Posts Tagged "harris smith"
A comiXologist Recommends:
Harris Smith recommends Planet Gigantic #1

Just looking at their logo, a chubby dog rocketing through the air in a jet pack, tells you everything you need to know about indie publisher Action Lab.  For the past several years, they’ve been curating a line of cute, clever and creative comics, building up a formidable catalog of titles, from girl-power focused kids books like Princeless and Molly Danger to postmodern takes on the detective genre in Jack Hammer and Pirate Eye to gutsy mature readers titles like the wholly original sci-fi epic Scum of the Earth.  They’ve also enthusiastically embraced the digital format, releasing a number of titles, including Mishka & The Sea Devil and Vamplets: The Nightmare Nursery, in comiXology’s Guided View Native format.

Their latest is Planet Gigantic, and this new series can be described in one word- FUN!  Planet Gigantic #1 opens with two cybernetically enhanced pre-teen siblings crash landing on an alien planet, then immediately finding themselves plunged into weird adventures on this strange new world.  They fight a giant rock monster, then encounter a wicked space queen.  With its combination of futuristic technology and fantasy creatures, Planet Gigantic calls to mind the technoprimitive world of Masters of the Universe.  It has the feeling of the ultimate 80s fantasy movies, with supercool space kids in a fantastical world not entirely unlike that of “The Neverending Story” or “Krull.”

Planet Gigantic is a kid-friendly comic that adults can enjoy too.  It’s brisk and smart and, in case you didn’t hear  me the first time- FUN!  If you’re looking for a comic thats colorful, clever, totally without pretension or cynicism and totally with FUN, check out Planet Gigantic.

[Read Planet Gigantic #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 Punks: The Comic #1

You’ve probably seen the old British sitcom “The Young Ones,” but for those who haven’t (and if you haven’t, stop reading this, call in sick to work, and devote the next six hours of your life to watching all 12 episodes.  And you have seen them, call in sick and watch them again), it was a show centered around four deadbeat college students who were roommates.  There was Neil, a sad hippie; Rick, a pretentious poet; Mike, an egotistical actor; and Vyvyan, a malevolent punk rocker.  All of them were poor and desperate and, despite living and spending every waking moment together, seemed to hate one another.  The show’s aggression was offset but the characters’ idiosyncrasies and insecurities, perhaps the only thing that kept it from spiraling into complete anarchy and become a Tom and Jerry-esque slapstick bloodbath.

Now, imagine that scenario if three of the characters were the rancorous Vyvan and the remaining roommate carried the brunt of all the characters self-doubting anxiety, and you’ll have a sense of what Punks, the new Image series by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Kody Chamberlain and Rob Guillory is like.  Reverberating with the same kind of anything-goes energy as “the Young Ones,” Punks is a manically hilarious take on the lives of down-and-out antisocial counter-culturalists, rendered imaginatively not with pen-and-ink illustrations, but with collaged cut-outs of photographs, a visual aesthetic that foxily recalls the photocopied ‘zines and album covers of the late 70s to early 90s heyday of punk rock. 

Punks is a damned funny comic and though it bears the aforementioned influences, its voice and style are thoroughly original- this doesn’t look or feel like anything you’ve read before.  Since you’ve already called in sick to work today to watch the Young Ones, throw Generic Flipper on your stereo and dig into one of the funniest, most angst-ridden comics you’ll read this year, and then go smash the state or something.

[Read Punks: The Comic #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 The Lonesome Go

Boxcar riders, bikers, pool hustlers, small time crooks, hitchhikers, drunks, punks and losers all abound in Tim Lane’s The Lonesome Go, published by fantagraphics. Lane’s dark and shadowy tales explore the dusty, dingy corners of 20th century America, fueled by angst and alienation, set to a score of Motown, Bruce Springsteen and the Ramones.  The artwork is meticulous, yet far from sterile, rendered in severe, shadowy black and white, recalling a less gynecological Charles Burns, or perhaps a Winsor McCay fever dream of skid row, with occasional flourishes of odd Steve Ditko esque manic insanity.  Though stylistically different, one could draw a thematic line between Lane’s vision and the paintings of Edward Hopper, capturing stark moments of everyday life with just a hint of subdued otherworldliness.  Like his artwork, Lane’s writing is gritty yet insightful.  He is part of the tradition of American authors, like Nelson Algren, John Fante and Raymond Carver, able to carve out small slices of down-and-out despair with sensitivity, perception and pathos, and, quite often, a touch of sinister, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t humor.  

Though the subject matter is often rough and tumble, there is a delicacy to the comics here, not just in Lane’s fine, detailed line work, or in the vulnerability of his characters beneath their grizzled veneers, but in the intricate structure of the book itself.  Four ongoing stories- “In Another Life,” “Belligerent Piano,” “Notes of a Second Class Citizen” and “The Motorcycle Chapter”- are split into chapters and interspersed among other, shorter stories, as well as fragments, diary entries, prose pieces, family history, author commentary, pin-ups, fold outs and cut outs.  From the open road to claustrophobic barrooms to profiles of the Temptations and the history of the leather jacket, Lane covers a lot of terrain here, all of it fertile ground.

At times harsh, but always humane, The Lonesome Go hits you like a smack in the face.  It’s a graphic novel in the truest sense, meant to be read as much as viewed.  It’s a rich, substantial work by an artist and writer who is using the medium of comics to its fullest potential.  Tim Lane is a visionary, and his vision is really out of sight.

[Read The Lonesome Go 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 Fez #2 

New Zealand-born comics creator Roger Landridge has brought his slyly humorous talent to many iconic characters over the years, from Batman  and Thor to Popeye and The Muppets. Without overly indulging in pop-culture minutia, Landridge, from his earliest days working Judge Dredd, has proven himself adept at capturing the spirit of a character while maintaining his own sensibility as a writer and artist.  It makes sense, then, that his own creation, the Fez, calls upon the tradition of the great pulp heroes, yet at the same time feels very fresh, funny and original.  Self-described as an “earnest, sincere, imaginary man,” the Fez, invisible except for his eponymous headwear, is a  mysterious, mystical and mythical hero in the grand tradition of Dr. Strange, The Shadow and John Constantine.  He is a difficult character to pin down, by turns roguish and caddish, not above pickpocketing a small child, yet noble in his quest to defend the world from the forces of darkness, including such unimaginably insidious foes as Impossible Alan and Space Hitler.

Issue two of the Fez, available now through comiXology submit, finds our hero dating, dying and exorcising demons, breaking bad children’s toys and even killing the Queen of England, all why a dry, raking, decidedly English wit.  The tone of this comic is,well, comic, but Landridge throws in just enough shadowy horror imagery to keep things spooky.  Fans of the Venture Brothers and similarly self-aware takes on the cartoon narratives of the pulpy past will be enthralled by Landridge’s vision of a character “as real- or as unreal- as we choose to make him.”

[Read Fez #2 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 Valentine #3 by alexdecampi & thelarsenproject

In the winter of 1812, while the last war between the United States and the United Kingdom was building intensity in North America, the attempted invasion of Russia by Napoleon’s Grande Armee was coming to its bloody end.  With the brutality of the Russian Winter closing in, French soldiers found themselves beset by near constant attacks from both the Cossacks and militias of local peasants.  When the invasion ended that December, the Grande Armee counted nearly 400,000 casualties.  It was France’s first major defeat of the Napoleonic Wars.

Such is the gruesome background of Alexi De Campi and Christine Larsen’s Valentine, published by Mark Waid’s Thrillbent.  Beautifully set against an overpoweringly bleak Russian snowscape, stained with the blood of battle, De Campi and Larsen’s exciting digital only series follows the exploits of eponymous French solider, Valentine, adrift in the horrors of war, locked in a battle history has already decided.  In issue two, the story veered subtly towards the supernatural, with Valentine facing off against a band of seemingly invincible horse-riding Cossacks, with glowing red eyes and purple blood.  Riddled with bullets and sinking in icy waters, Valentine’s fate seem sealed.

Issue three, available today on comiXology, however, finds Valentine very much alive and trying to explain his miraculous escape from death.  The answers are not easy and the truth is not always what it seems, as the supernatural elements of Valentine’s adventures intensify in this latest installment of what is shaping up to be a thoroughly exhilarating narrative from from the creators of Smoke, Ashes and the Lamorte Sisters, available for the first time with comiXology’s own Guided View Native reading experience!

[Read Valentine #3 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 At the Shore #2

As goofy and loveable as the gang from Scooby-Doo , the central group of misfits in Jim Campbell’s At the Shore #2, from Alternative Comics, finds themselves embroiled in a mystery when their car is stuck on the beach.  Bickering the whole time, they face off against what may or may not be oceanic zombies, which may or may not be the result of the environmental shenanigans of the Midlothian Seaweed Mining Company.  The story unfolds among flashbacks that may or may not be relevant to the story (I’m betting they are) as the characters bicker their way through this ever-evolving adventure.

At the Shore has its own unique sense of style that sets it apart from many of the other zombie comics out there these days.  It’s certainly a horror story in the grand tradition of “teens stranded somewhere” horror stories, but it’s funny too, yet the humor isn’t overly jokey.  Rather, it arises subtly from the relationships between the characters and their dialogue.  Campbell seems to be referencing young adult mysteries, a la Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and the aforementioned Scooby-Doo, yet he’s not afraid to throw in a good zombie head-squashing, suggesting the possibility that things could take a significantly darker turn as the story progresses.  It’s appropriate his art somewhat recalls that of Richard Sala, who operates in a similar arena of humor and horror.  There’s a hint of Bryan Lee O’Malley in there too, as I think fans of Scott Pilgrim and Lost at Sea would feel at home in the world of At the Shore.

The resulting mesh of conflicting tones and genre bending is delightfully unpredictable and off-kilter, and makes me a really fun read.  Without being overly saccharine or excessively twee, At the Shore is, without a doubt, the most charming zombie comic on the market today.  It’s rewarding read for those of us who enjoy low-key humor and oddball horror.

[Read At the Shore #2 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 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.