Posts Tagged "harris smith"
A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends The Grassy Knoll by nickdrnaso

Comics are capable of transporting readers to many worlds, from the farthest reaches of the imagination of visionary artists like Jack Kirby to the hilariously low-key absurdism of Jim WoodringSometimes, though, the best place a comic can take you is your own back yard, giving readers small slices of everyday life, populated with situations and characters that are recognizable and relatable.  Such is the case with Nick Drnaso’s The Grassy Knoll, available now from Oily Comics through comiXology Submit.

The Grassy Knoll is deceptively simple.  In it, a teenager named Tim starts a new job and, on his first day, is paired with an annoying co-worker, Sal.  Eventually, Tim requests a change in assignment, in part to escape the boastful, overly intense Sal, and in part to get a chance to work with a trio of pretty girls.  Later, they learn that Sal has been fired.

Much of the power of the Grassy Knoll lies in the Drnaso’s carefully crafted subtext.  Though what is being said and shown in the comic is interesting enough, the ideas that are subtly suggested and not explicitly addressed give the story a great deal of weight.  Issues of class and race come up, intertwined with questions about personal identity.  The narrative climax, a gesture made by Sal as he passes by Tim, gains impact only as the story concludes, and when taken in the context of the title.  None of these ideas are explained in detail, but it is that elusiveness that gives The Grassy Knoll its impact.  What could have been a well-crafted slice-of-life story about bored teenagers trying to get through the day of a summer job becomes somewhat sad and more than a little menacing.

Though only 12 pages long, The Grassy Knoll feels weightier and more thoughtful than many heftier graphic novels.  In its subtlety, Drnaso’s work is masterful, signaling the arrival of a major new creator on the comics scene.

[Pick up The Grassy Knoll here!]

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Stumptown Vol. 3 #1

Greg Rucka (ruckawriter) is, along with his sometimes collaborator Ed Brubaker, one of the modern masters of crime comics.  With Brubaker, he brought out the noir-ish possibilities of the DC Universe in Gotham Central (https://www.comixology.com/Greg-Rucka/comics-creator/64), and on his own he’s created a definitive take on urban vigilante The Punisher and contributed to the likes of Batman, Daredevil, the Huntress and Black Widow.  In his more personal work, Rucka is responsible for creating one of the most memorable and compelling comic detective characters in recent years, Dex Porois, the private eye heroine of his Stumptown series.

Drawing from the rich literary tradition of such contemporary crime writers as Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard and Dennis Lehane, Rucka (a crime novelist himself in addition to his comics work) crafts Porois as a highly relatable and sympathetic character.  She’s well intentioned but flawed and occasionally prone to bad decisions.  In an issue of one of the Portland, OR-set Stumptown series, the reader might find her, by turns, working towards solving a heinous crime, caring for her mentally disabled brother and struggling with her gambling addiction.

Porois’ relationship with her brother and their mutual obsession with soccer headline the debut issue of Stumptown Vol. 3, available now on comiXology.  The opener is sport heavy, focusing on character relationships through both an amateur-league soccer game, which Porois plays in with her friends, and a major league game she attends with her brother.  Rucka builds excitement throughout the issue via the tension of the various sports games on display and the rivalries they bring out in their various participants, pinnacling with the revelation of a bloody crime and the start of what will presumably be the central mystery of Stumptown Vol. 3.  It’s an effective start to what promises to be yet another superlative crime saga from one of the genre’s greats.

[Pick up Stumptown Vol. 3 #1 here!]

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Saga Of Doomed Universe

The intertextual exchange between the “universes” of comic book continuity and the “real world” of comics creators and readers has long been a fertile arena for exploration on the four color page.  From the 40s and 50s work of Will Eisner and EC Comics , which reflected a creative consciousness of the medium often interwoven with the narrative, to more explicitly self-reflexive works like Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man (and, more recently, The Multiversity) there has long been a fascination with both writers and readers with the liminal space between the eyeball and the page, and the possibility of some link to reality existing within the fantasy.

Scott Reed’s (scottrandalreedSaga of a Doomed Universe, available through comiXology Submit,  is a three part graphic novel that explores this tradition of postmodern reflexivity in a smart, complex and highly entertaining way.  On the surface, Saga of a Doomed Universe is a 1980s-styled superhero saga in the fashion of Crisis on Infinite Earths, yet the point of view is not omniscient, or from the perspective of a superhero, but rather an outsider character  a has-been hero with a decidedly cynical view on his costumed compatriots.  This remove keeps the action from getting too retro or ironic and is aided by the fact that Reed is a really excellent writer, giving his character voice and depth.

Reed’s great writing, clever scenario and era-accurate art (reminiscent of  John Romita Sr. would be enough, but Reed adds another layer with the addition of hyper-textual commentary from Burt Colt, the (fictional) writer of the comic-within-a-comic. Colt’s presence provides an entirely separate narrative from what’s happening on the page, yet suggests a link between the fiction world of the comic and his/our reality.

As issue two begins, Dr. Nihilist has killed all the world’s superheroes, save for the series’ narrator, Roy Brannon, formerly known as Super Sleuth, whose only power is a photographic memory.  Meanwhile, in the outer narrative, the comic’s author, Burt Colt, is gradually revealing the mystery behind the non-forgotten Saga Comics, involving an industrial accident, a government conspiracy and promises of more apocalyptic revelations to come.  Multilayered narrative complexities and Baudrillardian simulation/simulacra dynamics aside, it’s a compelling story, expertly written with tons of mystery and action, welcomed touches of humor and a knowing but unpretentious love of comics that’s sure to engage readers to just about any level they choose to embrace it.

[Pick up Saga of a Doomed Universe here!]

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
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. 

[Read The Fade Out #1 on comiXology]

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Sensation Comics #1

Wonder Woman has always been kind of the odd girl out in DC’s Big Three.  There’s no denying that she’s a great character, but writers have always seemed to have a hard time figuring out exactly what to do with her.  The immediate appeal of Superman, rooted in his overarching sense of All-American goodness and epic-scale adventures, and Batman, defined by his moody stoicism and hardboiled urban crime milieu, are far easier to pin down than the mythological roots of Wonder Woman, or her conception as a proto-feminist super-heroine by psychologist William Moulton Marston in 1941

Over the years, Wonder Woman has gone through many iterations.  In her earliest stories, she frequently aided the US Army against the Axis during World War 2. Later, in the 1960’s, she gave up her superpowers and learned martial arts, running a mod clothing boutique while also working as a spy. In the 80’s, George Perez’s reboot returned to her mythological roots, and largely defined the character through Brian Azzarello’s New 52 reboot.

It stands to reason such an elusive, yet powerful, character would be well-served by an anthology series, something that lets different artists and writers evoke their own visions of who Wonder Woman is and what she does without necessarily being beholden to ongoing continuity.  After the success of their Digital First series Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman, DC has wisely chosen this path with their newest Digital First, Sensation Comics.

The first issue kicks things off with a literal bang as Wonder Woman takes on the villains of Gotham City after the Bat-Family is massacred in an explosion.  Penned and illustrated by two of DC’s top creators, Gail Simone (gailsimone) and Ethan Van Sciver, Sensation Comics #1 is full of breathless, exhilarating action.  In just 20 pages, Wonder Woman takes on the Joker, Two-Face, the Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Penguin and even Man-Bat.  It’s a thrilling start to what promises to be an exciting run of diverse and imaginative takes on a true feminist icon and one of the all-time greats of comic book heroism!

[Read Sensation Comics #1 on comiXology]

For fans of: female leads, superheroes

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Low #1

The best science fiction is a measured balance of concept and idea.  The concept is the hook, it draws the reader in with its inventiveness.  The idea is what gives a good science fiction story resonance.  Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run and X-Men all have great sci-fi concepts: a future where apes have evolved beyond humans, a futuristic society that kills off anyone over the age of 30, a group of teenagers born with metahuman abilities.  No doubt these clever stories are what initially drew readers and viewers in, but these three concepts have strong ideas behind them that have continued to reverberate with readers for decades: a treatise on evolution and man’s inhumanity to man, an indictment of youth-obsessed culture, an allegory for racial prejudice.

Rick Remender's new comic, Low, has both concept and idea.  The concept is overflowing with imagination (would we expect anything less from the creator of Franke-Castle?): in the future, an expanding sun has doomed the human race and driven them underwater, where they live in an encapsulated city besieged by “Road Warrior”-esque pirates and scavengers.  The idea, meanwhile, is universal- how do we find hope in the face of the inevitability of death, in this case the knowledge that the sun will soon engulf the Earth?  Remender sets this heady existential question, one that’s plagued philosophers from Kirkegaard to Ernest Becker, within an exciting, colorful universe, a world replete with majestic fantasy landscapes and riotous underwater battle sequences.  It’s a perfect blend of concept and idea tied together with the vision of a true artist and highlighted with masterfully evocative artwork by Greg Tocchini. High-minded ideas and aristry aside, Remender really knows how to tell a story and this first issue left me genuinely excited, maybe even a little anxious, to find out what happens next.

[Read Low #1 on comiXology]

For fans of: horrorscience fiction

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Spread #1

The end of the world, or rather what happens after the end of the world, is big in the cultural consciousness right now.  In the past month, The Leftovers and The Last Ship have debuted on television and Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer has opened in cinemas.  Recent comics have presented a diverse array of post-apocalyptic scenarios as diverse as The Wake, Kranburn, Crossed: Badlands and The New 52: Futures End.  The latest among these is Spread, which proposes a particularly treacherous landscape replete with disease, roving bands of marauders and deadly tentacled monsters straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

At the center of this chaos is a lone wanderer known only as No.  Speaking very little and wielding a pair of hatchets with deadly skill, No recalls the antiheroes of classic Spaghetti westerns or Samurai films.  In fact, as No finds himself caring for an infant in this debut story, Spread specifically recalls the classic Manga and film series, Lone Wolf and Cub.

Whatever the reason for this current spate of end-of-days narratives, Spread is a welcome addition.  It’s good, gory fun for fans of horror and action.  The monsters, bright red and dripping with goo, are some of the best I’ve seen in comics since the X-Men first encountered the Brood.  No makes for a compelling central figure.  He’s tough but not ostentatious, grim yet compassionate.  I’m looking forward to seeing where Spread goes.  Issue one is enthralling and shows the potential for an exciting, unpredictable new comic.

[Read Spread #1 on comiXology]

For fans of: horrorscience fiction

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Judgment Day

The impression one walks away with after reading Judgment Day, a collection of science-fiction stories drawn by Joe Orlando, as well as the other recently released volumes in fantagraphics' EC Comics Library is that, had the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency not led to the formation of the Comics Code Authority, effectively rendering EC unable to continue publishing their forward-thinking but hard-edged line of crime, horror and sci-fi comics, the medium of comics as a whole would have been viewed much earlier with the kind of legitimacy it has garnered today.  EC is known today for producing gory, controversial horror comics like Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror, these titles and others they published contained superior art and writing to anything else being published at the time (one notable exception being Will Eisner’s The Spirit.  In addition to the high quality of their comics, EC brought an intelligence to their work, with literary adaptations of Ray Bradbury stories, satirical humor in , and comics dealing with important issues of the day, such as racism and anti-semitism.

The title story in “Judgement Day,” written (like many of EC’s best stories) by Al Feldstein and drawn by the legendary, influential Orlando, is one of such story, dealing slyly yet poignantly with racial prejudice.  It was the censoring of this comic by the Comics Code, in fact, that inspired EC Publisher William Gaines to turn his focus from comic books to Mad Magazine, of which Orlando would eventually become associate publisher.

History and controversy aside, pick up Judgment Day for, if nothing else, the wonderful stories and beautiful draftsmanship by Orlando, presented in crisp, detailed black and white.  Whether your interest is in what could have been or just what was, you are in for an experience.

[Read Judgment Day on comiXology]

For fans of: horror, classics, science fiction

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends The New 52: Futures End #7

The New 52: Future’s End is a superhero comic for people who love superhero comics. Bringing together four of the genre’s top writers, and a score of DC’s most interesting characters, it’s a fast-paced, no-nonsense example of the kind of unpretentious fun that well-written superhero stories can offer.

It would be easy to talk about what Jeff Lemire and Brian Azzarello bring to the book, and they do bring a lot, but if you’re currently a reader of DC Comics, you’re probably already well-versed in their talents. The New 52: Future’s End really belongs to its two most venerable creators, Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens. Both are master storytellers with a strong sense of character. Giffen specializes in oddballs- he’s written The Omega Men, Justice League International, Doom Patrol, the recent OMAC reboot and is co-creator of Ambush Bug. Jurgens is skilled at bringing out the humanity in his characters over the course of beautifully plotted narratives. In the 80s, Giffen wrote Booster Gold as a bit of a goofball, in the 00s, Jurgens gave him a sense of purpose. These two sensibilities, the absurd and the humane, play off one another nicely throughout Future’s End.

This book also brings something that’s been sorely missing from some comics in recent years- the subplot. There are no fewer than five narrative threads breathlessly running through Future’s End and one of the most compelling things about the series is anticipating what will happen when they all inevitably collide. This is admittedly not a book that’s great to pick up a single issue of, but even if you do, you’ll want to immerse yourself in the entire series. It’s unadulterated comic book excitement.

[Read The New 52: Futures End #7 Here!]

For fans of: superheroes

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.

A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Buffalo Speedway #1 by supermercado

Anyone who’s ever had an underpaid food service or retail job they simultaneously hated and cared about too much will find something to relate to in Yehudi Mercado’s Buffalo Speedway, releasing this week via comiXology Submit.  From the often-contentious camaraderie between co-workers to the occasional epiphanies of, “Wait, none of this really matters,” Buffalo Speedway captures perfectly the messy, hormonal intensity of being in your early 20’s and being paid minimum wage to sell records/flip burgers/take tickets at a movie theater, or in this story’s case, deliver pizzas.

Punchy, profane and paced at super-speed, Buffalo Speedway has the fun, inventive feel of a good indie comedy (think “Dazed and Confused” crossed with a touch of “Repo Man”), with a clever visual sense and sharp dialogue.  Appropriately, the story takes place in 1994, during the heyday of American independent film (and a year when I was 17 and working three different foodservice jobs while going to high school in Washington, DC), and each issue even includes a suggested era-specific soundtrack (in the first issue, this includes Superchunk, Cypress Hill and Killing Joke).  On target in just about every way, Buffalo Speedway calls to mind such 90s classics as Peter Bagge’s Hate and Bob Fingerman’s Minimum Wage in the way it both celebrates and satirizes the disaffected excesses and absurdity of premillennial youth.

[Read Buffalo Speedway #1 Here!]

For fans of: crime, humor

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.