You know, I tried writing real, honest-to-God reviews of this stuff at first, but honestly, I kind of suck as a reviewer. I'm much more of a "gut reaction" sort of writer, I guess, so that's what I'll stick with. We all have our strengths, right? Anyhoo, moving on to the point of this here blog entry...
The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert - I could say that I liked this, or even that I loved it, but I don't think that goes far enough. This book is, simply put, one of the best pieces of graphic fiction / sequential art / comics goodness / your-term-of-preference-here I've read in a long time, maybe even ever. The story by Sfar mixes both romance and absurd farce and succeeds brilliantly (no simple feat), and Guibert's artwork is just beautiful, capturing both the grandest action and the most subtle facial expressions with equal skill and grace. My only complaint is that this wasn't about 200 pages longer. I truly feel sorry for anything else I read for the rest of the year, because no matter how much I like it, I'm going to be forced to ask "Yes, but was it better than The Professor's Daughter?" And in most cases, the answer will be a firm "no." This is Fun Comics of the highest degree, and expect to see this on a lot of "best of" lists come December.
Utopiates 1 & 2 - Dystopian future stories aren't usually my thing; I chalk this up to seeing part of The Day Afteras a little kid and getting messed up but good by it. I've never really warmed up to cyberpunk, either. But this book was interesting enough to get my attention. The core concept is interesting: Utopiates are the street name for a type of injectable designer RNA strands that temporarily re-write your memory, allowing you to experience any number of potential life situations. You want to be a rock star, an ultimate killing machine, or just know the love of a good family? All these experiences and more can be yours if you're willing to pay the price. It's a great hook that sets up equally well for an individual vignettes (like issue 1) or a multi-part story (which kicks off in issue 2), but recurring characters give the feel of a unified world. Very unique art, too, which looks to be a mix of traditional, digital, and photographic styles - almost digitized fumetti, if you can picture it. Josh Finney and Kat Rocha have created something worth checking out (and, in the interest of full disclosure, are very nice people to meet in person and sit across from at dinner... but honestly, even if I hadn't met them, I'd still dig the book). I'm glad I wandered out of my usual comfort zone for this.
Action Comics Annual 10 - More retro-Silver Age goodness with a modern twist, this time in form as well as content. Like reworking the original Mon-El story, bringing back the different varieties of Kryptonite, and including an old school map of the Fortress of Solitude weren't enough to make me want to pick this up, they format the cover like the 80 Page Giants of old and even throw in some go-go checks across the top. Ah, geek love. And surprisingly, I found I didn't mind the addition of the continuity inserts inspired by the Richard Donner movies; they could've been very heavily plot-hammered in, but they were handled pretty subtly, I thought. And amazingly, Geoff Johns was able to again restrain the sort of ultraviolent story tendencies that have made him the Ed Gein of superhero comics these past few years. All the more impressive considering there was a huge opportunity for him to let loose in that scene with the Bizarros and the Thanagarian ship. Is it the calming influence of a co-writer (Donner here, Kurt Busiek on the "Up, Up, and Away" arc), or did DC make it known that that sort of material doesn't fly (ugh. sorry) in the Superman books? I'd love to find that out.
The Key Preview Issue - Sketches and preview pages for the upcoming series from Erica Hesse and Christopher Holt. It looks to be about Hell, a girl with some sort of unknown demonic legacy, a love affair that somehow may be able to survive the death of one of the participants, and probably inevitably, zombies. I like Hesse's artwork, but even if I have proven myself capable of wandering beyond my comfort zone, I don't think that I'm going to be the target audience for this book. It just sounds too much like a Chaos or Avatar book for my liking. With zombies. And I'm ready for the zombie thing to just be over already. Let's move on to the next big soon-to-be-overused comics concept, shall we? How about robots this time? I don't think robots have really gotten a fair shake yet. Or maybe platypi. Who doesn't love platypi?