Sunday, April 22, 2007

The BSNCR is the venue by which I take the opportunity, unsolicited, to opine in regards to various works of sequential fiction I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 6 and 16 April 2007 AD...some of which may still be on sale, or will be soon, at finer book stores all across this fine nation of ours.

This one's a kind-of catchup BSNCR, spotlighting stuff I've been sent or have bought that wasn't in my regular shipment. And awaaaay we go...

S: Michael Alan Nelson; A: Jean Dzialowski. (Boom!, $3.99)

Remember those old Mummy flicks, in which Im-Ho-Tep or some other poor schlub would do something which invoked the wrath of the gods, and then they'd get revived years later in less-than-pristine condition, and were usually the evil tool of some other wannabe mighty sorcerer slash priest? Well, there's your template for this, except you can substitute Lovecraft's Old Gods for the Egyptian pantheon without missing a beat. Against all odds, however, it works- that old formula is tried and true- and this winds up being a diverting read which left me interested in where it was going. Nelson tries really hard to write the florid dialogue that this sort of thing usually requires, and even though he gives us his share of clunky phrases, he does just fine. Artwise, it's sketchy when it's not buried under about a thousand Photoshop layers, all of them set to "murk", except when it depicts another dimension when suddenly it becomes clearer, sharper, and less muddy. If you're interested in this sort of Lovecraftian horror, or if you like those old Mummy movies, you could do worse than to check this out. But then again, I'm hardly an acolyte, so take that with a grain of salt. B+

S/A: James Vining. (Oni, $9.95; reviewed from b/w advance copy)

Historical-based fiction about the role of chimps in the early days of the NASA space program, with the cutest monkeys this side of Curious George. Well-done, but there's no real dramatic tension at all: we meet the monkeys and their handlers, we're given some background info about the Space Race in those days, monkeys train and dream weird dreams (unsure why these vignettes are included, they really have no bearing on the story itself), some go up and come back down dead, our monkey "Ham" goes up and lives. Everybody's relieved, and The End. It's all very straightforward and informative, the monkeys are likeble (well, there's one that's kinda surly but nothing comes of it), and if I had a grade schooler who wanted to know about the roles that simians played in the early days of the US vs. Russia Space Race, then this would be what I'd whip out. There's also a coda of sorts which shows our Ham in a zoo in his old age; it's set up to make the reader sad at how such an important ape has to spend his days in such a fashion, and it is definitely melancholy- but I'm not exactly sure how necessary it is, or even why Vining chose to include it in his heretofore lightweight account. Balance, perhaps, but it's such a short and bittersweet scene that it doesn't even come close to balancing anything out plotwise. Oh well. Vining's art is nice enough, reminiscent of Philip Bond in places with all the clean lines, cartoony feel and square jaws...and he does a good job of humanizing the chimps enough to where we manage to feel a little concern when Ham goes up in the rocket. This is well-done as far as it goes, but the lack of any real dramatic tension really hamstrings, no pun intended, the book as a whole. Before it was done, I was kinda hoping that Ham would come back down as some sort of radiation-spawned monster a la The Quatermass Experiment, just to spark it a bit. Shame on me. B

S: Mike Leib; A: Chee. (Boom!, $3.99)

I never got the final issue of the Tag series that preceded this, so I'm assuming this is a follow-up of some sort, without the original participants. This issue consists of the inner monologue of some unfortunate fellow who has acquired (or passed on, I forget how this works) the zombie tag curse, and his decision to somehow get the IP addresses of everyone on a blog that is devoted to others who have experienced the curse, and somehow prevent the next tag from taking place. While I have my doubts about how efficiently this would work (IP addresses only give a general area, and aren't that specific, right?) it's a good enough idea to build a limited series on, I suppose. It's not exactly enlivened by the leaden stylings of "Chee", whose work has never honked my hooter. It's bland and sketchily rendered and isn't helped one iota by the Standard Vertigo Color Palette of mold green, dark brown and mottled grey. I don't know- there's probably a fair-sized audience for this, since it does, after all, feature zombies (which people apparently still can't get enough of)...and if this is you, go buy if you can. If not, you can have my copy if you want. C+

S/A: Nicholas Mahler. (Top Shelf, $12.95)

The fella behind Van Helsing's Night Out is back, this time using his Randall Enos-inspired style in service of a oddball tale of a past-his-prime race car driver who is having a lot of trouble adjusting to his irrelevant status. As odd as it might seem from that description, there's a good mix of skewed humor and drama (sometimes all at once, in the case of his hospitalized wife), which keeps it out of Talledega Nights territory and makes it an engaging read throughout, at least until what must apparently be the de rigeur "Nothin' matters and what if it did" downbeat ending that mars this as a whole somewhat. However, I freely admit that this is probably an indictment of me as a reader rather than you or the artist, and I can recommend it to you with only slight reservations. B+

S/A: Nate Powell. (Top Shelf, $5)

What we have here are the stream-of-consciousness musings of the author/illustrator, who works with adults (and in the last story of the three here, kids too) with developmental disabilities, while also pursuing his own creative urges. He doesn't seem very happy with his lot in life, either, as he agonizes and frets over it constantly all throughout the narrative. Such obsessive self-examination is a staple of this sort of comic, I suppose, and is no worse or no better than your average Joe Matt or Jeffrey Brown type, but bojemoi does it get tiresome after a while. Fortunately, he has such an imaginative, frewheeling art style (reminiscent of such names as Paul Pope, Jill Thompson, and Craig Thompson) that he brings to bear in service of all this navel-gazing, and it makes this a success in spite of itself. Worth a look for the art, and I'm sure those possessed of a more generous and open spirit than I will have more patience for all his self-directed angst. B+

S/A: Daniel Merlin Goodbrey. (AiT/PlanetLar, $12.95)

Y'know, the more one reads these days, the more one resigns oneself to the fact that there is very little new under the sun; even the best music, comics, novels, films, what have you build upon, are inspired by, and in some cases even outright beg, steal and borrow ideas from the myriad works in each genre that has come before. Some call it homage, some seek to claim it as their own and feign ignorance of the source, and some don't even reach the middling heights of well-done pastiche, regurgitating overfamilar tropes in such a slapdash and cynical fashion that a little bit of the reader's soul (not to mention gray matter) dies after completion. However, once in a while, someone comes along that actually is able to have ideas, fresh-seeming ones- a sense of the possibilities inherent in a plethora of sources, and even if they're borrowed from some obscure source, certain creators are able to spin them so deftly that you can't see any fingerprints anywhere. Grant Morrison comes to mind, Jack Kirby was another...and maybe, just maybe, (at least based on the evidence contained within this book) so is Goodbrey. A series of stories of sort, set in a world in which reality shrugged and resettled itself in a variety of new ways, this is a springboard for an unbelieveable cornucopia of surreality and smart, clever ideas- some are absurdly humorous, some will leave you scratching your head, and once in a while even touching, as in the case of "The House Who Wasn't Her", about a fellow who is convinced that he is living in the wrong house, and embarks on an extradimensional journey to get it back- the reveal at the end is quite bittersweet. Each tale, or vignette, or whatever, is consistently clever and even thought-provoking, and manages to evoke the same feeling that I dimly remember when I watched The Twilight Zone for the first time. Don't mean to short Goodbrey's art; it's certainly not as accomplished as the writing here- it's crudely inked and looks a lot like the old effect that artists used to get via photocopier in which the detail would get blown out and lost after several copies. It's probably done by Photoshop now, but the deadpan, stark style works to further emphasizes the dreamlike strangeness of each story to very good effect. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, and I hope there's more where it came from down the road. Merlin, eh? A

More later, including DEATH BY CHOCOLATE: REDUX and AMERICAN VIRGIN #13. Be there, aloha.

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