Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (1/4/12)
Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.
Billy Fog, vol. 1: The Gift of Trouble Sight
by Guillaume Bianco
Archaia Entertainment, 2012
Newly translated from Bianco’s native French, Billy Fog draws heavily on Edward Gorey’s spooky, giggle-provoking stories and illustrations in its combination of blood, murder, death, and cuteness. The book could be read in pieces, but it builds a continuous narrative between its set pieces (some prose, some poems), monster bestiary pages, and paranormal gazette pages, as our hero, a young boy, attempts to find out what has become of his beloved and deceased cat’s essence. Billy discovers the body of Tiger, flat, dry, and drained of life at the book’s opening, and investigates the darkness from that point on, even writing a letter to Santa in the hope that the 500-year-old elf knows something about the spirit world. Some of its components (“The Little Knife Girl,” and the Puddle Princess character) hit the sweet spot of shiver and delight. Others could use a tighter focus. But the whole thing works fairly well, with some surprisingly direct, smart things to say about death and familial relationships. And unlike many attempts at the same genre, Billy Fog never feels mass-produced or ready to emblazon on a tote bag. (HB)
by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Is there a more harmonious creative team than Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips? Since the pair’s explosive sci-fi espionage hit Sleeper in 2003, their collaborations have consistently delivered tight, lengthy arcs of sublime fiction. Their most recent project, Fatale, shouldn’t be a surprise. Brubaker practically bathes in Raymond Chandler’s rain-drenched, nicotine-stained noir legacy, wrapping projects like Sleeper, Criminal and Incognito in the twisting confines of the genre. It was only a matter of time before the duo laid their pulpy hands on the horror template. Fatale follows Nicolas Lash, a shadowy gentlemen who inherits the manuscripts of his late godfather, a famous crime novelist. A few pages later and Lash finds himself under assault from goons who wear sunglasses at night, assisted only by a striking brunette who appears at the right place at the right time. The mass cult suicides and Nazi demons come later. Brubaker knows how to write natural dialogue and drive plot momentum, but Phillips’ ability to capture his flow is impeccable. The veteran artist segues between establishing vistas, flowing mid-shots and tense close-ups that take the eye hostage. His rhythm is simply masterful. Though this opening chapter is just a taste of things to come, Fatale oozes white-hot intrigue guaranteed by its creative pedigree. (SE)
by Chad Michael Murray and various artists
Archaia Entertainment, 2011
Chances are, you, as a comics reader of some good taste and culture, do not immediately know who Chad Michael Murray, the star of One Tree Hill and possessor of blond locks and a face that once made tweens swoon, is. If you do, you are probably already suspicious of the book he’s authored, and I am here to tell you that it does not really overcome expectations. Sure, it has been written and by the author in question, if not particularly well, but that’s already a leg up over what you might have thought. It has been drawn, as well, by Danijel Zezelj, Robbi Rodriguez, Trevor Hairsine, Andrew Huerta, and J.K. Woodward, in varying degrees of quality. It also has a not-terrible idea at its core: what if the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right and only 144,000 people will survive the soon-to-come apocalypse? But it gets bogged down in far too many details, conveyed with little brio. The thought behind switching among multiple artists to provide different feels and perspectives wasn’t a bad one, but the reality is a muddle. The concept needs space and it needs better personnel at the helm. (HB)
London Horror Comic #4
by John-Paul Kamath, Lee Ferguson and Dean Kotz
Self Published, 2012
For a book distributed solely through conventions, the production behind London Horror Comic puts its mainstream brethren to shame. A laminated card stock cover and thick pages saturated in color make this comedy-horror anthology a joy to handle. It’s obvious that this DIY love letter to Warren, EC and the other vintage gore bibles is delivered with blood and sweat from writer John-Paul Kamath and artist Lee Feguson. This issue rises from the grave after the original trilogy debuted in 2009. Unfortunately, the five stories within aren’t very fresh. Kamath’s first issues showed promise with cynical humor and some nifty genre subversion. These new offerings show more than a little rust, with only two of the narratives living up to the titular promise of schlocky repulsion. “The Passenger” follows a paranoid everyman as he avoids criminals on a subway. This might resonate if you lived in NYC during the 80’s, but the tone feels oddly classist. The following tale spotlights a Lex Luthor caricature relegated to serving Superman scalding coffee at Starbucks. And that’s the entire joke. This new entry lacks the indie fun and anarchistic punch of the original entries, but this damage isn’t irreparable. With the open format of an anthology and some grassroots support, Kamath has room and time to build on the very cool foundation he laid three years ago. (SE)
If you have a comic or graphic novel you would like to submit for review, contact your friendly neighborhood Paste Comics Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.