Archive for August, 2009

Asterios Polyp

August 31, 2009 | Graphic novels

David Mazzucchelli made an indelible mark as a comic artist by the time he was just 27 years old. He caught eyes and dropped jaws with his gritty, inky work on two of the most critically acclaimed stories of the 1980s: Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One, both in collaboration with industry giant, Frank Miller. And then he was gone. Well, perhaps it wasn’t that sudden, but Mazzucchelli had pretty much disappeared from mainstream comics by the end of the decade. He briefly published his own anthology series, Rubber Blanket, and contributed to various other anthologies and magazines, including The New Yorker, throughout the 90s. He also masterfully adapted Paul Auster’s novel, City of Glass, into graphica, but sadly it seemed like Mazzucchelli’s best work may have been behind him. Now, exactly 25 years since he first broke into the industry, Mazzucchelli bursts back onto the scene with his first graphic novel — and it is well worth the wait. Asterios Polyp (Pantheon Books, $34, 344 pages) is a tour de force that opens with the destruction of the titular character’s Manhattan apartment on his 50th birthday. Polyp boards the next bus to nowhere and finds himself in the aptly named town of Apogee — the farthest place he can afford to get from anything he ever cared about — where he proceeds to reinvent himself as a humble auto mechanic as he reexamines the triumphs and failures that led him to this point. These flashbacks often depict Polyp as egomaniacal, pompous and pretentious — even as the love story with kind-hearted artist, Hana, unfolds — contrasting the very Zen-like man with axle grease on his hands. Mazzucchelli draws on his fine arts degree as he experiments with numerous art styles for his varied characters and scenes and pushes the envelope with challenging digressions into philosophy, religion and mortality throughout Polyp’s tale as the once thoroughly unlikable man’s motivations begin to clarify many of his actions. This engrossing effort culminates with a bombshell that will leave readers both reeling and hoping Mazzucchelli won’t keep them waiting so long for another masterpiece. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

The Nobody

August 31, 2009 | Graphic novels

Jeff Lemire took home a pile of awards for his debut graphic novel trilogy writing and illustrating tales about the intricacies of small town life. For his Vertigo debut, he just sticks with what works. On the heels of the Essex County Trilogy, which earned the Toronto resident Joe Shuster and Doug Wright Awards, as well as nominations for the coveted Eisner and Harvey Awards, Lemire delivers The Nobody (Vertigo, $22.99, 144 pages), a modern take H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. John Griffen’s arrival in the small town of Large Mouth, population 754, sets the locals abuzz. The mysterious fellow, covered in bandages anywhere his skin would show and sporting dark black goggles, stays in his motel room most of the time, only venturing out to the local diner every few days for takeout food. The diner owner’s teenaged daughter, Vickie, quickly takes an interest in the enigmatic stranger and sets out to learn the truth about who he is and why he hides his face and the pair begin a sort of unusual friendship. Meanwhile, other, more paranoid, folks in town slowly begin to find Griffen a convenient scapegoat for everything bad that happens and look for a way to rid their town of this foreign element. Featuring striking black-and-white artwork accented beautifully by the use of light blue, The Nobody cements Lemire’s status as both a star graphic novelist and one of Canada’s national treasures. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? The Deluxe Edition

August 31, 2009 | Trades

Ho-hum, Batman is dead. Any long-time reader will tell you that death in comic books is rarely permanent, especially for major (see profitable) characters, so there’s no real point in getting all worked up over Bruce Wayne’s demise in the recent DC Comics miniseries, Final Crisis. Sure, he’s dead. This, too, in time, shall pass. But just because Bruce’s death isn’t permanent is no reason not to give him a first-class sendoff. Bestselling author Neil Gaiman and fan-favourite artist Andy Kubert accept the daunting charge of telling the “last” Batman story and deliver something special with Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? The Deluxe Edition (DC Comics, $27.99, 128 pages). Around the backdrop of the hero’s funeral, Gaiman weaves together the sum of 70 years worth of adventures in about 60 pages full of thoughtful perceptions about the Batman mythos, while Kubert dazzles with homage to the generations of great artists who have brought the character’s adventures to life. Whether Bruce Wayne regains his costumed identity again in a week, a month or a year, this spellbinding tale is sure to remain the final word on the Dark Knight. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Birds of Prey: Platinum Flats

August 23, 2009 | Trades

Birds of Prey: Platinum Flats Tony Bedard, Michael O'Hare, Nichola Scott, Claude St. Aubin, John Floyd, Doug Hazlewood DC Comics $21.99/$17.99 US (Paperback) *** (out of five) The Joker’s wild in Platinum Flats. When Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Oracle, relocates her all-female super-team, the Birds of Prey, from Metropolis to this DC Universe stand-in for Silicon Valley, she’s got more than a fresh start in mind. Following a tip from her questionably motivated underworld counterpart, the Calculator, Gordon tasks the Birds to find out whether some of the world’s biggest Internet and technology companies are acting as fronts for the metahuman mafia. Inevitably, the answer is yes, and worse, this vicious band of charged-up baddies has got themselves a new member: The Clown Prince of Crime, the villain who shot Gordon years ago, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. The showdown between these two rivals — and its stunning finale — is reason enough to pick up this penultimate collection of this recently cancelled series.

PVP Vol. 6: Silent But Deadly

August 17, 2009 | Trades

PVP Vol. 6: Silent But Deadly Scott Kurtz Image Comics $14.99 US (paperback) **** (out of five) Brand new look; really old stories. Brent, Jade, Cole, Francis, Skull the troll and the rest of the gang at PVP magazine return in the sixth print collection of Scott Kurtz's Eisner Award-winning webcomic, one that changes things up a bit with a new three-panel-per-page look that helps keep the flow of multi-strip storylines going well. That only thing that keeps this book from being a true gutbuster is the fact the strips are all from 2006 and thus many of the wonderfully witty and astute pop culture jokes that make this strip so popular are pretty dated. Here's hoping Kurtz and Image Comics will start pumping out these collections a little more frequently so readers can get the same laughs from the print version as they do from at

Sleeper: Season One

August 11, 2009 | Trades

Sleeper: Season One Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips Wildstorm/DC Comics $27.99/$24.99 US (Paperback) **** 1/2 (out of five) His best friend is a thug, his girlfriend is a psychopathic killer and his boss just might be the biggest criminal on the planet. And believe it or not, Holden Carver is on the side of angels. With the only person who knows he's a double agent inside a massive meta-criminal organization in a coma, Carver is stuck playing the role of thief, spy and even killer or he risks exposing his true allegiances to his employer, the influential and deadly, Tao. But just how far will Carver go to protect himself? Killing other crooks is one thing, but is he willing to take out innocents to maintain his cover? Will there still be a way out someday if he goes too far? And will he want to take it after everything he's seen and done? This masterpiece by writer Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Daredevil) and Sean Phillips (Criminal) is truly gripping stuff, filled with unexpected twists and turns and blended with a hint of black humour and scores of well-constructed characters that will engross you until the final page — and then have you clamouring for Season 2.

Preacher Book 1

August 3, 2009 | Trades

Preacher Book 1 Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon Vertigo/DC Comics $43.99/$39.99 US (Hardcover) ***** (out of five) Let’s get one thing clear: Preacher is simply the filthiest, bloodiest and arguably best adults-only comic book you'll ever read. It’s a road picture that would make an in-their-prime Quentin Tarantino or Sam Peckinpah squirm, starring a man of god, a hired killer and a vampire and featuring angels, demons, a teenager with a face like an ass and almighty God himself. Readers picking up this slick new hardcover edition, which collects the first year’s worth of Preacher comics, might be taken aback by artist Steve Dillon's incredibly graphic depictions of violence and writer Garth Ennis’ equally colourful use of creative vulgarity. Now try to remember that this is a 14-year-old story. In 1995, when Preacher first hit the stands, it was, without a doubt, one of the most shocking comics ever released by a mainstream publisher. Of course all that violence and cursing just served to enhance an incredibly compelling story, full of fantastically defined characters, centred around Rev. Jesse Custer and his mission to find God on Earth and make him answer for abandoning humanity. Pouring over this new Preacher collection shows the series’ incredible lasting strength and it’ll have you wondering either why you've never read it before or why you waited so long to re-read it.