Tag Archives: comics

Welcome to Lovecraft

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphlius reviews Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez, & al., introduction by Robert Crais, book 1 of the Locke & Key series.

Hill Rodriguez Locke and Key Welcome to Lovecraft

This volume collects the first six numbers of the horror comic Locke & Key, which came to me highly recommended, and lived up to its reputation. The writing is truly scary, and the art is gorgeous. The writer and artist have each done excellent work in developing the central characters, and the plot involves both supernatural horror and more “pedestrian” terror. Psycho-cinematic devices like flashbacks and imagined alternatives come across clearly. 

The story has some similarities to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, but with a more complex backstory that can clearly support a longer narrative of evolving conflict. Rodriguez’s art reminds me a little of Rick Geary, but definitely has its own style: bold lines and dramatic perspective help to keep the reader following the action. And the colors by Jay Fotos manage to hit just the right notes, no small consideration in a horror comic.

Although this book is the first of several collections from a continuing title, it does contain a full plot arc, and it makes for an excellent read in its own right. I’m happy to pass along the recommendation that brought me to Welcome to Lovecraft.

Spin Angels

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Spin Angels [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by Jean-Luc Sala and Pierre-Mony Chan. (See also the Spin Angels series.)

Sala Chan Spin Angels

Billed in the jacket copy as “a head-on collision between John Woo and John Paul II,” Spin Angels (originally Crossfire) is also like what you’d get if Dan Brown were assigned to write a serial plot arc for Charlie’s Angels — although to be fair to author Sala, the details of religious conspiracy and ancient heresy are actually presented more credibly in this comic than what you’ll find in the Da Vinci Code. Certainly, the characters are more vivid and entertaining. Artist Chan mixes manga visual conventions with a detailed, painterly style and highly dynamic panel compositions. 

This volume collects the first four issues of the Marvel Comics English translation of the original Soleil bandes dessinées for this title, which do not in any way conclude the story. The fifth (and most recent as of this review) was published in French in 2010. Recommended to those who enjoy the application of adrenaline and testosterone to esoteric religion.

The Mad Scientist and A Dusting of Mummies

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 2: The Mad Scientist and A Dusting of Mummies [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by Jacques Tardi. (In some places the title of the second story is given as Mummies on Parade, so in this intro blurb I’ve opted for the story title on the cover.) (The film adaptation includes material from the second story in this volume.)

Tardi The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec The Mad Scientist and A Dusting of Mummies

This second Fantagraphics reprint volume collects the third and fourth numbers of Jacques Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec stories: “The Mad Scientist” and “Mummies on Parade.” “The Mad Scientist” is very much in line with the earlier numbers with its modest pacing, bewildering plot, and droll character interactions. It focuses on the reanimation of a Pithecanthropus and his surprising behavior, and culminates in some spectacular violence on the streets of 1912 Paris. In “Mummies on Parade” Tardi really pulls out the stops, bringing together plot threads from almost all of the earlier stories, adding a mass revivification of Egyptian mummies, connecting Adele’s troubles with the wreck of the Titanic, and providing a downbeat ending after a somewhat hilarious cascade of mayhem. The art in “Mummies” is especially fine: there were several panels that I would be happy to enlarge and hang on my wall — though my tastes are rather outré!

Tardi The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele  Blanc-Sec The Mad Scientist and A Dusting of Mummies two panels from Mummies on Parade

The Sandman: Overture

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sandman: Overture [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Neil Gaiman, J H Williams III, and Dave Stewart, with Todd Klein and Dave McKean.

Gaiman Williams et al The Sandman Overture

The six-issue Sandman: Overture comics series was the last to be created for the title character. It was published more than fifteen years after the seventy-fifth and last number of the original Sandman title, which had in its day been fantasy writer Neil Gaiman’s largest and highest-profile comics work. As “Overture” suggests, this later sequence supplies a story set immediately prior to the main series, anticipating its themes and forms.

Although I was an active comics reader during the heyday of the lauded former serial, and it certainly fit my general tastes, for whatever reason, I haven’t read it–even though it has remained in print in trade paperback collections ever since. It has new currency now with the release of the big-money-small-screen version from Netflix. So when I considered reading some of the comics this summer, I decided to start with Overture. After reading the copious creators’ notes and interviews in this volume, I realize that the intended audience for Overture were really longtime fans and knowledgeable readers of Sandman. Oh, well. I didn’t find it difficult to follow, although I suppose it would have been a richer read if I had been familiar with the other work.

The art in this book is outstanding, with the lines and shades by J.H. Williams III (of Promethea fame) and amazing colors by Dave Stewart. Another key contributor, who doesn’t appear on the cover but still features among the creative personnel interviewed in the end matter, is letterer Todd Klein. Perennial Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean also provided cover art for the series.

Among comics, I was most reminded of the Eternity story arc from 1970s Doctor Strange, although Williams and Gaiman in their remarks refer to Jim Steranko rather than Gene Colan as a visual comics influence. In literature generally, Gaiman’s “Endless” characters reminded me most of Tanith Lee’s “Lords of Darkness” in her Tales from the Flat Earth books. They are not mere personifications of abstract concepts. It might be more accurate to call them hypostases of cosmic principles–but ones that somehow elicit the reader’s human sympathy.

I Can Explain

I’ll be honest. I picked up Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain, & al., because I saw the kerfuffle about the cover for the second volume, and grabbed both to support the series. It then languished in my to-read stack for a long time, but I got around to this and devoured it in one sitting.

This is freakin’ hilarious, and smart. The arc in this collection has a modern storyline with a cool narrative structure. It reminded me of Archer and Deadpool in various ways. The dialogue is witty and sharp, there’s tons of easter eggs in the panels to find, and fun cameos, not the least of which is Howard the Duck! And, it’s a female protagonist who’s the smartest person in the room, in charge, and unapologetic about any of that.

Great stuff I definitely recommend.

Originally posted on my personal blog at I Can Explain

A Nation Under Our Feet Vol 1

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, & al., is narratively deep and visually impressive. There’s social, political, and economic allegorical levels to the story, which are welcome complexity to the overall genre. The inter-, intra-, and extra-, relationships that T’Challa must navigate and learn from are well developed and interesting to see explored. The art style is a nifty syncretic of many influences, both pan-african and including the futurism of Jack Kirby’s technological schematic visual lexicon.

This first collection starts out a little slow as it tries to deal with a bunch of previous narrative threads, but quickly picks up and builds a good foundation on which the following volumes can continue to construct. On the other hand, the apparently slow start also did give me a quick primer on the Black Panther series, which I am not familiar with, as this is the first I’ve read of any of them. These previous events are also the collective source of the current state of unrest and turmoil that is core to the developing story for both individuals and the collective groups involved. In that sense, I’ve just completely talked myself out of this being a problem and into it being a strength.

The last part of this volume includes a reprint of the very first appearance of Black Panther, in the pages of Fantastic Four, which is a nice bonus, and provides interesting comparison and parallax to the current artwork and writing, as well as being a bit of history to include.

I’ve already picked up the next 2 collected volumes, and am looking forward to the rest of the story.

Originally posted on my personal blog at A Nation Under Our Feet Vol 1

Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, &al, is something I’ve wanted to read for a long time and finally got a round tuit.

This was originally an 8 issue series, now available as a collected graphic novel. Apparently there’s been others created in the 1602 universe, but this is the core story. This is an alternate universe story about the main Marvel superheroes out of time, for some reason, which is eventually revealed. On the main, the cool part is the period drama and how the heroes have turned out in another time, and an extended thought experiment about this alternate reality in which essential natures and essential stories still play out.

I think for me the real feature that drew me to this story was that it featured Doctor Strange, and moreover in the era of John Dee, but it turns out there’s a lot more I enjoyed. Lots of little things that tickled my interests, like Daredevil talking about mystery and audere, Fury and Peter Parker talking about secrets, powers and mysteries, & c.

I think I was really hoping that Doctor Strange would use Dee’s obsidian mirror, but if it was there, even in the background, I missed it. But there’s plenty I found interesting. Two moments that come to mind are the villainization of libertarian, individual as the myopic measure of right Doom opposed to the excellence in a collective of the various others coming together, and an almost Zen parable about tools and weapons that resolves into an oblique takedown of filthy lucre.

On the other hand, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that the Fantastic Four could be seen as the four classical elements. I still don’t enjoy FF much, but it’s a dimension to them I’d not thought about before, that’s kinda obvious now that I’ve read it.

The art is in that almost over-perfect style that is hand-drawn but finished on a computer, which tweaks that peculiar Alex Ross-like trigger of glossy detail while still being minimal. The writing is good, though not stunning, to be honest. The primary novelty is in the time-twist and what-if-ism, which does deliver a solid series. Overall, worth reading and a fun adventure that kept me interested and thinking beyond just what the story presented.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Marvel 1602

Aethyrs Volume 1

Announcing the complete debut collection of Aethyrs comic panels posted to the Hermetic Library Blog in 2016 by the librarian of Hermetic Library, John Griogair Bell.

Aethyrs Volume 1 2016 cover

I’ve been holding onto an idea for a comic for a long time, and have been jotting down dialog ideas for several years now. Two things happened recently. First, I ran into a sketch pad I’d forgotten about where I’d been doodling some ideas for the characters. Second, I realized that I was just in time for #Inktober, a personal challenge to do some ink drawing each day for the month of October.

Well, I’ve gone and done it now.

Contents is the collection of the following panels:

0 In the Beginning…
1 There was Nothing.
2 Nothing gets boring really fast.
3 Nothing decided to become Something.
4 Something isn’t much better than Nothing.
5 But at least it’s Something.
6 As brothers fight ye!
7 ‘Sup? Dude.
8 You suck.
9 No. You suck.
10 Ever get the feeling?
11 No. But, I bet you do.
12 Your hostility betrays a weakness of character.
13 I’m not being hostile.
14 Yes? Maybe. No!
15 You’re wrong.
16 I just haven’t figured out how.
17 I always knew you were a scorpion.
18 You failed to understand.
19 Why won’t you just talk to me?
20 I’m ignoring you.
21 No, I don’t!
22 Until you get caught.
23 You.
24 I’d rather be alone.
25 Why are you here?
26 Service me.
27 It isn’t about you.
28 Why do you have to be that way?
29 Helping you understand isn’t a priority.
30 I give up.
31 Mind your own business.
32 Do the thing.
33 Take a swim.
34 The only one.
35 It exists.
36 I have my own.
∞ (silence)

Follow news and announcements for Aethyrs on the library blog, and follow along for new panels!

I would especially like to take a moment to thank each and every 2016 Funding Campaign and Patron Campaign supporter for helping to make this new comic and the work of the library possible.