Crum Bums Episode One
I know, this book is supposed to be out sometime this summer as a complete work, not just the little preview that I got. Still, reviewing the start of it should give you some vague idea of whether or not it’s worth getting, right? Episode one has 64 pages I believe (out of a projected 160 for the final book, so you’re still getting more than a third of the story) and is another one of those wordless comics, much like his previous work Cave In. I don’t know why, but I’d been avoiding the wordless minis and books up until recently. Some kind of ridiculous idea that if I’m going to spend my hard earned money than I at least want to do it on something that’s going to take me more than five minutes to read. And there’s something to be said for a mini that’s packed full of words like The Assassin and the Wanderer(there’s a review of that up on another part of my page), no doubt about it.
The thing about the best wordless minis is that they have their own unique charm. Sure, they could put word balloons and tell you exactly what is happening in every panel, but that takes all the fun out of it in cases like this. Crum Bums is basically the story of a boy who finds a harmonica in a post-apocalyptic (I’m guessing here) world. There’s also a little bit in the middle about a monkey wearing a backpack that I’m going to assume will make more sense in the finished product. Overall, honestly, I’m not sure I can recommend this book. Which is fine, because I’m not sure that you could get a copy of it anyway. BUT it did make me wonder what happens next and what a few things in the mini mean. The old man, the monkey, the street gangs, pretty much everything. The problem with a lot of the “big name” comics is that there’s no reason at all to read the individual issues. Eightball lately (although apparently the next issue is going to stand alone), Louis Riel by Chester Brown, Palookaville by Seth… I think the only reason anybody reads these books when they come out is that it often takes these artists six months to a year to get an issue out, and the people who do like their work are starved for it by the time an issue comes out. And it’s certainly good work, in some cases the best around. But if you’re not dying to see something new from these people, a little taste of the latest graphic novel, then you might as well wait. That’s where this issue falls. Interesting, compelling… and incomplete.
The Comics Interpreter #5
Reviews, interviews (Brian Ralph, Jef Czekaj and the Bipolar Twins), essays, and what appears to be a genuine love for the medium. How can you go wrong?
Well, the book I’ve been holding my breath for since I heard about it in the planning stages is finally here. All the best small press people, all in one book! All Bizarro stories, all the time! Little seen talents finally getting a chance to shine on the big stage! And the end result is… mixed.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are moments in here that make it worthwhile, enough so that I can recommend getting it. You could probably wait for the softcover to come out and save $10 or so, because there’s nothing in here that couldn’t wait a few months. If you don’t know the concept, DC apparently decided to give all these “no name” people a chance. If anybody knows the complete story behind this book, let me know. I’m curious as hell to see how this got organized. And whose decision was it to put pairings on all of the stories instead of just letting one person shine? Granted, some of the pairings boggle the mind: Dylan Horrocks and Jessica Abel, James Kochalka (writing and not drawing!) and Dylan Horrocks, Jef Czekaj and Brian Ralph, Eddie Campbell and Hunt Emerson, Ivan Brunetti and Evan Dorkin, Evan Dorkin and Steven Weissman… it’s a hell of a list, don’t get me wrong. But most of these guys spend their time doing their own thing and I think it would have flowed a lot better if they had been allowed to do that here. Granted, you would have to bring in a color guy for most of these people that have never used it, but they do everything else themselves.
The story (such as it is) is this: a creature called A comes to Mxyzptlk’s world to try and take over. He challenges M to a best-of-seven of games, but M is disqualified and has to choose a champion. Remembering his past problems, he chooses Superman but can’t find an appropriate alternate universe substitute after the original one doesn’t believe him, and accidentally chooses Bizarro. Make sense? It doesn’t matter. Bizarro decides to win the contest by drawing a bunch of stories, and these stories are all the ones by the small press folks.Â When it goes back to the “story”, these comics are promptly forgotten about and the challenges begin, but not before they get an insult or two off about the quality of the comics. Which, I’m sure, is just an insult in the story directed at Bizarro and not the creators, but it’s pretty easy to take it the wrong way. The main story takes up about 60 pages of a 236 page book, which wouldn’t be that bad if it didn’t mostly suck. It has a few moments, but the thought that this story was expanded upon at the expense of some of these extremely talented guys doesn’t make sense at all to me.
Flipping through this again to write this, I see that I enjoyed almost all of the shorts in this. I didn’t really like Wonder Girl vs. Wonder Tot, Help! Superman!!, Batman, and The Most Bizarre Bizarro of All! Compare that to the 23 other stories that I liked a lot, and it looks like they have a winner here. The Bat-man (by Chip Kidd and Tony Millionaire and strangely, the only black and white story in the book) is brilliant. Old school classic Batman here, and he’s ugly as hell. Hawkman (James K. and Dylan Horrocks), while not drawn by James, has the same feel that I’ve come to know and love from all his work. Kamandi (Nick Bertozzi and Tom Hart) takes the cake for me as the best story in the book, but I’m hopelessly biased because Tom Hart drew it. That’s Really Super, Superman (Ivan Brunetti and Evan Dorkin) is a close second, and First Contact (Mark Crilley and Andi Watson), about the Atom, is up there too.
I was expecting a hell of a lot from this book, and I’m not sure that I got it. What I did get, however, is a thoroughly entertaining look at a lot of DC universe told through the eyes of some of the most talented people working in comics today. If I cared at all about the characters this probably would have been a great book, or maybe if they had allowed them to work by themselves, or maybe if DC had given them a little more room (and a lot more people. The names excluded here are too numerous to mention, although I am surprised and gratified by some of the selections) to the creators. All in all, if you like even half the people in this book, get it. If you like Evan Dorkin, Sam Henderson or Dylan Horrocks, they’re all in here a few times writing and drawing but not, as I’ve made pretty clear by now, doing both things at once. The Matt Groening cover makes the book, too. And yes, I did see the Dan Clowes cover in The Comics Journal and I thought it was great, but I think this is a better cover for the tone of the book.