, in panel after panel. That means that the characters can talk and interact instead of being exposition factories. Additionally, each ones gets their own distinctive voice, even as they are archetypes of horror characters, ranging from the lawman, the outlaw who isn't all bad, the dreamer, and the heroine. Cleverly, each role is doubled in the dual narrative, too.
from 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #3

*** Review: 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #3 by James Kaplan
The story continues as the kids prepare to rob the bank and Paige does some hilarious reconnaissance, and all the while the kids deal with the fact that they're 12 year olds and in addition to being budding bank robbers, they're also middle school students and are dealing with bullying and other everyday problems. While the story is absurd, it's also emotionally affecting - kid bank robbers may not be real, but the emotions that are portrayed (resentment, insecurities - lots of insecurities) all of that comes across in an emotionally honest way.

Current Mood


Is it the past or the future?