Publication Reviews (Comic-Con Edition)

I went to Comic-Con and actually came back with comic books. Go figure! Above, Congressman John Lewis with his graphic novel debut. Below, some reviews.

Brian Ralph, Reggie-12
Giant Robot readers who lovingly recall the two-color strip that owned the back page for years should be stoked about this. I know I am. With jumbo proportions and a very cool spot-UV job on the cover that has to be seen to be believed, this deluxe collection makes the strips look better than they ever did in the magazine. Bigger, bolder, and run side-by-side, the craftsmanship and storytelling are revealed to be every bit as masterful as the strips that inspired them–Felix, Atom, Nancy. Essential not only for fans of vintage manga but classic comic strips in general. [Drawn and Quarterly]

John Stanley, Nancy
I was already familiar with (and smitten by) Ernie Bushmiller’s strips via the Kitchen Sink reprints, and these stories from the Dell comic books are similarly essential. The four-color reprint gloriously captures the Little Lulu writer’s take on Nancy from 1957 through 1958, and is loaded with surrealism, class consciousness, and classic storytelling. Can be read by children and dissected by art majors with equal enjoyment and gusto. [Drawn and Quarterly]

Shigeru Mizuki, Kitaro
For EC Comics freaks and Takashi Miike junkies alike, this is the holy grail of Japanese horror comics and it is finally being made available to the mass market. Somewhere between The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone in character and tone, the classic manga series which began running in 1959 follows a one-eyed monster boy and his equally whimsical and monstrous yokai friends. Too creepy, fun, and culturally pervasive for words. Just go get it already. [Drawn and Quarterly]

Jeffrey Brown, A Matter of Life
The latest autobiographical graphic novel by Jeffrey Brown is as nervous, awkward, and honest as his best-known and much-loved work on relationships but aimed toward religion. Although Brown recounting his struggles with Christianity, both as the son of a minister and father of a young boy, won’t be embraced quite as much as his stories about ex-girlfriends, it is a solid, thought-provoking read that should impress readers of any denomination, including atheists and agnostics. [Top Shelf]

John Lewis, March (Book One)
Co-written by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, the autobiographical graphic novel by Congressman John Lewis is a page-turner about the civil rights icon’s youth and his entry into the movement. Appearances by Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others makes the story read like an Avengers comic, but the reference to a 1958 comic book, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, puts this comic book in an entirely different context. Wonderfully executed and just as important. [Top Shelf]

Paul Pope, The Invincible Haggard West #101
This “Final Issue” of The Invincible Haggard West is actually the prelude to Paul Pope’s upcoming graphic novel, Battling Boy. Building out a universe for the story to take place in is a pretty cool idea, and in this case it makes a great stand-alone comic. And although this new series is angled toward young adults, the story won’t disappoint hardcore fans of the comic book auteur. The blood and guts is measured but the brushwork, intensity, and apocalyptic vibe are all present–and how. [First Second]

Sun-min Kim et al., Goin’ Places!
The inaugural Uglydolls comic-book treasury features contributions not only from c0-creators Sun-min Kim and David Horvath but some of my favorite artists such as James Kolchaka and LeMerde. It’s interesting to see the already-present personalities play out in eye-popping, energy-filled comic strips, from pirate themed to Western. The humor is all-ages but there’s enough chaos and crazed details to please us hardest-core older fans as well. [VizKids]

Andy Schmidt, Ip Man: The Grandmaster of Kung Fu
This comic was given to attendees of the reception for Wong Kar-Wai and midnight screening of his latest movie at Comic-Con. I didn’t attend either but gladly accepted one on the street outside the convention center. The black-and-white art done by committee doesn’t have the same panache as the gorgeous and moving flick, but it does capture the philosophical tone. A cool artifact, if not the greatest read. [Vice]

Above: Paul Pope, Gene Yang, and me outside the First Second panel.