Posts Tagged ‘Marley Zarcone’

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Like a lot of you, I’m still pretty well numb with shock over what the hell happened last Tuesday night — and if you’re not, read no further since what I’ve got to say will just piss you off. Will we survive this mess? Do we even deserve to if our country is this fucking stupid? Both are questions none of us can answer right now — but when I ride the train to and from work and see the abject terror on the faces of my fellow Minneapolitans who happen to be Hispanic or Muslim, I know this country has taken a turn for the darker, and it’s going to be up to those of us with a conscience to make sure that our friends, neighbors, and family members all feel both welcome and safe in this new, reactionary America. The angry white males are back in the driver’s seat — hopefully for the last time, given their shrinking numbers — and the threat to everyone who doesn’t fit into that narrow demographic is downright palpable. For my part, I refuse to get on board and quietly accept this repugnant new anti-intellectual, nativist, xenophobic vision of our country, and fortunately for those who are of a like mind, there’s plenty we can do in order to make our voices heard by lawful means, including — buying comic books?

Yup, while cartoonists from R. Crumb to Garry Trudeau have skewered our president-elect (I still throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I have to say or type that) quite righteously over the years, there are plenty of funnybooks on the stands right now that, while not taking Trump on explicitly or specifically, vigorously repudiate the man and everything he stands for, so here’s a sampling of five current titles (note this is NOT intended as a “top five” list, as these are all fine reads) to help remind you that there is another, better US of A hidden within the one we currently see playing itself out before our eyes (and, crucially, it’s a LARGER one, given that the orange-hued blob of flatulent fascism actually LOST the popular vote) and that one day — hopefully very soon — the values of optimism, inclusion, tolerance, and (not to be too grandiose) love will win out over the petty fears and prejudices of a dwindling and ill-informed political minority.

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5. Bitch Planet (Image) – Let’s not kid ourselves : our soon-to-be president is an unrepentant sexist and misogynist of the lowest, most reprehensible sort, and his supreme court nominees are certain to do major damage to women’s rights. So thank the goddess that we’ve got the most stridently feminist comic series of all time going right now courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. This grindhouse-flavored book does women in prison with a sci-fi twist, and just as important as its all-inclusive cast (women of color, trans women, and even men play active roles in the proceedings) and politically-charged story is its superb backmatter, which is a gathering place for feminist thought and discussion every issue. I can only imagine the positive impact these (accurately) self-described “community pages” will have on an increasingly-marginalized-and-objectified female readership in the face of the forthcoming all-out assault on their very humanity courtesy of President “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy.” Bitch Planet was always challenging and enlightening reading — now it’s flat-out necessary reading.

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4. Ms. Marvel (Marvel) – The best way to fight back against Islamophobic bigotry? Show that Muslim Americans are people just like anyone else, of course. G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel (currently illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa) has been bridging divides since she first came on the scene in 2014, and now Kamala Khan has graduated to the level of a genuine pop-culture phenomenon.  Is there a place for her in Trump’s less-than-brave new world? You bet there is, as long as as we keep supporting this fine series. Positive representation of our Islamic brothers and sisters is downright crucial now, and fortunately for us, it’s already happening in the pages of this book. One word of warning, though — Marvel head honcho Ike Perlmutter was a major Trump supporter and financier, so you may want to take that into consideration before deciding to put money in his pocket.

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3. Shade, The Changing Girl (DC/Young Animal) – This might seem a surprising choice since it’s in no way a political comic, but so far Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone’s series has been a terrific look into the mind of a true outsider — outsider as in, an other-dimensional alien in a teenage girl’s body. And if there’s one thing history’s taught us about would-be authoritarian strongmen, it’s that they’re quick to marginalize and endanger anyone they consider “the other” — racial, sexual, ethnic, and religious minorities are usually at the top of the list of targets, but anyone who acts or even thinks differently is bound to be labeled a “freak,” “weirdo,” “subversive,” or even “traitor” in fairly short order. Shit, it wasn’t that long ago that anyone and everyone opposed to the Bush/Cheney war agenda was called “unpatriotic” and even “unamerican.” Multiply the nationalist zealotry and enforced conformity of those years by about a thousand and you’ll have some idea of how ugly it’s going to get for people opposed to Trump. “Safe spaces” for the culturally marginalized are going to be a real oasis in the years ahead — this comic definitely says “it’s okay to be different.”

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2. Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics) – Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your series populated with punks, queers, and strong Latinas got us through the Reagan years in one piece, and now you’re back just in time to do the same through an even more reactionary period in our history. Everything about this comic just makes me think the world’s gonna be okay.

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1. Renato Jones : The One % (Image) – One thing’s for sure : for all his phony-ass populist rhetoric, Trump’s a rich bastard, and he’s going to look out for himself and his pals first and foremost. If you thought the class war was hopelessly one-sided in favor of the wealthy before, wait until you see what the next few years bring. He’s already talking about lowering the top marginal income tax rates substantially and slashing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. The so-called “1%” are going to feast on the rest of us under a Trump administration, but  Kaare Kyle Andrews and his eponymous hero, Renato Jones, know what to do about these sons-of-bitches — take ’em out by any means necessary. When non-violent resistance simply doesn’t cut it for you anymore, this is your “go-to” comic. Renato’s already given one Trump stand-in a violent comeuppance, and right now is taking down another — while romancing a fictionalized Ivanka. Surreal, ultraviolent stuff with a strong social conscience.

So there you have it — all may seem lost right now, and who knows? Maybe it is. But let’s not go down without a fight. And let’s not go down without our comics.

Okay, so normally I pretty much avoid “top 10” lists because I’m sure they’ll make me cringe later — and when it comes to movies there’s probably a few (at least) deserving entries that would flat-out slip my increasingly calcified and deteriorating mind — but ya know, as far as comics go, this year I think I can do it. One caveat, though : since we’re big believers in monthly (or less-than-monthly, as the case may be) “singles” around these parts, the following list is specifically for comic book series, be they of the ongoing or limited-duration variety,  and therefore you will find no graphic novels, digital comics, or anything of the like here, although I should stress that there were any number of absolutely excellent comics that came out last year in those formats — I just wanted my list to reflect my preference for “floppy” books that are serialized in the good, old-fashioned, printed single-issue format. So without any further ado —

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10. Southern Bastards (Jason Aaron/Jason Latour – Image)

The pacing of this series is certainly unique, with the Jasons (Aaron and Latour) going from extended stage-setting in the first arc to a multi-part “origin” of the series’ chief villain in the second to side-steps focusing on supporting characters in the third, but they definitely seem to be building up to something big and memorable in an unconventional, but certainly appealing, way.

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9. The Twilight Children (Gilbert Hernandez/Darwyn Cooke – DC/Vertigo)

Classic Hernandez “location-centric” storytelling peppered with broadly-drawn, memorable characters orbiting around a truly fascinating mystery/supernatural thriller. Cooke’s illustration is, of course, superb.

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8. Tet (Paul Tucker/Paul Allor – IDW/Comics Experience)

The second series produced under the auspices of Comics Experience’s publishing partnership with IDW, Paul Tucker and Paul Allor’s four-parter is the most harrowing and effective meditation on the human cost of war to appear on the comics page in literally a couple of decades. Now available in trade, go out and grab it immediately.

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7. Deadly Class (Rick Rememder/Wes Craig – Image)

Things seem to be heading into Battle Royale territory here, with the exploits of Marcus and his increasingly-fractured circle of former “friends” taking a number of gut-wrenching twists and turns over the course of 2015. Wes Craig’s art gets stronger and more confident with each issue.

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6. Annihilator (Grant Morrison/Frazer Irving – Legendary)

Morrison’s Philip K. Dick-esque mind-fuck script is brought to grand, cosmic life by Irving’s absolutely spectacular art to create a story of personal tragedy played out on a universe-shaking scale. Now out in trade and definitely worth a purchase.

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5. Big Man Plans (Eric Powell/Tim Wiesch – Image)

The most gleefully anti-social and misanthropic book of 2015, this Powell/Wiesch four-part series embraces the most extreme aspects of the grindhouse without remorse or even apology. A visceral wallop to the face that leaves you reeling — and loving every minute of it. The trade’s available now, so do yourself a favor.

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4. Effigy (Tim Seeley/Marley Zarcone – DC/Vertigo)

Seven amazing issues of “reality”TV/celebrity “culture” deconstruction wrapped around a trans-dimensional mystery story that’s been on a “hiatus” since September that I’m increasingly worried may be permanent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because Seeley and Zarcone have barely begun to scratch the surface here.

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3. Crossed + One Hundred (Alan Moore/Simon Spurrier/Gabriel Andrade/Fernando Heinz/Rafa Ortiz – Avatar Press)

Moore and Andrade’s initial six-issue story arc was absolutely epic and arguably the best “zombie comic” of all time, and while it took a little while for Simon Spurrier to find his footing as The Bearded One’s successor, he seems to have finally discovered his own voice while remaining true to his predecessor’s “blueprint” of strong “world building” littered with knowing winks in the direction of various genre fiction classics.

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2. Hip Hop Family Tree (Ed Piskor – Fantagraphics Books)

Piskor has “re-purposed” his oversized hardcover cultural history as a monthly series on cheap paper with intentionally-shoddy production values and the end result is a revelation. Yeah, the gigantic volumes are great, but dammit, this is how the series should have been presented all along. A wealth of new material, including “director’s commentary” pages, definitely helps, as well. Worth the “double dip,” without question.

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1.  Providence (Alan Moore/Jacen Burrows – Avatar Press)

No surprise at all for regular readers of my shit, the latest and greatest entry in the Moore/Burrows “Lovecraft Cycle,” now at its halfway point, is shaping up to be the most literate, multi-layered, immersive comics reading experience of the decade, as well as one of the best pure horror comics, well, ever. I’ve written somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 words on the series already, and it’s nowhere near enough, so expect plenty more single-issue reviews for the now-apparently-bimonthly series as 2016 rolls along. If I only had five bucks to my name and the latest issue was coming out, I’d buy Providence and go hungry — it’s just. That. Fucking. Good.

A few final points — while Image certainly dominated the list this year, their two most popular and acclaimed titles, Saga and Sex Criminals, are nowhere to be found here. I felt that both had “off years” and that their currently-running story arcs are definitely not up to previous standards. Saga will most likely rebound, but Sex Criminals is just getting swallowed further and further down into its own self-created rabbit hole and may very well have, pun absolutely intended, shot its wad by this point.

And while we’re on the subject of list domination, I’d be surprised if Image pulls a “repeat” in 2016, to be honest. Not because their line is getting worse, mind you, but because Vertigo is just getting that much better. They came on strong at the tail end of 2015 with their re-launch, but a one-or two-issue sample size just isn’t enough to earn most of these superb new series, like Slash & BurnRed ThornThe Sheriff Of BabylonUnfollowLast Gang In Town, or the latest iteration of Lucifer spots in this year’s top 10. Next year, however, is another matter entirely, and unless these books go to pot, I fully expect Veritgo to be the publisher to beat in 2016.

So — that’s our (alright, my) 2015 list. I’m a little bummed that female creators aren’t better-represented herein, to be sure (Marley Zarcone’s the only one), but hopefully the increased presence of women in the freelancer ranks will continue apace and my list next year — assuming I do one — will be far more gender-balanced. Kelly Sue DeConnick is certainly blazing a heck of a trail with Bitch Planet, and Gail Simone is in top creative form so far on Clean Room, but both of those books fell just outside my rankings this time around. Still, I’m as unpleasantly surprised as anyone that the comics industry is still as depressingly male-dominated as it is.

As far as more pleasant  surprises go, I never thought I’d be putting together a Top 10 list in 2015 that featured Alan Moore twice. If I was doing this in 30 years ago, sure, but apparently Moore is every bit the creative dynamo at age 63 as he was at 33, and so if I had to single out one “creator of the year,” he’d be it. In fact, he’d earn the nod by a country mile. I only wish that more people were actually, ya know, buying his stuff. Providence is selling great for an Avatar book, but it’s still routinely bested on the Diamond charts by even the most tepid and uninspired “Big Two” fare, so if there’s one thing we know about comics heading into 2016, it’s that the overwhelming majority of stuff coming out will still, sorry to say it, suck.

Okay, that’s it for this time around — here’s to happy reading in the year ahead!