Sunday, 13 October 2013

Miscellaneous Reviews 01

Chew volume 7: Bad Apples
This is probably the weakest volume of the series so far which is a pretty big disappointment since every single volume has been a joy to read. The volume doesn’t really advance the story. Chew has recently reached its halfway point and “Bad Apples” seems to be setting up the story for the second half of the series. It doesn’t feel like much of a continuation of the first half of the series because the momentum sort of just . . . stops.

A considerable amount of Chew has to do with world building. John Layman and Rob Guillory have done a phenomenal job building a world in which the sale and consumption of chicken is an illegal activity up until this particular volume. The whole thing feels like it was done without any real effort. It’s repeating things that have previously been established but it’s dialled up a few notches. We know there several different kind of superpowers based on but, but on a single page the writer and artist create nearly a dozen new powers. The food related superpowers are approaching self-satirical heights. It’s completely unnecessary and each new power is less impressive than the other. I’m disappointed because I expected so much more story and a lot less frivolous world building and cheap gags. One of the things that have made Chew so good up to this point was the deft balance between humour and supernatural food related drama.

Challengers of the Unknown Must Die!
Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! Is the first published comic work of Jeph Loeb and the first collaboration between Loeb and artist Tim Sale. That alone makes this an interesting comic to read since we get to experience the writer and artist cutting their teeth on one of their earliest comics work. The story takes place in the aftermath of an attack on Challengers Mountain: they retire. Loeb and Sale give us the story of a group forcibly starting retirement, what they did after and then, how they came back out of retirement. It’s a nice little story but it’s something we’ve seen before: deconstruction of a superhero team followed by its reconstruction.
One of the highlights of the comic is Tim Sale’s art. I’ve always liked his art ever since the first time I read Batman: The Long Halloween but he’s been good ever since he started working in comics professionally. He really did a great job with the Challs. The most impressive aspect of his art on the book is his stellar page and panel designs. Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! is one of the few comics that revels in being a comic and telling the story in a way only comics can.

Sale inks, presumably, with a pen. His lines are the same thickness throughout the comic. It’s a pretty thin line and it doesn’t matter how close or far an object or a character is the thickness of the line remains the same. It gives it a loose and casual feel. This isn’t an overly polished digital image. There is something classic about Sale’s style it’s put to good use here. I can’t help thinking of reasons for which I admire his art. He uses very few straight lines; the whole comic has a nice fluidity of movement and looseness to the action. Superman’s guest appearance in one of the issues is a rare example of Sale’s obvious use of straight lines (such a square jaw). The art is interesting from the first page to the last but I can’t say the same about the writing. Loeb starts off with a really strong story but the whole thing loses it’s footing with the last couple of issues. For someone first published work, Loeb should be proud of his efforts since he wrote a several compelling issues reviving one of the earliest super science hero teams. Having Tim Sale on art duties surely helped too. It’s too bad this was only an 8 issue mini-series since I think it had the potential for an interesting ongoing series.

Lost Cat by Jason

Jason is one of my favourite comic creators. There is something about his deadpan, anthropomorphic animal style that really works for me. Despite the minimal facial expression and body language, his art is very expressive. He manages to do things with his art that he shouldn’t be able to do, it just shouldn’t work. The emotion his characters can convey is staggering and the feeling he can imbue in the reader is equally impressive.

Lost Cat is one of his longer workers. I’m not sure if it’s the longest so far but it’s being advertised as such. Sure, the page count is very high compared to his previous comics but his pages follow a strict four panel grid. I’m sure that some of his shorter 48 pages comics with nine panels on each page contain just as much story but the extra breathing room Jason gives Lost Cat helps with the story he’s telling.

One of the recurring themes in Jason’s work is loneliness. He does it so well in Lost Cat. One of the pivotal scenes in the book is a forty page long conversation between two astonishingly lonely people who, for the first time in their lives, feel connected to another individual. Lost Cat isn’t about a lost cat at all. It’s about a missed opportunity; it’s about missing out on the love of a lifetime because of mundane reasons like having cold feet. It’s a comic that ponders the deeper meanings of love and live and Jason brings his unique perspective it, aliens and all. 

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