Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.
Drawn + Quarterly, 2012
Brecht Evens’s work is always visually stunning, an intricate world of watercolor washes flooded with color and pattern, shaped by creative layout. Past incarnations of his vision have felt slightly lacking, though, like a party full of interesting people that doesn’t quite gel into a unified picture. But The Making Of is a step forward, an intelligent statement about the importance of process in making art that also functions as a fish-out-of-water narrative similar to a movie like Local Hero. The book looks great, unsurprisingly, with pages that could easily stand on their own as works of art. Those that subtly address different perspectives of the same scene, as with one that shows the path of a car from a distance juxtaposed with closer views of images viewed from its window, are especially rewarding. Evens always does a nice job with quickly sketching characters, and his habit of rendering dialogue in colors tied to individuals is an intelligent solution to differentiating them. He also isn’t afraid of awkwardness and comedy, two aspects that frequently intersect in his work and do so beautifully here. The Making Of looks at the decision to make art without being pretentious or annoying or flippant; it’s also genuinely enjoyable to read and, at 160 pages, it’s not over before you know it. That combination makes it one of the strongest comics published this year. (HB)
As a wise man once said, a photosynthetic demigod like Superman could only date human women with the aid of a “kryptonite condom,” which isn’t much of a solution at all. So that wise man may have been a Kevin Smith character from a movie released twelve years ago, but the logic is still incredibly relevant. Look no further than the cover of this month’s Justice League, which features the Big S locking lips with his powerful Amazon teammate Wonder Woman. This isn’t exactly the first time this match has been made. Frank Miller featured the two as aged lovers with a daughter in The Dark Knight Strikes Again and there was even a brief Superman arc that had the red and blue love birds fight a thousand-year war together in a parallel world. What this new development does is bring together two modern mythologies in the “proper” DC Universe, which has continually tweaked the identities of characters with over seventy years of status quo after a company-wide relaunch a year ago. Those looking for super-
powered canoodling might be disappointed as this issue spends most of its time with the fallout of Graves, a writer formerly rescued by the Justice League only to become a villain who shoots pet ghosts. Graves’ tragic story forces the super team, which also includes Batman, Green Lantern, Flash and robot football player Cyborg, to dig deep into what a super-powered team actually does. The result is a competent resting point before the title jumps into a second year full of more shakeups aside from the hormonal theatrics on the cover. If you haven’t been following the title, the conclusions here won’t mean much, but the creative team of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee continues to craft an engaging, primary-color flagship comic full of chiseled art and classic characters. (SE)
Both the pleasure and the flaw of Rick Geary’s continuing exploration of famous murders (first 19th-, now 20th-century) is the ambiguity the author/artist brings to these stories. Geary is devoted to careful laying out of the facts, packing his books with maps and diagrams, and he never makes a judgment on whether or not someone is actually guilty. In cases like his recent The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti and his earlier contribution to Ripperology, that lack of a clear answer is either expected or, sometimes, a new perspective for general audiences. But when you’ve read nearly everything he’s done in the series, you sometimes hope for the clarity of Dateline, even if you know it’s not forthcoming. This volume takes on a lesser-known murder from the early 20th century, so its details are unpredictable and interestingly gory, but its ending (spoiler alert?) is mildly frustrating in its lack of an answer on who, exactly, dunnit. (HB)
Dark Horse, 2012
The first three-quarters of The Goon #41 could be its own self-contained story. It feels like something you’d read in an old issue of Eerie, with a haggard old warlock recounting the lives he’s destroyed through devil’s contracts, before subjecting the person he’s talking with to a surprising fate. Each plan is eventually upended by the Goon, a hulking dockwalloper with sledgehammer fists, but only after marriages end in brutal murder and children are eaten by mutant newborns. Still, the demonic magician is a pragmatist who understands and accepts the role his adversary plays. It’s a brief tale of light and dark told from evil’s perspective, only in the world of The Goon “light” doesn’t necessarily mean heroic. This lead story sets up The Goon’s next story arc while also referencing the past, but is both universal and well-crafted enough to appeal to anybody who enjoys nice things. I haven’t read an issue of The Good in five or more years and had no problems following the story, and even if I had Powell’s rich, Wrightson-esque art would’ve nullified any complaints. The Goon #41 is relatively light on humor, but both the lead story and the Buckingham-drawn black-and-white back-up (which introduces a shambling vegetable-man in the vein of Swamp Thing or Man-Thing) evinces the genre awareness and historical perspective that Powell is known for. (GM)