April 29, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop April 29th, 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!

James' Picks:

Supreme: Blue Rose by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay, published by Image Comics
There are comics that ease you into a new world, comics that drop you right into that world, and then there's Supreme: Blue Rose (the sense of disorientation and placement into a weird and different world is part of what I love about the book so much). By way of background, Supreme was originally created by Rob Liefeld in the early 1990's as a Superman analog, and subsequently written by others (including Alan Moore!). However, not having read any of those issues should not be a deterrent to picking this comic up. This is a complex, dense story, with all sorts of layers and clues and mysteries.
With his usual wit and skill, Ellis brings to Supreme: Blue Rose some of the ideas that concern him most; he's using an old superhero character as a jumping-off point to build a remarkable world involving mathematics, alternate realities, time travel, and the hidden nature of reality. This story has a highly intriguing, dream-like, stream-of-consciousness quality, and the reason for this appeal is the artist, Tula Lotay. She is a serious talent. Her work here is like some combination of Fiona Staples, Sean Murphy, Mike Allred and some sort of psychedelic fever dream. Lotay's work has a soft, watercolor appearance to it which also adds to the dreamlike feeling. What you first notice about Lotay's art in this book is the women. She draws some of the most beautiful, striking women I've ever seen in a comic book; faces you can't look away from. For a light-hearted, easy-to-follow superhero romp, don't pick up Supreme: Blue Rose! However, do pick it up if you're intrigued by a stunningly gorgeous, complex mystery involving superheroes, mathematics, alternate realities, the future and maybe the entire universe.

Once & Future vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain, published by Boom! Studios
Kieron Gillen is a writer who's just incredibly skilled at interesting, complex, but also highly accessible stories. Last year saw the conclusion of The Wicked + The Divine, but Gillen has kept things going with the terrific Die (which has made me care far more about a story revlving around an RPG than I would expect). Part of that is working with incredibly talented artists like Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson and Stephanie Hans. But, part of that is having a knack for making the obscure seem accessible, and the mythological seem current.

On that subject, I recently reread the first arc of Once & Future and really loved the series. The book follows an older woman who used to slay vampires (like if Buffy was now a grandma) and her grandson and his date, as they attempt to stop nefarious forces from resurrecting King Arthur. Now, you're thinking, "King Arthur, he was heroic" but that's not exactly the case. He was heroic for the Britons, but less so for the Anglo-Saxons who he slaughtered. So, turns out he's resurrected (kinda) and he's not an awesome guy. The story involves magic, dark forces, legacy, secrets, and a lot of action and adventure.

It's highly entertaining, and is an absolutely stunning book, thanks to the work of incredibly talented artist Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain on colors. Mora has a really fun, engaging line. The book has a slightly "cartoony" feel to it but it feels pretty grounded overall considering there's undead kings and "questing beasts". More does great character work, great action, and provides a ton of excellent detail. And Bonvillain (who has one of the coolest last names ever) provides incredibly bright, vibrant, and engaging colors. The bad guys look appropriatey creepy and sinister, and the action is dynamic, and Bonvillain's vibrant color choices gve the whole book a sense of fun and adventure. This is a terrific read.  

Rob's Picks:

Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman by Box Brown, published by First Second
There are few better creators out there right now than Box Brown working in the nonfiction comics area in terms of taking a subject that might be someone else's random Wikipedia grab and turning it into an engaging, compelling, and thorough biography. That's especially on display here, as Box takes on the guy most people know as Latka on Taxi, or perhaps being mentioned in the REM song that got used for the Jim Carrrey biopic. But there's a lot more to Kaufman, including his strange desire to wrestle women, his obsession with the kayfabe of wrestling, and his weird interactions with the world, which were so uncertain that some to this day believe he's still alive.

Box's distinctive linework and panel construction really adds to the off-kilter world of Kaufman, and while the characters are very Brown-centric, they do resemble the famous people he's portraying, making the story easy to follow. While the art is clear, there's still a mystery surrounding the subject matter, and that will either work for you or leave you feeling like Box's desire to be neutral leaves a bit too much unsaid. Either way, this is a really solid example of comics-as-biography that deserves a lot of attention.

Batman '66 by Jeff Parker and a ton of awesome creators, published by DC Comics
You either love the Adam West Batman or you hate him. There's really no in-between. But if you had to choose one writer who has the ability to balance the camp with good storytelling and treat the material with respect, Jeff Parker is the one to do it, and he succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams on this series. Jeff made Red Hulk into a solid concept, so he can do just about anything. In this case, he captures the tone of the television series, moves it to comics while keeping the pacing fairly similar, and ensures that the dialogue fits with the character without falling into parody territory, which would have destroyed the whole thing.

Using mostly the TV series characters, Parker, alongside artists Jonathan Case, Sandy Jarrell, Colleen Coover, Joelle Jones, Ted Naifeh, and amazing covers by Mike Allred, brought the bright world to life. And while there's definitely a difference in styles between the various artists, they all took their work seriously and showed how much the TV show meant to all of them. If you haven't picked these up, now's a perfect time to do so!

Neil's Pick:

Kaptara by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod published by Image Comics
There is one creator in comics that has always made me laugh and that is Chip Zdarsky. Be it his Twitter antics, his hilarity at cons, or his writing, the guy always brings a smile to my face. And with Kaptara originally billed as the “Gay Saga” and “Gay He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” you can instantly tell that smile continues. A science-fiction comic that has a very familiar setup. Think Lost in Space, a group of astronauts who struggle to get along with each other are suddenly trapped on an alien planet. With hilarious interactions between the human characters and varied creatures of Kaptara, this book is just wonderfully weird in every way. Cartoony and intentionally over the top artwork by Mcleod really brings the world-building of this comic to life. The details in everything from spaceships to landscapes and all the alien creatures are a joy to look at. So if you want to break away from the scary world we are ALL currently living in. Take a trip to Kaptara, you will be gifted with a greatly needed smile.