Archive for April, 2008

Essex County Vol. 2: Ghost Stories

April 21, 2008 | Comics

Essex County Vol. 2: Ghost Stories Jeff Lemire Top Shelf Productions $14.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) Lou Lebeuf is an old man and his hearing is all but gone, but the voices from his past are as loud and clear as ever for him. As he whiles away his remaining days on his family farm in Essex County, down in southwestern Ontario, Lou reflects back to better times, back to when he and his brother, Vince, played pro hockey in Toronto and they felt like kings of the world. Of course nobody’s life is perfect and Lou’s trip down memory lane takes him to a bunch of different places, both good and bad — from the glory of raising his stick in the air with thousands cheering him on, to the hearing his knee snap and knowing his career was over, to falling in love with the perfect girl to the sound of Chet Baker records and that one amazing night in her arms that cost him dearly for the rest of his days. Talented Toronto cartoonist Jeff Lemire continues his Essex County trilogy, which he started last year with the moving Tales From The Farm, with Ghost Stories, a thoughtful and emotional reminisce that intertwines the love of hockey, the love between brothers and the deep love of home into one thoroughly engaging read.

The Goon: Fancy Pants Edition Vol. 2: The Rise And Fall Of The Diabolical Dr. Alloy

April 21, 2008 | Trades

The Goon: Fancy Pants Edition Vol. 2: The Rise And Fall Of The Diabolical Dr. Alloy Eric Powell Dark Horse Books $24.95 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) He’s attacked the Goon with giant, laser-wielding robots, fire-breathing giant lizard monsters and more and yet Dr. Hieronymous Alloy always comes out looking like a million bucks. Granted, his entire body is covered with gold as the result of an alchemy experiment gone wrong, but still. Dr. Alloy has definitely become one of the most interesting enemies for the Goon, the enforcer of the Labrazio crime family and self-proclaimed protector of the community from zombie, monsters and other nasty things. Now all of the Goon’s wild and darkly humourous conflicts with this maddest of scientists — including the classic battle that sees the hero transformed into a King Kong-esque monster to battle a rogue Godzilla-esque lizard — are available in one place as the deluxe, limited edition hardcover Fancy Pants edition gets a second volume. Creator Eric Powell’s wild and wacky work never looked so good.

Wonderlost #2

April 21, 2008 | Comics

Wonderlost #2 C.B. Cebulski, Matt Santolouco, Ethan Young, Tony Fleecs, John Amor, Jason Meek, Rafael Albuquerque, Seth Frail, Alina Urusov Image Comics $6.95/$5.99 US **** 1/2 (out of five) Nobody in comics does a better job of humiliating himself than C.B. Cebulski. The first volume of Wonderlost saw this longtime Marvel Comics editor deliver six stories from his youth that were sometimes touching and often tragically humbling. Now this glutton for punishment is back to lay even more awkward teen experiences on the line, including his first (truly scary) experiences with oral sex, his first (and only) experience with magic mushrooms and the revelation of a rather specific interest in dating blondes. With the help of a very talented team of artists, Cebulski truly captures the fumblings of youth perfectly and delivers another masterwork of self deprication.

Serenity: Better Days #1 (of 3)

April 21, 2008 | Comics

Serenity: Better Days #1 (of 3) Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad, Michelle Madsen Dark Horse Comics $2.99 CAN/US **** (out of five) They’ve been scraping by on the edge of civilization for so long that the crew of the Serenity really wasn’t prepared for things to go… right? When yet another grand scheme by Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his ragtag bunch of space pirates actually comes together, they might just find their days of living hand to mouth finally over with. But are they really ready for life on easy street? Co-written by Firefly/Serenity creator Joss Whedon, Better Days finally brings this cult-classic universe back to comics in an adventure set prior to the cataclysmic events of the feature film (which saw a couple of crew members die) and puts the crew into an interesting scenario that ought to pay off big time.


April 7, 2008 | Comics

Skim Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki Groundwood Books $18.95 (Hardcover) **** ½ (out of five) The biggest problem with many books, films and TV programs that deal with what it’s like to be a teenager is that by the time a writer finally gets around to telling it, they rarely seem to remember what it’s actually like to be in that dreaded age group. Being a teenager, with few exceptions, frankly sucks. Even for those precious few who enjoyed popularity all its trappings, would likely later confess to dancing on a knife’s edge most of the time. Being able to tap into that visceral experience, warts and all, is what makes Skim such an amazing read. Talented Toronto-based writer Mariko Tamaki, in melodious partnership with gifted ex-Albertan artist cousin, Jillian, deliver the illustrated personal journal of Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a.k.a. Skim, a teen battling against society’s expectations of her, her parents’ and peers’ perceptions, and, most definitely, her own feelings of displacement and inadequacy. As she strives to survive each harsh high school day, Skim is confronted by a number of challenges, from dealing with the death of a classmate’s boyfriend, to trying to decide if her best friend is everything she appears, to falling in love for the first time. All these subjects are brought to life with such an identifiable pain that it’s hard not to find something in Skim’s experiences that doesn’t give you a somewhat unpleasant twinge in the back of your mind. A powerful and poignant story that is as perfect a synergy of words and art as you’re likely to find in comics, Skim is a true gem.

Little Things

April 7, 2008 | Comics

Little Things Jeffrey Brown Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) $16/$14 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) Jeffrey Brown’s already shown us how he lost his virginity, revealed how he’s gotten his heart broken on numerous occasions and how he’s capable of falling in love five times a week. It’s about time we get to see if Brown can find a happy ending for himself. The creator of the graphic memoir classics Clumsy and Unlikely, returns with Little Things, a collection of short stories that are a pleasant blend of humour, melancholy, introspection and small doses of tedium. Subjects range from a trip from his Chicago home to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, dealing with the angry ex-boyfriend of a new girlfriend, having his gallbladder removed, witnessing a crime, how to break into comic books and, in the end, finding the right person and starting a family. Longtime readers of Brown’s unabashed autobiographical exploits are sure to enjoy this thoughtful collection of tales as only he can tell them, while Little Things is also a brilliant book to introduce readers to the creator and his odd-yet-lovable personality.

Superman: Camelot Falls Vol. 2

April 7, 2008 | Trades

Superman: Camelot Falls Vol. 2 Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino DC Comics $23.99/$19.99 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) The Man Of Steel can’t just stand by and watch as humankind is overrun by evil. Or can he? The first volume of Camelot Falls presented Superman with a quandary: Could he let the forces of darkness win if he knew that it would help preserve humanity in the long run? After the enigmatic sorcerer, Arion, shows the Man Of Steel a vision of the apocalyptic future that awaits humanity if he and his fellow heroes keep interfering, Superman is forced to do some serious soul searching to decide how to proceed. And once he’s made up his mind, can he live with the consequences? One of Superman’s most heart-wrenching adventures comes to a surprising conclusion in an epic tale, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino, that may just lay the groundwork for a gripping future to come for the world’s greatest hero.

Al Capps’ Shmoo: The Complete Comic Books

April 7, 2008 | Trades

Al Capp’s Shmoo: The Complete Comic Books Dark Horse Books $49.95 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) The rise of the Shmoos may just be one of the oddest pop-culture phenomena of the 20th century. These doughy white, armless, mass-reproducing, edible, multi-use creatures burst onto the national scene after appearing in Al Capp’s immensely popular syndicated newspaper cartoon strip, Li’l Abner, and proceeded to take American by storm. There was over 100 different licensed products related to these lovable characters (whose greatest joy in the world is helping people), including a very popular three-foot inflatable Shmoo, and a short-lived comic book series that introduced Super Shmoo, Frankenshmoo and dozens of other Shmoo-based characters. This Complete Comic Books collection, featuring an introduction, and some fascinating annotations, by Denis Kitchen, is a great glimpse into an peculiar moment in the history of pop-culture.

The Last Winter

April 7, 2008 | Comics

The Last Winter Larry Fessenden, Robert Leaver, Brahm Revel Image Comics $12.99 US (Paperback) *** ½ (out of five) Something is bubbling up from under the ice of Alaska and it’s not just the countless barrels of oil that huge corporations are all clamoring to get a piece of. As a research team conducts tests in the National Wildlife Refuge with the looming possibility that the U.S. government will finally allow drilling in what is perceived to be one of the world’s last great untapped oil reserves as well as one of the pristine places left on the planet, things slowly begin to go wrong. The weather is erratic, machines stop functioning properly and members of the crew begin acting more and more oddly. After one crewman dies under extremely suspicious circumstances, the remaining crew are divided into those who feel they need to stay and complete their jobs and those who want to get out because they think that none of this is coincidence and that someone, or something, is causing it all. Based on last year’s limited-release horror film of the same name, Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter is a chilling look at humankind’s abuse of the environment and how what we reap may just be what we sow.

Dead Space #1 (of 6)

April 7, 2008 | Comics

Dead Space #1 (of 6) Antony Johnston, Ben Templesmith Image Comics $2.99 CAN/US **** (out of five) They say in space, no one can hear you scream, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t try anyway. As gaming giant EA, and countless fanboys around the world, counts down to the Fall 2008 release of the much-anticipated sci-fi/horror title, Dead Space, a partnership with Image Comics aims to help give a little insight into the kind of creepy odyssey we’re in for. When an interplanetary mining crew discovers what appears to be an alien device on a world they’re preparing to destroy for ore, the crew is quickly divided as some see it as a holy sign. Meanwhile, more and more members of the crew begin acting strangely, including one who’s left with blood on his hands and another who sees a vision of his long-dead mother. If the video game is anything as freaky as the comic by writer Antony Johnston (Wasteland) and fan-favourite artist Ben Templesmith (30 Days Of Night), Dead Space looks like a must-buy.