Category Archives: Hey, World! / Book Reviews

Hey, World! #3 Astro Boy & Pluto

I love Astro Boy. He’s so layered it’s insane. At first you just understand that he’s a great kid with a pure, adventurous, spirit. Did I say kid? I meant robot. But he’s got really great A.I. because he was build by Dr. Tenma. You know, to replace a son that he lost in a car accident. He’s also one of the greatest weapons the world has ever seen (can’t risk losing another son).  So I’m not sure if he’s a human or a robot, and that’s a line that frustrates Dr. Tenma enough that he’s sold to a circus. It’s cool though, Dr. Ochanomizu (or Dr. Elephant to some) rescues Astro (or Atom to some) and his sixty-year history begins. Saving people, stopping global conflicts, and rescuing pet dogs – what most pleasant kids get up to.

All of that is explained in less than thirty pages in the first volume of Astro Boy. It doesn’t get into any of the genius that Osamu Tezuka, the God of Manga, imparted to his most popular creation. Nothing about his star charts, or how he gave up a career as a doctor to draw, or how much he actually drew or…..I think we’ve touched the tip of the iceberg on this idea: I’m basically bowled over any time that I think of Astro Boy and his creator.

There’s little about Astro Boy that won’t appeal to a child, but what’s really a testament to his character is how well his earnestness can speak to adults too. Astro has the moral compass to decide what’s right, but more importantly he has the power to fight for his ideals. It’s not the teen-angst that is the fondation for so many superhero comics (I’m looking at you Spider-Man). There’s no toils over whether or not action should be taken. It’s simple: something bad is happening, and it will be stopped. That’s what Astro tries for. What makes Astro Boy stay with the reader even more: he doesn’t always win. Sometimes even the most advanced robot in the world is not enough to stand before the strength of a driven thief, or a corrupted governement. At home, he’s not even good enough for his own father. The fact that Astro, and those around him, can suffer real loss makes his story so much more powerful than the typical children’s story.

I don’t want to go too much longer, but take a look at the art when you can. Tezuka does this meticulous job making believable technologies, and mapping out the circuits and metal work that makes up Astro, and on the next page have characters barking like dogs, or cartoons intentionally in the way of a character monologuing.  Despite all of the planning that I know went into Astro, if Tezuka wants to say he’s broken? Tah-dah! A curley cue. What we’re made to accept by his cartoon shorthand never ceases to impress me.

If you want to learn more about Osamu Tezuka I recommend that you pick up The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga.

I’ve also been reading Pluto. One word: WOW. Pluto is the eight volume manga by Naoki Urasawa. I was initally hesitant of it, because I found it so different than Tezuka’s work. After reading through the first volume, I knew that I needed more. The biggest difference in Urasawa and Tezuka is the art. Urasawa has a beautiful style, but it’s far more realistic. There’s a page in volume four where the impact of this registered with me physically. Astro lands. We had seen Astro walking and talking, but actually seeing him going from mid-air to ground, drawn so much as a young boy? I reeled as it dawned on me that this is what Astro looks like to every character that I’d ever seen interact with him in a Tezuka comic. They had been cartoons before, and I understood the emotions behind the stories, the humor, but I never saw Astro as a real human before. Urasawa gave that to me. I was impressed before, but it was that moment that sealed the series as one that I would treasure.

Despite Urasawa taking Astro Boy to a whole new world, the way that I’ll always prefer him is as a cartoon. There’s more trust and energy in that Astro. Pluto is definitely not a story that relies on humor, not the way Tezuka does. As much as I love it, it could never look that real and still have characters have their dogs drive cars.

And I don’t think it could keep a straight face if it had to introduce my favorite aspect of Astro’s design:

Yup. Machine guns in his butt. I have no idea what the tactical advantage to this is, but I will forever think it is the most awesome thing.

Review: Power Girl Vol. 1 & 2

The Gray/Palmiotti/Conner run on Power Girl is something that I’ve heard about since the start of the run in 2009. It’s been wildly celebrated, and now I see why.

These twelve issues are jam-packed with great stories, a strong heroine, and a touch of silver age that helps the comic emanate charm.

I heard about different premises for issues, like an alien seeking out Power Girl to mate with her (I am seriously under-selling its excellence) and another tale in which she is hoodwinked into accompanying a prepubescent boy to a comics shop. I tried to convince myself that those stories couldn’t be as fun as they sounded, but they really were.

I took all of the advanced praise to mean that it would be a perfect comic for me, but that isn’t completely accurate. There were girls everywhere. First off, I should mention that that is very refreshing. At the same time, those women seemed pretty two dimensional. There were the bad girls from another planet and the cute and infallibly-innocent protege. Shopping and jewelry and accessories were on the top of every girls list. Except the enemy, but she just seemed to have perverse sexual habits, so I wouldn’t look to her as a saving grace. Maybe with more than a 12 issue run I would have seen more to the ladies featured, but as it is, I would take more personality with my Power Girl.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the twinge of silver age that came with the story. It wasn’t campiness, but there was certainly a levity to the comic that I wasn’t expecting. I usually like my comics to be either one end of the spectrum or the other, very immersed in the silliness that the Golden and Silver Age can hold, or more true to life, with more risks at stake. There were few times during Power Girl where I really felt the pressure of the situation.

You know what that did? It really helped the strenuous moments shine. I found myself easily glossing over the troubles of a city plummeting to the Earth, but then my throat clench up when side characters were in trouble. When Gray and Palmiotti wanted my attention, they had it. Mix the rest of the comic with great moments of Power Girl’s business, every day problems, and her stinky cat?

I said it before, but this comic really did charm me.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the astounding Amanda Conner. Hands down a comic artist that I want to emulate. And yes, I say that a lot but when I think of Amanda Conner’s work, I think, “This is what comic books should look like.” I love strong lines that still have enough flexibility that you can squeeze a huge range of expressions from them. Amanda Conner is one of those artist that I’ll take the time to copy off of. Her, Stuart Immonen and Humberto Ramos are tops in my book.

Coincidentally, it’s Amanda Conner’s birthday! To celebrate, Andy Khouri at Comics Alliance posted a pin-up gallery of her work. You’d really be doing yourself a favor if you wandered over.

 

 

Hey, World! #2 Scalped

Creators Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: R.M. Guera and various guests

Age Rating: R

Where to Buy

What a fantastic series. That’s right, this isn’t a one-and-done graphic novel, but one of those proud floppies that comes out every month. Scalped is quite a far cry from Spider-Man. It’s tells the tale of life on an corrupt Indian reservation and there’s no characters story that isn’t worth hearing.

The book leads off with telling us about Dashiell Bad Horse, a man just as bad ass as his name makes him sound. Coming home after being off the reservation for so long means dealing with a lot of changes. Those changes, mostly negative, are thanks to the dealings of Red Crow. A mob boss that would make Capone proud, Red Crow is one of the most complex comic characters in comics, which makes for a fascinating read.

Then again, that’s what Jason Aaron does. There is no character in Scalped that you’re not dying to know more about. The plot is more involved than I outlined here, but I don’t want to give anything away. Just know, Aaron puts out a dang fine story. I think the best example of this was issue #35 (pictured above). The story in this issue is completely independent of the series. It’s about an older couple that lives on the fringes of the reservation.

Two never before heard of characters. 22 pages. I was in tears by the end.

It doesn’t seem to matter who Jason Aaron is writing about, it will punch you in the gut.

When it comes to the art? Fantastic. It is so much it’s own thing. Comics never look like Scalped. Which is fitting, because there really are no comics like Scalped. The world that Guera pens is realistic but so driven by mood and color. Depending on the composition of a page, Guera can really hit you emotionally. Framing in empty doorways, long shots with one character, different point of views, it really is just the best artwork to drive Aaron’s writing home.

Scalped is one of the most powerful series I’ve ever read. It has every “What the-?!” moment a good comic needs, but doesn’t depend on tights to sell itself. It’s story does that all by itself.

Find more of Guera’s work here.

You can follow Jason Aaron’s blog, his weekly column, or catch other titles he’s working on. My current favorite? Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine. Pitting those two against eachother in a romp through time has been awesome.

Hey, World! #1: Tommysaurus Rex

Creator: Doug TenNapel

Age Rating: PG

Where to Buy

To kick off the first Hey, World!, I’m going to start with what I frequently refer to as my favorite comic book: Tommysaurus Rex. If you told me a couple of Christmases ago that the  100-odd page book in the 1/2 off bin was going to be my favorite, well, I probably would have laughed at you. I go bargain diving in that bin not because those comics are diamonds in the rough, but because they get me laughing for completely different reasons.

Despite where I found it, Tommysaurus Rex is an endearing story that I have fallen madly in love with.

Ely is a kid facing his first real hardship: the death of his dog. It’s a hard road to go down for any young dog owner. Some things that can help a kid get over that kind of loss are loving parents, a fun grandfather, and discovering a T-Rex trapped in a cave. Because this story channels awesomeness, Ely and his prehistoric pet become fast friends. There are all the growing pains of owning a t-rex to deal with. Really, when was the last time that you considered how big t-rex poo is? As much fun as they have, it’s not all paradise for Ely and Tommy. Tommy causes some problems, but the real pain is the local bully that won’t leave Ely alone.

100 pages doesn’t seem like enough space to deal with all this, but Doug TenNapel does an amazing job delivering a very satisfying story. An expressive cartoony style laden with heavy inks brings all the humans to life. Tommy is no less animated, but his design looks a little more real, which helps you believe that Ely really is pals with a T-Rex. I’ll never get enough of Mr. TenNapel’s style. I remember when I first read through this I was blown away by how easy Tommy looked. So many comic artists are great with humans, but animals come off more stale. Not with Tommy. He sat, jumped, flexed, and expressed. It seems small, but it’s not something everyone can do, and it completely floored me.

I also have a great appreciation for stories that are for kids, but deal with serious issues. I really believe in children’s comics as a powerful medium. There’s no reason to dumb down emotional moments for kids. Kids live in the real world too, and I love it when authors respect kids enough to let their comics go to serious places. Doug TenNapel, as usual, holds nothing back.

Obviously I need to own up to a slight biased. A book that celebrates the best of dogs with the best of dinosaurs? Yeah, that’s a book that I can do nothing but fawn over. Despite my favoritism, I’d like to point you to not just Tommysaurs Rex, but to any of Mr. TenNapel’s works. He’s published numerous graphic novels that are usually at least a twinge science fiction, but are always steeped in a real human story. I’ve never been disappointed.

And if it’s a hard time to shell out the cash? Perfect timing. He just started a webcomic: Ratfist. You can get a solid sampling of what this master creator has to offer.

_____________________________________________________________________

Here we go! Seventy-one posts and this is the first one not to have any of my sketches burden it. Sorry if you don’t stop by this lil’ ol’ site for words, but you’re gonna have to blame the world of comics for this slight change in programming.

‘Cause this week? Comics were awesome.

I should be more specific, comic creators were awesome, and top of that list was Skottie Young. A little post entered my RSS from the stalwart Mr. Young that spoke of the need to share what we love about comics, instead of just complaining.

I. Loved. That.

Quickly it was a sentiment I heard echoed all over the internet. Steve Niles had a similar proclamation, saying, “If you like something, tell your friends. If you love it, tell the world.” Eric Powell expressed support for creator owned books in a more graphic, albeit funny way. I even read an almost begrudging post from Scott Wegener, saying that he’d try to do his part too.

As is the nature of any public media, you’re going to hear a range of harsh criticism and adoring love from the commenting fans. It seems that lately the conversation has been more negative then positive. Whatever faults the comic industry may or may not have, it is something that I wholeheartedly believe in. I love comics, and whether they are the butt of jokes or an exalted art form I will draw them till I die. Or till my right hand, then left hand, then feet fail me. I could try with my lips too….

Either way, turning towards the Comics Media this week was so encouraging. It wasn’t just the blogosphere that was calling for a cease fire, it was this litany of creators, that I very much respect, that asked us to lay down our arms.  Instead, get constructive. Talk about what you love. It was that simple.

For a long time I’ve wanted to emulate my favorite news sites. All I do with my free time is either read, draw, or read about what comics are being drawn. I ingest all of this information, and I’ve felt like I should be able to do something with it. I hesitated because my posts would have been late news, regurgitation of other articles, or at best, sophomoric observations. If I was going to put down my pencil on my ART website, it better be because I could stand behind the words I was writing.

Mr. Young gave me an easy way out: he was going to take the time to write about one book he loved per week. You know what? I can do that too.

So, long round-up short, that is why Hey, World! #1 comes to you today. If I can, I’ll post one every Monday and keep the review to about 500 words. I fully intend to butcher and bore with these early reviews, but I can only go up from rock bottom. Unlike most reviews, there’s no need to give ratings because any Hey, World! book is a ten out of ten as far as I’m concerned. Right or wrong, that is the entire point. I’m going to tell you about comic books that I love. As a dinosaur-loving, weakness-for-puns, cartoon-lovin’ gal, I expect that many of my favorites will not be your favorites. That’s okay. I’m still going to keep sharing, ’cause guess what?

I love comics.