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Comics shopping, largely as originally related on some GameFAQs boards

Picked up several comics the other day at my local shop, Arcane Comics.

-The new DH Conan is serviceable. What hooked me into picking up, actually, were a 3 issue arc written by Mike Mignola (of Hellboy fame) and a current miniseries where Tim Truman provided the art. I like those two creators a lot, and their material reminded me of just how much I enjoyed the worlds created by Robert E. Howard. So, when I went on another $100 splurge at the shop, I decided to gice the Busiek and Nord books a shot. I have issues with the art not having been inked, and I'm in no way awed by Busiek's writing (as some seem to be), but the first volume was enjoyable enough.

-Fantagraphics' quarterly anthology MOME continues to be a mild disappointment, and I continue to buy it. Figure I just pick it up because it's the only place I know of to catch some of the artists featured in its pages. I also figure I'm a dupe for laying down $15 bucks every three months on this haphazard collection which pales in comparison to the likes of Monkeysuit, The Escapist, and RAW. I should probably set out to find more copies of those.

I'm not wholly disappointed with MOME, however. Each of the three issues I've gotten my hands on has had one good, solid piece of work in it. Andrice Arp's 'Cormorant Feathers' in Fall 2005, David B's 'The Armed Garden' in Winter 2006, and Jeffrey Brown's 'I Feel Like I Don't Even Know You' from Fall 2006 were all pretty strong. In fact, Brown and Arp's respective works have been good. I guess I just don't like what Paul Horschemeier's doing in MOME, and have no love for a lot of the other featured artists, like Sophie Crumb, Tim Hensley, Kurt Wolfgang, or Gabrielle Bell. Most of the material in the compilation seems to either be obnoxiously affected (e.g. 'Wally Gropius, Teen Millionare' and 'Overpeck') or too interested in the mundane to offer anything interesting (as with Bell's writing). Sort of like how the layouts are almost all bland and standard or bland and just slightly off, with nothing to recommend them to anyone.

It's hard for me to put a finger on exactly what's missing, though. I'm just not 'feeling it' like I was the first time I read Hornschemeier's Sequential #7 or John Pham's Epoxy #3.

-I mentioned The Escapist commpilation, whose long title is Michael Chabon Presents: The Escapist. A spin off of that, The Escapists, impressed me with its first issue. I have bought the second and third installments based on that experience. So far, the premier has outperformed its follow-ups. But I still like the premiseof the series, and I'll probably keep buying it for that.

-British cartoonist, Paul Grist, has been doing some great street-level adventure books. Image Comics has done its part by publishing them stateside. Grist's latest offering is Jack Staff, subtitled 'Britain's Greatest Hero!' Grist's character design is close to my own, his layouts are relatively innovative, if sometimes a little too dictated by structure, and his stories feel at once fantastic and gritty without ever falling into that obnoxious parody of reality that constitutes mainstream comics work.

-Speaking of, I picked up DC's latest issue of Hawkgirl (#56) because I respect the folks working on it. The issue was weird, and very Lovecraft inspired. Also, Hawkgirl has huge, fake looking tits. I've never understand the gigantic boobs on superheroines thing, but these at least look like a parody. I'll probably end up getting the previous five issues of the series so I can have all of it, following the change in title (and staff) from Hawkamn, but I'm not sure whether I should look forward to this or not.

-Something I am excited about is picking up the rest of The Goon. In browsing through Arcane, I'd often seen this series lying around. Didn't really appeal to me. Sort of seemed like part of that whole thing that followed Dark Horse's 'alternative hero' success with Hellboy and Madman in the early '90s. I have that swell to thank for a lot of good comics and much of my artistic style, since it eventually lead me by association to much older French books like Tin Tin or Corto Maltese. Nevertheless, a lot of what it inspired was drivel that eventually became just like the standard hero junk it had started off so different from. So I stuck away from The Goon.

But then I saw Steve Rude (co-creator of Nexus and The Badger)--I think it was Steve, anyway--and Mike Allred (creator of the aforementioned Madman) had done some guest work on an issue. Again, this could have just been because of publisher ties or they're all being part of the same scene. But, still. This got me thinking. Maybe I should give the book a try.

Some months later, I did, and was not at all disappointed. I started with the earliest material, which the creator sppears to consider just above 'crap', but, man, was I entertained. A giant mob enforcer, tiny demented sidekick at his side, fighting zombies and oversized rats. Sweet. I can't wait to grab up the rest of the books.

-Another British comic published by Image--those boys are doing alright with the import business, I tell you--caught my eye with its pop art cover featuring a mod chick's face sporting a pair of oversized sunglasses. On these I read, "can't imagine the world without me'. Below this record cover proportioned display, the comic's title: PHONOGRAM. Issue 2 of 6. Okay. I'll check it out. I flip through. The art is clean-line style with poor and overdone zip-a-toned backgrounds. Something about it seems like it might work, though, and I grab it up. The writing is weird. It's half paranormal rag, half Britpop trip down memory lane, with some neat little narrative tricks tossed in.

How strange to realize just how old and displaced a scene I almost grew up on has become. When I first heard Modern Life is Rubbish, I felt like I had run into something I could understand, even being a very young man almost half the world away and a couple years behind. Now it's 12 years later, and Britpop doesn't even exist anymore. I hadn't thought about it in a while, and this comic really focused on that aspect, more than anything.

The whole thing felt very mundane, despite its supernatural overtones, but it grabbed me somewhere. I'm definitely going to get the rest of the series.

-Adrian Tomine's 32 Stories, published by the wonderful Drawn and Quarterly, collects the (originally self-published 'mini comics') first seven issues of Optic Nerve. Good stuff.

Now, the art can feel haphazard, and it doesn't always stick to a single style. Most of it recalls earlier indy and punk comic art of the '80s, though the later stories' styles begin to fit a bit better with their original publishing date (being somewhere in the early '90s)--or I could just be talking out of my hat, since I wasn't really buying small press books at the time. As you read, it becomes clear Tomine is a skilled artist, happy to dabble in different modes of expression.

It's a small book, less than 100 pages long, but you'll want to take your time with it. The stories are wonderful vignettes, the sort to make you feel like curling up in a blanket and rereading them on some late, cold night. Tomine's introduction is illuminating and honest, giving the reader a decent window into how the book in his hands came to be.

-Also ended up with Madman Comics: Heven and Hell. I've been down with Madman since '93, and when I saw some of the issues I didn't have lying around in a trade paperback, I had to get them, even though I sort of feel like I've moved on from that stuff. To an extent, Allred has, too, despite all of his wonderful comics nostalgia. Anyway, one half of the book focuses on 'the G-Men from Hell', and it convinced me Mike A. needs to do a straight noir book. Hell, it made me feel like doing a noir comic. Not even Sin City managed that.

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