Phatsville #16, by various.
The latest issue (at the time) from these amazing stalwarts of Australian underground comics (if such a thing really exists anymore). If you're familiar with Phatsville, then you know what to expect, and you're in for more of the A-Grade same. If you're not familiar, let me tell you you're in for a healthy dose of ugly, smelly sex & drugs & poo & dicks, all with a cheeky Aussie wink.
This issue leans heavily on the two longest contributing citizens of Phatsville, John Stewart and Giles Kilham, which is great, and their true-life adventures in America when they attended San Diego Comic Con, which are really funny. J-Stew and G-Man are truly the spirit of this book, and it's definitely them and their cartooning and writing that I'm thinking of when I say 'Australian underground comics'.
Francis Bear, by Gregory MacKay.
This is a, dare I say it, whimsical collection of stories starring the titular bear. I hesitate with 'whimsical' really because it shortchanges the heavier, grounded base of most of the book. Despite it being populated with nothing but stuffed animals, this isn't a kids' book. Below that surface style, immediately below, are stories of urban living, cars with no brakes, skin cancer, petrol wars and getting drunk. I don't know that there's necessarily any important statements or observations being made, but the quirky vignettes are obviously drawn from life to some extent, and they're usually quite dryly funny.
The cartooning style is composed entirely of a line of unwavering weight but always uncertain strength. This (not thin) monotone line only adds to the childrens' story look of the pages, in a Miffy kind of way, and the busy amount of detail in a Where's Wally? kind of way. That busy-ness is never cluttering or confusing though, which is a real skill in itself.
A book really deserving its international publication.
All You Bastards Can Go Jump Off a Bridge, by J. Marc Schmidt.
I was honored by being asked to do an "author's quote", or whatever they're called, for this upcoming book by J Marc Schmidt to be published by Milk Shadow Books. They sent me a digital advance copy and this is what I gave as a quote:
"Do you like the surreal in your comics? Do you like the non-sequitur? Do you like to see someone having fun over and over as they experiment with the comics medium? Then you'll love this."
And that just about sums it up. Over 200 pages' worth of J Marc's simple, mono-line-weight cartooning, in which there's obvious improvement as the book goes on. It's not for the easily offended, there's nudity and sex and (oh no!) dangerous thinking in these mostly satirical pieces.
The Soldier Legacy #s 2 and 3, by Paul Mason.
Paul Mason's quasi-super-hero comic feels like a quaint kind of throwback to a style of comic Marvel used to make in the 70s.
The art style is an interesting pairing of a less realistic, more cartoony type of drawing than you might expect from the genre (super-heroic action, both urban and set in World War II), but it works a treat, I think mostly because it stops it from taking itself that little bit too seriously. It's certainly over-the-top in regards to dynamic action and figure posing, as it should be. Mason, the lone creator of the series, still has a little way to go to be 100% professional in ability, but not too far. As he stands now though, it's certainly not a deal-breaker at all.
Quite the enjoyable genre read!
Kinds of Blue, by various.
This is a fine 84 page anthology with great heart for a great cause. That cause being letting the reader have a bit of an insight into what it's like to be on the bad side of depression.
KoB suffers a little of what I feared it might: contributions from artists who are not primarily comic book creators, but not nearly as badly as it might have. In fact I was happily quite impressed by the showing of most of these first-timers. The stories don't suffer from repetition either, which was a another fear of mine given that most of the stories are written by the driving force behind the project, Karen Beilhartz. The fact that there's such a diversity of art style helps in that regard too.
It's a handsome package, well presented in full colour, and is worth your consideration.
Clubhouse Comics #1, by various.
What a really fine publication of an Aussie kids anthology comic. Some fun short stories with really good art and lovely colouring. A really good range of differing styles of quality story and cartooning too. Hopefully a sign of more really good things to come from Monster Comics. By the way, full disclosure, I happily had a short story included here myself.
Astonishing X-Men #43, by various.
I read so little American super-hero work now, and even less in the monthly "floppy" format, but this issue of Astonishing X-Men was drawn by Australian David Yardin, who in my opinion doesn't draw nearly enough interiors, though is doing a fabulous job as a cover artist. He does a super job here too, both pencilling and inking in his realistic superhero style.
This issue reminded me how much I do enjoy a good, short, self-contained super story. It was fun, direct, had plenty of character moments, used action as a backdrop to dialogue, intertwined new lore with old cannon, and had a nice serve of suitably ridiculous super-hijinks. Regardless of the fact that of the three heroes, one was a character I'd never met before, and one I barely knew, I never felt out of my depth or lost. And to be honest, I got the kind of buzz only a fanboy of my kind of vintage can get when I recognised that the villain was from a (favourite of mine) 80s Captain America comic. A fun, pop read.
Deadpool Team-Up #886, by various.
Deadpool #32, by various.
One more time, an American superhero floppy bought only because of an Australian's contribution, this time Sheldon Vella.
I enjoyed this so much that I wrote a complete a stand alone review which is available here.
Come Inside My Body — A Choose Your Own Adventure 24 Hour Comic, by Rebecca Clements.
And that title just about sums it up really! Except for how fun and silly it is, and how wonderfully and whimsically cartooned and written it is. Rebecca's a treasure, and dispite my usual dislike for the publication of 24 Hour Comic Challenge efforts this was a delight to read.
Mongrel #1, by Bernard Caleo.
The first issue of Bernard Caleo's new 12 issue project, where the serialisation and the delivery by post are as important, according to Bernard, as the pages themselves.
It's short at only eight pages, but does the job for setting the scene for the coming story.
The art is not slick, but it is full of thick brushy verve, with the real strength of Mongrel being in the dialogue, the characters, the philosophy and philosophising. We only get an inkling of all that in this first instalment but it's what I'm looking forward to the most for the rest of the run.
Blade Kitten volume 1, by Steve Stamatiadis.
A very smartly produced, 40 page collection of Steve Stamatiadis' web-then-print comic. Although it heavily draws from manga stylings, I don't think this could actually be classed as manga. The art is slick and accomplished, very bouncy and colourful, which completely matches the fun, tongue-in-cheek action/adventure story.
Quite an enjoyable, poppy ride.
Dangermoth, by Noelle Dreves.
I picked this up from the artist/writer at a recent Supanova because the art intrigued me. That and the fact it's a female protagonist by a female creator.
The book's fun and bouncy in theme, style and execution, but still sits on the not quite professional side of the line and not just because of the sketchy style of it, which can be a professionally exercised decision. It's more a seeming lack of experience in the storytelling, slightly awkward figure posing, backgrounds, staging and lettering. The cartooning itself is fine, it's what attracted me in the first place, but application over the long(ish) haul of a complete issue of a comic is where such a thing is truly tested.
As a first issue it's all set up and origin story, which I understand, but without something more intriguing in a longterm sense, simply presenting the hero's beginning may not have enough to pull me into the next issue.
Transformers: The Art of Trevor Hutchison, by Trevor Hutchison.
A well deserved reprinting of Trev Hutch's striking and somewhat groundbreaking covers for IDW's Transformers comic All Hail Megatron. The comic was written by Shane McCarthy and he and Hutch are both Perth locals.
The covers as reproduced here are a refreshing departure from what is normally seen on comic shop shelves, and it seems they draw inspiration from, and successfully evoke the feeling of, war posters and communist propaganda posters, while still being modern and original.
A nice little collection.
Tragic Romantic Comix, by Brendan Halyday.
Short and oh-so-sweet romantic daydream by Brendan Halyday. A5 in size with most panels filling the whole page — sometimes the whole spread!, this has thick and jaunty brush work making up most of the art, and interestingly also infusing the lettering.
A bitter sweet little burst of romance.
Bad Guy, by various.
This is the first issue of what looks to be a comic attempting a high concept superhero story.
There's some interesting, stylistic art that thankfully has some personality and that's not just trying to ape the latest Marvel/DC/Image style. Not that it doesn't owe anything to the early Image school of superheroics, but I think it's still trying to find it's feet, especially in layout and staging.
Dirt Kernel #1, by various.
Another not quite-professional-standard first ish here as well. Again, full of life and enthusiasm imparted from the team of creators, which if nothing else gives this tale of the only straight cop in a crooked big city police department something to enjoy.
The art, firmly rooted in manga as style, needs more attention most obviously with the sparse, rushed backgrounds and the lack of originality in style.
Slightly Nervous, by Arran McKenna.
Normally I'm a sequentials only kind of guy, but Arran McKenna's adorable A6 sketchbook of monsters, weirdoes, 'toons and doodles (in both meanings of the word) is too good not to tell you about. It's a fab collection that showcases quite a range of Azza's styles and subject.
Grab it if you see it.
Ben Lives in a Cabin Up a Mountain, Can You Still Get Pregnant If The Dude Just Cries The Whole Time, and It Got Big For No Reason, by Andrew Fulton.
I received Andrew Fulton's latest three minis in the mail, and they're as wonderfully loopy as ever — loopy stories and loopy limbs. Expect full reviews.