Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
Utu is a few years old — it's apparently Malachi Ward's debut comic from 2009 — but I just picked this up at this year's APE in San Francisco so I'm gonna write about it. I'd heard Ward touted all over the place — apparently he had a backup in Prophet #24 that I know I read yet somehow completely forgot about — but when I casually checked out his table, saw his sci-fi stylings and finally put art to the name, I knew I had to check out his shit.
Appropriate that I bring it up, because Utu shares a degree of similarities with the Graham/Roy/Dalrymple/Milonogiannis joint that would appear a couple years later — images of primitivism over vast cityscapes, gloriously weird images and a meaning that eludes an initial, superficial reading. It's a fairly quick read at 28 pages, but the book is are oversized, boasting a nice paper stock that gives a great view of Ward's art, which is meticulous and full of personality. Ward's especially good at dialogue scenes, where he can pull of subtle changes in a character's expression between panels.
Utu a story divided in two acts. First we see a man claiming to be a prophet (heh) warning a ruler of doom as foretold by his so-called deity Utu, then we follow the truth behind the god. Utu's descent into the prophet's world followed by the vision of his dreary real life is a potent metaphor for storytelling. As any writer will tell you, your hang-ups don't escape just because you're dealing in fictional worlds — they just magnify.
– Danny Djeljosevic
(Rich Douek, Brett Barkley, Donna Gregory)
In an alternative New York where magic rules the city and mythical creatures abound, a young man named Cinder Byrnes should be perfectly set up. He's the heir to a magical dynasty. The only problem is that Cinder doesn't have any magical abilities of his own. So Cinder is forced to go rogue in order to gain some magical abilities — and there are some nasty critters out to stop him from doing so.
Gutter Magic all could have been very precious and beautiful and mystical, but instead this series is an intensely fun urban fantasy story that moves ahead at breakneck speed and is full of action. None of the characters take themselves too seriously, which allows us readers to find many people to embrace and enjoy watching as the story goes by.
– Jason Sacks
Man of God #3
(Craig Partin, Yvel Guichet, Stu Berryhill, Jonathan Swinney, Anthony Koch)
First, let me say that you have no idea how happy I am to give something a greater than 2.5/5 rating here on Tiny Pages Made of Ashes. It was getting pretty bleak there for me, which was only heightened by the fact that I know that I have read and even reviewed small press and self-published comics that were amazing.
Now, Man of God isn't anything special, but it is decent bordering on good. Getting Dan Brereton on that beautiful looking cover certainly didn't hurt either.
Man of God seems to take at least a few elements from early issues of Spawn, with a good 20 years or so of comics between them, it feels like it's handled a bit better here than it was in the early days of Image.
We've got a vaguely heroic protagonist l
iving among the bums who means well but whose goodish deeds seem to end in disaster for everyone involved. There's a level of crime and police intrigue added in, and while, as I said, the story isn't anything special, the art is easily as good or better than much of what we see over at Marvel and DC these days.
I think Stu Berryhill could use to dial back some of the inking just a bit at times, but otherwise it is a very well put together book. I'm curious to see where it's going and could actually see myself picking up this series either in print or in a trade paperback some day.
It's nice to get a hero story that's set in Chicago every once in a while too.
– David Fairbanks
15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian
(Marc Shapiro, Noval Hernawan
What is the lesson we can draw from the fact that 15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian is even a thing? I mean, there must be some larger purpose to its existence, right? A product is released to fill a need or a desire. Just what is the thing behind this thing?
Perhaps it points to the idea that when we idolize the vainest among us we have shifted our priorities as a functioning society. Perhaps it serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us that when someone loves themselves too much it complicates their ability to love another. Maybe it forces us to come to terms with the fact that, yes, for women, being rich, attractive, and knowing how to fuck is indeed an entry into international stardom. Does acknowledging this make a person sound like a sexist or a realist? Does a comic like 15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian spur this larger debate?
Or is this really a crappy comic about some insipid woman who has been foisted into our collective consciousness by the sheer power of a bored media, neither the comic nor the woman worth a passing glance as we gird ourselves to make more important decisions affecting our lives, like whether it will be using credit or debit to pay for our Ho-Hos and six pack of Bud?
What 15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian has done, really, is confuse the hell out of me. As much as there is a hollow idolization of vapidity in Marc Shapiro’s writing, there is also a more subtle level of snark that rides its underbelly. It is as if he took this writing gig with one hand on his wallet and the other punching us in the nose. This comic is as much a "Don’t you wish you could be?" as it is a "Come at me, bro." There is, perhaps, a challenge inherent in this comic, I just can’t decipher either what is at stake or what is the reward.
Adding to the conundrum is Noval Hernawan’s art. This is a comic about a woman who is universally desired partly for her physical beauty. In this book, though, there is panel after panel of her looking haggard and hideous, whored out and wan. Is this by intention in order to promulgate the larger themes that Shapiro is pursuing, or is this just a result of the limited talent of a hack artist working cheap on a disposable product, as much a piece of effluvium as Kim Kardashian herself?
15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian may just be one of the most important comics to hit the racks in decades, a penetrating indictment of celebrity culture and American values, or it may just be a complete piece of crap. I have no idea.
– Daniel Elkin
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.
Daniel Elkin wishes there were more opportunities in his day to day to wear brown corduroy and hang out in lobbies. He has been known to talk animatedly about extended metaphors featuring pigs' heads on sticks over on that Twitter (@DanielElkin). He is Your Chicken Enemy.