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AdHouse Books


SUPERIOR SHOWCASE #2
Written and Drawn by Maris Wicks, Farel Dalrymple, and Joey Weiser

Three indy creators bring their talents to the world of superheroes in this, the second “sequel” is you will, to PROJECT: SUPERIOR. Unfortunately, while those who put the pen to page here are quite talented, the results come up short, and SUPERIOR SHOWCASE #2 disappoints.

Wicks’ story finds a young girl falling down and injuring scraping her knee. From there, we go inside her body and meet her anthropomorphized immune system, which sets itself to action and begins fighting off infection and such. The idea is cute, but far too simplistically executed; the antibodies lack personality to make them interesting, which is a must if you’re going to go that route character-wise. The art also plays a bit too clean as well; this is a situation full of blood and dirt, but it all plays tidy on the page.

Story two, by Dalrymple, suffers from… well, from being played too straight. A young man is kidnapped, set for torture, and rescued by the local superhero. That’s it. The art is outstanding, easily the highlight of the book, but it can’t cover that there’s absolutely nothing subversive at play here, a must for what this series should be. Weiser’s closing tale has some of the same problems; a superhero that works as an office drone during the day and daydreams about finally approaching the villainess of his dreams for a date finally gets his chance and blows it. Some elements work, particularly the hero’s name (Tree Frog- a perfect, straight out of THE TICK silly concept), but the story would have been wildly more interesting if it had defied cliché and he had actually mustered the courage to ask out Thievery Girl.

AdHouse is a prestige publisher that seems to put out one terrific project after another, but they are going to completely whiff here and there- it’s inevitable. SUPERIOR SHOWCASE #2 is a total miss, but I expect they’ll come out strong with their next one.

 

Marc Mason

THE ANCIENT BOOK OF MYTH AND WAR
Written and Drawn by Scott Morse, Lou Romano, Don Shank, and Nate Wragg

This gorgeous hardcover effort isn’t actually a graphic novel proper; instead, it’s more of a museum gallery catalog unified around art on a theme: myth and war. Each artist presents a variety of pieces on these topics and adds accompanying text that illuminates the origin of the picture or the story of what is occurring on the page.

Therefore, there’s no actual narrative here, though Nate Wragg does slyly offer something resembling one, as a number of his pieces follow the misadventures of Pathetos the Warrior, and they, in turn, provide the heaviest entertainment value for the book. But, truthfully, each artist does himself credit here. The work is uniformly lovely to look at, and the creativity demonstrated across the theme is outstanding. The variety in approaches also fascinates; watercolor, pen and ink, digital… all are represented, but the quality on each is equal and impressive.

Of course, you have to also chalk that up to superior production quality, and the choice to go with hardcover in presentation, and high quality, thick paper inside is a smart one. And at twenty bucks, the price is reasonable. This is a book that will likely find its way to the coffee tables of the more discerning and mature comics readers, and that’s just fine. That’s the book’s audience, no question. If that means you, by all means, pick it up.

 

Marc Mason

PROJECT: ROMANTIC
Written and Drawn by Various

PROJECT: ROMANTIC is the third (and as stated by AdHouse head honcho Chris Pitzer within) and final anthology in the “Project” series. I missed the first two, PROJECT: TELSTAR and PROJECT: SUPERIOR, so I can’t offer any sort of value judgment about how ROMANTIC compares to its predecessors. Thus, ROMANTIC had to stand or fall on its own.

Fortunately, PROJECT: ROMANTIC does so pretty well. As you might imagine, the theme to the stories is love, but there’s a lot of wiggle room to play with. There’s good love, destructive love, friend love, young love, mature love, obsession… the various creators involved with the book do a solid job of covering the spectrum.

Like with all anthologies, the success level of the stories varies quite wildly. But when they’re good, they’re really, really good: Josh Cotter’s “Kingdom Animalia Illustrated” stories are laugh-out-loud funny; Paul Rivoche’s “Romance of the Skies” is sweet and tender; Liz Prince’s “Benches” will break your heart; and Joel Priddy’s “Sweetie ‘n Me” stories are enormously charming. Any of these is strong enough to recommend the book upon, and balances out the rare dud (like Damien Jay’s “Dazzling”) with ease.

The book also looks great. Pitzer designed the book himself, and everything from the wonderfully understated cover to the quality of the paper and printing screams “first class”. For $20, this is a solid value, and something you could easily purchase as a gift.

Marc Mason

BUMPERBOY AND THE LOUD, LOUD MOUNTAIN
Written and Drawn by Debbie Huey

Bumperboy and his canine pal, Bumperpup, wander into a “borp hole” and discover a very lonely talking mountain in this charming all-ages friendly book. Of course, to the uninitiated, that previous sentence makes frighteningly little sense, but all you need to do is find the spot inside of you that’s still seven years old, and BUMPERBOY becomes perfectly logical.

From the inside front cover, which has a “This Book Belongs To” box, to the mountain himself, Huey creates a rich and vibrant reading experience that will transport you backwards in time. Bumperboy and Bumperpup find themselves in a far away land, and to their surprise, they meet a very talkative mountain. The mountain is harmless, if high-maintenance, and true to a work of this nature, no one thinks twice about the fact that the creature is alive and talking. But the story gets its depth from the fact that the mountain isn’t as alone as it believes; small creatures called Grums live on the mountain’s rear side, and they have a special purpose that I won’t spoil. Suffice it to say, the story becomes a bit more complex, and Bumperboy realizes that there are important things in the world that require his actions.

The book is extremely adorable to look at, as Huey fully realizes her simple world with a clean artistic language. Plus, there’s actual character, depth, and morality lurking just beneath the surface of the story, allowing a lesson to be learned without ever speaking it out loud. Plus, the ending is emotionally resonant, and you’d have to have a heart of coal not to be moved by it. Recommended for all.

Marc Mason

NOBLE BOY
Written and Drawn by Scott Morse

Maurice Noble is one of the great names to ever grace the field of animation. His work took him from the studios of Disney, to collaborating with Dr. Seuss, to the side of the great Chuck Jones, leaving an indelible impression on those who came into contact with his visions. Now, in NOBLE BOY, comics genius and Pixar animator Scott Morse explores Noble’s life and teachings and their effect on him and the field of animation to this day.

Cleverly packaged and produced, NOBLE BOY is presented in the format of a classic children’s book. The paper stock is that heavy “board” you remember holding in your hands as a youth, and it allows for amazing color saturation for Morse’s paints. The beauty of his pictures alone would make NOBLE BOY worth your time. But Morse takes the left page of each spread and tells Noble’s story in a series of rhymed verses. Again, this evokes the books you read as a child, though Morse’s narrative and structure are sophisticated and for the more advanced reader.

So, too, are the lessons Noble imparts to Morse as he tells his story. Noble opines on the nature of art and design as they pertain to living one’s life, and Morse subtly evokes Noble’s intent through his illustrations. It’s a quiet effect, and one that could have been a bit stronger, but Morse’s talents and style are so unique that it threatens to overwhelm his intent at a couple of points. Still, that’s a minor quibble in what is a very lovely work.

Marc Mason


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