Welcome back to our spotlight on independent comic book covers. This week’s theme will be Bill Willingham’s seminal work, the Elementals:
Most of the issues in volume 1 of the series had wrap-around covers, as seen here. Given the team’s status as celebrities, this particular homage to the famous Beatles album cover fit in quite well with the book’s theme.
Wrapping up a look at some newer comics, here’s Undertow, from Image Comics:
“Atlantis is the world superpower, and Redum Anshargal is its worst enemy. If you want to break free of the system, he can offer you a place at his side, exploring the wild surface world in his watertight city barge The Deliverer. He and his hostage-protege Ukinnu Alal hunt the Amphibian, a legend that could be the key to an air-breathing life on land.”
Cover art by Artyom Trakhanov.
I was completely taken by surprise by Joe Casey’s re-imagining of several of Dark Horse’s superhero characters in this 9 issue mini-series, the pseudo-anthology Catalyst Comix:
Very inventive and bombastic; just a fun read all around. The wraparound cover to this issue was done by the inimitable Raphael Grampa.
This week I’m going to spotlight some newer comics I’ve been reading, starting with The Fuse, from Image Comics:
I love this very simple graphic design cover by Justin Greenwood.
Wrapping up this week’s theme of books from the long-defunct Adventure Publications, here’s their first foray into the sci-fi genre, Star Rangers:
Cover by Dave Dorman, 1987.
The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch, written by Neil Gaiman, art by Dave McKean.
This is a quickie review of an old Neil Gaiman graphic novel that I just recently got around to reading. Mr. Punch tells the tale of a man remembering his childhood, spent at a bleak seaside town where his grandfather operated an indoor arcade. Through hazy remembrances, he confronts dark family secrets, nightmares, and a mysterious Punch and Judy man. Now, as many of you already know, I’m a big Gaiman fan, however (and I know this may sound like blasphemy) I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Dave McKean’s art. I appreciate his work, but it doesn’t move me or speak to me as other artists’ work does. So this direct collaboration between the two was a mixed bag for me.
Overall, this was a well written, solid effort from Gaiman, but being one of his earlier books, it lacks some of the charm that his later works weave so well into the narrative. It did get me interested in the history and culture of Punch and Judy shows, though, and sent me off to do a bit of reading on the subject at Wikipedia.
Gaiman and McKean collaborate quite well together, as you would expect. Using puppets (instead of illustrations) to tell a story dealing with puppet shows makes sense, and McKean is eminently qualified for the job. The standout moments to me were the sequence where the author recalls a hazy memory of a conversation (which McKean depicts by placing the maquettes of the characters behind soft gauze), and the emotionally brutal confrontation between the protagonist’s grandfather and a “mermaid”.
If you’re a fan of either creator, you know what to expect and won’t be disappointed, but I found this particular outing a bit too dry and bleak for my tastes. Again, your mileage will vary.
(A version of this review appeared on my old Ferret Press blog, March 2011.)
Probably my favorite series from Adventure Publications, the horribly-named Ninja Elite was actually a very well written tale of politics, betrayal, and loyalty.
The book followed the adventures of Nightwind, a member of the deadly Amita K’Un clan, prior to her joining the Adventurers.
This week, I’m going to feature a publisher I’ve spotlighted before: Adventure Publications. They started out with several fantasy titles, then slowly branched out into sci-fi, before ultimately being devoured by Malibu Comics. Today’s spotlight is on their flagship title, The Adventurers:
This is the cover to issue #1 of volume 3, which only lasted 6 issues. Painted by Iain McCraig, published in 1989.
And we close down our look at Chuck Dixon comics with Alias #3:
Cover art by Eric Brant, published by Now Comics, 1990.
I bought this graphic novel (published by Drawn & Quarterly) on a whim, based on the artwork alone. After reading it, I found it to be a refreshing change of pace from my other readings.
A straight-up mafia crime story set in Napoli in the 70s takes a few surreal turns in this book by Igort (aka Igor Tuveri). Peppino is a retired hitman for the mob who picks up his guns again to avenge the death of his son, also a mob hitman. What transpires next is an escalating spiral of violence and intrigue. While most of the characters are criminals and not exactly likeable, Igort does a good job of making them at least relatable. At times the story veers a bit too deep into philosophical discussions, but I actually prefer that to just action and violence.
The artwork, produced in an atmospheric duotone, is in turns sparse, dense, breezy, or brooding. He uses very subtle, ethereal lines when drawing a peaceful village setting, but easily switches to heavy inks and blocky black shadows to portray dangerous rendezvous and moments of emotional intensity. It’s also published in the larger European graphic novel size, so you can truly appreciate Igort’s layouts and composition as they were intended.
The only problem I had with this book was the translation from Italian. The captions sometimes came off as dry, stilted, and academic. By contrast, the spoken dialogue tried too hard to affect an accent or realistic slang, but just came off as stereotypical and clunky. Stuff like “Get yar ass over here” or “dis here is my gun”.
But overall, if you like crime stories, this is a pretty good one, and the sequential storytelling is quite strong.
(A version of this review first appeared on my Ferret Press blog in May, 2011)
Chuck Dixon week rolls on, today featuring the cover to Airboy #21:
Cover by George Evans, published by Eclipse Comics, 1987.
OK, after a much too long hiatus, ICS is back! Let’s get right to it…
In honor of IDW bringing back Chuck Dixon’s Winter World series back, this week’s theme will be Dixon books. Starting with…Winter World #1.
Cover art by Jorge Zaffino. Published by Eclipse Comics, 1987.