“It’s compelling, but I’m not sure why I’m so compelled”
The Two Guys with PhDs are back with another publisher spotlight, this one focusing on the spring releases from Koyama Press. (In fact, this is the third spotlight on Koyama, with the guys having previously discusses their seasonal releases in April 2015 and May 2017.) All of these books debuted at TCAF last month, and Paul and Derek indulge in exciting discussions of these six new releases.
They begin with Jessica Campbell’s XTC69, a wild science fiction narrative about gender relations and female empowerment. It serves as a great companion piece to her earlier Koyama book, Hot or Not: 20th-Century Male Artists. After that they discuss the largely wordless text, Soft X-Ray/Mindhunters. As with his previous work, Mighty Star and the Castle of Cancatervater, A. Degen challenges the boundaries of storytelling, and Paul and Derek have fun attempting to decipher the text. And it says something that, compared with the work of A. Degen, Michael DeForge’s latest book A Western World is understandable and more “traditional.” This is a collection of various DeForge stories, some of them previously published in his Lose series, and it would serve as a great introduction to the creator’s style.
Next, they focus on the latest installment of Ben Sears’s Double+ world, The Ideal Copy. Following 2016’s Night Airand last year’s Volcano Trash, this book has Plus Man and Hank out of work as treasure hunters and having to take temporary jobs as caterers…and while doing so inadvertently discovering adventure. Perhaps the most abstract and narratively challenging work of the bunch, Michael Comeau’s Winter’s Cosmos, is a curious mix of media, photography and illustration. Its the offbeat story of two space travelers on a mission, each with varying degrees of seriousness and dedication. Paul and Derek wrap up their Koyama Press spotlight with a discussion of Fiona Smyth’s Somnambulance. This is the longest text of the bunch, and it’s a fascinating retrospective of Smyth’s comics from the 1980s to present day. For those unfamiliar with this creator’s comics, Somnambulance is the perfect overview.
This week Andy and Derek discuss five new titles. They start off with Michael DeForge’s latest book, Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero(Drawn and Quarterly). While this is an unusual story, it’s nonetheless one of DeForge’s most conventional stories, at least when compared to many of his previous works. It’s an episodic narrative about its titular character, a multi-talented 49-year-old woman who moves to a Canadian national park to escape a scandal surrounding her rich father’s finances. There she befriends a bunny named Oatmeal, a moose lawyer who goes by the name “Lisa Hanawalt,” a love-struck eel, a “marked” young woman called Girl McNally, dumb geese, proxy ants, a bear chronicler, and the park’s wannabe reporter “Michael DeForge.” Did we mention that this is one of DeForge’s more conventional stories? This title began as a webcomic on Tumblr, and while people can still find the complete comic up and available, the guys strongly recommend that listeners get the new book to fully take in the physical, tactile experience.
Next, the Two Guys with PhDs turn to the four new Hanna-Barbera one-shots from DC Comics: the Adam Strange/Future Quest Special(by Mark Andreyko, Jeff Parker, and Steve Lieber), the Booster Gold/The Flintstones Special(Mark Russell, Rick Leonardi, and Scott Hanna), the Green Lantern/Space Ghost Special(James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela, and Ariel Olivetti), and theSuicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special(Tony Bedard, Ben Caldwell, and Mark Morales).They both enjoy all four of the titles, although Derek has some reservations about the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits team-up, and Andy feels that the Green Lantern/Space Ghost one is a missed opportunity. But they spend about as much time discussing the short backups in these four specials, with Howard Chaykin’s Ruff ‘n’ Reddy being a standout. Is that any surprise
On this week’s review show, Derek and Andy W. look at three new titles, beginning with the new graphic novel from Ethan Young, Nanjing: The Burning City(Dark Horse). This is a riveting historically based narrative centered on Japan’s actions against the Chinese Nationalist capital during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It involves a captain in the Republic of China’s army trapped within Nanjing, now overrun by the Japanese, and his attempts to get himself and one of his soldiers out to safety. Young never flinches from the horrors of the war, yet at the same time he never falls prey to the temptation of demonizing the aggressor. His is a very human story, and both the invading Japanese troops and Chinese victims are shown in all of their complexities. Next, the guys discuss the first issue of Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox’s new series, Plutona(Image). This is a different kind of spin to the superhero genre, and the story begins by introducing us to a group of five suburban kids, each with his or her own personality and complications. What binds them all together is the discovery of the titular character, one of their city’s crime-fighting heroes who now lies inert in the woods. What makes this first so compelling is not only Lenox’s unique art, but the colors provided by Jordie Bellaire. And this more conventional narrative stands in stark contrast to the third title the guys discuss, Michael DeForge’s Lose #7 (Koyama Press). This is the latest in DeForge’s annual one-man anthology series, and in this issue we get three stories. The first and third are short, untitled abstract narratives, but the middle story is longer and more traditional in its construction. “Movie Star” is an unusual tale about a daughter whose father unexpectedly finds his long-lost sibling and how this discovery changes his life in unlikely ways. As Andy points out, all of the stories in this latest issue of Lose are thematically linked by a search for identity. In fact, you could look at all of the comics discussed on this episode as dealing with this very theme.