Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Three new-ish comics

Ghostbusters: Tainted Love #1 (IDW Publishing) Please note that writer Dara Naraghi and I both lived in the same city at the same time for about a decade, and have previously communicated via email and in person during that time, so it’s possible that some sort of Go Columbus! boosterism was affecting me on a subconscious level while I was reading this issue (I don’t think so; I’ve never had a problem identifying whether or not I found a creative work sorely lacking, no matter who created it, before).

This one-shot is a Valentine’s Day special and, in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, I loved it. As some of you know, I tried out some of the more recent Ghostbusters comics, and, despite some virtues, found them both somewhat wanting.

This comic isn’t exactly a perfect one, but I thought Naraghi had done the best job so far of distilling the characters’ voices to the point that they sounded completely like “themselves” throughout; of the three different Ghostbusters projects I’ve read recently, this one hewed closest to the characters as they existed in the first movie. Also, Naraghi did a nice job of focusing on the love lives of all four characters to a certain extent, even if Winston and Venkman get the most panel time (Egon and Ray, meanwhile, boast of a date with science).

The art is by Salgood Sam, and he met the main challenge of the franchise—keeping the three white brunettes distinct from one another and recognizable form previous appearances in other media, without falling into strict celebrity likeness. He also lettered the work, which gives it a really nice, rather home-made feel, particularly when compared to Big Two super-comics and many of the other licensed comics out there at the moment.

If you’d like to hear a little bit more about the book, I’ll have a brief Q and A with Naraghi on Blog@ tomorrow morning.

Muppet King Arthur #1 (Boom Kids) The various Muppet miniseries adapting classic tales are, pretty much by necessity somewhat formulaic—re-tell the familiar story, but casting various Muppets as if they were actors playing the major parts and imbuing their performances with their personal quirks and schticks.

This one, obviously, takes on the King Arthur story, with Kermit in the role of Arthur, at this point still a lowly page serving Sir Sam the Eagle. I suppose it will be interesting to see where the series goes after this first issue, given the all the variations on the Arthur myth (unlike, say, Peter Pan, the basis of the previous Muppet adaptation), but this first issue doesn’t stray far from the sword-in-the-stone stuff.

Janis is Lady of the Lake, Rolf is Merlin, Miss Piggy is a (good version of) Morgan Le Fay and Fozzie seems to be the first knight of the eventual roundtable. Paul Benjamin and Patrick Storck’s script was rather hit or miss for me, the Muppets and Arthurian business not always blending all that smoothly (Fozzie as a jester knight, for example). When the gags hit though, they’re effective enough to make up for those that don’t quite hit the mark.

Artist Dave Alvarez’s style is probably this book’s greatest attribute, though. His artwork is stripped-down, flat, bright and highly kinetic. Like Roger Langridge, he’s perfectly able to draw the characters so they look like the Muppets and simultaneously look like his characters, and seeing the familiar characters filtered through his expressive, kinetic artwork is a treat in and of itself.

Zombies Vs. Robots Aventure #1 (IDW) I think it’s safe to assume that we all know what a zombie is and what a robot is, but what is “aventure?” Is it simply a rather embarrassing typo?

Well, according to online dictionaries, it’s an obsolete term for an accident, chance or adventure, which makes it sound like an overly pretentious way of saying “adventure,” but a second, also obsolete definition is “a mischance causing of a person’s death.” Given that this is yet another comic set during a zombiepocalypse, perhaps that’s fitting.

Ashley Wood provides the cover art, and gets a credit for presenting the book, an anthology of three serialized stories by three different cartoonists, each dealing with the subject matter of conflict between zombies and robots (With humanity in there somewhere as well).

Menton Matthews III’s story “Kampf” opens with a one-page explanation of the cause of the zombiepocalypse and the fact that humans turned to un-infectable robots to help them fight the zombie menace. From there it plunges into a tense domestic drama in which a scarred sergeant argues with his wife about whether he should go and try to fight the zombie war or stay home and spend time with her before they die. It’s more of a scene then a story, and so hard to judge, really; Matthews has some nice, wide horizontal layouts, and the robot designs are pretty cool, but the last panel looked depressingly like a still from a shoot ‘em up videogame of the sort I have no interest in (If you do, though, that might actually be an awesome panel).

Paul McCaffrey’s “Masques” has a janitor stumbling upon a pack of little helper robots and the body of his dead boss, and starting to think about what he should do with the roots. It’s devoid of zombies so far. Again, the story isn’t even complete enough to get a good sense of where it might be going, but the art is appealing—McCaffrey does very nice work with textures, making for an impressive invocation of visual-to-tactile synesthesia.

The final story, Gabriel Hernandez’s “Zuvembies Vs. Robots,” offers the most intriguing premise—I think. If I read it right, it seems like a voodoo priest, his friends and a clunky old robot are going to attempt to raise a zombie or zombies of their own, perhaps to fight off the “bad” zombies? That is something I’ve never read before, and, in the tired zombiepocalypse genre, that’s a precious thing.


Anthony Strand said...

Yeah, Dave Alvarez's art in Muppet King Arthur is wonderful. Too bad that's the only issue of the series he's drawing though.

Randal said...

It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around the rock band page. From, "That sounds like an odd phrasing" to "Oooooohhhhhh...."

Chris Ryall said...

Regarding the "AVENTURE" subtitle in our book, it's not a typo--Ash Wood liked the sound of it better than the more ordinary “adventure,” but the definition you cite, “a mischance causing of a person’s death,” is going to make it verrry applicable by the end of the three stories. Thanks for talking it up. Glad you liked Ghostbusters, too.