Monthly Archives: September 2008

A Couple of Candles

As the site reaches its second anniversary today, achieving the milestone has an ever-so-subtly bittersweet taste. As I look back on what I’d accomplish at the one-year mark, I realize my output for Eye on Comics during its second year was down significantly. I’d put together 200 posts in the first year, while the past 12 months have seen a little more than half that number of reviews, editorials and features.

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Cooke Book

Retroactive: Darwyn Cooke 1998-2008 hardcover
Artist/Cover artist: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: Brandstudio Press

One of the hottest items at this past summer’s Comic-Con International San Diego was Darwyn Cooke’s new art book, Retroactive. It’s my understanding that the print run was limited to 1,000 copies and that Cooke sold out of the 500 copies he brought with him to the convention. I was unable to attend the San Diego con this year, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy thanks to my local direct-market comics retailer. I’m not usually one for comics art books. I tend to be more focused on the stories and characters in comics over the visuals. I’m a huge fan of Cooke’s work, though, so I decided to plunk down some extra cash for this retrospective of past projects and gallery of unseen or little-seen work. Retroactive is only 48 pages long, and I worried I might not feel as though I was getting my money’s worth when I decided to pick it up. Those concerns quickly faded as I began to thumb through its pages.

I was expecting the book to consist mainly of unpublished work — concept art for pitches that didn’t fly, rough sketches for better-known work and early efforts perhaps seen only by a select few. That didn’t prove to be the case entirely. There are a number of images I found here with which I was quite familiar, such as Cooke’s recent Heroes Con poster and covers for small-press books such as Spellgame and Comics Festival. Still, the oversized nature of this hardcover encourages closer examination of these images, and their inclusion didn’t lead to any kind of disappointment.

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Quick Critiques – Sept. 15, 2008

Challenger Deep #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Andrew Cosby, Andy Schmidt & Chee

Boom! Studios offers up another one of its movies on paper. This first issue of Challenger Deep follows the formula for a disaster/rescue/apocalypse movie pretty closely; there are a number of familiar scenes. Some might find the book to be too formulaic, and others still might be put off by the feeling that this is more of a movie pitch than a comic-book story. I have to admit, though, that I was entertained. I’d watch this movie, and better still, I enjoyed this big-screen-style story in comic-book form. It’s a safe bet this limited series will serve as an other-media pitch, but the creators have put some solid storytelling into it. It stands up well on its own as a comic. The first episode predictably is all about setting up the premise and introducing the cast of characters. I did enjoy the action on the stricken submarine, though. While we’re introduced to the hero up above who’s supposed to save the day, the sailors on the trapped sub aren’t relegated to the damsel-in-distress role. The real drama is the unimaginable and hopeless circumstances on that submarine, not the rescue mission, and I’m pleased to see the writers didn’t ignore those characters.

While the plot and characters are somewhat cliched, the art stands out as the greatest strength of the book. Chee has refined his work for this project. There’s a greater depth to be found in this effort. Chee brings a hazy, airy look to the visuals. His usual simpler style is easily recognizable, but there seems to be an added level of texture as well. He’s aided in his efforts by colorist Andrew Dalhouse, whose glowing colors reinforce the unusual, dream-like atmosphere that dominates this adventure-crisis plot. Chee also employs shadow to great effect to drive home the melodrama. 7/10

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How Much Press Can You Get for $125?

Kramer's Ergot Vol. 7“There’s no such thing as bad publicity” is an axiom that is unfortunately absolute in tone. Ask Sarah Palin and her family if they think there’s a benefit to all media coverage, and you might find the language they use might not be as Christian as the Alaskan governor claims to be. Still, there is some truth to the expression, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than with the upcoming publication of Kramers Ergot from Buenaventura Press.

Slated for release in November, the seventh issue of Sammy Harkham’s comics anthology is breaking from its usual format. The new issue will be 96 pages long and retail for a suggested $125 US. The reason for the inflated price is the unconventional, oversized format with which Harkham has opted to experiment. It will be 16 by 21 inches; reportedly, the unusual format will require hand-stitched binding, and the project is of such import to those producing it that someone will travel overseas to oversee (heh, homonyms are fun) the printing process.

The high price point, despite the justifications offered by its editor, has resulted in a surprising controversy. Some supporters of indie/alternative comics craft have criticized the move, arguing the editor and publisher is putting Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 beyond the reach of many readers who have supported the anthology up ’til now. I’ve also read a criticism that the oversized format and niche-market pricing smack of self-importance.

Speaking as a media professional who’s observed the furor and some more reasoned discussions on the topic, I have to say the shift in format and cost to the consumer constitute a stroke of genius.

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Cull of the Wild

Elephantmen: War Toys trade paperback
Writer: Richard Starkings
Artist: Moritat
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: Boo Cook & Ladronn
Publisher: Image Comics/Active Images
Price: $9.99 US

Reprinting the three-part War Toys limited series set in Richard Starkings’s world of Hip Flask, this story features a plethora of science-fiction elements, the powerful visuals of some well-designed anthropomorphic animal characters and unrelenting action that’s bound to grab the attention of many readers. But the more fantastic, over-the-top aspects of the book, no matter how many of them are, can’t hide the true nature of the story. This is a war story, and in many ways, it’s an old-fashioned war story, the kind of fare one would have found in DC’s Our Fighting Forces, G.I. Combat or Men of War decades ago. It’s about how a conflict that started out as political can become personal all too easily for those forced to fight. It’s about how each soldier is both a hero and a villain; the difference simply falls to perspective.

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