Category Archives: Reviews – Oni Press

Grand Theft Pyro

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.

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I Oni Have Eyes for You

What follows is a few Quick Critiques, which aren’t uncommon for this site. The difference this time is that all of the comics reviewed in this entry are published by Oni Press.

Oni may not be a Goliath in the comics industry, but it’s demonstrated over the past decade that’s definitely a David. Continue reading for brief reviews of brand new Oni offerings and one from earlier this year…

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Tip of the Hat

Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen #1
Writers: John Layman & Tom Peyer and Jim Massey
Artists: Scott Chantler and Robbi Rodriguez
Colors: Pete Pantazis & Aurelio Alfonso and Dave McCaig
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Cover artists: Scott Chantler (regular edition) & John Cassaday (variant)
Editors: Randal C. Jarrell & James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

If I had to describe this comic book in one word, it would be…. Lincolnish. (Lincoln was into sci-fi and comics, right? What? No? Oh.) OK, make that one word: Megamerican.

Were I allowed three real words instead of one truthy word, then those three words would be “pretty damn funny.”

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The Fightin’ Irish

Shenanigans original graphic novel
Writer: Ian Shaughnessy
Artist/Cover artist: Mike Holmes
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $14.95 US

Oni Press boasts a diverse array of material among its various releases over the years, but when I think of Oni, I think of strong, grounded, slice-of-life storytelling. The publisher has offered a great lineup of original graphic novels over the years as well, from Lost at Sea to 12 Reasons Why I Love Her. Oni Press rarely disappoints, so that’s why I was so excited to see this latest graphic-novel release cross my desk (despite its somewhat goofy name). As I delved into the book, I was surprised by the first scene, as it focuses on a rather off-putting character. Still, I continued on, eager to see what this 20-something corner of St. Louis had in store. I’ll give former Oni intern Ian Shaughnessy credit for one thing… he’s definitely tapped into some believable characters and the kind of relationship I’ve seen others experience. But in the end, I found I really didn’t like these characters all that much, and his incorporation of a sitcom-esque plot twist in the middle of the book interfered with the character dynamics rather than contributed to them. The art serves the tone of the script quite well, and I’d be interested in seeing more work from industry newcomer Mike Holmes. Ultimately, Shenanigans isn’t a bad graphic novel, just a slightly flawed foray into the slice-of-life genre and not nearly as strong as other Oni fare.

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Monkey See, Monkey Zoom

First in Space original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: James Vining
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: Randal C. Jarrell
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $9.95 US

I really didn’t know much about this graphic novel before I delved into the preview copy I was sent, but when it’s got the Oni Press logo on it, I trust I’m in for a solid reading experience. Based on the cover image, I expected something of a cute story about astronaut animals or something, maybe something with a talking chimp. It turns out that First in Space isn’t a comedy, but a piece of historical fiction, with a greater emphasis on the history rather than the fiction. With this Xeric grant-winning project, creator James Vining manages to bring out the down-to-earth, human, emotional side of the space race by focusing on animal-test subjects (and their trainers). Vining presents up a surprisingly touching story, and though the opportunities present themselves, he offers no judgments about ethics or history. The art is a surprise as well, as Vining’s simple, cartoony style is remarkably effective at capturing a realistic tone throughout the book.

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Take This Job and Mutate It

Maintenance #s 1 & 2
“It’s a Dirty Job…” & “… Yesterday Once More”
Writer: Jim Massey
Artist/Cover artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Graytones: Jared M. Jones
Letters: Douglas Sherwood
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Randal C. Jarrell
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.50 US per issue

Some may think this oddball comedy about maintenance men working at a super-secret headquarters of a number of mad scientists to be an odd fit for Oni Press, a publisher that has carved out a strong niche market with slice-of-life comics and other non-genre books. But then, those people must have forgotten one of the publisher’s most popular books in its earlier days: Judd Winick’s Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius. Maintenance boasts a similar sense of humor, and at times, the same manic pace. It doesn’t quite capture the same down-to-earth, vulnerable side, though, that enables the reader to see this as anything more than a series of jokes rather than an actual story with living breathing characters. That being said, the jokes are solid, and the scripts are entertaining. The artwork by Robbi Rodriguez matches the goofy, over-the-top tone of the gags and premise, though I’m surprised he doesn’t really let loose design-wise when it comes to the various evil geniuses that pop up all over the place.

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Let Me Count the Ways

12 Reasons Why I Love Her original graphic novel
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Joelle Jones
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $14.95 US/$18.95 CAN

My girlfriend and I don’t have the best story about how we first met. Our relationship is the result of a happenstance encounter online, and even today, meeting someone on the Internet still carries a stigma for some. We’ve created a slew of memorable funny stories, romantic stories and sad stories in our more than three years together, and we know we’ll be creating many more in the years to come. In 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, writer Jamie S. Rich and artist Joelle Jones tell the stories of another couple, and Evan and Gwen’s are perfect. The banter between the pair is entertaining and perfect, but there’s also an awkwardness in the script at times that really drives home a genuine sound and brings credibility to the characters. Another pleasant aspect of the book is how it introduces readers to the talents of newcomer Joelle Jones. Her sketchy, flowing style is thoroughly pleasing to the eye, and the expressiveness of her characters really helps Rich to tell the story.

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An All-Ages Book That’s ‘Arrrrr’-Rated

Polly and the Pirates trade paperback
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Ted Naifeh
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Joe Nozemack
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $11.95 US

One might assume that creator Ted Naifeh was just jumping on the Pirates of the Caribbean bandwagon when he came up with this all-ages read about adventure on the high seas. While the book boasts the same sense of fun and adventure as the movie franchise, there’s also an innocence and purity to these characters that sets it apart. Polly and the Pirates simply wreaks of entertainment and charm. There’s not a single character — from the title character herself to the lowliest villainous henchman — that doesn’t boast a strong degree of appeal. Naifeh’s designs for the Victorian Neverland in which the story is set are stunning and wondrous, and the wide-eyed characters are a delight to the eyes as well.

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