Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin’s small press review column
(Jimmy Palmiotti / Justin Gray / Steven Cummings / Challenging Studios)
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are the kings of Kickstarter. They’re creative at crowdfunding and fabulous at fundraising.
It’s weird, though, because I like the comics that Gray and Palmiotti release through DC Comics but I don’t buy each one of them. They’re on my list of “creators whose work I like enough to buy at a convention of occasionally on the stands but don’t read pick up on Wednesdays.” But their Kickstarter stuff? I’ve supported nearly every project they’ve created. Why woudn’t I? They’re solid mainstream creators who do even more interesting material when they create for themselves rather than for the standard comics audiences, delivering material that’s slightly outside the norm like this science graphic novel.
Forager is its very own type of First Contact story. It’s the futuristic tale of a bickering couple, Joan and Glenn Travers, self-involved yuppie types who hope to save their fracturing marriage by taking a luxury voyage into space with their young daughter Ellie. But the trip into space has some shocking surprises that involve strange voices and mysterious contact, and the adventure moves into unexpected worlds as it progresses.
The artwork by Steven Cummings is just gorgeous, with colors in bright solid intensity by Challenging Studios that help to emphasize the futuristic sheen of the space liner and alien worlds. I love how everything in the book, from clothes to hairstyles to the design of the ships, seems extrapolated from the world in which we live now. This approach is smart because it emphasizes the complex background without having that background call attention to itself. The reader is trusted to fill in the gaps as he or she chooses, and that helps us become involved in the tale they tell.
I also liked how the futuristic environment and the events at the heart of the story don’t dramatically change our lead characters. Like all of us, they alternate at times between good and bad, positive and negative, self-absorbed and open. It’s intriguing how the fate of their daughter brings Joan and Glenn closer together in their relationship; the crisis and its resolution somehow force them to work together – an idea that’s smartly conveyed in a clever twist on a strange alien world.
It’s fun how this time-skipping tale depicts Ellie’s aging as both a blessing and curse, how the fast-forwarding of her life due to time-slips both forces Joan and Glenn to miss major segments of Ellie’s life and to also appreciate her more when they get to spend time with her.
I have no doubt that a smart publisher would have picked up this comic for their line of graphic novels, but it’s even more special that Gray and Palmiotti went alone to put this book out. And I love the Darwyn Cooke cover I got on my copy of this book. But regardless of how it was funded, Forager is a terrific GN that deserves a read.
– Jason Sacks
Who Will Save The World
So this whole Zombie thing is starting to play out by now, right? Has our constant need for the new finally turned our heads from those shambling flesh-eaters? We’re on to new monsters, right? What is it now? Putin? Obama? Chris Christie? It’s hard to keep up.
Anyway … so what do you do when you come across another graphic novel that wanders into the tired trope of Zombie soldiers during wartime? Well, if that book is by Stefano Cardoselli, you take a deep breath and dive in – as you know you’re going to get soaked in blood and brains and saliva and all sorts of bodily fluids.
It’s what Cardoselli does.
He’s pretty much a master at it.
Who Will Save the World doesn’t disappoint in this regard. This book is filled with righteous Cardoselli splatters and holes in faces. You know, now that I think about it, Cardoselli is kinda the Michelangelo of face holes. I can think of no better, not even Charlie Adlard – remember that face hole in Carl in the Walking Dead series? Cardoselli takes it even farther.
While the story itself is pretty much a retread of all your expectations when you think of a Zombie Solider story, the intersection between the tired cliché and Cardoselli’s art elevates it from a yawn to a hum. When you know exactly what is going to happen, and you still can’t believe what you’re seeing, well, you got yourself something interesting.
If you’re looking for a profound and thoughtful exploration of the nature of war or human savagery, Who Will Save the World ain’t it. If you’re looking for an inventive take on a familiar genre, Who Will Save the World ain’t it. If you’re looking for fully realized characters who do heroic things to restore your faith in humanity, you won’t find them here.
What you will find is sixty or so pages of Stefano Cardoselli’s art. You’ll find escapism and horror, gore and humor. You’ll also find yourself having a really good time reading it.
Oh. And Nikola Tesla! Everybody loves Tesla, right?
– Daniel Elkin
You can pick up a copy of Who Will Save the World at Darkslinger Comics’ store.
Flowering Vine tracks Laura Knetzger’s life out of narrative sequence, from an insinuated traumatic childhood incident, to the capability for “molten romance” she aspires to instill in herself. We see her artistic struggles with planning long term projects or trying to emulate the exploratory heart of a photographer seeking compelling subjects. The refreshingly confident part of Flowering Vine is that Knetzger approaches these life tasks with excitement and not trepidation. Her blue lines are bold and simple, but emotive in the way that Craig Thompson’s travelogue Carnet de Voyage was, or the work of Faith Erin Hicks, full of life and charm. Flowering Vine isn’t a linear story per se, not so much as it is a conglomeration of two or three distinct vignettes, but it’s memorable nonetheless. With the recent Club Queen Rat King by Emma Louthan, these books are no fluke, they serve as proof that Codey Pickrodt has a strong editorial eye, and his Ray Ray Books is now a small press publisher to keep our collective eyes on.
– Justin Giampaoli
You can pick up a copy of Flowering Vine from Ray Ray Books’ website.