Time now to take a look at some mini- and indie comics I've received lately.
FLYTRAP- EPISODE ONE:JUGGLING ACT is the latest "chapbook" project from writer Sara Ryan and artist Steve Lieber, and it's a winner. Harried, put-upon PR agent Maddy has a terrible day at the office, she has a clueless, self-absorbed, knuckleheaded musician boyfriend (complete with stacks of can't-give-'em-away "Klaus" urinal cakes), her car gets towed, and then she gets canned. Oh yes, and in the course of the day she meets a traveling alternative circus who wants to hire her firm for PR, but after she gets fired they hire her as an independent PR rep. A lot goes on in these 16 pages, and a lot more promises to happen in the future. I like how Ryan was able to introduce the character, make her likeable and sympathetic but not too sympathetic, and establish her situation without resorting to unnecessary expository dialogue and contrivance, simply by letting us see her in the course of her work day. Lieber turns in another solid art job, helping Ryan out immensely by providing excellent facial expressions, especially on Maddy- and often giving us nicely staged pages like 8 and 9, which reminded me a lot of some of Alex Toth's work with its energetic use of sound effects and solid black outlined figures. Another influence which I felt was that of Steve Rude, and I don't think it's anything conscious on Ryan or Lieber's part, but the circus character aspect reminded me a lot of Rude's recent Moth series. I'm sure it won't go in that direction, but the feel is there just the same. All said, I enjoyed Flytrap a lot, and I hope to read more! A
WINGNUT AND FIDGET: SPRING 2005 ONE-SHOT by Brian Clopper is an engaging Sci-Fi fantasy about a couple of alien bounty hunters, one laid-back and "streetwise", the other uptight and accident-prone- in the first story we see how they began their partnership, and in the second they outwit some mercenaries who are on their trail. Both stories are fun reads. This is my first exposure to W & F and Clopper's work, and my biggest question is WHY isn't Clopper doing more work for other publishers? His art is excellent- very Wallace Wood-via-Stephen DeStefano inspired and light years above the average minicomic fare. I was a bit surprised to find out that he's done these characters as far back as the '80s, and these are the new, updated versions. I liked these two stories very much as well, and again, I hope that there will be more. One nit to pick: I know these are "mini" comics, Mr. Clopper, but please, for the sake of my aging eyes- make your pages a bit bigger. You've left a good quarter-inch margin on the sides, and a half-inch on top, and your work in places is so filled with detail that I was considering getting one of those rectangular magnifying glasses so I could scan it better! Anyway, it costs $3.00 and can be obtained by emailing Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org. A-
I also received a package of comics from Omaha Perez and O-P-P Press, and before I go any further I have to say:
"You down with O-P-P?" "Yeah, you know me!"
I apologize for that. Anyway, the package consisted of CENOZOIC #1, PERIPHERY #1, and PERIPHERY #2/HOLMES #1. Periphery is a weird-tales anthology series, Cenozoic is caveman funnies, and Holmes is a less-than-flattering take on the great detective. Of all these, I think perhaps Cenozoic is the most ready for prime-time; while writer/artist Mark Fearing doesn't necessarily do anything with our shaggy ancestors that Hanna Barbera and Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks haven't already done, it's an often amusing read, especially the "Jerry Caveman, Inventor" strip that's featured in Periphery #1. Half of #1 is occupied by a frenetic mismatched buddy-strip called "Cave Bear and Duck", and Fearing better hope that the Klasky-Csupo people don't see it. Periphery itself is up-and-down, as anthologies tend to be- the three non-caveman tales both sport EC-style twist endings: Steve Niles and Brian Horton's "Carsickness"'s twist works better than the others, it's a story of two thugs who return to their home town and are not what they seem. "The Handsomest Man in the World" features some crude, angular art from Perez which seems to strive for expressionism of some sort and falls short, same for "In Deep", about two crooks who steal a carlike spaceship and fly to the moon to escape the law. For some reason, I was reminded of Astronauts in Trouble. Horton's short story "Closed Case" had decent enough art, but the resolution didn't make much sense to me. Best of show in #1 was the preview for another presumed ongoing called BOHDISATTVA, which gives us Hindu adventure stories and -attention, Dave Puckett!- a Beatles appearance at the end. Perez again does the art for a Richard Raleigh script, and here his work looks 110% more accomplished and makes me wonder how much time has elapsed between some of these stories. #2 has more funny caveman hijinx and a short story by Matthew Smith and Brian Horton that is nicely drawn but again doesn't make much sense, at least to my unenlightened mind. Bodhisattva: A. Periphery 1: B. Cenozoic #1: A-
Periphery #2 shares space with the debut of another ongoing, HOLMES #1, which is a total Perez joint and gives us yet another Sherlock Holmes-as-drug addict/lunatic/idiot savant,seeing Moriarty everywhere and "Does Holmes' evil archfoe really even exist?" Poor Sherlock- what have you done to cause modern-day writers to leap at the chance to portray you in such a harsh light? Sure, you could be a bit of an uptight, know-it-all prick, but still. Me, I prefer the ultra-capable and razor sharp Doyle-by-way-of Basil Rathbone conception, and while I'll admit to liking The Seven Per Cent Solution a lot and don't necessarily hate darker takes on previously established characters, I find these "He's wearing no clothes"-style hatchet jobs tiresome. However, this is mostly well-done, more so on the writing/dialogue side than the art- whatever advances Perez made for Bodhisattva, he takes a step back here, giving us some very crude-looking figure drawings. That said, the story is told clearly and economically, so I suppose we take the sugar with the medicine. B-
So regarding O-P-P, I liked Bodhisattva a lot, thought Cenozoic was fun and wouldn't mind seeing more from Fearing in this vein, and can take or leave Periphery and Holmes.