Tuesday, 17 June 2008

4 from the Weekend

You work around comics all day, you speak to people about comics all day but when exactly do you sit down and read them - all too rarely. Still I do try to relax with a few over the weekend so I'll try and do some short reviews weekly of the stuff I read, what I thought of it which might give you some idea of the stuff we like and don't like so much at Blank Slate. Here's the 4 books I read this weekend.

The Programme - Pete Milligan/C.P. Smith - DC/Wildstorm

I kinda quite liked this. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Pete Milligan, after producing some of the ground breaking comics of the 80's and 90's he still seems to be a font of decent ideas and continues to show a deft craft as a comics scriptwriter, perhaps only being slightly overshadowed by Grant Morrison's rising star stopped him being seen as one of comics most significant writers (or maybe he is). Or perhaps it was his at times wilfully non commercial, experimental material - anyone remember Paradox or Rogan Josh? Without revealing too much of the plot, this is basically a Bourne movie but with super Bourne's on each side, as a Soviet sleeper cell of super-beings emerge from mothballing at the hands of a soviet scientist for whom the war with the west can never end. In turn the US brings their super-beings back into service. Lots of super-antics ensue, plus some heavy politics and psychology for good measure. C.P. Smith's art is so clearly photo-referenced that it's a little hard to critique in any way. Not my bag, but it does the job with a certain elegance. Just a mention for Jonny Rench's colouring job: I normally find the muted Vertigo type palette used on many DC books pretty much a soul destroying experience to work through, but here Rench works pretty much within that range, given that the art would probably look better uncoloured in the first place, and produces something which almost tends towards psychedelic in the way he uses it - I liked it quite a bit. I'll be buying the next volume of this.

The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 - Thomas Ott - Fantagraphics

If you have followed Thomas Ott through previous books there won't be anything here that really surprises - apart from the fact that this is one long story rather than a number of short ones as in most/all? his previous books. It's always a little difficult to judge the art as by how I understand the craft of 'scratchboard' art - lines scratched through an ink layer to reveal the white clay lines beneath (if you want to be overpowered by the work that must go into Ott's work take a look at this brief explanation of the technique) - you will just be amazed by the sheer technical profficency of the whole thing. Ott's art has always, for me, had a certain understated beauty and here I think he has reached a peak, each panel looking like a photograph manipulated through a photoshop filter, composed as something which should and does exist on its own terms as a minature work of art. That they then also combine to tell a story just adds to your admiration for the artist. The story itself is reasonably simplistic - if neatly composed - following the concept of something like Luke Reinhardt's 'The Dice Man' - the numbers leading the protaganist to decisions already, in effect, made for him by fate, just as the throw of the dice decides decisions in Reinhardt's book. It has a lovely circular motif which means somewhere the events of this book are always being made - maybe one day starring you. The book itself has the usual understated stylings of an Edition Moderne Ott book (EM are Ott's Swiss publisher and the books originator), classic black and white interiors and covers, heavy hardback cover stock and heavy internal page paperweight with an unusual semi-gloss finsh. All in all a beautiful book. If you like Ott already you will enjoy this latest wordless outing if you don't, or don't know his work, take a look - the longer storylength might just convince you even if the mastery of the art doesn't.

Burnout - Rebecca Donner/Inaki Miranada - DC Minx

Ok, straight off i'm obviously not the target market for a line of books aimed primarily at teenage girls but from the start I've found the Minx line pretty enjoyable, this one was no exception. Rebecca Donner's script has all the elements for a decent story put together by a kind of shorthand, teenage girl lead character, troubled home live, out-there best friend, eco conservation worries and a hot lead boy/boyfriend. Of course most of the characters are ciphers - perhaps most noticeably the young male lead is painted in overly broad strokes - but the story holds together pretty well, and a number of complex issues like conservation over commerce are dealt with in an understandable and even-handed manner. The art is functional rather than inspired, but if you are making the jump to this from Manga there is nothing to scare you here. The book isn't an object in and off itself, so the print and finish aren't a big deal but I did feel sometimes that some folios of the book saw the printers setting the black levels a little inconsistently, sometimes they were vibrant at others overly muted - maybe it was an art decision rather than a slightly sloppy print job. The ending is a bit pat, but overall given the 'packaged' format the Minx books have to comply to this, as for most of the line so far, is better than you might expect.

Sky Doll - Barbara Canepa/Alessandro Babucci - Marvel

This is the first comic released as part of a new collaboration between Marvel and french publisher Soleil to try and bring some of their more popular works to english readers in translated form. The story concerns a 'doll' (think something like Pris from Bladerunner crossed with Leeloo from Fifth Element and you wont go far wrong) who runs away from her life of enforced slavery/drudgery. Somehow she seems linked to a previous religious war where one of two godesses was exiled and banned, could she be a reincarnation of that more benign lost spirit? I wish I could say I cared enough to keep reading and find out but for the most part I just didn't. The art has an amazing skill to it and many panels are packed with background detail - mostly lost here in what I presume is a size around 25 - 40% smaller than it originally would have appeard in France - but at times I found the storytelling more than a little confusing. The word baloons I presume could not be resized and often the 'new' English words simply don't fill them, leaving huge areas of dead space in some panels. The colour scheme again may suffer from the reduced size, its obvious subtelty at times more confusing than enlightening, but I found it hard to like much. The story seems crammed with elements from Silverberg SF novels and parts Bladerunner, Fifth Element and many other SF movies, it seems laboured at best - this is 44 pages long and Soleil apparantly pride themselves on the 'depth' in their storytelling - I was bored about 15 pages in and 44 pages seemed like forever by the end. The worst part of the whole thing though is the inside front cover where we are given a 'Welcome to the world of Soleil'. I know if you are doing the marketing on a project like this you need to talk the reasons for the project up, but the mutual backslapping here had me cringing. Seemingly Sky Doll is award winning - despite it's obvious craft in the artwork - I found it a soulless and close to totally uninteresting read. Maybe the other Soleil titles to come will be better - not holding my breath though.


Anonymous trinity said...

Dear Friends and Partners of Thomas Ott,

In the Name of the Author/Artist Thomas Ott in Switzerland we just created a new Website for him with as much details to his work as possible.
The Sites http://www.tott.ch and http://www.thomasott.ch were going Online today, July 9th 2009 at 7pm.

You can see takouts of his Books, Music, and Films as well as there is a Biography and Presspage with a PRmirror and Highresolution
Pictures available. We have added a Shoppinglist where, if you are a seller, are listed.
Other Friends and Partners can be Found under: LINKS.

All Booksellers we have also added in different spots. Below the books which can be bought in your country and/or in the Link list.
Could you please Link our Website to yours as well?
That would be wonderful and I am sure it will help fans to find purchase places near to there home and allow to find full information
faster and easier.

Thanks for letting me know if you can "Link us In" and if you are happy with the way we published you. Changes can be applied..

Have a great day..
Switzerland, Zürich

trinity³ production
Medea Nadja von Ah
Rotbuchstrasse 19
8006 Zürich CH

11 July 2009 04:08  

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