Comics Rx: Matthew’s entry

November 25, 2008

Here’s Matthew’s prescription for the comics industry:

“Refocus on quality instead of quantity. 300 Wolverine titles a month is oversaturation. Also end the mega- summer- cross-over events that will change the publisher’s universe forever. The few issues between events that don’t actually deal with the events seem like tossed-off filler. At the very least, don’t do the big events every flippin’ year!”

From the stack: Crogan’s Vengeance

November 25, 2008

It’s never easy to blend instruction or a morality play into an adventure narrative (or any kind of narrative), but someone at Oni Press has a knack for finding properties that do that well. James Vining’s First in Space and Scott Chantler’s Northwest Passage both managed to be simultaneously entertaining and educational, and now Chris Schweizer’s Crogan’s Vengeance pulls off the same trick.

When Eric Crogan gets into some minor, modern-day mischief, his father plucks a story from the family tree to reinforce the importance of making good choices in bad situations. Dad starts with “Catfoot” Crogan, a young sailor who found himself mixed up in piracy and politics in the very early 1700s.

Catfoot isn’t particularly ambitious, but he has a good skill set for seafaring. Too bad his unstable, sadistic captain takes an immediate loathing to the lad. When pirates set upon the ship, the crew is forced to choose between defending themselves (and almost certainly dying) or throwing in with their attackers. They choose the latter in the first of several junctions where Schweizer pits pragmatism against morality.

It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that Catfoot is a natural strategist. His plans put him in good stead with his new captain, but they inspire lethal jealousy from other superiors. And while Captain Cane would rather intimidate a ship into surrendering its cargo, he won’t scruple to murder an entire crew if they don’t play along. Cane has his own moral code about piracy, and while Catfoot isn’t persuaded by it, he knows it’s better than the bloodthirsty approach of Cane’s second-in-command, D’Or.

So what’s a basically decent quasi-pirate to do when Schweizer presents him with an even higher-stakes impasse? The fun is in finding out, and I won’t spoil it, but I will say that Schweizer has a real feel for the tone of morally murky subjects. His assessment of pirate life is frank (though not graphic) but not preachy or overstated. He never romanticizes the pirates’ criminality, but he acknowledges that degrees of depravity that can exist within a criminal subculture. And he argues persuasively that decency can survive in that subculture and emerge as something unique and purposeful.

It’s a great-looking book. Schweizer’s engaging, energetic cartoons keep the story moving along very nicely. There’s a lot of chatter, which is necessary if Schweizer is to describe the pirate milieu in a useful way, but varied page layouts and good pacing keep the talky bits from stalling the action. In fact, they’re an essential part of the action. Keith Wood’s design for the hard-cover presentation is very handsome, giving off a classic vibe that isn’t stodgy.

I suspect that it’s the kind of book librarians will love, sturdy, smart and snappy. Better still, Schweizer promises fifteen more looks into the sprawling Crogan clan, from explorers to escape artists to secret agents. (It would be nice if the Crogans had some noteworthy women on the family tree, but you can’t have everything.)

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)

Comics Rx: ahavah22’s entry

November 25, 2008

Here’s ahavah22’s prescription for the comics industry:

“What’s the best way to save the comic book industry, you ask? Take some pills and call me in the morning.

“Specifically these pills should consist of these fail-safe strategies:

“1. Take a page from the video and audio entertainment worlds and make graphic novels of all types available free or for a low “rental fee” on the internet, with advertisement revenue going straight to to publishers. Let’s face it; most manga is already available for free on the internet, but only the pirates (if anyone) profits from this practice. In addition, you can’t rent manga or graphic novels easily from online site a la Netflicks. So the smart thing to do would be to set up legitimate legal sources for free or low-cost entertainment media.

“2. advertise more! I honestly think most people’s ignorance about the literary, entertainment and artistic value of modern comics comes from lack of exposure. Now that more varieties of graphic novels are coming out, appropriate advertisement aimed at niche audiences of all different stripes could definitely help with sales. For instance, a realistic manga about a family dealing with their autistic son called With the Light could be advertised to parents and educators of special-needs children. I personally lent it to a special education teacher I know who normally has no interest in graphic novels, and she loved it!

“3. Make the government (and, therefore, all tax paying citizens) pay for it! I currently feed most of my manga diet via my public library, and am always surprised when I enter a library that lacks a graphic novel section. Yes, some of our poor underprivileged youth are live near libraries that lack a product that will keep them coming back for more. More graphic novels available in public libraries= more traffic within these libraries by irresponsible youth= more revenue for the libraries with late and lost book fees! Let’s educate our local politicians and librarians on the benefits of a large, diverse graphic novel section, and everybody wins!

“Well, that’s my $0.2 on how to save and revive the comics industry.”