Welcome to Short and Sweet (or Sour), where women who read comics write about the comics they’ve read. In our first outing, the lovely Claire Napier and I review some of the roughest and toughest comics out there, following hitmen, heroes, barbarians, and serial killers as they battle their way across the pages and into our hearts.
Bryce Carlson, Vanesa R Del Rey, Archie Van Buren
Ain’t nothing like a good noir, and to my eye the art is beyond reproach. Body shapes and language just exaggerated enough to make a point, no limb too swollen or clothing too bagged to take things beyond the sensible. The colours are fairly primary, but dirty – the application’s clean. That’s good. Vanesa R. Del Rey (she’s new! she’s got Billie Jean fan art on her tumblr!) and Archie Van Buren have style. Writer Bryce Carlson appears to be no slouch but calling a mother a slutty bitch within the first five pages and a preview blurb containing “WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT: HIT is a dark crime drama filled with murderers, rapists, and drug lords” makes me wonder if I really will ‘love it’. If Chandler can sell books without rape, can’t you?
Title: Suicide Risk #5
Mike Carey, Joelle Jones
The early pages are all a bit Jennifer Blood – then again, visible scenes and dialogue are so out of tonal sync with the narrative captions I feel I’m supposed to scorn the protagonist, not the people around her. I don’t really want to be in on that joke. ‘Downtrodden Ada’ could pass for Buffy at twenty-one despite having “watch[ed]her life fall apart in slow motion [for]decades now” but I like Joelle Jones’ art on Hailey – big devil’s eyes. Tommy Lee Edwards’ excellent I’m a dickhead – do you trust me? cover portrait of Jed drew my interest to the title in the first place. Storywise, It’s nice to see a woman talk to a woman and offer her help out of nowhere – maybe it’s a self-interested offer, but let’s take what we can get. And as for colour, intense light glowing from yellow at home to green at the grocery is atmospheric, oppressive, and puts me in mind of headaches. Ada probably has headaches. Well themed, Emilio Lopez.
Story byDrew Hayden Taylor, adapted by Alison Kooistra; art by Michael Wyatt
It’s been a play (A Contemporary Gothic Indian Vampire Story), a novel (The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel), and now it’s a graphic novel – I’m disappointed it’s not the prelude to an ongoing series. It had the air of scene setting, of beginnings. What could these people do next? How could they work with their problems? You have a vampire who’s seen three centuries around the world, you have a girl who’s spent sixteen years mostly on one reservation – they’re both Anishaabe (author Drew Hayden Taylor is Ojibwa) and their stories both turn on the three-point relationship between their desires, their Anishaabe identity, and the racial and cultural identities that make up their social circles. There’s some heavy stuff here – how ‘I want to live’ corresponds with ‘I want my life to be x’; the question of how much one should or might be willing to sacrifice in order to return to a circumstance in which one found security. Themes of suicide, please be warned.
I don’t feel like I read it, to be honest. I feel like I watched it. The anatomy is unstylised and the faces don’t appear unnaturally augmented – the people just look like real humans, not ‘comic book characters’. Make your own analysis of that. Backgrounds have enough detail to establish location and never distract from the narrative. The heavy shadows and thick linework are expressive and atmospheric, but I could go either way on the grey-to-darker grey ‘shading’ used behind the lines on some pages – despite the change in tone density they’re essentially flat – and the soft gradients used to give shine to hair. These give a hazy quality to the book that works better in the mind than it does on the eyes.
There’s a lot going on in this story, and every player has a sort of niceness-awfulness spectrum that suggests life outside its pages. I enjoyed reading it more than I thought I would: like I said, I’m just sad that this is all we get.
Jamie S. Rich with Mike Norton, Natalie Nourigat, Chynna Clugston Flores, Allen Passalaqua, Dave Stokes & CRANK!
It Girl, you talk too much. Quip less, avoid getting snuck up on more!
Reader, if you just wanna be like, superpowers are cool! Imagine what you could do if you had cool superpowers!!! then: this book is for you. And (super)power to ya. The fights & scrapes our protagonist gets into are fun because they are unlimited: It Girl is wrapped up by a stretchy guy? Well… what if she could turn into IRON?? She can, so she does, and the fight goes on. What if HE could also adapt similarly? Oh no! Yeah! Good times.
It Girl and her author are genre-savvy, and so is the audience: everyone’s in agreement. “Don’t worry too much about specifics. Let’s keep the pace up and make it fun. The day is saved with goats perhaps? Okay. More neat fights!”
With a half-time story about giant rodents vs wedding anniversaries and a midsection with a surprisingly creative villain & resolution (before the story continues, heading towards the next volume…), it’s a ride. Hop on.
Gail Simone and Walter Geovani
Big spoiler. Ready for it?
Red Sonja dies. That’s right, Gail Simone kills her title character in just the third issue, taking the audience down memory lane as Sonja recalls the experiences that led her to become the Red Devil she is in issues #1 and #2.
Red Sonja is a beautiful book. Walter Geovani is a sound artist who has been drawing and inking Red Sonja off and on since 2005 and I’m sure I don’t have to mention that Gail Simone lives and breathes dynamic female leads (Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Wonder Woman). That said, while the art and story are great, I’m worried that the book is already starting to feel predictable. The first two issues introduce us to a fierce character with an equally fierce foe but the whole sword/battle sisters angle is pretty standard for sword & sorcery type stories. That Sonja should fall by means other than Annisia’s battle axe is fairly unconventional but the rivalry established between the two feels old. It’s a story we’ve all heard before.
Sonja’s origin story is a familiar one: her family and village are cut down by raiders for sport and she, the lone survivor, must bury and avenge the dead. Her memories flash in and out as she tries to outrun death, comforted only by her horse and the appearance of a white stag that serves to bookend the life and death of Red Sonja.
Jeff Lindsay and Dalibor Talajic
Let’s take a deep breath and forget about the series finale of Dexter and focus on his comic book counterpart, shall we? Written by creator Jeff Lindsay (Darkly Dreaming Dexter), the comic falls more in line with the series of novels than with the TV show, though the comic doesn’t seem to coincide with any plots from the books I’ve read (through book four).
Issue #3 continues Dexter’s journey to find out why, after meeting his old high school bully at a reunion two issues earlier, his Dark Passenger is tingling like a Spidey-Sense. It probably has to do with the string of murders that are coming from said bully’s New Hope Foundation. However, Miami Metro is hot on the trail of not Steve Gonzalez but his right-hand man, former murderer Mr. Deveaux. And, after an unknown assailant tries to set Dexter and his sister, Deb, on fire, Deveaux’s modus operandi, our titular hero has to wonder if maybe his Dark Passenger is capable of being wrong.
After the last few disappointing seasons of Dexter, the show, reading a tale of Dexter at his darkest is the same thrill I got when reading Lindsay’s first novel. Cold, distant Dexter trying to solve a murder before his sister and the rest of the police so that he can get the culprit under his knife makes me feel just the right kind of excited and guilty.
Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas
Safe Haven is supposed to be a place to survive in the event of an apocalypse. However, before disaster can even strike, the death count is alarmingly high. The children of Safe Haven have, at the urging of Lucas, murdered all of the adults of the colony. Only Victoria and Hailey, who were away from the compound at the time, were not involved. Needless to say, upon discovering the crimes, the girls have fled to find true safety away from Safe Haven. Lucas has gained control of the compound, but the loyalties of his fellow survivors is wavering as more clues are found to implicate Lucas in something far more sinister.
Sheltered is an interesting concept right from the beginning. While there are hints as to a looming threat to humanity, as of issue #3, nothing has actually happened yet. Safe Haven is full of doomsday preppers but doomsday has yet to arrive. It leads to a lot of questions as to their real purpose for being in the compound. Brisson and Christmas really ratchet up the drama right away, making each flip of the page more engaging. The mysteries keep piling up and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.