CHEW 6

CHEW #6
Written by John Layman, Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

CHEW is back in action with a new story arc which is brimming with gut-busting hilarity. Layman and Guillory are in top form in CHEW #6, an issue which is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud and tell your friends about one of the funniest books on the market today.

Tony Chu and his former Philadelphia PD partner John Colby are reunited as Colby was recruited by the FDA to replace Agent Mason Savoy, who went AWOL after being revealed by Chu to be a murderer and conspirator. After undergoing a robotic reconstructive surgery due to taking a butcher knife to the face, Colby looks a bit different since the last time we saw him. Half man, half machine (well, his face at least), Colby is somewhat pissed at Chu, whom he blames for his current state. Although initially at each others throats, it isn’t long before bromance wins the day and the two men are truly partners once again.

Chu and Colby hugged and made up just in time for their next case, which is lucky for Chu considering his asshole boss sent them to the scene of a bank robbery so Chu can sample the only evidence the perps left behind: a pile of poo. Colby has his partner’s back, however, and he comes up with a slightly illegal plan to catch the criminals without Chu resorting to coprophagia.

Unbelievably hilarious from start to finish, CHEW is a must-read for anyone with a slightly perverse sense of humor. Guillory’s art is fantastically exaggerated and colorful, and he and Layman continue to throw in amusing anecdotes in the background details (such as a sticky note reminding Chu to turn in his TPS reports), packing in as much entertainment as possible. If this issue is any indication, CHEW’s next story arc is going to be even better than the first.

Avril Brown

ROTTEN 6

ROTTEN #6
Written by Mark Rahner and Robert Horton, Illustrated by Dan Dougherty
Published by Moonstone Comics

The second story arc in this Old-West-meets-zombie-thriller comic concludes in ROTTEN #6, and it packs one hell of a punch. Far from ‘just another zombie book,’ issues like this recent release are filled with ample proof that ROTTEN is much more than just cowboys and soldiers vs. zombies.

The action does not stop in this issue of ROTTEN as soldiers are court marshaled, Mr. Benge the ‘benefactor’ attempts to incite a mutiny, and the entire camp is besieged by recently awoken zombies. Using cool logic in the face of fire, William Wade leads his men into a battle-ridden retreat away from the monsters they barely understand. A journal was found in a cave filled with frozen settlers, but more questions are raised by the contents of that book than answers, and Wade and Flynn know their mission is far from over.

What makes a great story is dependent in part on the characters contained within, and Rahner and Horton have written some amazing leads. One of my favorites debuted last issue, and in ROTTEN #6 Emma, of the best and most bad-ass female characters I’ve seen in a comic, continues to show her strength. There is more than meets the eye to this confident and capable woman, who in the course of twenty-eight pages takes down a conniving thief, squares off against several rapists and dodges a flaming zombie.

Add to that Dougherty’s talent of creating complicated action scenes that easily flow from panel to panel without letting any detail slip through the cracks, this issue of ROTTEN is a winner. There are bloody battles with lives lost, sharp wit exchanged between clever characters, plus a dash of mystery and political satire. With a little something for everyone, ROTTEN is a book to look for.

Avril Brown

BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED
Adapted by R. Crumb
Published by W.W. Norton

If you were asked to guess which legendary comics creator would take on the task of literally adapting a Book of the Bible into graphic novel form, I think we could all agree that Robert Crumb’s name would not be one that would be bandied about. Yet here he is, having taken all 50 chapters of the Book of Genesis and done his best to illustrate every single bit of it, including pertinent text and dialogue. But is he up to that sort of challenge?

You bet he is.

Whether you are a Christian or not, the one thing undeniable about the Bible is that it is full of stories full of amazing power and emotion. There’s a reason that the work has connected with so many millions over the past two thousand years. And what Crumb has done is to research the Bible’s origins, pore through various translations and explorations, and piece together the narrative contained in Genesis, from God’s creation of the Earth to Adam and Eve, to the great flood, to the saga of Abraham’s extended family.

Crumb’s work makes no judgment about the content of Genesis itself. Stories with contradictions and oddities remain as written, though Crumb offers up some commentary upon some of those moments in a text piece at the back. Characters are designed and drawn to look like humans living in that particular area of the world in the era being discussed. The Bible is full of sex and its consequences; that material is here (the front cover has a note saying “Adult Supervision Recommended For Minors”); blood (and plenty of it) is shed, both by God and by the sword.

Some of this book does bog down, but that isn’t necessarily on Crumb. There are passages laying out family trees that grind the adaptation to a halt, but that’s a function of Crumb sticking to the actual Bible and not omitting material. It was important for him to be faithful to the source material, and he has done so, even at the cost of occasionally reducing the effectiveness of the overall package.

Heading into the Christmas season, I suspect that this might make an interesting and enlightening gift for those of faith. Crumb has turned out one of the most unique and vital works of his career here, throwing the comics world a curveball, and impressing even his most ardent followers.

Marc Mason

MR. SKIN’S SKINCYCLOPEDIA 2ND ED

MR. SKIN’S SKINCYCLOPEDIA 2ND ED.
Written by Mr. Skin
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin

As a classic film reminds us, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid. The folks behind MR. SKIN have found that line, danced up next to it, given it a teasing wink and a smile, yet have stayed on the clever side. That they have now gone into a second edition of their massive SKINCYCLOPEDIA is living proof of that.

What is Mr. Skin? Originally, merely a website. It’s purpose: to create a comprehensive listing of films in which actresses appeared nude or partially nude. Want to know where to see 30 ROCK’s Jane Krakowski naked? Look up her entry and find out she showed her rear end in the 2004 remake of Alfie. A fan of Anna Friel and her recent turn on PUSHING DAISIES? Then you’d be pleased to know that she’s done nudity in ten different films, including full frontal in both THE WAR BRIDE and THE TRIBE.

There are listings for over 2000 different actresses.

The entries are incredibly comprehensive. Birth date and birthplace. A rating on the “Skin-O-Meter” for the level of nudity achieved, ranked from “Brief” (i.e. Krakowski) to “Hall Of Fame” (see: Cates, Phoebe). A paragraph about the actress’ career, along with a description of roles and moments in her films. That’s followed by her “SKIN-fining Moment”, which describes in luscious detail (and with a listing for how long the moment lasts on-screen) the lady’s best naked moment, and then the entry concludes with a list of all films where flesh appears unclothed and what parts are available for viewing.

A fine line between clever and stupid.

There’s no question that the entire enterprise could be seen as one massively distasteful and sleazy deal. Yet the entries are written with such wit and humor that it is patently clear that Mr. Skin is not just the work of a group of serial wankers. Instead, there’s a bit of genuine thought and awe behind it. That’s enhanced by a plethora of ridiculously funny “lists” scattered throughout the book. These top-5 sets include categories such as: “70s TV Stars Who Got Naked”; “Naked Girls With Guy Names”; “Nude With Musical Instruments”; and my personal favorite, “Madges Who Show Vag”- a list of women named Margaret that have appeared bottomless on-screen.

Whether you want to admit it or not, that’s damned funny. And that’s what keeps MR. SKIN on the side of being clever. And if that isn’t enough for you, the book is almost 700 pages long; there are hours upon hours of reading here, and the length it will add to your… Netflix list… will be impressive.

Marc Mason

PRODIGAL

Prodigal
Written by Geoffrey Thorne and Art by Todd Harris
Published by Ape Entertainment

A hidden monastery.

A group of chanting monks.

A pack of kill crazy ninjas.

A secret, powerful prize worth killing any number of men for.

And a pair of heroes on the case.

All elements that would go into making the perfect action flick.

Or what you experience in the first eight pages of Prodigal, written by Geoffrey Thorne, drawn by Todd Harris, and coming soon from Ape Entertainment.

Pae Mai Jacinto and Byron Lennox are retrieval specialists, persons who recover lost and stolen objects for those willing to pay their prices. When Ms. Jacinto is contracted by representatives of The Order Of First Light, a mysterious, interfaith spiritual order, she and her brawn-to-her brains partner in crime Byron Lennox are launched into a new adventure, just as a previous adventure is coming a climactic finish before our very eyes.

To go any further into describing the tale would ruin the readers’ opportunity to discover this world and these new heroes for themselves. What can be said is that the writer and artist presented a thrilling ride in the opening 24 pages of a double sized first issue that left this reviewer wanting more.

Our heroine and hero bring to this reviewer’s mind such classic pairs as Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy or Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in the easy way writer Thorne turns the dialogue between Ms. Jacinto and Mr. Lennox in a cross between a ballet and a fifteen round bout worth of Ali and Frazier.

Mr. Thorne, writer that may be best known for a number of short stories and novels set in the Star Trek universe, uses the comics medium to its fullest. His script shows he knows when to let his words do the work and when to let the pictures do the talking. What comes to mind are a few great pages where the visual transitions and dialogue interplay nicely, giving the impression of being both cinematic and novelistic. Pages 13 and 19 particularly come to this reviewer’s mind.

The artwork by Mr. Harris is just what readers want in a comic: dynamic and powerful. The designs for the main characters make them individuals that fit into their surroundings perfectly. The various environments the reader sees are also just as well designed and drawn.

This reviewer has only one complaint: the coloring. This reviewer is not a fan of the current vogue in anime style coloring. But it is all the rage with the young folks and it does not take anything away from the story and art.

Overall, the opening chapter of PRODIGAL was excellent, providing the right mix of action and characterization to encourage this reviewer to want to read more.

Check it out when it comes up for order.

Vincent S. Moore

 

THE YEAR OF LOVING DANGEROUSLY

THE YEAR OF LOVING DANGEROUSLY
Written by Ted Rall, Illustrated by Pablo G. Callejo
Published by NBM

THE YEAR OF LOVING DANGEROUSLY is undoubtedly one of the most amazing graphic books I have ever read. An incredible story made all the more captivating because it is true, Ted Rall’s account of a year of his life in 1984 after he was expelled from Columbia University, evicted from campus housing, arrested and robbed is as tangible and real of a story as was ever put on paper. Rall opens himself up to the world in this graphic memoir, laying out in detail his struggle to keep from living on the streets of Manhattan in his most unfortunate, and unforgettable, summer. Raw, honest and completely visceral, this is a book for the ages.

When Rall woke up soaked in his own blood with a hole in his chest where a wart used to be, not only did he have no idea how the hell THAT happened, but he also was completely clueless as to how this dermatological terror was going to alter the course of his life. Having a wart normally sucks for any cosmetically conscious young adult, but having a wart which was attached to your aorta and upon bursting causes you to lose eight pints of blood during finals week is especially sucky. The profoundly bad luck did not stop there for a young Rall, but proceeded onwards with three out of six professors refusing to let him retake the final, which meant he failed his second semester junior year as an engineering student at Columbia. Soon afterwards he was evicted from his dorm and was forced to consider his options. He was granted a temporary stay of sleeping on the streets when he spent his last few dollars on a piece of pizza and gets the cheesy goodness, sex with the girl who hit on him and a place to stay for the night.

Of course the overriding message of the book is that being essentially homeless is one big emotional and physical screw up, but this graphic memoir does not dwell upon the surely countless hours he spent trapped in his own head, worrying about where he was spending the night and wondering why this happened to him. Instead, one of the aspects this memoir focuses on is the sex. The lots of fantastic, consensual and mind-blowing ‘Why can’t I be a homeless stud in New York?’ kind of sex. Which says something about the author, beside the obvious ‘He’s good in bed.’ It says that he lived that scary, evolutionary time of his life, and he remembers it, the good AND the bad, but these are the parts he wants to remember in Technicolor detail and share with the world.

Ted Rall is not a gigolo. He is not a player in the sense he gets off on fucking a lot of women and duping them into thinking he cares. He is a man who loves life, loves women, loves freedom, and loves not sleeping on the streets. He is a human, an intelligent man thrust into the world with nothing but his mind, body and soul, and he makes the goddamn most of it. He cares about the women he’s with but doesn’t understand why they care about him, which may sound a bit masochistic, but considering all he went through that year, I’m surprised he kept his shit together at all.

As for the artwork, Callejo is beyond the pale. This international artist is phenomenal in his presentation of Rall’s year of disbelief, and of NYC in the mid ‘80s. Each panel is a painting of passion, artistry and tangible emotional pain and pleasure. On one page depicting a view coming up from the subway, the right side of the panel is hazy and blurred, exactly how the city looks on a hot summer day emerging from the underground tracks. The cars themselves are covered in graffiti art and stale piss, while the hair, clothes and make-up of the main and surrounding characters transport you back in time to the days fashion still wishes to forget. The sex scenes are sensual without being overwhelmingly steamy, and each character is draped in loving detail, giving them depth and personality. Naturally Rall’s narrative is easy to get caught up in, but the graphic story itself would have lacked the extra emotional punch without Callejo’s simply beautiful artwork.

Inspirational, intensely erotic and at times heart-wrenching, this is truly a memoir which cannot be passed up. Rall is not standing up on his soapbox here, preaching to the uninformed masses. He is relating a nigh-unbelievable story of how fucked up his life became, almost entirely under circumstances he had no way of controlling, and how he handled the cards he was dealt. Some people will skim this book and mutter to themselves about how little he had to complain about, considering how much tail he was getting. Some will not believe a single word or panel they lay their eyes on. Some will fall in love with his unpredictable and free-roaming life style. Yet what all who read this memoir SHOULD see is a narrative of a man, admittedly smarter than the average bear, but still just a man, who found himself in an unbelievable situation. Rather than consistently trying to just wake up from the nightmare (though there were moments, and likely more than he put in his book), he consciously lived it nearly every step of the way. Like most bad dreams there were bright spots and dark times, and there was no clear light at the end of the tunnel, only…faith? Determination? A stubborn survivalist instinct? Call it what you will, Ted Rall undoubtedly had no words for it himself while he was experiencing it, but he does now, and it is not only comic book fans who should be reveling in that fact and reading this book.

Avril Brown

VATICAN HUSTLE

VATICAN HUSTLE
Written and Illustrated by Greg Houston
Published by NBM

VATICAN HUSTLE follows the adventures of Boss Karate Black Guy Jones, kung-fu master and private eye, and also known as an eight cylinder sex machine to all the ladies. After a brief tussle in his pimp pad with an unwanted visitor and where a Pottery Barn rug (which really tied the room together) is destroyed, BKBGJ takes a job offered by his arch nemesis, Lumpy Fargo. Apparently Mr. Fargo’s daughter has skipped town with a man who is well known for making donkey-fucking porn films, and the concerned dad (who resembles some sort of deep sea fish) wants her back, without a beast of burden for a boyfriend.

So Jones picks up Brandi Fargo’s trail which leads him to Vatican City, where he encounters a leper servant who could turn to dust with a single touch, the famous porn star Johnny Hung with a dick the size of a mutant zucchini, a shanty town filled with crack addled clowns and the most hard-core Pope the sure-to-be-offended Catholic world has ever seen. Any of this sound ridiculous? Thankfully it’s just the tip of the iceberg in this seriously hysterical graphic novel which offers no pauses, only grotesque hilarity on every page. You would think that a six foot tall black kung fu artist/private detective with a fashion sense even the most eclectic of drag queens would shudder at and who orates like the jive-talkers from the movie ‘Airplane’ would get annoying after awhile, but he doesn’t. Greg Houston’s writing just keeps getting funnier and more disturbing as the pages go on, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat (if they haven’t fallen off of it yet), eagerly anticipating the next raunchy adventure.

You can’t get enough of these characters from page to page; you want to read what other sick shit the Holiest of Holies has gotten himself into lately. You want to see the Boss Karate Black Guy Jones tap some tail and kick some fat ass. Houston’s art is just as exaggerated and over-the-top as his stories, and every character receives the royal and perverted treatment. Tits are huge, wrinkles and saggy jowls are pronounced and packages are spared no expense. Jones’ outfit of platform heels, pin-striped bell bottoms and UFO style afro alone helps make the book massively amusing. Sure-fire entertainment, laugh-out-loud scenarios and conversations you wouldn’t have even dreamed of having are all jam packed and awaiting your reading pleasure in VATICAN HUSTLE.

Avril Brown

LOVE AND CAPES 12

LOVE AND CAPES #12
Written and Illustrated by Thomas F. Zahler
Published by Maerkle Press

LOVE AND CAPES is a light-hearted tale of a romance between the caped Crusader, a.k.a. Mark Spencer, and his fiancée Abby Tennyson, bookshop owner and adorably sweet blue-eyed blond. An enjoyable balance between the pure heart of a children’s book and the intelligence of an adult story, LOVE AND CAPES is a pleasurable read for all ages.

Issue twelve finds the perfectly happy couple on the eve of their wedding, with the bride spending the night at her parents house with her sister, and the groom stopping by for a window visit only a few minutes before midnight so he refrains from violating the age-old tradition of not seeing the bride the day of the wedding. With her mind on her soon-to-be husband, Abby drifts off to sleep…and wakes up in her apartment with no fiancé and no clue as to why that is. The determined, love-struck bookworm is now on a mission to save the life of her love and to return the universe back to its proper course, where she and the Crusader are about to tie the knot and live happily ever after.

The obvious and overwhelming joyfulness this book projects from the very first panel leaves little doubt as to how this story will end, but this is not a Sherlock Holmes mystery. This is a tale of true love, happiness and good triumphing over evil. Sunny, comical, and sweet, this is a comic for those looking to break away from the sci-fi, action-packed, or noir type of comic books. With time-traveling jokes about The Terminator and the easy communication between relatives, Zahler delivers a book which reads easily and agreeably. The aesthetically awesome artwork is a unique blend of ’50s comfort and security and modern-day sexiness and sharp lines. LOVE AND CAPES provides a nice change of pace from death and destruction, offering instead a smile-inducing story filled with laughter and love. Rather than confusing a first time reader, the wedding issue of LOVE AND CAPES makes me want to read the rest of these books as soon as I can get my hopelessly romantic hands on them.

Avril Brown

EXISTENCE 3.0 #1

EXISTENCE 3.0 #1
Written by Nick Spencer, Illustrated by Ron Salas
Published by Image Comics

The dynamic duo of Nick Spencer and Ron Salas are back in action with the much-anticipated sequel to their amazingly clever EXISTENCE 2.0 series. This unbeatable team has not slowed down one bit and the intelligence, humor and science fiction which made the first three books such an incredible read carry over into EXISTENCE 3.0.

Five years have passed since Sylvester the scientist was killed by an assassin named Marko. Using the technology he helped to develop Sly transferred his consciousness into Marko, transferred it again into Marko’s sister Marina, and then yet again into the great beyond, giving Marina’s body to his daughter Jenny’s consciousness in order to save her life. Though it sounds complicated Spencer writes this multi-faceted tale clearly and with a practiced flow so the reader never feels lost, only captivated. In EXISTENCE 3.0 Jenny-in-Marina’s-body has been traveling and working with her mother and Marko, honing the skills her flesh already knows and tracking down the men responsible for her father’s death. A new addition to the character roster is Freddie, a possibly schizophrenic CEO of a company determined to better themselves through new (aka stolen) technology.

Salas’s artwork, like Spencer’s storytelling, seems to only be improving. The action sequence in the opening pages is a seamless blend of real time and recent memory, creating a visually stunning introduction. The color variations between past scenes and current ones also add to the overall impressive appearance of the book while also making the switch between scenes even easier to follow.

With the same wry wit, action and perfectly paced artwork present in EXISTENCE 3.0 as its predecessor, this book is a guaranteed hit and must-buy for anyone who read, and therefore enjoyed, the first series.

Avril Brown