Inkstuds Reading Pile January 14th

This weeks stack is an odd mix of more europeans and catching up on minis.

I got the Gag Rag by Jeff Lok over holidays and it almost got sucked up by the stack of comics. Its magazine made the book stick out and I pulled from the menacing towers of to read that are forming.

For the most part, it is a pretty enjoy little book of gags. I really enjoyed this one about print being dead. It made me gufah. He does some clever and nicely disturbing strips about a couple trapped on a desert island that takes some nontraditional twists. It’s not a deep book, but it is a fun book. I feel like he is on his way to do something more interesting maybe? The art is something like mix of something that I would find at a convention like the one in Brooklyn, mixed with sensibilities from guys like Doug Allen and Gary Leib.  I will read more comics by Lok and look forward to seeing where his style develops too. I presuming he’s a CCS alum, but don’t quote me on that.

To go along with the CCS theme, Andy Warner, another CCS alum sent me a couple of minis. The first that I read, was Two Stories. I found it to be somewhat forgettable. The first story at about 5 pages long, looks at the authors short relationship with an injured squirrel he had found outside of his home, and squirrel’s eventual demise. I just had a hard time connecting with it. It seemed a little handfisted. The second story, a longer one that show’s an exchange between 2 young friends whose relationship is nearing an end, and they both know, but don’t know how to verbalize. This one has some more promise and alludes to more in a nice way. I wish he had stretched out this story a little more and not bother with the other.

The other comic was a lot more fleshed out. The Man Who Built Beirut is an examination of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and subsequent turmoil and national discord within Lebanon after the event. He did some good recounting of particular events from the fall out, but his story is really limited to length. As a mini-comic, Andy is doing some heavy lifting and glosses over some pretty important parts and points that can really add to the humanity within the situation. For the 3 dollar purchase, I think it is well worth checking out. I can see some good groundwork in this story that can be fine tuned into something grander. You can read all the stories mentioned on his blog.

My last CCSer for this week, was actually a collaboration between two grads, Betsey Swardlick and Colleen Frakes. I really enjoy Colleen’s stories and think she has some fine cartooning skills.The 12th issue Colleen’s ongoing series Tragic Relief was released as a part of Box Brown’s admirable Retrofit Comics project. Their story, Drag Bandits, is a fun little romp of gender identity play. The story follows a cross-dressing person that holds up travelers like a kind of gender ambivalent Robin Hood. The work is simple and smartly put together. I will continue to read anything that Colleen does and look forward to seeing how she continues to develop as a cartoonist and illustrator.

 

 

Continuing with the Retrofit, is Fungus by James Kochalka. I have a weird relationship with Kochalka’s work. Sometimes i think it’s amazing, other times, i get fed up with the cuteness overload and want to throw it out the window. This one was somewhere in between. I like the photocover mixed with his super minimal images. The colours are pleasing and it draws me in. The book has two stories, the first one is a quaint conversation between a couple of walking and talking mushrooms…sorry, fungus. The second story was a lot more interesting, showing Kochalka’s cunning skill with timing and humor. His work can be so good. I guess that’s why i get so mad when it fails. Ultimately, this book is a bit from column A and a bit from column B.

 

Aron Nels Steinke sent me his latest Big Plans, issue 5. Aron’s work is amazingly easy to read. I have said that before, and will say it again. He has developed a great style and this issue his longest yet. The one thing that strikes me as odd, is doing this as a numbered issue. The book comes in a nice perfect bound package that could probably be sold as a graphic novel, but instead he has continued his numbering from previous issues that were in a variety of sizes and forms. His work reminds me a little of that meditative quality that Porcellino is able to tap into, but only has a lot more happening than Porcellino would. I guess I should mention that he was able to fund this with Kickstarter and the same with Box Brown and Retrofit. It’s nice to see something good coming out of that. If you are one of those people that only buy “graphic novels” you can pretend this is one. I also read his Super-Duper Dog Park kids book. It looks fun, but then again, I’m not a kid. I will show it to my neighbor’s kid and get her input.

Something I did go through lately with was the Abrams release, Star Wars Art: Comics. We had very different takes on the book. I really like some of the work in there, especially when you could see the cartoonist had a personal connection with the material, like Paul Pope’s 2 page story. Some of the other work in it, was a little useless. Does the world really need any more Adam Hughes’ paintings of Princess Leia with a big rack. The kid was enthralled in this book, and that is where it really succeeds. Full page art of familiar faces done in a variety of styles. Treat this book like candy.

Meat Haus member in good standing, King Mini aka Vincent Stall’s Things You Carry is a really interesting wordless book that feels like a Fort Thunder book but without being super-metal or punk as fuck. The story weaves a faceless character through a bleak scene of futuristic crumbling hopelessness. There are some great concepts that Stall is putting out there and i would love to see more creators try and limit themselves this way, with no words and no facial expressions. It really forces Stall to draw environments that have emotions.

Motherlover is an anthology published by 2D cloud, who also released Things You Carry. They are an interesting crew out of Minneapolis that have a published some really great work. Motherlover is no exception. The comics are great. I really liked John and Luke Holden’s strip about the pubescent activities of a group of young men. They use this really visceral art style that evokes the primal emotions that the characters are feeling. The other comics are really strong too and in general, a well worth checking out book. One thing that I find confusing, is the need for a forward by Rob Clough. I think Rob does some great reviews of mini’s. I don’t agree with everything he says, but will say he is an asset in covering a huge volume of work. His forward reads like a description of the Minneapolis scene, which is filled with great talent, but serves as a distraction from the great illustrated work in the book. If you are going to have someone do an intro or forward, make sure it is actually needed. This one wasn’t. Also, I just noticed that it was funded through Kickstater too. How about that.

I read a stack of comics by Patrick Kyle and then did an interview. He’s good.

Back to the European comics. I finally sat down with the massive hardcover edition of Meobius and Jodorowsky’s classic collaboration, Incal. I read this over the week each night before going to bed. It was pretty amazing. I had the original Epic versions, but never got around to reading them. It was worth the wait. The size of the hardcover is worth it for this book. There are so many great subtle intricacies to his Moebius’ line work. He is really in top form for this book. The scope of it being done through time, show’s how he has grown as an artist over the years. The two creators make a good team on this story, you can’t really tell where one begins and the other ends. Meobius seem’s to be able to take the Jodorowsky script and run off and do something amazing. As happy as I am to see this work back in print, I do have some strong words for the Humanoids marketing plan. I don’t get why they do these staggered releases where they print over-priced hardcovers, then small cheaper editions, but do a short run of those. So essentially, anything interesting they publish, goes out of print really quick. Why not print more? or maybe step up the release schedule of new editions, if they can’t afford to do larger runs at once. I have no idea, but there must be a better way to do this that doesn’t end up with speculators buying up these limited run books and then selling them for ridiculous prices on ebay or amazon. It makes me sick to think that some guy grabbed the last copy from the comic store so he could flip it, and meanwhile, someone that wants to read a book out of general interest for the content, is left out in the dark. Great way to ostracise your audience! I really hope that future work will be more readily available and look forward to seeing more Meobius work brought back over for those that missed out on previous releases.

After reading Incal, I felt like jumping into some more Meobius, this time, it was his solo work. The first 3 Epic Collection are an odd assortment that all seem to lead into bigger work, provide a slew of openings. My favorite of the bunch is probably his classic Arzach work. Moebius takes the reader into this wonderfully lush imaginative world that feels dirty and wrong and dangerous. The work that is collected here can also be found in early issues of Heavy Metal. I think it was the  Heavy Metal work that really freaked out North American readers and made him a staple of influence. I am not going to say a lot more about Moebius, as other’s like Jog have been doing it better. Just do yourself a favor and read some work by him.

My last book, is a European release done right. Fantagraphics has been doing an amazing job with their series of Jacques Tardi reprints. I have loved them all for various reasons. The production is nice, the work is clear and not hard to find. Humanoids could learn a lot from them. I finally sat down with the first Adele Blanc-Sec book. I have had versions of these for a long time in other formats, published by Dark Horse, but not in colour. I really prefer this work in colour. The work isn’t Tardi’s deepest but still pretty enjoyable. The book collects 2 Albums, the first being Pterror Over Paris and the second, The Eiffel Tower Demon. Adele stories feel like they are a fancy french version of scooby doo, except Velma is the only member of the gang.

 

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