Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History Of Comic Art (1996)

Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History Of Comic Art (1996)

Author Roger Sabin weaves together a tight narrative of the entire history of the comic book medium, moving from its beginnings in the Middle Ages (yes, that’s right, way back in medieval times) and how it has evolved into the art form and pop culture powerhouse we know and love today. Explore how the comic book moved from being newspaper fodder to hard-hitting social commentary and how it fell from grace before rising like a phoenix once the comic book witch hunt ended after the 1950’s. With plenty of great full-cover photo references to go along with the narrative, Sabin creates a helpful tome of comic book knowledge that will give you a one-up on all of your nerdy comic book friends who THINK they’ve heard everything there is to hear about comic books. I picked this book up at the library because I was writing a research paper and was pleased with just how much information was packed into its pages. It provided a good chunk of my research content and on top of that, I learned a ton of new stuff.

I have seen some folks posting about this, saying it was biased or what have you, but I didn’t really get any of those vibes from anything within. It was a great trip down memory lane, too, seeing all the old comic book covers and comic book pages displayed throughout the entirety of the book.

Give this a shot if you can find it. I think it’s on Amazon.com. It would make a killer addition to the coffee table collection, or in an office somewhere.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

The Marvel Art Of Mike Deodato Jr. (2011)

The Marvel Art Of Mike Deodato Jr. (2011)

Deodato Taumaturgo Borges Filho – AKA Mike Deodato – is one of the biggest talents in comic books today. His pencils have appeared in works such as Thor, Incredible Hulk, Thunderbolts, Amazing Spider-Man and Dark Avengers – and they present a realistic-looking take on the Marvel Universe that gives weight to this imaginary world of caped crusaders and dastardly villains.

Each chapter of the book is dedicated to his work on different titles – like Thor, Elektra, Incredible Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Man Unlimited, Thunderbolts, Avengers, New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Secret Avengers, Wolverine: Origins, X-Men: Legacy, X-Men: Unlimited, Witches, Tigra, Moon Knight, Punisher and more.

Additional chapters focus on Mike’s development as a comic book artist and samples of his cover art from 2002-2010. It’s nice to hear in Mike’s own words about how he became the artist he is today, and the cover samples are nice to look at.

Basically, unless you hate Deodato’s art style then this book is for you. Art galore and Marvel goodness all mixed up in one easily-accessible coffee-table book.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Rat Queens #1 (September 2013)

Rat Queens #1 (September 2013)

Rat Queens is a monthly comic book published by Image Comics, with writing by Kurtis J. Wiebe (PANZERFAUST) and art by Roc Upchurch.

Hannah (the “rockabilly” Elven Mage), Dee (the “atheist” Human Cleric), Violet (the “hipster” Dwarven Fighter) and Betty (the “hippie” Halfling Thief) – AKA The Rat Queens – have earned the ire of the Town Council of Palisade. As a result, they are assigned to clear out a “nest” of goblins as punishment. When they are attacked by an ultra-skilled assassin during their goblin cleansing, however, they find themselves embroiled in an adventure both more exciting and more life-endangering than before.

I love fantasy books so when I saw this at my local comic book store, I had to at least pick up a couple of issues. I was not disappointed.

If you’re expecting something Tolkien in scope and feel – don’t tread here. Rat Queens is a more League of Legends/World of Warcraft take on medieval fantasy…where fantasy tropes meet real-world sensibilities. However, that’s not to say that the book is all flash and no content. Kurtis J. Wiebe’s writing had me laughing out loud in spots, especially when the assignments were being given to various other themed adventuring groups like the Rat Queens (A sort of emo-styled group of Elves had to go clean toilets).

The art was great, but the real draw of the book for some people will no doubt be the character designs, which are diverse and varied and represent many body types and skin colors – a change from some comic books where you notice the cookie-cutter, ultra-athletic bodies you can only tell apart by the costumes. Roc Upchurch definitely has my respect and attention here because of this.

People looking for a good laugh will get a kick out of the style of humor, while action and fantasy lovers will still get their fair share of fantasy battles and magic. The book was thoroughly enjoyable and I will definitely be following it to see where it goes. It’s off to a promising start, for sure.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil collects issues #1-7 of the series of the same name by Marvel Comics, with art and writing by Frank Cho and colors by Jason Keith and Dave Stewart.

Shanna is a Nazi science experiment in the form of an Amazonian jungle girl with a killer body and killer instinct, living on an island teeming with prehistoric horrors. When a paramilitary group becomes stranded on the island after crash-landing, they discover Shanna and quickly learn that she is a genetically-engineered super-weapon. Luckily she is, because she’s the only one who can help defend them against T-Rexes and massive hordes of Velociraptors, among other things.

Frank Cho is one of the best artists around and I checked out the book primarily to see his work. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the writing side of things, but the seven issues included in this trade has a pretty decent story arc and plays out like an action film.

Some may be turned off by the titillation, but Cho is a master at rendering women who aren’t just waify, sexy supermodel-types who just happen to have super-strength spouting from some unseen source – Shanna actually looks the part. Her thighs are dense and her arms and back muscular, and when she impales a dinosaur with a massive tree trunk, you believe that she did it. When you see her knocked into a car by a T-Rex and still manages to get up, you believe it. Shanna is also not stupid and while different men try to take advantage of her in the book, she sets them straight pretty fast.

The colors only add to the visuals, and the dinosaurs are all very nicely-rendered as well as backgrounds, vehicles….everything. Nothing is forgotten and everything stands out in an exceptional way.

This is worth a read if you like adventure stories, dinosaur tales and books like Red Sonja or Vampirella. You may come for the titillation and gorgeous art but you’ll stay for the substance. Give it a try.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Blood (2012)

Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Blood (2012)

Wonder Woman: Blood collects issues #1-6 of the DC Comics New 52 Wonder Woman series with writing by Brian Azzarello and art by Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins.

Wonder Woman, the Amazon born of clay and a prayer, has known who she is all her life. However, when Hermes (yes, the god Hermes) attempts to help a young woman who has been impregnated by Zeus (yes, the god Zeus) – Zeus’ wife, Hera (yes, the goddess Hera) is none too happy about it and sends her followers to go pay Zeus’ new concubine a visit. Under the protection of Wonder Woman, the Amazons and even some gods and demi-gods – the mortal woman still may not survive the fury of Hera, and in the meantime – Wonder Woman learns that maybe she’s not who she’s thought she was all this time.

To me, Wonder Woman has always been one of DC Comics’ most interesting characters. As far as mythology goes, she is DC’s version of Marvel’s Thor (Yeah, I know Wonder Woman came first, obviously). With all the controversy of Gal Gadot being cast as Wonder Woman I figured it’d be a good time to re-examine the character for myself and ended up giving the first six issues of the New 52 version of Wonder Woman a try in order to do so.

First off, the writing was pretty decent. Azarello, you can tell, wants to keep a lot of the mythology in tact and he does so pretty well. At least for a comic book, anyway. One thing I didn’t really like, though, was there seemed to be an awful lot of puns. I’m not sure exactly how many there were, but I felt like that’s all I was doing at points was reading puns to myself that the characters were saying. That hindered the enjoyment in places, but overall it was pretty entertaining aside from what I felt were jarring transitions between issues and even within individual issues.

The art was okay, but I feel like it was maybe a tad too cartoony. It reminded me of Bruce Timm a bit, which is good, but in the context of an Amazonian woman who spends her time hacking the arms off centaurs, I feel like it should be more gritty and realistic. It would really bring home the reality of our world and put it in tune with the fantastical aspects of the mythological one that Diana inhabits.

Overall, I enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing where it goes in the next volume. Seeing all the different gods represented in the artist/author’s interpretations was kind of cool, too. (Although Hermes is pretty creepy looking, I’ll admit).

JOE Rating: ★★★

Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand (2011)

Jim Henson's Tale of Sand (2011)

Mac, the mysterious main character, finds himself involved in a cross-desert race with only a rucksack full of odds and ends to aid him. In the meantime, he is doggedly pursued by another mysterious man known only as “Patch”, who seems to be paying everyone off. His end goals are unknown, only that he needs to somehow make it to the finish line – wherever that may be.

In this existential dark comedy, Ramon Perez and Ian Herring beautifully and expertly bring to life the only un-produced full-length script by Jim Henson (Muppets, etc…duh) and Jerry Juhl (Muppets, Fraggle Rock). Written between 1967 and 1968, the creators take you through what feels like a Terry Gilliam dreamworld fantasy rife with surreal and amazing images.

Though the dialogue is sparse, it’s meant to be that way. What really shines are the images with Perez’s pencils and Herring’s colors bringing us as close as possible to a full cinematic experience. From Arabs, to cowboys to football players you’ll be caught up in Mac’s dreamlike experiences right up until the last page.

If you love Jim Henson, you owe it to yourself to check this out. However, it IS dark and it’s not something that’s quite for the kiddos. There’s violence, gunfire and sexual themes (boobie alert) and undertones. If that doesn’t pique your curiosity, I don’t know what will.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

1985 (2008)

1985 (2008)

Marvel’s 1985 collects issues #1-6 of the miniseries written by Mark Millar (Civil War, Fantastic Four) and art by Tommy Lee Edwards (Bullet Points, The Question).

The year is 1985 and a young boy named Toby loves all things Marvel. When super-villains from the Marvel Universe find a way into OUR world and begin to tear it apart , Toby doesn’t realize that he may be the key to finding the Marvel superheroes so that they can put a stop to the killing and destruction. With the help of his father, a divorced comic book nerd, as well as his intimate knowledge of the Marvel universe, he has a difficult task ahead of him.

I picked this up at the library the other day, The title spoke to me, as I’m very familiar with the comic books of those years in the 1980’s when I was first introduced to the medium. (I was born in 1981)

Mark Millar’s expert storytelling combined with the amazing, life-like (yet comic-book-styled) artwork by Tommy Lee Edwards makes for an almost cinematic-quality experience in the form of a comic book.

We get to see the Marvel villains and how truly horrible they’d be in “real” life, with no superheroes to quash their evil doings, as well as the touching and all-too-real modern relationship gone awry in the form of Toby’s parents.

What you end up with as the reader is something that’s hard to put down if you’re like me and you’ve ever wondered if the Hulk smells really bad (According to Toby….he does) or if it were possible for someone like M.O.D.O.K. to murder an entire town by leading them to their deaths like the Pied Piper.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★