Sunday, January 22, 2006

Won't get my new comics shipment until later on this week, perhaps even the next; but I have recently received a couple of interesting books in the mail, and here they be:

S/A: Matt Kindt
What we have here is an extrapolation, rather than a strict sequel, to Kindt's previous release 2 Sisters. Sisters was an ambitious, sprawling story which took place in several different eras with many different characters, but mostly centered on WWII era spies- and I thought it missed as often as it hit, although Kindt is obviously a very talented graphic artist- despite the fact that I just don't care for the way he draws figures. Super Spy Weekly gives us four short stories, all involving spies for this side or that, and they all revolve on and resolve with a clever twist. The first two, so far, have been presented in webcomic form on Top Shelf's site. None of the earlier characters appear, except for a cameo in story one ("Safehouse") from Sisters' Elle. Off all of them, I liked that tale the best- an account of a young woman who entertains a succession of spies at the request of another, who strings her along with promises of love, it had a bit more gravity and drama than the other three, which tended to be lightweight interludes more so than fleshed-out stories. I also got a laugh out of "The Super Spy", which pokes fun at the James Bond school of gadget-laden secret agents. Coincidentally, perhaps, both of these entries were the ones spotlighted on the website, make of it what you will. I think Kindt's tales of spies work better for me in small doses, rather than in epic form, since I enjoyed this a lot more than I did Sisters. And once more, I gotta give a ton of props to Top Shelf for the consistently excellent presentation of their publications- SSW sports not only high-quality paper stock, but also vellum paper for the maps on the two inside front and back pages, a Super Spy index card glued to another inside front page, and in a neat touch a small tobacco-card size card of a seal, which is incorporated into the page layout at the part of "Safehouse" where the male spy regards the card which is inserted in his pack of cigarettes as he talks to the young woman, who reminisces at odd times during the narrative about visiting a seal at the zoo as a child. It's little touches like this which shows Top Shelf's commitment to presenting quality publications, without worrying too much, apparently, about the bottom line...unless Brett Warnock has some sort of agreement with paper suppliers involving risque photographs or something. Anyway, I don't know if this is an actual weekly or if it's just a play on pulp novels- but whatever the frequency I hope to see more of these, either online or in print. A

MARLENE (Slave Labor)
S/A: Peter Snejbjerg
Here's that Snejbjerg fella again, right off my reading of Light Brigade a couple of weeks ago, this time with am X-rated (or at least heavy R) story which is a mix of Mickey Spillane, Pygmalion, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth and Rod Serling (I could totally have seen this, minus of course the full frontal nudity, on an episode of Night Gallery) as a taciturn, reserved police detective (who still comes across as a tightly-wound loose cannon) gets involved with a beautiful free-spirited young woman who may or may not be a murderous shapeshifting elder-god-type creature. If I've read anything by Snejbjerg the writer, I can't recall- I mostly know him as an illustrator. If this is his first writing effort, it's not bad- he's good with dialogue, and the story moves along at a brisk clip. I was a bit annoyed, as I tend to be, at the lack of a clear-cut resolution of the events...I still don't really see the point of the scene when the nutball artist confronts the creature in his studio, and appears to be killed, (or at least we see the exterior of the house and an "NYAAARGH" sound effect) only to pop up later on in the story, serving only to make us wonder if he's really the morphing monster. Still, that's a small quibble that doesn't really blow the story as a whole for me. Artwise, Snejjie is still at the top of his game- he's a ludicrously underrated craftsman who manages to combine the best of the styles of Will Eisner and Richard Corben, with perhaps a dash of one of the Filipino greats like Nestor Redondo. His b&w-with-grey-wash tones work is moody and atmospheric, and his figure drawings and facial expressions are solid throughout, even when the protagonists are wearing clothes, heh-heh. There's been a small fuss about the lack of a mature content warning on the cover, and it's justified- there's some surprisingly explicit sex scenes here, and I'm not really sure if they're necessary but they're well done just the same. Even though I had the Todd Rundgren song stuck in my head as I read it, I though Marlene was a surprisingly good read and I think you just might too. A-

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