April 15, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop April 15th, 2020

We're going to be doing something a little different for awhile. With all? most? publishers taking a hiatus from new books, the Panel Patter team will be doing some curated picks of "evergreen" or recent titles that should be easily mail ordered from your favorite comic book shop or indie bookstore. (And digital, too, if you're like Rob and out of space!) We'll keep this up for at least the month of April, but if there's a call for it, we'll keep going, so let us know what you think!

And now, let's get to the comics!

Scott's Pick:

The Complete Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Volumes 1 & 2 by Don Rosa, Published by Fantagraphics Books
In telling the life story of the rich old miser Scrooge McDuck, Don Rosa created a story about the American spirit. That’s a lofty expectation to place upon a comic but Rosa found in this Disney character the means to explore the late 19th and early 20th century, that period mostly after the Civil War and largely before the World Wars where America was the “land of opportunity” and a man could make his own way to a fortune. In these two fairly new Fantagraphic collections, Rosa transforms Uncle Scrooge from a one-joke bajillionaire into a fully rounded character who has reasons to be the caricature that we all know today. And he does it with great humor and adventure, created some of the best comics to ever win an Eisner award. And he builds on the work of the master Duck cartoonist Carl Barks, showing how the groundwork was laid out for this character in a number of short stories as Barks pulls it all together as a biography of Scrooge McDuck. 

Volume 1 is the original 12 stories of Rosa’s masterwork “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck,” originally written and drawn in Uncle Scrooge #285-296 (1994-1996) and which won the Eisner award for Best Serialized in 1997. Volume 2 contains related, “in-between” stories, not part of that original run but tying into the story of Uncle Scrooge. In both of these volumes, Rosa brings the characters to life in dramatic, adventurous and funny ways. This is a Disney comic so it doesn’t stray far from the Disney aesthetic but Rosa puts on a masterclass in just how far and wide you can take these characters to tell some great stories.

Rob's Pick:

Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson by Walt Simonson, George Roussos, John Workman, and others, published by Marvel
Sometime after Stan and Jack but before Jason Aaron and a cast of a thousand artists, Walt Simonson put Thor back on the Marvel map as one of the top comics in their line. Mixing high mythology with a creature from space, Midgardian concerns with the Fate of the Nine Realms, and just generally putting together awesome, layered arcs, Simonson defined the character for a generation of readers, including myself. His amazing linework gave Thor majesty, and his plots and script gave Thor a depth it was lacking. "For Asgard!" "For Midgard!" "For myself!" is a classic comics moment that stands akin with any other you can name. The run is extremely long, too (especially in today's terms) and goes everywhere from a shot at Ragnarok to Frog Thor. (Yup, that's a part of this!).

It will always bother me that the best Thor run of all time, when it came time to be adapted to film, got completely and utterly butchered. Still, there's always these comics, and they are worth revisiting time and time again.

Neil's Pick:

Godzilla: Half-Century War by James Stokoe, published by IDW
Godzilla Half-Century War is the best Godzilla comic by far. Honestly, this book blew me away when I first picked it up around 5 years ago. James Stokoe known for his insane attention to detail brings Godzilla to life like never before in a comic. Brimming with Kaiju battles, colossal destruction and a story that has compelling human characters, this is the comic that even none Godzilla fans can pick up and enjoy. Beginning in 1954 with Godzilla’s first attack on Japan, the book follows Japanese Lieutenant Ota Murakami’s obsession with the titular kaiju over a 50 year period. Well-written and cleverly adding that quintessential quirkiness that all Godzilla movies have, you can see that Stokoe is a huge fan of the franchise. Bringing the giant kaiju to life visually is no simple task and this is no amusing or laughable Marvel take on the character. Stokoe’s stunning visual art was made for this. Large panels showing off beautifully detailed buildings, which in typical style are then destroyed, give the scale that is needed to pull off a Godzilla story. Personally, Godzilla has never looked so good and I would love to see Stokoe do more.

James' Picks:

Transformers vs. GI Joe by Tom Scioli and John Barber, published by IDW
Transformers vs. GI Joe is an absolute blast. John Barber and Tom Scioli bring a lot of fun, silliness and humor to the story, while still respecting the source material. Robots and humans meet, and combat, hijinks and misunderstandings ensue. Also, rest assured, if you haven't read any other Transfomers or GI Joe comics, you'll be able to follow along, as this exists outside of regular continuity for either comic. The art in this book is (and should be) a huge draw for any reader. Scioli does incredibly detailed work in this comic, and each page conveys dynamic action and motion. The art has an overall stylized, retro look to it that is unlike most other books you'll read based on toys and cartoons; it's not specifically retro to the 80's, it just has this feeling like it's something you discovered from a long time ago. There are some pages where the Joes and the Transformers look (and are presumably intended to look) like action figures, and the line work, coloring and lettering all have a less-than-perfect, self-made quality to them which is surprising in the best possible way. For example, in one case the coloring of the words extends slightly outside the lines, but this works in that circumstance (a character gets shot) because it accentuates the shock of that character getting wounded. This books is just such a fun read.

Vandroid by Tommy Lee Edwards, Noah Smith and Dan McDaid, published by Dark Horse
If you enjoyed the low-rent science fiction and action movies of the 1980's with tough guys, big guns, and bigger hair, then you will love Vandroid. Everything in this issue feels not just authentic to the 1980's, but authentic to the sub-"Terminator" level science fiction movies from the 1980's (think of something like "Trancers" or "The Wraith"). From the cheesy "fake science" dialogue at the beginning of the book, to the fact that the main protagonist (Taylor Grey) looks like the perfect 80's amoral character (he made me think of some combination of Gordon Gekko from "Wall Street" and Ellis from "Die Hard" but with hair courtesy of Van Halen and the computer genius of Steve Gutenberg's character from "Short Circuit"), to the vans and the cars and the hair and the clothes. The terrific art from Dan McDaid has a rough, stylized feel, and in certain panels had some kinetic action that reminded me a little of a gritty, slightly less loose Paul Pope. This comic feels like a love letter to a genre and a time gone by. So, put on your aviator glasses, comb out your mullet, pop in some Van Halen, and take a ride in Vandroid.

Sean's Picks:
Daredevil Vol.2: Parts of a Hole by David Mack, Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti, Rob Haynes & David Self, published by Marvel
The first eight issues of the second volume of Daredevil came with a brief moment of Kevin Smith. (Yes. That Kevin Smith.) During that period we follow Matt Murdoch in a mind bending chase for his own sanity. A sanity that you may need to find for yourself when you get the the plot reveal. The proceeding arc thereafter is one that takes on a different tone not had in previous. David Mack & company take over the reins and turn the Daredevil story onto itself.
This arc, Parts of a Hole, instantly comes out swinging with full page panels and whimsical lettering. Knowing who David Mack became since this run of DD, it could be argued that visual perception of story here be shared with him a little as the illustrations by Quesada and Palmiotti are brilliantly drawn in collages and oftentimes using the entire page telling its story. There is one issue sandwiched in the middle of the collection where Mack is missing and the illustrators take over scripting while a new team does art. Rob Haynes and David Self fill in and dramatically change stylings. Some may find this brief change distracting but I found the it necessary as it added a needed contrast to the story. The style of Haynes and Self reminded me slightly of penciling from Martin Morazzo of Ice Cream Man fame.

Parts of a Hole collects issues 9-15 of the mostly iconic second volume of what is arguably the most underrated character Marvel has. Most people flock to Bendis, Brubaker, Waid, current Zdarsky or evening classic Miller, but it’s the mini runs in between like this one that need not get overlooked.

Park Bench by Christophe Chabouté, published by Gallery 13
I adore this book. I included it as one of my choices when I put together my list of decade favorites for Panel Patter at the end of last year, and I figured it was time to repeat myself with it again.

Park Bench is a story that takes character in form of steel and wood. It gives eyes to a place that we usually take for granted as a chair; sight given where we typically put our ass. Through these eyes we are able to catch moments of lives of others who share space with it. Some sit and read. Others exist only as a passerby. But all of them are part of the story.

Author and illustrator Christophe Chabout√© is a French cartoonist who has written and drawn a handful of books, all of which have been well received critically. Most of them rely heavily on visual with much more to say than the actual words on the page. Park Bench is his most loud in it’s quietness as a graphic novel telling it’s readers the deep and intimate story through illustration and picture alone. Chabout√©’s language barrier need not exist as he writes a touching story like this one without a single word.