April 8, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop April 8th, 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 Seventh Voyage by Jon J. Muth, adapted from a book by Stanislaw Lem, published by Graphix
It’s always worth it to check out anything by Jon J. Muth, from his and J.M. DeMatteis’s Moonshadow (another great book to catch up on sometime) to his Zen Panda picture books. His latest is an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s The Seventh Voyage, the story of an astronaut trapped in a time loop aboard his spaceship. It’s a fantastically claustrophobic book, maybe even more appropriate for our time of social distancing, as Tichy tries to repair his ship and is constantly interfered with by an ever-increasing number of his future selves. It’s a great story about the madness of isolation and quite literally being trapped with yourself. Muth was there in the early days of painted comics and still remains one of the masters of it. The looseness and warmth of his watercolors take this time-bending story and displays its heart with Tichy and his growing state of confusion as he has to figure out how he or some version of him can save his life and repair the ship.


Grafity’s Wall by Ram V, Anand Radhakrishnan and Aditya Bidikar, published by Dark Horese Comics 
Creating a lived-in city, Radhakrishnan conveys the spirit of Mumbai on every page. It’s a cliche to say that the city becomes a character in a story but Radhakrishnan’s Mumbai is a lot like Grafity and his friends in this story. There’s a sense from the story that everyone knows this city and that what it is now is all it’s ever going to be. Even Grafity is guilty of thinking what the city is now is all it is ever destined to be. After his father tosses his sketchbook out the window, Grafity meets Jayesh, the drug delivery boy, at a still-standing chunk of wall at a demolished building site. Still dealing with a run in with the cops and his own father’s negligence and having learned their lessons, Grafity begins his latest work by spraying “No One Gives a Fuck” on the wall. That’s the Mumbai that Ram V. and Radhakrishnan are showing Grafity, Jay and the other live in or at least how they experience it. It’s a city that doesn’t care for its children and its dreamers. But there’s also the possibility that Grafity and his friends are failing to see the potential that the city has to offer just as everyone else fails to see the potential in them.  (See full review here.)

Rob's Picks:

Fantagraphics' Peanuts by Charles Schulz Collections, published by Fantagraphics
Good Grief! If there's ever a time for comics comfort food, it's right now. Thankfully, Fantagraphics has you covered by having every single Peanuts Comic strip ever published put together in bi-yearly collections. It's fascinating to watch the characters evolve, especially Charlie Brown moving from being almost Calvin-like to the neurotic loser most people recognize. Similarly, some characters fade in and out. And then there's the explosion of Snoopy, who is always a bit weird, but really becomes something else over time. This cast of kids who never grow up but think very adult thoughts may not be the best drawn, and some of the gags start to get really old somewhere in the middle, but it's still one of the most well-known comics of all time, and in times of trouble, it's always good to sit down and spend some time with Good Old Charlie Brown. How I love him!

Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror, written and illustrated by Various Creators, published by Ahoy Comics
Ironically, Poe is back in the spotlight, in a way, as people actually are imitating his classic story, The Masque of the Red Death. People are idiots. But that's not why this series is on the list. It's because Ahoy's loving parody of Poe and horror anthology series is an absolute delight from start to finish. Combining Poe-as-Cynical Crypt Keeper with short, punchy stories that (usually) have some attachment to a Poe tale alongside short text pieces and single-page art is part of what makes Ahoy books a little different from their peers. What's impressive is the quality of the pieces. A lot of times something like this would be done quickly and for the cheapest joke possible. Not here, and that's because of Tom Peyer, who guides this drunken ship of misfits, including Mark Russell, Hunt Emerson, Ryan Kelly, Rick Geary, Ann Nocenti, Richard Case, and Peter Milligan, just to name a few. This is like a slightly more refined Mad Magazine take on horror tropes and one of the best authors to ever live, and if you enjoy the Corman Poe Comedies, this is a must-read.

Sean's Pick:

Hellboy Vol.1 by Mike Mignola, John Byrne, Mark Chiarello, amd Dave Stewart, published by Dark Horse
Being rather late to the party I feel slightly ineligible to recommend this book as a must-read during a period with no new comics coming out. Nevertheless, I insisted. This book is everything. This book deserves all the hype and praise that it gets. It looks awesome, it reads awesome, and it is awesome. I came to Hellboy by a recommendation, and now so will you.

There are a lot of corners in the world of comics I have missed due to one circumstance or another, and Mignola is one I should have uncovered a lot sooner than now. Here I am, sitting here telling all of you reading this to go out and pick up this book in the format of your liking. It is a large universe, and if you are like me then it may find you a bit of panic as you unpack all of the volumes. My advice: just as we are doing in real life right now — take one day, one volume at a time.

The first volume of Hellboy, Seed of Destruction, introduces you to the world and to the character while it summons your craving for more stories (but pace yourself). The wit, the angst, the piece of his brain that is still able to work all come together and tell a vivid story about how a spawn of the devil himself is able to choose his own path for the greater good. I urge you to seek out this series, do as I have, and start from the very beginning.

James' Picks:
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, Claire Dezutti, Courtney Menard, and Thomas Mauer, published by Black Mask Studios
 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is one of the coolest, most stylish, clever books I've read in years. Think Stand by Me meets Goodfellas with a healthy dose of Wes Anderson thrown in.  It's a story of 4 kids who decide that the only way to prevent one of their dads from robbing a bank is to...rob a bank. Needless to say, writer Matthew Rosenberg, artist Tyler Boss, and the entire talented creative team do a phenomenal job of telling a story of some messed up kids trying to prevent some messed-up grown-ups from doing a terrible thing. Rosenberg is such a great writer of funny, believable dialogue. There are some incredible discussions between the various kids in the story.  But he's not just funny. The relationship between the main protagonist and her dad is warm and real and understandable. And Boss is a serious talent to watch. This book is loaded with incredible visual humor, along with fantastic and inventive visual storytelling.  4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is hilarious and poignant and memorable.

Black Bolt by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward, published by Marvel Comics
The Black Bolt 12-issue maxi series is one of the very best books of the past few years. It should absolutely be up there with The Vision, Mister Miracle and any other complex, deep, thoughtful explorations of a superhero. I’ve always liked the character of Black Bolt, but I found him more badass than actually interesting. But that changed with the Black Bolt series, written by Saladin Ahmed and illustrated by Christian Ward. This series takes Black Bolt out of his element as the king of the Inhumans, and places him on a strange, nightmarish prison full of various aliens. Even in this horrific place, he finds unlikely friendship with Carl “Crusher” Creel (the absorbing man), Raava, a powerful Skrull warrior, and Blinky, a telepathic alien.  This story chronicles their harrowing attempts to free themselves from captivity, and to eventually make things right (things have gone terribly wrong). Not only did this book do a ton to humanize Black Bolt, but it also made me really love Crusher Creel, a character to whom I’d previously never really given much thought. But Ahmed really shows the decency and humanity in all of these characters. And Ward does absolutely spectacular work here. His psychedelic, weird visions are perfect for this otherworldly prison, and he is capable of bringing truly psychologically nightmarish visions to life. This is a truly spectacular book.