Chew: Taster’s Choice (2009)

 

Quote:
Dammit. You rather die than go to jail? Fine. But I’m still getting those names.

 

This book collects the first five issues of the ongoing series Chew from Image. It was written by John Layman who wrote the Fantastic Four House of M story that I read recently. It features some great, cartoon-style art from Rob Guillory. Chew is his first major comic book but I hoping to see a lot more from him.

Chew is set in an alternate reality where 23 million American citizens have been killed by avian flu and the eating of fowl is prohibited. Tony Chu is a cop on a stake out of a speakeasy selling illegal chicken cuts and dinners. When warned off raiding the place by an FDA official, Tony and his partner decide to go and have a dinner. But Tony is cibopathic – a fictional condition which means that he gets psychic flashes from anything he eats – and on eating the soup is aware that an uncaught serial killer is working in the kitchens. When the killer dies rather than be taken alive, Tony starts eating his flesh to get the information on the killer’s victims.This leads Tony to be recruited by the FDA and into further bizarre cases and adventures.

This is a great book. The narrative is a little confusing as Tony changes cases from issue to issue but comes together nicely at the end. This introductory volume introduces some characters and sets up a lot of situations that are unresolved, such as a scene on a planet 24 light years from Earth, but that is fine given that it is an ongoing series. The book comes to an open-ended resolution that, in combination with some of the ideas introduced in the series, makes me want to read more. Definitely a series that I will be revisiting.

Jennifer Blood: A Woman’s Work is Never Done (2012)

 

Quote:
“Clippity-clop, clippity-clop! Mommy, how will I get into his base …?”

“Oh well, grenades through the windows and then kick the door in shooting. Or just sneak up with a flamethrower if you want.”

 

This book collects the first six issues of Jennifer Blood from Dynamite. It was written by the now veteran of the field Garth Ennis – writer of The Boys, Hellblazer, Preacher, Hitman, Just a Pilgrim and many more. The art duties were carried out by Adriano Batista, Marcos Marz and Kewber Baal.

On the surface, Jen Fellows is a typical American, suburban housewife. She has a loving, if slightly boring, husband with whom she has had two children – Mark and Alice – the perfect nuclear family. But Jen has a secret. At night she drugs her family and takes to the streets delivering justice to a notorious crime family the Blutes. But for Jen the attacks on the Blutes are more than just vigilantism for the target of each of her attacks is one of her uncles.

Ennis invites comparison to the Punisher with the very first page of this series:

And while she has had her life torn apart by the actions of criminals just like the Punisher, the focus of her attacks, at least in this book, is desire for revenge on the specific men who killed her father and destroyed her mother. But unlike the Punisher she has built a new life beyond the revenge she seeks and must take extraordinary steps to protect her new family.

According to an interview in the back of the book this series sees Ennis returning to the lighter side of life. Fortunately for his fans the usual elements are still in place – black humour, sexual deviancy and a high, gory body count. This is a great story and a good introduction to the character. I will be interested to see where he takes it now given that her initial revenge has been satisfied and her peeping tom neighbour has discovered her secret – though not the secret he initially thought it was. One slight annoyance was a change of artist midway through issue 3 which was slightly disorienting due to the main bad guys not looking the same as they did just the page before but despite this recommended for fans of Ennis.

Rift (2010)

A beautiful book from Fables cover artist James Jean that is composed entirely of wordless illustrations. The book’s panels are concertinaed together to form a continuous whole. Within this structure are interweaved two distinct fantastical landscapes – a seascape and a strange procession across a weird landscape. The book allows for the panels to be combined in different ways allowing the viewer to construct their own narrative.

The reverse contains the pencil versions of the same illustrations.

Hard to describe but see the illustrative video for a better idea.

Batman: Through the Looking Glass (2011)

 

Quote:
“Now here’s a rare beauty! Divinely Holmesian! Don’t you agree, detective?”

“If I were stalking deer.”

 

This is an original graphic novel featuring Batman and (surprise, surprise) the Mad Hatter. It was written by Bruce Jones whose only other work I have read was a Deadman series for Vertigo though he has written other things for DC and Marvel – probably most notably on The Incredible Hulk. The art was by Sam Kieth the creator of the Maxx and Zero Girl but who I first came across on the Epicurus the Sage books and most lately on the Arkham Asylum: Madness graphic novel.

The story is set in the days when Dick Grayson was Robin and seems to feature the first meeting of Batman with the Mad Hatter. When Batman starts seeing visions of white rabbits and a long dead childhood friend, Alfred becomes concerned but when Batman then chases after them into the sewers below Wayne Manor both Alfred and Robin must hunt him down and prevent him hurting himself or others. Meanwhile Batman is living through visions of Wonderland populated by people he was dining with just the night before. How does the hallucination and reality coincide and how does it relate to the murder of a fellow dinner guest from the previous evening.

Like all these kinds of books based on other works, there is some shoe horning going on to make the two universes fit. In this case it is noticeable in the character names: e.g. Claude Lapin Blanc who is assistant to Judge Rosalyn Hart; murder victim Dunphrey Tweedle and his twin brother Denham (“Please call me Dee”); minder Jimmie Cheshire; council members Dennis Carpenter and Dave Russwall. The concept would have been fine as a five part mini-series – as it looks like it might have been first conceived from the pin-ups in the back of the book that look like covers – but is over-valued as an original hardback book.

The story is fairly standard fare concerning political corruption to ensure a new building project goes ahead. The introduction of the Mad Hatter as the villain, running interference by introducing a hallucinogen, allows the introduction of the Wonderland motif but it is not enough to raise the story beyond its uninspired plotting. The art is a big disappointment for me in this book. Kieth has done some great art on Batman and related books in the past and I was looking forward to more here. However there was too much cartoony art and it really looked like not much effort had been put into it – Robin is particularly badly drawn in this book and I can’t imagine many shots of him making their way into his fan blog.

 

Quote:
I consider it a brave failure …

 

The above quote is from Kieth in the afterward to Arkham Asylum: Madness and though I liked the art in that book – there are some great portrayals of the Joker – Kieth’s seeming dismissal of his own work left a rather sour taste at the end of it. So this is the second time that I have felt cheated by Kieth’s work. If you are going to produce an original hardback comic book and charge $20, or more in the case of this book, for it then I think as a fan you are entitled to expect something a bit special. Unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, this book falls way short of special in both the art and the writing. I will think long and hard about any future purchases of Kieth’s books.

Jack of Fables: The End (2011)

 

Quote:
What kinds of heroes would we be if we retired having never slain an actual dragon?

 

And so we come to the final collection of the Jack of Fables comics. This is volume 9 and it collects issues 46 – 50. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. The art was mainly by Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy but also with contributions by Dan Green, Russ Braun and Bill Reinhold.

Set an unspecified number of years in the future, this book sees Jack Frost about to retire after years of adventuring and heroic deeds. But just as he is about to call it a day he is hired to slay a fearsome dragon and agrees as it is something he has never done before. However, he finds that he is not the only one to have an interest in this particular dragon.

First of all the best thing about this book is the return of those hot librarians the Page sisters – Priscilla, Robin and Hillary – who are on their own quest to reassemble the Great Library and restore their Literal powers. It is good to see those characters again – possibly for the last time(?). However the book spends too much time reuniting us with characters from Jack’s past for no great reason other than to be cannon fodder in the climax of the book. A disappointing end to what was a good series with no sign of the wicked humour upon which it made its name.

Bill and Matt have more or less stated that they had run of ideas and there was very little room for pushing the boundaries of the character once it had been revealed that he had slept with his sisters. But to take 15 issues to wrap it up in such a way as they have seems like extreme overindulgence to me. I would have much rather his story had come to an end in the crossover storyline. Sadly, this book will not be missed by me – and I never thought I would have said that when it was at its height.

Jack of Fables: The Fulminate Blade (2011)

 

Quote:
I fully intend to kill that giant and ensure that no more virgins are sacrificed!

 

This is volume 8 of the Jack of Fables paperbacks and it collects issues 41 – 45. It was again written by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. The art was by various combinations of Tony Akins, Jim Fern, Andrew Pepoy and Joe Rubinstein.

With Jack Hornet’s transformation complete at the end of the last book, the stage is set for his altruistic and naive son Jack Frost to take centre stage. In this book, Jack sets out to slay the giant that is demanding an annual tribute from the world of Landfall. He soon finds that all is not what it seems and almost everyone he meets has been using him for their own ends.

Although the book consists of a perfectly good story set in the Fables homelands, the adventures of Jack Frost are not nearly as exciting, or funny, as those of his father – or at least they are in a more conventional sense. So reading this book I found myself missing the antics of the Jack of old – despite the extreme depths that he sunk to in The Great Fables Crossover. With the next book collecting the last of the series, I am not sure if this is an attempt at a reboot that failed or if this is part of the planned route to the end of the series – to be honest it feels like the latter when taken with volume 7.