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Thoughts From the Land of Frost:
Holy Crap, That Comic Is Good!
By Alexander Ness

08.18.03


Some reviewers prefer to crap on the products that they review. Some reviewers like everything they read. I am somewhat in-between the two. You see, when I was an instructor I graded tests and papers from a different perspective than most of the instructors that I shared offices with. I try to look at the paper before me and look at what is there rather than bemoan what is not.

When I am looking upon a comic I am far more likely to try to enjoy than pick nits, as I love the medium. When I do not like a work I often set it down and returnto it later. Finally if upon a second reading I either still do not like or understand it I will either permanently set it down or write my review. I'd rather enjoy what I read. And so here I am. This column is written with a goal of mine to celebrate the works out right now that I have found myself saying... Holy Crap! That comic is good! Now I could go on and on since there is so much good out there right now, it is simply a matter of finding the comic to fit your taste. But instead I leave you with these choices for you to consider.


Article continued below advertisement


My choices sorted alphabetically by publisher.

(Review grades are given to books that I have been sent for review)


From Archaia Studio Press:

ARTESIA TPB and ARTESIA AFIRE #1
Story and art by Mark Smylie

A captain with powerful magic within her leads her troops into battle, at the forefront, giving battle in the same fashion as all who serve. She is intimately familiar with the spirits of then on living world and her religious views informs every decision she makes for her troops afield. With extreme and bloody battles, fully realized character depictions with real intelligence and religion being a reality that affects the world around her this is a story that blew me away. It is mature in the sense of blood, naked body parts and such, but it is truly mature in that the characters are real.

The art appears to be somewhat manga-inspired but it is truly unique, and painted in such a way to remind me of several tapestries I saw while taking art history courses in college. It is a beautiful book, and even more, it is a story that should be read by every one who enjoys intelligent story telling.

Grade: 4/4 (Editor's Choice!)


From Avatar:

SCARS #1-6
Written by Warren Ellis, Art by Jacen Burrows

An emotionally scarred detective working out his own issues of loss is faced with a brutal crime that threatens his paper-thin mental stability.

This series started from a high point of horror and worked backwards, somewhat strangely enough. The most horrific images and events happened early on and it was the work of author and artist to tell the story in such a way that the ambiguous ending seemed perfect in retrospect. The mystery was solved and the reader was left to ponder what the after effects would be. I felt moved by this work and each actor in its creation deserves enormous praise.

Grade: 4/4


DEAD FOLKS
A Joe Lansdale story interpreted by Timothy Truman with art by the same

A bounty hunter in a plague ridden near future is called in to bring back a bad boy, and in the process gets caught within the web of a pseudo religious, sex, and pseudo geneticist cult. Zombies and guns aplenty.

A very fast read the story will work far better in trade paperback format, as it is a very short encounter with a final resolution. A reader will wonder how come it wasn't released in a single graphic novel format since it works so much better in a single sitting than a serialized format multiple reading.

I am a Tim Truman fan and his art here is beyond perfect. I also like his writing but this is such a short scenario and one with little characterization to work with, in other words, it has holes. I rarely buy a work solely for the art, but here, the art is perfect and deserving a greatly expanded audience. I bought multiple copies and gave them out for others to experience the joy of this art.

Grade: 3.5/4


From CrossGen:

BRATH #1-5
Written by Chuck Dixon, Art by Andrea DiVito

A great Celt war chief gathers the clans to do battle with the invading Roman legions. His dreams and visions help guide his tactics and become a leader of the whole people rather than of those who follow obediently.

Oh, Dixon knows his history and knows how to tell a great story. This is a comic work wherein I do not necessarily enjoy the art but the story is so powerful I barely notice. In fact I do not care as long as this comic is produced as long as Chuck Dixon is able to write.

Grade: 4/4 (Editor's Choice!


From DC Comics:

WAR STORY
Written by Garth Ennis, Art by various

Ennis is a gifted writer in many areas, but for my money, his written depictions of war are more human than any drama and far more horrific than the deepest horror story his mind could conjure.


From Dark Horse:

CRIMINAL MACABRE #1-3
Written by Steve Niles, Art by Ben Templesmith

I am not alone in my enjoyment of the exploits of hyper medicated and tormented private detective Cal McDonald. In this series he is drawn into a mystery involving vampires and ghouls, and he enters this mystery without even a crease upon his brow knowing the dangers before him. A noir meets horror genre book that is both a humorous at the same time as it is meant to inspire dread.


From Idea + Design Works (IDW):

DARK DAYS #1
Written by Steve Niles Art by Ben Templesmith

If you read 30 Days of Night, the book to which this series is a sequel, you will know that the characters in this book are recovering from the events in that volume. But to some of the characters, recovery means exposing the truth, to some it means taking the battle to the enemy and driving them into the light, and to others it means a reorganization of power. Vampires versus humans in 30 Days of Night, Humans versus Vampires in Dark Days. This is the best book on the shelf today. Niles is an excellent writer, and Templesmith a perfect illustrator for this dark tale.

Grade: 4/4 (Editor's Choice!)


From Image Comics:

POWERS #29-32
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Michael Avon Oeming

Following the conclusion of the almost 30 issue long uber story arc, Bendis and Oeming took this book that had followed the investigation unit of the police that solves super powered being crimes into new uncharted territory. Bravely they took the concept of there always being powered beings, even unto prehistory protohuman life.

Where this will take the reader I am uncertain, but it is so bound to be good. This book has no flaws but it did take me some time to warm to it. It is a story filled with intrigue and humor. Knowing glances and Tarrantino-esque scenes and dialogue make for a very fun ride. Lord, it is good.

Grade: 4/4 (Editor's Choice!


MICRONAUTS #1-9
Story and Art by various, Barb Schulz on inks

This is a rare book, being a hybrid of a late 1970s toy line and 70's Marvel comic that is reimagined from a different perspective nearly 25 years later.

The Micronauts are a band of heroes sent through space by various means and purposes who are dogged by the forces and efforts of the evil Baron Karza. While this book does not compete well with the others on this list, it is a favorite of mine. I liken it to comfort food, I am reminded of good things from my childhood, and I am entertained by an ably told story with very fine art. It may or may not work for you, but I place it upon my list because...well, I like it. (And it is my list after all)

Grade: 3/4


From Marvel Comics:

THE ULTIMATES #1-11
Written by Mark Millar, Art by Bryan Hitch

Reimagine the Marvel explosion of creativity of 1960 as happening now. Imagine what sensibilities would change with the many changes society has endured. Then imagine how the concept of hero and Marvel heroes in particular would be hugely different. Then let a talented Scotsman and Briton tell the story with almost no editorial interference. The result is a book that offends purists and those who love the traditional interpretation of the characters but is a breath of dramatically fresh air for this reviewer.


From Penny Farthing Press:

THE VICTORIAN Acts I, II, III
Story and Art by various

This book is the most intriguing upon this list. It is a hugely intricate story requiring patience (it is a five-year story with each act/chapter taking a calendar year to develop) and frankly some willingness to wait for things to develop. Rather than develop on a schedule you wish, you are forced to solve the mysteries at the same time as the protagonists. This is a work that concerns secret societies, conspiracies, stolen nuclear submarines, fantastic covers and very much perfect characterization.

This is not a book for those who like easy to solve riddles, or fanboyperfect art. It is a book to contemplate, appreciate, and if you’re lucky, read while listening to Puccini, loudly playing in a CD player.

Grade: 4/4 (Editor's Choice!


Final Thoughts:

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

 

 
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