FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Happy Birthday, HPL.
Artprint available here http://francavilla.bigcartel.com/product/lovecraft-fear
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Harris Smith recommends The Fade Out #1
From Criminal to Gotham Central to Fatale, there’s no disputing that Ed Brubaker is one of the modern masters of crime fiction. The strength of his work derives from a keen synthesis of his influences, particularly 30’s-60’s hardboiled crime novels and film noir, combined with a streak of imaginative originality. In Gotham Central, for example, he crafted an expertly written Ed McBain-styled police procedural and grafted it into the ongoing continuity of the DC superhero universe. Fatale began like a Dashiell Hammet-influenced detective story, combined with an element of Lovecraftian horror, then spun both ideas off in a variety of unexpected directions. A significant factor in Brubaker’s appeal is that his influences are primarily stylistic, he doesn’t bog the reader down with excessive references or in-jokes, but rather uses his understanding of genre to capture its spirit, in the service of some often highly original storytelling.
In his latest, The Fade Out, from Image, Brubaker recalls the Hollywood-set noir of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place (originally a novel by Dorothy Hughes, later a film by Nicholas Ray, starring Humphrey Bogart) and The Big Knife (originally a Clifford Odets play, later a film by Robert Aldrich), as well as the non-crime desperation of Tinseltown-themed stories like The Day of the Locust (both Nathaniel West’s novel and John Schlesinger’s film, one of my personal all-time favorites) and Kenneth Anger’s salacious non-fiction Hollywood Babylon. Like these classics, Brubaker casts a cynical eye on the glamor of the movie world and focuses on the corruption and decadence underneath. Taking place in 1948, The Fade Out focuses on Charlie Parish, a seemingly burnt out screenwriter who awakens from a night of blackout drinking to discover he may or may not be implicated in a murder. Along the way, Brubaker evokes Pearl Harbor, the Hollywood blacklist and other heady elements that ground the story in historical reality. Tonally, The Fade Out expertly builds, in just the first issue, from uneasiness to dread to suspense and ends satisfyingly on a low-key cliffhanger that left me anxious to find out what could possibly come next.
If you’re a fan of Brubaker, you already know what kind of magic there is to be found here. If you’re new to his work, this fresh, smart, exciting new series is a great opportunity to get onboard.
Harris Smith is a Brooklyn-based comics and media professional. In addition to his role as a Senior Production Coordinator at comiXology, he edits several comics anthologies, including Jeans and Felony Comics, under the banner of Negative Pleasure Publications. He’s also the host of the weekly radio show Neagtive Pleasure on Newtown Radio.
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Mike Isenberg recommends Bandette #8
Whimsical and charming, gentlewoman thief Bandette is sure to steal your heart.
Written by Paul Tobin and drawn by his wife Colleen Coover (colleencoover), Bandette is a lighthearted crime tale about a young French girl who also happens to be the world’s greatest thief.
Bandette is cheerful and irreverent, never without a smile on her face and a joke on her tongue, even in the most deadly of circumstances. This gleeful sense of fun permeates the whole series, and it’s hard not to smile along with Bandette as she “liberates” great works of art from the villains that covet them.
The last few issues have seen Bandette in a friendly competition with rival thief Monsieur, racing to pilfer a list of prized cultural artifacts belonging to criminal mastermind Absinthe. Absinthe, meanwhile, has enlisted all the resources of his criminal enterprise FINIS to a singular task: kill Bandette. Issue #8 sees things really start to heat up as Monsieur, Bandette, police inspector Belgique, Absinthe, and the dread assassin Il Tredici all converge on FINIS headquarters at the same time.
Coover has an airy, cartoony style, gorgeously watercolored, that sets the tone of the book perfectly. Above all else, Bandette (the character as well as the book itself) is determined to have fun, and it’s clear on each page that Coover and Tobin have had a blast as well.
The Eisners nominated Bandette for four awards in 2013; Tobin and Coover ended up taking home the prize for Best Digital Comic. It was well deserved; this is a wonderful read. And at just 0.99 per issue, you really have no excuse not to check it out for yourself!
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Michael Crowe recommends Hip Hop Family Tree Vol. 2
Writer/Artist Ed Piskor (edpiskor) continues his epic journey through musical history with Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 2. Combining his passion for the musical genre with his mastery for creating comics, Piskor takes us on an encyclopedic journey through the growth of a uniquely American art form.
The 1980s were a time of expansion for the genre, across the country and the globe. This volume guides us through the continued rise of early hip hop originators alongside the birth of new acts inspired by these legends. It examines the intermingling between the uptown hip hop scene and thee downtown punk rock scene. It also documents the cultural exchange between New York arts culture and Hip Hop street culture. Piskor does a wonderful job of reminding the reader that this culture is more than the music. Hip Hop is an interdisciplinary art form that combines dance, visual art, musical production and lyrical genius to create an infectious form of modern art that’s craved en masse from Compton to Paris.
Ed Piskor’s art is stunning and his attention to detail is phenomenal. The pages appear to be printed on old textured paper. Each page pops despite the desaturated nature of the colors and the halftones used add even more texture to the pages. The result is a comic that feels straight out of the 80s. This attention to the aesthetic of a time is especially noticeable when flashing forward to the present. He illustrates these panels in a modern, highly saturated style common today. Piskor’s characterizations of classic players in the game are also unforgettable, and will evoke an immediate recognition from even a casual follower of hip hop culture.
For those interested in learning even more Piskor includes a bibliography and a discography to accompany the history he thoughtfully unravels for us. After you’ve finished reading and grooving be sure to pick up Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 1 to learn about the birth of Hip Hop and Wizzywig, Ed Piskor’s debut graphic novel about hacker culture.
Michael Crowe works on the digital assets/launch team by day and writes comics and prose by night. He’s an avid consumer of comics and all things sci-fi.
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Jen Keith recommends Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1
Walking long-legged beds and menageries of strange creatures, a face in the moon and candy-made kids! Nemo is back and walking the dreamscape, however reluctantly, in Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1.
First published in the New York Herald in 1905, Winsor McCay’s celebrated strip Little Nemo in Slumberland is a classic. It’s been adapted into various media including an animated film in 1989 that, I admit, terrified me as a child. The story follows young Nemo’s fantastic adventures when called into Slumberland by King Morpheus. Here too is where we meet Nemo afresh as he’s commanded to become the playmate of Slumberland’s princess. However, it’s not easy to get to the land of dreams when all of your progress is lost upon falling out of bed.
Locke & Key's artist Gabriel Rodriguez’s (gr-comics) detailed architecture and stylization remains faithful to McCay’s art nouveau influences with decorative flourishes and nods to the original jaunty layouts. Meanwhile, writer Eric Shanower is a wonderful fit what with his work on Marvel’s Oz books; he’s no stranger to giving a great voice to kids finding themselves in bizarre new lands. This team works well together in bringing their own touch while keeping that quintessential Nemo look and feel. The story is a whimsical ride with surprises around every corner and as unpredictable as our own dreamtime escapades. Its unfettered pacing flows surreally as it never would in waking hours.
While sure to be a hit for all ages and a great jumping off point for new and old fans alike, if you need more journeys into imagination then try Marvel’s Figment.
Don’t wait for bedtime to explore dreamland when you join Nemo on his nightly romps through Slumberland. Happy reading and pleasant dreams!
Jen Keith is a Digital Editor at comiXology, comic artist, music addict, and could really use a nap herself right about now.
IGNATZ AWARDS HONOR INDIE CREATORS AND ALTERNATIVE WORK WITH 2014 NOMINATIONS
The Small Press Expo (SPX) announced the full list of nominees for the 2014 Ignatz Awards this week; with an aim to celebrate outstanding achievements in independent and alternative comics and cartooning, the awards are named after George Herriman’s brick-wielding mouse from his Krazy Kat comic strip, recognising exceptional work within the medium. Nominees are determined by a panel of cartoonists, this year comprised of Whit Taylor, Melissa Mendes, Thien Pham, Darryl Ayo, and Austin English, with votes cast only by attendees during SPX to decide the eventual winners.
This year’s slate of nominees is a pretty wide range of books and authors, which is an indicator of how encompassing the terms and area of independent and alternative comics have become. I’m especially pleased to see Sophie Goldstein recognised for the superb House of Women, Sophie Yanow for War of Streets and Houses, John Martz’s Destination X (which I thought had gone largely unnoticed upon release last September), Cathy G. Johnston in the promising new talent category, Jason Shiga for his online comic, Demon -- which is simply one of the best comics this year and you should be reading — and Farel Dalrymple‘s It Will All Hurt #2. This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki makes the list, too — I expect that book to win a whole host of awards — along with Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet, as it’s the only 2014 book about which I’ve heard unanimously good to excellent things across the board.
Regardless of what you think about awards, the one thing I love about them is that they always introduce me to a host of new artists and work, and I’d urge you to check out at least a couple of the excellent authors and books from the complete list of nominees.
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Jonah Chuang recommends Multiversity #1
If you’ve been reading any of DC’s monthly titles over the past few weeks, you’ve likely seen the teasers for this book in the back of your comics. There are captions that say things like read, “I’m Real?”, “I see you! I know what’s coming!”, and “I am not ad copy! DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK! The fate of the Multiverse rests in your hands!”
It turns out that this meta-awareness is a big theme in this book, and the effect is a more immersive experience. In the opening scene, an unnamed comic book reader sitting in a room full of long boxes dissects a DC comic book while participating in a forum on his tablet (none of us can relate to that, right?). Then his monkey comes to life and he turns into a comic book character and they jump into the comic book! It’s not often that you’ll find a superhero book that discusses superhero books so casually in the midst of a life or death crisis. Morrison then continues to use captions to speak directly to the audience, which is eerie and kind of cool in that it’s like having the author standing next to you and making remarks as you read.
I also really appreciate the diversity of this group. This team does seem to represent a bunch of different people from different walks of life and Morrison does seem to acknowledge that he’s doing it on purpose so maybe he’ll expand on it in the next few issues.
Finally, I absolutely love the inclusion of Captain Carrot, an anthropomorphic superhero rabbit. With the success and popularity of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon, it was only a matter of time before DC stepped up and presented a wacky but dangerous furry superhero of their own. All I can say is they made a great choice with Captain Carrot.
Jonah Chuang is a Production Coordinator Assistant at Comixology. He hopes to be Jabba the Hutt for Halloween this year.
Jonah Chuang is a Production Coordinator Assistant. He is very much looking forward to seeing the footage from Avengers: Age of Ultron.