SPXcellent

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SPX

SPX, it seems generally agreed, is the most fun weekend of convention season. So much more than a small press marketplace, it’s a celebration of comics with a quirky character all its own. Our time in Bethesda was filled with booze and belly laughs, as we caught up with old friends, sold a veritable buttload of comics, and even busted out some serious dance moves.

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Andrew Carl, Rafer Roberts, Dave Proch

Oh, and also, we debuted LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM.

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Sean getting his Nemo signed by Andrea Tsurumi (right page)

After two years, we finally had books to sell. It felt almost surreal. Having spent so much time with these beautiful pieces, having bickered & bonded over every page placement, every design element, having written endlessly about McCay and Little Nemo, having given interviews to any & all who would interview us, having generally turned ourselves over the last eight months into single-minded Nemo-making-and-promoting machines, here we were for the very first time with copies of the book to put into people’s hands. DREAM ANOTHER DREAM has attained such a giant status in our minds, as a tribute and collective effort and crowd-funded passion project, that it’s easy to forget that in the end, it’s a book. You can buy it if you want it. It’s up to you.

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Alexis Ziritt admiring those insane colors on his Nemo page (right)

We didn’t have many copies — there are only 50 in the US at the moment, having been overnight shipped and smuggled across the border at great expense and vague legal peril. We’ll be parceling them out over the our hectic convention schedule (come see us at Rose City in Portland, MICE in Cambridge, APE in San Francisco, and NYCC in NYC!), a few at a time, to tide you all over until the LOCUST MOON COMICS FESTIVAL, when we should have our bulk shipment in stock and we can sell them freely and – even more importantly – begin fulfilling the rewards of our beloved Kickstarter backers.

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Jen Tong seeing her Nemo page for the first time in print

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Here we were with 18 (quickly sold out) copies of this majestic creature, on the lushly-carpeted floor of one of the best and most exciting comics conventions in the world. We were tabling with our old pals & brothers-in-arms (and Nemo contributors) Farel Dalrymple and Jasen Lex, which gave our booth a grandeur and a comics firepower befitting the glorious book we were debuting. We thought we were making good sales, but Farel blew us away — there wasn’t a moment all weekend when he didn’t have a long line waiting for him to sign copies of THE WRENCHIES. The way our tables were combined, I think a fair amount of confused people thought that Locust Moon was THE WRENCHIES’ publisher. I sincerely wish we were. It’s one of the greatest comics of all time.

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Farel making his mark on a soon-to-be-epic copy of Nemo…

We discovered when inspecting the SPX floor plan that, including the two fine tablemates just to our left, 26 of the book’s 140 contributors were exhibiting at the show. So Andrew made heavily annotated maps marking each of their locations, and we sent the proud new owners of LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM off on scavengers hunts to get as many signatures as they cared to or could. I jokingly offered a free prize to anyone who got all 26. A constant sight on the show floor throughout the weekend was people stalking from booth to booth with an unwieldily gargantuan book under one arm and a marked-up map held aloft with the other, like some kind of alt-comix version of The Amazing Race. When a number of people returned to the table with every contributor checked off, I had to figure out what the hell kind of free prize I could offer them.

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…Rawn Gandy adding to the now well-scavenged set of signatures

SPX has always been a youthful show. For all the incredible comics luminaries they always have on hand, it’s always been the show where people are most excited about handmade books and self-published minis. It’s a show that thrives on New Comics Energy, and we couldn’t have been happier to contribute to that influx of medium-sustaining novelty with an unusual and unlikely project of our own. (Many thanks to Warren Bernard for helping us make this magical weekend happen.)

As usual, half of the reason for the glory of SPX is due to the Bethesda Marriott Hotel, whose comfy confines are given over completely to the endless array of misfits that we call a comics industry. It’s more than just a con venue — it’s the eye of the storm, for one brief weekend this one building is the center of the comics universe. You exhibit there, you drink there, you draw there, you sleep there. (You eat elsewhere and abruptly realize there’s such a thing as outside.) By the end of the weekend it feels like home. I’m not sure Jesse Reklaw ever put on a pair of shoes. To the maids and bellhops it must be kind of like going to the zoo, if the animals were all inside of your house. Their hospitality was stunning, and can in no way be attributed to the eight bazillion dollars they generated in overpriced drink sales.

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Ben Sears, Andrew MacLean, Chris Stevens, Aaron Conley, Zack Soto

This SPX was heavy on the social events, from the Ignatz awards (whose many unfamiliar nominees were a welcome reminder that comics is bottomless, and we should all be reading more than we are) to the baffling spectacle of Simon Hanselmann’s wedding (we missed the vows, but walked in at the very end to see Simon making out with Gary Groth while a five piece brass band played All You Need is Love), to the SPX prom, facilitated and arranged by our own homegirls the Dirty Diamonds, which featured a jam-packed dance floor, an inspiring interpretive performance of Madonna’s Express Yourself by R. Sikoryak and Kriota Willberg, and this majestic photo, which should really be featured here at least twice and, even if the con were a total failure, completely justifies the weekend.

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SPromX

Fashion round-up: I wore a beautiful Nancy tie that Denis Kitchen gave me, a fact that I’m surprised hasn’t found its way into more post-con blogs and recaps. My own sartorial beauty was outstripped only by Tom Scioli, who was sporting french braids woven by the dirtiest of diamonds Claire Folkman, and Simon Hanselmann, who was wearing a wedding dress, which seems like cheating.

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Nancy

We scored a lot of amazing books and prints, including Dustin Harbin‘s NoBrow dinosaur leporello, Andrea Tsurumi‘s remarkable new YA sci-fi collab with Molly Brooks, Kelly Phillips‘ hilariously revealing Weird Al superfan autobio, and one lone copy of Ben Marra‘s storied, seemingly-always-sold-out TERROR ASSAULTER, which Dave, Andrew and I read aloud to each other while eating chicken nuggets in our hotel room. I’m pretty sure that’s how Ben intended the book to be enjoyed.

Oh SPX. I hope that thoughts of you will sustain us through the meat-grinder shit-show known as New York Comic-Con. You only get one chance to make a first impression. I’m glad that SPX was ours.

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Josh O’Neill, Andrew Carl

– Josh O’Neill

The Locust Moon Top 40: August 2014

40. FABLES vol. 20

Willingham & Buckingham’s seemingly-endless saga wends towards its conclusion, out of the darkness of its previous volume and back towards its heroic roots.

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39. REMAINDER by Farel Dalrymple

The tour-de-force cartooning in this WRENCHIES side story would make Moebius proud.

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38. KILL MY MOTHER

Jules Feiffer is one of the true architects of the comics medium — here, in his smoke-wreathed noir debut graphic novel, he shows that he’s still on top of his game.

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37. This D&D Audiobook

Let Ice-T and Dan Harmon (sadly, not doing his impression of Ice-T) and friends read Dungeons and Dragons to you. It’s…something special.

36. MEGAHEX

Simon Hanselmann’s weirdly sociopathic stoner gag strip MEGG, MOGG & OWL, collected here by Fantagraphics, is a stealth delivery system for some terrifyingly dark character studies.

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35. MULTIVERSITY #1

Bucking the shitty MOR trends of DC, shamanic comics mastermind Grant Morrison delivers a brain-blasting metacomic, with gorgeously detailed universes drawn by Ivan Reis. Surprising that the suits are letting the iconoclastic Morrison have this much fun with their precious continuity.

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THE MOTHER’S MOUTH by Dash Shaw

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I usually use this space to highlight new, or at least newly-in-print comics and collections. But I just read something great, and I want to tell you about it. THE MOTHER’S MOUTH by Dash Shaw is a deeply moving story and a stunningly original exploration the unique capacities of the comic medium. Everyone should read it. We have one copy at Locust Moon. Come and get it, lucky reader, and be enriched. It’s no longer in print, so everybody else is shit out of luck.

Much of Dash Shaw’s brilliance lies in the way be brings his ravenous appetite for innovation to tender, human narratives. Though he seems to be devising his approach in the moment, restlessly mining his inventiveness page by page, the stories are old and the characters familiar. His books are small, well-observed and subtle, but his themes are huge and unmanageable, the stuff of great literature — brotherhood, envy and crumpled desire in NEW SCHOOL, for instance, or loneliness, obligation and loss here in THE MOTHER’S MOUTH. These pure evocations of human longing are the emotional backbone of his work, powerful pulsing centers that guarantee that these stories, for all their obfuscating experimentalism, will never buckle under the weight of their own ambition.

The plot, slight as it is, concerns Virginia Miles, a children’s librarian who must return home to care for her elderly mother. She falls into a cautious, uncomfortably intimate relationship with Dick Lucido, a damaged, gentle musician. They blunder towards some kind of guarded love, fingers pushing through the bars of their shame, fear and isolation, as Virginia’s mother fades and dies. But somewhere over the course of all this you fall under this book’s weird spell, and start receiving Shaw’s urgent, befuddling transmissions.

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Virginia’s story is told in a clunky-clean traditional narrative style, with thick marker lines and brushstrokes, her mother’s face layered, shroud-like, with clean black wrinkles. But just as much space is given over to old photographs, scientific and psuedo-scientific schematics, diagrammed dance steps, newspaper articles, found objects. There are moments when it feels less like a story than a bundle of mementos and documents, wrapped in wax paper and bound up with string. Sometimes you read this book — other times you pluck your way through it, puzzling, turning it over in your hands, feeling for its gnomic meaning in the dark.

There’s a tangle of sex, grief and memory at the center of THE MOTHER’S MOUTH that you can never quite unravel — at least, I couldn’t. Virginia, wracked with sorrow over her mother’s illness and utterly vulnerable , alone in the world, falls in with the daydreamy, Michael Jackson-obsessed Dick and we see their weird, halting, awkward courtship (“Oh my god, I’m sorry did my breath smell?” “Oh, I don’t know, did my breath smell?”). But then there are lengthy detours into Virginia’s first (probably only) love affair, a preadolescent fling with a boy named Richard, who died when he was swallowed up into the depths of a sandbox. Near the end of the book, there’s a news article about a Louisiana therapist who accidentally kills a child named Richard, suffocating him during a controversial therapeutic technique in which patients re-experience their own births. What actually happened to Richard? What is his relation to the similarly-named Dick? What does this assemblage of stuff, connected with the thinnest strands of desire, nostalgia and fantasy, mean?

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Your guess is as good as mine. But answering those questions is not the purpose of this story. It’s the mystery, the haunting feeling of the accumulation of all these bits and pieces, the way they mirror one another, operating according to aesthetic as much as narrative logic. Shaw’s world here is a darkly funny fractal, and his vision zooms in on the tiniest memory, a crumpled snapshot, a child’s drawing, then out to the geologic scale of time. We watch Pangaea break apart then come back together again, see the moon swallowed in darkness, then shimmer through as a crescent now reversed, observe a mythical creature decompose into fossils in a series of cross-sections of sedimentary rock. His versatile, telescopic camera always discovers the same thing: that time marches on, that loss is inevitable, that life is fragile and beautiful.

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In one bravura four-page sequence, a sex scene between Dick and Virginia branches into the roots of a tree, the trunk of which flows into a river, which transforms into a topographical map, which, panning back, is revealed to be the sandbox in which Richard died. Everything is everything else — look at the sweep of history or a microbial organism and discover your own anxieties, grievances and hopes. The same messages are encoded into every sequence. When Virginia’s mother dies, her spirit just puffs our of a her chest as a little Pacman ghost, then floats off as a white silhouette against an empty black spread. Figuration, symbolism and narrative are jostling for page space, pulling against each other, as disjointed as they are unified.

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Like in the work of Chris Ware, the towering ambition of the formal approach plays brilliantly off the smallness and mundanity of the story. Virginia and Dick are stuck in prisons of their own device while the vast universe, impossibly beautiful and frightening, spins around them. THE MOTHER’S MOUTH explores huge and hopeful ideas about Dharmic interconnectedness, universal mirroring and infinite regression in a tale of badly damaged people, lost souls shrouded in scar tissue.

It ends with tentative hope, pillow talk, and Dick’s plans for a haircut. In THE MOTHER’S MOUTH, Dash Shaw summons an entire universe just to make two people feel a little less alone.

MM cover– Josh O’Neill

 

good this week

ok, we didn’t have a chance to read anything yet this week, but these are the books we really wanna read…

rocket raccoon #2

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nightworld #1

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she-hulk #7

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i was the cat

oni

trillium

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the complete elfquest vol. #1

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the ring of the nibelung

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jack davis drawing american pop culture

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food wars!

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The Locust Moon Top 40: July 2014

40. THE WICKED + THE DIVINE

The new Image series from McKelvie & Gillen, a sort of bottomless bonus track to their dark-magic rock opera PHONOGRAM, is one of the most promising series to debut in 2014.

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39. This NSFW Spider-Man Statue

This baffling statue, atop a South Korean shopping mall, gives new meaning to the phrase “web fluid.”

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38. CHARLES SCHULZ’S PEANUTS: ARTIST’S EDITION

This beautifully designed collection of unaltered original Peanuts artwork brings us Charles Schulz’s earliest strips just as he made them — raw, unfiltered, and a little bit mean.

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37. OUTCAST

The world-weary horror of Robert Kirkman’s story is brought to life by the atmospheric, choking tension of Paul Azaceta’s moody, worrisome artwork. A promising debut for what looks to be a truly frightening series.

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36. This Animated Lobster Sculpture

Very lifelike. Keep it far away from butter sauce.

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35. THE LEFTOVERS

This off-beat, darkly funny, sprawlingly intimate HBO series, based on Tom Perotta’s novel of the same title, follows life in a small town in the years following the Rapture.

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good this week

wonton soup collected edition : before ORC STAIN and GODZILLA: HALF CENTURY WAR, james stokoe was chopping it up like some loco iron chef of comics. this long out of print collection serves up the full 7 course meal of wonton soup goodness.

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rocket raccoon #1 : as a long, long time fan of this little critter, i can tell you that skottie young has delivered a pitch-perfect take here. lots of fun, and a good mystery brewing.

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robocop vs terminator : a wacky pairing all the way around, with walt simonson in top form working off a frank miller script.

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the maxx maxximized volume #1 : one of the most influential books of the ’90s is back, in a hardcover edition that sees sam kieth’s seminal artwork recolored and looking better than ever.

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-chris stevens

The Locust Moon Top 40: June 2014 – Nemo Edition

This is the space where we usually spotlight 40 amazing things from the last month — adorable cat videos, cheesy songs we can’t stop listening to, and COMICS COMICS COMICS. For the month of June, we’ve decided to do something a little bit different.

If you’ve been anywhere in our general vicinity or exist within nine degrees of separation from us on Twitter, you are probably by now aware of the epic Kickstarter campaign we’ve launched for our insane, Quixotic, 16″ x 21″ hardcover Winsor McCay tribute LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM. This is one star-studded anthology — maybe the most star-studded comics anthology of all time — and there’s been a lot of press and attention on the big names who’ve come together to pay tribute to our favorite Sunday strip: the Paul Popes, John Cassadays, Michael Allreds, J.H. Williamses (and Yuko Shimizus and Bill Sienkiewiczes and Dean Haspiels and yada genius yada).

So we wanted to use this space to draw attention to 40 artists in DREAM ANOTHER DREAM whose names you may not know yet — cartoonists and illustrators whose work is stunning, beautiful, restlessly inventive, original and bold, but who haven’t yet achieved the name recognition of the people mentioned above. One of the things we love most about LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM is that it combines the biggest artists of its day with the biggest artists of tomorrow. Here, in no particular order, are forty folks you should be hearing a lot about in the next few years.

Note: click on any artist’s name to get to his or her website and see more.

40. RAUL GONZALEZ. Raw and refined. Sweeter than sugar, harder than real deal moonshine.
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39. BODIE CHEWNING is, quite simply, one of the most talented people out there. If only we could get him to draw more than six pages a year…
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38. Master of puppets JENNA TROST charms and creeps in equal measure.
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37. DAVE CHISHOLM slings a pen and a trumpet the exact same way — like he invented the thing, and he’s gonna show you what it can do.
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36. With a precise cartoonist’s eye, KATIE MOODY turns stories upside-down, inside-out and back again.
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35. BISHAKH SOM‘s mind-bending architecture, gentle characters, and inviting colors can keep us staring for hours.
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the palace of ice

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this is the book that launched my love affair with little nemo and winsor mccay. up until receiving this book as a christmas present, i had only heard of this master artist and cartooning genius. this book held pure, unbridled wonder from cover to cover, and it was impossible to read it and walk away unchanged. over the years the particular copy i have has acquired a kind of totemic power for me; although i know its contents by heart, opening it up has a mesmerizing effect, a feeling of being transported that i can’t quite describe.

hopefully someone will have that feeling when they open LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM.

maybe they’ll be able to describe it better than i.

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–chris stevens

a spoil of riches

we are neck-deep in the LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM kickstarter, yes, but we’re also getting ready for the 3rd annual LOCUST MOON PHILLY COMICS FESTIVAL on OCTOBER 25th. we’ve got a sweet fest poster done by the talented mister ron wimberly that we’ll be revealing soon, and preparations are under way to improve & expand on last year’s show. but we wanted to do something special this summer, and give folks a taste of what’s to come. it just so happened 3 of the top cartoonists working today all have great new books out, and are our pals, and we’re going to bring them together and rock the philadelphia comics scene for one glorious july night.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1466509490262234/

Coming to the store on FRIDAY, JULY 18…

PAUL POPE’s been someone i’ve admired and looked towards for almost 20 years, which is crazy because he’s not much older than me. his newly released ESCAPO, out of print for years and now in full color, is probably my favorite book of his.

DEAN HASPIEL is the guy i want to be when i grow up. a man’s man with a romantic heart and a creator through and through. FEAR MY DEAR, his new BILLY DOGMA book, is a lean crystallization of dino!’s comics.

TOM SCIOLI’s unbridled love and immersion into comics both recharges me and makes me feel like i need to be doing MORE. the fact he’s taking on my childhood obsession GI JOE, in TRANSFORMERS VS GI JOE, makes me giddy in anticipation and so, so jealous.

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this is going to be a night to remember. see you there.

–chris stevens

 

 

PRETTY DEADLY by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios

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The English writer Walter Pater said that all art aspires to the condition of music. I’m not so sure about that, but PRETTY DEADLY certainly does. It wants to inhabit the haunted space from which country songs like “Long Black Veil” or “St. John the Gambler” emerge — the bleakly spectral west of lost highways, of fiddles at the funeral pyre, of hangmen and heartache. It sounds a high, hollow note as its lonesome melody unwinds, echoing through the canyons.

The plot is oddly structured, and so driven by revelation and backstory that to describe much of it would be to ruin part of the fun. But the narrative is driven by Fox, a grief-stricken blind man with a dark past, and Sissy, the little lost girl with whom he shares his travels. They make their living, such as it is, as roving storytellers, moving from town to town and singing the dark ballad of Death-faced Ginny, the Grim Reaper’s daughter. After a few twists and baffling machinations, they wind up with Ginny herself on their tail, and the apocalypse rumbling behind.

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The end — the crashing-down, the river of blood, the fire next time — that, more than the daughter of death, is the great ghost haunting the pages of PRETTY DEADLY, whose characters live lives on the fringes — snake oil salesmen, traveling troubadors, streetwalkers, cowards and liars. Their existences are tenous, itinerant, bound together only by weird, damaged love, by the few connections that refuse to wither and die. Ginny turns out to be just like them — an abandoned nobody who wants the world to burn. But everybody cares about something, and they wind up holding existence itself together with dirty fingernails and gunsmoke.

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How art this densely detailed, this packed with panels and ambitious storytelling choices so effortlessly evokes the open plains of the American west I’m not sure. Emma Rios has taken the style of Paul Pope — the wayward, manga-inflected storytelling and sloppily precise brushwork — and weathered it, barrel-aged it til it started to fray at the edges. Like Mike Mignola, she favors big, splashy illustrations with lots of small inset or intercut panels, turning every page of into a collage-style design piece in its own right, an experiment in the form which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. She tells Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story as a accumulation of tiny, fragmented moments cascading over one iconic image — the mess of reality spilling over the myth — rather than a progression of linear story beats. It can be awfully confusing, but it can also be riveting. For all the recognizable influences, there’s a magnetic, original voice here, as soulful and ambitious as those of her forebears.

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DeConnick’s script, too, favors off-kilter storytelling and fractured rhythms, dropping us into an already-unfolding narrative with almost no context, barreling forward and gradually filling us in with hints, flashbacks, and recollections, letting us sink or swim. Reading it as a monthly book I found it difficult to follow to the point of frustration. Having it all in one place, that weakness can be read as a strength — here is a book that demands your full attention, a book with no course charted through its pleasures and dangers. It wants to be puzzled over and figured out. Its joys are not the joys of suspense, or of plot at all — it operates on a poetic plane, in a mythic mode of storytelling.

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There is a framing sequence, for instance, in which a skeletal bunny speaks to a dead butterfly — there has been, to this point at least, no explanation of how these characters relate to the main plot, or why they are our narrators. And yet, from a poetic point of view, it seems like a fitting choice, even an obvious one: the story is being told the way it wants to be told. It sounds like the voice of a dead rabbit, and so a dead rabbit speaks it.

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The cleverness of this book’s conceit is the blending of the oldest, most worry-weathered of American genres, the western, the ancestral mythology of our still-embryonic nation, with something older, deeper and more mysterious — the ancient gods and monsters of religion and myth. For all its spells and curses, its talking crows and prophesied beasts, PRETTY DEADLY doesn’t feel “supernatural,” the way zombies and vampires do — it feels hypernatural, the way the Odyssey or the epic of Gilgamesh do. It brings the old world gods to the American west. They seem angry and vengeful, like they know they’re on their way to being forgotten.

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I find it very odd that PRETTY DEADLY is an ongoing series. If ever a comic felt end-driven, this one does. (Quite literally, with armageddon hanging in the balance.) There doesn’t seem to be anything resembling a balanced status quo that you can hang a serial structure on, no sensible way that I can see to keep the line indefinitely moving. Once this current plotline is resolved, I have no idea what this series will even be about.

Maybe DeConnick and Rios don’t know either. They’re certainly not afraid of making a big mess from a narrative standpoint. But they’re channeling something pure, mysterious, bafflingly recognizable. I am firmly in favor of this flawed book with its startlingly lyrical voice and its delicate, haunting song. It seems to emerge from some dusty, mythic back country, some weird old American ghost town at the end of an endless road. These stellar creators have the courage to follow that song. Some spirit tongue has their rapt attention, and they have mine.

-Josh O’Neill