This volume of DMZ is made up of six self-contained stories that take place in the world of the series, but don’t feature the main characters or storylines, so don’t require (as much) context to read. All are good, but we were quite taken by the Nathan Fox-drawn story “Random Fire,” about an attack in a night club. His trademark jewel-toned, color-hold style gets a bit muddy on the uncoated paper, but it’s chaotic and pretty in a way that most adventure comics aren’t.
Army @ Love is another one of the strange, difficult, energetic Vertigo projects to appear lately that just don’t fit a genre. Veitch creates a biting satire of the military and fear-mongering high-alert political class in this over-the-top 15-minutes-into-the future farce. Knowing the war is unpopular means that the Army is on full-out marketing attack, and the troops are going wild.
What makes this story really stand out, though, is the art. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Hyper-detailed scenes of Japanese streets in cotton-candy tones are grounded (slightly) by the skill with which Fisher (the artist) executes perspective and figure work. Dorky, nose-less people nonetheless have real weight and individuality. You never confuse one character for another although there may be dozens (seemingly) in each panel. It’s just a cornucopia of stuff to look at, and it’s quite clear that Fisher knew well and loved Tokyo.
What begins as a seemingly generic lonely-guy indy comic takes a surprising turn when our disheveled, lonely protagonists encounters a glowing fairytale creature in a compromising situation. And there are a few more surprises in this short-and-sweet (and a little nasty) model of efficient storytelling.
Adam Suerte’s Aprendíz is a memoir comic about the artist’s apprenticeship as a tattoo artist. It’s part artistic coming-of-age tale, part behind-the-scenes look at the craft and business of tattooing. Throughout, Suerte reveals himself to be a gifted cartoonist who incorporates styles and techniques of tattoo art into his pages without ever sacrificing clarity—no easy feat—and he is an engaging, self-depracating guide to his own story.
Is “Am I Emo?” comics? poetry? both? neither? The answer is not obvious but it probably depends on your own notions of what “comics”, “poetry”, and visual storytelling are. If this comic makes you question your assumptions a bit, then maybe it’s already proved its value.
Alexey Sokolin’s investigation of the act of drawing is made entirely of hatching lines, scribbles, swooping lines, and, way down beneath it all, hints of representative imagery. It almost looks like what began as a conventional comic mutated as the marks and lines broke free of the images. It’s also interesting the way the comic can read either as a six page comic, a series of six drawings (a sextich?), or six iterations of the same page being increasingly overwhelmed with line.
There are several things I love about Rasl aside from it being an ambitious, well-told, exciting sci-fi noir adventure (as if that wasn’t enough). It’s published in a gorgeous large format in glamorous black and white, it’s dangerous and sexy, and it’s by Jeff Smith, most famous for Bone, which is now seen as a kids’ comic (not the original intention, but it works). I love that Jeff broke his own mold with this definitely for-adults work.
Josh Simmons’ “Jesus Christ” is a wordless mash-up of Bizarro-world parable and monster movie. With no narration or further context, a ball of fire lands in the middle of a sprawling metropolis. From it emerges a mute, centaur-like giant who proceeds to lay waste to the city and its populace. The storytelling is fluid and dynamic, and Simmon’s ability to convey the enormity of the monster is bracing. Simmons deliberately mixes elements from different mythologies to defy any obvious reading. In the end, all we have before us is this escstatic Kali-Godzilla-Centaur with a halo of fire and a title to provoke us.
Anuj Shrestha’s “American Cat” uses a visual strategy taken from Art Spiegelman’s Maus to paint a sad, bitter portrait of the lives of bottom-of-the-rung immigrants. The ending takes an unexpected turn that is more devastating than the violent (but more facile) conclusion you might be expecting.
FIRST SECOND is an imprint of Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan USA. Macmillan owns some of America's most prestigious publishers, known for great integrity and literary quality. These include Henry Holt, FSG, St Martin's Press, Tor and Picador, all of which have garnered the most coveted prizes in publishing.