Short (and largely untimely) reactions to stuff I've read lately.
Tonoharu Vol. 1 by Lars Martinson - The story of a young guy spending a year teaching English in Japan, it certainly captures the feeling of being alone in a strange culture very well. It doesn't do much else, though, since nothing really happens. At all. This is only Part One, and it's sort of implied that something will happen to make this, you know, an actual story somewhere down the line, but that story doesn't really get started here, and in fact, there's a strong argument to be made that it doesn't even leave the driveway. But for what little Martinson does in this book, he does it well. And the art is nice. So there's that. Nothing worth buying, but for a library read, it's alright.
Gnome - Dave Dwonch's one-shot has a great premise - gnomes were once the guardians of the earth, but a spell turned them into the lawn statues we know today - and he takes it to an unusual (well, more unusual) place, as the last surviving true gnome must train a young loner in 1956 to defeat the drooling Lovecrafty horror in the basement of the house he inherited from his weird uncle. The weird mishmash of archetypes and imagery makes for a very fun read, but I think the real star here is the background art, which looks to be old photographs that Dwonch has colored over, giving us cartoony-looking people having their adventures in a realistic by slightly surreal setting, giving us yet another imagery smorgasbord to take in. In short, it's one of the better art house B movies you'll read this year.
Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition Vol. 2 - More great British espionage storytelling from Greg Rucka and company. What makes this series work for me is that Rucka doesn't pull many punches in showing the world these characters inhabit: this is dirty and extremely dangerous work that leaves already damaged people even more shattered at the end of the day, if it doesn't outright kill them (and in this volume, it frequently does). The artwork from Jason Alexander, Carla Speed McNeil, and Mike Hawthorne may be too cartoony for some (the one frequent complaint I ever see about this book), but as I said with volume 1, I think it actually helps me focus on the story better, since I'm never spending a lot of time wondering just how accurate everything is depicted, or wondering what magazine model the artist traced to get a particular shot. It does sometimes make characters hard to identify from story to story, though. The main character, Tara Chace, is generally easy to find since she's the blonde woman, but the looks of the men she works with tend can vary greatly from artist to artist, so the first issue or so of any arc generally requires a re-learning process for me. But that's my only complaint, because otherwise, this is Great Comics, no question.