Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Two seemingly unrelated comic reviews


NEMO: The Roses Of Berlin (Top Shelf, 2014) ****1/2
Writer: Alan Moore/Artist: Kevin O'Neill

My love/hate relationship with Alan Moore continues. The bearded git is equally obnoxious and brilliant these days. Petulantly refusing to let his name be associated with Marvel's reprinting of his brilliant Miracleman series from the 1980s and childishly attacking a clearly unconcerned Grant Morrison does Mr Moore no favours.
Then he comes along and produces another brilliant bit of historical meta-fiction like NEMO: The Roses Of Berlin and I can't really hate him again.
This stand-alone graphic novel - set in 1940s Germany - sees the second Captain Nemo and her lover Broad Arrow Jack invade a futuristic Berlin to rescue her daughter and son-in-law, who've been captured as enemies of war.
While there the pair encounter the the Twilight Heroes, a Teutonic version of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlement. Nemo also crosses paths with a deadly old enemy.
This and the previous Nemo graphic novel have worked much better than many of Moore's more recent LOEG instalments and I hope he continues doing them. Tightly written, action-packed and never wandering up its own arsehole - one might say this is a strong return to form for the hairy old bastard.
O'Neill's art is exquisitely beautiful, as usual.

Unmasked #1-3 (Gestalt, 2013) ****1/4
Writer: Christian Read/Artists: Emily K. Smith (#1-2); Gary Chaloner (#3)
Digging into the psychology of superpowered folk who get off on wearing garish costumes and beating each other up has been done before - and probably done better. But it's rare for Aussies to give it a go, so Read is to be commended for not only tackling a rather worn-out topic but doing it with gusto and a certain originality.
And the fact that he's convinced local legend Gary Chaloner to return to mainstream comics is another huge plus to this miniseries.
Actually, the first two issues are drawn by Emily Smith and are perfectly fine, but you can feel the artistic standards go up another couple of notches when Chaloner comes on board with issue three.
Read's story - which, I guess, for commercial reasons ISN'T set in Australia - deals with a supervillain couple, Simon and Nancy, who've quit crime (well, just about) because they were sick of getting beaten up by more powerful superheroes. But their lives as "normal people" have no meaning now and their relationship is suffering.
When given the chance by their old boss to get back into the crime game, they leap at the chance to make easy money, but are frustrated that they're not allowed to wear their long underwear and masks. Turns out that being successful crims isn't what drives them - it's the turn-on of killing innocent people and punching out superheroes.
Eventually, it all gets too much for our "heroes" and they return to their old ways, garnering unwanted attention from the good guys and heat from their comrades.
It sets up an explosive finish for the fourth and final issue, especially as we already know that Simon is telling his story as a flashback while stuck in prison.
Unmasked is available as a digital-only comic at this stage and can be bought at http://www.gestaltcomics.com. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for issue four.
Now...if I can just get my hands on some original Chaloner art...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

REVIEW: "Maximum Minimum Wage" by Bob Fingerman (Image, 2013)


Maximum Minimum Wage (Image, 2013)
- originally published in Minimum Wage Book One,
Minimum Wage
#1-10 (Fantagraphics, 1995-99)

 
I FIRST remember seeing artist Bob Fingerman’s freelance work in some Yank porn rag back in the mid-90s. It was rude and crude, but I enjoyed the guy’s grotesque, exhuberant cartoons.

Still, I didn’t pick up any of his comics, even though i was aware of his semi-autobiographical comic series Minimum Wage around this time. And I’d read some comics he’d written (but not drawn) like Zombie World.

Recently, I learned that Minimum Wage was returning in a new series (which is the third volume in the series, I guess) from Image and decided to pick it up, and I have to say I really enjoyed it.

The tale of a struggling porno/humour mag cartoonist trying to survive in New York around the turn of the millennium really struck a chord with me (considering I was – and still am – a pornographer struggling to survive in Sydney).

In this sequel (two issues released to date), Rob’s a little bit older and little bit more bitter after going through a messy divorce while still in his 20s.

However he’s back on the dating scene while trying to keep working in the already-dying porn mag scene.

Having caught my attention, I was curious to read the original series (set in the mid-90s). Sure enough, the back cover of the first issue was an ad for an oversized hardcover collection titled Maximum Minimum Wage.

It details the stormy relationship of Rob and his Italian Catholic fiance Sylvia, covering everything from finding a flat together, beach etiquette, lecherous nephews, family deaths, abortion, sex, friendship, comic conventions, homophobia, celebrity stalking, marriage and eating brains (of the cow variety). It’s funny, silly, sad, aggravating...a lot like real life, I suppose. The book has added poignancy with hindsight knowing that Rob’s marriage to Sylvia falls apart very quickly once the book ends.

This hefty tome is as complete a collection as Minimum Wage fans can expect: the first volume (which was released as a graphic novel) plus all 10 issues of volume two. There’s also a bunch of covers, scripts, preliminary artwork and bonus pin-ups from a who’s who of comicdom (including Glenn Fabry, Hunt Emerson, Gilbert Hernandez, Roger Langridge, Mike Mignola and Kevin Nowlan).

It’s a handsome book and deserves a place in your bookshelf.

DANN’S RATING: ***** (that’s FIVE stars, baby!)
#minimumwage #maximumminimumwage #bobfingerman

Saturday, March 1, 2014

COMICS READING FOR FEBRUARY: “An overrated X marks the Zot”

* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE ALAN MOORE SCALE
*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1.-6 The Sixth Gun Vol. 6: Ghost Dance TPB (Oni Press, 2014) ****¼
- first published in The Sixth Gun #30-35 (Oni Press, 2013-14)
Writer: Cullen Bunn, Artist: Brian Hurtt
7. Drowntown Book One (Random House, 2013) ****
Writer: Robbie Morrison/Artist: Jim Murray
The upside to this future noir tale about a submerged, tropical London dealing with the aftermath of global warming is the glorious full-colour art of Murray, reminiscent of Alex Horley and Simon Bisley. The downside? The first volume ends too soon and reads more like a comic-book cliffhanger than a legitimate graphic novel. Still, I look forward to getting my hands on book two.
8. Secret #5 (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Jonathan Hickman/Artist: Ryan Bodenheim
9. Rover Red Charlie #3 (Avatar, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Michael DiPascale
10. Batman: Black and White #6 (DC, 2014) ****
Writers/artists: various
A great end to a very strong series. This issue, the highlight is Adam Hughes’ She Lies At Midnite.
11. Minimum Wage #2 (Image, 2014) ****½
Writer/artist: Bob Fingerman
Read a forthcoming blog at for my thoughts on this excellent comic.  
12. The Cross And The Switchblade (Barbour Christian Comics, 1972) ***
Writer/artist: Al Hartley
As born-again, preachy, annoying Christian comics go, this isn’t half-bad. Hartley’s sub-Archie style artwork is kinda cool. And the story – about a country preacher who is called by God to go to the evil city to save the souls of lot teen gang members – is unintentionally hilarious.
13. Monsters & Other Stories (Dark Horse, 2014) ****½
Writer/artist: Gustago Duarte
Read my blog at http://jackkingkirby.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/review-monsters-other-stories-by.html for my review of this delightful silent humour TPB.
14. The Bojeffries Saga (Top Shelf, 2014) ****
Writer: Alan Moore/Artist: Steve Parkhouse
I remember first reading this whimsical, very British horror/comedy series in Warrior in the early 1980s. Since then, the strip’s appeared in various anthologies but I lost touch with it as my dislike for Alan Moore grew. However, there’s no doubt that when he isn’t being an annoying, pompous arsehole, the guy can write comics. This series – about a Munsters-style family living in shitty England – is a nice departure from the usual gloom’n’rape-filled drama that’s become Moore’s stock in trade. Here, he’s very funny and scathing about modern-day England (well...1980s Thatcher’s Britain, to be precise). Rereading the old stories made me realise how well they stand up 30 years later. The newer tales are just as entertaining and the one written specifically for this collection, giving us an update on the current whereabouts of the Bojeffries family show he can still write...ahem, top-shelf biting humour. Although, being Alan Moore, he still manages to squeeze in a paedophile reference ’cos, well, that’s what he does.

15.-30. Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire Vol. 1 (IDW, 2008) ***¾
- originally published in Journey #1-16 (Aardvark-Vanaheim/Fantagraphics, 1983-85)
Writer/Artist: William Messner-Loebs
Sometimes, Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Pitt Street has real bargains. I scored this 400+ page trade for a mere $9.90. This underrated 80s series showcased Loebs’ lovely art, clearly influenced by Will Eisner and Don Simpson, but it’s his strong storytelling that really hooked me. It tells of Wolverine, a Daniel Boone-style frontiersman in early 19th century North America, who gets involved in all sorts of shenanigans, from trying to outrun a bear to dealing with hostile Indians and treacherous traders. Most of the time, the book moves slowly and has some haunting moments, offset by ludicrous situations and earthy humour. The political and social life of frontier America and Canada appear to be well-depicted and historically accurate. While many of the tales are stand-alone, there’s an overriding arc dealing with the Indian Nations’ plan to unite and wipe out the white man. In fact, for several issues, Wolverine disappears almost completely from the book as Messner-Loebs focuses on a wide range of supporting characters. As the first volume ends, an earthquake has hit the region and the Indians are preparing to attack an isolated fort, whose citizens are divided by racial and religious intolerance. I need to get the second volume now to find out what happens. This is a really worthwhile series, worth searching out.
31.-42. Maximum Minimum Wage (Image, 2013) *****
- originally published in Minimum Wage Book One, Minimum Wage #1-10 (Fantagraphics, 1995-99)
Writer/artist: Bob Fingerman
Read a forthcoming blog at for my thoughts on this excellent hardcover collection.  


43.-68. Zot!: The Complete B&W Collection (HarperCollins, 2008) ***¼
- originally published in Zot! #11-36 (Eclipse, 1987-91)
Writer/artist: Scott McCloud
He’s a famous author and a so-called expert on the graphic medium, but as this collection shows, McCloud was a fair-to-middling faux manga artist who started doing sci-fi/superhero comics, then got kinda embarrassed half-way through and turned it into an angsty teen romance. Sadly, despite his desperate attempt to move into more literate “real” comics, the most entertaining part of this series is the early section dealing with, guess what? Superheroes and sci-fi. Sorry, Scott, but you being an arrogant little pseudo-intellectual doesn’t take away from the fact that your best stuff was the earlier stuff. Get over yourself, kid.
BTW, I bought this collection for $25 from Kings because it was a damaged copy and has been replaced by an updated edition. So it was a nice score by me.

69. Destroy!! (Eclipse, 1986) ***
Writer/artist: Scott McCloud
A fun, stupid, Treasury Edition-sized superhero vs superhero punch-up that destroys New York in the process. It’s hilarious and I’d rate it higher , except I then read McCloud’s annoying, highbrow editorial, apologising over the fact that he even did a superhero yarn in the first place, then comparing the pleasures of reading superhero comics to the childish delight of watching Sesame Street. Fuck you, you arrogant shitstain. Either be honest and admit you like superhero comics, or fuck off. Don’t try to have your cake and eat it, too, by charging five bux for a “dumb superhero comic”, then insulting the genre and the people who read them. What a fuckwit.
70. Star Fighters #1 (Landgraphics, 1979) **
Writer: Ken Landgraf/Artists: Ken Landgraf & friends
71.-76. Ronin #1-6 (DC, 1983) ***
Writer/Artist: Frank Miler
Nice art, shame about the story.
77.-80. Lobo’s Back’s Back! (DC, 1993) ***¼
- originally published in Lobo’s Back #1-4 (DC, 1992)
Writers: Keith Giffen & Alan Grant/Artists: Simon Bisley, Christian Alamy
Violent, retarded, sacrilegious fun. I can’t believe DC ever published a tale featuring Lobo beating up everyone in Heaven.
81. Miracleman #2 (Marvel, 2014) *****
- originally published in various comics (1954, 1955, 1982, 1985)
Writer: Mick Anglo/Artist: Don Lawrence, Mick Anglo (1954, 1955)
Writer: Alan Moore/Artist: Garry Leach (1982, 1985)
82. The Fox #4 (Red Circle, 2014) ***¾
Writers: Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid/Artist: Dean Haspiel (The Fox)
Writer: JM DeMatteis/Artists: Mike Cavallaro & Terry Austin (The Shield)
83. Justice League 3000 #3 (DC, 2014) ***½
Writers: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artist: Howard Porter
84. Krampus! #3 (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Brian Joines/Artist: Dean Kotz
85. Protectors Inc. #4 (Image, 2014) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Gordon Purcell & Andrew Pepoy
86. Revolutionary War: Death’s Head II (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writers: Andy Lanning & Alan Cowsill/Artist: Nick Roche
87. She-Hulk #1 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Charles Soule/Artist: Javier Pulido
I love Pulido’s artwork and Soule’s writing reminds me of the classic law firm-based She-Hulk series from the mid-2000s.
88. The Royals: Masters Of War #1 (Vertigo, 2014) ***½
Writer: Rob Williams/Artist: Simon Coleby
89. New Warriors #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Christopher Yost/Artist: Marcus To
Why am I buying this again?