Saturday, October 02, 2004

What say we do that long-delayed commentary on current samplings from Atomeka Press, eh wot? In alphabetical order:
A1: Atomeka Big Issue: 0 is an anthology featuring quite a mixed bag. First up is Alan Moore's Addams Family meets The Goodies creation The Bojeffries Saga, with art by another Britcomic stalwart, Steve Parkhouse. A digression: I remember seeing Parkhouse's work for the first time illustrating a story of Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter in the old British horror magazine Hammer's House of Horror, which briefly saw release stateside back in the mid-70s. I wasn't impressed with him then, it was a bit amateurish and crude...but he got better. This isn't the first time I've read Bojeffries either- seems like Fantagraphics, or some other fledgling independent publisher put them in as a backup in one of their books. I think it was Fanta and Dalgoda (remember that?). Anyway- I kinda regarded it as a curiosity then, and actually still do, although I appreciate the humor a bit more now, I think. This has got to be a reprint from the early-mid 80's, since I doubt Moore has done any new ones for a long time. But that brings up a teeny-tiny problem I have with most of these Atomeka offerings- the lack of any sort of information about any previous appearances of the material. It's not crucial to one's enjoyment of the stories, mind you, it's just the anal geek fanboy in me. Anyway, Bojeffries is Moore at his most droll, and I really didn't see that side of him again for a long time, until League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in fact. A fun read, and I wouldn't mind seeing more- but I wouldn't go out of my way. Next up is a somewhat unremarkable story by Steve Dillon, well drawn as always- but why is John Constantine all moony over some bird what left 'im? Not 'alf like our Conjob, is it? Then, a nicely drawn tale of some futuristic nautical superhero of dubious intent named "Shark-Man". The story itself was kinda routine, a little hard to follow and one which we've seen many times before, kinda reminiscent of the work of Rick Veitch but without the gonzo edge he sometimes brings, especially on his Brat Pack-type projects. Steve Pugh really shines on the art- he uses a lot of gray tones (these days, who knows if it's wash, pencils, or Photoshop) and excels on facial expressions and action scenes. I was familiar with Pugh's work only through the various Vertigo fill-ins he did in the 90's- and they were nothing like this. I hope this isn't a reprint of something from 1985 or so; I'd like to see more work in this vein from him. Ad since this tale ends in a cliffhanger, I'm thinking I just might. One thing I'm pretty sure isn't a reprint is the next story, the wonderful return of Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot, another 80's stalwart that I've really missed. Another brief story which seems to be a set-up for the upcoming ongoing, and I didn't care since I was so happy to see Burden and the Carrot again...but we better get to find out what happened to Sponge Boy! Rounding out this collection is "Survivor" by Dave Gibbons and Ted McKeever, an odd, first-person account which strives to be a more...realistic and logical, I suppose, look at Superman (of course, he can't be mentioned by name). The choice to simply show the narrator's hands as he goes through his motions is intended, I'm sure, to ensure the reader's empathy, and it pretty much works. The art puzzles me a bit- it doesn't look anything like the Ted McKeever work I've seen for the last 10 years or so, which makes me think perhaps that it's a reprint from early in his career- it's very good, but it reminds me a lot of Kyle Baker's late 80s style and it just makes the little art guy in my head pace around the room. I can deal with him, though. All in all, this is a solid little anthology book- maybe if more of them were this good, we'd have more of them these days. One question: why is native Georgian Burden bunched in with all of these English blokes? B+

Get it? Brick? Top? Red-haired chick? Yeah, I know you do. OK, Totally Bricktop. I'm mostly familiar with Glenn Fabry's work through the many Vertigo covers he's done over the last few years- they're meticulously painted, vivid, and many have been noteworthy- but his interior work, as detailed and frenetic as it may be, pretty much leaves me cold. There's a ©1992 on the inside cover, so that explains the slightly musty smell of the whole concept. In Bricktop, there's a lot of running around, swearing, shooting, crude humor, British slang that I'm totally unfamiliar with, cosmic zapping, never a dull moment- but despite the fact that I think Fabry and writer Chris Smith really, really want you to be charmed by the title heroine, she just doesn't have any endearing (or even interesting, really, shades-inside-at-night thing notwithstanding, which figures in an admittedly funny joke at the end) qualities to cause us to be so, which means that the war is lost before the battle's even half over. This isn't terrible, but it just didn't grab me. C+

The Dave Johnson Sketchbook is pretty much just that, a collection of what seem to be warm-up and prelim sketches by DC Cover artist Johnson, just stuff he had lying around. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been a little surprised at how unfamiliar most of my esteemed Comics Blogosphereiversal pals are with Johnson's work...but maybe it's just because I've been following it for at least five years now, since I saw a sketch of Batman he did in an issue of Wizard. It was at the end of the 90's, just before the underrated and excellent Rucka/Martinbrough run in Detective Comics, and Johnson was tabbed to tweak the design of Batman's costume...which he did, giving us the black-and-gray Bats with shortish ears, a more...utilitarian utility belt, and for the first time (first time I remember, anyway) giving him practical-looking, heavy-soled industrial style boots, with the thick Doc Marten-type soles. I was blown away by this incredibly cool illo, and when they named Johnson as Detective cover artist, I began to pick them up- with each new issue Johnson gave us a series of innovative cover images- some of the best I'd ever seen. When that gig ran out, he began the still-continuing, often brilliant 100 Bullets covers, and has done a ton of covers since, with only about a half of the Superman: Red Son miniseries showing us what he could do with interiors. Insofar as this particular publication goes, it's as hit-and-miss as most things of this nature are. I like a lot of the character designs he displays- he has a graceful and dynamic way with a pose, and he is excellent with the ladies. Wally Wood-style goofy cartooning (the little fella with the big cyclops eye, who Johnson loves a lot more than many people do, I think) is not really a strength, and while he gives us page after page of technically impressive spaceship designs, I think two or three pages would have been plenty. How much you'll like The Dave Johnson Sketchbook will depend on how much you admire the man's previous work (to state the obvious)- myself, I'm sitting in the choir and Atomeka's preaching right at me. Your mileage may vary. A-.

Finally, another welcome and overdue return of a beloved-by-not-nearly-enough-people 80's character, this time Doc Stearn aka Mr.Monster, whose exploits I used to read back when Eclipse Comics put them out. In Worlds War Two, the Doc takes on evil Martians bent on conquest of Earth, led by Hitler's brain! All sorts of sci-fi and horror films are spoofed: Invaders From Mars, They Saved Hitler's Brain, War of the Worlds (of course), even Tim Burton's not-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is Mars Attacks! (as well as the bubblegum cards which provided the inspiration for same), to cite but a few of the smorgasbord of sources. It's fast-paced, frenetic and fun, but it's also a bit overlong and I found myself getting a little impatient before it was over. Nicely illustrated by the team of creator/writer/artist Michael T. Gilbert (has it really been that long since The Wraith?) and inker George Freeman (the 70's Captain Canuck artist, who wound up at Marvel inking a lot of lesser pencillers), who layer on a lot of chaos and visual clutter befitting such a hyperkinetic story- but unfortunately they don't take a lot of pains to give us much period detail in the art. Everything's got sort of a generic, could-be-anytime look about it, and that spoils my enjoyment a bit. Still, this is lively enough to make me hope for more down the road. B+

As with so many of the indie books that have been sent my way, I gotta compliment Atomeka on the sharp-looking design and high production values of their line. The Lego-guys cartoons on the inside front covers are especially fun. There's a lot of good stuff coming from this company, as far as I can see, even though much of it has a slightly-past-the-born-on-date feel due to the prevalence of reprint in its line. Still, it's nicely packaged and mostly entertaining, regardless of when it first saw print. Besides- they're putting out the Flaming Carrot again, and that gets them all sorts of good will points from me.

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