good this week

silver surfer #9 : barreling along in what’s going to be one of the touchstone SS runs, this galactus-ized issue sets up a thrilling 3rd act to this book’s best arc yet. the inimitable art work of michael&laura allred is worth the ticket alone. and this cover has to be an early candidate for cover of the year…

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the multiversity mastermen #1 : grant morrison continues to march across the entirety of dc’s history like adolph hitler thru 1939. wait a minute…that’s hitler on the toilet. thanks, grant.

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she-hulk #12 : so, so sad to see this book go away. if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and check out what charles soule, javier pulido, and co. put together here.

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bitch planet #3 : a world where women can wind up in an off-planet prison for…wanton obesity? but don’t worry, these ladies are about to fight back. another perfectly paced, involving episode of this early candidate for series of the year.

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silk #1 : cindy moon was bitten by the same spider that bit peter parker. what else do you need to know?

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eight #1 : the talented rafael albuquerque throws his hat into the sci-fi ring, with some good-looking early results.

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–chris

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

The Locust Moon Top 40: April 2014

40. ALL NEW X-MEN #25

An all-star line-up of creators beautifies this anniversary issue of Brian Bendis’ goofily fun stab at adding to the X-mythos.

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39. Compendium of Comic Maps

Every comic (and every book) should start with a map. Delving into this wealth of literary cartography, it’s easy to imagine that they do.

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38. DARKSEID MINUS NEW GODS

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Remember Garfield Minus Garfield? Imagine that, juiced with the Anti-Life Equation.

37. SEX CRIMINALS

Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky bring an oddball eroticism to this supernatural sex-caper comedy, a generally gleeful creativity that springs from their ultimate turn-on: the expressive freedom of creator-owned comics.

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36. MoCCAFest 2014

Another MoCCAFest, another inspiring celebration of comics & craftsmanship, this one presided over by a Staypuft-Marshmallow-Man-Scale Charlie Brown balloon, and featuring well-deserved awards for Locust Moon contributors and our pals Alexandra Beguez & Dave Plunkert.

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good this week

starlight #2 : issue #1 was no fluke–this book is flat-out fun, and drop dead gorgeous to look at thanks to goran parlov. this looks like it’s going to be a real fun ride.

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judge dredd mega city two #3 : there’s a spread in here that’s worth the $4 all on its own. sorry, geoff darrow.

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elephantmen #55 : wrapping up a hallucinatory storyline that got us deeper into the proceedings than ever.

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copra #13 : michel fiffe revs up season two. yee haw!

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pretty deadly #5 : wrapping up the first arc, this series has been beautiful, impenetrable, and compelling, often all at once. look out for the upcoming trade, this one’s a keeper.

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batman by doug moench and kelley jones vol. #1 : the current bat team of snyder & capullo gets a lot of praise, and the bat is riding high on the sales charts. hopefully some of those fans will turn on to this incredible collection of one of the finest creative teams ever to work in gotham. doug moench had a long and successful history with the character before kelley jones, coming off the famous ‘season of mists’ SANDMAN storyline, took over art chores. the rest is history. jones’ muscular, shadowy portrayal of batman and his world, ably abetted by inker john beatty, is unforgettable. snarling, snapping, this is a batman where there is no daylight.

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–chris stevens

And I’ve got to add…

She-Hulk #3 : Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, and Muntsa Vicente continue their charming and beautiful take on the lady lawyer — this time bringing in Doc Doom’s wonderfully perfect son Kristoff as client and foil (and potential love interest?). Everything about this book puts a smile on my face, up to and including Kevin Wada’s covers.

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– Andrew Carl

good this week

the midas flesh #2 : i missed the first issue of this charming little sci-fi series from the creators of the ADVENTURE TIME comic. with a solid gold concept, breezy dialogue, and pleasing, clean art, this book was a nice surprise and one i’ll be looking out for from now on.

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pretty deadly #4 : another magnetic issue from a sure-fire series of the year candidate–and we’re less than a month in. this issue sets things up for a walloping climax to the opening storyline.

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there’s also a killer brandon graham pin-up…

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judge dredd mega city two #1 : the venerable judge steps into a wacky west coast version of mega city that’s modern day L.A./hollywood to the max. but what really matters here is ulises farinas’ crazy-in-the-best-way artwork. i haven’t had so much fun poring over background details since zander cannon and gene ha delivered the goods in alan moore’s TOP 10. mixing insane detail with hyper-clean lines, ulises brings his A game and firmly announces himself on the scene.

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deadly class #1 : rick remender and wes craig kick up some dust in this elegantly designed & drawn entry into the teenage assassin club genre, with the twist being this feels kind of like an inverted real-ish world original x-men. let’s see where it goes.

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yearling masked detective #1 : rich tommaso’s super avenger crime series kinda reminds me of a straight-edge, non-team version of COPRA that’s more interested in dan clowes than jack kirby and frank miller. with a 1st issue that’s all set-up i’m curious to see where he takes it.

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unwritten apocalypse #1 : as one of the best modern day vertigo series looks into the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a good time to celebrate what mike carey, peter gross, and yuko shimizu have accomplished. get into it, whether you start here or with volume one.

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ff #16 : sad to see this book come to an end, but it’s a glorious end, with 15 extra pages of art from mike & laura allred and all the character moments and then some that you’ve come to expect from this first rate series. one of the more endearing marvel books of the last decade.

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–chris stevens

good this week

the wake part one : this is a smart offering, collecting issues 1-5 of the much-buzzed-about sci-fi horror story from popular creators scott snyder and sean murphy. a creepy, claustrophobic yarn that will read better in chunks, this one is highly recommended.

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pretty deadly #3 : the strongest issue yet of this myth- & blood-drenched spaghetti western. one of the best single issues of the year.

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fables volume 19 : the newest collection of the beloved series.

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saga #17 : the most consistently entertaining book of the last two years, with no sign of slowing down.

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east of west #8 : this book gets my year-end vote for ‘BEST OF’.

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figma metroid action figure set : yep.

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–chris stevens

The Locust Moon Top 40: November 2013

40. DELUSIONAL

This art & sequential bits & bobs book from Farel Dalrymple & AdHouse made our Top 40 back when it was announced. Now that we’ve finally gotten our copies to pore over, we want to put it on ALL the Top 40s.
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39. The Fantagraphics Kickstarter

Because we all need our continued supply of Uncle Scrooge.

38. BOARDWALK EMPIRE

The hopeless glory of season 4 ended with no winners, only losers. Pretty appropriate for a show set in Atlantic City.

37. DISAPPEARANCE DIARY

Hideo Azuma’s autobiographical chronicle of a cartoonist dropping off the map and going on the lam from relationships, responsibilities, and sobriety is a fascinating and oddly adorable illustration of the kind of personality with which some of us can identify a little too much.
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36. Calvin & Hobbes Dancing

We’d usually say that Bill Watterson’s opus is hallowed ground upon which fan art must not tread, but this animation of Calvin & Hobbes dancing is delightful, touching, and utterly true to its origins.

35. This Mountain Man

I hope to one day also stand in court and declare, “I AM THE NATURAL MAN.”

34. THE ART OF RUBE GOLDBERG

This book about Rube Goldberg is also an ACTUAL FUNCTIONING PAPERCRAFT RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE! How cool is that?
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