Stealing a leaf out of the ol’ Jeff Lester playbook this week, I’m eschewing a longform rant in favor of a trio of quick capsule reviews, which you can find under the jump. Otherwise, scroll below for a brand new Baxter Building…!
Exquisite Corpse: Penelope Bagieu’s first graphic novel to be printed in English (She’s a French creator who’s had a number of books out in her home country, from what I understand) is fast-paced, light and undeniably charming, but I have to admit that I finished it with a sense of “Wait… Is that it?” Part of that is because of the hook that the climax turns on, which pretty much comes out of nowhere and feels like it lacked the amount of set-up it needed to land properly (No spoilers, but those who read it themselves will know what I’m talking about). It feels, more than anything else, like a light romantic comedy from the Continent that would feature a beautiful young female lead and a suitably scruffy male lead who acts as if he’s harassed by being so irresistible to the opposite sex that you’d watch, enjoy and then probably never think anything more about ever again once it was over. Which, I should clarify, isn’t meant as an insult at all; it was actually refreshing to read a comic that was so straightforward and unselfconscious. I’d definitely pick up more from Bagieu, even if I hope that she finds a deeper layer in future works.
Cyber Realm: I’m not sure what the official name is for the genre that Wren McDonald’s one-shot falls into; it’s one in which indie creators come up with comics that are essentially mainstream stories told sincerely and yet, by dint of their creators’ aesthetics and habits, end up oddly skewed nonetheless. To recount the plot of Cyber Realm — a post-apocalyptic story in which a cyborg fights back against the dystopian ruler, only to die in the result and unleash a future robot uprising — would be missing the point; despite the fighting, jumping and all-round action on offer, this comes across as a parody of itself in almost every way, even the twist ending. Part of that comes from the characters’ somewhat bemused reactions to everything that happens (A villain, upon discovering that the cyborg hero has beaten up her minions, exclaims an incredulous “WHAT THE FUCK?!”), and part from McDonald’s artwork, which subverts the heroic comic tradition with something that looks like a cross between Steven Appleby and Kevin Huizenga. The result is something that feels like an alternate OMAC by way of Terminator, but from a far more gentle universe. McDonald’s been added to by “Someone to watch out for” list, after this.
Stroppy: Marc Bell’s graphic novel feels like a suitable follow-on from Cyber Realm, offering a more downbeat view of the world that’s coming, dressed up in far more brightly-colored and purposefully surrealist garb. Bell is very much in a particular tradition of artcomix visually — the pages are crammed with information and awkwardly nervous characters, sweat flying from their purposefully generic heads — and the combination of that and the narrative and thematic concerns that feel more than a little bit familiar leaves this reading strangely old-fashioned and unnecessary, a tribute act for a 1980s version of reality (Specifically, a 1980s issue of Raw), raging against a corporate machine that has become far more subtle in its manipulation of the workforce and the common man. There’s definitely an audience for something like this, but I’m definitely not among them.
For those who might be, however — here’s some more information about Stroppy, including a look at some art; here’s Wren McDonald announcing Cyber Realm, and here’s a sneak at Exquisite Corpse. I know, normally I don’t provide links, but I also normally write about Marvel, DC or Image books you can find almost everywhere else on the Internet…
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