#310 Takehiko Inoue’s “Slam Dunk” and “Vagabond”

Slam Dunk/VagabondTakehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk is easily mistaken for a serious sports manga. Pick it up, though, and you’ll find instead a hilarious ensemble comedy that just happens to involve basketball. Still, the series is credited with basketball’s 90s popularity in Japan, and led Inoue to create several other basketball-related series. But is oeuvre isn’t all hoops; he’s also the creator behind Vagabond, a sometimes-violent but intriguing take on the life of 17th-century historical figure Miyamoto Musashi. Tim and Kumar dig into both series.

REVIEW: Infinite Kung Fu

Written and drawn by Kagen McLeod

Top Shelf Productions, 2011.

The buzz around this book has been damn strong. When books have been praised as highly as Infinite Kung Fu it can be difficult to not be disappointed by the actual reading experience when the enthusiasm fails to take hold of you. Kagen McLeod deserves that praise though, because this is a beautifully rendered, fun page-turner.

At 400+ pages in black and white, one might think that this is a North American product of manga inspiration. That is not really true. Though the subject is of Eastern origin, namely a love letter to Shaw Studios’ kung fu films, the execution is not. The story was originally published as serialized comics in 2002-2003, of which this book is a collection. The art style is more greyish ink wash than the defined black line style common to manga.

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#309 Understanding Israel through a Memoir

Sarah GliddenThe Israeli/Palestinian situation has been in the news for as long as any of us can remember, but how much do we really understand about it? Sarah Glidden, a secular Jew, went on a “Birthright Tour” expecting confirmation of all the negative things she believed about Israel, only to find that the reality was much more complex. Sarah talks to Tim about the experience and her next career steps, and Tim and Brandon review “How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less”, Sarah’s graphic novel/memoir of her Israel visit.

Sarah Glidden’s site

Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême

REVIEW: Richard Stark’s Parker, The Hunter

Adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke

IDW, 2009.

Look, I’ll just say it.

I didn’t like it.

And it’s got nothing to do with Darwyn Cooke officially becoming a scab. I didn’t like it the first time I read it a year and a half ago, and I didn’t like it when I re-read it this week to write this review.

And yet here is a book that has been uniformly praised, as far as I can tell. I haven’t seen any dissent. And rightly so. The book is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Cooke’s ability to construct a whole world in a near-minimalist style is astonishing. If the opening spread of New York doesn’t knock your socks off, nothing will. (Even though I’m sure Cooke didn’t “draw” it in any traditional sense.) I acknowledge all of that.

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Writer: Alan Moore, Penciller: Zander Cannon, Inker: Andrew Cannon

America’s Best Comics, 2004.

This trade paperback collects issues #1-#5 of the miniseries Smax, which was spun out of the Alan Moore created Top 10 series. The story follows the character of Jeff from the Top 10 police force, who returns to his home world/dimension to attend a funeral. Robyn accompanies him and Jeff tries to pass her off as his wife. Robyn is none too happy about this, and it is a waste because no one really believes Jeff. It seems that Jeff is a bad liar and he didn’t even go to the trouble of securing fake wedding bands. It seems that Jeff is really scared that he will hook up (sexually) with his twin sister Rexa.

Moore approaches Jeff’s home world with a humor that is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett.  The series does defiantly compare with the magical realism found in the Discworld novels.  The world is a spoof on the fantasy genre but Moore incorporates some real cutting satire. Jeff’s recounting of his ogre father’s abuse to him (physical) and his sister (physical and sexual) keeps the story from being a light and airy satire of Dungeon and Dragons campaign cliques though. There is a dark side to the relationship between Jeff and Rexa that involves their disturbing prior incestuous couplings.

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Critiquing Comics #020: Ryan Cecil Smith’s “SF”

SFComedy and tragedy, the macabre and the mundane, dwell together comfortably in the pages of “SF” #1, from Ryan Cecil Smith! Tim, Mulele, and Kumar try to figure out what makes it tick.

REVIEW: 2001 A Space Odyssey #2

Writer, Artist, Editor: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 1977.

(This review originally appeared at Weird Crime Theater.)

By pure coincidence, I found this comic at the Camberwell Collector’s Fair the very same week that I was reading Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version.

A cursory glance at the cover will tell you that Marvel’s approach to this property was so divorced from that of Stanley Kubrick or Clarke as to make it effectively unrecognizable. I mean, just look the price box alone!

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#308 Not a Croc!

FrazettaWhat do writing cool Heavy Metal songs and writing comics have in common? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Put down that pen, and go back to your guitar where you belong, headbanger! Rob Zombie, Scott Ian, and Glenn Danzig all share a mutual passion for comics, and had brilliant artists at their disposal, so what went wrong? Blind love of 70s creature features?  Sycophantic DC editors? An obsession with “croc-like creatures”?! Kumar and Dana attempt to wade through the muck…

REVIEW: The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi

Jacques Tardi writer and artist.

Fantagraphics Books, 2011.

This is a 64 page graphic novel that collects material that Tardi originally created and released in 1972 with the French title Le Démon des glaces. It was translated and released in early 2011.

The first thing an interested reader encountering this volume in a bookstore or library will notice is the art. Tardi’s draftsmanship is truly a wonderful thing to behold and this book features his work with scratchboard. This medium allows for a woodcut effect with an added dimension of shading and depth applied to the art and allows texture and shadow to be applied to the image. The result is a classic text illustration effect that pairs well with the Jules Verne/H. G. Wells inspired story.

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REVIEW: Wilson

by Dan Clowes

Drawn & Quarterly, 2010

(This review originally appeared at Weird Crime Theater.)

Look, let’s get some things out of the way right off the bat. Yes, as you may have heard, Wilson is not nearly as good as many of Dan Clowes’s other works. It’s not one of his best by any means, and it seems to be aiming for a kind of Jimmy Corrigan-like poignancy which it falls far short of (I’ll get back to this), but it’s still worth talking about, which is why I’m here.

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