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TELEVISION #1
Written and Drawn by Ryan Alexander-Tanner
Published by OhYesVeryNice Comics

Portland-based Tanner is one of those fortunate souls to have received a Xeric grant, and the result is this first issue of TELEVISION, a collection of single and multiple-page strips of a humorous bent. The gags range from the rich and emotionally subtle “That One Song From the 1960s” to the absurd “James Brown Comics” (which place the soul singer into various pieces of the Christian bible’s timeline. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they’re executed by a young artist who appears to have some real talent to play with.

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, though. the author lists his “Thursday night drawing club” in the thank you section, and it includes other really talented folks like Farel Dalrymple and Alex Cahill (a Waiting Room favorite). What works about Alexander-Tanner’s stuff is that he never overplays the humor; he actively seems to try and underplay his stuff and avoid screaming for attention. Even the one story (“Spectacula Dracula”) that would seem to call for a broad ending sees the artist using a wide-angle shot in the final panel to lessen the impact of the lunacy of the whole bit. It shows an inspired grasp of storytelling.

TELEVISION appears in the current Previews and will ship from Diamond in January. It’s worth your three dollars American.

Marc Mason

WEIRDLING
Written and Drawn by Mike Dubisch
Published by Strange Fear

Anna Mandretta, on the surface, seems to be a relatively normal woman. Certainly, her circumstances are shared by many; she’s been “drafted” into humanity’s war against an alien species known as the Xax, and during her sleep period, she’s been subliminally programmed with the skills of a great doctor and surgeon. But during her sleep periods, her lucid dreams have begun to change. The machine that is supposed to guide her appears to be malfunctioning, and she starts living a second life, that of a woman doctor during Earth’s Victorian era. And that Anna’s life is dominated by the birth of a horrible, demonic creature. But as she shifts back to her life on the spaceship, pieces of the Victorian dream begin coming with her. Is there more going on with the demonic forces than she can imagine? Or is Anna simply batshitinsane?

Part space opera and part Cthulhu homage, WEIRDLING allows Dubisch (a fantasy artist known for his gift with the macabre) the stretch his legs on a sequential art project, and he does a pretty solid job of it. Normally, his stuff graces covers and such, so I wasn’t sure how this would turn out. Mind you, there’s nothing spectacular about the pacing or layouts, but there didn’t need to be. Mindfuck books need to be excessively clear in order to keep the reader interested, and Dubisch nails that.

The story itself kind of falters in the end, though, once it attempts to fully explain itself and everything that has happened. In fact, I found myself wishing the author had let it go and leave the interpretation in the hands of the readers. Still, if you’re looking for the modern version of an EC classic, this could be the book for you.

Marc Mason

NICK MAG PRESENTS: AVATAR THE LAST AIR BENDER
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Nickelodeon

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that the ‘tween set loves AVATAR. The eleven-year old in my life glues herself to the television when the show comes on. So it comes as no surprise that Nickelodeon would work extra hard to promote season three as it approaches its airdate, and this magazine plays a huge part in it. However, while some fan-oriented magazines are pure drivel meant to drain the wallets of the suckers, this one is different. It’s put together by Dave Roman, the very talented creator of such cool mini-comics as ASTRONAUT ELEMENTARY, and the editor behind Nick Mag’s comics-only specials.

What’s here? Some pretty cool stuff. The comics stories presented here actually serve as bridges between seasons two and three, meaning they count as continuity for the readers. Kids who tune in without reading this won’t be lost, but those who pick up this mag will find themselves with an extra treat on their hands. There are also puzzles, a feature on the voice actors on the show, and a look at the fervent fans of the show. It’s all stuff that an eleven-year old will love.

For five bucks, you can not only make your ‘tween happy, but you’ll likely be buying hours of silence, too, as they pour through the comics and dive into the puzzles. I don’t know about you, but that’s just about as good a bargain as you’ll find.

Marc Mason

VAMPIRELLA QUARTERLY: SUMMER 2007
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Archie Goodwin
Drawn by Stephen Segovia and Jose Gonzalez
Published by Harris Publications

Vampirella faces off against her nemesis, the Blood Red Queen in the middle chapter of her latest adventure, hoping to find a way to defeat the evil witch and rescue her beloved, Adam, from her clutches without getting him killed. However, that proves to be far easier said than done. Meanwhile, in another remastered classic tale, the sexy bloodsucker finds herself trapped on the family estate of a madman determined to avoid dying and giving up the soul he bartered for nefarious purposes. His thinking: a vampire’s bite will make him live forever, and he’ll be all set. Once again, the best laid plans of mice and men…

The lead tale, featuring modern Vampi, really takes a hit from the art. There’s nothing wrong with Fialkov’s story; he has a decent grasp on the character, and he keeps the action moving nicely. But Segovia’s work here looks like bad Top Cow “house style,” long on trying to titillate and look “kewl” and short on storytelling. It looks even worse when compared to the incredible pages by Jose Gonzalez printed behind it. “Death’s Dark Angel” is wonderful on all levels, and the artist knows precisely how to balance making Vampirella look beautiful and in creating a world for her to inhabit that looks and smells real to the reader.

With one chapter to go, I’m guessing we’ll have one more dose of Segovia to go as well. Hopefully, he’ll spend a bit more time focusing on telling the story, creating come backgrounds, and making the panels flow. If not, it won’t matter how good Fialkov’s writing is. On the bright side, though, more of the Goodwin/Gonzalez reprints will easily make the book worth buying.

Marc Mason


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