Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
Wings for Wheels
(Todd McArthur/Jen May/John PM Frees/Jen Vaughn/Pat Barret/Nomi Kane)
Bruce Springsteen fans are some of the most intense fans in music. This new anthology comic is a really fun look at that obsession, with six entertaining stories about the Boss's impact on his fans.
The first thing you might notice about this anthology is its wonderful cover. If you don't recognize that image, you just don't know music – and if you do, isn't it really a cool piece of work? The cover sets the pace for the comic because this mini looks and feels like a slightly larger CD insert – in fact, it even look like a record!
Inside the mini we get a range of stories, but these are generally of a higher quality than youfind in most anthology comics. The lead tale, by Todd McArthur, is an outlandish and euphoric tale that treats Clarence Clemons as an angel come down from Heaven to encourage Todd to not be cheap and go to a Springsteen concert. It's a goofy strip, but McArthur pulls it off with clever page layouts and positive energy.
Next Josh PM Frees delivers a fun anecdote about a furniture-destroying karaoke Springsteen session. It's a cute little story – and I love the look of pure mania on the face of the karaoke singer's face!
Jen Vaughn delivers a really sweet seven-pager that shows how impossible it is to escape the power of a great song. I loved this little tale of a pretty smart and cool girl trying to track down some great music.
Pat Barrett's five-pager is a rambling five-pager that juxtaposes little anecdotes about growing up with a fistfight initiated by Springsteen. It's an odd little strip, but Barrett's art is vivid and his caricatures are fun.
Nomi Kane's eight-pager wraps up the comic with a really wonderful piece about how music haunts us all throughout our lives. We see Springsteen's music pass in and out of Kane's life as she goes through childhood, breakups and long car rides. This was a surprisingly moving story that made me think about my relationship with music, and Kane's art is sweet and direct.
To top it off, this zine has wonderful production values and the record-sleeve cover is a damn clever idea. This is a really fun minicomic that anyone, especially anyone who loves The Boss, should check out.
– Jason Sacks
Tomorrow Jones #1
(Brian Daniel/Johan Manadin)
Tomorrow Jones #1 is as spunky as all get out. This tale of blemish free teenage angst and superheroics is perfectly pleasing and easily accessible — sort of the "Call Me, Maybe" of comics. It is pleasant pabulum designed neither to offend nor to challenge, rather it is created to make you smile as you settle into the warm embrace of its familiarity.
Which is perfectly fine if that’s what you are looking for.
The story is pretty straightforward. Tomorrow Jones is a fourteen-year-old girl who comes from a family of superheroes — Mom is a super powered alien, Dad is the Crystal Guardian, and brother Zane is the Crystal Scout. Tomorrow, though… Tomorrow just wants to be left alone to be a normal teenager, to crush on boys and pass her History class. She certainly doesn’t want to wear tight spandex and have a secret identity. Oh sure, she’s going to be a super hero alright, but it’s going to be on her terms, and ain’t nobody going to tell her what to do or who to be.
Brian Daniel has put together a nice little coming-of-age comic that is all about a young girl’s ability to empower herself — like Carly Mae Jepsen has. The first issue of Tomorrow Jones raises those After-School Special type questions of identity, family expectations, peer pressure, and bullying. It’s an Oscar Meyer Bologna and Kraft American Cheese sandwich on Wonder Bread slathered thick with Miracle Whip. It’s certainly formulaic, but Daniel follows the formula well and creates a very palatable, albeit staid, comic, easy to digest, leaving your farts smelling like an ocean breeze.
Tomorrow Jones #1 may be the perfect plucky comic to get for your tween as she transitions from last year’s sparkly vampires to the new hotness of superheroes. It’s that kind of book,which is perfectly fine if that’s what you are looking for.
– Daniel Elkin
(Matt Evans/Andrew Helinski/Nate Burns)
Evans, Helinski and Burns are new to comics, and it shows through every page of White Devil. The artwork is all over the place on quality, with some pages looking decent, albeit in need of some cleaner inking and shading, and others looking incredibly rushed. There's also an overabundance of negative space on some pages that seems to serve no real purpose, other than to have smaller panels (panels which, by the way, give the indication that nobody had a straight edge handy).
Lettering is something that really shouldn't be overly noticeable in most comics. There are times that a specific font or font change is used, but in general, the best letterers are ones who don't take you out of the book. Whoever of the trio that did the lettering did so haphazardly at best.
Burns drew the word balloons, which I appreciate, but he seems to have done so without consideration for how much had to go into them. To fix this problem, fonts were adjusted. Sometimes you get word balloons that are mostly empty, with a tiny, scaled down Times New Roman word in them.
Not only does it make it difficult to read, but it's distracting too. The story, that of a cult summoning gone awry, has potential to entertain, but the dialogue (and its delivery) mixed with inconsistent art turned me off. I do see potential here, both in the story and the art, but all three of the creators need quite a bit more practice and could greatly benefit from planning out an issue further.
– David Fairbanks
Daniel Elkin has been reading and commenting on comics since the mid '70s when he used to wear a great deal of brown corduroy. Currently he lives in Northern California where brown corduroy is slowly becoming fashionable again. Daniel has worked in bars, restaurants, department stores, classrooms and offices. He is a published poet, member of MENSA, committed father, gadfly and bon vivant. He can over-intellectualize just about anything and is known to have long Twitter conversations with himself (@DanielElkin).
P.S. He keeps a blog, Your Chicken Enemy.
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.