Sunday, April 20, 2014

Gyakushu by Dan Hipp

Now for something a little more obscure...

Odds are Gyakushu, pronouced "Gahhh-Phhbbbblll'tttishu'paphfooie", is probably something that you've never seen or heard of before.  And that's a shame because it's definitely something that your eyes need bathing in.

You need to drink in the awesome goodness that is Dan Hipp's GYAKUSHU!

At it's core, Gyakushu is a take on a classic kung-fu fantasy style mashup revenge tale.  It would sit nicely beside some of my personal favorite revenge flicks such as Kill Bill Vols 1&2, Oldboy, Memento, and The Outlaw Josey Wales, but what sets Gyakushu apart, aside from the horrible name which I've already made fun of (and can't seem to stop), is the shear confidence and master-class artwork dropped onto the page like a slap in the face from Dan Hipp.

I just can't stop looking at it.  Staring at it.  Living inside those panels.  They're so full of drama and emotional resonance and balls-to-the-wall action that they're impossible to just breeze by them.  You want to spend time with them, to make yourself slow down and appreciate just what you're seeing, and not rush to the end like the average comic.  The art is just kinda perfect.  Usually I could nit-pick something about an artist's work like any other jerk, and say there is something they do that I'd prefer that they give up immediately (like Skottie Young drawing super babies), but there is absolutely nothing that Hipp does that doesn't strike me as brilliant.

Hipp's style is definitely manga influenced but I would say it is equally influenced by cartoon/anime/cell animations.  It just seems an inch away from popping off the page and coming to life as animation.

And Hipp isn't your typical comic book artist either, his style is so dissimilar to just about everyone else out there working that I can't think of a mainstream comic he'd likely fit on without mass fanboy suicide, but I'm sure he would crush whatever character or characters anyone gave to him. I'd pay my $3.99 to see this guy draw Sonic Adventures if that's what he wanted. That being said, I would definitely prefer Hipp do something that was creator-owned and original, something like Gyakushu, something straight out of his noggin with no filter.
I first came upon Hipp and Mark Andrew Smith’s Amazing Joy Buzzards graphic novel one day at my LCS, killing time in-between classes, and very quickly decided I had to have it.  To this day I don’t remember much about the story in Joy Buzzards, aside from a Yeti joke, but I DO remember the art.  So when I joined up and started an account with Comixology one of the first things I did was search for some of my favorite artists and writers - for books I might not be familiar with.  Turns out this was immensely easier than diving into comic book back issue boxes or even a google search PLUS I found Gyakushu by Dan Hipp!

The action delivered in this book is wicked, intense, and will leave you breathless.  It will drag you in, and not let you go until you wanna dress your head in bandages like the main protagonist and carry a sword down to the Quick-E-Mart on the corner just looking for trouble. The main character, and all the characters for that matter, look amazing - with an extra heaping of badassery poured into the bandaged protagonist. He's equal parts thief, samurai, ninja, and The Man With No Name. He is the ultimate anti-hero, a thief who was disfigured and left for dead, his family murdered, and who only craves revenge.
The dialogue however, is greatly lacking. Not the actual story mind you, the story is fine but sometimes when characters speak they just come off as very two-dimensional tropes. I actually prefer it when the characters don't speak. I only say this because it's kind of jarring at first, but either Hipp gets better at it as the three volumes come to a close, or by that time you're just desensitized to it. Either way, it feels like he gets better as it goes on, and that's all that counts in my opinion. The real draw here, is the art.
The villains again are very cookie-cutter, faceless ninja types but they're completely forgivable as encounters with these guys lead to kick-ass action sequences. I suppose there's an analogy to be made between Gyakushu and popcorn action movies, although not the horrible shakey-cam visual abortions that are becoming vogue. I mean good popcorn flicks like The Rock or Pitch Black. Something you can just sit back and experience. And there is nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with this book either.
As far as I'm concerned, this book is a classic.
Give it a try! As of this time it's only $5.99 for the first volume on Comixology and it seems like the only place you can actually get the 3rd volume, which never saw print and was released as a digital exclusive. If digital isn't your thing then the first two volumes are very easy to find via Amazon or eBay and the prices for them are very similar to the digital versions. Personally, I read it digitally on an iPad and it was an excellent experience. Guided view, along with storage issues for physical issues, is why I read 99% of everything digitally. I'll jump on a european work, as I know that's not usually happening for me digitally, but just about everything else I tend to read on an iPad, a Kindle Fire HD, or even my iPhone if I'm bored enough. And I never have to bag or board another comic. It's a win/win, and so is Gyakushu.

So check it out, and let me know what you think! Am I way off? Is it better than I said? I want to know! Also, if you enjoy my ramblings then please spread the word about this little bloggy blog so we can get some new readers and even some new writers! If you're interested in writing for the blog then please get in touch and we'll see what's what!
'Til next time!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man OGN Family Business by Mark Waid, James Robinson,Gabriele Dell Otto, and Werther Dell Edera

Confession time:  Spider-Man is my all-time favorite superhero.  Not just my favorite Marvel Comics superhero, but my all-time, all-inclusive superhero.  And he has been since I bought my first Spider-Man comic: The Amazing Spider-Man 261.

Another confession: I didn't really buy it.  Not with my own money.
But I DID beg for it sufficiently enough to warrant my father giving in and then shelling out a hard-earned 60 cents.  Was that really a lot of money back then?
Back then, with 60 cents, you could probably buy a better kid than me.  Maybe two of them.  Odds are at least one if them wouldn't whine about mowing the yard.

But I digress.

Spider-Man: Family Business is not only very easy on the eyes, but it is an incredible read.

There was a time, not too long ago it seems to me, that I wouldn't have identified myself as a Mark Waid fan.  He had written some things I'd liked, but just liked, not loved.  I liked his run on Flash.  I thought his Captain America was pretty good.  Kingdom Come was amazing.  Fluke?  Out of all those Crossgen titles I tried, Waid's Ruse was my favorite, but still not enough to really make me think of myself as a fan. L.E.G.I.O.N., Ka-Zar, Impulse... nothing seemed to stick out and say look at me. They were just "ok" comics in my opinion.  And there was nothing wrong with that, it just wasn't enough for me to include him in my favorite writers list.  Don't act like I'm the only one who has a list like that living in your head.

Then I read his Fantastic Four with Mike Weringo on art and remember being really impressed.  At the time the FF was a place where creators, stories and art went to be unnoticed.  It was the anti-flagship Marvel title despite being it's first.  Still, I couldn't, or wouldn't, give this dude his props.  I chalked up my affinity for his FF run to the amazing talents of Weringo.  (I've reread that series recently and boy was I wrong... it was truly FANTASTIC.)

Then I read Waid's Empire series.  The one where the villain analog of Dr. Doom won, and took over the world?  I think I might have been one of the few reading it, but this is where Waid started to become one of my favorite writers.  That book was amazing, and definitely needs to be read by you if you haven't had the opportunity.  Then came Irredeemable, and Daredevil, and Incorruptible, and Indestructible Hulk, and The Incredibles, Rocketeer, The Unknown, his work on Amazing Spider-Man, Superman: Birthright, and the immense undertaking of 52.  After so many incredible stories Mark Waid is sitting pretty high on my list of great writers, and deservedly so.

So this book was an immediate purchase for me just for Waid's name on the cover.  I've only ever really enjoyed James Robinson writing his series The Golden Age and Starman.  Everything else I've read of his has fallen short for me, making me wish for more Starman, or for a creator-owned project from him.  I think I might just be mad at Robinson for not giving me more Starman.  It seems personal to me.

The art in this book is stunning.  Dell'Otto is a beast!  The guy's artwork just exudes such a fantastic cinematic flair that makes it easy to trick your mind into believing you're watching a great film.  It's deep.  It has this great depth to it, that allows you to feel like it lets you in... like you're watching from inside the panels, and not holding a book or a tablet.

This is what I love about comics!  The writer comes up with the dialogue and pacing, the artist shows you the panels, the perspective, the beats of the story, but a big portion of the work in telling that story is still your responsibility!  All the action transpiring between the panels, the actions that tie the story together, that only takes place in your head.  Along with giving a voice to those characters, makes the act of reading a comic a bit of a creepy, intimate experience, and one that has always made comics my absolute favorite medium.

The actual story within Family Business revolves around Peter Parker's family: his S.H.I.E.L.D. super-spy parents, and another estranged member of the Parker clan.  I won't spoil it, but it seems like a "oh no they shouldn't do this" kind of moment and storyline, and not something I usually enjoy, but it just works here in this story.  It works because Waid makes you feel empathy for the new character, for Peter, and for their situation.  It works on every level.  By the end of the book I wanted more, and that's the best compliment for a story I can think of.

Also, to be clear, this is a Peter Parker story.  The actual Peter Parker, not ole Doc Oc, and it feels great to read a story featuring Peter again after the lengthy break we've had.  I'm really enjoying this Superior Spider-Man arc and I don't really feel like it needs to end this soon, but... it was nice to see Peter again.

I give the Spider-Man: Family Business OGN my highest recommendation.  It's made for Spider-Man fans, Marvel Zombies, fans of comics in general, and fans, like myself, of Mark Waid.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan & Marcos Martin

I'm still surprised just how few people, i.e. comic readers and fans of the medium, are aware of Private Eye given the immense fanbase of Vaughan for comic series such as Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, Runaways, and currently with his Fiona Staple's epic space opera: Saga (which is phenomenal btw). Vaughan is also a working writer in Hollywood having written for Lost, and currently writing for Stephen King's Under The Dome.

See what I mean?  You should be reading this guy's stuff!

Tangent:  I read mostly digital comics these days because I've asked my wife and friends to schlep countless longboxes of comics in and out our houses as we've moved over the years.  They're also a pain in the ass to store.  They take up So. Much. Room.  It's like having another child.  I also read comics digitally now because of another key element: access.  I don't have to pull down 1400 comics in 4 boxes just to get to the box I need, only then finding myself having to pry comics out that are pressed so tightly you can barely fit your fingers between them.  The whole ordeal of bagging and boarding comics, alphabetizing them as well as filing them chronologically by publishing date... I don't miss it at all.  At. All.

Now, I bring up digital comics for a good reason, that being that The Private Eye is only published online and, according to the creators, it will always only be available online.  On top of this absolutely abnormal publishing scheme the price of The Private Eye is determined by the one person who never usually gets to decide how much they'll pay for a comic:  The reader.  When you go to their website Panel Syndicate you can pay market price of an average comic these days ($3.99 US), you can pay $1, or you can pay nothing.  It's totally up to you.  The creators are saying that this delivery method is working out just fine for them, as people are generally good natured and know that if they like it, and want more, then they're going to have to cough up some greenbacks.

Back on track, aside from the interesting delivery method and pricing, the book is a work of art.  A lot of times a book gets off to a shaky start and might have to find it's legs.  It's normal.  You can't usually have real drama without getting to know the characters a little, and that takes time.

The Private Eye is not your "normal" book by any means.  It comes out of the gate fully formed and racing away from the starting line, complete with characters that have real genuine emotions, backstories, and not to mention the fact the whole world of Private Eye is a futuristic, alternate reality where the internet told everyone's secrets and where EVERYONE now has a secret identity.  And personal information is the most closely guarded secret.

The protagonist is easily one of the most interesting new characters I've read about in 5 years.  The story takes place in the near future, but the protagonist is deeply infatuated with the 20th century.  Posters of The Maltese Falcon and vinyl by The Flaming Lips and other remnants of our time adorn his office and I'm sure a lot of his thoughts.  And he's your guy if you want pictures of someone without their disguise, or someone's real name and address.  Oh yeah, and private detectives are illegal.  That just adds to the fun.

I'd be remiss without talking about the fantastic art by Marcos Martin.  Not only is his cartooning some of my all-time favorite, but his art exceeds the norm.  His creativity is unchecked and it shows in every line of his art and every panel and layout of this book.  This guy should be a flippin' comic rock god.   A household name!   There's not a lot of people working in the industry today that are immediately recognizable and as unique as Martin.

Speaking of that, you can buy prints of his work from Private Eye on the Panel Syndicate site and they look amazing.  I haven't yet, but I've got to get at least one for my wall.

The first arc is the first 5 issues and I won't say too much about it plot-wise, as it is a mystery, but it reminds you immediately of The Big Sleep and Little Sister and maybe a dozen other hard boiled detective stories, all the while being very much it's own thing... and crushing it.

The series is supposed to run 10 issues and I think it would be a real shame if we only got that many. There are so many places I want to see this book go, so many stories they could tell, so many issues just waiting to be hatched.  But if we just get 10... they're going to be some of the very best issues you can find.

I'd also be just fine if they decided to put together a nice hardcover I could put on my shelf eventually. I read digital, but I'm not a soulless robot!

This series is something you can spend a lot of time with, making it worth far more than the $0.00 you could pay for it and a series that deserves your attention.