Human beings don’t act like this.
“Cable and X-Force,” no. 1
Dennis Hopeless & Salvador Larroca
Marvel Comics, 2012
Here’s what I can understand from this comic: previously, Cable was dead. Now he’s alive and stalking his daughter. Not in the “bad” way but in that creepy movie way where he watches her from afar. For no apparent reason. The implication is that he wants her to live a normal life with her foster parents but let’s be honest: Cable is a psychic, cyborg soldier from the future and his daughter is also a soldier from the future. He could just send her a telepathic “hello” message and be done with it.
This comic has no real thrust to it. It does the thing where the story starts in the midst of action then backtracks to some causation. But the reader isn’t given enough of the action OR the causation for it to have any effect. It’s all just layers of vague implication. Also Cable shoots his uncle Havok in the face which is only funny because Havok’s enduring character trait is that he’s a rube and a chump. He’s all “I know this man. Please tell me this isn’t what it looks like…” ZAP.
The highlight of this issue is Domino. She’s Cable’s ex-girlfriend, a super-proficient spy/assassin/mercenary who smiles as she jumps from high places. I like Domino a whole bunch and have to restrain myself from buying comics that she stars in. As you can see, my will was weak this time.
I’ve been in this game for years, it’s made me mechanical/
There’s rules to phone comics, go read the manual:
Rule # one: a smartphone orients vertically in one hand, horizontally in two hands and awkwardly if you make people switch back and forth.
Rule number two: every time the user switches the orientation of the device, s/he is pulled out of the storytelling a bit.
Rule number three: it is good to densely illustrate your panels because each one will be in the reader’s eye, holding his/her attention
Rule number four: stuff like splash pages, two page spreads, etc simply do not work. Space doesn’t expand on a screen.
Rule number FIVE: keep an eye on your lettering and general legibility. If the reader has to pinch and zoom, you’re messing up.
Follow these rules you’ll have mad fans when you wake up; if not, the people that loved you will want to break up.
Gotta go, gotta go more rhymes to make up.
“Arrête, cést icî L’empire de La Mort”
By Simon Hanselmann
Space Face Books, Nov. 2012
Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that I read somewhere that Simon Hanselmann is relatively new to cartooning. If that is the case then he has taken to the vocation like a fish to water. This is a beautiful comic. Clean character design, expressive storytelling and smooth panel-to-panel transitions: nothing is awkward about reading this story. The drawings are relatively pared down but are so instantly readable and the panels’ relationships to one another are so effortless that the reading experience feels fully immersive and engaging. Slick cartooning.
As a narrative, I don’t quite understand the comic. I know Hanselmann’s characters Megg, Mogg and Owl from the strips that he has posted on his website. But the actual plot events of this particular story are mysterious to me. I’m not complaining. I’ve read more than my share of abstract minicomics in my day–and I’ve made them too. But Hanselmann doesn’t feel to me as though he is trying to go over our heads; even though his work is richly coded in a language of his own symbols. I just feel as though I’m missing a step somewhere in this story.
A lot of Hanselmann’s Arrête, cést icî L’empire de La Mort reads essentially like stream of consciousness psychedelia. The storyline is very much about drugs and possible psychological problems, which both effect people’s perceptions and coping abilities. These combine with the general setting and characters which are all a fantastic in composition and in nature. Talking animals who shift between humanoid and beast mode. Alien spaceships. A television actor. All just sort of appear and can be accepted as nothing strange.
This sort of storytelling convention is quite common in the world of artcomics and minicomics. The story takes place externally but it feels internal, like somebody’s dream. Part of me feels that externalizing psychological and emotional strife is an excellent use of visual storytelling.
It is interesting that Hanselmann uses no captions or narration. Everything happens by action or by characters talking. This furthers the feeling that I get as a reader that the author himself is in a process of discovery and exploration as much as his characters. I’m happy to follow him along and learn whatever he discovers.
Madame Mirage, no. 1-6
By Paul Dini and Kenneth Rocafort
Top Cow Productions
This is the comic book equivalent to a decade-old movie that’s now being played on Saturday afternoon when you ought to be out of the house doing better things but somehow you’re not. You aren’t pumped to read this but you’re not saying no either. The plot is interesting enough to pull even a skeptical audience along and the drawings of Kenneth Rocafort… the drawings of Kenneth Rocafort…
The appeal of Madame Mirage is simple without getting into the details of the plot: a beautiful woman with no obvious weapons brutally annihilates a crime syndicate from the lobby to the top floor. There’s reasonable story explanations for every concept that is presented and if the reader is receptive to action tropes with mild sci-fi seasoning, this comic is just as palatable as the hypothetical Saturday afternoon movie. Mildly engaging, unchallenging, moves more by momentum than by ingenuity.
For his part in this affair, Kenneth Rocafort fails to pull me in with his imagery. As the title suggests, Madame Mirage deals a lot with tricks of the eye and optical deception. Unfortunately whenever the title character pulls a fast one on a bad guy, the comic just gets confusing for the reader. One needs to rely on Paul Dini’s dialogue to indicate what trick has occurred. It isn’t a tragedy by any means; by genre convention, we are all pretty used to boastful characters telling their victims how they have outwitted them (by extension, they tell the audience). That’s kind of okay. Nothing of value is lost.
There is a slight problem in that two key characters essentially look alike: the villain and the hostage/ally are almost identical in appearance but I think that once again, the script helps us keep track. And context.
There’s an another, almost insignificant problem at the tale’s end: not really sure what happens to the title character. Spoiler: I think Paul Dini kind of forgot. No big deal.
This comic is about a chesty lady in a low-cut dress who kills a lot of bad guys through the power of “being the protagonist. The world will never be safe from crime, war and papercuts until every bad guy from Bad Guys, Incorporated is stabbed to death with a pithy send-off line of dialogue. I almost feel like you don’t get to complain about certain things with a comic like this. I won’t.
Mini Kuš, no. 6
By Box Brown
September 2012, Komikss (Kuš)
Side remark which has nothing to do with the story or the author: the design idea that Kuš uses for these Mini Kuš books is absolutely wonderful. Kuš in general has some of the most pleasing and user-friendly book design in all of comics. Their aesthetic is at once clean and information-rich. I’m a big fan. This particular book credits Markus Häfliger for “layout” so please take your bow.
Now onto the serious business of our protagonist Robert Cordozar Brodus Killman.
[applause respectfully dies down]
“I’ll never be free… until they’re all dead.”
Killman goes by Robert now and is in the process of punching, kicking, torpedoing and laser-blasting the gods of the universe to death, one by one. The gods are widely known to be tyrants of the planets and oppressive rulers of the slimy blobs that represent the remaining mortal people in the universe. It all gets a bit tricky midway through and I lost the plot a few times but the fluidity of the storytelling kept me engaged.
The terms are a bit unusual here because while the creatures that Killman battles are called “gods,” there is a being in the story that represents an approximation of the Western idea of “a god” that features heavily and supplies the backbone of the story. I don’t know, this is making my head throb.
Superhero comics’ best job is externalizing and outsizing regular problems or philosophical ideas. It isn’t hard to grasp author Box Brown’s themes: anti-authoritarian, anti-Western religion. The protagonist literally becomes one with everything and finds that Eastern religion does not suit him any better. We leave the story with Killman essentially victorious but ever vigilant against gods and other spirits. Superhero comic books are about wearing your essence on your sleeve and Brown takes up the task admirably.
Apropos of nothing, the protagonist is partially named after rapper Snoop Dogg. “Cordozar Bro[a]dus,” Robert Killman’s middle names, comprise the given name of the popular performer of hit singles such as “Gin & Juice” and “What’s My Name.”
¿How Do I Know Who I Am If I Forget?
By Luis Echavarría Uribe
Memory involves the retention of experiences and episodes. Camilla of “How Do I Know Who I Am If I Forget” realizes that memory is also central to personal identity. People often painfully hang onto the past in destructive ways because the alternative is the danger of erasing oneself entirely. Who am I to be if not myself? Who am I if not what I have been?
The reader earns more insight from this story if they are allowed to experience its events and plot on their own. The moments in this short story derive their resonance from being experienced in their proper context. Telling you about the plot would “spoil” its effect. It’s a relatively small scale story, though one of great significance for its protagonist.
“How Do I Know Who I Am If I Forget” is a story about loss, but also about holding on, and retaining an identity. It’s about owning experiences in a way that allows the protagonist to incorporate them into her core identity and also allows her to carry on in life.
By Darryl Ayo
Joseph Lambert impresses me as a cartoonist because more than most people, we can see him working. We can see him in the gym doing the pushups. Nobody can question where his abilities come from, he has no fear of drawing, of repetition, of working the same image over and over and over until he’s internalized it and digested it. His tireless exploration of his themes are an inspiration.