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Friday, November 17, 2017

Reader's Diary #1670- Aimee Major Steinberger: Japan Ai

I'm not typically a fan of travel comics. I love the idea of someone recording their daily observations this way but publishing them seems a little self-indulgent to me. That said, Japan was a favourite vacation of mine and so I was definitely open to Aimee Major Steinberger's Japan Ai.

Subtitled "A Tall Girl's Adventure in Japan," I wasn't expecting a lot of common observations, but height and gender themes weren't strong. Even when they were I found common ground. Her experiences being dressed as a geisha, for instance, reminded me of when my daughter did the same.

More common were the observations that most North American's would likely make there and I found myself smiling in agreement and nostalgia as she talked about the Japanese style toilets, the vending machines selling cans of hot coffee, and the Tokyo Tower mascot that... doesn't look like a tower (if you catch my drift).

For those westerners who have been lucky enough to have been there, I am sure you'll be like me and enjoy Steinberger's recollections. For those who haven't yet, it will provide a very accurate depiction of what to expect.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reader's Diary #1699- Mike Norton: Battlepug 1

Continuing on my exploration of comics that first breathed life on the web, it's Battlepug by Mike Norton.

Battlepug is a wacky fantasy series with a giant pug who's a companion to a Conan-esque barbarian character. It also features giant terrorizing baby seals and a slave master Santa Claus. It's really a perfect blend of humor and action with awesome art (caricature style and beautifully rendered colours).

One small bone of contention is the gratuitous nudity. It's not that it's over-the-top (just a butt is shown) but the frame story comes off as a tad sexist. Could a beautiful woman be lying on her bed naked while telling a story to her dogs? Sure, I guess. Still, seems like a cheap way to appeal to the hormones of adolescent straight males.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reader's Diary #1698- Reinhard Kleist: Nick Cave Mercy On Me

Earlier this year I read and quite enjoyed Reinhard Kleist's Johnny Cash graphic biography I See A Darkness. I won't lie and pretend that I liked his treatment of Nick Cave Mercy on Me to the same degree, but largely that's simply because I was less familiar with Nick Cave's music before going in.

You could enjoy this book without any prior knowledge of Cave or his songs, simply as a portrait of a driven (sometimes obsessive) artist who, more than anything, shuns normalcy. However, as proven when Kleist worked in the few songs I did know (Mercy Seat, Where the Wild Roses Go), it helps one's enjoyment. Reinhard likes to intertwine fact and fiction, often incorporating song lyrics as elements of the singer's life, and so to really make sense of it and appreciate his point, familiarity can only work in the reader's favour. All that aside, as a music junky, whenever there were references to songs I didn't know, I immediately downloaded them and even if just for that, I'd be glad to have read this book.

Once again, Reinhard's style (inky, black, and scratchy) fits his subject. I'm curious though how he'd do with a biography of say Aqua or Barry Manilow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reader's Diary #1697- Doug Bayne (writer) and Trudy Cooper (artist): Oglaf Book One

I'm forever trying to study comics and graphic novels and one area I've not explored much is webcomics. I've happened upon some print versions of comics that first appeared online (by folks such as Kate Beaton, Ryan North, and The Oatmeal), but didn't seek them out specifically for their origins.

So, this time I went looking for recommendations. I still cheated somewhat and stuck with ones that were later preserved on paper, but nonetheless I managed to come up with a list. I've begun my reading with Doug Bayne and Trudy Cooper's Oglaf which came up most frequently on must-read lists, but most compelling always with a disclaimer that it is not safe for work.

And whoo-boy is it not. I would venture to say that 90% of the strips in this collection have punchlines about genitalia and/or sex. And the visuals leave NOTHING up to the imagination. Is it pornographic? I'd say it depends on your definition, but as the primary purpose of these comics seem to be humour I'd say not.

And it's dang funny. It helps that Trudy Cooper's characters give just the right expressions to acknowledge the absurdity of it all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Reader's Diary #1696- Diego Vecchio: The Tobacco Man


Bizarrely, Argentinian writer Diego Vecchio's short story "The Tobacco Man" is set in Alberta. But that's not the most bizarre thing.

The premise of the frame story is the recounting of the events that led to a successful lawsuit against a tobacco company by a writer for causing irreparable damage to his artistic career. Then there are a series of stories within this story that somewhat use the "butterfly effect" scenario and time travel.

I'm not entirely sure that the end result is more than a sum of its parts, but the parts themselves are fascinating enough.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1695- Scott Snyder (writer) and Jeff Lemire (artist): A.D. After Death

Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire's A.D. After Death is the second comic I've read this year dealing with immortality. Being a fan of both of these creators though, I was expecting to enjoy this one more.

In the end, I respected the ambition of the book more than the execution. The themes of immortality and memory are certainly lofty enough and the approach was very creative (illustrated prose pages are mixed with comics, images are a mix of realistic and abstract), but it all comes across as a bit of a fever dream. The story needed to be reined in and fleshed out more before attempting philosophical musings that ultimately distracted from the tale rather than blossom from it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Reader's Diary #1694- Peter David: Ben Reilly The Scarlet Spider / Back in the Hood

It seems that most of the positive reviews of the new Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider series were from fans of the character since the 90s when he first appeared as a Spider-Man clone.

Not having read those earlier books, I cannot say the character does anything for me now. I believe he appeared in Spider-Verse a couple of years back but he's so forgettable that I don't recall. Now with a whole trade focused on him, I cannot see what there is to like. He seems more of a Deadpool to tell you the truth. Snarky comments, more anti-hero than hero, scarred face, Spider-Man infatuation— the only thing missing is the 4th wall breaking. Even the villains seem like knock-offs. Slate has unbreakable skin? Umm, isn't that Luke Cage's thing? 

A plot about a dying sick girl is underdeveloped and if the point was to give the book some emotional gravitas, it sadly fails. 

I can think of at least a dozen other characters I'd like to see get their own comic run before Ben Reilly. Tigra please! Or Echo! But, if we're going back for a Spider-Verse character, I'll take Spider-Punk!