Digital Ash 1/29/2014: War, Poop and Undiscovered AnimalsA comic review article by: Daniel Elkin, Jason Sacks
World War Mob #1
(Vito Delsante / Giancarlo Caracuzzo)
As if we need more proof that there's an almost infinite number of great comics floating out there that you've never heard of, here's World War Mob. Yeah the name's both awesomely clever and completely off-putting, but beneath its digital cover, this proves to be a completely entertaining comic book story.
It's the story of a group of old friends from the Lower East Side of New York circa 1932, "a bunch of Irish, Italian and Jewish kids all thrown together in the stupid soup", as the narrator tells us. They're kids who fight and kill in their neighborhood gangs before one of the kids gets hooked up with Lucky Luciano, who offers both an escape from the neighborhood and a darker kind of hell.
But nothing that Luciano cooks up can be darker than the battlefields of World War II, where our characters are shipped and where they fight brutal battle after brutal battle in the Ardennes and other WWII hellholes. As it happens, though, even when serving in the Army during war, the past is never far away. Our lead is offered a secret mission, one that both shocks and seems completely relevant.
Yeah, you can call this Inglorious Basterds meets Goodfellas if you want to go with the old elevator pitch idea, and the setting and approach do provide some real bite for this book. But what really makes World War Mob successful is the work by the creative team, who lift a high concept to the level of a fun action movie.
A lot of what sells this book is the wonderful watercolor-seeming art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo. His complex designs, smart eye for settings and wonderful use of earth tones helps to bring this comic to vivid life. Caracuzzo is apparently an artist from Italy who has mostly been working professionally in the US on Orson Scott Card adaptations for Marvel. Though he may be good on science fiction, he's extremely adept at this human-based action, delivering an empathetic and grounded art job to accompany Delsante's writing.
The writing on this comic is crisp and modern, quick, light and cinematic, with enough asides and smart moments to make the reader intrigued and help build strong personalities among his very human leads. There's one character in this issue that is shown briefly and may have super-powers. That character grates a bit, and seems to swim against the tide, but otherwise Delsante delivers an almost ideal lead issue.
With a name like World War Mob, this comic could either have been thoroughly entertaining or completely terrible. I'm so glad I have another comic on my digital "pull list."
- Jason Sacks
World War Mob is available on Comixology.
Poop Office #4
If you fancy yourself a social critic of any sort, a new digital release of Poop Office on Comixology is always worth noting for anyone who has ever participated in any form of bureaucratic construct has worked in a Poop Office. Interpersonal power politics and the inanity inherent in closed systems fester in our lives like turds in the bowl. Ben Pooped knows this and he knows that you know this. His comic, Poop Office, is the mirror that reflects the true human condition.
If you have been following this Digital Ash column on Comics Bulletin for any length of time, you know that I've written extensively on the thematic profundity of Poop Office. There's no need to rehash any of what I've said before, other than to say that with this series, Ben Pooped is working out some heavy shit.
I mean, this is prime fertilizer for thick thinking.
And Poop Office continues along these lines throughout its 22 or so pages. What could be easily dismissed as simple gag comics easily refract under scrutiny into social commentary of the highest order. By casting the everyman as shit, Poop Office goes swiftly Swiftian in its satire.
Through page after page of diatribe disguised as one-liners, Poop Office dissects the modern world better than any social commentator or political pundit. You have to be open to this shit to let it seep in, and once it does, the stink of its message will bring you to tears.
Much like we shame-hide our defecation from the eyes of others, we keep our confrontation with the existential angst of twenty-first century existence veiled behind digital distractions, weird sexual deviations, and the bending of psychoactives. This comic kicks open the bathroom stall and shines the Ty-D-Bol of truth in your eyes.
If you haven't been reading Poop Office, then you have been missing out on something powerfully off putting – the reality of the modern condition.
- Daniel Elkin
Poop Office #4 is available on Comixology.
Apama: the Undiscovered Animal #2
(Milo Miller / Ted Sikora / Benito Gallego)
The thing with second issues is that they're frequently the weakest in a comic's run. Often the writer and artist of a new series will invest the first issue of a comic with a huge amount of loving attention and deep consideration, taking care to set up each scene, setting and motivation in a way that will pay off well further on down the line. The first issue is built to intrigue, to get the reader to come back for more, to make everyone want to wonder how the ensuing saga will unfold.
But the second issue is often a tough job for creators to pull off. Once the origin or setting is established, the reader intrigued and the press releases published, suddenly the hard work begins. The creators need to play in that playground that they’ve introduced, keep the tale moving ahead, reveal new secrets or new twists while simultaneously keeping the reader intrigued by a story that may have moved away from the tale that they expected.
This is all a long way towards saying that the of Apama #2 fucking rocks. If anything, this chapter is even more ridiculously wonderful than the debut, which I adored.
As most second issues do, Apama #2 gets more in depth about the circumstances under which our loser protagonist Ilyia Zjarsky lives, with a talking spirit animal who loves to fuck up his apartment and life, who has a crush on a girl who always falls for losers with big penises, and – oh yeah – encounters a truly bizarre villain with the power to spin blades endlessly. There's also a major subplot about a major oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to give the tale some unexpected depth.
Part of why I loved Apama #1 was that it seemed like a funhouse mirror of a classic 1970s Marvel comic – what if John Buscema and Steve Gerber teamed up to create a ridiculous loser of a super-hero? And while that description still applies, it's also true that this issue feels somehow very modern with its realistic level of angst and a smart subplot with the potential girlfriend that acknowledges sex in the way that people actually live their lives rather than in a way that sensationalizes or teases. There's a ground-level realism about these characters that just works wonders.
Did I mention that this comic was funny and clever as hell? And that despite the fact that it's wordly like a comic from the 1970s, it reads like a flash and is thoroughly entertaining? Apama walks that tightrope of second issue flopsweat; Miller, Sikora and Gallego deliver a comic that builds on the first chapter, deepens the story, and entertains even more than their debut. In the letters page, the creators mention that the seventh issue is in production. I couldn’t possibly be more excited.
- Jason Sacks
Apama: the Undiscovered Animal is available on Comixology.