Tag Archive | Vertigo

iZombie: A Heroine with Brains

In the back of the first four American Vampire books sneak preview pages for other Vertigo series have lurked – the most attractive of them being the iZombie series by the artistic team which brought the world Madman, Michael and Laura Allred and written by Chris Roberson. The series is about a young woman who must eat a brain once a month in order to maintain her existence, but in the process absorbs the thoughts and impulses of the person whom she consumed. The first example leads to her solving a mystery – Nancy Drew style.

Gwen is helped along by her band of wacky friends – a ghost from the 1960s named Ellie and a Were-Terrier named Scott (who the ladies lovingly call Spot). Also lurking behind the scenes are a band of paint-balling female vampires and a mysterious mummy. A liberal college town feels like the perfect setting for these supernatural creatures, who live together in the super awesome town of Eugene, Oregon. Where else could these groups live without detection? While it’s not my P-Town, Eugene is equally as cool.

Well, they don’t exactly exist there untroubled – two Fossors (who essentially hunt supernatural creatures) have entered town and are looking for a murderer piling up dead bodies. One of them is young and attractive, the other sporting a potentially job-related facial scar, which is sexy in it’s own way.

So – while iZombie sports Gwen as it’s heroine, it’s really more of an ensemble cast. Even Spot’s friends in the college IT department are featured prominently.

WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT

Some of the writing is a little wobbly in the first few issues, but there are some highlights – especially when Gwen’s voice is prominently on display. The sequence towards the end of the first issue when Gwen is digging up her victim to munch on his brain is positively gorgeous, hilarious and chilling.

At times, the characters seems a bit too forced quirky and their dimensionality is lacking, but they each have a distinct personality and history which carried the story well through the first four issues. My hope is that more will be revealed about them in the near future.

WHAT’S GOOD

An example of what keeps the artwork snazzy in this book - the right colorist

The art is saved from being too cartoony by the delicious shading, which fills out the faces and scenery – giving them much needed depth. The work reminds me quite a lot of Underground, but in this instance it’s salvaged by the colorist, rather than hindered. Gwen especially, with her white and grey hair, yellowed zombie eyes and purple/ash skin is gorgeously rendered. I can’t imagine her looking more appealing if she were alive. Probably the prettiest and sexiest Zombie I’ve ever seen. And shockingly, she doesn’t need to bare her body parts to effect that aura – although there are a few scenes in which she’s naked while changing. All done very tastefully,  and showing us that her body looks like a real woman’s. No crazy big boobs or narrow wist and curvaceous hips.

Also enjoying a cast that features a wide range of races, without feeling like they are inserted because of tokenism or some desire or need to seem or feel multicultural. In fact – it seems a better reflection of the diversity that a college town like Eugene would probably boast.

CONCLUSION

I’m not crazy in love with this series – but I’m intrigued by it. It’s got a unique and local spin on supernatural creatures, a diverse cast of characters, and a strong but strange heroine.

As I mentioned before – I need to see a bit more character development or history in order for me to really feel invested in these characters. Sure, there were moments when I was genuinely concerned for their safety, but I’m not exceptionally compelled either way at the moment.

For now – the zany group, the mystery and the gorgeous artwork are enough to keep me coming back.

Bechdel Test: iZombie features several female characters and PASSES the women test, does PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters with names and speaking parts, so therefore it DOES PASS the race test.

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Stephen King in Comic Books

I’m not the kind of English major who is going to lie to you and say that a Stephen King novel is not in one of my Top 10 Favorite books of all time. Hell, there might even be two in there. *cough* It and The Stand *cough*. I was raised on a steady diet of Dean Koontz and Stephen King in the 5th and 6th grades, and picking up one of King’s books now is like settling down to a heaping plate of mashed potatoes or curling up in a pile of clothes fresh from the dryer. Satisfaction.

When someone told me that Stephen King was writing a comic book about Vampires (with a capital V) I was insanely there. Actually, I’m not sure when or where I heard of it, but I picked up the first issues of American Vampire and N. and was immediately hooked. And then life happened and they were both made box regulars and several issues piled up and I lent them out to someone.

Last week they were magically returned to me, and we swung by our comic book store to empty our box, and yet more issues landed in our hands.

With a big old stack of comics to sift through, you might not be surprised to discover while I gravitated heavily towards the One Shots featuring Marvel women characters, it was American Vampire and N. that I read first.

Once a Stephen King fan girl, always a Stephen King fan girl.

There was a small part of me that secretly hoped, wished and prayed he would make an appearance at Comic Con to promote these books. Of course he wasn’t there. He’s an old man, and he doesn’t need the publicity. Who is foolish enough to think that Stephen King needs a promoter? But yes…would I be a true fangirl if I hadn’t daydreamed at least once?

So he wasn’t. And I read the books anyway.

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STEPHEN KING’S N.

They are certainly Stephen King, but paired with some of the most amazing artists in the industry. Alex Maleev has crafted some of the most gorgeous artwork I’ve come across in my nearly two decades relationship with comic books. Outside of perhaps Alex Ross. He is one of the few artists who I will follow to any book for any reason.

So N. is immediately going to suck me in as a reader. Pair that with a truly creepy Stephen King tale, and who could NOT be sold? The writer doing the adapting is someone I was not familiar with before picking up the series, but I think a lot of what you really need to know about Marc Guggenheim comes across in the afterword in the first issue. Before I started this blog and dedicated a considerable chunk of my time to Comic Books, it never really occurred to me to read what writers and artists scribble in forewords and afterwords. But now, I think it’s very important.

And Guggenheim seems like the perfect person to adapt what originally appeared as only documents in the King version of the story. He gives them excellent textual and graphical context, and if it’s even possible with a Maleev piece, I found myself being quite drawn away from the images and transported instead into the visuals that the words inspired. It’s kind of a battle then, which I will say ended (for me at least) in a draw.

There are certainly haunting images here. Maleev paints such vivid pictures and emotions, it’s like looking at snapshots rather than lines and ink.

But the story – about Ackerman’s Field, the stone circle, and the obsessive need to count objects in order to keep evil at bay is what really drives the book and puts it all together. I’ve got all the floppies, but am dying to purchase this series as a trade and leaf through the collection again. It’s so haunting…the kind of story that sticks with you. I found myself telling it around the campfire this weekend as if it truly were a scary story, but also a real thing. And god, that final panel makes the hair on my arm stand up…thinking…what if it were?

Especially since 8 is my favorite number, and I feel a particular aversion to 7.

For a small sample of the story and the captivating art, you can check out Episodes 1-5 of the motion comic on this here YouTube video:

Bechdel Test: This miniseries does NOT pass the women test, does PASS the men test and DOES NOT PASS the race test.

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Free Comic Book Day 2010: Recap

We arrived at the Portland Hollywood District Things From Another World store around noon, and were greeted by a herd of pirates. They had muskets, maces and one was even sporting a whip (pretty sure it was real). A father with his daughter dressed as a princess and son as a storm trooper wandered out of the store clutching their Free Comic Books.

We entered and picked up a couple of the free books for our nephews – they didn’t have any of the adult books (sounds so naughty) I’d scoped out. Ah well, this was more about getting out to the stores to show support, and nab some freebies for the nephews.

We picked up Iron Man/Thor, DC Kids and Toy Story for them, btw.

Then lots of browsing occurred – they were selling a whole folding table full of trade paperbacks for 60% off, along with some Alex Ross posters and a couple Darth Vader backpacks. Not sure if Dan and I will ever be nerdy enough to sport that kind of look. We purchased Whiteout: Melt to score a Steve Lieber autograph on that copy. Later on, we can get Greg Rucka to sign it and have the complete set.

Around 2pm Mr. Lieber showed up, and we descended on him with the Greg Rucka signed Whiteout book. He ASKED US if he could do a sketch in it. Are you freaking kidding me? Yes please!

Of course, he was another cool and laid back dude who was totally willing to chat while he drew. He spent a little time pimping Underground (though I asked him to) and dropped a hint about a Vertigo project he’s attached to, but couldn’t release any information just yet.

He’s part of the 22 person Periscope artist studio here in Portland, and really enjoys the supportive arts community that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

After he finished up the awesome sketch of Carrie Stetko:

he politely posed for a picture:

Steve Lieber!

Then we stopped over at Cosmic Monkey Comics (it was just up the street) and picked up six issues of Madame Xanadu. We ran into the stunning Carolyn Main, and a few other comic book friends we’d met at Stumptown Comics Fest. It was great to see so many folks out supporting the art form and the event – and all the kids!

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Try the Sampler Platter

Reviewed here: American Born Chinese, Faker and Off Road

My latest trip to the library not only yielded me around $20 in overdue fines (damn the man!) but also a stack of about 20 tpb/graphic novels to consume. I’m going to forego lengthy blogs about each for a review snack pack of three books in particular.

#1

american-born-chinese-jacket-cover1American Born Chinese written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang. It was nominated for a National Book Award in 2006 for young adult literature, the first graphic novel to ever have that honor.

So – sounds pretty tasty right? Sounds like something meaty I could sink my teeth into, what with seeing it on many folks Top 10 Lists popping up all over the net.

This book was engaging, but never resonated with me on a strong emotional level. On a literary level, I appreciated the artistry and craft that went into intertwining the three different stories together. The art, with the muted color palette and clean, thick lines works well with the theme, and is especially pronounced during the Chinese mythology sequences.

Again – this didn’t catch me in any emotional core – and that could simply be my inexperience with how young-adult Asian Americans might experience America. I could get on board with the concept of being an outsider, teased and tortured by classmates, and those lovely awkward first moments trying to woo the opposite sex. There were definite laugh-out-loud moments…but there were also sections that I feel alienated from.

I would suggest this for it’s intended audience – which is young adults, and not just the Asian American ones –  but I can’t say it’s going to make any of my Top 10 lists.

#2

Faker. Written by (yet another British dude) current X-Men scribe Mike Carey and illustrated by (yet another British dude) Jock (aka Mark Simpson). It’s published by the fun and edgy DC Vertigo label.

Here is what I’ve been thinking lately: I love Marvel’s line of popular superheroes. And I love DC/Vertigo’s naughty and subversive “adult” content.

The cover art is actually what initially spurred me to pick this book up – and the name Carey splattered in the white space held a special kind of promise, as he is right in the midst of gutting my beloved mutants, I thought I’d see what kind of extracurricular shenanigans he’s been getting himself into.

For a British dude – he’s writing expertise sure can cater to my assumptions of what Minnesota college students are like. He gets that compliment right off the bat. But seriously – this is a thoroughly engaging story, and I found myself nearly consuming it in one setting. Mostly because I was stood up for an orientation, and had an hour to kill waiting around in Starbucks to see if the person really would show.

They didn’t. But I clipped cleanly through the pages and emerged on the other end.

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Quitters and Lions.

Time for another round of Comic Book/Graphic Novel dorkiness. Today’s installment is featuring yet another Harvey Pekar offering: “The Quitter.” At this point – I’m not sure if I’m on some Harvey Pekar kick – or if the Multnomah County Library is. I snagged this from my local branch while tooling through the graphic novel section…I swear. This wasn’t something I actively sought out.

quitterThe first thing that struck me about this book was the artwork, by Dean Haspiel. It was much more stylized than the two most recent Pekar books I reviewed. Of course it’s black and white. But the lines are thicker, darker and moodier – which is perfect for this “coming of age” story about the man himself, Mr. Harvey Pekar.

Thematically – the title captures the subject matter perfectly. It’s about a scruffy kid who’s entire fate is sculpted around his decision to quit important things in his life when they proved to be too difficult for him to achieve. It’s not a heroic story – it’s very anti-heroic, and perfectly suited to Pekar – who is (probably begrudginly) an anti-hero. His whole comic schtick is painting real life portraits of real life people – without all that “superhero crap.”

I’m pretty intrigued by his most recent batch of comic books, which have either offered biographical fare, or historical content. The idea of a comic book is so simple, and IMHO, perfectly suited to telling stories to a modern day audience. I would much rather ingest information with pictures and words. I think there are a lot of folks in my generation who feel that way. Modern day media is all about mixing images and words (and sounds as well) to engage all aspects of learning.

Me – I’m totally a visual person. I think a lot of people respond to PICTURES as opposed to giant chunks of text. I wish there were more of a push for “educational” graphic novels in schools.

End Rant.

But seriously – this book actually gave me more (if that’s even possible) insight into Harvey Pekar – the forces that shaped him into the man he is today. OK – there was a bit of whiney parent bashing, but it wasn’t enough to detract from the main thrust of the story.

And I loved the juxtaposition of the old, balding, sour faced Pekar next to his younger, some-times smiling visage.

BONUS REVIEW!

During my work trip to Orcas Island, WA – I also read through a graphic novel written by Brian K. Vaughn called “Pride of Baghdad.” It’s the true story accounting of four lions who escaped from a city zoo during the 2003 bombing of Baghdad.

It’s a gorgeous book. The coloring is luscious (I’m a sucker for pretty art), and the artist, Niko Henrichon did a great job of capturing human expressions in a feline face.

The writing was excellent as well – the lions spoke and interacted with one another – but Vaughn did not forget to give them what I consider “lion-esque” reasoning.

The ending was abrupt and shocking, but I’m certain for allegorical reasons. In fact the entire book itself is an allegorical look at the idea of “freedom” and “liberation” – who has the power to grant freedom and for what purpose. The fact that it’s a true story adds another layer as well.

I think it’s worth mentioning that the last three comic books I’ve reviewed are a part of the DC Vertigo label, which are known for catering to teenagers and adults. Does that mean that I’ve crossed over to the edgier comics now? I don’t know. It could also be worth noting that Vertigo books are most of the only DC comics I enjoy reading. 🙂

Up Next: Fallen Angel (I promise).

Much Love, Mindy C

Alas, Poor Yorick.

If you were the last man on earth…

Never has this phrase been answered so completely and uniquely by – well – anything.

While the “last man on earth” topic has been explored by movies and I think – an episode of the Twilight Zone, as far as I know, this is a somewhat unique plot-line for the comic world.

Except for this book.

I was hooked from the first two pages. Here’s the thing – I love comic books. I do. But I don’t often get “hooked.” I am intrigued, attracted, entertained. But never really hooked.

HERE’S A BIT ON HOW THIS STARTED…

A few months ago, Dan and I purchased a two year subscription to Wizard magazine. This was quite a commitment for us, strangely enough. I remember sitting on the couch, on the lap-top – thinking – well, that means we have to stay someplace for two years, right?

For some reason, it wasn’t occurring to me that we purchased a Condo. We sort of have to stay someplace for two years.

Anywho…so I’ve been reading up in Wizard on this series called “Y: The Last Man” – how it was coming to a close and the writer was Brian K. Vaughn, of “Runaways” fame (which I’ve read a few of). He recently did a short stint on Buffy that I really enjoyed. And the artist is Pia Guerra – a female comic book artist. Yet another morsel to pique my interest. Sooooo – I placed the first four books on hold at the library, and put this series in the back of my mind. Mostly because the hold list was like 50 people deep.

It’s been all I can do to avoid reading things about it in Wizard – or on boards. Especially since the final issue was released January 2008. People just can’t wait to talk about the ending.

After reading the first five issues in Book 1 – I can honestly say I’m totally hooked. It’s an end of the world schtick (one of my faves) involving a weird deadly plague (another of my faves!) and a monkey (I love monkies!). Weird end of the world plague with monkey = Mindy happiness.

And the writing is kick-fucking-ass! The art isn’t half bad either.

My dilemma now is that I have Book 1 (read it) and Book 3 (not read it). Book 2 is still about FOURTEEN holds away from being mine. Should I just buy the thing? I can already guess I’m going to love the series, and really want to own it. I’m feeling super impatient because – like I mentioned earlier – I’m hooked.

I’ve also heard (as with most popular/good comic nowadays) – there’s going to be a movie. Don’t get too excited though, the IMDB page doesn’t look promising.

My vote is for Shia Lebouf as Yorick, totally and completely. And 2010 would be a better release date – let Shia age a little more to convincingly play a college graduate.

Please don’t let this film stall in movie hell. The concept, the characters – everything I’ve read thus far – it’s too good for that.

I know I’m hopping on the bandwagon about two years AFTER the rest of the known world, but here I am world. Dammit. I’m lettin my freak flag fly. Me and this guy.

Much Love, Mindy C