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Thoughts From The Land of Frost:
Review Central By Alexander Ness
I have received about double my normal e-mail recently and quite a bit of it is related to my column. I still receive many many e-mails regarding money scams, penile enlargement and easy viagra purchases, but recently I have been asked to consider writing about a list of my all time favorite comic stories, in any format. I like this idea because while it should be understood that any list is a mercurial project, certain to change upon a whim, I think some companies out to consider the possibilities of future collections or sequels when possible. So without forcing you to wait in wonder here it goes...
WARNING: This list is in no particular order, and is a construct entirely of my own preference not intended to be used as a guide for betting or anything similar.
MAUS Graphic Novel (GN) (Pantheon Books) The author, Art Spiegleman, revisits his father's past horrors in the death camps of the Nazi Reich and comes to terms with the distance between he and his father. Horror and an investigation in how human brutality causes lives to change.
INHUMANS TPB (MarvelComics.com) The ultimate others, the Inhumans and their secret realm face attack from the known world forces. The leader Black Bolt silently leads his people into a long march. Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee demonstrate that the key to a comic book success is a partnership between to talented folks who share a vision. Between the excellent art and awesome pacing, plotting and dialogue you cannot go wrong with this book.
KINGS IN DISGUISE GN (Kitchen Sink Press) During the depression of the 1930s a pair of brothers are left to fend for themselves. True to life. A story that is engaging for its look at loyalty, and adventure within a real setting.
FROM HELL TPB (Topshelfcomix.com) A Monarchist/Masonic conspiracist view of the Jack the Ripper slayings in Victorian England. So layered with detail this book requires further readings and deeper research.
THE WILDERNESS TPB (originally Eclipse) Simon Gurty, a white child raised by Native People treads the line between rebel, spy and traitor. The art is magnificent and the story enthralling.
M miniseries (Eclipse/Arcane) The film was about the notorious child murderer in Weimar Germany and the lengths to which various groups (police, organized crime, the beggars guild) sought to solve the crime. The series was a frame by frame recreation of the movie. Little if anything can compare.
THE BLACK TERROR miniseries (Eclipse) The painted art alone makes this worth a look but the writing team's constant twists and turns in the story means that this work always leaves you waiting for the next shoe to drop. Sopranos meets the Punisher.
WATCHMEN TPB (DCComics.com) Take super heroes, a story tangent from an Outer Limits plot and an attempt to envision the effect those heroes would have upon the course of our known history and you can see how the team of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created such a memorable work.
GIVE ME LIBERTY TPB (DarkHorse.com) A dystopic America exists and main character Martha Washington seeks to restore the dream of Democracy versus Plutocracy, and individual endeavor versus control and autarchy.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT TPB (IDWpublishing.com) In the frozen north of Barrow Alaska there exists a period of time when the sun disappears from the horizon and an arctic night replaces the day. And vampires love the night.
SCOUT and SCOUT WAR SHAMAN ongoing series (Eclipse) This was the series that told me that comics could be much much more than just costumed heroes and happy endings. The lead character grows in wisdom as the epic moves forward.
WINTER WORLD miniseries (Eclipse) Frozen Earth survivors of an environmental disaster fight over the items necessary for living. The main two characters struggle to escape the roaming bands of raiders. A truly intense work.
The DOOM PATROL various ongoing series (DCComics.com) Every version of this collection of misfits worked for me. It was clever, unusual fun and generally really well written. Especially under the writing pen of Grant Morrison.
THE VICTORIAN (TPB and serially single issues from PFpress.com) You have a generational conspiracy along with a dark plot involving counterfeiting and secret societies. This comic is a somewhat strange combination of good to OK art good writing and an overarching deep plot that is awesome. It grows on you and the wait between issues is not long time-wise but brutal nonetheless.
The above list is not all available in stores, some are out of print, others were never collected in trade paperback format. Seek them out on EBAY or on store shelves, they are rewarding and full of impact.
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CRIMINAL MACABRE #1 Written by Steve Niles, art by Ben Templesmith, color, $2.99. Published by www.Darkhorse.com.
Oh the expectations...Fulfilled.
You really cannot explain the appeal of Cal McDonald to the person who isn’t a fan of horror or crime noir without a lot of diminishing. He is a hard bitten private investigator who uses drugs to numb his mind to the realities of the dark world in which he lives.
His world is populated by the ghouls, vampires and zombies that others seem blind to. He is drawn to the crimes and mysteries involving the undead and he is often a nexus upon which both the living and undead world resolves around.
I haven’t spoken about the issue specifically, but then again I really have, this is a first issue which serves well as an introduction to the character and his world.
The writing is crisp and intelligent. Niles is able to tell his story at the same time as add layers of mood. Templesmith uses a style that is dark and moody and for my taste truly captures the nether qualities of Cal McDonald’s world.
THE TICK #1-12 By Ben Edlund, B/W, $2.95. Published by www.Newenglandcomics.com
Oh my GOD I laughed at this. We could discuss how this work succeeds in parody of Superman and other heroic archetypes. We could discuss that the Tick TV show and cartoon grew from this starting point. But I’d prefer to discuss why it works.
The Tick makes comic fans laugh because it knowingly plays with the conventions of the medium. It makes non comic fans laugh because it is an outright funny comic. You do not need to have years of comic fandom in order to get it.
Both art and writing are quite good. I was disappointed to read that the cliffhanger in issue #12 won’t be resolved soon, if maybe ever, and I don’t like the slightly larger size of the comic. But I recommend this.
THE MARQUIS: DANSE MACABRE TPB By Guy Davis. B/W & in one sequence, red $18.95. Published by www.OniPress.com.
The gothic period of 17th Century France wherein religious control of the society and power makes for a haunting surreal setting. The Marquis hunts demons and other hellish foes and is slowly being driven insane. Religious faith in this world leads to horrific and painful consequences making one wonder at the paradigms considered by the author. Seriously if the consequences of faith were just as unkind as disbelief why believe?
But given the darkness and cruelty depicted this is an incredible work that lingers in your mind. The artwork is not classically beautiful but it is perfect. I cannot imagine a better artist for the work. I could imagine a better script as some of the dialogue feels as though it is a translated from French work.
I give a hearty recommendation for those of you who love to delve in a nearly alien fully realized setting.
KORE #1 Written by Josh Blaylock, art by Tim Seeley, color, $2.95. Published through www.imagecomics.com by www.Devilsdue.net studio.
This work from Devil’s Due Studios startled me. Looking at the cover I expected a sort of CHAOS Comics redoux with the devilish being and flames in full form. But I was wrong.
A young fellow named Alex seems to be screwing his life and others left to right. Nothing goes right and eventually events conspire to bring matters to a head, and a startling transformation occurs.
I was pleased with the great writing and the art was certainly fine. The plot twists and entertainment value here are very high. Perhaps I have some small issues with look and style of art but that is a matter of taste. It is a book worth reading.
PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE Written by Michael Avon Oeming with art by Neil Vokes, $5.95, Duotone. Published by IMAGE (www.Imagecomics.com)
A Victorian vigilante team solve crimes and plunge into self indulgence. Heroes they are not. Is it a function of such socially stifled life in such a society? Or, is it an investigation of hero in general?
Oeming’s writing is solid and consistent. Vokes uses a new style which is incredible to behold. I think that this is a project worth reading. I have some issues with whether this covers new ground or not but I read it over and again and found it to be an intelligent work. If it is familiar so be it.
All comic publishers and creative talent are welcome to submit items to be reviewed. Send items, to be considered for review, to:
Alexander Ness Land of Frost Box 142 Rockford MN 55373-0142
Read a book to a child and you will help create a future reader. A comic is a great medium to bring to a child.