Panel #2: Architecture
Damn, and here I was hoping that this was the first Panel, but one look at that website shows me that this one is, in fact, #2. #1 only had a print run of 300 issues and it doesn’t look like it’s been reprinted since, so so much for that one. Everything else besides #3 looks like it’s available on that website though, for the curious. So how does this one hold up, seeing as how I’m just now getting to it for this website? Pretty well, all things considered. The first piece deals with putting the horrors of the past behind us, in a dark and atmospheric piece by Andy Bennett. Next Dara Naraghi and Adrian Barbu have a nice little piece about figuring out every last angle of a heist… or almost every angle. Then the book veers suddenly into humor (and three cheers for all anthologies that keep the reader on their toes like this), as a series of unfortunate events, chronicled by Dara Naraghi and Tim Fischer, leads to the extravagant home of an intergalactic porn star getting burned down. Next up, Tony Goins and Steve Black have a futuristic story about a crappy future world where everybody gets by on giant suspended bridges and there are constant bombings. The text piece, by Dansen Stahl (with a few illustrations by Tim Fischer), is the biggest misstep in the book. Text pieces are always tricky, but if you’re talking about what is essentially a Revolutionary (that is, American Revolution) group of heroes, isn’t it a much better story in a comic anthology if it’s, you know, a comic? Tom Pappalardo proved to me recently that text in comics can be done well, but I think these two missed a chance for a great comic here. And finally there’s a piece by Tom Williams in which he debates going back to Columbine for a reunion years after the school has been demolished. This is still a pretty solid group of stories, even if it only got better from here. Worth a look if you’ve been following this series and/or these people and want to see what their stuff looked like when they were only relative babies at this business…
Broken Lines Book One Now Available! $12
Well, this isn’t a comic exactly, and it’s not a short story exactly either. It’s mostly a short story with comical interludes thrown in, but what a story it is. I can’t remember the last time I was this impressed by a story where I had no real idea what’s going on. It starts innocently enough in an all-night diner with a cowboy and a man in a spacesuit eating dinner. Their waitress can’t work up the enthusiasm to be too curious about them, and things proceed slowly for a bit until Maggie ends up having to get a ride home from these two. After they part ways, Maggie meets a group of demons from hell dressed as firemen (firemen make fires and kill people, firefighters are the ones who put them out, you see) before eventually ending up back with Cowboy and Spaceman and their silent friend, Vampire. She joins them on their journey across the country, trying to make enough money to survive along the way, while being chased by… well, we’re not sure what. Nor do we know where they’re going or why they’re going there. None of that matters even a little bit, as an engaging cast of characters (I haven’t even mentioned Myron or the Vampire Hunters because why not leave a few surprises for you?) and a constantly funny dialogue keep things moving even when they’re stuck doing inventory in a grocery store to make a few bucks. Spaceman is possibly a small retarded child judging by his actions, Cowboy is the stereotypical cowboy except with a clumsy streak, and I don’t have the slightest idea what Vampire is yet, except that he seems to have given up drinking blood. What can I say, I was mesmerized and damned sad to see the last page of this book. It’s projected to be the first of four issues, so at least there’s plenty more to go. I can’t recommend this enough for those of you who don’t mind a lot of really wonderful text thrown in with the pretty pictures. Oh, and Thomas did most of the drawing himself, except for a page each by Mister Reusch, Jason Goad and Matt Smith.
Want to make your book critic-proof? Or at least for wishy-washy critics like me? Here’s a quote from the brief (but hilarious and insightful) intro: “I hope that you find the jokes-to-dollars-spent ratio to be within acceptable parameters.” That’s it, I’m shut down completely. $5 is a bit much for a comic, granted, or at least it is in my fantasy 1997 world where that sort of thing was still rare. But all you have to do is pick this thing up and you can tell by sheer weight that you’re getting a lot of pages. And he’s right, there are jokes packed all over the pages, so even if you don’t like two or three of them, well, there’s still 5 more right there either on that page or the page next to it to make you laugh. The only complaint that I have about this is that, as this is my first impression of the guy, I could have done with a slightly smaller book that didn’t have some of the dumber strips in here. But then, as humor is mostly subjective, who’s to say what that is? At least this way you get to see the bad with the good. So what’s actually in here, as I seem to be skirting around that? Well, it’s mostly because there’s no chance for me to tell you everything in here without this being the longest review ever, so I’ll just stick to a (relative) few of them. Australians, outer space adventures, voodoo, fat rats, superhero school, and when he was a headbanger. That’s probably about 1/100 of the book right there. He also has a few text pieces that I really loved, including the best blanket apology that I’ve ever seen. Oh, and out of all the things I could have sampled, of course I went right for the potty mouth…
Famous Fighters #1 (written by Matt Smith) Now Available! $6
God bless Matt and Tom, and I mean that as nothing but completely sincere. So many people who do comics are happiest when it’s one big chaotic fight scene, so they decided to take most of the story out of it and we’re left with one big pile of fights. Which, if you’re feeling particularly cerebral today, might not be your thing, and more power to you. I rarely if ever sample the first page of a book, and that’s all I needed to know I was going to like this one. Barbarian Lord is a character who’s confined to single page stories, usually ending in decapitations, and always ending in a poem. Nothing but fun to be had there, and these are sprinkled throughout the book. There’s a Pong contest between a man and Satan, done entirely in verse. You also have Eclipso (a fat-headed kid who kills flowers), a zombie metal band and an extended kung-fu parody, also hilarious if you’ve seen more than one kung-fu movie in your life. Really, there’s not a single thing here to complain about. Tom (between this and the issue listed above) looks to me to be a giant among comics men, assuming he has more like these last two in him, and Matt was able to do plenty of this issue in verse (which I usually hate) and make it a wonderful thing to behold. Buy it and laugh, as there are few enough things around that’ll allow you to do that without trying to teach you some sort of a message. None of that nonsense here, just an awful lot of decapitations! $5