Monday, April 14, 2014

Advance Review: Benito Mambo - Christian Durieux

Edition : Oversized Deluxe Edition
120 pages - 10 x 13 inches - Color
EAN 9781594650857
$34.95 - £19.99
Benito Mambo's release date is April 30 2014. So when that date comes, buy it here!

And thus starts Benito's adventure as a Mambo dancer. Right away Durieux shows us a peek of the world that Benito inhabits. A world that's very restricting and exhausting and filled with "adulthood". Benito wants nothing to do with that world and because of that, he is thrown into a pit to die. Within the pit Bentio is visited by his unknown savior:

As you can tell Benito Mambo is fill with outlandish caricatures and situations. Actually, almost every page, every panel is filled with outlandish characters and situations. Durieux almost never gives us time to relax and keeps us moving from joke to another, one crazy situation to another, one outlandish character to another. One would think that Durieux would run out of jokes/situations/characters but he doesn't and he keeps bombarding us with them. This bombardment never overwhelms the reader; it's actually quite essential to the story. It matches the almost breakneck speed of Benito's journey and quick-draw dialogue of the characters.

Durieux can really build up to a joke. Something that might seem as throw away comes back with a hilarious fury. When Durieux is not building a a joke, he can pull off amazing six to nine panel gags that leave you laughing for a while. Each joke and gag feeds of each other and builds on top of each other, so by the end you have multiple jokes going on, each running off each other; it's amazing to read.

Benito Mambo is also filled with just beautiful single splash pages. Durieux masterfully builds up to these splash pages that when the reader comes across it, POW! You're taken aback by its beauty and color. This level of beauty is something we see regularly throughout Benito Mambo especially with the vivid and at lush colors that Durieux uses. Durieux's colors beautifully capture the everyday absurdity that these characters go through.

One thing that really bugged me about Benito Mambo was that the only female (her name is Angelica)  in the comic was never given much agency. Angelica is seen as a motivator, a goal point for Benito to grab. Angelica is used to make Benito to strive for something better. It also doesn't helped that Angelica locked up and out of sight (literally, there's a shades that cover her cage) for most of the comic. For someone whose a major player and motivator for our main character, I wish she was given more depth and complexity. Even most of the secondary characters get more depth than her. Yes, she does fight back from her captors and gets some nice shots in but that's it! Nothing more! I wish Durieux fleshed her out more in Benito Mambo.

Even with this problem, Benito Mambo is still worth your time. It brings to the table a magical fable about mambo dancing, humor and individuality through a absurdest filter. Benito Mambo is a great spring read and a comic that will you leaving smiling for the entire day.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Advance Review: Genesis - Nathan Edmondson, Alison Sampson, & Jason Wordie

We all want to change something in the world, whether it be within our family or on a more macro level or both, for better or worse. In Genesis Edmondson, Sampson & Wordie explore the that issue and how far a person is willing to push themselves to do so. Edmondson, Sampson & Wordie also use this to investigate and explore what would happen if someone was given absolute power to do so and how creative and destructive it can become to the world and to one's self. 

Right from page one we're given a good amount of information about our main character, Adam. Adam is a child of creativity, he creates and transforms his ordinary blocks into something more substantial, more tangible. We're also given that his parents instilled in him the need to change the world, to leave his mark, they were building him up to be something more than the rest. As Adam gets older, he uses his creativity and his need to make to change the world through building a church and becoming a preacher. What better of a way to change the world around you by becoming a man of the holy word but things never work out the way you want them to.

As the story progresses Adam receives a special power that allows him to change the world, to make the world his own building blocks. Adams now has the ability to create whatever enters his mind and to change reality into his own. And what starts out as a something special becomes a nightmare.
Reading Genesis is like enter a surreal and dreamlike landscape that twists and turns and gets bent out-of-shape as we keep reading; always changing and surprising us. What we think we know as real gets questioned multiple times. The conscious and the subconscious invade Adam's waking life and twist his world into something beautiful and horrific. Whatever personal and open space the world had is now melded together. Adam's landscape becomes something out of a David Lynch and Cronenberg film.
I love little touches like these. Sampson & Wordie are showing us a landscape
 that has become personified, that has changed into something
more insidious and personal.
All this happens because someone wanted to change the world. Adam was groomed from an early age to be better, to be something more, and Genesis follows this idea thoroughly throughout the comic. From the seed of  "wanting to change the world" do we get into the predicament that Adam gets himself into in the comic. Edmondson, Sampson & Wordie follow the ripples of a person getting such power to do so. We read how a creative and driven person can create and ultimately destroy the people around him and his world. We're given some explanations of the thing who gave him his powers and the overall picture of the powers, but it's never fully explained; that's fine. Edmondson, Sampson & Wordie are not interested in giving a full-depth explanation of the powers but explore the how person changes through such powers and its ramifications. 

Again Sampson & Wordie show us a world in turmoil and a world
personified through Adam's subconscious.
I was taken aback time and time again by Sampson & Wordie work. Genesis would not have the impact it had on me if it wasn't for Sampson & Wordie. Everything I've written about the world of Genesis is fully realized and brought to life by the amazing skills of Sampson & Wordie.
Sampson is an interesting artist because of the many different influences I pick up from her work; incidental or not. Looking at her line I see many different artists and cartoonists being brought to life: I see the loose, abstract line-work of Alberto Breccia during his later years as a cartoonist, the wild yet mathematically structured composition of Sergio Toppi, the sketchy and scratchy aesthetic of Egon Schiele backed by Sampson's eye and hand as an architecture. Sampson is able to bring all these different visuals and distill it into something unique that comes alive in Genesis.
Jason Wordie does a beautiful job matching those unique visuals with a very soft palette that gives the narrative and Sampson's artwork more emotion depth and feeling. Reading through some interviews with Sampson and Edmondson, I see that they asked for coloring to be influenced by Hiroshi Yoshida. This is a very interesting choice because looking through Yoshida's work, his use of color is a bit strange but it gives hie paintings and woodblocks a certain emotional feeling. It's through this idea that Wordie used to color Genesis and give it that same unique feeling that you would get from a Yoshida painting/woodblock. With all the destruction that takes place, there's a feeling of placidity that washes over the reader and I don't think that would have happened if Wordie used a different color palette.
There's an odd calmness even in the most destructive scenes.
Genesis is a fascinating comic that explores ramification of wanting to change the world & explore the meanings of creation and destruction. The synergy that Edmondson, Sampson & Wordie bring to Genesis is breathtaking and will leave you reeling for days.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Advance Review: Metabarons Genesis: Castaka - Alexandro Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras

Edition : Oversized Deluxe Edition

112 pages - 9.4 x 12.6 inches - Color
EAN 9781594650536
$49.95 - £29.99

The comic gets released on March 26. So when the 26 comes you can buy it here!
I'm not a big fan of Space Operas. They never really grabbed me and the ones I did read never did much for me. Then steps in The Metabarons by Jodorowsky and Gimenez. 

I was skeptical about it but that skepticism disappeared when I was a few pages in and found  something new, something different than most the space operas I've read before. The Metabarons brought me a sense of excitement, wonder, and awe, it's also a series full of sadness, paranoia and betrayal. It took me to a whole different universe filled with technological cults, mysticism and esotericism.  Showed me a unique anthropological look at the different cultures that inhabit the universe but filtered through the mystical symbolic madness of Jodorowsky. 
So when I read that Humanoids were going to release Metabarons Genesis: Castaka, I was worried. Worried because the post-Gimenez Metabaron comics haven't really captured me. Weapons of the Metabarons (by Jodorowsky, Charest, and Janjetov), which told how the last Metabaron (the last of his line) gained his position as the most powerful warrior in the universe, was rather dull read and how had none of the wonder. I thought that Metabarons Genesis: Castaka could fall into that pit; that thought couldn't be further from the truth. Castaka really captures everything I loved about the original Metabarons series. 

Metabarons Genesis: Castaka starts off with Baron Berard of Castaka fighting his daughter's (Edna) husband for succession. Also, the beginning of Castaka take places between the pages 22-26 of The Metabarons and Das Pastoras does an amazing job taking those pages and re-imagines them into his own vision. 
Through this generational transference, our story starts and we learn about the Amakuras clan and the Castaka clan. Two warring clans fighting over the space of their small planet.
Das Pastoras, like Gimenez, does an amazing job drawing fight scenes and sequences. They're able to perfectly compose and draw their characters in way that you can feel their swords swinging, you can feel the anger and blood and grit coming from the page. They also don't glorify the violence, they show it in all its sadness and ugliness.
As the story continues, the queen of the Castaka clan gets raped by the king of the Amakuras clan and has his child; through this singularly horrific action the two clans get horrible intertwined. From there we experience the rise and fall and rise of the Castaka clan throughout the comic.
Das Pastoras is amazing with facial expressions. He's able to portray a range of
emotions through his characters' face.
The Metabaron series is rife with epic Greek tragedies. The series deals with rape, incest, family betrayal and with individuals who are so powerful, so singular in their approach that they are their worst enemies and they are their own downfall. Metabarons Genesis: Castaka deals with this issues just like the original series did. Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras don't shy away from these very hard issues and they follow them through. They don't glorify the rape, it's not used to make the comic gritty/dark, and Jodorowsky & Das Pastoras touch how the queen is affected by this and how a overly masculine culture deals with such a horrible offense. But they only touch and don't delve into the damages of such a horrible act. Now, they do further delve into the aftermath of the rape and how it damages and twists its future generations.

Das Pastoras's artwork just shines throughout this comic. As you can see from the images above, he does an amazing job combining Richard Corben and Moebius into his own vision. Das Pastora's use of watercolors and his mastery of the anatomy brings the visuals and visual storytelling to another level in Metabarons Genesis: Castaka. 

One problem I did have with Das Pastoras's art is the way he textures his colors. There are times where I felt the characters were colored in a way that they came off as clay figures than actual people and it threw off the rest of the coloring feeling of the comic. This is a artistic choice of Das Pastoras and a choice I really don't like but it doesn't lessen the comic.

Metabarons Genesis: Castaka brings me back to the way day I first read The Metabarons. I get transported away into a universe that's full of tragedies and hope, a universe and bloodline so fully realized, vast, and complex that with every re-reading I keep finding new things to discover and changes the way I see how comics can be done.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rembrandt - Typex

As we open Rembrandt we are welcomed with a single splash page of an elephant inside of a ship's cargo. It's weary, beaten, alone and in complete darkness. Typex portrays this in a way that's reminiscent of woodblock carving.  
This choice intensifies the feelings of the reader towards the elephant and of the elephant's loneliness and complete alienation from its environment. And serves as a foreshadowing of Rembrandt's journey: a man who was at the peak of popularity, now a shadow of himself. 

In the next couple pages the elephant is rudely awakened and is viciously hauled out of the cargo.
Through this action we are rudely introduced into Rembrandt's world, Amsterdam 1642, but also introduced to Rembrandt himself; a man who knows how great he is and how great his skills are.

Typex does this all within nine pages; nine silent pages. There's no word bubbles, no thought bubbles, no narration boxes, just the images. It's a testament to Typex' skills as a cartoonist. And these nine pages are a great introduction to Rembrandt, in which Typex will flesh out and texturize throughout the comic.

After those nine pages, Typex begins the autobiography of Rembrandt and he tells the biography through vignettes. Rembrandt is not told linearly, but instead Typex hones in at special moments in Rembrandt's life. This is a smart move because it doesn't bore the reader in a linear path of: this happens and then this happens and then this happens and so on. It also allows Typex a level of flexibility to move his narrative pieces around and have a tighter control of pacing. Because the story shifts around from past to present to future a lot, it gives the story a level of mystery within the character motivations and actions. What may befuddle a reader at the beginning will get explained later on, giving the story a feeling that you're slowly peeling its skin.  

Throughout the story Typex portrays a world and an artist that's at odds with itself; Typex doesn't hold back and isn't afraid to show the ugly side of Rembrandt and the world he occupies. A world and artist that is full of life and wonder and beauty, but isn't afraid to destroy that beauty and wonder and not think twice of it. These stark contrasts between the two serves as a way to ground the reader, but also fill us with a sense of awe and wonder.

Typex also has an eye for composition: every panel is filled with beautiful composition. You get a feeling that Typex meticulously placed every character and word bubbles within his panels. The eye for compositions gives the reader a sense of beauty and it also helps guide the reader to where Typex wants them to look at.
Throughout reading Rembrandt I was absolutely gobsmacked by Typex' ability to portray facial and bodily expressions. If you've read some of my past reviews, I love when cartoonists are able use their character's face and body to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Typex does this perfectly; from the exaggerated to the nuanced to everything in-between, Typex shows he can do it all.

Another thing that caught my eye was Typex' ability to draw and color skin; I was really taken by it. Typex is able draw skin as skin, but give it a little extra sense of flexibility, flabbiness and softness that's not present in real life. When I see his characters' skin I feel that I can stick my hand through the comic and play around with it; there's a malleability to it. I'm finding it hard to articulate how much I love Typex' skin. The only other cartoonist who can give me this feeling of skin is Nicolas De Crécy.
Rembrandt is a modern masterpiece created by a cartoonist at the peak of his power. Typex is able to conjure its atmosphere and mood of Rembrandt, the 1600s and the world at that time. This is a comic that deserves more than one read, not to fully grasp what's going on, but because you'll want to re-experience that sense of awe you got when you first opened it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Number #1 - Box Brown & my heart belongs to BLAMMO - Noah Van Sciver or Anthology! Anthology! Anthology! ACK!
 Warning: Some spoilers ahead and language

Number #1 is Brown's new ongoing anthology series. I've wanted to check out Brown for a while now and I thought this would be a perfect introduction to his work; that and I LOVE single creator anthology series.

Number #1 starts off with Kayfabe Quarterly which tells the story of Virgil whose life is changed when he meets Diamond Dick Corduroy. Diamond Dick Corduroy (GOD I love that name, just rolls off the tongue) gives a young Virgil this word of advice:

This word of advice just ruins and rebuilds Virgil's entire outlook in life. It instills a dose of heavy skepticism and a sense that the world and people are around him are false; that there is underlying reality that covers over the reality we see everyday. This outlook makes Virgil--with his best friend Kelvin--create Kayfabe Quarterly which sets out to show the "layer of bullshit" that surrounds us.

As you keep reading you realize that KQ starts of as a zine to reveal the bullshit around us but it slowly and subtly starts becoming bullshit it's trying to reveal. From a homemade free zine to a $5 "High quality magazine. With photos littered throughout." (Pg 19) to now being blog.

Brown does a wonderful job slowly changing the tone and outlook of Virgil and his magazine. That change occurs naturally and it doesn't jolt the reader when it happens. Brown has a strong grasp of pacing and control over his story and everything is slowly revealed at the right time in story. Nothing about Kayfabe Quarterly dragged or jolted me out of the story when reading it. 

Brown's artwork really brought this story to life. Brown's artwork reminds me of Seth and Joe Matt's art. There are these beautiful splash pages--like the one above--in which allows Brown to give the reader a wealth of information without overloading us. One page that really caught my eye was a single splash of Virgil's head who has the look of someone who has too much in his mind. There are multiple lines connecting from different parts of his head. Each line has a circle and within the circle has characters that Virgil has strong relationship with. I thought this a wonderful way to give a wealth of information--what's bothering and taking a toll on Virgil--without overloading us with panels.

I was really taken by Kayfabe Quarterly and thought it was a marvelous story about change, the falsity around us and how no matter we do, there is a reason for it and that we do accept it into our lives as we get older.

A funny thing occurred after reading KQ. I didn't know that Kayfabe was real term until I
for shits and giggles. Lo and behold there was entire wiki entry and it has to do with professional wrestling:

"In professional wrestling, kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as "real" or "true," specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or pre-determined nature. Kayfabe has also evolved to become a code word of sorts for maintaining this "reality" within the realm of the general public.[1] Kayfabe was long held as a closely guarded secret within the professional wrestling industry. However, with the advent of the Internet, it has evolved into an open secret in the industry that is generally only adhered to while performing.
Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of promotions, such as feuds, angles, and gimmicks, in a manner similar to other forms of fictional entertainment. In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera." (wiki)
Upon learning this I went back to re-read KQ and it add another dimension and understanding to the story that didn't get when I first KQ.

The next story was The Documentarian and it just tells day of a documentary filmmaker. It's a very short story, only two pages long.

I love how Brown told this story, with medium long four-tiered panels. It's economical way to tell a story and allows for the reader to take in the environment and navigate it. As much as I liked how it was told I wasn't taken by it. I could feel what Brown was going for but I can't articulate it or capture it. I don't know if that's an intellectual/emotional failing on my part or if the format of the story was too short to get any emotional depth from it. 

I was really taken by Number #1 and I can't wait to see what else Brown has in store for us for Number #2 and on.

I LOVE BLAMMO! I think it's the best modern anthology comic series and one of the best comics ever created. I have just a soft spot for Blammo and that's because it was the first anthology comic I ever read and introduced into that world. Also, a lot of the stories and characters cartoons about hits so close to home. I can heavily relate to some of the situations and characters I read about. 

Growing up was a complete hell for me. While I grew up in a family that was somewhat financially stable, my social status was that of a heavy outsider. That had to do with me being a Mexican in a black and white society. What I mean by that is: either you were black or white in my neighborhood. Since I was Mexican and had somewhat light skin, I feel in-between. I was mostly around white kids and barely saw anyone that matched me. I was rejected by most white kids for not being black and seen as a rare racial relic and whenever I came across another Mexican or Latin person, I was rejected by them.  The phrase I use nowadays to explain this is: I was too white to be Mexican and to Mexican to be white. So this put in a weird mind and social space. I hated who I was and hate the color of my skin. I would get really tanned during the summer and my skin would turn a reddish brick color and I would get heavy shit for that. So for a while I would wear long selves so I could try to pass off as white; no dice.  Not only that, I was diagnosed with ADHD, could barely speak English and got drugged with Ritalin at an early age, all that added to my loneliness and extreme self-hatred.

I mostly hung out with myself and had to learn to have fun myself. As I grew older, I met other people in the same boat as me, they were outcasts because they were dirt poor but we all went through the same living hell. Since we were outcasts, we acted like it and said fuck all to the world. From first grade till the end of high school was a living hell. When I entered college things turned around drastically but the damage from my childhood still lingered and most my outcast friends left me, ran away from home, died, or we just lost contact.

Then later on in my life I came across Blammo #3 and I was simply blown away. Van Sciver's is able to capture people on the verge of being an outsider, who are poverty stricken, who are outsiders and those who are in the far fringes of society. These were the types of people I grew up and hang out with. Reading Van Sciver's characters reminded me of my friends and random people I've come across.

Another part of BLAMMO that I loved was the self-deprecation, the brutal self-hatred, doubt, and criticism (sometimes done jokingly and other times not) that Van Sciver sees in himself. I was really taken by Van Sciver's ability to be brutally honest with himself into his stories in an unfriendly light really got to me. I was able to understand where Van Sciver was coming from mostly because that's how I felt and still feel at times. I have such brutal doubts about my future, where I'm going and myself. Just when I think a get over my doubts and self-hatred, something will set my off and I back to square one. It was so fucking refreshing to see a comic dealing with issues because it made me feel not alone. 

BLAMMO really did help me get through some rough spots in life and allowed me to be a bit more comfortable with myself. I really don't know how to end this, so I'll end it now.