As with any art form, the best comic books are those that offer an immersive experience. Favorite paintings or films, for example, provide visual worlds for contemplation, while listeners can lose themselves within an album’s aural landscapes. All these mediums share the ability to craft a compelling ambiance. The same is true of Monstress which continues its excellent run this week with another stunning issue.
Much of the appeal of Monstress is related to its elaborate world building. The narrative unfolds in the aftermath of a long brutal war waged between magical/semi-magical beings. This extended conflict, which continues to simmer not far below the surface, has left the environment ravaged. A general sense of gloom hangs over the proceedings, a visual reminder of writer Marjorie Liu’s motif of war’s deep, ill-healing scars. Issue #10 however, achieves a heightened level of dread as protagonist Maika and her companions reach the Isle of Bones.
How does the saying go? Once your good name is lost, there is nothing that can bring it back? Coach Euless Boss has long been a man to be reckoned with in Craw County, an imposing figure unwilling to shy away from violence. Indeed, he has been more than willing to bloody his hands in a very vicious and public manner, as readers discovered at the conclusion of Southern Bastards’ initial arc. Such brutal demonstrations, though, did little to soil his public image. Coach Boss was a man to be feared and respected both in and outside the county. As the head of Craw County’s Runnin’ Rebs high school football team, he was a living legend. His name stood for something noble. The problem with such glory is that it can be intoxicating and quite blinding. Under its influence, judgements have been known to cloud. From there it only takes a single poor decision to irreparably tarnish your stature, as Jason Aaron and Jason Latour compelling illustrate in the latest installment of Southern Bastards.
The weather might suggest otherwise, but December has arrived and with it the inevitable year’s end lists. Luckily, at Nothing But Comics, we’re quite fond of year’s end lists. Our first group Top Ten will arrive tomorrow, but first I offer up my annual look back at some of the most memorable character from 2016.
All entries are listed alphabetically. For simplicity sake, characters without code names are listed by first name.
By Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Some weeks the choice is easy. This is not to say that there were not several great comics released today, because there were; in fact, there was not a dud in my stack. However, despite all the quality, sometimes there is a single issue which simply seizes your attention from the first page, immediately drawing you into the richness of its story, the lushness of its art. By about page five, you know it already: this most likely is the finest book of the week. Such was the case this week with Kill or Be Killed #2.
By this point, it should not surprise anyone that Jonathan Hickman has a bit of an apocalyptic streak in him. The most obvious examples of this tendency would be East of West or Secret Wars (a series which both began and ended with the literal sundering of all reality). However, this strain of pessimism can be found in many of his other works, such as Red Wing or Manhattan Projects. Even arguably his most idealistic writing, Fantastic Four/FF, often felt the poignant weight of regret for past actions, especially in regards to the character of Nathaniel Richards. Father figures often fail in Hickman’s worldview and not merely on a personal level. Usually the entire system meant to keep society running smoothly is in danger of collapsing. And why not? “You have earned what is coming to you” East of West continually reminds its readers. Today Hickman revisits these themes once again with the debut issue of a new Image series The Black Monday Murders. Yet, skillfully written within a fresh context, these ideas never feel like old hat. Instead, aided by talented artistic collaborators, Hickman produces an excellent first issue for the series.
At Washington DC’s recent Awesome Con I attended a panel where writer/artist Skottie Young discussed his career in comic books. He began with initial inspirations (Joe Madureira, Sam Kieth) and his experience advertising his talent at conventions. Young acknowledged that he required a period of working through these influences (Young was pretty biting about his early endeavors), before he could find his own voice. As with everything, there is a learning curve. He talked about how when he was younger he lacked a grasp of how the industry worked, for example the business model differences between The Big Two and Image. He simply assumed that he would get a chance to draw his characters at any of those companies. As his younger self saw it, someone else was already illustrating Spider-Man, so why hire him to do it? Yet, that is exactly what happened resulting in a string of gigs at Marvel on increasingly high-profile books. Then they offered him an Oz adaptation and he turned it down.
I’m beginning to worry that this comic is going to break my heart.
Over the course of twenty-one issues Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca have crafted some of the most imaginative world-building in comics. The environments may resemble our own in some ways, while at the same time being full of fantastical features. The most prominent of these elements is the wide range of life residing therein. From subtle twists on the familiar humanoid to gigantic monsters, Shutter is full of visual surprises. Indeed, this expert combination of idea and image has ensured that each installment has been packed with moments of wonder.