Category: Comic Reviews

Review: The Little Dictator (Dirty Pair #3)

Little_DictatorEvery oncein a while, I like to revisit the past to re-examine things I treasure. Sometimes they are things I still have. Sometimes they are only memories. But whatever form they currently hold, they are special because they made huge changes in my life and influenced much of what followed. As for how huge said changes were, well, I wouldn’t learn that until much later.

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Review: AX: Alternative Manga

ax_cover_lgWhen one mentions “manga,” to the average passer-by, one is usually met with the question, “what is that?” Mention manga to the average American manga reader, you’ll likely hear mention of such series as Soul Eater or Negima!, or of such high-profile mangaka as Nagai Go or CLAMP. But many of them will likely not know about the sort of underground works that seldom actually make it outside Japan.

This is where AX: Alternative Manga (ISBN 978-1-60309-042-1; $29.95) enters the picture. A 399-page behemoth from Top Shelf Productions, AX is an English-language compilation of alternative manga works taken straight from Japan’s cutting-edge anthology periodical of the same name. Many, if not nearly all, American manga readers will likely not have heard of any of the artists or writers featured in this collection. They would be doing themselves a disservice, however, to not try this collection out; manga is more than just magical girls, large-scale fantasy romps or wacky romantic comedies. Manga can be just as experimental and surreal as American underground comics, and AX has such a selection in spades.

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Review: Gyo

gyo_vol._1I was first drawn to Junji Ito’s work by finding a copy of “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” online.  At first, I thought it was a scanslation of a story not available in English otherwise… but as it turned out, it was one of the bonus stories in the second volume of Ito’s longer manga work, Gyo (or The Fish). “Enigma” is a great, creepy story — I could see something similar running in an EC comic, and that’s a high compliment.

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Review: James Kochalka's Superf*ckers

superfckers350_lgFrom the printers of Top Shelf Productions and the field behind the author’s house in Vermont comes Superf*ckers, a compilation of the the craziest superhero parody you will ever read, all in inimitable Kochalka Quality.

James Kochalka, author of American Elf and frontman for the band James Kochalka Superstar, is the mastermind behind this expletive-laden gallery of gross-out humor, which boasts bright, attractive colors, inter-dimensional shower peeping and getting high off of unorthodox chemicals. Oh, and there’s a story in there somewhere, too, but who has time for a story when you’re so busy laughing at a dysfunctional team of superheroes verbally degrading each other?

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Review: “Johnny Boo and the Mean Little Boy” and “Dragon Puncher”, James Kochalka


Johnny Boo and the Mean Little Boy, James Kochalka

Dragon Puncher, James Kochalka


There’s really no doubt that one of the things that has always been admirable about Kochalka‘s work is the joyously childlike spirit inherent in it — whether that be the subject matter of many of his earlier graphic novels, the lyrics to his songs, or even the ease with which he has collaborated with his young children on drawings for his autobiographical comic, American Elf. From drawings to dialogue, it’s not difficult to imagine his work appealing to children.

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Review: Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary

Binky-Brown-CoverMcSweeney’s always publishes beautiful editions — that’s one of my favorite things about their books, the idea of them as objets d’arte is as important as the literature inside — which often is, of course, worthy of such a beautiful form.

On the other hand, most ’70s underground comix, while undeniably art themselves, often took the form of the trashy and disposable; one could be forgiven for assuming the worst if they had no idea of what the contents were.

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Review: R. Crumb's The Book Of Genesis Illustrated

R. Crumb cover[Purchase Book]

I’d never thought there’d be a time where I’d find myself reading the Bible before bed, but for a week or so, I did indeed.  The catch — the edition was R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated, a comic version of the first book of the Old Testament.  This isn’t as big a catch as you might expect, though.  It’s the complete book (including, as the back proclaims, all the begats) with Robert Alter’s translation as the main source (though Crumb also uses a few other sources for the text as well) — and the artwork is straight — it’s not a parody or lampoon of any sort.


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Review: The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book

I used to always say that I’m probably the only person who’s a much bigger fan of R. Crumb‘s music than his comics. For what it’s worth, that’s probably still true — I love the Cheap Suit Serenaders — but I’m beginning to come around more on his comics. Kitchen Sink PressThe R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book is a giant volume of essays by R. Crumb, reprinted comics and sketchbook pages — and a lot of the comics are from other periods than his late-’60s/early ’70s heyday — the stuff pretty much everyone thinks of when they think of Crumb. The stuff where he was influenced most by LSD.


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Review: I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!

karasikFletcher Hanks had a very short run in comics; he worked only from 1939 to 1941. In fact, this, the first volume of his comics, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!, combined with the companion volume, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, contains everything ever published by Hanks.  Though his run may have been brief, he worked with Will Eisner’s studio.  Will Eisner, though, didn’t remember much about him — just that he did everything alone, but turned everything in on time.  Granted, with the amount of work they were doing in that time to get complete comics packages out to various publishers and distributors, speed and timeliness was the most important thing, rather than quality.  Formula was king, just because it allowed creators to churn out stories quickly — though, unlike Hanks, most creators specialized in one or two parts of the process and passed the stories on — getting multiple viewpoints in the creation.  Hanks’ stories are all the product of his own mind and hand.

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Review: Powerhouse Pepper

Fantagraphics’ volume of 11 of Basil Wolverton’s Powerhouse Pepper stories (along with 4 starring other characters) works as a great companion to their new Culture Corner volume, despite having come out in 1994.  Where Culture Corner showed Wolverton’s skill at doing brief half-page joke strips, Powerhouse Pepper shows how his style worked with longer, 10-page stories — and oddly enough, the difference isn’t as great as you might expect.  Like his shorter stuff, it’s packed with puns, rhymes and alliteration, but the added space gives him room to fill the panels with what Will Elder always called “Chicken Fat”, the sidebar jokes and gags that fill the page and keep you re-reading and discovering new bits.


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