Since being introduced to them in the seventh grade I have had a passion for comic books. The art of telling stories through words and pictures is a passion that has driven me for most of my life. I am, after all, an actor (by training); as such storytelling is not only a passion, but my chosen vocation. As a regular feature of this blog I would like to talk about comics. This may extend into a podcast at some point, but for now I'm going to put it here in my blog. Each week I will discuss three different comics. For the most part I'm going to pull these from indie publishers, as the major titles of The Big Two (DC and Marvel) are covered pretty well by these guys.
This week I bring you Anna Mercury 2, Joe the Barbarian, and Red Herring
Anna Mercury 2 (Issue #1 from Avatar Press, written by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Facundo Percio) This, as the title implies, is a follow up to the Anna Mercury mini-series of 2008. Anna Mercury is a leather-clad hero who travels between parallel worlds. She works as an agent for a government entity whose mission is to prevent advanced weaponry from being used by less primitive worlds. The introductory issue to the new series drops the reader into the middle of the action, then transports them, J.J. Abrams style, to an earlier point so the reader gets to see the back story. I'll admit, I didn't read beyond one issue of the first mini-series, mostly because it sold out before I could get my hot little hands on it, and I get the feeling that it's somewhat important to have read that series before diving into this one. That said, I feel there is enough ground work in this issue for me to pick up the next in the series. The writing is solid and out of the gate the story leaves you on a type of cliff-hanger that is unusual for the first issue of any series. The artwork by Facundo Percio is not quite as solid as the writing. The artwork is by no means shoddy or poor, but there are some panels that feel rough or rushed. In any case, it's not enough of a problem to prevent me from recommending this series.
Joe the Barbarian (Issue #1, from Vertigo, written by Grant Morrison, Illustrated by Sean Murphy) Ok. Let's get this out of the way now. Yes, I am aware that Vertigo is a subsidiary of DC, and by extension can be considered an arm of the DC Branch of the big two, or a toe at the very least. Let me be clear that, as much as I can, I'm staying away from flagship titles of the big two, and books published under their label (unless I feel they are particularly noteworthy). With that disclaimer out of the way, I'd like to talk about this book. Joe the Barbarian is about a boy who suffers from diabetes. When he doesn't get his insulin he enters a dream world where the lives of his toys (and he has many) are as real and as dangerous as his own. The first issue is worth a read. The writing is terrific, and the artwork is some of the best that I've seen in any comic book. To sweeten the pot, Vertigo is offering this book at the terrific 1991 price of $1.00. If you hate it, you're out a buck, but I'll hazard that you'll feel this was a dollar well spent.
Red Herring (Issue #2, from Wild Storm, written by David Tischman and illustrated by Phillip Bond) This is the story of the Maggie MacGuffin (yes, like McGuffin) and a mysterious man who has rescued her from government conspirators that want her dead, or so we think. It's not really clear what his motivations are at this time, nor is it clear that she's any safer with him than she would be if he hadn't saved her. The writing in this book is solid and sets a taut, suspenseful tone. The characters have clear, well fleshed out relationships and objectives. On the whole, this comic book represents what you would like to see in good one-hour dramas on television. If you're quick there are a number of puns throughout the book that are funny if you pick up on them. The artwork is somewhat cartoony and without a great deal of shading that lends it kind of a Saturday morning cartoon feel. Not like the silly ones about talking animals learning life lessons, but the cool ones like the Batman/Superman adventures (pretty much anything Bruce Timm has touched, really). While it's not the most astonishing illustration I've seen, it does serve the tone of the book, and actually offsets the grittiness of the story in a way that makes it all the more enjoyable. On the whole, I'll be picking up more issues of this one and I strongly recommend that you do the same.
Where to get comics
My favorite place to get comics has always been in a real live comic book stores. I realize that we're vat growing agoraphobics in the LCD glow of computer monitors these days, but it's true. Your best bet for picking up comic books is now and always will be in an actual, honest-to-goodness, real-life store that requires you to leave your home (yes you can leave your computer running, just make sure you're visiting an inn before logging out of WoW). If I were to recommend one place to get comics I would recommend going to Emerald Knights Comics & Games. The guys at this store have an awesome selection, with many, many back issues. If there's something you'd like to read that's not on the shelves or in the back-issues, just ask them to order it for you. They'll even send an email when your books come in.
Just this last weekend I had the opportunity, nay, the privilege of attending the Penny Arcade book tour. Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, better known to the world as Gabe and Tycho, flew in to Los Angeles to promote their book, The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade at Meltdown Comics. I'm a recent convert to the church of the Penny Arcade, and like many a recent convert I am a devoted follower. Tycho's caustic examination of popular culture, and gaming culture in particular, never fails to be entertaining. Gabe's illustrations of the adventures of their iconic alter egos set off Tycho's words in perfect harmony. As cool as their work on Penny Arcade is, it is a pale reflection of the creators themselves. They are grounded, affable, and approachable, and they graciously signed books, or whatever their fans (like me) brought them to sign. After the signing they fielded questions from the audience, a couple of which even came from me. I was there for a while and what transpired warrants a blog post all by itself. I'll get to the highlights of the evening another time, but I want to leave with one observation. Geek culture is just that, a culture. This fact is never so evident as when we come together to gather around our heroes and icons, and celebrate our culture together.
So, a while ago I had a random thought on the baser drives of martial arts masters. Basically, the thought that leaped, unbidden and unwanted, into my head was this question: when a kung fu master takes a dump, is he practicing the ancient and venerated art of Dung Poo? With that I give you today's Geek Speak.