Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Archive for the 'Reviews – Oni Press' Category

For Better or Norse

Posted by Don MacPherson on 16th March 2013

Variant coverVariant coverHelheim #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Joelle Jones
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Ed Brisson
Cover artists: Joëlle Jones (regular)/Jones & Chuck BB (variants)
Editor: Charlie Chu
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

I couldn’t get into Brian Wood’s Northlanders. My wife watched the first couple of episodes of Vikings on the History Channel recently, and I was bored. Stories of Norse warriors have rarely held my attention in the past, but when Helheim was announced, I couldn’t help but take note of it. Sure, the genre may not have been my thing in the past, but I’m a fan of writer Cullen Bunn’s work on The Sixth Gun, and Joëlle Jones has never disappointed with her artwork. So I took the plunge into blood-soaked snows from centuries ago once again, and the result was… exactly the same. I just can’t connect with this subject matter, with these characters. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just not something that appeals to me, at least not in terms of plot. The art here, on the other hand, was thoroughly impressive, and not only in terms of design and mood. Helheim represents a significant departure for Jones. The style here is different, the detail more meticulous. She shows us something new, and that’s always interesting to see. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sibling Rivalry

Posted by Don MacPherson on 9th June 2012

Crogan’s Loyalty original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Chris Schweizer
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $14.99 US

This is the third in what’s planned as a long series of graphic novels, and it stands out as the very best in the run thus far. It’s a testament to writer/artist Chris Schweizer’s storytelling ability that he’s able to grab my attention and never let go with these pieces of historical fiction, as history’s never been one of my greatest areas of interest. But he does an excellent job of conveying history — a small corner of the American Revolution in this case — and what impressed me more was how well balanced his approach to the subject matter is. The historical plot isn’t a matter of the good guys versus the bad guys. There are multiple sides, all with their own moral justifications for their actions. Mind you, the open-minded approach to the history wouldn’t be nearly as compelling if the whole story wasn’t built on a strong foundation of a relationship between siblings that’s thoroughly relatable. Ultimately, the “loyalty” referred to in the book’s title flows from the two central protagonists’ loyalty to their cause, to their moral centres and, most importantly, their loyalty to one another despite their differences. This is a pitch perfect graphic novel, combining adventure, drama, a sense of irreverence and a familial dynamic that allows readers to connect to the extreme circumstances of war. Read the rest of this entry »

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D.B. and the Bear

Posted by Don MacPherson on 14th March 2012

The Secret History of D.B. Cooper #1
Writer/Artist/Colors: Brian Churilla
Letters: Ed Brisson
Cover artists: Churilla (regular)/J.H. Williams III (variant)
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

It’s an interesting week in comics, with some high-profile debuts. Marvel’s capitalizing on the buzz leading up to its Avengers with the launch of yet another Avengers title, with an A-list creative team, and tongues are wagging over the stellar work writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples have to offer in the first issue of Saga from Image Comics. I’m a bit concerned, though, this opening salvo in a new Oni Press project might fly under people’s radar, and if so, it’s a shame, because it’s a spectacular new comic stemming from a creator’s singular vision and effort. The Secret History of D.B. Cooper is wildly entertaining read. It’s goofy and grotesque, mysterious and manic. Writer/artist Brian Churilla uses a fascinating footnote in history as a launching pad for a surreal adventure full of international espionage and monster hunting, complete with a teddy-bear sidekick. The creator’s vision for this incarnation of D.B. Cooper strikes me as a cross between Parker (the hero of Richard Stark’s novels and Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novels) and Hellboy. Fans of such comics as The Goon, Chew and Butcher Baker will kick themselves if they miss out on this strong new entry in serial comics storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Flashback: Union Station

Posted by Don MacPherson on 16th December 2011

The comics industry has lost some greats in recent days, and many are still eulogizing Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon online. They’re also mourning the passing of artist Eduardo Barreto, and justifiably so. The former two talents were well into their golden years, and as someone who started reading comics as a kid in the late 1970s, I really wasn’t exposed that much to their work (though evidence of their legacies were ever-present in the comics I was reading). But Barreto was a different story. I was quite familiar with his work thanks to his stalwart efforts in the 1980s on such comics as New Teen Titans v.2, Superman and Batman. I’d later thrill over his contributions during the 1990s, notably Superman: Speeding Bullets.

As a tribute to a skilled comics artist who provided so many wonderful moments of entertainment and escapism, I’ve decided to rerun a review from my days on The Fourth Rail — a review of a 2003 original graphic novel he crafted with writer Ande Parks: Union Station. Read the rest of this entry »

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Burn Notice

Posted by Don MacPherson on 22nd August 2011

Spontaneous #s 1 & 2
Writer: Joe Harris
Artist/Cover artist: Brett Weldele
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US each

Joe Harris was once one of Marvel’s go-to guys for various projects, and in addition to a lot of work on various X-titles, he might be best known (in comics, anyway) as the writer for Spidey spin-off Slingers. But sometime in the 1990s, his name disappeared from the credits of Marvel titles. His name popped up elsewhere, in DC, Image and Dark Horse titles, but more recently, he’s kind of reinvented himself as a suspense writer with small, indy-flavored publisher Oni Press. Ghost Projekt was well-received last year, and I expect this new title will capture readers’ interest as well. Spontaneous is a bit of an odd mix. There’s a pervading, unsettling feeling throughout the storytelling, as we learn of a horrific doom that awaits certain victims while we also get to know the damaged protagonist, but there are also sillier moments. It’s like The X-Files with a dash of The Goonies thrown in for good measure. The thing about this book really interests me but also frustrates me a bit is the supporting player, the intrepid would-be journalist that’s entertaining but not necessarily believable. Read the rest of this entry »

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Post-Traumatic Stress New Order

Posted by Don MacPherson on 24th June 2011

Resurrection Volume One trade paperback
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: David Dumeer, Douglas Dabbs & Justin Greenwood
Colors: Dan Jackson
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Additional material: Pat Bollin, Robbi Rodriguez, Dominike Stanton, Brandon Graham, Christos Gage & Jon Proctor
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $24.99 US

Given that the Green Lantern movie has been playing in cinemas for a week now, it’s probably how most comics fans have had (or will get) a taste of Marc Guggenheim’s work this month, as he’s the co-writer of the screen story and screenplay. It looked like I wouldn’t get a chance to get to the theatre for a while, so it seemed to me that the time had come for me to finish reading this creator-owned work of Guggenheim’s and to jot down my thoughts about the book. Read the rest of this entry »

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The No. 1 Graphic Novel for Little Lambs

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th March 2011

Ivy original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Sarah Oleksyk
Editor: Charlie Chu
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $19.99 US

My local comics retailer brought this book to my attention, noting that he thought it was the sort of thing I’d enjoy, based on past purchases I’d made and discussions we’d had. The book design was certainly appealing, as was its pedigree — Oni Press releases are always of interest to me. When I got the book home and started to make me way through it, though, I thought at first maybe this wasn’t the book for me. With my 40th birthday not that far behind me, I suppose I’m officially middle aged, and I couldn’t imagine how I’d be able to relate to a teenaged, female protagonist with an attitude problem and a passion for art. I set the book aside after reading a few pages and only recently came back it. To my surprise and pleasure, I soon discovered that I could relate to the title character. I didn’t see my own teenage years reflected in her, though, but rather moments from my 20s and 30s, oddly enough. Judging from comments in the introduction, Sarah Oleksyk is an accomplished comics creator, but this served as my introduction to her work. It’s strong, honest and at times visceral. The glimpse she provides into one girl’s dysfunction and process of maturation isn’t at all predictable, which makes it all the more interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

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Here Today, Oregon Tomorrow

Posted by Don MacPherson on 5th November 2009

Stumptown #1
“The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist/Cover artist: Matthew Southworth
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

Writer Greg Rucka isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel with this latest creator-owned project. Fans of his work will recognize his heroine Dex Parios. Maybe not her name or face, but the archetype. Rucka clearly has a fascination with the strong but flawed female investigator character type. It’s easy to see such Rucka-associated characters as Renee Montoya, Bridget Logan, Carrie Stetko and others in Dex. This new feisty private eye even appears to be gay, making it even easier to compare her to Montoya (whom Rucka has written for years, from Gotham Central to 52 to Detective Comics). Nevertheless, the familiarity of the archetype doesn’t detract from the compelling characterization and engrossing mystery. Rucka has teamed with an artist whose style is akin to others with whom the writer has collaborated on crime comics in the past, so not surprisingly, the two creators’ approaches mesh nicely. Stumptown is as fascinating as Queen and Country, Rucka’s last creator-owned title for Oni Press, but it’s even more grounded. I’d only learned about this title this week, having missed any previous announcement, but I’m thrilled with the discovery. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shot Through the Heart

Posted by Don MacPherson on 19th April 2009

You Have Killed Me original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist/Cover artist: Joelle Jones
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $19.95 US

This upcoming project has been on my radar since its announcement. That it was crafted by the same creative team as 12 Reasons Why I Love Her. Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones delivered an excellent romance/slice-of-life story with that graphic novel, and with this new project, they turn their attention to another genre. As the title suggests, You Have Killed Me explores some slightly darker territory. Rich and Jones embrace the film-noir private-eye story with this book. As I began reading, I worried that their take might come off as derivative or even corny. To my relief and pleasure, they do right by the genre. Jones’s art is as attractive as ever, and not just because she captures seductive silhouettes. She captures the historical backdrop for this piece of fiction incredibly well, but she never goes so far as to strive for a photorealistic approach in her linework. There are a couple of intriguing mysteries to be found in this book, as well as a colorful array of characters and a tribute to a cultural history that’s been left behind but is rightly remembered. Read the rest of this entry »

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Avast Ye Maties

Posted by Don MacPherson on 14th February 2009

Crogan’s Vengeance original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Chris Schweizer
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $14.95 US

When this book was first released a few weeks ago, I thumbed through its pages quickly and initially didn’t think much of creator Chris Schweizer’s artwork, so I set it back on the shelf at the comic shop. The publisher sent along a review copy a short while later, and I’m relieved, because otherwise, I would have missed out on one of the most fun, well-plotted and quirky graphic novels of 2008. Schweizer offers an action-packed story full of charismatic and oddly charming rogues. Fans of the pirate genre, which has enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years, won’t be disappointed by this book. And that artistic style that I found initially off-putting? Closer examination opened my eyes to sharp, effective and colorful character designs and a style that really conveys the non-stop kinetic, fluid movement that makes for such an exciting adventure. Crogan’s Vengeance isn’t quite an all-ages book, but it comes close. Tween and teen readers will enjoy it, as will their parents. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pilgrim Age

Posted by Don MacPherson on 5th February 2009

Scott Pilgrim, Volume 5: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Editor: Randal C. Jarrell
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $11.95 US

God, I’m so fucking old.

This week’s release of the latest episode of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s pop-culture fantasy series is already cause for celebration throughout the industry, and O’Malley seems poised to be one of the big stars and stories of this weekend’s New York Comicon. His Scott Pilgrim books have been almost universally praised as genius, as a breakthrough concept and as a success, both in terms of storytelling and sales. I definitely see the appeal. This book, like the others before it, is irreverent, frenetic, ambitious and kind of sweet at times as well. And while I enjoyed it, I have to be honest: I don’t completely get Scott Pilgrim. And I think it’s ’cause I’m so fucking old. At least, that’s how I felt as I read Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe. Of course, it doesn’t help that a birthday last month left me just two years shy of 40. (My wife tells me I’m not old, but her assertion is easily dismissed as she needs to believe I’ll be vital father figure to our yet-to-be-conceived children.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Once Upon a Time, In the Great White North…

Posted by Don MacPherson on 1st December 2008

The Annotated Northwest Passage hardcover collected edition
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Scott Chantler
Editors: Randal C. Jarrel, James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $19.95 US

The theme here is history, and I’m not just talking about this collection but about this review as well. This hardcover collection of Scott Chantler’s series of Northwest Passage original graphic novellas was released last year, and I should have reviewed it some time ago. Sadly, I did have a review half-written a while back but then lost the thumb drive on which I’d saved it. I set the book aside for a while, but I happened upon it again recently. I gave it a second read, and I was reminded of the strength of the storytelling, the attractive simplicity of the artwork and the ambition behind the epic scope of the tale. I must also admit a certain fondness for the material stems from it being set in Canada (or least in locales that would eventually become Canada). Chantler’s proven his skill with historical fiction before with such books as Days Like This and Scandalous, but Northwest Passage is a cut above. Perhaps one might suggest it’s a more compelling story because it’s full of action and adventure, but really, the even stronger sense of history and larger-than-life qualities of the characters are what grabs the reader’s attention and never lets go. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homecoming

Posted by Don MacPherson on 11th June 2008

Local #12
“The House That Megan Built”
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist/Cover artist: Ryan Kelly
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $2.99 US

It’s been almost three years since this 12-part limited series got underway, and such a sporadic publishing schedule can be frustrating. I suspect that if other Local readers are like me, though, they’ll easily forgive the slow pace given the strength of the storytelling and characterization in each and every issue. The series as a whole has been primarily about Megan McKeenan’s travels all over North America, as she runs from her past and present, desperately looking for a future and for herself. Appropriately, the series ends with a homecoming. This is a fitting, perfect conclusion. The philosophy behind this ending and Megan’s story as a whole is one I agree with wholeheartedly, so Wood’s plot resonates. And Ryan Kelly’s art conveys the universal qualities of Megan’s life and the details that help to convince the reader of the reality of this fiction. It’s disappointing to see this series come to a close, but we fans can rest easy. Wood and Kelly’s new graphic novel — The New York Four from DC’s Minx imprint — is due out next month. Read the rest of this entry »

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Maine Attraction

Posted by Don MacPherson on 8th April 2008

Salt Water Taffy Vol. 1 original graphic novel
“The Legend of Old Salty”
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Matthew Loux
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: Randal C. Jarrell
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $5.95 US

I’m a dude in his late 30s. While I’m engaged, I have no kids. I am far from the target audience for this book, which is aimed at younger readers. Nevertheless, creator Matthew Loux has crafted a charming story full of small-town magic, celebrating a simpler existence and the innocence of youth. I was quite taken with the characters, the premise and the relationships that serve as a strong foundation for the story. Loux brings the fantasy and personality of Jeff Smith’s Bone and mixes it with a light, all-American coming-of-age story. There’s an odd mix of cute and surreal elements in the story that’s heartening and surprisingly involving. Loux manages to offer a thoroughly sweet, wholesome and playful story of adventure, mystery and weirdness without crossing the line into sickeningly sweet, overly saccharine territory. Loux’s angular yet fluid style seems pretty urban in tone, but it conveys the rural, peaceful backdrop with seeming ease. This is an adorable little book, and it actually lives up to the label “all ages,” normally associated with comics that are really just for kids alone. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grand Theft Pyro

Posted by Don MacPherson on 12th December 2007

Courtney Crumrin & the Fire Thief’s Tale original graphic novella
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Ted Naifeh
Editors: Joe Nozemack & James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $5.95 US

Creator Ted Naifeh takes his readers back into the world of a young witch with attitude and her wise uncle/mentor, and once again, he offers up an entertaining, cute and fantastic story with just a touch of a dark edge to help set it apart from other, similar fare. What allowed this particular Courtney Crumrin story to stand out is the unusual structure of the plot and how it intertwines with a story within the story. Though the title character gets involved in the plot itself at a couple of points, she’s really more of a host for a well-crafted story of love, myth and horror. While the supernatural elements bring color and flair to the tale, Naifeh’s script is ultimately about how people are petty, irrational and frightened of the unknown. Naifeh’s dark designs are simple but thoroughly effective in bringing a gothic, eerie quality into play while also maintaining a hint of youthful energy and innocence, mirroring Courtney’s personality perfectly in ever panel of the book. Read the rest of this entry »

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