Matt Fraction

Weekly Reading List- 1/25/15- 1/31/15

Bit of a slow week again.

Brian McClellan’s The Promise of Blood/ The Crimson Campaign

I devoured the first two books of the Powder Mage Trilogy last week, since the third book comes out this week. (I’ll be doing a review). Flintlock fantasy is a relatively new subgenre, or sub-sub-genre, depending how you want to look at it, featuring flint and wheel-lock guns, colonial era politics, the rise of non-monarchical political systems, plus, you know, magic. The only real luminaries so far are Brian McClellan and Django Wexler, both of whom are highly enjoyable writers, obviously both having a ton of fun with what they’re doing. McClellan’s The Promise of Blood starts out with a military coup against the monarchy of the nation of Adro, leading right into the action. I honestly can’t really blog about these books separately- I’ve read both of them twice, now, and each time I read them consecutively, so it’s kind of blurred together into one, much larger book. They’re excellent books- not perfect, of course, but excellent. My only real complaint is regarding the treatment of some of the parts of the story that are supposed to be epic and mythic- they sometimes feel a little less exciting than some of the gritty, down to earth battles, but that probably speaks more to McClellan’s ability to write said battles. Regardless to say, I’m quite excited for book three, the Autumn Republic.

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Just the Tips

Hey, it’s my second non-fiction book of the year! And, of course, it’s a book of sex tips. Terrible, hilarious sex tips. “Cross dressing can really spice things up. Ladies, try wearing a man’s dress shirt and tie to bed. Men, try wearing high heels and a skirt and thousand of years of patriarchal oppression to bed.” “Have sex outside, in the middle of Yankee Stadium, during a game.” “A man’s testicles are very sensitive and some sex moves can hurt them a bit, so just poke them back up inside his body where they’ll be safe.” Just the Tips is a companion to the awesome comic book series Sex Criminals, which is one of my absolute favorites. Specifically, it’s the companion to the letter column of Sex Criminals, which might be the greatest letter column of all time. People have actually started writing in for serious (and not so serious) sex advice from the creators, which somewhat baffled them at first, though they seem to have embraced their roles. Just the Tips doesn’t quite make me laugh as much as the Sex Criminals letter column, but I think that’s because it’s more dedicated to being a humor book. The actual letter column often deals with a lot of serious concerns and real issues, which often serve to contrast with and highlight the more whimsical submissions. Another part of why the letter column makes me laugh more, of course, is all of the hilarious and awesome in-jokes you find building up in it, most notably “Brimping”. It might be just the format, too. That’s not to say Just the Tips isn’t good, of course- it’s still funny, snarky, and wildly inappropriate. Remember- “You need to change your safeword every three weeks for security reasons and it must have numbers in it.”

John Scalzi & Mike Choi’s Midnight Rises

I haven’t read many comics specifically designed for digital consumption before this- in major part thanks to my lack of a tablet. Midnight Rises is an IOS exclusive digital comic. It’s actually its own app, since it’s actually the prequel comic to an IOS videogame, Midnight Star, which also had its story written by Scalzi. First off, Choi’s art is great, especially the machinery and background tech. Scalzi did a decent enough job writing the comic, but I do think it suffers somewhat from its prequel status- it very obviously is a lead-in to Midnight Star. Once Midnight Star comes out, I think it will likely fit in pretty well with the story of the game, but until then, we’ll have to wait and see. As for the digital comic features- it’s pretty interesting being able to choose, to some extent, the order and shape of the story. The controls are a little less flexible than I would have liked- you can only turn the page forwards and backwards via tapping the right side of the screen. Swiping is reserved for the larger pages that can be explored.

Weekly Pull Review 1/7/15

Anyone have any suggestions for a DC title I should give a try? I’ve got Vertigo stuff, but I don’t have anything main-universe DC.

ODY-C #2- Image

Slightly less action packed than the first issue, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward still hit it out of the park with this one. This issue focuses more heavily on Zeus and Poseidon, and really plays up the spiteful, vicious, petty, and dangerous facet of the Greek gods, which largely gets ignored in modern takes on Greek mythology. While Zeus and Poseidon are plotting Odyssea’s downfall, the captain and her crew have arrived at the planet of the Lotophages (The Lotus Eaters), which is a colossal hedonistic park-like planet, with the world-sized, delirious, drug-addled, near-comatose body of Promethene, creator of the third gender sebex, chained to it. This book is insane in all the right ways. Also, it’s written in dactylic hexameter. Matt Fraction is shouldering his way in among the great comic book writers, and Christian Ward is tossing down the gauntlet to all challengers with his gorgeous visuals. If ODY-C keeps being this awesome, I’m going to start being as excited for issues of it as I am for issues of Saga.

Birthright #4- Image

The newest title from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound studio, it once again proves that the Walking Dead creator is absolutely right in chaining up comic book creators up in the basement and depriving them of food and water until they produce art is the way to go. (Kirkman isn’t actually on the production team for this one). Birthright is great, though. Essentially, it’s a what-if title that riffs off the classic C.S. Lewis/ Susan Cooper story, involving children being taken into magical worlds for grand adventures, but it goes a step farther, to explore what happens when the child gets back. (The story archetype goes much farther back, of course- the fairy changelings of European folklore, the fairy rings, etc.) A young boy, Mikey, is stolen into a fantasy world to become a chosen hero. One year later, his family has collapsed. His parents are divorcing, his dad is suspected of murdering Mikey, his older brother is getting in fights at school, the whole thing has become a media circus. Then an enormous behemoth of a man, covered in armor and carrying dozens of medieval weapons shows up in town. (Surprise, surprise, it’s Mikey). Issue #4 opens with Mikey, his dad, and his brother on the run from the cops, and, well… spoilers. Check this one out.

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Weekly Pull Review 12/10/14

I know, I know, it’s technically the 11th, but I’m going to start dating theses reviews with the date I picked the comics up from here on out. Anyhow, on to this week’s comics I deemed good enough for my pull.

Bitch Planet #1- Image

I somehow utterly failed to realize that a new Kelly Sue DeConnick series was coming out until Tuesday night- but it was definitely a good surprise. Kelly Sue DeConnick is rapidly proving herself to be one of my favorite contemporary comic writers- anything by her is definitely going to receive at least a try. Bitch Planet might not have been something I’d pick up normally, since prison stories, even scifi ones, are hardly my cup of tea, but I gave this one a try, and the first issue already has me hooked. That’s not to say it’s perfect- the twist definitely confused me for a little bit, but that’s very likely to be my fault, so… Also, it’s pretty refreshing to have a comic book where the majority of the cast isn’t white. That’s still pretty damn rare these days. Valentine De Landro’s art is pretty well fitted to the book, and the dot-based backgrounds like you’d see in old comics really fits the aesthetic of the book. (I can’t for the life of me remember what that technique is called.) Also, having the title page be a two page spread four pages in? Actually works really damn well here. Very cinematic.

Copperhead #4- Image

Copperhead is really working well for me so far. It’s not that the story is particularly better than other good scifi police procedurals- and I do consider Copperhead more of a police procedural than a western so far, though it draws strongly from both- it’s that the comic focuses on a smaller, more focused cast than usual. It’s a consistent weakness of the genre, especially in comics- you have a limited amount of space to develop your characters, and introducing a giant cast just makes them all fairly forgettable. The comic Storm Dogs comes to mind- brilliant story, amazing setting, spectacular art, some of the best alien designs I’ve seen in a comic- but ask me to name the characters, or even describe more than a few, and I’d just have to shrug. It’s not that they are bad characters, by any means. I remember liking quite a few of them. Copperhead has avoided that pitfall by focusing on a smaller, more mobile cast, and it works extremely well. That, ultimately, seems to be its biggest takeaway from Westerns, rather than any stylistic element.

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