New Comics Review: Batman, Canadian Superheroes, and Mutant Tooth Monsters. And Prostitutes.

Murder Book Vol. 2 by Ed Brisson, Vic Malhotra, and Michael Walsh.

I might be accused of bias here as the writer is a friend of mine, but objectively speaking Ed Brisson is probably number one on my “I can’t believe everyone isn’t reading one of his comics” list right now. There’s a real craftsman-like attention to detail in terms of the dialogue, and artists Vic Malhotra and Michael Walsh are real talents to watch out for.  If you are at all a fan of tight, intense writing, and love recent crime-focused books like Criminal, Scalped, or The Killer, Murder Book is for you.

Rating: A

 Alpha Flight #1 by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Dale Eaglesham

I had to. You know I had to. No matter how disenchanted I  may be with the current state of mainstream superhero comics, any Canadian comics fan worth her or his Maple Syrup has to check out any new incarnation of Canada’s premier superhero team. That’s not the surprise. What was surprising however, is that this was good. In fact, I might go as far as to say that this was the best Alpha Flight issue I’ve ever read that didn’t involve John Byrne.

However, I do have a few suggestions/comments for Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, seeing that they’re not Canadian.

  • A true Vancouverite wouldn’t recite a Hail Mary if they were threatened by imminent death at the hands of a blue skinned merman. Our only religion is real estate.
  • I really like the political angle here, and the Prime Minister suspending the Charter was a nice touch. Unfortunately, your fictional fascist prime minister with a dark secret still isn’t nearly as scary as our real fascist prime minister with a dark secret.
  • Kudos for writing an entire 25 page comic about Canada and NOT mentioning Toronto.  P.S. No need to mention Alberta either. Just keep the whole thing in B.C. and P.E.I., and you’ll be fine.

Rating: B+

 The Tooth by Cullen Bunn, Shawn Lee, and Matt Kindt

I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about this, as it involves three of comics brightest current young stars. Cullen Bunn is the writer of an excellent supernatural western comic called The Sixth Gun, and Matt Kindt is the brilliant artist/writer behind such current masterpieces as Super Spy, Revolver, and 3 Story.  Shawn Lee I don’t know, but I’m sure he’s great. The Tooth is their tribute/homage/pastiche to 60s and 70s monster comics, and it’s probably the most fun comic book experience I’ve had this year. It’s about a guy that find a magic tooth that burrows into his head, only to discover that it also turns into a giant monster that fights demons. Duh. What did you think it was about?

Fun is the watchword here, but that doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t demand to be taken seriously. Like all of the great 70’s monster comics, The Tooths tortured, yet sympathetic lead character is the primary driving focus of the narrative, and the reason why you start this book smiling, but may end it with a tear. Although it’s Bunn and Lee’s story, I’m not sure this would have worked quite as well with any other artist than Matt Kindt. His style is the perfect mix of raw emotion and technical brilliance for this sort of thing, and I hope to see more of these creators working together.

Rating: A

Flashpoint: Batman, Knight Of Vengeance by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Yeah, I can’t really believe I’m reviewing a Batman comic either, much less a Batman comic attached to one of DC’s absurd annual crossovers. It’s not that I don’t like me some Batman. But Grant Morrison has effectively ruined the character for me, and I’m pretty much on a Bat-Hiatus (HiBatus?) until all of the horrible things he’s done to character are reversed. But Azzarello and Risso on a non-continuity Batman where Bruce Wayne was killed and Thomas Wayne actually became Batman? Sign me up. Issue one: Liked. Good set-up, but the series kept it’s secrets close. Issue two: Best reveal ever. We find out who the Joker is in this weird, alternate reality, and it pretty much kicks our ass. Issue three hasn’t happened yet, but I’m hoping that DC realizes that they’ve got gold here and beg Azzarello

and Risso to keep going.

Rating: A-

Paying For It by Chester Brown

This might be the best comic about prostitutes since Professor X needed Storm and Kitty to help pay for the heating bill that one time.. And it’s also going to go down as one of my favourite graphic novels of the year. Chester Brown goes back to his autobiographical roots here, but he’s learned the lesson taught by contemporaries such as Alison Bechdel and Tom Beland: His life isn’t that interesting. Neither is yours. Neither is mine. However, we all have one small aspect of our lives that IS interesting, and that’s what Brown focuses on here, namely that he pays women to have sex with them.

No matter how one feels about the issue, this is the gutsiest, most personal story I’ve read in comic book form this year. It’s honest, it’s courageous, and it’s raw. And it’s pretty much brilliant. Highly recommended.

Rating: A+

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