Short & Sweet: Winter Witches

Today we’re catching up on some older comics: Red Sonja, Rocket Girl, TMNT and more!

thoughts on a winter morningThoughts On A Winter Morning
Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber
MonkeyBrain Comics

Man, I love the internet. And I especially love the move towards digital distribution of comics. Without MonkeyBrain and Comixology, I would never have had a chance to read this excellent, autobiographical short.Thoughts is an eponymous story, a snapshot memoir of a walk Busiek took, ten days after the birth of his daughter Sidney. It’s about how the world changes after a first snow; how the world changes when you become a parent; how the world changes, full stop; and the subjectivity of how we experience it all. It’s a simple story, cleanly and clearly rendered, and an old one. But Busiek and Lieber make it fresh. The crisp blue palate and clean, expressive pencils are perfectly suited to the easy pace of Busiek’s musings. This is exactly the cold, clear air of a winter day after the snow. It’s also the dreamy ease of memory. Everything looks different when you become a parent, of course, and of course we know that–but while there’s nothing new in the insight, Thoughts delivers a perfect oh snap, of recognition–realizing again something you already know. I love short stories, and I really enjoyed this one, but I didn’t want it to end. Just, come on Kurt, keeping talking. Keep drawing, Steve.

— Megan Purdy

rocket girl #3Rocket Girl #3
Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder

For the record, I totally called the interrogation room scene, though the real meat and potatoes of the story takes place in a flashback to 2013. I just wanted you all to know that I was right. Kind of.

Anyway, the plot just keeps thickening with each issue of Rocket Girl but, thankfully, even as the mystery gets heavier, other pieces of the puzzle are being uncovered for the reader. Dayoung Johansson, the time-traveling titular Rocket Girl, knows that if she succeeds in her mission, the entire world as she knows it very well might disappear. But, of course, just because she knows something doesn’t mean that it is necessarily true. In fact, if the thugs of Quintum Mechanics of 2013 are to be believed, the Rocket Girl has bitten off a lot more than she can chew.

This is a fun book, if maybe a little gimmicky-feeling. But maybe it’s only gimmicky-feeling because Brandon Montclare is feeding the story at his own pace, and, while the story is unfolding, the rest of the pages are filled with 80s references or flashbacks to a 2013 that those of us who have lived through 2013 know is not the one we’re familiar with. That said, I am enjoying it as a concept, and those 80s references always make me chuckle. The piano-keys neckties and outbursts of The Final Countdown are worth it, even if the story feels a little slow at times.

red sonjaRed Sonja #6
Gail Simone and Walter Geovani

The first arc to Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja has come to a close with issue 6, and I have to say, I’m pleased overall. I was a little skeptical with the first few issues, worried that it was going to be a standard barbarian-type story with standard barbarian-type twists and turns, but I should have known Simone wouldn’t do that to us. Her whole raison d’être is to flip the expected onto its head, and she does that quite wonderfully with Red Sonja.

This book does have a lot of what you might expect for the final issue of a story arc: the two enemies/sword-sisters face off for a death match that will change the shape of their histories forever, an old enemy reveals the source of the plague that’s been perhaps the true villain of the story, and Sonja metes out justice in true barbarian fashion. There’s laughter, there’s tears, and there’s rolling heads. What more could you want from a Red Sonja book?

Walter Geovani’s art is crisp and beautiful, bringing Simone’s words to life. You can see the tracks of tears, the lines of scars, and a huge range of emotion in every character, making every page a delight. Together, these two have created a very real-feeling world that I know I’ll be spending a lot of time with as long as this series goes on. I never would have imagined liking this series before, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. I might have become a life-long Red Sonja fan.

tmnt 29Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #29
Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, Tom Waltz, and Ross Campbell

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about what a great series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, but it’s still worth talking about. After nearly 30 issues, I’m still as attached to the series as I was with the first comic. But who doesn’t love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Between the original comics series, the many cartoon series, this run, and the comic based on the animated series, the Turtles have a huge, huge fanbase of all ages and backgrounds.

This series definitely caters to fans of the original series and, to a lesser degree, the movies fans. It’s a darker, more gritty tale that reboots many of the classic elements found in both the comics and the movies. This new arc begins the story of the Ninja Turtles’ time in Northampton, Ma., where they, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones flee a too-hostile New York City that has fallen into the Shredder’s hands to recoup after the events of their last story arc. They are settling into a quieter lifestyle where they can recover and train in peace. However, a little part of New York has followed them into the countryside.

The story has always been great, if slow. It’s #29 and we’re only into the third (maybe fourth) arc of the series. There are times when I appreciate the time taken to tell the story, but a year to tell one facet of an ongoing can be wearisome. I can only hope that the slower lifestyle of Northampton doesn’t drag the plot further. Art, for this issue, is half and half. I love the way the Turtles look, but the human characters are a little weirdly shaped. If the rest of the arc drawn by Ross Campbell focuses on the Turtles rather than the O’Neils and Casey, it will be all right, but I’m worried about the human element of the story for the first time in my comics-reading career.

–Kristi McDowell

CourtneyCrumrinVol5Courtney Crumrin: The Witch Next Door
Not out til April
Ted Naifeh
Oni press

Courtney Crumrin volume five is a very dimensional book. Art-wise, there’s a lot of space created inside the world we’re looking in on; it’s a very, very professionally executed comic. At first glance, I took Courtney’s noselessness for useless cutesy stylisation covering a lack of artistic confidence, but joke’s on me, I was wrong. Everybody else has a nose, an interesting nose that suits their face, and Courtney’s lack makes her unnerving and otherworldly–undercut by, yeah, the emoticon cuteness of a wee girl with no nose. It’s effective. Courtney isn’t something (I mean … someone) you can be sure of. That’s evidenced again and again and again, and it doesn’t cut down on our emotional connection to her, or our hope that, in the end, she’s “an OK kid.” Even as it demolishes the concept.

It’s a book of big dilemmas as well as big spaces, and it’s basically all about ethics. I’m enormously enthusiastic about that. I didn’t expect interpersonal observations to be so sharp; I didn’t expect the backstories to be uncompromising. We’re shown the characters from their own and others’ perspectives, and stories from multiple recollections; we are the eyeball of God and we see everything.

The only disappointment is the ending. I was hoping for anything but that; it feels too easy, and I’ve seen it before. Is the book worth it anyway? EMPHATICALLY YES.

— Claire Napier

Kristi McDowell

Kristi McDowell

Comics, cats, and (red velvet) cakes enthusiast. What she lacks in social skills she makes up for with pop culture trivia. When she’s not writing her wildly popular blog, Pop Culture Sushi, she’s editing the independent ongoing series Autumn Grey and working on her own mini-series, debuting this fall. She may also, instead, be playing more Fallout 3 than is frankly acceptable. She’s played in a rock band, worked in a comic book shop, and knows enough karate to fight crime – if only she could settle on a theme that goes with pink. No flamingos.That is to say, she has a tenuous grasp of reality and the audacity to think that someone actually cares about what she has to say.