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This week (22 May 2013) is so big that we’ve gone into a second column! For the other one, see here, you! First up, we check out Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #3 (Image Comics), the wonderfully weird Miniature Jesus #2 (Image Comics), the socially conscious Occupy Comics #1 (Black Mask) and another chapter of Joe Casey’s Sex #3 (Image Comics). This is Graphic Bits.
Other reviews…Don’t forget, each week we also feature other outstanding or high-profile issues in their own reviews. Check out full reviews for The Green Team – Teen Trillionaires #1 (DC Comics), The Bounce #1 (Image Comics) and Akaneiro #1 (Dark Horse) and Green Lantern #20 (DC Comics).
We hit the third chapter of Barbiere’s slice of retro adventure pie with the titular Fabian Gray suffering the effects of a “turn” for the worse. In his case, that means becoming some kind of unearthly creature. Gray is possessed by five literary ghosts that grant him special abilities when required, but it seems that those abilities are now slowly killing him. Fighting for his life, he finds himself in the forgotten city of Shangri-La, a place where he may yet find the cure to what ails him. This is still the stuff of pulp dreams, taking full advantage of the comic book format. This issue has all the hallmarks of the previous outing, although it is one that is more reflective in tone. Perhaps this is appropriate for this middle stage of the 5-part saga, although it is one that unfortunately slows the momentum of this ripping yarn down a tad. Yet it is also in keeping with the genre Barbiere is aping and mastering, and never falters in its character for an instant. While the entire saga will undoubtedly work wonders in a collected format, it is almost worth getting it every month simply for Chris Mooneyham’s idiosyncratic artwork. Mooneyham’s style conjures up visions of pulp book covers from the 1930s through 1950s, and maybe even takes the odd visual cue from Indiana Jones every now and then. Perhaps not a point to jump on at, but certainly one that will encourage you to go back and seek out the first two issues.
The first issue of Miniature Jesus didn’t just crack open a dark mind, it let us stew inside it for a time and feel its filth envelop us. We rejoin recovering alcoholic Chomsky, a man with a literal devil on each shoulder, just as the small deity of the title was brought to life in full view of a preacher and a child. It’s at this point that presumably ‘god’ reaches an outstretched hand through the heavens to touch the new life, destroying the church in the process. That’s when things start getting weird. Chomsky is soon blamed for the destruction by the local authorities, who reveal themselves to be creatures we’ve not previously encountered. Despite being a limited series, McKeever is in no particular hurry to get where he is going, content to keep us brewing in his nightmarish pastoral. While it goes at a much slower pace than the first issue, it never feels meandering, with everything on panel deliberately placed. His accompanying black and white artwork has a ‘rough’ quality to it (for want of a better word), which we described last month as having been almost etched directly into the page. The magazine style format of the publication gives the reading experience a quality that is tangibly different to reading any other book on the market, which is possibly the best way to describe this increasingly intriguing series.
Occupy Comics #1 – Black Mask, Various (writers/artists). Rating: ★★★★
The ‘occupy’ protest movement, and other associated anti-economic liberalisation networks, have impacted the globe in ways perhaps even they never intended. The language of the ‘1%’ and the ‘99%’ has become part of the media currency in discussing the disparity between rich and poor, although both terms are used in positive and negative lights and often twisted for self-serving purposes by the same media. Indeed, just this month, DC Comics released both The Movement and The Green Team, framing super heroics in these very terms. Occupy Comics is a Kickstarter funded anthology project that is self-described as “a time capsule of the passions and emotions driving the movement”. Rather than merely falling back on easy terms, it takes more of a grassroots approach to the movement. There are those stories that link the current politics to a history of political struggles, such as Joshua Fialkov and Joseph Infurnari’s “Homestead” and the Douglas Rushkoff/Dean Haspiel one-pager “Explotation: Our Noble Tradition”. J.M DeMatteis addresses the reader directly (via Mike Cavallaro’s art), with a simple message to “be kind”. Writer Matt Pizzolo and artist Ayhan Hayrula have one of the more interesting pieces, talking about how both the “Tea Party” and Occupy both began as populist movements, and were twisted by the media, or co-opted by the Right in the case of the former. There’s also Joshua Dysart and Kelly Bruce’s “Casino Nation”, breaking down for us the names and crimes of some of the architects of the global financial crisis, whose crimes go unpunished. Of course, the big drawcard for the movement was the participation of V for Vendetta creators Alan Moore and David Lloyd, whose Guy Fawkes mask has become a symbol of the movement. The artist delivers a double-page spread of his V (or possibly Guy Fawkes) bullfighting the symbol of Wall Street. In typical Moore fashion, his contribution is a 10-page prose piece, a potted history of “foment in the funnies and comics as counter-culture”. We haven’t even mentioned the pieces by Ben Templesmith, Art Spiegelman and Charlie Adlard yet. Occupy Comics puts its money where its mouth is, donating 100% of the monies received to people involved in the actual Occupy movement. If you want to support this important moment in history, or you just like reading a whole lot of great writers and artists in one place (the list of names is growing), then support this book and any of the subsequent ones that come out.
If for no other reason, Jose Casey’s Sex needs to be applauded for being unafraid to put the subject of most superhero comics front and centre in his dialogue with the genre. Dissecting what happens after the thrill is gone for former foes Simon Cooke and Annabelle LaGravenese, Casey’s narrative might as well be dealing with Batman and Catwoman hanging up their costumes, and with them the things that got them hot and passionate in the first place. Casey shifts his focus briefly to the less heroic types in Saturn City, giving us an idea of what the criminal underworld in this universe looks and smells like. It’s part of a meticulous world-building that has characterised this series from the beginning, mirroring the kind of tale that we would see from the larger epics Brian K. Vaughan creates. Intercutting Simon’s musings on how he has failed the city with graphic sex scenes, or in this case a masturbation sequence that super-charges the eroticism that series has already become known for, simply becomes another tool in Casey’s arsenal. As such, some of the initial rush of the first issue has been replaced with a degree of emotional distance between the work and the reader, although this never makes it any less than engaging. Kowalski’s art continues to impress, using light and shadow as his weapons, just as much as the understated colour spectrum that has become a signature of the series so far. Sex is a slow-builder, and one that we suspect will ultimately reward a reader with stamina and longevity.
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