Daily Archives: July 31, 2011

Book of the week 30: Chew 9 (and 10)

Yeah, my pick this week is old… Screw all that day-and-date shit, good comics are forever. They are all I need to please me, They can stimulate and tease me, They won’t leave in the night, I’ve no fear that they might desert me. Good comics are forever, Hold one up and then caress it, Touch it, stroke it and undress it, I can see every part, Nothing hides in the heart to hurt me…

Aaaaaaanyway, I resumed reading Chew this week and it blew me away:

Book of the week 30: Chew 9 (and 10) (Image comics)

Dear misters Layman and Guillory,

Thank you for the joy that is Chew. That was the most important thing I wanted to tell you. I got the first Chew trade for Christmas last year and really enjoyed it. While I moved on to single issues after that, I somehow never got past issue 8, despite the fact that I was loving the crap out of your series. After your winning of the Eisner for best continuing series last week (congratulations!), I decided to resume the reading of your series. Since there were a lot of other good comics I wanted to read this week (for reviews of which you have but to look below) I only read issue 9 and 10, finishing the second story arc ‘International Flavor’. These two issues though where the cream of my crop.

What I have wondered since the first issue of your series is whether or not your protagonist Tony Chew’s affliction of being a cibopathic is real? In the first issue you introduced the notion of someone gaining the experiences of whatever he or she eats. You have introduced this concept so convincingly that I started to look into it. While I think cibophatogy (or is it cibophathy?) is a fantastic gimmick to use in a story about police work, I have not been able to find any information on these cibophats. Strangely every google hit refers to sites about your series. This drives me banana’s!

I thought the mere use of cibopathics in your series was unique enough, but during the reading of the first trade I already realized you did not have all your eggs in one basket, and that virtually anything can happen in this book. This sets your title apart from many other currently published books, you really don’t know what twists and turns the story will take next. A good example of your unique characters is the mute chef, who can only communicate through cooking. You describe him as following: “A scholar and classicist, he has translated the complete works of Shakespeare into cuisine.” I understand that explaining the genial, surreal madness of this will not make it funnier, so let’s just leave it at that.

Praise however should not be exclusively reserved for the story itself, the way the story is told is also exquisite. You seem to refine the rules of the medium by such inventions as a page with three subsequent (and through caption boxes thusly addressed) cliffhangers.

Rob Guillory art from Chew 9 (Image comics).

Rob Guillory art from Chew 9 (Image comics).

And what about the art? While at first it may be estimated as ‘merely’ cartoony, upon further investigation it proves to be top notch cartooning in a most expressive way. Mister Guillory gets across emotions in his pencils as well as humor, drama and kick ass action scenes. From the last category I would like to point out the spread of Chew kicking in a door, gun ready, screaming: “Sheathe the fangs, motherfucker.

Rob Guillory art from Chew 10 (Image comics).

Rob Guillory art from Chew 10 (Image comics).

Issue 9 and 10 close out the arc where Tony investigates a small island nation that seems to have found the way around the worldwide chicken prohibition. His research however leads him to a conspiracy revolving around international chefs, chicken substitutes, a fighting cock and vampires. All the while he falls in love and his partner seems to be giving up his ass to cover for Chew? I hope we get to read some more about that…

To make a long story short: Thanks for the great comicbooking and congratulations on the Eisner. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your series and hope it keeps selling like hot cakes.

With kind regards,

Gerard van der Waal
1. Chew #9
Art: 9     Writing: 9,5         Overall: 9.3
2. Chew #10
Art: 9     Writing: 8,5         Overall: 8.8 

Runners up for week 30: Red Skull: Incarnate 1, Sweet tooth 23, Gladstone’s 3.

3. Red Skull: Incarnate #1 (Marvel comics)
Great, human, emotional. This book offers a serious origin for the man who would become Captain America’s greatest foe. While it coincides smartly with the release of the recent Captain America movie, this is not one of those throw-away, money grabbing movie tie-ins. Au contraire, for those familiar with Greg Pak’s Magneto testament, it’s clear that this series is a well researched documentation of fictional characters in a sadly non-fictional history. While the title characters of both books originate from brightly colored superhero comics, Pak’s World War Two titles are anything but colorful and do not contain superheroes (or anything fantastical for that matter). It tells the story of the young Johan Schmitt, who grows up in an orphanage in Germany at the time that Hitler’s NSDAP is gaining power. The kid is the victim of a terrible and violent life and before long starts to commit his own acts of violence… The story seems to be terribly historically accurate and rife with truthfulness. The only reason the writing is not perfect is because of the lack of resolution. This issue shows the first and a very terrible step to becoming a monster, but it doesn’t resolve enough or go into what comes next.
Art: 8           Writing: 9         Overall: 8.5

4. Sweet tooth #23 (Vertigo)
What to say about Jeff Lemire’s art? Other than that it’s mighty fine, it’s dark, moody and expressive and quite distinctive. I’m guessing a lot of mainstream comic readers are turned off by his style… …they are wrong. As to the story: While Gus and co finally find themselves in a safe place, tensions between the different individuals are rising to a boiling point. This leads to the characters having to make choices. Gus and Jepperd want to keep moving to Alaska, while the girls want to stay sheltered in the Dam. Meanwhile the professor sows seeds of distrust that are presumably based on the bible scribbles of Gus his dad. Screw X-men schism, if you want to read about a group of characters that gets torn apart because of circumstances, read Sweet tooth… I really admire the way that Lemire has woven a tail of postapocalyptic animal children, intense human drama and a conspiracy that reminds me of the Dharma Initiative.
Art: 8           Writing: 8,5      Overall: 8.3

5. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #3 (Image comics) Great original story and interesting set up with a worldwide (?) truce between superheroes and super villains. However, darkness is looming on the horizon because certain villains are rebelling and trying to break the armistice. This issue explains that the villains leave their kids under the impression that there is no truce until they’re seventeen. Interestingly though, we learn of two students of the supervillain academy that are tasked by their imprisoned parents to bring an end to the peace between heroes and villains. Just as last issue I’m immensely impressed by the world-building by creators Mark Andrew Smith and Armand Villavert. In just three issues they have set up a rich and believable world that plays with the usual superhero formula’s, but turns them upside down in a way that’s wholly new to me. And as a central plot device they use a school for supervillains with which they can tell the story through the kids’ eyes. Last time I compared Villavert’s art with Darrow and Kirby, while I still agree with that I think it’s more fitting to put him in the school of art that gave us the Luna brothers and Jamie MCCalvie: Very clean, stylized, illustrating. Again, the only (minor) problem is the lack of backgrounds. Otherwise this title has all the ingredients to follow the success of a series like Invincible… This may be my favorite new book!

Art: 8           Writing: 8         Overall: 8

Quick Shots for week 30: a league of mystery men and dinosaurs

6. Mystery men #3                                                                                     8
The cast is expanded with two more original pulp heroes, the Surgeon and Achilles. I especially enjoyed the origin of the Surgeon which was lean and short (just like golden age origins should be), maybe a bit contrived but told trough the tropes of pulp/noir genres it worked excellent. The artwork was a feast for the eyes once more. The creative team of Zircher andLiss keeps delivering masterful products.
7. Detective Comics #880                                                                         8
This one has the ultimate cliffhanger, plus a great setup of bait and switch… Good art, though I’m not very keen on Jocks Joker (except on the cover). Story: The Joker has escaped from Arkham, taking the spotlight off from James Gordon jr. who uses the opportunity to settle some old family business.
8. Super Dinosaur #3                                                                             7.9
A Tyrannosaurus Rex in mech gear on ski’s, in a basketball outfit and a jet plane outfit, what’s not to like? But this all ages book delivers more than cool gimmicks. Great art by Jason Howard, especially the full-page spreads were exquisite this time. The writing was fine but it’s the crazy big ideas (villain hq on top of a giant amphibious dinosaur, for instance) that are Kirkman’s biggest asset to this title.
9. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century. 1969                 7.8
This is written upon my first reading, I will probably enjoy it more after a second reading, which normally isn’t a problem, but it felt like a chore getting through this one. And admittedly I haven’t even started on the back matter yet.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t hat exceptionally good as the first issue in my opinion.  There wasn’t a ton of action or anything to move the story along, a lot of character moments though…  I liked the thinly veiled reference to the Stones and their sixties flirt with Satanism (the Mick Jagger  analogue is a vessel  for the transference of a black magician’s soul), I also like the way it portrayed the 60’s with drugs and naked chicks and even more naked guys around every corner. (Seriously if you object to seeing male genitalia stay away from this one.) I appreciated the art from a technical standpoint, I personally just don’t really like Kevin O’Neill’s style and in this issue the ’60’s art style didn’t work for me at al. I liked the dark, sketchy style in the 1977 epilogue much better. All in all, a bit of a letdown, beforehand I had expected that this would be my book of the week and maybe score a 10, at least in writing… It’s easy to keep in mind that this is but the middle act of a thee acter and that I’ve never disliked any of Allan Moore’s works.
10. FF #5                                                                                                    7.5
Good art by Barry Kitson, but it feels a little like a poor man’s version of Dale Eaglesham (the artist on the first couple of issues). Kitson is a great artist, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen him in action at a con. But certain panels just look a little ‘off’ . My favorite panel from this issue was the Thing holding a tiny tea-cup. Kitson get’s across a sense of proportion, which makes you wonder how Ben is holding the cup. The writing by Hickman is great. I especially enjoyed Susan being mad at Reed, something I can never get enough of. The best part of this book was the heart wrenching confession of Ben to his girl Alicia, that he feels guilty for taking the wonder serum which resulted in a great night with Alicia but also in Johnny’s Death…
11. Kirby Genesis #2                                                                                7.5
Solid art on by Jack Herbert and a little Alex Ross. However, almost straight out of the gates the story comes to a halt for a horrible and sudden breaking of the fourth wall. Ugh… Otherwise this book is utterly entertaining. It combines great visuals with a story that might be a bit cliché, yet both writing and art harkens back to the days of Kirby and comics that were fun, fun, fun! This issue contains a great spread of Kirby’s Sasquatch and a lot of Kirby’s character design’s that work remarkably well in the modern-day and age…
12. FF #6                                                                                                    7.5
I love this story for the big mythology that Hickman has built around the Inhumans and the Kree. The art was a total 360 from all the previous issues but it worked really well. This story explains why there are ‘alternative Inhuman’ or Kree strains and it does so very well and entertaining, the only problem is that it doesn’t really get to the point of how this plays into last issue where we see the return of king Blackbolt. Yes, we see Blackbolt awakening somewhere in ‘the rift’, but it doesn’t explain how he returns to the Inhumans. That’s a part of the story that should have been included in this issue.
13. Rocketeer Adventures #2                                                                7.3
I’m getting a bit tired of creator rights being referenced everywhere, I understand that a lot of the deals with big companies are unfair, and it’s a good cause for action, but stop filling our stories with them! It’s not like Kirby or Ditko are actually going to get richer over it… Otherwise fun stories and great art…
14. Flashpoint: Abin Sur #2                                                                  6.8
A great artist (which one?) begins and ends the book, the middle though is not very good. The story is not particularly strong, though sequentially it works fine. While not very special (or surprising) it tells the story of Abin Sur crash landing on earth and surviving, where after he joins Cyborg’s group of heroes. It ends with someone close to him attacking him to fulfill the flashpoint prophecy and change reality in his own way.
15. Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #2 6.5
Started out strong with art by Ibrahim Robertson, but halfway through we get rushed looking art by Alex Massaci which was really jarring. The story is an entertaining one of the monsters on a road trip, while they’re being followed by general Lane’s monster hunters. Nothing really special about this, but good storytelling and dialogues.

When a book by Allan Moore ends up nr. 9 on your list, it means you’ve read a lot of great books!