Eye on Comics took a look at the effect of currency exchange rates between the United States and Canada on comics retail a few years ago, when the two countries’ dollars were essentially at par. But now, the Canadian dollar (often referred to as the loonie, so named for the image of a loon on the dollar coin) has weakened significant in a rather short period of time. As of this writing, the loonie is worth 72 cents US, or conversely, the U.S. greenback is worth $1.40 Cdn. That means the average $3.99 US comic book costs a Canadian reader $5.58 out of pocket, before taxes or any sort of discounts are factored in.
American Monster #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist/Letters: Juan Doe
Cover artists: Juan Doe (regular)/Dave Johnson, Alexis Ziritt & Phil Hester
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Adding another title to my pull list these days isn’t something I’m quick to do in most cases, given rising costs (especially due to currency exchange rates these days), but the manager of my local comics retailer knows how to pull my strings. He points to a new crime title, written by Brian (100 Bullets) Azzarello and illustrated by Juan (Fantastic Four: Island of Death) Doe, and I’m sunk. As a lover of fine comics storytelling, I’m incapable of turning a blind eye to such a combination. Furthermore, this is an early release from a new publisher — Aftershock Comics — staffed by professionals with solid track records in the industry. While the first issue didn’t blow me away, I have to admit I’m quite intrigued. The harshness and intensity of the characters and circumstances of the plot come as no surprise, given they were crafted by Azzarello, and I definitely what to know more about them and what’s going on. Doe’s art took me off-guard, though, likely due to the fact I associate his style with a lighter tone and energy than the ugly world he help to bring to life here.
Princess at Midnight original graphic novella
Writer/Artist: Andi Watson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $5.99 US
It’s coming on the three-year anniversary that my family moved into our first (and, we expect, last) house. We absolutely love it. It’s a four-bedroom home, and we only use two of them regularly (one for the wife and me, and the other for the boy). One is a guest bedroom, and that leaves one more. It’s my home office, or at least, it was always intended as such, but it’s only recently that I really set out to make that a reality. I assembled a new bookshelf and have been finally organizing all the softcover and hardcover books — mostly comics — and am working to make it a little haven for myself. As such, I’ve been unpacking a lot of books that have been sitting in boxes since the move three years ago, and I’m rediscovering a lot of interesting gems — books I hadn’t thought about in a long time and even some I hadn’t even read.
Princess at Midnight is one of those falling into the latter category. I’ve always loved Andi Watson’s work, though when I think of his storytelling, it’s usually things such as Slow News Day and Dumped that come to mind, more mature, character-driven works. Still, Watson is an adept teller of stories about and for children, and Princess at Midnight, published by Image Comics in 2008, stands out as a charming example of that strength. It’s actually a surprising book, as it’s not about what one expects at first. It seems to be about a little girl’s dream-haven away from her annoying twin and her unconventional parents, but instead, it proves to be a political story that casts the little girl as the antagonist in her own story.
It’s pretty clear why Marvel keeps relaunching its entire line — it works, at least in the short term, when it comes to shoring up sales. As a long-term collector and comics enthusiast, I find it a bit frustrating. But there’s another aspect to the relaunches that appeals to me: it seems to instill in the publisher a greater willingness to try new things with familiar characters. While Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” is far from perfect (as I’ll elaborate on below), some of the titles certainly do live up to the label — as limiting as it is. When you call all of your comics “new” and “different,” it’s a pretty clear signal that another relaunch is forthcoming once those descriptions are no longer accurate.
I watched Bruce Timm’s Justice League: Gods and Monsters direct-to-video animated movie not long after its release last year, and I enjoyed the alt-reality take on radically different incarnations of the iconic trinity of DC’s super-heroes. I also watched the three related film shorts released in advance of the movie’s retail release. It occurred to me that Timm’s harsher vision of super-heroes would add to the criticism that DC and Warner Bros. have adopted too dark an approach to their library of super-hero properties. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the shorts as well. However, I didn’t pay any attention to the comics released in conjunction with the movie. That was a mistake on my part.
The trio of one-shots issued by DC Comics featuring solo stories (and backstories) of Hernan Guerra, Bekka and Kirk Langstrom turned out to be some compelling and laudable mainstream comics storytelling. I recently picked them up for a song during a holiday sale at my local comic shop, after having read them, I can admit if I had to replace them, I’d pay full cover price for them. All three were plotted by Timm and comics mainstay J.M. DeMatteis, with scripts by the latter. And without a doubt, it’s DeMatteis who made all three comics well worth experiencing. His trademark focus on self-exploration makes for engaging, character-driven stories. It’s also clear that the fact DeMatteis and Timm were involved in these projects that some top, talented creators lined up to participate. With cover artwork provided by such artists as Darwyn Cooke, Jae Lee, Gabriel Hardman and Franco Francavilla, it’s clear others recognized either the strength of the storytelling offered or the reputation of the writers (or both). Or perhaps DC was recruiting luminaries to attract attention to these comics. I can’t say the publisher was entirely successful, as I don’t recall seeing much chatter about these comics last summer, which is a shame.
The Little Black Fish graphic novella
Writer: Samad Behrangi
Artist/Adaptation: Bizhan Khodabandeh
Publisher: Rosarium Publishing
Price: $7.95 US
I acknowledge there’s been a strong focus on DC and Marvel properties in my various posts as of late, and I’ve been meaning to bring more diversity to the subject matter here on Eye on Comics. One of the benefits of having written comics reviews for so long is that little-known, independent and unusual projects pop up in my inbox. I don’t have the time to even scratch the surface of those seemingly endless submissions, but I try to take a look at some here and there. There was something about the email promoting Little Black Fish that caught my eye — the title of the graphic novella in question, to be honest.
This comics project — an inaugural effort by writer/artist Bizhan Khodabandeh — proved to be an education for me. I’d never heard tell of the 20th century fable of the little black fish, penned by an Iranian educator decades ago. The strong message in the parable is a universal one, transcending time, culture and geography. One could argue it could be too ham-fisted and too familiar, but there was something about Khodabandeh’s presentation that kept drawing me further and further into the late Samad Behrangi’s tale. Truth be told, as I made my way through the first few pages of this book, I initially found Khodabandeh’s style to be a little crude, but as I followed the title character along his journey and quest for knowledge, the art won me over. The Little Black Fish isn’t at all like other comics storytelling being produced today, and that alone should merit it a wider audience upon its release in March.