Here's a handful of quickie looks at some titles I've received lately from the fine folks at Oni and Slave Labor.
ALISON DARE: LITTLE MISS ADVENTURES Vol. 2: I was a little confused by this one; I thought I had read all of the previous Alison stories, but the three shorts that open this collection were unfamiliar to me so it looks like I missed one. Oh well, not a problem now. Anyway, I've been enjoying the adventures of the plucky teen Miss Dare and her friends and family for several years now and always look forward to reading more. In the great tradition of plucky teen heroines, she's always getting into Indiana Jones-style scrapes, usually involving some sort of artifact or old adversary of her archeologist parents (her dad's a superhero called the "Blue Scarab" to boot), and they're presented with wit and panache in a Timm-and-DeCarloesque style by artist Jason Bone, a JBS favorite, and writer J. Torres, who's at his best here. Like Leave it to Chance, Electric Girl, Mutant, Texas, or any of several plucky young adventuress-type stories this can be read and enjoyed by all ages. Or at least middle-aged men with arrested adolescent tendencies. (Oni Press) A
LOVE AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE Vol. 4: Here's Torres again, this time with an OEL (and forgive this ignorant gaijin if I'm wrong about that) about a young man trying to adjust to living in Korea. It's all very Friends-like and not really terrible, but it would help if #1, I liked stories about the lovelorn misadventures of young twentysomethings; #2, was more of a fan of OEL manga (or manga, for that matter) in the first place; #3, it was better drawn- artist Eric Kim (would that it could have been Derek Kim...!) is still learning his craft, by the looks of it; and #4, had read the three previous volumes and had been able to perhaps develop an interest in any of these characters. Anyway, if this sort of thing is your bag, baby, then here you go. (Oni Press) C+
PENG (Martial Arts Encrusted Sports Fable) One-shot: As comics about Rollerball-inspired futuristic competitive kickball, aimed at the X-Games and video-game addict crowd go, this tries real hard to be fun- it's certainly energetic, but I got more of a chuckle from the peripheral, tossed-off stuff- asides, in-jokes, cameos (Scott Pilgrim) and ideas like the "advanced 3-revo recap" and the diagrammed "light pregame snack=pack + slo-moz brand process-altering pill" than the actual story itself, which was so frenetic and chaotic that I got real restless before the end. Just as with his previous Sharknife, Corey Lewis' haphazardly composed and indifferently inked manga stylings just don't lend themselves to coherent storytelling, and until that changes, I don't see me ever spending my hard-earned coin for his future work. (Oni Press) C+
LITTLE STAR #5: Most of you that have read me for any period of time are probably aware that I'm a big fan of Andi Watson's minimalistic, but always interesting, art. He's a darn good writer, too, as Love Fights, Geisha and the Skeleton Key books attest. But when this was first announced several months ago, I decided to wait for the trade- the subject matter didn't really get me all worked up but I did want to read it eventually. Oni kinda forced my hand by sending me the penultimate chapter, though. At its most basic level, it's an account of a young man named Simon Adams, who has just experienced fatherhood for the first time, and it's full of the idealized, gosh-wow my little baby is the most amazing precious miraculous etc. etc. etc. glory-and-miracle-of-childbirth stuff that could provide the Lifetime network with made-for-TV movies for a decade. But having already been through the experience, twice, and being less inclined to romanticize it (although I certainly do love both my kids, God help 'em), I found this quite tedious...and in the hands of a lesser artist it would be almost unbearable. Fortunately, Watson is no "lesser artist" and this is wonderfully illustrated throughout. Curiously, Watson's minimal expressionism doesn't quite lend itself to the titular infant; while everyone else's features are done with his typical aplomb, the baby's face is always rendered more realistically and it creates an odd disconnect. I'll most likely still get the trade, 'cause I'm a fan-but I don't really know who the audience for this is supposed to be, or who Oni expected it to appeal to (maybe the bookstore crowd might pick it up, if they notice it)...so your mileage may vary. (Oni) B
REX LIBRIS #2: I found the first issue of this almost too clever for its own good fantasy series waaaay too text-heavy and talky, but this one dials down the verbiage and lets the story breathe, and it's the better for it, managing to be kinda clever in places and occasionally amusing to boot. If you recall from last time, Rex is a sort of uber-dimensional Library Policeman, who deals with threats from within and without. It's all played for laughs, kinda like The Tick in its goofy anything-can-happen attitude. Rex gets a couple of supporting cast members this time out- a sexy-librarian type Spetsnatz-trained assistant, and a chatterbox bird. The stiff, angular, exaggerated art is still a problem- it looks like Fred Hembeck inked by Picasso, and while I like both of these guys separately together it just looks odd. Still, this is a step in the right direction. (Slave Labor) B+
LENORE #12: They may have a swingin' hipster monkey as a mascot, but Slave Labor's bread and butter is in that teenage gothkid, Addams Family-wannabe, Jhonen Vazquez-Gloom Cookie, Hot Topic-shopping demographic and here's a prime example of that. Unless I miss my guess, I'd bet that this is one of SLG's best-selling titles. Lenore, some sort of cynical zombie kid (like, presumably, most of her readers wish they could be), is faced with the threat of "Heck's Soldiers", a bunch of Nazi zombies who trap her and her friends in an old haunted house. Lotsa cutesy/snappy, smart-aleck dialogue, some really imaginative creatures (artist/writer Roman Dirge's designs remind me a lot of some of the demons Steve Bissette and John Totleben cooked up for Swamp Thing), and of course tons of Tim Burtonish attitude, look and feel. A little bit of that sort of thing goes a long way with me, and while I will say that this is readable and well-done in its way, I don't think I'll ever actively seek this out. (SLG) B+
CORPORATE NINJA #1: A parody of capitalism, advertising, and office politics with a mean misogynistic streak and one dismaying act of violence against a child. It wants to be Scurvy Dogs weird and funny, but despite the occasional chuckle becomes a labored farce before it's done. Maybe I'm just missing the point, I don't know. When it comes to parodies of capitalism, office politics, and so forth I liked Puppy Action! a lot more. (SLG) D+