Written and Drawn by Derek Kirk Kim
Written and Drawn by Thien Pham
Published by First Second

Reviewed by Marc Mason

I’ve been intrigued by Derek Kirk Kim’s output since I read SAME DIFFERENCE when it came out, so I was intrigued to see TUNE vol.1: VANISHING POINT when it hit my mailbox. Kim has shown no predilection for repeating himself, and that remains true with this book, which melds early 20s angst with cute romance and a highly unusual sci-fi concept. If you’re anything like me, that alone would make you want to pick up the book.

Young artist Andy Go thinks he’s headed for the big time, so he drops out of school with one year left in order to pursue his massive freelance dreams. It isn’t much of a spoiler to note that it doesn’t quite go as he would like, and that it drives a wedge between him, his friends, and his family. Forced to job hunt by his parents, he winds up getting a job offer that he perhaps doesn’t quite understand, because it happens to be located in another dimension. Hilarity follows.

There’s really nothing here that doesn’t work. Andy is a funny, rounded, complex character, and so are his friends. His parents are played for laughs, yet they also come across as genuinely caring about Andy and his future. The dialogue is sharp, the plotting is brisk, and Kim handles the absurdity of it all in such a way that it never violates the parameters that Kim has set up for his story. I was completely charmed by TUNE, and I’m looking forward to future volumes.

I had a more mixed reaction to Thien Pham’s SUMO, a book that I admired more for its poetic spirit and experimental storytelling than the actual story itself. Scott is a football player whose career didn’t pan out the way he had hoped, and without an NFL career, he has found himself adrift. However, he gets a new, unexpected opportunity: would he like to move to Japan and undergo training to become a sumo wrestler? With a busted relationship and no job prospects, he accepts, sending him on a long journey in more ways than one.

Pham’s story covers three different plot tracks, and he does so through color. His work in Japan at training to be a sumo is done in orange, the story of his final days in the States is done in blue, and his efforts at teaching his Japanese cruch how to fish are done in green. It’s an interesting artistic conceit, and I liked the way it help structure the book. It also prevents Pham from having to use narrative captions or other shortcuts, which is smart. I also think that the two stories he chose to tell beyond the sumo training were the best ones to focus on; they definitely help flesh out Scott as an interesting character trying to take control of his fate.

Yet at the same time, I never quite emotionally connected to him. I still felt like there were things about him we should know and were not seeing. And while I like Pham’s art, his work in the sumo sequences is extremely difficult to follow. Nothing horrific, mind you, but I just wasn’t connecting to it.

As I said above, I admired the work, and the poetic spirit that Pham imbues the material with, and I admired the artist’s storytelling choices. I just didn’t love the book as a whole. Your mileage, of course, will vary.


Written and Drawn by Brandon Graham
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

One of the qualities missing from a lot of comics these days is joy. Mainstream comics have, for the most part, become so dark and bleak thanks to their event-driven storylines, that they only provoke smiles when you’re grateful to be done reading them.

That is not what Brandon Graham’s work is like.

Starting with KING CITY, and continuing here in MULTIPLE WARHEADS, Graham’s work is so full of joy that it almost sings. Mind you, it isn’t exactly linear, and sometimes doesn’t make sense, but holy shit is it fun to read.

The way to approach Graham’s work is the read it for the sheer fun of it first; the exquisitely detailed and designed pages, the crazy characters, the imaginative technology, and appreciate the amazing level of creativity put into it. Then it becomes easier to find the story. MULTIPLE WARHEADS contains two story tracks, and they basically boil down to “young lovers on the run” and “hired killer takes on questionable contract.” The rest of the lunacy that Graham puts on his pages is simply the very delicious icing on the cake.

Graham also gives more value for your money than almost anybody else working today. This book has forty-eight pages of art and story for $4, and he also uses the inside front and back covers for more work, as well as the outer back cover. And it doesn’t read quickly; he rewards you for taking your time and absorbing the minute details of the panels.

If more comics were this fun, the industry as a whole would be much better off.


CHEW #29
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

It’s that time of the month again for another dose of crazy CHEW. Tony Chu is still on the mend so the ragtag group of John Colby, Cesar Valenzano and Toni Chu are on assignment (Poyo was off in Tokyo taking down an enormous metal Turducken).

One of the best parts about this series is the variety of food-related powers Layman can conjure, and this one is pretty off the wall. Judy Heinz-Campbell is a victuspeciosian, which means she is capable of creating a beauty mask that people would kill for (and ultimately do). When she combines certain foodstuffs she can create a mudpack that can alter a person’s appearance, whether it be a few unsightly blemishes or a complete overhaul, transforming a person’s face into another’s.

Needless to say her talent puts Judy on all the wrong radars and it’s up to the combined efforts of the FDA, USDA and NASA to crack this case. However, the changes in the personal lives of the agents are the real shockers in this issue, the effects of which are likely to be felt for several books to come (personally I simply cannot wait for the confrontation between Colby’s former boss/lover and his current one as they have just been made aware of one another). Layman and Guillory also crossed new lines with their background Easter eggs, the most controversial being a billboard above a liquor store declaring: “They don’t love you like I do,” – Booze. Just…wow. Readers are left, as always, chomping at the bit for the next installment of CHEW.


Written by Steve Darnall & Alex Ross and Drawn by Jonathan Lau
Foreword by Mark Waid, Written and Drawn by Pete Morisi
Written by Steve Darnall
Published by Dynamite

Reviewed by Marc Mason

This is how you re-launch a character.

The original PETER CANNON: THUNDERBOLT series was part of the classic stuff published by Charlton Comics back in the 1960s, and the book would eventually make its way to DC Comics in the 80s, but with a slight caveat: the book’s creator was one of the few people who had made sure to own his creation. Pete Morisi had the rights to his stuff, and the Thunderbolt had to be negotiated for. Bless the man for having the foresight to think about things like copyright.

Fast-forward to today: bringing the Thunderbolt back to a new generation of comics readers. How do you do it? Involving Alex Ross is a good start. Ross loves classic comics material and characters. Bring in his frequent creative partner Steve Darnall. Let them create a new way to introduce the character, explain who he is, and set him up as a 21st century hero.

They’ve done a fine job of doing so here. Peter Cannon is publicly out as the Thunderbolt, a man who can fight and defeat the sudden return of dragons to the world. Put him in a position of being a hero known to all, which means he will be in the crosshairs of countless who want to see him fall. Terrific.

Pair them with a strong artist. Jonathan Lau has become Dynamite’s go-to guy for big launches. Lau got the duty for both of Kevin Smith’s books (GREEN HORNET, BIONIC MAN) and he steps in on this one, too. His work gets better and better with every comic he finishes. Good character work, strong action moments. Storytelling that flows.

Then add some sweet bonus material. The last story ever written and drawn by Morisi, introduced by Mark Waid (who commissioned it). An essay by Darnall on how the story came together and why he is working with Ross on the book. These things truly enhance the reading experience of the comic. They also give you more than your money’s worth at the cash register.

I had no experience with the character beyond knowing that he was the original guy; that Alan Moore had made Ozymandias a pastiche of Peter Cannon in WATCHMEN. After I read this, I knew a whole lot more. Recommended.


Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Some terrific new stuff coming your way from the folks at Image…

One of the company’s most high-profile releases of the year is HAPPY #1, which sees writer Grant Morrison and artist Darick Robertson take their talents to the company for the first time. What is HAPPY about? Well, it combines sex, drugs, detective noir, and a tiny blue horse that may or not be a hallucination. When Nick Sax executes a hit on some mob brothers, he comes into possession of something that the bad guys want pretty badly. He also comes into possession of a loud, blue apparition that wants him to help it do something else entirely. What’s real? What’s not? All we know of reality is the bullets that fly through the pages. This book is an absolute gas; rockin’ fun stuff that entertains on multiple levels, offering humor, action, and a dose of surreality that sets it apart from the rest of the stuff on the stands. It feels a little like Morrison heading back to the territory he started covering in THE FILTH, but very fresh. And Robertson has rarely looked better. His gifts for creating beauty out of disgustingness are simply impressive. Can’t wait to read more of this.

Writer Jay Faerber has also proven himself quite adept at the detective drama genre, though his stuff stays strictly in the “down to Earth” milieu. And that is just fine. NEAR DEATH sadly never found the audience that it richly deserved, but Faerber has stuck with it in POINT OF IMPACT #1, a noir-ish tale of adultery, murder, and mystery. When a woman takes a dive off of a building and onto a parked car, things seem pretty clear cut. But when you throw in a home invasion, clues that don’t quite match up, and a little journalism, you get an electric mix of a crime story. True to the genre’s roots, artist Koray Kuranel does his work in stark black and white, and the results are outstanding. This is a pretty comic book. The characters are nicely designed, the world looks authentic and lived in, and it has one of the best covers I’ve seen in recent memory. Faerber showed a solid ability for superhero soap opera early in his career, but his recent dedication to crime and noir has really taken him to another level. POINT OF IMPACT is terrific stuff.

I’m a real fan of artist Amy Reeder’s work, so I was predisposed to liking HALLOWEEN EVE before even cracking the cover. Nothing inside changed my mind. Eve is a young woman working at a costume shop who actually doesn’t like Halloween. But on the night before the holiday, she gets stuck working late and finds herself transported through the looking glass to a different reality where she must learn to reconcile her feelings with her own quest for identity and self-esteem. Writer Brandon Montclare gives us a charming set of characters and situations, and Reeder absolutely nails it on the art. Her layouts are terrific, her storytelling is lovely, and as she colored the book as well, the entire package is a feast for the eyes. This one-shot also comes with some creator commentary, as well as some preliminary artwork created by Reeder. I was utterly charmed by HALLOWEEN EVE, and it is easily recommendable.