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My first introduction to Jean-Paul Mullet was during the Fringe Fest.  Patiently waiting in the line-up to see Mullet Makes A Play, I could feel his dead eyes on me.  Upon turning, there he was, the Zombie Clown.

Personable, rotting and undead, this black-nosed clown peaked my curiosity.  I needed to know more and in my quest, I found that not only is he a brilliant playwright, the deadling has his own comic strip.

Horrific and funny, this strip is everything you could hope for.  I spent a good part of an afternoon going through all the pages of the webcomic website.  My fav’s have to be the Polar Bear Tree  (click forward from here till the end of Ed’s dream), tossing in a little mad max , batman  (the colouring is sensationally delicious), and Miller and Mullet in Space!

The written words of Mullet are brilliantly brought to life by artist Kameron Gates. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of web-based strips and have to say this has become one of my favourites.  The quality of script and art are seamless. Mullet and Gates, along with other Toronto based comic artists Ramon Perez, Andy Belanger and Kalman Andrasofszky are one of the reasons I, as an adult, still have a love affair with comic books. Be it online or in paper form.

Miller & Mullet is posted weekly, cruise on by to get your brains eaten, ermm get your fix of the funniest duo in the comic strip world.

BIO
Jean-Paul Mullét was born in 1726, died in 1747, and washed up onshore 100 years later. Now he performs live and on TV, is a comic con regular, and the star of his own comic book and weekly webcomic. Credits include regular appearances on ‘Ed & Red’s Night Party’ as well as ‘Ed the Sock’s This Movie Sucks!’, which was recently nominated for the 2011 Canadian Comedy Award for Best TV Show. He is a regular performer in the Centre of Gravity’s ‘Lunacy Cabaret’ and the Toronto Festival of Clowns and has appeared in The Second City’s ‘Late Night Cabaret’ and at Comic-Con International. He also co-wrote, directed, and starred in ‘Miller & Mullet: Babysitters’, a feature-length disasterpiece now available on YouTube. This past summer, Mullet unveiled his first play—the tragicomedy ‘Mullet’s Make-a-Play’ premiered at the Toronto Fringe Festival to rave reviews.

Art is by Kameron Gates, a character animator whose resume includes King Kong, Hellboy, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Men in Black II, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and, most famously, the Miller & Mullet animated production logo which appears before every Miller & Mullet video.

“Whereas zombies just want your brains, Mullet wants your heart too.” – The Zombie Sartorialist

With the rising popularity of graphic novels, there are many made that need not be in comic book form. They read as if the images were an afterthought. One soul is literally born out of image. Formed onto the page, we awake with the narrator being held by their mother, then the other mother, and another, we are taken all over the world, through time.

The story drifts from one reality to the next, awakening to smells, to sounds, to circumstances. Sometimes we are looking through the eyes of a child, up at lamps, through chains, blossoms falling, a church window. Other times we are looking at the narrator grow in their many forms. The reader is easily led along, convinced of the child’s voice in each situation, the perceptions and the realities of life dictated by environment.

This is a story born of image, one that embraces the graphic in the novel. Although the narrator shifts through time and gender, it is easily accepted that this is all a story falling from the same lips. That this is the same soul born into different arms, and that the narrative is unbreakable.

This is an overwhelming piece of art. More like a legacy than a novel. There are moments when each form of the narrator comes together, and it feels like a triumph. There are phrases that repeat in each panel, giving new meanings, new tones and realities with every utterance. It is more symphony than story. Ray Fawkes has then hands of a conductor and the heart of a humanitarian and a beautiful novel to share. This is one for the hardcover bookshelf in your home.

You can find more Ray Hawkes at www.onipress.com

Okay, so strolling into the 30th issue and trying to catch up is not the way to appreciate such an involved series. Scrolling back and forth from the intro had me somewhat understanding all that is going on in this epic story. Finally, I had some navigation down and I was able to enjoy the spectacle.

With the war over, Marcus begins his negotiations with the “Sunners” a people long enslaved. He grants them their freedom with a catch, that they become his soldiers. Their leader, Golden Voice, refuses to hand over his people to what would be just another form of enslavement. A normally peaceful race, they realize that the only way to be free in such a war torn society, is to also fight. Like all good fantasy fiction, what follows is social metaphor.

There is a beautiful darkness in this series not only in story, but also in its visual style. Heavily contrasted in black and white, the effect of the cross hatched shading lends brutality to the scenes, a violence to shadow, a ravage to war weary faces. Christopher Mitten and Remington Viveto marry image wonderfully with Antony Johnston’s gripping narrative. Set in America, the language is current and almost in contradiction with the more tribal images.

The sentiment of this issue is clear and shown through the hung heads of those who do not wish for more bloodshed, the women, the intellectuals, and the traditional Sunners who hope to stay true to their historic natures. A turning point in peacetime, the story continues to evolve. “The Wasteland” series is a beautiful journey into a darkness that is driven by human greed, pride and aggression.

Sarah Oleksyk’s full-length graphic novel looks for a home no more. It begged to go from comic series format to a satisfying volume, and it deserves it. From the very beginning, the mood, humour and humanism in “Ivy” compel. Oni press feels the same way I do. “Ivy” is now in a collected volume and ready to be taken home with you.

Ivy is a character you’ve already met. She’s a budding artist, a tomboy, a hater of girly girls (especially the ones who may have more talent than her) and the girl you love to bitch with. Having said that, she is also the girl who may not be invited out because some things that make her daring and tough can also come off as cruel and petty.

Oleksyk’s panels tell stories using all layers. She creates an entire teenage world with tiny details, paying close attention to the background. There are a few wonderful little digs at high school. One panel being Ivy and her friend Marisa walking through the halls and a bunch of single word balloons surrounding them with gems like; “whatever”, “Dyke”, and “sucks”. Another is a poster hanging above the lockers declaring the upcoming “anarchy club” election. Hahahaha… anarchy club, brilliant!

The look of the comic is contemporary and uses simple clean lines. It is appealing in black, white and greys. Oleksyk’s website where the first chapter is offered (www.saraholeksyk.com) is as beautiful and modest. There is wonderful motion in these panels; the depictions of these characters are just as honest as the writing. A very satisfying first chapter. Oleskyk has introduced us to someone so real here, we walk through her halls, we crush with her, we fight with her and we teen ache with her.

In this harrowing episode we catch up with Drake Sinclair, Gord Cantrell, Becky Montcrief and that handsome gunslinger Kirby Hale in New Orleans as they continue to solve the conundrum of having waaaay too many guns. Okay, well, you can never have too many guns, but the Sixth Gun is one Drake is not going to want for much longer. In the land of voodoo, something as mystical as a cursed gun makes for some bad juju. Brian Hurtt brings a wonderful sense of foreboding with his lush Louisiana backdrops.

New Orleans is a character; a land that is like no other in the States, and Hurtt presents this beautifully. The cover is a wonderful split page, a glaring red smothering infestation of crocodiles, and a haunted servant below sets the mood for this creepy comic. Hurtt makes excellent use of shadow, most notably, a scene between Henri Fournier and Drake where the servant is in the foreground, the light just catching his hand reaching for his knife. Colourist Bill Crabtree reflects the mood by his blood reds and greens so deep you can almost smell the Bayou.

Cullen Bunn does an excellent job of imparting just enough info to keep the reader thirsty. He also teases the audience with the introduction of romantic tension between Kirby and Becky. That handsome Kirby makes a room full of over-buttoned dresses seem Louisiana steamy. Okay okay, I know it’s weird to have crushes on comic book characters, but I can’t go against … um… nature?

The Sixth Gun, Crossroads part II is an luscious addition to this gun slinging series. What better place for romance, curses, spirits and possessed crocs than New Orleans?

What first appealed to me about Sword of my Mouth is Jim Munroe’s world post rapture. What was once considered evil is now part of the norm. People perform hexes, practice magic, use psychic powers, it’s like the Christians were just holding us all back. Munroe’s story is concerned with character rather than trying to convince the reader of what events spurned on the new world. He does not give in to the need to spoon feed the reader. Although this is the second in a series, it can stand on it’s own due to Munroe’s talent.

The artwork is simple clean and confident lines. A few layering effects are used for perspective but there is no real sense of light or other techniques. An absence of panels is challenging, but showcases Shannon Gerard’s abilities. There are a few coloured pages, but they are reserved for chapter breaks. Gerard is adept with movement. From unexplained winds ruffling shaggy hair, to swayed desirous hips, there is little lost on the character’s body language. This becomes the show, the other narrative, as Ella navigates her relationships. Unfortunately, the lettering is a distracting scrawl in direct contrast with the comic’s careful style.

Sword of my Mouth is the follow up novel to Therefore Repent! Left as a single mother post rapture, Ella does her best to survive in Detroit after her partner André left to fight in Chicago. There are a few different stories happening here, but they all have the same themes, survival and food. The character Famine is particularly compelling. Gerard keeps him chilling in his posturing and stylish garb. Angels roam with M16s and soldiers with saber tooth tiger teeth also command the pages.

Munroe weaves speculative in a way that is engaging and natural. The story is believable, even when surrounding it with magic and mutants. Gerard compliments the humanness of the characters with great artistic touches, like Ella playing with her split ends in an awkward scene. It is moments like this that make Sword of my Mouth a tangible and compelling addition to Jim Munroe’s new series.

Love Buzz is a teenage love story gone wrong; then right; then wrong again, then… well, you know, wronger. The main characters, Norm and Maggie meet in high school. They make your typical mistakes, poor communication, drunken floundering, asinine assumptions and then they make up and do the same terrible things to each other again. Their attempts at sustaining a relationship continues past high school, past break up and past engagement.

The other element that makes this into a more complicated love story is the story of Norm and his sketchbook. He mixes themes going from Mike Hammer to Hergé in an attempt to understand and create art out of his troubled relationship. This becomes beautifully transparent in one sequence where Maggie is telling him of an infidelity and Norm is transposing the conversation into a sexy spy hit-woman series. Dave Tuney obviously loves to play with genre and does it well.

This other narration propels the reader into understanding how a comic book artist sees the world. In one aspect, Wallace the takes us through his relationship, showing the losses, the whirlwind dramatics of youth; on the other hand it is the birth of him as an artist fueling the narration, extrapolating experience to workshop his art.

Michelle Silva is the queen of bangs… hair that is. I wish she could come over and draw hair on me everyday. She makes the kids lanky, she makes them cool, and she makes them awkward, unsure, in love, in lust. There is no question what she wants you to feel for the characters in her languid style. You can tell she knows the players well and has a love for them. She pays just as much attention to the background as the foreground, creating settings just as demonstrative as the characters.

Wallace, Silva and Tuney tell a brilliant story together. This is an amazing effort by artists who are committed to the character, the story, and the image of teenage love.

Chris Schweizer’s latest addition to his much acclaimed Crogan’s series follows the exploits of Corporal Crogan during his last months of service in the French legion. Framing the historical tale is a father attempting to teach his sons about principles. The Foreign Legion was created by France to be a military presence in its outer occupied countries. Soldiers from all nationalities were allowed to join.

This story starts in the desert sands of North Africa in 1912. Sargeant Ludlow leads Crogan’s army, he is a stickler for the rules, often appearing too stringent for the Legionnaires. When Captain Roitelet takes over, the men are quickly entranced by this much decorated war hero who brings bravado and promises of grandeur to the tired men. Do the men find their honour in a hero, or with a stickler?

Done in black and white, the frames fill with very active and well-characterized drawings that remind me of Asterix comics. Their emotions are written all over their faces, as it were. These simple broad forms give a true French and historical feel to the comic. Schweizer’s Legionnaires may be dressed alike, but are unmistakably set apart in their illustrated natures.

The brothers who are getting the lesson from their father are as invested in the story as I am. It is filled with history, action, valour and valuable lessons about how to truly act honourably. I have never been much of a history buff, the stories of yesteryear would only really stick in my mind until the school exam. Like Chester Brown’s Louis Riel, Crogan’s March is a great tool for us more visual learners. A wonderful story.

Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Hans Beimler have joined forces writing this installment of The Middleman. If the ABC series had aired this final episode, Doomsday would have answered all the questions that rose during the single season run. Sharp and witty, The Middleman comic moves at turbo speed.

Wendy Watson’s life as a temp is long since past. Now in the ranks of Middleman’s agency as a covert operative, she’s pretty durned busy. She fights robots, Fatboys, aliens and even with her handsome boyfriend. Always at her side is The Middleman; an epic chinned, uber-intelligent blond mega man. Together they make a great team, endless snappy comments, relationship discussions, back-to-back fighting styles and sharp sexy suits.

The action never stops, you almost wonder if life as a temp might become appealing after a while. The first time I read the comic, I felt a little left in the dust. The details are heavy and sometimes excessive, but put forth in such an appealing manner; it becomes part of the fun to not understand what the hell they are talking about. Wendy herself even falls into this during a breakneck conversation about “chac-mol”, at the end she just throws up her hands and tries to play along.

Armando M. Zanker’s illustrations are full of energy. I was particularly entranced by a sequence involving a Combat Android, The Middleman and Wendy. Wendy is amazing in this, flying all over the room, teeth gritted, bullets going everywhere with “BUDDA BUDDA BUDDA, Ping, Pow Pow, P-Choom P-Choom” marking each deflection. Zanker is very aware of light, depth, angle and with the guidance of Les Mc Claine; how to blend each set of panels.

The Middleman series is very worth the read. If you do get lost, flip to the back, the glossary, or as Grillo-Maruach puts it; “Annotations and Pop Culture References,” is just as enjoyable as the comic itself.

This story comes in at 184 pages, so there’s no quick scan, and, frankly,
you’d be ripping yourself off if you did. This is one of those pot of coffee
books that you read at a leisurely pace, get hooked into the zany characters
and then follow the laugh trail that converts what start as cliché
characters into nifty parodies. It starts off in the Magical Kingdom of
Valdonia where Lord Balthazar, leader of the Centaurs is preparing to battle
the Dark Queen for the future of the country. The key to victory is the
mythical “Heart of Agnon”, an amulet of great power that can only be
controlled by someone purely good or totally evil. In comes Doug Peterson
who vows he will lead the Valdonians against the dark Queen and free
Valdonia. Doug is only eight years old and must return to his family in
Poconos Pennsylvania for the night, but he vows to come back and lead them
in the big battle. But he does not return, too afraid to take on that
pivotal role.

Twenty-five years go by. Doug, now separated from his wife, takes his young
son Oscar back to the cottage where the portal to the other world is hidden.
Oscar finds the amulet and before you can shout Kaboom! they’re both back in
Valdonia and the quest is on. I’m not going to tell you anything about the
plot because that’s not my role here. I will highlight the elements of story
that work so well in this book. Gailina the fairy and her reluctant fiancé
Hans the Cyclops, are truly hilarious. No other pair in the story stay in
character as avidly as these two do. The crazy battle between the Soothsayer
of the Mountain and the Oracle of the Mountain is beyond ridiculous. It must
be the thin air up there. Not to be missed are the antics of Doug’s old
friend and annoying, albeit faithful ally, Feldspar “the Disloyal” TumTum.
Laugh out loud when this dude is around. The Dark Queen is as warped as the
Wizard of Oz, faking her powers and ruling with a cruel, albeit pathetic
façade over her retinue of ugly retainers.

Stupidest line in the book is Doug bragging, “The Dark Queen’s a chick. I’m
good with chicks.” Funniest moment for me was the appearance of Oscar’s
report card. I didn’t like the art much when I started reading this book,
but by the end I was convinced it was perfect for the story. Buy it, read
it, then stash it in with the things to take on vacation. This is one of
those cool comics you leave at the cottage for someone else to find. The
spend the rest of the week in a state of half smile contemplating the cool
surprise this book is going to be to the next unsuspecting person to find
it.

Stumptown is the first part of what promises to be a delightful romp through the clinging brush and deep shadows that surround Portland Oregon. The darkness of the northwest forest is cut by the headlights of a solitary car. In the opening splash, no word balloons; just two grubby guys opening the trunk of a car under a towering bridge. A young woman talks flippantly from inside the trunk, trying to get them to say who they are as she tosses her activated cell phone to the ground. They haul her out and she backs into the river. Two shots ring out and she hits the water. The only witness, a Canada goose, flies off. The story then relies on a series of flashbacks to explain how she ended up in the river with two bullets in her.

It’s a clever mystery tale, well told, so I’m not going to tell you anymore about the plot. Except that Greg Rucka’s story is well thought out and twists the old noir/mystery story genre in several places at a speed that is as breathless as the pace of the protagonist’s comeback lines. We don’t discover her name until the last page, and for good reason. Plenty of opportunities come and go, but her name isn’t revealed, one of the subtleties of the plot that we don’t really notice until the surprising conclusion. How beautifully these subplots balance the blunt cruelties of the criminal story line. Well planned little nuances to character also surprise, like why everyone asks about her brother when they first meet her, but nobody ever asks how she is.

Artist Matthew Southworth is ideal for this story. The gritty dark inks and dishevelled lines of the protagonist and the other characters subvert the action and keep it on the ground, under the bridge and in the bar when it needs to be there. But then there are the beautiful lines of a woman lying on a couch having a cigarette, the close-up of the gangster’s lesbian daughter, the rapid fire photo sequence of the goose flying over the bridge to safety. One panel after another of important potential evidence slips buy and we wonder what she notices and what she doesn’t. This is a leisurely read, a slow savour of every panel and a perfect mix of art and dialogue as effective storytelling.

A special nod must go to the colourist, Lee Loughridge. The full page colour washes allocated to scene sequences and story arc changes are not just well timed, the colours themselves mirror the moods. Nice work.

This book is tight. Nothing superfluous. Nice editing James Lucas Jones. I especially like the title of the section, which isn’t revealed until the end either. It’s nicely long-winded and as silly as it should be at that point considering her dilemma with the police officers. I’m off to read it again. I know I missed something important. I can just feel it.

At first I thought that Guytron was actually tongue and cheek. I mean really? Guytron? I was reluctant to continue, but very happy that I did. At once the reader is caught up with the dregs of the genocide of the Gramosian race at the hands of the Hakillians. The Commander orders Lycon back to his ship, and the last of the Gramosians leaves reluctantly.

Back on Earth, we join Fry, a handsome young bench presser. He seems like the type of guy who could use a little more excitement, and maybe some tighter pants. On his way home, worlds collide.

Science fiction can be a very demanding medium. With all new worlds, languages, races and concepts, a writer can get bogged down with explanations. Raymond Leonard skillfully avoids this by only revealing details immediately pertinent. He wordlessly leads his reader’s sympathies through his panels of a race lost to war. There are some occasions that could use an editor, and the space battle scene looked like a candy display, but many more pages were so well done that it made the weaker ones feel like mishaps. I also wonder at the choice to have the lettering fit the bubble, it makes it feel rather confined at times.

Guytron lives up to it’s promise of being the “First Exciting Issue”, it is a solid start to Raymond Leonard’s series, the pages show both an understanding of the tradition of action comics, and the ambition to expand.

Bio
Raymond Leonard, born January 2, 1978, in Chicago, is an American comic book artist and writer, best known for his work on M-Studios comic’ Nyssa and his creator-owned comic  Guytron. 2002-2004, Epoch Publications hired Raymond as an intern. His first published art work was characters pin-up for Epoch Publications. Under the training of Michael McClain Whom once work for Epoch Publications, Raymond came over to M-Studios comic. In the next few years, Raymond completed various assignments for M-Studio’s Nyssa anthology series. Influenced by industry greats Rob Liefeld, Mr. Leonard has made a name for himself at comic shows. In 2007, Silver Tips Comics hired Raymond as a pin-up artist. Now day Mr. Leonerd learning about been a publisher under M-Studios Creator-owned Presents books.

What first struck me about “The Pistoleers”, unfortunately, was the poor reprinting quality. I would have to think that there was some sort of failed enlarging process. Although at first it had me resistant to the content, I was won over by the story. Dan Nokes tells the story of Elijah, a slave who betrays the man who kills his mother, and wins the respect of General Marcus. It is an atypical western in that the focus is on minorities. Usually in Westerns, there is no real development of African or Chinese characters, although much of the land endlessly fought over in these times was developed by slaves.

General Marcus takes Elijah into his (incredibly progressive) family and formally adopts him. A gentle teacher, his character remains a bit flat until his son returns home from West Point. Their resentful dynamic increases the strength in Nokes’ charming storytelling.

Although the art looks like a first draft, there are great bones here. The framing and angles are skilled, but the artist needs some more growth before he can match his narrative caliber. Perhaps, again, there was something lost in the reprinting process.

Westerns, for me, are a lot like Sci Fi, where I forget how much I like the format until I am immersed. In “The Pistoleers” I did get lost in the story, and truly enjoyed riding alongside. Yeeeha Dan Nokes, a great beginning to the serial.

How much do I like stories about passionate sexy ladies with a thirst for incredibly stupid reckless behavior, um… too much? I was overjoyed to be handed this book. Was I easily won over by my crack of books? I tried to remain objective, but soon I was having to resist plowing through it eager for her next misstep, the next brutal but endearing interpretation.

Like the beautiful cover art, Christy C. Road lays herself so bare that we are tearing though her very self, being forced past skin and ribcage, she is relentless in her honesty. The reader is pulled along into punk clubs, stuffy sex stained mattresses, an acid filled Miami night, spilled out onto New York streets, all teenage limbs and drugs and sex smashed into mosh pit pulp. Christy C. Road is a genuine voice, starting off sentences about what to eat and finishing with thoughts of anal penetration in the same charming tone.

The art, like the writing, is pure, death driven and full of dark energy. The internal monologue during a slippery blow job is one of these perfect moments in this exhilarating novel. Road’s juxtaposition between the graphic and the reflective moments is what truly drives this book. Did I stop reading once it was done? Hell no! I started right back again, to savour…

Bio:

Cristy C. Road is a 26-year-old Cuban-American illustrator, and writer. Blending social principles, sexual deviance, mental inadequacies, and social justice- she thrives to testify the beauty of the imperfect.


A Softer World has a nice Minimalist website. Literally no information about what it is except for this three paneled photo-comic with bad type face that makes no sense; but you can click on ‘about” to see a photo of the creators, Emily Horne (the photographer and comic designer ) and Joey Comeau (the proud linguist and writer). You can read their journals, so I did. It was surreal because I’m supposed to be reviewing the comics. It’s not like facebook here you’re expected to snoop around. They are a well travelled, nice couple who seem like very bright existentialists. An Archive of 394 comic strips, all 3 panel photos, some of them blurry, is easily accessible, but the newest ones are way down at the bottom. I hate scrolling. The typeface on the comics is an old typewriter Courier font. If it’s supposed to make it look amateur, it works. I randomly sampled 25 of the archived strips. I liked the ones about the big fluffy self-centred black cat and those that speak like haiku poetry trying to define or at least nail an emotional snapshot onto a real snapshot. I laughed out loud 4 times, chortled ten times, but the rest, nothing. By my book that’s pretty good. Check out their interesting Valentine merch. They live in Toronto, so it’s appropriate that A Softer World is getting a permanent spot on http://www.tor.com . I really dig the cartoon they have up about coming home to find your woman, well, sort of cheating. There’s no cheating the public from these two though. A Softer World is worth a nice pet. Here kitty kitty.


Tiny Ghosts is a 2 panel comic composed of photos. The objective, as posted by the author, is to tell an entire story in just 2 sentences. In most instances there is a relationship between the sentences and the photos used as the backdrops, but often they seem to be random. Sometimes there are central figures like Clara and Arnold (a male and a female doll with penis-shaped hats), The Tiny out-of-focus Ballerina (a travelling cake decoration who is lonely), Ted the Robot (a blue robot toy) or a misunderstood fellow called Larry the Dead Guy. The point of view expressed in most of the panels is droll and the perspective dripping with teenage male angst. The author tries to create interest through comments like “No one is really sure if Clara and Arnold are lovers or just brother and sister, which kinda creeps some people out.” Or in response to questions on the f.a.q. page about what the comic is, he answers, “I can only define it in terms of what it is not.” And then doesn’t say anything. The author is anonymous and wants to keep it that way. If he cared what I thought, I’d say something nice about tiny ghosts, but I don’t think he does, and I don’t want to encourage him.

With over a decade of comics in such a small book, the reader is catapulted through Ken Dahls growth as an artist, writer and person. What first impressed me in Dahl’s collection “Welcome to the Dahl House” is the way he conveys an underlying personality an absent minded kink in his characters hands. The Punk in the “How to get Arrested” who is complaining about “fucking cops not knowing shit” while scratching at the back of his hand in a somewhat feminine manner. The robust love letter writer in “the full ‘stick’” pulling at his collar … these are the tiny details that make his characters as visually honest as the words they speak.

His older comics have a few stand outs, like “Old Punx vs. Ronald Reagan” and “Old Punx vs. Alienation.” Both are short single page strips that are all action and little writing, but the character emulated in the defeated stances and bugged out eyes is irrepressible. Simple and smart, they show Dahl’s strength in his drawing. As opposed to his denser text heavy early work that becomes an over busy rant inciting headaches rather than political affinity. As Ken’s work matures and becomes less busy, Dahl’s strengths refine.

The character Gordon Smalls is exceptional. His self effacing narrative is so brutally honest one becomes sympathetic to his reckless actions. Wether he is explaining the dynamics around peeing in the shower, swinging into the night sky, or being arrested, Dahl has this reader mesmerized with the depth of his persona. In a scene outside his ex girlfriend’s window, Gordon Smalls is confronted and in his reaction, he slumps into someone who clearly has lived a novel with this person. This is one among many great moments in Dahl’s work.

It is Dahl’s honesty both in the text and the art that makes this book stay with me long past reluctantly turning the last page.

Bio

The collected 1997-2007 comics of Ken Dahl in this graphic novel anthology. Includes all of his minis, short stories, anthology works, and unpublished work including such titles as “Taken For a Ride,” “Gordon Smalls Goes to Jail,” “No!” and “Blind Fart.” 2006 Ignatz Winner!

Ken Dahl presents us with a impressive, diverse and bloody hilarious collection of comic strips from the last 10 years – some which have been ‘scattered to the four winds’, some self published books bough by just a few people and some work appearing in various anthologies.

reviewed by Carolina Smart

Being a huge fan of romantic comedies from the 1930’s and 40’s, I was instantly drawn into the chaotic plots and subplots of the graphic novel Shenanigans. This comedy of dating errors, chaos and slapstick comedy has grand similarities to a typical Jean Arthur movie. She falls for the guy, guys falls for her, another guy or in the case of Shenanigans, the same guy gets involved. Hijinks, insanity and hilarity ensue. The main cast of characters in this graphic novel style romantic comedy seem to be unlucky in love till they find each other. And once they do, the insanity begins, including advice giving best friends, the many costume changes of Holden, the obstacle course of love gone array and the wackiest finale of all times.

The back cover says it is an homage to Billy Wilder and you fully get that. Whether or not you have ever scene a Billy Wilders movie, which I highly recommend you do, on word of mouth alone you understand the comparison.

The writing of Ian Shaughnessy and the brilliant illustrations of Mike Holmes keep the flow of this graphic novel tight and easy to follow. With so much going on it would normally be easy to get lost in it all. These two cleverly keep the story going at a fantastic pace and keep you wondering right up till the end if there will be a happy ending. You of course will need to read Shenanigans to find out if there is.

Bio:
Ian Shaughnessy is the co-creator and co-writer of Strangetown with co-creator and artist Chynna Clugston, which is an ongoing series published by Oni Press. He is also currently writing Shenanigans, an original graphic novel published by Oni Press with artist Mike Holmes, along with other projects to be announced.

In the past, he has worked with Oni Press behind the scenes in the editorial department on such books as Queen & Country, Blue Monday, Love Fights, Hopeless Savages, Scott Pilgrim and Scooter Girl, among others.

He currently resides in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area of Texas.

Mike Holmes is a freelance illustrator, a puppeteer, and a comedian. He draws a weekly comic that appears in Halifax’s “The Coast”, called “True Story”. In August 2005 he submitted an art sample to Portland, Oregon-based publisher Oni Press as part of their annual talent search, and three days later was offered the chance to work on a graphic novel. “Shenanigans”, written by Texan Ian Shaughnessy, is Mike’s first graphic novel. He is currently working on three follow-ups, for three different publishers, which will be released within the fall and winter of 2008. Mike lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.”

Pot smoking buddies, conspiracy theories, villains, a beautiful chick, a lab experiment gone wrong, and portals. Add water, shake and what do you get? A couple of stoners, a hilarious subplot, drama with a dash of twisted humour.

Matter Summer Special is a nice quick read for those needing a quick comic book fix. It is also very easy on the eyes with simplistic black and white structure, clean art and a purposeful uncomplicated artistic flow.

I also found this comic to have great plots and subplots that all interweave gracefully amongst each other, giving the reader enough story lines to keep them intrigued without confusing them. I have found in other comic book that too many subplots takes away from the main story but in Matter Summer Special it works to the creators benefit. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this smartly packaged comic book from beginning to end.

Matter Summer Special is published by Sparkplug comics and you can purchase this comic as well as more of Philip Barrett’s brilliant comics at http://www.blackshapes.com or www.sparkplugcomicbooks.com.

About the Creator/Illustrator:
Philip Barrett Irish comics creator currently residing in Canada.

Review – Apr. 1, 2007

Manga-licious

Right from the first panel, the evidence of a distinctly Japanese influence dominates Fus work. Drawing from a myriad of different styles ranging from the popular mainstream manga cutesy-ness to the raw imagery of well known queen of the cute weird little girls Junko Mizuno, Fu blends her own unique sense of storytelling with images culled from her hand.

At times raw and unfinished looking, Fu manages to demonstrate a higher level at which she tells her stories. Using simple images and few words, she conveys a message that seems to connect with her audience. While some might think that the simpleness of her art is directly related to her subject matter, one only has to look at the collaboration between her and two other talented artists on her recent Date With Death to realize that this is not true. Together with Kim Hoang and Kailey Prose, Fu explores the lighter side of dating Death. Unique in its execution, the set of three small hand made comics have another thing in common apart from the title: they are all laid out the same. Right from the first panel, the three small books all follow the same pattern. From showering to choosing an outfit, this trio of artists has ensured that each book while remaining true to its authors style follows the same template as the others in the series.

I am always amazed when I see work of this caliber coming out of nowhere. Looking at some of the art that gets into the pages of popular DC and Marvel comics sometimes makes me wonder where all the good artists have gone. Then I see work like Fus and remember that it is out there, you just have to look for it sometimes.

Review – Feb. 18, 2007

“stef lenk has been many places and does many things. Now she lives and draws in Toronto”

‘i found these people in magazines and on the internet’. This is the first line in the latest book project by Toronto artist stef lenk. These are words that one must use their imagination to decipher. What does this really mean? That’s up to you and is what makes this beautifully illustrated and hand bound book so intriguing.

If the title of the book doesn’t catch you the red, black and white cover immediately will jump out at you and make you curious to see what is on the inside. What you will find is 32 pages of haunting black and white images of several sleeping, unsuspecting, one night stands.

the One-Night Stands is a side project unrelated to her graphic novel tentatively titled the Details and as with stef’s other books, minimal words are used and she lets pictures tell the story. Beautifully drawn, this is a book that everyone should have in their collection.

about stef lenk:
stef lenk is a Toronto based illustrator whose work has been recently been featured in the window display of Pages Books and Magazines, and her illustrations have been published in the Toronto Star, Kiss Machine, Shameless magazine, Eye Weekly and Now Weekly. You can also find her at her at www.steflenk.com or creating brilliance with fellow girls missguided, shannon gerard and willow dawson.

links for stef lenk:
steflenk.com
girlsmissguided.com/

where you can see stef lenk in person:
23-24th June, 2007 New York City: MoCCA Art Festival (WD,SG,sl)

Review – Feb. 1, 2007

Spoiler alert. If you haven’t read 1-3, and you don’t want to ruin it for yourself, well, you’ve been warned 🙂

Violet Miranda is indeed a girl pirate. In issue one we find Violet and Elsa wondering what was beyond the island of Los Vagos. Forewarned by their Father’s that the ocean went on for eternity and was filled with ‘Pirates and Outlaws’ the girls still dreamed of life away from the isolated Island.

After a pirate attack on their island the leaves the girls Father’s dead, the girls and their Mothers’ must use their wits to stay alive. After retrieving the much desired map and booty, the pirates kidnap the women and return to their ship. Indeed Violet and Elsa are about to go on that much desired adventure.

In part two the girls find life on a pirate ship to be quite dull. A regular diet of fish soup and smelly pirates have filled them with boredom. Slowly earning the trust of Captain John the girls begin to learn the story of the feud between their Father’s and John’s Father and the true need of the map. A trust that also allows them to convince John to allow them to learn how to fight like men. And learn to fight they do.

After reading one and two I was wondering how the story would progress. Would it become a love story or a girl power story? It seems to be turning into the latter. Both of the heroines are left to their own defences and they defend themselves quite well.

In part three, Willow Dawson continues with the same black and white, two tone, simplistic style as she has in the previous two issues, keeping the art clear to understand and sharp. I find it is a type of art that requires little dialogue to keep the story rolling. I am curious to see where part 4 takes us. Will the girls become true pirates, putting John and his crew to shame, or realize a life on the sea is not for them?

Stay tuned to find out.

December 29, 2006

The Alteration is part two of and eight part graphic novel, by stef lenk. Like part one Carnival, it is a silent comic book, letting the beautiful and dark illustrations tell the story.

In this issue we find the heroine, last seen in Carnival, making her way into a dress makers shop. As with Carnival we are overcome and quickly become included in the dark emotions the girl is feeling. I am waiting with baited breath for part three, to see what path the heroine takes next.

www.steflenk.com

October 21st, 2006

Carnival is part one of a graphic novel written and illustrated by Toronto artist stef lenk. I had read Carnival twice before I could write this. The first time I sat in amazement as I flipped page to page, looking at the hauntingly beautiful illustrations. My second read through I realized it was the story of young girl’s journey through a nightmarish carnival with her stuff companion.

With no written captions the reader is left to use their imagination while following the main character through her journey. The reader may also find themselves empathizing with the main characters plight, sadness and obvious loneliness. They say a picture speaks a thousand words and if that is the case Carnival speaks a million.

Issue #2 The Alteration has also been recently been released.

www.steflenk.com

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