Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What I Read – Dec 7

I finished up No Country for Old Men over the week so I didn’t read nearly as much as I would have hoped. That seems to be a recurring message but it’s true. There is just never enough time in the day to read it all. I read the following in no particular order.

Tharg's Terror Tales Presents Necronauts and A Love Like Blood
(w) Gordon Rennie, John Smith (a) Frazer Irving, published by Rebellion/2000AD
I only bought this to see Irvings art so I was pleasantly surprised when the stories were pretty good. The first story, Necronauts, is a variation of Moore’s LoEG using Houdini, Doyle, Lovecraft, and Charles Fort (see here because I didn’t know who he was either) while the second is a werewolf-vampire love story ala Romeo and Juliet, only with a lot more blood and gore. There book finishes with a series of shorts collected from various places.

The stories are good in a mindless fluffy sort of way. It’s typical 2000ad fare with lots of action and plots points that whiz by at light speed. If you don’t think to hard you can’t help but like it. The vampire story and most of the shorts were reprinted in an earlier collection of Irving’s work called “Storming Heaven” so I wasn’t thrilled with that.

As stated, I bought this for the art and I wasn’t disappointed. Irving is just fantastic! Irving has gotten better over the years but this is still great. You can see him working and trying new things and mostly succeeding. It’s a fun book.

Below the break, Strange Embrace the book that launched David Hine’s career, Steve Niles latest horror book Something Monstrous!, and a couple of short comments on the Crime Does Not Pay collection, and Yeah! by Bagge and Hernandez

Strange Embrace
(w/a) David Hine, published by Active Images
I bought this because it is one of those mythical horror stories that are supposed to be fantastic. Not to mention that it was the book that launched David Hine’s career. In a nutshell, it’s a twisted psycho-sexual horror story with some very dark and deeply disturbed characters.

As horror stories go, this is definitely one of the better ones. It reminded me of modern version of old gothic tales. The monsters are all human but that doesn’t mean the book isn’t scary.

While I enjoyed the story, the ending left me a little bit cold. Hine uses a framing sequence to get the story started and then ties it all back in at the end. The problem is that I didn’t believe the motivation of the character in the framing sequence. He seemed to be little more than a plot device to insure that some perverted version of justice was done.

Hine’s art is fine and works well enough to convey the story and differentiate characters. I can’t say I was amazed by it but I wasn’t offended either. As I like to say, this is a book that suffered from high expectations. I enjoyed 99% of it, just the last few pages left me cold.

Something Monstrous!
(w) Steve Niles and R. H. Stavis (a) Stephanie Buscema, published by IDW
To be fair, I haven’t finished this yet but so far it is typical, well executed horror by Steve Niles. In a non-sentence summary: Dad dies, kids, one really successful the other a burnout return home, as they reminisce about their childhood they realize everything isn’t as it seems. If you’ve liked Niles's other horror stories then you will like this one.

Stephanie Buscema, the granddaughter of John Buscema, was the real draw for me on this book. I really liked the stylized cover and thought her art would work well in a horror setting. Buscema certainly inherited her Grandfather’s artistic ability but unfortunately it just doesn’t work for this story. Her art is hard and angular that tends to make the figures appear to be square blocks and fingers that are pointy sticks instead of fingers.  But that is her style so I am willing to accept it to a point, unfortunately, she had trouble conveying the real agnsty emotions and facial expression required to pull off a horror story well. She also needs work on inanimate objects. For example, when she draws a policeman’s gun it looks like a wooden toy that you would find at a flea market and the characters hands aren’t even in the right place to fire said block of wood. Those little details really disrupt the flow and make it difficult to focus on what is happening.

UPDATED:  So I finished the book last night and I have to say it didn't really improve any.  The story never gelled for me.  There was a terrible event but it's never really described.  There were people who did terrible things but they are never given any motivation to perfrom said unknown terrible things.  Finally there is no real explanation for what created the monster which was taking it's vengence.  I kept waiting for something to really tie it all together and make me care and it just never arrived. 

And, I studied Buscema's art again.  She can draw woman and make each distinctive and unique.  In this book she wasn't able to adequately distinguish the older male characters.  There was several times when I wasn't able to tell who was who because they had the exact same facial features.  She has talent but she wasn't the best artist for this story.

Finally, I need to comment on IDW printing this as a tpb and not in single issues.  It's obvious from the "splash page" extras which look eeriely similar to covers that this was supposed to be a 4 issue mini-series.  If so, then why did it go straight to trade.  It's the comic book equivalent of straight-to-dvd.

(w) Peter Bagge, (a) Gilbert Hernandez, published by Fantagraphics
Another book that I've started but haven't finished, this is a reprint of material that Bagge did in 1999-2000 for Wildstorm. Bagge wanted to create a comic that was a girl-centered cross between Archie and Josie and the Pussycats that would be approved by the CCA.  He succeeded but I am not sure I like it.

I bought this for Girl because the concept was good and the creative team is great but I wanted to read it before giving it too her because of Bagge’s reputation. Bagge captured the female voice perfectly and the art by Gilbert Hernandez which mimics Archie house style to perfection is wonderful too. The problem is that as much as I wanted to love this book but I just didn’t.

In his introduction, Bagge talks about how the book never really reached the target audience. It isn’t edgy enough for Bagge’s core audience from Hate and it’s just a wee bit too old for the tween, pre-tween girls that it targets. The Archie based art seemed targeted to a 10 yr old, yet the slightly edgy story seemed to aim for the 14-15 yr old.   Finally, I know that Girl loves color.  She will accept a book without it but she will always choose color first and I think that's normal.  Fantagraphics decision to reprint this in BandW makes sense to maintain a price point but I think it causes the series to again miss the target audience of young girls.

Crime Does Not Pay: Black Jacked and Pistol Whipped
edited/written by Charles Biro and Bob Wood, (a) Rudy Palais, Dick Briefer, Bob Montana, George Tuska and many more, published by Dark Horse.
Before EC there was Crime Does Not Pay! This is a best-of collection of stories from the book that created the crime comic genre. It’s violent and all true. It’s a great read for $20. You can read the long review here

That’s it for this week.  And strangely my 'briefly' wasn't all that brief.  I need to work on that.

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