comics i like right now

20 03 2009

I haven’t really written about comics for a while so in short here’s a quick rundown of what I like at the moment and one disappointment:

Firstly the “must reads” as soon as I get them:

thewalkingdeadWalking Dead

Robert Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse tale is still brilliant 55+ issues into the series. Kirkman isn’t afraid to write gut wrenching scenes and almost every issue contains an emotional kick, whether it’s a regular being killed or someone realising that the person he is talking to on the phone is actually his dead wife. Kirkman’s also not averse to throwing in the trick cliff hanger ending where you believe one thing, only to have it be revealed in the opening pages of the next issue to be something else. He gets away with it every time because he has killed off other characters in shocking ways. You honestly don’t know whether his “main” characters are going to survive issue to issue and not many other comics can claim that. Plus Tony Moore’s art is starkly stunning, enhancing the emotional punch of Kirkman’s writing.


The world of Hellboy has been around long enough now that the Hellboy Companion published last year is nearly a must have when reading both Hellboy and its spin-off BPRD. Its definitely not essential, at its core both comics read as rollicking pulp adventures, but it definitely adds depth to the reading experience when you can refer back to nuggets of information about certain characters without having to trawl through boxes of back issues. BPRD might be a smidgeon ahead in my affections, mainly because Guy Davis’ art is so brilliant (can anyone draw monsters as well as him?) but Hellboy isn’t far behind.


The idea of a Viking comic series written by Brian Wood was intriguing when I first heard about it. The actuality has been excellent. So far Wood has eschewed the linear, specific character approach of DMZ (and to a lesser extent Local) and had stand alone arcs. The current arc, “The Cross and the Hammer” is a CSI style one set in conquered Ireland as a local man fights back against his Viking overlords in a guerrilla fashion. Northlanders has also featured revolving artists and they have all been excellent: Davide Gianfelice, Dean Ormston (an old favourite of mine) and Ryan Kelly. It might just be the Viking setting but I devour each new issue.

i-am-legionI am Legion

A few years back I bought the first issue of I am Legion from the Humanoids line that DC published and loved it. It was brilliant. It was dark, foreboding, possibly featured vampires and had Nazis as the villains. I eagerly waited for the next issue. And waited. And waited. It never came. DC canned the Humanoids line. When I was in France in 2007 I tried to hunt down a copy of the original French comic (if only to gaze on the wonder of John Cassaday’s art) but no joy. Until recently when DDP started publishing it again. I am Legion is wonderful – atmospheric and brooding. Fabien Nury’s story is gripping and Cassaday has long been a master. The only problem is that the pacing of the DDP edition is out of whack – the original DC version was 48 pages per issue, DDP is 24 pages. I just hope I get to see the end this time!


Eden by Hiroki Endo is the closest thing I have read to Akira in my 15 years of serious comics reading. Like Akira it is the set in the near future and like Akira it is a manga masterpiece. It is sci fi of the hardest sort whether it is dealing with sentient crystal formations which are gradually taking over the world or the extreme violence of cyborg killing machines. At other times it is touchingly sweet. Plus our main Elijah Ballard is treading the path from youth to adulthood, and rather than annoy us, he achieves the rare feat of making us care for him. In many ways Eden is like a manga Battlestar Galactica, and I mean that as the highest compliment.

And finally, one comic I liked earlier which is fading in my estimation is:

madame-xanaduMadame Xanadu

I wrote about it earlier and liked it but unfortunately since then it has sadly deteriorated. It’s still a very beautiful looking comic and the idea of a person living through time and different eras is appealing (look how long Highlander was on the air) but there’s just something that feels … misguided in the way they are telling the story. It doesn’t surprise me when I read it and as a result it is boring. Recent arcs have featured the French Revolution and Jack the Ripper but rather than exciting they are predictable, we know our heroine is going to survive and so far we have seen little to make her appeal to us. I’m hoping it’ll turn around, Matt Wagner is an excellent writer and Amy Reeder Hadley produces some stunning panels. It just isn’t clicking at the moment.


work is … ack

3 11 2008

Ack … I hate working in the weekend. I had to work twelve hours on Friday as we had a Halloween storytime at one of the libraries. It was fun and good though it’s always hard performing when there are people you know in the crowd. Actually, scratch that, I don’t mind performing in front of people I know as long as I have invited them. On Friday night there was my neighbour and her kids and a girl who was kinda my first girlfriend (we had a couple of study dates). I didn’t mind the neighbours, they know I’m a children’s librarian, but the kinda ex girlfriend was a wee bit weird, especially as she had her twins there.

Then on Saturday I had to work at another library as this group called Starfish did a show. It was fun to watch but I was mainly there as a liaison with the performers. Still at least I get some flexitime to use later.

This week is going to be a hell week, work wise. Every day is completely booked up including Wednesday where I will be presenting at a conference. A bit daunting.  

And finally on my last work related note: the Make a Manga winners from the competition I run are FINALLY up on our website. You can view them here. My favourite is KAJA and a couple other ones that didn’t even win. Some of these kids have talent!

releasing me

26 08 2008

Hey ho, looks like I’m in the news. Actually I kinda wrote a big chunk of the press release so I knew it was coming. It feels weird to see myself mentioned like that though. The teenagers pictured in the article are from Henderson High and were cool! At least one of them told me he’s going to do a comic for it.

I just wish someone had done something like this when I was their age.


20 08 2008

I had an interesting question at a launch event today for my Make a Manga competition. A girl, no older than 14, asked me if she could make a Yaio manga for it. For those of you who aren’t aware of Yaio I’ll let wikipedia define it:

Yaoi  is a popular term for fictional media that focuses on homosexual male relationships, yet is generally created by and for females.

Now I have no problem with Yaoi, I’m hardly in the target market but I was kind of surprised that a 14 year old girl knew of it and was thinking of doing a Yaoi manga for a public competition. Then I did some checking and found that our collection at Waitakere Libraries has a whole lot of Yaoi. My first thought was cool then I wondered if the general library staff realised what it was. Knowing some of the staff I’m guessing no.

What’s more surprising, to me at least, is that a teen girl wants to enter one for our competition. Speaking as a male I know that if I was 14 years old the last thing I would want to do would be to create something with a gay focus. At best I would have been mercilessly teased and more likely I would have got the bash. Ah the joys and happy memories of high school.

But maybe that was my day. Who knows what it’s like now on the mean concrete courtyards of West Auckland high schools? I’m actually hoping that she goes through with it – as long as she follows the rules of the competition she’s free to submit what she wants. She showed me some of her art and it was pretty good – we’ll see what happens.


17 07 2008

Ack – I’ve been hammered with work this week. I’m working on a create a comic competition for teenagers called Make a Manga. We’re having immense difficulties getting it printed and made into a pdf. I’ve got amazing graphics but for some reason when we try to save it as a pdf the whole thing goes all pixellated! GRRR ARGHHHH! I guess that’s what comes of using publisher instead of something more appropriate.

(Rob is muttering as he stomps around the room kicking things. Deep breath. And we’re calm again)

Anyway I just managed to finish off the poster and to partially apply some balm to my demons and grumplies I present to you Make a Manga:

Make a Manga Poster

Make a Manga Poster

(click to embiggen)

Eden Review

17 07 2008
Eden Volume 1

Eden Volume 1

Eden is a manga which for me is fast approaching Akira like levels of adoration. I just finished reading Volume 10 and once again it blew my mind. I’m going to happily add it to my list of Should Be Shows. Unlike say Gantz, another Dark Horse manga, which severely disappointed with its first issue (I’m supposed to think it’s a classic “must read” when it features a naked teenager for most of the first issue? I can see how some might be titillated by that but for me it was just crass and totally offputting) Eden is that rare beast that lives up to all the hype.

In some ways it feels a lot like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – it has that same maturity and shares a thematic concern with the impact of technology. Oddly for me Eden feels closer to Ghost in the Shell the tv series, than Ghost in the Shell the manga. (And yes I have read the Masamune Shirow manga). That’s a good thing by the way 🙂

Eden operates as both a sophisticated science fiction series in the mould of the new (well not so much now) Battlestar Galatica series and also a sometimes cutting critique on the powerplay of nations and the dispossession of indigenous people.

It’s also kick arse on so many different levels. The violence and action is uncompromising and while at times it is extremely graphic it is never gratuitous. The art is brilliant in the way that Akira’s is – it’s almost like Hiroki Endo studied Akira and mirrored it at times. The central idea of the closure virus and its terrible effect on mankind is genius and provides a truly terrifying setting and world.

While the first volume is a bit on the slow side and can be confusing at times (but then that just adds to the experience IMHO) I definitely recommend this manga. 9/10

(and I know the last book I reviewed I also gave 9/10 too – they’re just both that bloody good!)