After spending all of my previous column focused on the comics of Joe R. Lansdale, I’ve decided to devote this entire missive to recent reads.
by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters
Photography by Marie-Françoise Plissart
After a freak accident, thirteen year-old Mary Von Rathen begins to lean at a 45 degree angle. After nothing fixes her affliction, her selfish mother and hen-pecked father send her away to a private school. Shortly after, Mary runs away and quite literally joins the circus where she remains for several years, performing her amazing leaning girl act. A newspaper editor tells her of a scientist, Axel Wappendorf, who is planning on a journey to a planet that might unlock the secret behind Mary’s trouble. Interspersed within Mary’s tale, is the story of fine artist Augustin Desombres, who escapes from his busy world and buys an empty building on the French countryside. He begins painting murals of strange globes and worries about his sanity. Mary’s and Wappendorf’s explorations bring them into a collision course with Desombres and hopefully the answers that Mary’s seeks.
Part of the legendary Obscure Cities sequence, this extraordinary French graphic novel serves as an ideal introduction to the long running series produced by writer Peeters and artist Schuiten. Expertly employing the tropes of 19th century science fiction, the duo’s creation achieves the unique duality of both very familiar and very different. Schuiten’s exquisite line work pairs perfectly with Peeters’ prose in creating the mythical worlds, outlandish ideas, and commonplace people. Further enhancing the work’s uniqueness is the Fumetti style of Desombres’ story as envisioned by the black & white photography of Plissart. The riveting, beautiful Leaning Girl fascinates, while providing one of the best reading experiences of the year.
Created & written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Jeff Stokely
An unexpected take on the intelligent, gun-toting gorilla trope, Six-Gun Gorilla delivers a biting commentary on pop culture and the sycophantic nature of reality television. In the 22nd century, Earth colonizes a mysterious world known as “The Blister.” As often happens, a civil war breaks out but unlike previous such incursions, the action is played out live on vidscreens for the entertainment of the Earth’s populace. Implanted with recording devices, blue coats, Earthers wanting to die, fight against the rebels. One such suicidal soldier goes rogue and joins up with a unique companion: a bio-surgically modified silverback gorilla.
Using this backdrop, Spurrier adroitly explores the confluence of the past and present, haves and have-nots, the observed and the observers, and violence and pacifism. Newcomer Stokely stylistically and expertly renders the proceedings. The highly recommended Six-Gun Gorilla offers a clever and diverting piece science fiction/western entertainment.
by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Before playing Lennon to Stan Lee’s McCartney, Jacky Kirby teamed with writer/artist Joe Simon to create a legacy that included Captain America, the romance comic, and numerous other creations. The latest volume of Titan’s handsome, full color collections of the duo’s collaborative works features horror tales from Black Magic and The Strange World of Your Dreams. The former enjoyed a 33 issue run from 1950-1954 (though it was later resurrected years later with #34, but sans Simon/Kirby) and the latter beginning in 1952 for a scant 4 issues, a rare business failure for the pair. Simon and Kirby did not work on every story in either title but rather employed a small group of artists which included the amazing Mort Meskin and Bruno Premiani. Though Kirby did draw the majority of the tales, he often just contributed the splash page with others providing the rest of the story. This volume reproduces and restores every story from the two series that contained any Kirby art.
The stories themselves rise above much of the muck, some just below the era’s horror gold standard EC. Perhaps the volume’s biggest flaw lies not with the largely excellent stories but rather with the scant historical data. Series editor Steve Saffel penned the introduction that offers some interesting background material, but acknowledging the credits to other artists when known (or even suspected) would certainly have enhanced the project. Even with that minor quibble, The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror successfully encapsulates this lesser known epoch of Kirby’s impressive output and should be part of every well stocked comics library.
Written by Jeff Parker, Jeff Lemire, Justin Jordan, JM DeMatteis, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Michael Avon Oeming, Bryan J. L. Glass, Matt Kindt, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tom Delfalco, Rob Williams, Nathan Edmondson, and Kyle Killen
Art by Chris Samnee, Jeff Lemire, Riley Rossmo, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Sal Buscema, Joëlle Jones, Michael Avon Oeming, Stephen Segovia, Wes Craig, Craig Yeung, Pete Woods, Chris Weston, Yildiray Cinar, Pia Guerra, Bryan Hitch, and Bruce Timm
The largely mediocre and often ignoble vision of Superman currently offered in the regularly produced DC comics and the recent Man of Steel movie, disappoints many a fan. Thankfully, Adventures of Superman Volume One manages to restore some of the classic character’s lost luster. A collection of direct-to-web tales, these short Superman stories showcase some magnificent talent, while recalling a time when the hero was, well, more heroic, and displayed far more humanity.
While the majority are quite good, a few stories in particular stand out. “Fortress” by Jeff Lemire follows two boys as they take turns playing Superman and his arch-villains. Matt Kindt and Stephen Segovia deliver parallel stories of a day in the lives of Superman and Lois Lane in “Faster Than A Bullet.” While “A Day In The Life” by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Wes Craig recounts a typical day for Lex Luthor, complete with an employee firing and plans on how to kill Superman. Rob Williams and Chris Weston demonstrate Superman’s compassion in “Savior.” Adventures of Superman Volume One reminds us why Superman has survived as a popular character for 75 years.
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Chip Zdarsky
Suzie always thought she was unique. When she orgasms, Suzie stops time. Then she met Jon, who experiences the same phenomenon. After numerous humorous and sexy encounters, they fall in love. The duo decide to use their powers for the obvious thing. They rob banks. It’s then that Suzie and Jon learn they aren’t as unique as they once thought.
Fraction, well known for his excellent, quirky takes on Hawkeye, largely tackles the potentially controversial proceedings with aplomb, skill, and laughter. Zdarsky’s often surreal illustrations mesh effortlessly with the writing. Initially recalling the romantic elements of Ken Grimwood’s classic novel Replay, Sex Criminals Volume One: One Weird Trick sadly stumbles during its final third with the inclusion of stereotypical comic book tropes.
Special thanks to Austin Books and Comics for their help with this column.