Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Graphic Lit -- 10/23 and more

I only had room to run one comic review this past Sunday, so I figured I'd fill out today's post with some reviews from earlier this year.

"Mort Grim"
by Doug Fraser
AdHouse Books, 34 pages, $5.

Truck drivers, a harried farmer, a stern waitress and a grim reaper dressed like a motorcycle cop violently collide in this surreal fever dream of a comic. Fraser uses swaths of golden yellow to give his backgrounds and characters shape while keeping his panels long and thin. The end result gives the book a bronzed otherworldliness that sets up a contrast with the story’s frenzied take on the mythic American highway.

"Grim" doesn’t make much sense plotwise, but for those willing to get caught up in its short but intense wake, it’s one of the nicer surprises of 2005.

"Sleeper: A Crooked Line"
by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Wildstorm/DC, $17.99.

Combining superhero trappings with spy thriller aesthetics,"Sleeper" has proven to be one of the smartest, most entertaining mainstream comics in a good long while.

Sadly, that high watermark of quality has not translated into strong sales, and the title is wrapping up, although you can easily enjoy the book in its trade paperback form.

The plot involves Holden Carver, a double agent infiltrating the shadowy Tao organization. Problem is, the only person who knew Carver's true allegiance is currently in a coma, forcing Carver to become the bad guy he was only pretending to be in order to survive.

As if that wasn't bad enough, he was cursed with the inability to feel pain, although he can transfer his would-be suffering to others.

Bearing more resemblance to an HBO show than your run-of-the-mill man in tights comic, "Sleeper" crackles with Brubaker's sharp, incisive dialogue and Phillips' moody noirish art work. Even if you absolutely hate superhero comics, you owe it to yourself to check out "Sleeper."

"Miniature Sulk"
by Jeffrey Brown
Top Shelf, $8.

"Sulk" features more of the what readers have come to expect from aJeffrey Brown comic, but for fans of Brown's work, that's a good thing.

Rather than delve into lengthy autobiography, as he did with"Clumsy" and "Unlikely," "Sulk" is a catch-all mini-compendium of gags, stories and cringe-inducing tales from Brown's personalhistory.

The book highlights Brown's deadpan humor and willingness to poke into memories that others would be more than willing to forget. As these things go, it's a nice introduction to the artist's work and should please his audience, although one would still do better by picking up a copy of "Clumsy."

"Skidmarks"
by Ilya
Active Images, $12.95.

If you lived in Great Britain and were into comics you might have heard of Ilya. But chances are good that you don't and you haven't, which is why this collection is such good news.

Like many of Ilya's stories, "Skidmarks" features a young London gadabout named Bic. Obsessed with biking, Bic, through rather unethical means, purchases a new top-of-the-line cycle. Plagued with guilt, he decides the best way to set things right is by throwing a party, with the proceeds going towards those he inadvertently cheated.

Yes, it's another slice-of-life comic, but Ilya keeps things moving at a brisk and entertaining pace through his kinetic art style and winking dialogue. Ilya's characters always seem like they're going to burst out of the panels. Taking the time to check out this British import will leave you bursting with joy as well.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005

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