Comics on the Can – Bento Fantasy part 1

GameStop, Inc.

Ye, all BEHOLD! I, your humble narrator, have endured great hardship to bespeaketh unto you my fiercely held thoughts pertaining to ye ‘olde sequential art collected in book form. The method with which I peruse these various tomes authored by artistic types (betwixt bouts of hysteria, unclean acts in the face of our lord most high, and various substance abuses, no doubt) is whilst perched atop my personal porcelain throne. There I consider the merits of yon artistic endeavors and share the personal revelations I have acquired through the grace of our lord most high and empty colon. Read on, I bid thee, read on! I pray that my trials will ease your own.

Till the dawn breaks and no goblin shall remain breathing man’s air… or something like that.

In the last few years or so there have been services you subscribe to that send you monthly items; wine, cheese, pajamas, toys, clothes, I’m guessing shoes probably. I know this isn’t necessarily new; I recall seeing ads for the “Panty of the Month Club” in the back pages of Playboy. (Which that and the articles were the only reason I read Playboy. Then I’d bust into the Penthouse and Hustler for the good smut.) But there has been a serious uptick lately in services through the niche marketing device called the internet. I have tried one such service and you can probably guess which one it is because you are reading a column on a website dedicated to Comic Books; that’s right, the jerky of the month club. It’s really cool, each month I was sent designer gourmet jerky treats from animals not normally jerkified from far corners of the world. I got wild caribou jerky from the northern most regions of Canada, shark jerky from the Great Barrier Reef and “Bubba’s gol ‘dang best philate-free non-descript animal jerky of sorts” from some place I’ve never heard of called Muskogee Oklahoma. Which promised a “never more than 63% squirrel or your money back” guarantee. How could I refuse?

Then, after a few months of jerky nirvana, I realized that there was no reason in the world I should be eating jerkified salmon and cancelled my subscription.

So I started to get Comic Bento instead. This made a lot more sense in the context of writing this column, actually.

The first box I got was a fantasy themed collection containing four graphic novels that filled the pre-requisite of the genre by having swords (always swords), some monsters, elves or other supernatural creatures, dudes in tunics and robes, and lots of trees. There are a surprising amount I’ve never heard of. That could be attributed to the varying quality of the titles but it could also be because there isn’t much room for such GNs at your local comic store when they have to carry “The Punisher when he was a hit man for God” omnibus that you’ll never buy.

punisherknights

Oh father, we thank you for what we are about to receive… wait, a grenade enema?!

Considering the work I had ahead of me I added a lot of extra fiber in my diet (needed to after the cute baby seal jerky anyway, it was real traffic stop if you get my meaning) and hunkered down for a lot of extra reading.

first lawJoe Abercrombie’s The First Law – The Blade Itself Vol 1 Mark: 2:13/stardate 2336.5/delta whisky tango foxtrot, the fish!

Adapted by Chuck Dixon with Art by Andie Tong. Based on the New York and Sunday times bestselling author Joe Abercrombie’s First Law novels (which I’ve never heard of) the Blade Itself quite deftly hovers in that sweet spot fantasy lit has found itself in thanks to George R. R. Martin; namely realpolitik meets orcs. Mankind, in his arrogance, bickers with and backstabs each other while a true evil force beyond the frayed edges of man’s domain gathers strength. At least I think something like that may have been happening if the series continued. Volume one focuses more on the realpolitik side of things as the book introduces the many characters and the grim political terrain they have to navigate.

The stand out character is Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled former soldier turned torturer for the Inquisitor’s office. Despite being stuck with a cane and constantly falling down stairs this guy is a bad-ass; whip smart, sardonic, brutal, and angry. Yet you find yourself rooting for him despite his job having a distinct lack of concern for Habeas Corpus. An anti-hero in the purest sense, Glokta walks a tightrope between the political agenda of his boss and the powerful merchants of the kingdom. It says something when the guy you like most is introduced threatening to pull someone’s teeth out. Dixon makes all the dense plotting and political maneuvering understandable and, most importantly, not dull. Reading Glokta’s deconstruction of what’s being said and what’s NOT being said in boxes right next to the smart stylized yet snappy dialogue is flawless and keeps the flow moving.

There are orcs too; Glokta’s story is intercut with barbarian Logen Ninefingers. A nice boy from a nice barbarian family, The Ninefingers, along with the Eleventoes and the Fournoses, were upstanding members in their pleasant barbarian community. But alas, Logen has fallen on hard times and he and his merry band of travelers are beset upon by Shanka (read Orc) leaving him the only survivor. Logen’s objectives are muddled beyond surviving and being philosophical about his cooking pot until he figures out he needs to see a wizard (possibly about the ruby slippers he has on, not sure). Logen is a bad-ass too but in the man-of-few-words model. Oh yeah, he talks to trees. Wood spirits that look like Ents if the WWF had designed them. The tree spirits are ripped but mercifully free of Tap-out brand wife beaters.

The whole thing looks great; Andie Tong is detailed and has a sense of scale when it can be squeezed in. Most of the book plays in medium shots but there is a lot of ground to cover. Not Tong’s fault by a long shot, but the book would benefit by having some breathing room. Also most everybody looks pissed off but wouldn’t you be if you lived in a world where bloodletting is the only thing your HMO covers?

On the whole The First Law – The Blade Itself  did well. Bravo!

lowerregionsLower Regions by Alex Robinson

This little ditty is about a nameless barbarian gal hacking her way through a dungeon full of monsters to get at a skeleton guy carrying a baby. There is no dialogue in the entire book, which is a lean twenty five pages, so I could’ve actually read this one standing up doing number one and called it Comics in Front of the Can. That doesn’t have a good ring to it though, and if I had I would’ve missed out on a lot of the zonked out bloody cartoonish violence fun that this book has in spades.

Lower Regions has the trappings of an indie comic lark including the mini-digest format, black and white interior art, and too clever set-up on the surface. The kind of thing you’d walk by quickly at a con to avoid eye-contact with the author. But the sheer wacko imagination on display and unrelenting scenes of warped, horrifically funny violence puts it in an Evil Dead 2 playing Dungeons and Dragons realm. The vibe is kind of Jack Chick if he dosed up on the brown acid and listened to Cradle of Filth for a few years (which could only improve Jack Chick’s temperament to be honest)

The story has a twist that is obvious (if you can catch your breath between dismemberments) but who cares; the ten minutes I spent on this was a visual hoot. All of it could have some sort of fear of parenthood subtext too but I’m not sure how a giant fire breathing demon cat works in so I’ll just stop at kooky, bloody fun.

Random thoughts somewhat pertaining to the book but I couldn’t work in organically in the main review…

YES, THERE IS A JERKY OF THE MONTH CLUB! This is one of them but I can’t guarantee baby seal jerky http://www.gourmetfoodclubs.com/jerky-of-the-month-club.html

The Punisher has also been black, Frankenstein–ish, fought Archie, and did a drunk driving PSA.

punisherbar

Ok, Ok… I’m pulling up my uber app right now, sheeesh!

Another good fantasy lit series with grim backstabbing, sorcery and copious amounts of gratuitous sex is R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing and Aspect Emperor series. And just like Martin fans I’ve been waiting years for the next freggin book!

Habeas Corpus is dreadfully important BTW.

Other upstanding members of the barbarian neighborhood association – The Foureyes, the Thirteenteeths, the (kinda average) Twentydigits, and the Johnsons (make of that what you will).

Tree spirits are partial to Ed Hardy.

That Jack Chick is a piece of work. I’ve always wanted to do a podcast reading of one or two of his comics for laughs. Who in the FanboyNation crew want to join me?

jack-chick-1

Ironically this LOOKS like a Slayer video storyboard, monkey talk aside.

NEXT Comic Bento Fantasy Box Part 2 – The books I didn’t like.

 

 

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