Most Interesting Comics of the Week
Dark Horse Comics
Every Wednesday, I preview the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, Comixology, Kickstarter and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about.
1. “The Fart Party’s Over”
By Julia Wertz
Julia Wertz's The Fart Party was a hilarious autobio comic strip that became one of the most popular webcomics of the mid-2000s (it was later collected into three print editions and a forthcoming omnibus). She retired the strip in 2011 and subsequently stepped away from comics for a time, focusing instead on photography projects involving abandoned buildings.
Recently, Wertz published an article on the curated blogging platform Narrative.ly that is about 50 percent comics and 50 percent written word called "The Fart Party's Over." In it she opens up about her very personal struggles with alcoholism and her reasons for moving away from making a comic that was having a negative effect on her life. The comics shown here are a combination of strips that were previously published in her most recent collection The Infinite Wait and Other Stories and some previously unseen journal drawings that are startlingly different in tone and nature from her Fart Party strips. Together they tell a harrowing but ultimately triumphant story about her downslide into alcoholism and severe depression, her entry into rehab and, ultimately, her new focus on helping herself.
Wertz begins the article with a point about how the best comedians seem to mine their material from their own depression. She herself made a career out of getting people to laugh at often troubling events in her own life. Her decision to abandon a project that was ultimately not good for her is a decision that I think a lot of creative people tend to face when trying to achieve a certain work/life balance in addition to grappling with both the reality and expectations of being a struggling and starving artist. I think there is a lot that most artists can relate to in her story, not to mention anyone who has actually dealt with overcoming addiction or depression.
2. Furious #1
Written by Bryan J.L. Glass; art by Victor Santos
Dark Horse Comics
It's a difficult task these days to find a new spin on superheroes. So much so that it's a wonder anyone even tries anymore. Dark Horse Comics, as a publisher, seems committed to giving a voice to those that have some genuinely good ideas for this genre. Between the recent Buzzkill in which an alcoholic derives superpowers from drinking and Adam Warren's ode to superhero cheesecake Empowered, there seems to be room for modern takes on super heroics outside of what Marvel and DC have been doing. Add to that the new 5-issue mini-series Furious, which explores the ideas of being a superhero with a secret identity in today's celebrity-driven culture. And it looks to turn that concept on its head.
The world's first superhero is a woman named Cadence Lark who calls herself The Beacon. However, the media has named her "Furious" after she was videotaped losing her cool on some criminals. Lark has become a superhero to work through some things in her past and, in a twist on the concept of secret identities, must hide who she really is to protect her superhero identity because the public truly despises Cadence Lark.
Furious is written by Bryan J.L. Glass, a comics veteran and the writer and co-creator of anthropomorphic fantasy comic Mice Templar. This is very much a departure for him but it's a story that he's been wanting to tell for years. He's joined by artist Victor Santos, who has previously worked with Glass on Templar and who draws in a style that is reminiscent of Marcos Martin or Javier Pullido.
Early reviews on this book promise some juicy plot twists as we learn about what led a troubled young woman to become a superhero in what may be a doomed attempt to redeem herself.
3. Lost at Sea (10th Anniversary Edition)
By Bryan Lee O’Malley
Bryan Lee O'Malley has now been around long enough and made enough of a mark on the industry that we are at the point where we will be seeing his work reprinted in commemorative editions to celebrate his career. Oh, also, his highly anticipated new book, Seconds, comes out later this year, so that could have something to do with it as well. Ten years after the release of Lost at Sea, his first graphic novel, Oni Press is putting out an anniversary hardcover edition with the requisite supplemental material added including a previously uncollected short story that had only appeared online. The original book was published in black and white but some color has apparently been added in this edition.
While working on his now-classic 5 volume Scott Pilgrim series, O'Malley became one of the most influential creators of the 21st century. His style and approach to comic storytelling can be seen emulated among many of the younger generation of webcomic creators. Lost at Sea may not be as groundbreaking as Scott Pilgrim, but it is just as accomplished. Much in the way Scott Pilgrim seemed to perfectly capture a certain way of life and attitude among 20-somethings, Lost at Sea feels like it did the same for college-aged teens.
It's a coming of age story about an introverted teenage girl named Raleigh who is on a cross-country road trip with some college classmates whom she barely knows and has trouble relating to, socially. Raleigh's problem, she feels, is that her soul was stolen by a cat. And now she keeps seeing cats popping up everywhere.
Though maybe not as laugh-out-loud funny as Scott Pilgrim, this book is charming and quirky and almost akin to a Haruki Marukami novel with its existentialist pondering and proliferation of spiritual cats.
4. Li'l Sonja
Written by Jim Zub; art by Joel Carroll
Recently I highlighted another book in the “Li'l” series, Li’l Vampi. Just as that book did with the character of Vampirella, Li'l Sonja takes a character that is steeped in a history of exploitative cheesecake art and makes an all-ages version that can appeal to young girls. Thanks to a successful new series, also published by Dynamite Entertainment and written by popular writer Gail Simone, Red Sonja is enjoying a bit of a comeback right now, capitalizing on Dark Horse's popular new Conan series and the general marketability of violent swordplay dramas. Li’l Sonja, of course, is something a little different. Here, in this one-shot release, the cute little red-haired She-Devil fights to solve a series of thefts plaguing a small town.
Dynamite has pulled together an array of appropriately “cute” artists to illustrate all of these “Li’l” books they’ve been doing, including Art Baltazar who provides the cover for Li’l Sonja. The interiors are done by relative newcomer Joel Carroll, whose simple, happy cartooning gives Sonja a manga/video game character look as you can see from this preview. He’s joined by writer Jim Zub who has gained a lot of popularity for his creator-owned Skullkickers series as well as the new and well-regarded launch of IDW’s Samurai Jack comic.