Friday, January 23, 2015

Imaginary Drugs

[caption id="attachment_1233" align="alignleft" width="200"]Imaginary Drugs Imaginary Drugs
IDW, 2015[/caption]

 Imaginary Drugs

 Paperback: 208 pages

 Publisher: IDW Publishing (January 21,  2015)

 Cover Price: $24.99

 Disclosure: This reviewer knows  Imaginary Drugs editor and writer  Michael McDermott through Facebook.  He also pledged the Imaginary Drugs  Kickstarter campaign.

In 1984, Eclipse Comics published three issues of the cult anthology Strange Days, which featured the post-apocalyptic feature Freakwave, future detective Johnny Nemo, and the hapless superhero Paradax. The worlds of these stories were jagged, rough: sex, harsh words, no happy endings. I hated them. I hated them all. I was a thirteen year-old who wanted She-Hulk in a prom dress, not punk rock.

Across America, in New Jersey, another boy read Strange Days. He loved it. Thirty-one years later, Imaginary Drugs is his return to those stories which intoxicated him. As a reader, you can enjoy Imaginary Drugs without the knowledge of its long germination, but if you've read Strange Days or eighties Heavy Metal,  Imaginary Drugs has a deeper resonance.

Imaginary Drugs is an anthology of thirty-six illustrated stories written by McDermott and a cohort of fellow writers. These stories are all moored in the futuristic or fantastic. Many of McDermott's stories are tantalizing first chapters to serials, a nod to his influences. Others by his collaborators are staccato bursts of narrative, joined with no transition or title page, energy from one bleeding to the next.

The book opens with Saint in the City, a handsomely-told story of urban magic by McDermott, artist Brandon Sawyer, and colorist K. Michael Russell.  Star Captain Apollo, by illustrator Brandon Sawyer and writer Nic Shaw, is about child-like aliens who understand stories only as literal truth. When their spaceship crashes and they're enslaved in a labor camp, a prisoner who resembles fictional hero Star Captain Apollo is the only one who can rescue them. Cryptobiosis, by writer Jeff McClelland and illustrator Larsen, is also a story of innocence, but no star captain saves the day. Little Red by writer Nic Shaw and illustrator Louis Joyce is a fun homage to Japanese revenge comics and movies.

Arranging stories in an anthology is an art, like making mix tapes in the 1980s, or creating playlists on YouTube now. There's a flow of emotion and meaning, a subtext to the stories the editor strings together. In comics, visual narratives should meld, or pleasingly contrast across stories. Call it editorial vision. A good anthology is greater than the sum of its parts. I sensed that fullness when finishing Dr. Warhola’s 3VOLUT//ON, a meta-commentary on imagination and storytelling by writer Eric Esquivel and illustrator Tony Gregori.

Imaginary Drugs is a revival, a contemporary return to the raw, charged science fiction stories imported from Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I gave up on She-Hulk in a prom dress in 1990, there room on that star-cycle for me, too?

Wytches--Issue #3--A Review

Okay, here we go!

*by the way, I apologize for the lack of post last Friday. I'd spent the whole day not realizing what day it actually was. 0.o *

So without further ado, issue #3 for your delectation and delight...

wytches #3


The previous two issues of Wytches had already injected some very endearing, personal moments with the Rooks family (aka the main characters) in order to ground us and give us something to care about, but issue #3 starts off bam! in your face with a very warm moment between Sailor Rook and her parents.

It's several years before now and they're happy and whole and nothing has happened yet to put the fear that currently pervades their lives.

What issues #1 and 2 had begun to do, #3 clinches. This is no longer just a story about scary monsters that pop out of the page at you. It's a personal, family tale of people you care about, and suddenly those monsters are a lot scarier than they were before.

And one disturbing scene where a half-naked woman warns Mr. Rook that he's going to forget his daughter, that his daughter is going to go over to the witches, brings it all home.

The artwork and story continue to impress in this issue. Even as we start to understand more of what's going on, the chaos and the horror portrayed by the artist continue to make us uncomfortable.

I can't wait for issue #4 (pub date: February 4th)! In the meantime, feel free to make any recommendations or requests for review. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Best Comic I Read Today Is . . . Star Wars #1

I'm a lapsed fan.  Having grown-up in the 1980's, Star Wars was my religion.  I tried using the force to move glasses of water around my dining room table (once I swear it actually worked . . . a little), had ALL the toys ever created, and insisted on being Han Solo whenever we played anything outside.  Even baseball.

But it all went away shortly after Return of the Jedi and, though the prequel movies did recapture some of my belief in that old Lucas magic, I found my lack of faith disturbing.

Today, Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday arrived at comic book stores, and so did that excitement!


This book has everything a Star Wars fan could want - from an opening "credits" scene through the first panels reminiscent of how every film has opened, I almost expected to hear the 20th Century Fox music as I opened the cover, especially that little ending portion that always meant that Star Wars was coming on!

Taking place between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars #1 has all the familiar characters you'd want to see in the re-launch of a comic book franchise.  What makes this especially entertaining is that the reader knows how the story ultimately plays out, assuming that you've seen Empire and Jedi, and , let's face it, in my 39 years I have met one, ONE, person who hasn't seen them.  You'd think that knowing the outcome for all the characters would lessen the drama, but that is far from the case.  Jason Aaron and John Cassaday deftly handle the story, and it is clearly being created by fans of "a galaxy far, far away".  These are creators who, like so many of us, grew up LOVING these characters and are now being given the chance to reinvigorate them, starting over with a clean "canon" upon which to build.

These are exciting time to be a Star Wars fan, even a lapsed one.

"A long time ago" there was a nine year old boy standing in the rain at the end of a line that wrapped around the Seaview Square Cinema twice.  Waiting with him was his father, and they were both laughing and having a great time.  The boy was excited to see Return of the Jedi

His Dad was excited to see the boy smile.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wytches--Issue #2--Review

wytches #2


A busload of children disappears in the woods. A strange bite grows on a girl's neck. And the wytches are getting closer, creeping from the woods. Be there for the terrifying second chapter of the new smash hit, WYTCHES.


Oh wow, guys. I wanted to try something a little different today, so I waited to read issue #2 until this morning. This way you can get my initial, unedited thoughts. I might just sound a little bit all over the place, but such is the risk.

First of all, issue #2 is even more mind-blowing than issue #1. And the ending? Ah! I'm still trying to recover.

Chills. So many chills.

The art is still so tantalizingly chaotic and gorgeous. The writing still pushes you to try to figure out just what is going on, never feeling like you really know.

And the wytches. They finally make their full appearance. And they are terrifying.

I love how Scott Snyder and Jock are working together to really unnerve the reader. There are whole pages of just illustration, with one little bit of dialogue at the end. It works like a punch in the face. It's brilliant. And I love how Jock weaves his art on the page. He forces you, through color and effects, to stay and look and try to find the hidden nuggets. To see the eyes in the woods staring back at you.

Brilliant. I'm just going to use that word over and over again.

If you haven't picked up Wytches yet, I strongly suggest you do. There are three issues out so far, so you can go immediately from one to the other. And, hopefully, we won't have to wait too much longer for issue #4.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Best Comic I Read Today Is . . . Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3

If you haven't been reading Ales Kot and Marco Rudy's Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier for fear that it would be a one-dimensional ex-KGB spy thing, then you belong in a gulag.  This book is anything but.  Picking-up where old school Nick Fury left off in Original Sin, Bucky Barnes is now "The Man on the Wall", protecting Earth from all threats both cosmic and otherworldly.

And this creates the backdrop for one of the more thoughtful books being created right now.

winter soldier 3

There are three reasons this is such a good read:

1 - The fully painted art of Marco Rudy is beyond breathtaking and sets the cosmic mood and tone that a book that features a drug dealing Loki from the future demands.  The eye is guided through each panel, page and splash with a fluidity missing from most mainstream comics.  For this issue, Michael Walsh, Kot's accomplice on Secret Avengers, added a 4 page "cameo" to shift the perception of both some characters and all readers.

2 - While I'd read this book for the art alone, it's Ales Kot's scripts that have me coming back each month.  There is a mystery here, a story behind the story that he is revealing piecemeal, and a characterization of Bucky that I haven't seen before.  This book is taking Bucky beyond his tortured former assassin past and hurling him into new psychological territory, a difficult thing to do with a character that has been around since the 1940's.

3 - Finally, Wikipedia.  This is a book that you should read with a browser open so you can cross reference all the names and "inside" jokes.  Look at the cover - "Ventolin" and "Xtal" are both songs by Aphex Twin.  The planet Bucky is heading toward is "Mer-Z-Bow", named after the Japanese noise musician, and "The Great Reznor" should be pretty obvious.  Half the fun of reading this book is looking for clues based on the source material for whatever Kot decides to call the next alien race or MacGuffin.

Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier is a fun, beautiful book that banishes clich├ęs to Siberia.

- Aloha -

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Wytches --Issue One -- Review

I don't try to make it a big secret that I'm absolutely in love with two art mediums meshing together to make something brilliant. It's probably why I'm obsessed with comics and rock music; one artist--the writer--meeting up with another--the illustrator (or musician)--to bring something to life that wouldn't have been quite the same without the both of them working together. Writing is great. But writing with images? Even better! Poetry is beautiful. But poetry with instrumentals? Brilliant!

And though I love all forms of comics and graphic novels, the ones that really get me salivating are ones that push boundaries. Or maybe I just feel they push boundaries more because they speak to something in my soul. They don't have your perfect lines or flowing sentences. They're visceral and emotional. Through art, they communicate something so much more than what's on the surface of the paper.

When I heard about Wytches, by Scott Snyder and JOCK,  I knew it was something I needed to read.



And when I saw that subdued cover with just a hint of bright red, the shadow playing against the trees, I fell in love.

The story opens with four panels in pure chaos. The perfect lines are nowhere to be seen. There are splotches of color against a subdued black and blue background. And then we see this distorted face amidst the chaos and the only dialogue on the whole page is, "...Please...Please help me!"

It's powerful, and honestly scary.

The next page only adds to the creepiness. The face, we see on closer inspection, is being swallowed by a tree. The splotches of color are blood. And then there's this little boy who does the last thing you'd ever expect. It was honestly one of the most disturbing openings to a comic I've ever seen.

The rest of the story continues with its chaotic theme. We're slowly introduced to backstory, jumping around from scene to scene, never quite comfortable. Never quite understanding everything that's going on until the last page.

Wytches is definitely a brilliant example of multiple artists coming together to make something brilliant. The words and the art work perfectly together to disarm you. You won't be able to put this one down.