NEW TRADES

NEW TRADES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

I survived my wedding.

This was no mean feat. I had no idea how complicated and life-consuming this event was going to become. I literally lost months of my regular life and productivity to it. But here’s the rub: it was worth it. Totally and completely worth it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming, shall we?

A number of new Image trades have hit the shelves recently. Four in particular stood out to me, not just because they are good, but because they also represent what it is that Image does so well: variety and diversity.

Let’s start with MOONSHINE VOL.1, a high-profile release to be sure. Re-uniting the creative team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso of 100 BULLETS fame, this Prohibition Era story gives us a new take on the old bootlegging story. A big-time mobster sends one of his guys to Appalachia in order to broker a deal to bring a particular ‘shine to NYC. But the alcohol maker in question isn’t necessarily keen on doing so… in part because he or one of his family might just be a werewolf with a really unfortunate temper.

Hijinks do not ensue.

Instead, intrigue, back-alley negotiations, some violence, a bit of gratuitous sex, plenty of booze, and more than a few angry words do. As a monthly comic, I wasn’t necessarily all that keen on MOONSHINE; I thought it felt a bit disjointed. But as a trade/graphic novel, it reads perfectly well. Azzarello’s scripting feels livelier and the overall story arc are much more clear in this format. And of course, Risso’s work is staggeringly great in any format. Moody, evocative, and sensual, it alone is worth the price of the book.

Good to see these guys together again.

On the other end of the storytelling spectrum is Memoir, and writer/artist Sina Grace’s latest entry into the genre is a damned good one. NOTHING LASTS FOREVER chronicles a wide-swath of Grace’s recent life, including a bout with long-term illness that seriously impacted his life and work. The tales within also cover the comics industry, depression, dating and sex, the true meaning of friendship, and more. What makes the book work is the raw vulnerability that Grace displays in how he presents himself and his issues. He’s not shy about pointing his finger at himself in the mirror and criticizing how he uses his own agency. That removes any hint of narcissism from the book and keeps it an honest read.

Grace also skips polishing his art, instead allowing the book to have a rougher, more journal-like feeling. It works to match the mood he is trying to convey in his storytelling and enhances the power of what he has to share with his readers.

I’ve liked Grace’s work since I first saw it on L’IL DEPRESSED BOY, and he continues to show what he can truly accomplish with his talent when he puts pencil to paper with this book.

Dancing off to another genre corner, MAYDAY by writer Alex de Campi and artist Tony Parker mixes the 70s counter-culture with the classic spy-thriller. A Russian defector offers a list of the Soviet spies who have infiltrated America’s forces in Vietnam, and suddenly the race is on between our intelligence agencies trying to keep the list and keep the defector alive and two Soviet agents who might be a little too caught up in America’s party culture.

The story is full or more twists and turns than I could even begin to count. It’s not convoluted, thankfully; de Campi does a great job of keeping the narrative clear and concise. The characters and dialogue are a ton of fun, and she does a terrific job of making you invest in both sides of the story.

Enhancing all of it is Tony Parker’s excellent art. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him for years, as he was local until fairly recent, and it warms my heart to see just how much he has grown as an artist. With each successive project he just gets better.

There’s nothing else like MAYDAY that I can compare it to – it’s unique. Isn’t that cool?

I’ve quite enjoyed POSTAL from its inception, so when I saw that its writer, Bryan Hill, was the writer on ROMULUS VOL.1 I felt confident I was going to enjoy it.

Throw in artist Nelson Blake II, and this one seemed like a lock before I cracked it open.

I was not disappointed.

A centuries-spanning conspiracy. A lone warrior standing against impossible odds. These things are standard tropes, yet in Hill’s hands, they feel fresh and fun. The main character, Ashlar, is one you can easily develop a rooting interest in, thanks to the way Hill sets up her back story. He does the same as well with the tale’s antagonist, giving us a complicated villain, not one that twirls their mustache. Again, that’s one of the things that Hill always seems to excel at.

Blake II delivers some tremendous pages, particularly because his action sequences are dynamic and crisply executed on the page. His character design is also top-notch.

Four books. Four different genres. Not a cape to be found anywhere. Aren’t comics great?

 

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