Retcon #1

Being a soldier is no joke, and every war brings its own share of consequences. Whether it’s on a global scale or taking only one life, there’s no such thing as a victimless conflict. But hey, it’s not like there aren’t support groups out there, people who have fought the same fight and seen the same horrors; at least, when you’re not a supernatural creature who hunts weaponized paranormal monsters for your shadow government. If you are, than maybe Retcon is for you. Image Comics’ newest supernatural work mixes post-war issues with shape-shifting monsters and just a smidge of espionage and smoking-men to keep you on your toes. A heavy-handed work that pulls no punches, Retcon is a clever twist on the soldier that came home too soon.

The story starts with Chris. Chris is an alcoholic. It had been ten years since he drank but a visit from an old friend tossed him right back off the wagon. Before the rest of the AA attendees can get a word in, he starts spilling his guts. Chris isn’t like everyone else: he was part of a squad of soldiers whose mission was to fight beings whose existence is doubted by most – creatures like genies and ghosts and such. What he doesn’t know is that while he’s chatting up a storm, two of the people in the room have been specifically contracted to keep an eye on him, and it seems his time has finally run out. As a battle breaks out between the three agents, loyalties are suddenly tested and monsters long buried begin to dig their way out.

Retcon #1 is a pretty interesting read, mostly highlighted by the artwork of Toby Cypress. It’s hard to not be immediately attracted to the cover with its thin line work, soft neutral background and sharp contrasting red devil artwork. It’s very reminiscent of James Jean and clearly shows an illustrator with a solid understanding of design and illustration. The interior artwork is just as unusual, following the same ink-over-paint technique that gives the whole comic a wonderful small press vibe. It’s like an art magazine vomited all over the comic but instead of looking like a pretentious mess, it actually adds to the overall work.

Retcon is billed as ‘re-boot of a comic mini-series that never existed’ but, to be honest, I don’t know what that means. Maybe we will be seeing multiple alternative storylines in the future? Maybe this isn’t the real story, but a version of events that have yet to be revealed? Either way, the first issue starts off with a bang and mostly focuses on the three protagonists fighting it out while orders are given from a man behind the scenes. It gets pretty technical when it comes to describing weapons and devious plans, which gives it a sense of realism in an otherwise imaginative world.

While the supernatural angle is the draw, the comic is more of a conspiracy action work than a straight horror. There’s a bit of a Hellboy vibe, but it avoids the dark folklore angle that made the former so popular, instead focusing on a Jason Bourne type of deal. It’s a solid change of pace from your typical conspiracy comics.

With monsters on his tail and a headful of demons, will Chris ever manage to get away from the government? Find out with maybe issue 3 or something, but start with Recon #1 on shelves now!

Scales and Scoundrels #1

Hey you! Are you ready for an adventure? Do you dream of slaying dragons and finding a hoard of gold? Do you wish to exchange secrets with elves and dwarves while wandering the ever growing landscape of the world? Well you’re out of luck because that stuff doesn’t exist, but you know what does exist? Fantasy comics, and boy oh boy, do I got a great one for you! Scales and Scoundrels, the newest wandering adventurer title on the market, has all those things and more! Pub fights? Check! Apple thievery? Check! A handsome prince in need of rescuing?! You bet your +2 agility boots that’s a check! A true all-ages read, Scales and Scoundrels takes everything that makes the fantasy genre fun and gives it a cartoon-inspired pop that readers from kids to adults will absolutely get lost in. Toss in a strong lead and a deadly secret, and you got yourself a hit.

One of the fun things about the book is how it takes common tropes and flips them, starting with our tough-talking, gold-hoarding lead, Luvander. The comic opens up with her playing cards (or more precisely, an alternate version of Magic the Gathering) in a tavern with several burly men, when they immediately accuse her of cheating. Despite getting a massive beating, she gets back up and, with a touch of magic, burns the tavern to the ground. Suddenly, she’s on the run from the guards who are quick to accuse her of being an Urden, a half-dragon creature. Deciding that the town is simply not her style, she marches on into the wild unknown only to once again run into trouble; ROYAL trouble. But it’s not until she hears about a place of endless riches that things get really interesting!

 This comic is absolutely awesome! Everything about it, from the characters to the world to the art, is exhilarating and fresh, like the first time you played Zelda or read The Hobbit. The main character is a nimble adventurer that can squirrel out of any situation and plays by her own rules; a classic outcast who takes no shit, whilst living in a world that is incredibly expansive, even from the smallest rooftops. She’s everything every kid dreams of being: the lead in their very own adventure. It may not be overly original or full of twists, but it knows itself and it knows its genre, which, every once in a while, is exactly what the comic doctor ordered. Sometimes you want a high adventure story about treasure and dragons without wondering when the ‘big twist’ or the ‘big reveal’ is coming (though there is definitely a twist coming if her fire-breathing has anything to say about it). It goes back to the roots of fantasy, where magic and mayhem is one blink away and all you need in life is meat on a stick and a hoard of gold. It’s a wonderful homage.

The art by GALAAD (which is a very odd pen name) is really what brings the whole comic together. He mixes cartoon aesthetic with big production colors and makes a work that not only jumps off the page but invites the reader to create their own narrative as Luvander wanders the landscape. He puts in a wonderful splash page of the village at sunrise in which Luvander surveys her surroundings, and allows the reader to fully grasp how beautiful and tempting her world is. He easily transitions in the next scene to a crowded market stall, like the beginning of a new chapter, and subdues the colors as Luvander starts her adventure. It’s so easy on the eyes that you almost don’t realize how involved you get until you reach the last page. Personally, I can’t wait until she starts exploring new areas and he starts doing larger scale pieces in a display of her growing knowledge.

Whether you’re a long time fantasy fan or just looking for your next hit of something fun, I highly suggest Scales and Scoundrels. On shelves now!

Retrospective: Laputa Castle in the Sky (1986)

It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big into anime and manga. I mean, not like ‘seen every episode of Dragon Ball Z’ big, but I know my way around the fandom. That being said, when I heard that my local theater was playing Studio Ghibli’s classic Laputa Castle in the Sky for a one-night only event, you better believe your cat ears that I put on my Ponyo shirt, grabbed my home-made Totoro toy and raced down to see it. Let me tell you, there is nothing like seeing a Studio Ghibli movie on the big screen and Laputa is definitely made to be watched in the largest format possible. With lush colors and sweeping animation, it’s easy to see why this movie became a classic among anime and animation fans alike.

Originally released in 1986, Laputa marked the cinematic debut of Studio Ghibli (though not Hayao Miyazaki’s debut, whose first movie was Toei Animation’s Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro in 1979) and went on to set the standard for Ghibli’s animation output. Following its success, Ghibli managed to put out a new film at the MOST, every two years, with some years doing a double movie release. That’s a lot of movies for a film studio basically run out of a large house. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Laputa is a film set on an alternative Earth where flying machines, dirigibles, and steam power had become the standard by the late 1800s. Somewhere on this Earth exists the floating castle Laputa, a place that our lead, Pazu, is determined to find for himself. As he dreams about the flying piece of land, a girl named Sheeta suddenly crashes into his life by literally falling from the sky. With her arrival comes a whole flurry of trouble as her pursuers all hanker to get a gem that hangs around her neck. As Sheeta and Pazu get closer, Pazu learns that there’s much more to Sheeta than meets the eye and that she might just be the missing piece to finally get him to Laputa. That is, if the government and the pirates don’t get her first.

The movie, like most animated movies in the seventies, was completely hand drawn with hand painted backgrounds and meticulous movement quality, which makes the final product that much more awe inspiring. As each scene pans from one moment to the next, the viewer is completely entranced by the sheer amount of detail that went into the scenery. From Pazu’s hometown that was built into a cliff side to the expansive world of Laputa itself, they cut no corners when it came to vivid color work and the dream-like quality of this alternate earth. It looks like a world caught in a permanent setting sun; where the twilight illuminates the hills and technology of a place much like our own.

The story itself was pretty fun and I absolutely adored every character in it, from hero to villain. Even the minor characters, such as the pirate crew and the Laputa robots, each had a full personality and if they didn’t speak it, they definitely wore it on their faces. The robots are completely silent, but I’d be lying if I didn’t want a bunch of robot toys by the end of it. That being said, this movie is definitely aimed more at an older audience than some of Ghibli’s lighter films. It’s beautiful and full of kisses and love and comedy but it isn’t as quick paced or as lighthearted as Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service and so would probably bore younger kids. It is a long movie or at least it felt like it. Laputa doesn’t have a standard ‘three-act’ arc and it almost seems to move at its own pace instead of how the audience would expect it to. There are lot of mini-conflicts and mini-resolutions surrounding the larger one of Pazu and Sheeta getting to Laputa (and even when they do that, there’s still like a half hour left). So if you’re settling in to see this for the first time like I did, be in it for the long haul.

There are many ways to see Laputa other than theaters if you have yet to pick it up (though, definitely try to see it see it in theaters.) There are several versions available for purchase, either standalone or part of a set, but I recommend checking to make sure it’s the fully restored version. A few of the early translated versions went through some heavy editing, though you do get a wonderful dub by James Van Der Beek and Anna Panquin, so there’s that. Either way, I definitely suggest taking a watch (or a re-watch) of this anime classic. It’s a hell of an experience.

Kid Sherlock #3

Sherlock Holmes has been part of fictional lore for as long as there was a mystery to solve and if there wasn’t a mystery, by George, he’d find one and solve the shit out of it. He’s classy, he’s sassy, and he’s probably addicted to morphine, but hey, it’s Victorian England, you gotta do something to keep your mind off the piles of dead babies lining the streets. (That’s a real thing, by the way; Victorian England was no joke.) Anyway, Sherlock’s legacy has led to hundreds of adaptations spanning dozens of different entertainment and creative outlets. This particular adaptation focuses on a young Sherlock, not as a child in the dusty streets of London, but as a modern student solving small time mysteries with his faithful dog companion, Watson.

Before you get too excited, this is very much a young reader comic instead of the more popular ‘all-ages’ tag a la Adventure Time. That being said, if you’ve got kids, this is a pretty fun read! In issue three, Sherlock and Watson are very excited to finally get first pick of toys for recess when, GASP, the toys are gone! Somehow, all the balls and bats have been getting checked out but not getting checked back in. Who would be so dastardly as to steal the toys from their classroom? The two are pretty sure that it’s the older kids, especially when Sherlock’s keen eye spots an obvious classroom number forgery on one of their balls, but he has little evidence to prove that they are the actual responsible party. With no other options, Sherlock is forced to turn to the one person he never thought he would have to, his big brother.

Kid Sherlock definitely plays to its audience and adds in a bunch of fun activities at the end for those bored afternoons at home. On top of the comic, the reader gets a maze, a crossword puzzle, a coloring page, and even lessons on how to draw the characters. So while you may shell out $4 for an issue, you get a good couple of hours of use out of it. The whole comic is very straightforward and easy to follow, making this a good read for kids who are just getting into comics and are getting burned out on Tiny Titans. Even the art is very simple, keeping to a Highlights-type aesthetic (you know, those magazines in every dentist office), and would make a very easy transition to the small screen or the back-log of “Ages 5-12” cartoons on Netflix.

Perhaps the only complaint is that there is no way for the reader to solve the mystery along with Sherlock. The reader simply rides along as Sherlock explains the clues right as he finds them, making it more of a mystery story than a mystery help-solve-it, which I think kids would have more fun with. But regardless, Kid Sherlock is a great way to ease your young reader into both mystery and comics without demanding too much of the child’s attention. Also, if you’re on the picky side, there are no swears, no blood, and nothing scary, so it won’t scar them for life. Unless you want that, then, uh, I suppose a Garth Ennis comic is the way to go.

Kid Sherlock #3 on sale now!

Redlands

Since Warped Perspective recently celebrated all things folk horror, it’s only appropriate that their own comic reviewer checks out a new addition to the folk horror comic scene, Redlands. Comics and folk horror have gone hand in hand for decades, dating back to early horror anthologies that prominently featured witches, ghouls and the Devil, delivering them into the eager hands of children everywhere. Even now, popular titles such as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Wytches, Harrow County and others keep bringing back that old Puritan terror of evil lurking in the deep dark woods and Image Comics’ Redlands is no exception. A classic gothic tale of witches and madness, the series is as thoroughly creepy as it is original, though the first issue ends a little sooner than I prefer.

As stated, Redlands is about witches; witches that descend on a small town called Redlands, Florida and hold it hostage. The comic focuses on the sheriff of said town who is desperately trying to keep everyone he can alive in the police station, but a foul wind and a strange girl have different plans in mind. As he scrambles to maintain order above, the jail below is full of prisoners ready to riot and once their bloodlust is released, nothing can stop them. It seems like the sheriff is between a rock and a hard place, but his hands aren’t clean either. Did he bring this plague himself or is the Devil coming to town?

There’s a lot to like about Redlands. There’s a solid feeling of claustrophobia and panic throughout the whole issue that really adds to the overall witchy vibe. You really get a feeling for the atmosphere, especially with the heavily shaded and scratchy artwork by Vanessa Del Ray. Each character is uniquely designed and fits the bill of their personalities, which almost makes you feel bad every time one of them is killed. Lots of high octane action surrounds the creeping terror of a town in danger and the first issue refuses to slow down on them. Also, on top of all the wonderfully grotesque horror, the comic also contains a strong vein of social commentary. Setting the work in the 1970s, Redlands doesn’t shy away from speaking openly about the racial issues that plagued the South at the time and even uses these to its advantage.

Personally, I did feel like the issue ended too soon. This is one of those “dropped-in-the-middle” type of first issues where the reader is thrown into the action without warning and usually would have some sort of mini-resolution, especially with what seems to be about three storylines happening at once. Unfortunately, there’s not real resolution or ending point to the issue. It felt like a middle issue instead of beginning issue. Sure, they finally reveal the witches, but it feels like these characters demanded more than a quick add in at the end. I would’ve loved to see them peppered in throughout the issue or to see some kind of longer reveal to give the issue less of an introduction feel and make it more of a contained work. Redlands is gonna make a kick-ass graphic novel, but it falls just short on being a kick ass first issue. Still, those witches are pretty damn rad.

American Folk Horror

Folk horror movies are a bit of an odd duck. Based on the folklore of the country from which the movie originates, the genre relies heavily on the unique landscape of its audience’s heritage and history to divvy out the scares. Examples are much more common in Asian horror such as Sadako from The Ring, who comes from a mix of old yurei aesthetic and the Japanese legends of Okiku and Oiwa, but when it comes to English language works, more specifically American, it’s harder to find examples. American folklore is just not that old. So what exactly is specifically ‘American horror’? Things like ghosts and vampires are known worldwide, with each country having its own version, so what does the US provide to the tapestry of monsters?

Well, after much research, this author has compiled what she believes to be a rounded example of American folk horror movies. These are movies that take their cues from history, cryptids, obsessions, religion, and urban legends, all with a unique American twist.

The Witch (2015)

There is nothing more American folklore than the 2015 horror The Witch. Set in the New England of yesteryear, The Witch takes American witch legends and turns them into one of the most successful examples of folk horror in decades. The movie focuses on a Puritan family that is turned away from their village and live a secluded life on the edge of a forest. Unbeknownst to them, the forest is home to a witch and the family’s devout ways are perfect for her to corrupt and booooooy, does she ruin their day. Soon, the cow’s milk turns sour, the crops dry and fail, and the children beginning muttering to a large black goat named Black Phillip. But it’s not until the righteous father is forced to wander in the woods that things start to get really weird…

The Witch has everything an American folk horror could ask for. Isolation in a new land, an unknown horror stalking them in the woods, the testing of puritanical faith, and the Devil. There have been dozens of articles written examining the movie from a dozen different angles, so I won’t get into any of that, but I will say this is quintessentially American. Witches have been part of the American mindset ever since the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock and at the time, they were thought to be a very real threat. Hundreds of people died in the witch trials, and just a mere accusation could make you the next tied to the stake. The Witch takes all those fears and makes them real for the family. If you want to see what Americans actually believed at one point, this is the movie for you.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project is in the same vein as The Witch, but instead of a historical setting, it’s set in modern day (well 1994) New England. It plays with a lot of the same elements, including isolation in an unknown land and the witch messing with the three leads instead of outright killing them. For a quick recap, this found footage movie is about three college students who explore the legend of Blair Witch in Burkittsville, Maryland. After asking a few locals questions and dicking around with their gear, they soon hit the woods and end up getting lost, all the while being hunted by an invisible monster. Is it the famous Blair Witch, rumored to have cursed anyone who has stepped into the forest, or are they simply losing their minds?

Once again, this is steeped heavily in witch lore and most likely takes its cue from the folktale The Bell Witch, about a witch who curses a family with her dying breath. The movie also focuses on the ‘word-of-mouth’ angle, another staple of American folklore where traditional tales weren’t so much read as told over a camp fire. The Blair Witch Project spawned two sequels which play a bit more with the witch as a mind fuck element, especially the 2000 sequel, though neither quite managed to achieve the success that the first one had. But, despite whatever failures they had, the movies don’t shy away from presenting the true powers once attributed to witches and solidifying The Blair Witch into the folk genre.

Candy Man (1992)

Though originally written by Clive Barker, who is a native Brit, this movie is a solid work of Southern folklore. Candyman touches on American history, with an emphasis on early slavery and urban legends such as Bloody Mary and The Man with a Hook Hand, and mashes them into a hulking figure of revenge. This horror features a woman who is studying urban legends and stumbles on the legend of Candyman, a man with a severed hand who appears to those who say his name five times in front of a mirror before murdering them with his hook hand. While there isn’t a lot of backstory in the first movie, the sequel reveals him to be a slave who fell in love with a white woman and got punished for it by having his hand cut off and covered in honey for bees to attack.

Candyman is a wonderful mix of modern and historical horrors where, while the supernatural angle is a definitely the big draw, it’s more about the evils that people can do to those they feel are inferior. American slavery is a large part of US history and it’s ripe for a horror movie. Urban legends, especially the ones referenced for the character, are another obsession of the American psyche and by blending the two together, makes for a very unique folk horror. In fact, just having a black slave antagonist is an interesting choice. Race relations have always been a hot topic in American culture, even going way back to the founding fathers, so by having the very imposing Tony Todd play a revenge figure, the movie not only bring scares but to make an uncomfortable but important statement about American fear.

Mothman Prophecies (2002)

If there’s one thing that’s a staple of folk horror the world over its cryptids and America is loaded with them. From Bigfoot in the northwest to the Chupacabra of the South to whatever the hell the Jersey Devil is (it’s Snookie right?), we’re up to our necks in weird monsters. The Mothman Prophecies picks a West Virginia oddity and thrusts Richard Gere into the role of a lifetime! In it, he plays a professor researching the legend of the Mothman, only to learn that those who have seen it have started to hear voices in their head, each connected to a particular tragedy. Though the Mothman monster doesn’t make nearly enough appearances, the movie is based on real events (or real enough) and it’s believed that the Mothman only shows up before a big tragedy.

The Mothman Prophecies is not a good movie but it’s based on a good example of an American cryptid as well as the American UFO obsession. The creature, Mothman, is believed to either be an alien being, some kind of supernatural monster, or an unknown animal. It’s also rumored to be followed by the folkloric men in black after every appearance, which all adds up to a monster that exists almost purely on paranoia and the fear of the unknown. He’s another one of those whispered rumors that’s used to keep children in at night, and by tying him to the government or aliens, he becomes wholly original to the American landscape, kind of like Roswell. By the way, if you’re ever in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, check out their statue. Mothman has some abs!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is definitely the wild card in the bunch here, but stay with me. TCM is the kind of movie where it’s easy to get lost in the blood and guts and not realize that it’s heavily inspired by the darker side of American folklore: murder. Highwaymen, murderous families, cannibalism, and, of course, the serial killer all figure in the American consciousness. While murderers and cannibals are not a purely an American phenomenon, the US went on to create songs and make stories about them, sometimes even touting the persons as anti-heroes or murderous Robin Hood characters. Americans love crime to the point where criminals have become woven into the fabric of Americana.

The Texan setting also harks back to the Wild West days of the Gold Rush, where a wrong step could get you robbed or killed. The west is filled with unseen traps, from Indian attacks to wild animals, and the unsuspecting travelers in TCM stumble into something very similar. This movie takes all those fears and makes one of the most successful horror movies of all time. It managed to succeed so well because Tobe Hooper understood the underlying obsession with American killers (particularly Ed Gein) and that we just simply cannot look away. While he ultimately ended up using the movie as an allegory for the state of the world, it’s hard not to feel that tinge of nostalgia when Leatherface slashes up his latest victims.

Get Out (2017)

Get Out, much like Candyman, is a layered horror that focuses on Southern folklore and racism, albeit much more modern racism than its predecessor. Yet, unlike Candyman, it goes even deeper into Southern mythology; it goes into voodoo. Okay, maybe not so much voodoo as hypnotism, but the movie clearly draws inspiration from the Afro-Cuban folklore brought over during the slavery years, which tells tales of possessed men via the undead. In Get Out, the black protagonist Chris Washington is invited to spend a weekend at his white girlfriend’s parents’ home, only to feel very out of place. But it’s not just the well-dressed black help that’s putting him on edge, but something much more sinister and the nagging suspicion that he might just be next in line.

Get Out touches on a lot of American issues and by addressing them via voodoo horror, the movie re-opens doors that haven’t been opened since, well, Candyman. The film is also set in Alabama, home of rich white folks and abandoned plantations, which create the perfect setting for a work steeped in a slavery allegory. The voodoo folklore serves as the cherry on top and even goes so far as to have that element not used by the black characters but the white ones, making it clear that even a person’s folklore can used be against them and that everything is up for sale.

Red State (2011)

The US has always been a heavily religious country. In fact, that’s why the original settlers left for the new world, so they could find a place where they could pray without the fear of prosecution which haunted them in Europe. Freedom of religion is even a staple of the US Constitution and that freedom has been utilised in a variety of ways for hundreds of years. From holy rollers to traveling bible salesmen, we sure do love our God, in whatever form he may take. Red State is what happens when we love our God too much and have to get the police involved. Harkening back to the real-life cult standoff in Waco, Texas, Red State pulls inspiration from centuries of preachers and the good word and exposes how evil some of it can be.

As stated, religion, specifically Christianity, has always been a big part of the US. Our Puritanical heritage has woven Jesus into almost every folk story of our culture, so it’s no surprise that movies like Red State can make such an impact. American Christianity has become its own religion and has spawned dozens of branches with some, like Mormonism, deriving exclusively from the US which allows for a uniquely American vision of horror. Red State doesn’t shy away from also focusing on the darker parts of cult Christianity, including homophobia and brain-washing, proving that Jesus is not quite as innocent as the folk songs make him out to be.

Matt Groening’s Disenchantment

If you’re not sitting down, I need you to find a seat, and if you are sitting down, I need you to drink some tea so you can spit it out when you hear what I’m about to say. Matt Groening, famously known for Futurama and The Simpsons, has announced a new animated series to be released exclusively through Netflix. That’s right, a new cartoon from the man who brought us such famous memes as “shut-up and take my money” and “to shreds you say?” will be filling your rotating quote wheel with even more catchy one liners!

A twenty-episode show titled Disenchantment has been ordered by Netflix and will be set in a medieval kingdom named Dreamland. The show is centered on a boozy princess named Bean, her personal demon Luci, and an elf companion named Elfo. The trio will test their wits with other mystical creatures including imps, ogres, sprites, fairies, and the occasional bumbling human while Seinfelding about love and life in medieval times. An outstanding collection of voice actors will be featured including: Joe DiMaggio, Billy West, Eric Andre, Abbi Jackson and Tress MacNeille, among others. The first ten episodes are targeted to premier next year and, with already a year and half of production done, the second set shouldn’t be too far behind.

When asked how he would describe his new work, Matt Groening states:

“‘Disenchantment’ will be about life and death, love and sex, and how to keep laughing in a world full of suffering and idiots, despite what the elders and wizards and other jerks tell you.”

Damn jerky wizards.

The animation will be handled by Rough Draft Studios, who also handled Futurama in times past. Netflix has been expanding their original animated content for some time and with Disenchantment added to their list, it seems like things are definitely looking up.

The Dissolving Classroom

What can I say about Junji Ito that I haven’t said a million times already? As well as being this writer’s favorite manga-ka (manga creator) with his unique and terrifying vision of the grotesque, he should be yours too! So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that not only has he released a new work, it came out SIX months ago, and I didn’t have it! Well, I quickly amended that and ran down to my local Amazon online and ordered that son-of-a-bitch up. What came about was a gruesome new addition to my Ito collection entitled The Dissolving Classroom. A short story collection about a pair of bizarre siblings, the comic quickly earns its place among his longer works, even when some of the stories get a little too cheesy for even his biggest fan.

Much like Ito’s other work, this comic doesn’t simply go for scares, but enjoys pushing the boundaries of visual horror. The stories focus on siblings Yuuma and Chizumi, who leave ruin and destruction in every town they pass through. In the first story, Chizumi, the younger of the two, starts stalking walkways and chasing terrified locals only to be followed by Yumma, her high school aged brother, apologizing profusely for her behavior. When one of his classmates gets too close to the pair, she quickly learns the true meaning of Yumma’s apologizing and why everyone he apologizes to disappears. Hint: it has to do with dissolving. The following stories are more or less related as the siblings move around, terrorizing and apologizing to the populace, with the exception of the second one, where Yuuma, with the power of compliments, turns beautiful girls ugly. At the end of the manga are two unrelated shorts about a dead woman in a meteorite, and a really creepy story about children disappearing in the woods.

While I truly adored this work, I felt it fell short of having the same punch as Ito’s bigger titles such as Gyo or Uzumaki, or even his other shorter collections like the Tomie translations. Dissolving Classroom, however, does feature a lot of good, solid scares accompanied by his trademark detail work. The melting parts are very detailed and he doesn’t shy away from using smart shading and busy line-work to really make the gross parts pop. It’s very similar to the Garbage Pail Kids-style of art where it’s just the right amount of detail to make you puke in your mouth a little. Both Chizumi and Yuuma are creepy kids, especially Chizumi, who is frequently seen with heavy shadows under her eyes to up the creep ante. Ito definitely has his scares down to an art on this one and with his work on the two leads, he creates a very distinct couple of characters. Also, the Devil is in this and that’s just rad.

 Unfortunately, it all kind of all falls apart around the end. While I don’t want to give too much away, the ending felt very rushed, as if Ito was forced to bring an end to the work before he was ready to. The ‘good-beats-evil’ solution was super corny and basically came down to the power of teamwork, which wouldn’t be so bad if that teamwork didn’t just show up at the finish line and take everyone down. It didn’t seem well thought out which is a rare misstep for Ito. So while the work is a great example of his talent and his ability to tell a short horror story, it’s definitely not one of his best works out there. Dissolving Classroom is very much aimed at fans who have read his other stuff and want more, but if it’s your first time picking up a Junji Ito work, I suggest starting with something that got made into a movie. All the best stuff gets made into movies.

Rick and Morty #27

What can be said about Rick and Morty that hasn’t been said by Youtube channels and stoners for the past three years? Yes, it’s one of the most original and clever shows to have graced animated entertainment since Futurama. Yes, the humor of the show does speak to the human experience while pointing out the absurdity of our lives. Yes, those fan theories you came up with are most likely valid considering the titular duo’s frequent trips in other dimensions. And yes, fuck Tammy. But, if you’re like me and hate waiting for the “maybe they will/maybe they won’t” possibility of Season 3, Oni Press has your back! The comic adventures of Rick and Morty have been running strong since 2015 and at issue #27, they show no signs of slowing down. And OOOOweeeh, is this a solid comic. The latest issue has Morty dealing with not one, but TWO, dates to the school dance followed by a tale where Rick, once again, goes about proving Jerry wrong.
Continue reading “Rick and Morty #27”

Invader Zim #40

For those of us who were teens in the late 90s to early 2000s and loved Marilyn Manson and JNCO jeans more than life itself, the name Jhonen Vasquez is very familiar. If you didn’t go through puberty like a butterfly of bad fashion, Jhonen Vasquez was the creator of such underground comics as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee, and I Feel Sick. Along with Roman Dirge and Hot Topic, he was an influential part of the “Spooky Cute” movement and eventually went on to help establish the “lol, so random xD” online subculture that plagues the internet to this day. The latter movement can be partially (okay, mostly) attributed to the short lived animated show Invader Zim. Though the series was canceled after two seasons, its cult status launched the show into television infamy and inspired a comic series of the same name from Oni Press. The comic is generally handled by a revolving collection of writers, which makes issue #40 that much more special. This one is penned by Vasquez himself.

If you’ve never seen Invader Zim before, basically Zim is an alien that is mistakenly sent to conquer Earth and enslave all of humankind. Along with his malfunctioning robot sidekick, GIR, he goes on wacky adventures in an attempt to fulfill his mission but is stopped at every turn by a nosy little kid named Dib (who, oddly enough, looks a lot like Vasquez). It’s a pretty bizarre cartoon, even by cartoon standards, and heavily draws upon a constantly hostile world of uncaring adults and dirt-tinged surroundings where wacky and unsettling happenings are an everyday occurrence. The comic series expands on the universe, giving Dib and Zim new adventures to butt heads over. In issue #40, the comic focuses on Zim, who becomes addicted to a terrible cartoon show called Floopsy Boops Shmoopsy and ignore his earth-taking mission in favor of sitting on the couch with GIR. For an entire issue. There you go, I saved you forty pages.

Continue reading “Invader Zim #40”

Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman is a lot of things to a lot of people. Superhero, feminist, Amazon, an icon, a killer, and the longest-running female hero to ever grace the pages of comic books. She was the reason a lot of girls started reading comics, and a lot of boys learned that girls can kick ass and take names. She is exactly what her name is, a wonder of a woman, a genre-breaking character that proved that you, yes YOU, can do anything! And yet, despite having been around for over 75 years, it wasn’t until 2017 that she finally got her own movie. Which I finally saw! And it was pretty damn good.

In true comic fashion, I will be reviewing this movie on the merits of it being a superhero movie and how it works within the established world of Wonder Woman. My assessment is that it’s an okay superhero movie, but a great Wonder Woman movie.

Continue reading “Review: Wonder Woman (2017)”

Comic Review: Judge Dredd: Funko Universe

What’s cute, cuddly, and strikes fear into the hearts of villains everywhere? If you answered Baby Batman, you’re pretty close. If you answered the Funko Toy version of Judge Dredd, that would be very specific, but you’d be correct! Out this week from IDW comics, the pint-sized, bubble-headed crime fighter stars in his own one-shot comic book for fans of most ages. A work that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s a fun and quick read between issues of IDW’s grittier Dredd work Judge Dredd: Blessed Earth, and waiting for the Dredd TV series to finally happen.
Continue reading “Comic Review: Judge Dredd: Funko Universe”