Saturday, July 17, 2004

Take a deep's catch-up review time!

Malinky Robot 1-Stinky Fish Blues by Sonny Liew
I first became aware of Liew's art via My Faith With Frankie, the recent DC mini-series written by Mike Carey and inked by Marc Hempel. Liew did the pencil art, and showed that he had a strong, energetic, and whimsical style. This is very much in evidence here on his own, and unrestrained by Hempel's idiosyncratic ink style, even more so. Malinky is done completely in pencils, and it's very, very loose- layouts and characters are always surrounded by movement lines and unerased contours, and they fairly threaten to jump off the page at you sometimes. Basically a shaggy-dog story of sorts about a couple of diminutive fellows named Atari (he of the pointy-eared skullcap, looking kinda Yellow Kid-ish) and Oliver (who appears to be a mouse-man of some kind) who live with a bunch of other odd characters in a sort of shanty town named San'Ya. Atari and Oliver catch a fish one day, which they identify as a "stinky fish", an endangered species that eats sewage in the water and has apparently been on the wane, causing an increasingly bad smell in the air. Atari and Oliver endeavor to find out what they should do with the fish they caught, and yearn to go to school, presumably to get out of San'Ya. That's it. Not exactly War and Peace, but this is a very enjoyable little short vignette with some winsome humor, and it's never dull. Looking forward to Malinky 2, when it comes out, which should be anytime now. A-

Me and Edith Head by Sara Ryan and Steve Lieber
Sharp, smart, even moving little slice-of-life story which was particularly interesting to not only me, but my daughter as well. My daughter Abby is an attractive young lady with acting skills and an above-average singing voice who unfortunately does not have the perceived looks, body type, if you will, to play lead roles in the local repertory theatre in which she's participated, in various capacities, for almost ten years now. Don't worry about her, though- she realizes that there's a world with opportunities outside Kentucky Repertory Theatre and she's determined to see what she can find. She has, I think, a lot on common with the protagonist of this story- one Katrina Lansdale, who wishes to play Titania in a staged version of A Midsummer-Night's Dream, but gets passed over and (much to her disappointment) is tabbed for costume design instead. She takes this setback and makes a positive out of it, and learns a few life lessons in the process. What could easily become preachy or "afterschool special"-ish goes down smooth thanks to Ryan's assured soft-pedaling of the dramatics and Lieber's subtle art, which surprised me a little in its deftness, especially with facial expressions, hand gestures, and so on. A modest masterpiece, this is! A

Family Reunion by Sean Stewart and Steve Lieber
Basically, this is an introduction to Stewart's character William "Dead" Kennedy, who's kinda like the little guy from The Sixth Sense all grown up: he sees dead people. Or their ghosts, to be precise. in this particular story, Bill attends a family reunion and sees the ghost of a cousin who died in the Vietnam War, and spends time finding out his story. There's an amusing joke at the end that will appeal to college football fans. I suppose this is intended to whet our appetites for Stewart's Perfect Circle novel, and on that score it failed with me...whichis not to say that this would be the case with you. The premise of the novel as described on the inside front cover didn't sound especially fresh to me, but for fans of this sort of supernatural mystery-type story, it could be well worth checking out. As with Edith Head, Lieber does a great job on the art, giving us normal, everyday goings-on in a convincing fashion. Most comic-book artists have a hard time depicting real life, non-fantastical situations, but Lieber shows a knack for defeating his "comic-booky" inclinations and does very well by the average folks he draws. B+

Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden-Borrowed Magic
Jax Epoch, short for Jacqueline, don't know what ethnicity "Epoch"'s supposed to be, is a stubborn, mischevious teenage girl (who apparently goes to the same optometrist as The Sandman's Thessaly) with klepto tendencies who, through a series of convoluted circumstances, "acquires" several devices which assist her in traveling between dimensions. Apparently something in her genetic makeup enables her to do this, and naturally a government research agency wants to capture and study her and find out how she does it. Adding to the trouble is that her dimension traveling has caused reality to unravel, and she's being held on trial by a bunch of extradimensional types. This is all very imaginative, but it's kinda slight at the same time...Jax herself is rarely likeable, and becomes hard to identify with as the proceedings go on. Art-wise, John Green and a couple of inkers have an agreeably cartoony style, reminiscent somewhat of Phil Foglio, competent but not overly outstanding. It's just not a style that excites me, I suppose. In fact, nothing much about Jax really excited me all that much, and it took me a while to finish this one. Maybe I'm just not the target audience for this, which would seem to be pre-teens, perhaps. I think it would have more appeal to the Harry Potter demographic, perhaps, more so than the cranky old cynical man demographic that I belong to. Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden has a nifty title going for it, but not much else (at least as filtered through me), I'm afraid. C+

This is me, now, doing the "All Caught Up With Overdue Reviews" dance! Break it down now! Later, reviews slash commentary on this week's new comics including Identity Crisis, DC Comics Presents: Mystery In Space, and Scurvy Dogs. I also went to see Van Helsing earlier today at the $1.00 theater in town, and as soon as my headache goes away I'll write about it as well.

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