CHEW 46

CHEW #46

Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

At long last, CHEW has returned!…to punch fans in the gut once again. When we last saw the CHEW crew, they were all kinds of broken, physically and emotionally. Matters have not improved.

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Still ragingly bitter over what he perceives to be the ultimate betrayal from his best friend/partner, Tony refuses to work with John and continues giving him the icy cold shoulder while shutting down every attempt John makes at reconciliation. Therefore Chu is teamed up with a shady blast from the past, D-Bear. Picking the lesser of two evils, Chu and D-Bear tackle their first case together which introduces two new, drastically different food powers (being able to build artillery out of fructose and hypnotizing people with peppermints) and an assault on a senior citizen.

While the background nuggets continue to induce hysterical laughter and keep things from getting too dark (though the sunset picture in a hospital room stating ‘You gonna die, bro,’ pushes the envelope a bit), this is still one damn depressing issue. Colby is obviously trying to make things right and his efforts seem to directly involve the shocking twist at the end of last issue: the murder of beloved, scary-ass Poyo. However, after Chu’s latest rejection Colby seems to have thrown in the towel, meaning even if he had some positive purpose behind wringing the neck of his feathered partner it appears to be all for naught.

Though my relationship with this book is that of Captain America and Bucky, in it to the end, they make it so damn hard to love CHEW. Toss us a bone with a Tony Chu-sized bite on it, fellas, and give us something good.

THE SCULPTOR

THE SCULPTOR

Written and Drawn by Scott McCloud

Published by First Second

Reviewed by Marc Mason

I have long held Scott McCloud’s work in the highest esteem. From the early days of ZOT! to the groundbreaking nature of UNDERSTANDING COMICS to the gloriousness that is DESTROY, he has shown himself to be a creator of singular talents, someone who knows how to use the medium of comics in significant and intriguing ways. Hell, at this very moment, I am teaching a Masters-level course in writing comics and graphic novels, and I’m using UNDERSTANDING COMICS as the primary text – a book that is over twenty-years old, yet has lost none of its power and importance.

Scott McCloud is just that good.

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So when I tell you that THE SCULPTOR is the finest artistic achievement of his storied career, I hope you understand what that means. It is a work of vision, emotion, power, philosophy, and love. And it is going to win a metric ton of awards, as well as become a perennial seller. It is modern and it is timeless. It is a staggering piece of work.

The story introduces us to a young artist named David Smith, a sculptor who has reached rock bottom in his career rather quickly, which is doubly humiliating because he shares a name with another, quite successful artist. But one day, as he attempts to drink away his sorrows, Death himself arrives in the form of one of his relatives and offers him a deal: he will gain the (super) power to use his hands to create whatever he can imagine, producing art like the world has never seen… but after 200 days, he will die.

It isn’t really a spoiler to tell you that he takes the deal.

But as with all deals of this nature, and with life vicissitudes, David’s life changes in other, significant ways, including meeting Meg, a troubled young actress with whom he immediately falls in love. Yet McCloud works hard to avoid that scenario feeling too much like a cliché. Indeed, Meg is far more complex than your traditional manic pixie dream girl, and she is hiding some secrets of her own. Plus, David is hardly redeemed from his more dick-ish qualities despite his ability to create, and his gift for treating people terribly doesn’t fade away. Both of these people have a lot of work to do, and not just on their art.

That was what impressed me most about the book, I think – McCloud never has the characters take an easy way out. Even with David’s looming (pardon the pun) deadline, he struggles with simply trying to learn to be a better person as much as he struggles with creating his art. The one thing he cannot use his hands to mold is his personality.

Artistically, McCloud uses the whole bag of tricks and then some to tell the tale. He focuses on negative space to enhance a character’s vision. He uses dynamic sequences of silent panels to inform and move the story along. There are moments of stark impressionism. Really, the look to the book is wildly inventive, and a feast for the eyes. While some parts might tempt you to read quickly, you shouldn’t; watch how he tackles storytelling, movement, and emotion on the page. He’s putting the lessons of UNDERSTANDING COMICS to good use here.

I could go on, but you get the idea. THE SCULPTOR is an absolute triumph. I give it my highest recommendation.

NAMELESS EMPTY POSTAL

NAMELESS/EMPTY/POSTAL

Written by Grant Morrison and Drawn by Chris Burnham

Written and Drawn by Jimmie Robinson

Written by Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill and Drawn by Isaac Goodhart

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Three new efforts from Image…

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Because of its creative team, there is a lot of hype surrounding NAMELESS #1, the latest creator-owned effort from Grant Morrison. Reunited with artist Chris Burnham, we are meant to expect great things as they dive into this sci-fi horror story that focuses on a man actually known as Nameless. In the beginning, he is hired to steal a key out of someone else’s dreams, which leads to some fascinating imagery. But it is after that where the story picks up speed, as he is hired to engage in a far more scientifically-based mission to save the world. And that’s about the bare minimum I can tell you with any certainty about the book.

That’s because so much of what happens here is just odd for what feels like odd’s sake. Any number of questions arise, starting with why the book begins as an occult-based version of INCEPTION and veers into territory more associated with bad Bruce Willis movies. I could go on, but you get the idea. Look, I’m okay with a bit of nonsensical in my comics; CASANOVA is brilliant in its lack of comprehensible plotting. But it always gives you enough to hold onto in the way of linear movement to keep you grounded. This one comes up a bit short.

Now, mind you, this is the work of some of comics’ finest. The art alone is worth the cover price. Do I expect this to pick up in a meaningful way as it goes forward? Absolutely. But this first issue is gonna leave you feeling a little lost. Seems only fair to let you know.

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The criminally underrated Jimmie Robinson returns with THE EMPTY #1, a sci-fi saga loaded with imagination and straight-forward storytelling that draws you in immediately. A young woman named Tanoor lives in an arid, empty world that is full of poison and very little in the way of potable water and edible food. Yet her job is to patrol the far boundaries and find those things and bring them back to her people. One day, a stranger washes ashore, a stranger with the ability to alter the poison land into one that bears life again.

This does not go over well with the more superstitious part of the populace. Now Tanoor must save the stranger, herself, and find a way to circumvent the tribal elders in order to save all of her people.

Simple, elegant setup. Gorgeous art. Solid dialogue. Interesting characters. Understandable conflicts that make sense between the characters. A few background mysteries that will be fun to watch be resolved, but which don’t take away from the rollicking tale being told in the forefront of the story. Robinson handles this stuff brilliantly. This is a textbook way of putting together the first issue of a real epic. I can’t wait to see where he goes with it.

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One of the great things about comics is that there is room on the shelves for stories and genres that don’t involve people in capes. I love that there is a place for a book like POSTAL #1, which falls into the crime genre, but definitely has an unusual twist at its core. Mark is the postmaster for Eden, Wyoming, a small town of around 2000 people. He’s good at this job because of the fastidiousness that comes with his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. He has the job because his mother is the mayor of the town… a town with an amazing secret: it is populated solely by criminals.

Criminals who all follow one code: there is to be no crime in Eden. Ever.

You can guess how that goes, and Mark finds himself at the center of two mysteries, not just one. It’s a fantastic setup with some really interesting execution that grabs the reader and really holds their interest. From the prickly lead character to the seemingly sympathetic waitress to the take-no-shit mayor, the book is populated with intriguing people. Great dialogue, solid art… like I said, I love that there is a place for this book on comics shelves. Recommended.