Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...
King Cat Classix by John Porcellino, published by Drawn and Quarterly
I'm always fascinated by the progression of an artist over their career, and that fascination peaks for artists who already work outside of the traditional norm. While it's cool to see a mainstream artist segue from house style to their own technique as their cache increases, it's even more intriguing for me to see what happens when an artist never had those restrictions in the first place. When you're already deviating from the standard to start, where do you continue to go? And, perhaps more importantly, is there something inherently more traditional at the heart of Porcellino's cartooning than other artists? This collection, which is really more of a survey than a compendium, offers a chance to trace those two lines of style and substance. Additionally, D&Q also offers a reprint of Porcellino's Map of My Heart, so it's a good week if you're looking to dive into his work.
Black Hammer Visions 1 by Patton Oswalt, Dean Kotz, Jason Wordie, Nate Piekos, et al., published by Dark Horse Comics
Featuring stories by a selection of authors including Geoff Johns, Mariko Tamaki, and Patton Oswalt and covers from Evan Dorkin and Gilbert Hernandez, Black Hammer Visions feels exactly like the anthology Jeff Lemire would create for his world of superhero pastiche. Lemire has always embraced both the Big 2 and Comix ends of the spectrum, and this anthology hones in on such a vision. I'm stoked for Patton Oswalt and Dean Kotz's take on Golden Gail, the irascible inverted Captain Marvel (Shazam) analogue. Oswalt's self-deprecating wit and comedic timing are a perfect match for the often surly scene stealer.
Parenthesis by Élodie Durand, translated by Edward Gauvin, published by Top Shelf/IDW
Parenthesis is a beautiful story in both its composition and content. Durand's semi-autobiographical account of her own struggles with epilepsy is as much a series of interconnected vignettes as it is a linear narrative, and the resulting pace allows the events she chooses to spotlight to resonate that much more. Though Parenthesis can be a very sad book, its construction is beautiful. I love the style of what I call "sketchbook memoir" that features often freer art and often employs intimate single panel portraits that allow for more reflection and commentary, the kind of which jump off the page with Durand's beautiful cursive lettering. This style reminds me of the wonderful travelogue style of Persephone's Garden by Glynnis Fawkes, or the structure of last year's exceptional, and thematically similar, Dancing After TEN by Vivian Chong and Georgia Webber. Durand's is rough and honest, favoring deliberately imperfect, thick shading that connotes a tone in and of itself.
Ales Kot is not interested in writing stories to make the reader comfortable. If anything, I think his stories follow the adage of "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted". He's going straight at some of the big outstanding issues of our time, including the military-industrial-terror complex. Even more fundamentally, Kot explores ideas of what it means to be a man, and the ways in which our society programs men almost from birth to engage in the culture of war and violence. It's in this context that I place Lost Soldiers, Kot's story with fantastic artist Luca Casalanguida and colorist Heather Moore. Lost Soldiers tells the story of young soldiers during the Vietnam War, and things that happen to them and things that they do, that have ramifications extending over the whole of their adult life. Lost Soldiers also tells the parallel story of two of those men, 40 years later, as they work as private military contractors involved in the "war on drugs" across the US-Mexican border. This is a serious, intense story, and it's a story that's worth telling. Kot and Casalanguida and Moore are honing in on the never-ending cycle of war and violence and the way in which this is intrinsically connected to models of manhood (and more specifically, toxic masculinity). The art from Casalanguida is gritty and intense and the colors from Moore are pale and grim and suit the mood of the story perfectly. It is (sadly) a fertile area for exploration, and Lost Soldiers is something of a polemic on its consequences. For further exploration of these ideas, I strongly recommend you pick up Kot's series Zero, which dives deep into this idea, referred to in the story as "the ugly spirit". I love Zero, and appreciated that that story actually had some more hopeful elements relating to the ugly spirit (my review here, and deep dive into the final arc here). So I absolutely recommend you read Lost Soldiers, but then maybe read Zero to see some of the ways in which we men might work to remove or get past that ugly spirit that is unfortunately still so prevalent.
Black Hammer Visions #1 by Patton Oswalt, Dean Kotz, Jason Wordie, Nate Piekos, et al., published by Dark Horse Comics
I've really enjoyed Black Hammer and the whole broader Black Hammer universe, created by Jeff Lemire and brought to life by Lemire, Dean Ormston, David Rubin, and many more talented people. Black Hammer Visions seems like it will be a collection of on-shots written and drawn by various talented creators, with their particular take on the Black Hammer universe. The series is off to a very strong start, as I really loved this story, written by Patton Oswalt and drawn by Dean Kotz. This is a story set in this universe, in which the main Black Hammer characters are only tangentially involved. The story is more about their impact, and the impact of one character in particular (Golden Gail). I thought this was a lovely, fascinating story full of humor and compassion. I don't want to say too much more, but if you enjoy the Black Hammer stories, I absolutely think you'll love this.
Low is a fantastic action-adventure/sci-fi series from writer Rick Remender, and the fantastic art team of Greg Tocchini, and Dave McCaig on colors. The series concludes with its upcoming 26th issue. Low is a series bursting with interesting ideas (my review of the first arc here), including the long-term consequences of human decision-making, and also centered around the idea of hope in the face of nearly impossible circumstances. Humanity is dying out and what's left of the population lives in bubble cities in the ocean. But time is running out on these cities, and with it, the last hopes of humanity. In those circumstances, how does one maintain any sort of hope or optimism? Well, not easily. This is an incredible-looking series, brought to life by the weird, beautiful, and haunting linework of Tocchini. He draws panels and pages that look unlike anything else I've seen, including from very weird and different perspectives. The colors from McCaig are weird and washed out and mysterious, and suit the artwork perfectly. It's a terrific series, and I look forward to going back and reading it as a whole.