July 18, 2015

The Pull List: 15 July 2015, Part II

Anthology comics seem to work everywhere except the USA. France got Metal Hurlant, the United Kingdom got 2000 AD, and Japan got all manner of manga serialisations. In America, however, the single-issue comic book has dominated the landscape, making most attempts at an anthology title a fairly unlikely proposal. Hopefully that won't be the case for Island, a new title published by Image and spearheaded by Brandon Graham (Multiple Warheads, Prophet).

It's slightly larger in size than a standard American comic, and also substantially longer at about 110 pages or so. Inside are four self-contained comic stories by some of the best independent writers and artists working in the American industry today.

"ID", by Emma Rios, is a near future story about three individuals considering joining an experimental program to have their bodies swapped. It's smartly written with well developed characters, although given Rios' sketchy style and the red monochromatic artwork it does get a little difficult to follow during one action scene. All up it's an intriguing beginning, and is left hanging for a second part in issue #2.

Brandon Graham contributes "Ghost Town", a welcome continuation of his earlier series Multiple Warheads. It's the sort of comic that's perfect for this kind of project; a loose, relaxed riff on a lot of surreal French artists, notably Moebius but also Lewis Trondheim to an extent. Your enjoyment of it will likely depend on how much you enjoy weirdness for weirdness' sake. Personally, I enjoy it a lot, and it's both well drawn and nicely coloured.

Ludroe's "Dagger-Proof Mummy" closes off the issue, and is the longest piece of the three. It tells a story of skaters, talking cats and a young woman looking for a missing person. Unlike the other two stories, this one didn't really grab me too much. It's not awful by any definition, but it does feel like a let-down of sorts after the first two strips and outlasts its welcome by a few pages. Like "ID" it's got a most monochrome look, fpr the most part presenting a story in differing shades of brown.

Overall this is a great comic, and at US$7.99 is outstanding value. Hopefully enough readers will pick it up to keep it going on a monthly schedule. (4/5)

Under the cut: reviews of Lumberjanes, Revival, Robin: Son of Batman, Silver Surfer and Usagi Yojimbo. It's a really decent selection of comics right here.

Lumberjanes #16
Boom Studios. Written by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Waters. Art by Brooke Allen.
Rogue Lumberjane Abigail climbs the mountain to destroy the mysterious Grootslang once and for all - unless somebody can stop her. It's flashbacks and back story ahoy in this excellent issue, which pushes forward at a furious pace while still finding plenty of space for whimsy and humour. This issue comes hot on the heels of two outstanding wins for Lumberjanes at the 2015 Eisner Awards: Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens. Both awards are well deserved: this is such a fun comic book to read. It's "all ages" in the best sense of the word. (5/5)

Revival #31
Image. Written by Tim Seeley. Art by Mike Norton. Colours by Mark Englert.
Blaine Abel is on the run from both the cops and from a murderous Em Cypress. This is Revival in action-thriller mode, as the supernatural and horror elements of the book take a back seat to a breakneck run through the woods. That said there's still some wonderfully creepy detail in this issue: in the opening scene Em's father, the town sheriff, unconsciously steps on and kills a small frog. As he walks away we see it pull back together and hop away, apparently unharmed. It's this kind of minor detail that helps to make Revival such an effective book. (4/5)

Robin: Son of Batman #2
DC Comics. Written by Patrick Gleason. Art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray.
This second issue does a much better job of describing the premise of the series than the first. Basically, before meeting his father Damian Wayne undertook a year-long process of stealing valuable artefacts and weapons from their rightful owners. It was an initiation to please his mother, Talia al Ghul. Now that he's free from her influence and living under the identity of Robin, he's travelling the world putting the artefacts back one-by-one. This issue does a great job and jumping back and forth between Damian's original theft and his attempt to make amends. The story's complicated nicely by the arrival of Nobody, the masked daughter of the villain with the same name - who Damian murdered back in Batman and Robin. I really enjoyed this issue: hopefully the rest of the series will follow in a similar vein. (4/5)

Silver Surfer #13
Marvel. Written by Dan Slott. Art by Michael Allred. Colours by Laura Allred.
The Surfer and his companion Dawn decide to take the long route back to Earth, re-visiting all of the aliens and planets they met during this comic's first 12 months. It's wonderfully light and whimsical stuff, emphasised by Michael Allred's slickly designed, beautifully simple artwork. Then the universe ends, and the book gets sucked into the all-encompassing Secret Wars crossover, which is something I could have done without. Still, for the bulk of the issue it's delightful stuff, like a perfect cross between contemporary Doctor Who and the classic Marvel storytelling style of the 1960s. (4/5)

Usagi Yojimbo #147
Dark Horse. Story and art by Stan Sakai.
It's the final part of "The Thief and the Kunoichi", in which Usagi has to  defeat a local lord while also stopping one ally - a ninja - from murdering another - a thief. It's all perfectly plotted and paced, with Sakai's wonderfully expressive artwork bringing it all to life. It's been so good to have this comic back on the shelves - Stan Sakai is a treasure for English-language comics around the world, and it's criminal that more people aren't reading this book. It takes a break a now until September; I for one can't wait. (5/5)

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