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Life, the Universe, and Everything
This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics explore four new titles, each quite different one from the other. They begin with the new graphic novel from New Zealand creator Ant Sang, The Dharma Punks (Conundrum Press). On the surface it is a story about coming to terms with death, but there’s much more going on in this 415-page book. In fact, this is one of the most ambitious narratives the guys have encountered so far this year, and certainly the most philosophical. Its protagonist, Chopstick, tries to comes to grips with the suicide of a close friend and what that loss means in his own life, while at the same time participating in an anarchist act against a corporate franchise. The events in the book take place roughly over a two-day period, but one of strengths of this narrative is how Sang manipulates time in a Faulkner-like manner, making the past ever-present. This is a rich and complex text, and at times Gene and Derek feel at a loss trying to put the gist of The Dharma Punks into words for an audio podcast. Next, the guys take on a much more constrained narrative, but one that is nonetheless multifaceted in its own ways, Noah Van Sciver’s My Hot Date (Kilgore Books). This is an autobiographical comic, and as the title suggests, it’s about a date that the fourteen-year-old Noah has with someone he met via America Online. Van Sciver has written short memoir-inspired stories in the past, but this is the longest, and definitely the most humorously self-deprecating, that he’s produced to date. This is just one of the many comics that Van Sciver has released over the past year, many of which are published through Kilgore Books…a growing presences in the Two Guys’ arsenal of go-to small publishers. After that, Derek and Gene turn their attention to the first issue in Rick Remender and Sean Murphy’s new series from Image Comics, Tokyo Ghost. This is a futuristic story that takes as its premise the overriding and ever-present impact of on-demand digital culture in our lives. This inaugural issue does a fine job of setting up this narrative world, but Gene wonders if the nonstop action and complex visuals may be too much at times. Lastly, the guys take a brief look at an issue of an online zine they have just discovered, Jackie Batey’s FutureFantasteek! Issue #16 was released at the beginning of 2015, and while the latest installment can stand on its own, Derek and Gene suggest that the title can best be appreciated when read over the course of its run. For those with a diverse taste in comics, this episode is definitely for you!