Wednesday Comic Woundup: 1930’s Southern Race Relations, and new BONE!

Bone: Tall Tales by Tom Sniegowski and Jeff Smith. Published by Scholastic Books.

I have to admit that I have a bit of a 4 minute hate for people who buy comics only because a character they love is in them: “WOLVERINE TOUGH! ME BUY BOOK! ” Ugh. But yay, since that’s a big part of the modern superhero-comic industry. Don’t get me wrong, I get liking a character. But buying all of that character’s appearances regardless of quality makes no sense to me. There’s just way too many GREAT comics out there to limit yourself like that. There are exceptions to this of course, and they mostly hinge on the character’s creator being involved somehow: Eric Powell’s Goon, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, etc. Which brings us to Jeff’s Smith’s Bone

Anybody who I owe money to knows that I consider Bone to be one of the greatest comic books ever created. It’s a fantasy epic masterpiece that I rank among things like Lord Of the Rings, His Dark Materials, and  Chronicles Of Narnia. And so the idea of NEW Bone material gets me giddy with geek joy, but also worries me: Bone is perfect, and as such needs no extra filler. 

Jeff Smith & Tom Sniegowski recognize this, and focus on expanding the peripheral characters of Bone rather than attempting to expand the plot. Tall Tales consists of a newly colourized version of one previously published Big Johnson Bone story, plus a few other new stories, loosely based around the idea of Smiley Bone and Bartelby telling a group of young scouts stories about Big Johnson Bone, a legendary figure in Bone’s mythology. The main story here was previously published in black & white as Stupid Stupid Rat-Tails, but everything else is new.

The stories here have a similar lightness of tone to the Bone series, but without the emotional resonance of that series. These stories are exactly what they say they are: tall tales, and such aren’t to be taken too seriously. They’re fun, and a great read IF you’re a big fan of the world Jeff Smith has created. I’d recommend this for parents looking for something fun for their kids, and for Bone completists.

Rating: B

Bayou by Jeremy Love. Published by Zuda/DC comics.

I’m not really sure how I missed Zuda comics. I mean, I didn’t completely miss them. I knew of it’s existence. But since I don’t find it enjoyable to read comics on my computer, I passed on DC comic’s attempts to revolutionize webcomics. However, since the introduction of Comixology’s app for iPod Touch and Phone, I’ve tried quite a few web comics in recent months, and ironically it’s sending me out to buy them in print form when they come available. Bayou is one of my recent discoveries, which is a little sad since Zuda as originally conceived is no more, and it’s one that I’m kicking myself for not getting into earlier.  

Bayou is the story of Lee Wagstaff, the daughter of a sharcropper in an alternate version of 1930’s Mississippi. This world isn’t much different than the one we know, but it’s one that’s deeply steeped in American mythology. This world has monsters. Some of them, like racism, hatred, and intolerance, will be very famliar to us. But others, like the amiable blues singing Bayou, or the evil swamp creature known as Bog, are a little stranger, but no less terrifying. Lee’s friend Lily has been taken, and the central arc here is Lily’s attempts to find her, not just for her sake, but for that of Lee’s father, who is on the verge of being unjustly lynched for Lily’s kidknapping.

Bayou is pure magic. It’s a testament to the creativity of comic books. A compelling narrative, weirdly stunning art, and a reminder that the real monsters we face are just as terrifying as the ones we can come up with in our heads.

Rating: A+

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Wednesday Comics Woundup: 2 Talking Robots.

I’m not dead. I smell bad, and I’ve lost weight, but I’m not dead. What I’ve done is moved, which I guess is a little like dying, and which is why I’ve been remiss in my blog posting. Sorry Mom. Well, not my mom, since her computer skills are still at the “Look at pretty pictures!” level. But  the renovations are done, our stuff is moved in, and my graphic novels are alphabetized properly, so I can start blogging again:

 The Amazing Screw-On Head & Other Curious Oddites by Mike Mignola, with colours by Dave Stewart. Published by Dark Horse Comics.  

He has a head. It screws on to things.

The Amazing Screw-On Head is a stand-alone comic that Mike Mignola produced 8 years ago. They even made an animated film of it a while back. While originally conceived as a throw-away one-shot, it’s widely considered one of the very best single comics that Mignola has ever produced, and as such, I can see why Dark Horse felt the need to reprint it. However, it’s only 22 pages long. So they’ve added another 2  rare previously released Mignola stories, another 2 stories that he did just for this collection, and some sketches. And voila, you have a cash grab!

 I’m being harsh, but even with the new material from an incredible artist who rarely picks up the drawing pencil these days, the main reason to pick this up is still Screw-On Head, and if you already have it, then I can’t say that this collection is a must-buy.

 But it sure is a lot of fun.

 The original story remains as brilliant, as wacky, and as strange as it did in 2002. For those of you who haven’t read it,  here’s the sum up: Emperor Zombie has broken into the Museum of Dangerous Books and Papers and wants to use an ancient manuscript he’s stolen from there to take over the world. Abraham Lincoln dispatches a talking robot head to stop him. The end. It’s absurdist to the extreme, and with lines like: “All really intelligent people should be cremated for reasons of public safety” and “Free at last from my vegetable prison”, you’d think it would be hard to take seriously. But it really isn’t, because of the medium that it’s being told in. This is the type of story that you could only find in a comic book, and it’s a must read by any real lover of the medium. It puts a smile on my face every time I read it, and it’s great to finally have it on my bookshelf, as opposed to stuck in a plastic bag.

  The other stories included in the collection are nice to have from a completist stand-point, but I cant say that any of them stood out to me,,though the Eisner Award-Winning “The Wizard & The Snake” does have it’s charms.

 This is a must-own for any serious Mike Mignola fan, though maybe not if you already have the original comic book.

 Rating: B for the collection, A+ for the original story.

Atomic Robo Volume Four: Atomic Robo And Other Strangeness by Bryan Clevinger and Scott Wegener, Published by Red 5.

If Indiana Jones and Venkman from Ghostbusters had a baby, and then that baby screwed a toaster, that toaster’s baby would be Atomic Robo.

Blowing you away with science!

It’s fitting that I’m reviewing the latest Atomic Robo trade alongside a comic by Mike Mignola, since the easiest (and laziest) way to describe Atomic Robo is by comparing it to Mignola’s Hellboy. While in some ways this is of course a compliment, due to Hellboy/B.P.R.D. still being one of the most consistently entertaining series of adventure comics around, in other ways it sells Robo short, and doesn’t really give you a sense of just how good this comic has become.

Very few comic books put a smile on my face the way Atomic Robo does, and while this latest mini-series might not have the science-y twists and turns that I loved in The Shadow From Beyond Time, it’s still a worthy addition to the Robo mythos. It’s essentially a snapshot of an average week in the life of Atomic Robo, an 80 year old science adventurer originally created by Nikola Tesla. During this week we see him repel an invasion from the Vampire Dimension, team up with Japan’s Science Team Five to combat giant monsters, and face the dreaded DR. DINOSAUR!!!!

 If you like your comics fun, pulpy, and full of mind-blowing science, this is essential. New series starts in November, hopefully this will hold me over until then.

 Rating: A