Posts Tagged ‘Paul Tucker’

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 —

4721020-10

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.

4858044-01

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.

4790343-01

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.

4726176-15

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.

4279184-a+4

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.

4427496-stk666089

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.

4354820-1-c2d807a163

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.

4739644-07

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.

4763098-01

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.

4739643-03

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!

 

Tet_1

Once upon a time — when comics copied movies rather than vice-versa — there was a little bit of a “Vietnam boom” in the funnybook pages. Hot on the heels of the success of flicks like Platoon and Full Metal Jacket at the box office, Marvel and DC looked to America’s (then, at any rate) most divisive military entanglement as the source of inspiration for a handful of well-regarded late ’80s series, and while it’s certainly been a healthy spell since I dug out my old back issues of The ‘Nam or Cinder And Ashe, I remember being as thoroughly impressed with them as anyone and everyone else was back when they were a going concern.

Then, of course, the ’90s hit, and when the Image books of that woe-begotten decade’s early years ushered in the era of the genuinely brain-dead superhero story packaged inside a foil-wrapped holographic cover, most books that had anything to do with reality quickly and quietly disappeared. As a result,  it’s been quite awhile since we had a good Vietnam comic. The astute among you may take exception to this truncated timeline I’ve provided and say “hey, wait a minute, a pretty good chunk of Before Watchmen : Comedian took place ‘in country,'” but that just serves to reinforce my point — it’s been quite awhile since we had a good Vietnam comic.

TET_01-4

All that changed last Wednesday, though, when writer/letterer Paul Allor and artist/colorist Paul Tucker’s Tet #1 hit the stands courtesy of Comics Experience’s semi-new joint distribution venture with IDW Publishing. How much did I enjoy this first issue? Let me just put it this way — in a week crowded with good comics, including new issues of Deadly ClassThe Wicked + The Divine, Phonogram : The Immaterial GirlStarveHarrow CountyRebelsCrossed + One Hundred, and Bitch Planet (to name just a handful of standout titles that hit the shelves in one of the most awesome — and expensive — Wednesdays in recent memory), this was undoubtedly my pick of the week. So, yeah, I liked it a lot.

TET_01-6

I couldn’t say for certain whether or not Allor and/or Tucker served in Vietnam themselves, mind you (they were probably both too young), but Tet certainly feels authentic, and who can ask for more than that? Right off the bat we get a pretty good picture of the sort of man that our protagonist, one Lt. Eugene Smith, both was in 1968 (specifically around the time — as if you hadn’t already pieced it together — of the Tet Offensive) and is in the present day. Back then he was fresh off barely making it out of a My Lai-style massacre in the jungle and newly assigned to working a desk as translator/liaison in Hue City, where he’s met a young lady named Ha that he plans to marry and bring back with him to the US. Nowadays, though — well, let’s just say it’s pretty obvious none of that worked out.

What exactly happened? I guess that’s what this four-issue mini-series is going to tell us, but so far it seems a pretty safe bet that the murder of Lt. Smith’s buddy, Chip, and his subsequent assignment to help “crack” the case with a local detective named Bao, probably had something to do with how and why his life went irrevocably off the rails. Oh, and the less-than-subtle hint that Ha herself may have been a spy for the other side most likely didn’t help matters much, either.

TET001_Page05_Colors-600x916

Suffice to say, there’s a lot of set-up in this opening installment, but Allor’s naturalistic scripting style and engaging dialogue makes a dense-with-information read flow very gracefully, and the nuanced, multi-layered nature of the story certainly rewards careful re-reading, as a number of seemingly “throwaway” lines are actually, of course, dripping with import. The author has referred to this book as being a “war/crime/romance” story, and all three of those seemingly incongruous factors actually play off and complement each other in a very deft manner here, with each being given enough “breathing room” to establish itself as a driving force within the overall narrative without overpowering the other aspects of the trifecta. It’s a definite tight-rope walk to balance them all, but somehow Tet #1 makes it all look pretty easy (even though I’m sure it was anything but).

As for the artistic side of the ledger, well, what more needs to be said ? As the pages reproduced above ably demonstrate, Tucker takes to the period and setting of this tale like a fish to water, and his gritty-yet-cinematic style is flat-out perfect for the book. In some ways this is “throwback” art that conveys a lot of the same mood and energy of late-’80s comics, but there’s nothing wrong with that in my book since those years were, as we’ve already discussed, home to the “mini-golden-age” of Vietnam comics . It’s not entirely fair to say the book has a completely “retro” look to it, though, as the covers and many of the interior panels certainly betray a thoroughly modern design sensibility. Let’s call the art in this series a pleasing blend of old and new alike, then, since that seems a pretty fair summation of things to this point.

My only concern with Tet going forward — and it’s a small once — is a nagging back-of-the-mind fear that four issues just won’t be enough to tell a story this complex, yet unmistakably human, and do everyone involved justice. If the first chapter is any indication, though, that’s a baseless worry, since Allor and Tucker have managed to do more in one issue so far than any number of comics can pull off in five or six. I think we’re in very good hands, then, and while the ride ahead will almost certainly be fraught with a heck of a lot of  drama, peril, betrayal, and heartbreak, it also promises to be an instantly memorable one. Jump on Tet now  — it may not be the most-talked-about comic on the racks, but it will be among the small-yet-discerning audience that’s reading it.