• Review: "...The Arctic Marauder [is] a gorgeous, sprawling tale that — thanks to translator Kim Thompson's finely tuned ear for tone — boasts chewy Vernian narration... Call it ur-steampunk — one of the works that laid the groundwork for a genre that would, just a few years later, fill bookstore shelves with soot, goggles and gutta percha. [...] Tardi's arctic seascapes and undersea trenches are things to marvel over, as is his ability to evoke the eerie undulations of the Aurora borealis with just a few finely scratched lines. The Arctic Marauder is at once a loving homage and a smart satire; it's also, not for nothing, a rollicking adventure. Pick it up, and get rollicked." – Glen Weldon, NPR's Monkey See
• Review: "Tardi is one of France's most famous creators, and Adele Blanc-Sec, the cynical author turned adventurer, is his most famous creation. [...] I am very happy to see that Fantagraphics has decided to republish the first two stories in a beautiful hardcover book, with another book to follow next year. [...] The adventures are by turns funny, weird, and surprising. They are reminiscent of Tintin, if Tintin was a cynical Frenchwoman instead of an idealistic boy." – John Anderson, The Beguiling
• Review: "...[T]he colorful (in many senses of the word) collection The Artist Himself... is a smorgasbord of senses working overtime, the coffee table book of the year for raunch-loving pop art fans and literary hedonists alike. [...] One of Canada’s best pop cult artists, Holmes lived far too hard and died way too young. I can’t imagine a better book being put together about him, though. The Portland-based [Patrick] Rosenkranz (whose earlier underground comics compilation Rebel Visionsis a tidy and sweet sweep of the entire field) has written a beautiful biography of the 60s-born underground cartoonist..." – Chris Estey, The KEXP Blog
• Review: "You can tell by the cover [of R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004] that it bodes pretty badly for all those involved, from have-a-go-heroes, souped up for the occasion Charles Atlas-stylee, to those covering their murderous tracks, now newly addicted to cleanliness. Indeed both virtue and godliness play their part here, though neither is rewarded. These very short stories are like ten-second episodes of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and really challenge you to think, but they’re so concise and precise that it makes that a joy rather than a chore. [...] The medium employed... is scratchboard: that blank-slate of black upon which you work in reverse, scratching out shivers of white with a needle, sharp compass or random sterilised murder weapon. It works enormously well for stories so penumbral, yet on occasions the panels break out as blindingly as the light which fills them." – Stephen L. Holland, Page 45
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca takes a close look at a 2-panel sequence from Prince Valiant Vol. 3: 1941-1942: "Foster’s composition is wonderfully harmonic: two chords, beautifully struck in a rich and assured ink line, that complement each other perfectly. Though the panels use different camera angles and depict different subjects at different distances from the action, they share a remarkable symmetry."
We recently received a shipment of Prince Valiant books that are in less than tip-top condition — dinged corners on the covers, mostly — and we've decided to make lemonade out of damaged books by offering them to you at half off the cover price! This includes Vol. 1 (1937-1938), Vol. 2 (1939-1940) and the new Vol. 3 (1941-1942). They're perfectly readable — just cosmetically slightly marred — so if you don't care about mint condition this is your chance to save a bunch of dough! We've got limited quantities, fortunately for us but unfortunately for you if you wait and miss out! Click the links above to order.
• Review: "...Freeway is often stunning. Kalesniko spent 10 years on the book, and the time and care is evident in the structural complexity. [...] One of the unique properties of comics — utilized well by artists like Chris Ware and Richard McGuire — is the ability to connect disparate pieces of information using the page like a chart. Kalesniko doesn’t draw any arrows or experiment with layouts, but he does convey the impression of a man dealing with his daily frustrations by letting every sight, sound, and sensation send him on a trip through his own head. And in Freeway, Alex Kalienka’s head is as vivid as the book’s depiction of key Los Angeles landmarks. Kalesniko renders both the exterior and interior spaces with a mix of loving care and impassioned disgust." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "This mesmeric saga [Freeway] is deliciously multi-layered: blending compelling narrative with tantalising tidbits and secret snippets from the golden age of animation with rosy reveries of the meta-fictional post-war LA and the sheer tension of a paranoid thriller. Kalesniko opens Alex mind and soul to us but there’s no easy ride. Like Christopher Nolan’s Memento, there’s a brilliant tale here but you’re expected to pay attention and work for it. Illustrated with stunning virtuosity in captivating black line, Alex’s frustration, anger, despair, reminiscences and imaginings from idle ponderings to over-the-top near hallucinations are chillingly captured and shared in this wonderful book..." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Plug: "Freeway by Mark Kalesniko (published by @fantagraphics) is one of the best graphic novels I've read this year." – Ted Adams (founder/CEO, IDW Publishing)
• Plug:Grovel previews Freeway: "This 400-page epic looks set to be a stunning piece of work, as Kalesniko squeezes a lifetime of events into the mental wanderings of a single car journey."
• Review: "Dungeon Quest is unlike anything I have ever seen in the comic world. The closest comparison is some old comic strips in Dungeon Magazine from the mid-eighties but Dungeon Questtakes the level of insanity in those strips and adds +100 in delirium bonuses. If you know a manic dice roller, go out and purchase them both editions without thought. They will love you forever. [...] The story sounds a little like Bilbo Baggins' quest, right? Well, take Bilbo and drag him through a funhouse filled with drag queens and stand-up comedians from the eighties and you might end up with Dungeon Quest. The filth that spews from this book will make you blanch and make you laugh your lungs up." – Martin John, The Outhouse
• Review: "In short, The Arctic Marauder is pure fun, silly and dark camp. It’s a beautiful book, with an appealing cover and a sturdy hardcover binding. Tardi’s narrative voice keeps the proceedings puckishly light and pleasant, while the plot itself explores oceanic depths and throws out characters rife with madness and egocentrism. There aren’t many books quite like it; comics readers are better off for having Tardi available here in the States." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "The fun of getting caught up in a story that’s convoluted for its own sake, or the dazzle of pictures that preen the skill and effort that went into crafting them — they’re the hallmarks of a book that one reads to relax. Books that require an effort are ultimately more satisfying, but the smaller satisfactions are occasionally what one needs. The Arctic Marauder is fun, and it was nice to sit down with it after a long day." – Robert Stanley Martin, Pol Culture
• Review: "Screenwriter and novelist Claudio Piersanti's dark tale of a man driven to the depths of despair is beautifully captured in Mattotti's astonishing art [in Stigmata]. No artist is better suited to capturing all the intense violence, anger and despair this character suffers through." – John Anderson, The Beguiling blog
• Review: "Daddy's Girl is a comic book with a difference. Debbie Drechser uses mostly black and white illustrations to openly deal with the dark subject of abuse. [...] This is simply put, a masterpiece. The deeply disturbing subject matter of sexual abuse is brought to life with a startling brutality. It's impossible not to be impacted by the experiences within the pages. [...] It's a memorable, moving, bold, and — at times — emotionally challenging read that definitely rates a 5/5 from me." – Charlene Martel, The Literary Word
• Review: "Because Theroux knew Gorey personally — and remains a fervent fan — The Strange Case [of Edward Gorey] jumps from memories of the man to a more generalized biography, in between astute analyses of what makes Gorey books like The Hapless Child and The Gashlycrumb Tinies so haunting. The Strange Case isn’t organized like a conventional bio or critique; it’s more rambling and personal, working carefully past the psychic blockades of a man who once explained away the darkness of his work with the non-committal comment, 'I don’t know any children.'" – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Rendered in an incomprehensibly lovely panorama of glowing artPrince Valiant is a non-stop rollercoaster of stirring action, exotic adventure and grand romance; blending realistic fantasy with sardonic wit and broad humour with unbelievably dark violence... Beautiful, captivating and utterly awe-inspiring the strip is a World Classic of storytelling and something no fan can afford to miss." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "These superb oversized... hardback collections are the ideal way of discovering or rediscovering Segar’s magical tales. [...] There is more than one Popeye. If your first thought on hearing the name is an unintelligible, indomitable white-clad sailor always fighting a great big beardy-bloke and mainlining tinned spinach, that’s okay: the animated features have a brilliance and energy of their own... But they are really only the tip of an incredible iceberg of satire, slapstick, virtue, vice and mind-boggling adventure… [D]on’t you think it’s about time you sampled the original and very best?" – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: At Newsarama, Zack Smith talks to Hans Rickheit about Ectopiary ("one of those webcomics that has everyone talking"), future plans and coelocanths: "The story divides into three parts which do not resemble each other. I wanted to draw an exotic science fiction, although the first hundred pages will contain very little in that vein. These stories aren't written; they simply occur to me. I prefer it that way. Good science fiction writers write about strange and inexplicable things. My job is make the strange things they write about."
• Review: "Fantagraphics' collection Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s, edited by Greg Sadowski, is a wonderfully creepy hurtle through the exuberant, cheerfully gross and icky horror comics that prevailed in the golden, pre-Comics-Code era. ...[T]he art is brilliant: indistinct piles of slimy viscera, purple-green zombies, skull-faced vampires and demons, Satan in a dozen guises, witches and occult symbols, creatures from the eleven hells of the darkest mythos of the human spirit." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Considering how much I enjoyed the first four years, when Foster was still finding the strip’s voice, I wasn’t sure how much better Valiant could get. Turns out, Prince Valiant achieves sheer radiance. [...] In short, Prince Valiant is noble romantic adventure fiction at its finest. The plots are classical, yet surprising, with chivalry and fair play constantly at the forefront. Poetic and strikingly descriptive, the narrations could nearly stand alone, but fortunately are accompanied by some of the finest comics art ever produced. [...] Prince Valiant v. 3: 1941-1942 finds a legendary strip reaching yet greater heights of creative accomplishment, presenting the strips with the full majesty of size, color and detail that its author always hoped for. After Foster, comics were never the same; this series is, simply, a must-have for any serious comics library." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Excoriating, withering humour and viciously necessary satire tellingly rendered and savage yet personable and winningly intimate reportage make [Twilight of the Assholes] one of the best cartoon coshes ever applied to the politics of this century." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators are saying about our releases this week, check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
420-page black & white 7" x 10" softcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-356-9
"In a week dominated by republished works and more recent books once again offered through Diamond, cartoonist Mark Kalesniko gets a prize for releasing a gaint book of brand new work. It's an extended meditation on changes in the way we live and work, structured around an excruciating commute." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"There's a new Alex book by Mark Kalesniko (Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself?, Mail Order Bride) who you haven't seen much of recently because he's spent the last ten years working on Freeway... While stuck in an endless L.A. traffic jam Alex re-examines his life and job as an animator with a legendary studio, and wonders what it would have been like had he been born several decades earlier." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
"The graphic novel I’m most interested in this week is Freeway, Mark Kalesniko’s traffic jam ruminations of animation as a career then and now. The description of the book has a lot of hooks to relate to: work frustration, realizing even a dream job has its pitfalls, and rush-hour traffic." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
112-page full-color 10.25" x 14" hardcover • $29.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-407-8
"Hal Foster at full early Arthurian potency; Val was never more like young Lord Silverspoon than he was here. Bonus: a brief piece in the back of the book revealing a few 'suppressed Prince Valiant images from 1939-1940.'" – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"Let's face it, [this] nuke[s] just about every other comic you're going to buy at the store this year... I was greatly surprised by how entertaining the Prince Valiant was." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
"Prince Valiant HC Volume 3 1941 – 1942 is out, reprinting the chunk of Prince Valiant which critics unanimously reckon was the point at which Foster hit his drawing and storytelling stride. This volume also comes with a gallery of stuff at the back originally deemed too sexy or violent for print, oh yes." – The Gosh! Comics Blog
"...Chris had to go and use the words 'giant man-eating octopus,' [see below – Ed.] so Prince Valiant, Volume 3goes into the shopping cart as well." – Michael May, Robot 6
"...[I]f you happen to have $30 this week I’d recommend getting your hands on either a copy of Mark Kalesniko’s Freeway or the third volume of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, both from Fantagraphics. The former is a new graphic novel from the author of Mail Order Bride, about a dog-faced animator named Alex who, while stuck in a bad traffic jam, ruminates over his life and career and how he ended up where he did. It’s a pretty great book, but if you need further inducement you can read my interview with Kalesniko. Valiant Vol. 3 meanwhile, features a great, lengthy sequence that involves Val trying to get his sword back, the highlight of which is easily him facing off against a giant man-eating octopus." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Artist Mark Kalesniko returns to his dog-headed Alex character in the 420-page graphic novel Freeway ($28.99), while Prince Valiant Vol. 3: 1941-1942 ($29.99) collects 112 pages of restored Hal Foster and supplementary materials authored by one of the editors of this very column. Published by Fantagraphics Books: home for the website you are currently reading." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Tim Kreider is a great caricaturist, as his latest collection of cartoons, Twilight of the Assholes, attests. He has a real knack for portraying the unsightly physical traits of modern Americans– the rolls of fat, the paunchy stomachs, the jowls, flabby arms and chinless faces — that make up more of the current populace than we’d care to admit (myself included). Plus, he’s got a nice, razor-sharp wit that really cuts to the absurdity of a particular stance or issue, and he isn’t afraid to get nasty or break a taboo to make his point, which can be refreshing." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Cleverly constructed, laconically laid out in the classic nine-panel-grid picture structure and rendered in comfortingly mundane style a la Charles Burns, King of the Flies is a landmark in metafictional mystery tales. [...R]eaders will have to wait for the concluding book to discover how this stunning, mesmerising amalgam of Twin Peaks, Desert Palms, Peyton Place, The Omen and Blue Velvet plays out. A stylish and magical portmanteau saga of a community cursed with an excess of human frailty – lust, rage, greed, despair and especially shallow selfishness – this is a story that will surprise, compel, distress and haunt anybody with even half an imagination. Darkly addictive, casually violent and graphically sexual, King of the Flies is 'adults only' and well worth waiting until you’re 18 for." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "This is a story about purpose, inertia, the road blocks we throw up for ourselves and the ways in which we are forced to interact with a demanding and frequently demeaning world. This book feels intimate because unlike his past work, Sammy the Mouse has an immediacy to it that’s quite different in tone from his earlier, more distant (but no less visceral) comics. [...] Sally’s comics have an ugly physical quality to them that I’ve always liked, but the two-color process he uses here pushes the ugly/beautiful tension even further. [...] The care and thought that Sally put into adapting his comic into the Ignatz format shows on every page and makes the story resonate all the more." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "It’s hard to decide which Ignatz book is the best-looking purely from an aesthetic standpoint, but Leila Marzocchi’s Niger has to be in consideration. It’s another series that’s dominated by two tones (in this case, rust red and a chalky blue) that’s remarkable to behold simply in terms of its mark-making. There’s a lushness to this series, in the way Marzocchi uses a scratchy technique that makes her figures and backgrounds look as though they were less drawn than constructed with dense webs of color. Her figures are fabulously exaggerated, all curves and bulbous noses. Everyone is larger than life, creating a sort of mysterious and slightly dark fairy tale atmosphere for this story. [...] It’s an easy comic to follow and probably the friendliest to non-comics readers in the Ignatz line. While its ideas are original, its familiar feel creates a certain immediate comfort level for the reader as they delve into a strange and beautiful world. It’s as though Niger is a favorite old fairy tale whose memory is just out of reach." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Instead of writing about the [Prince Valiant] series as a whole (or at least, those volumes I have read), I decided to do another one-page criticism. After much debate with myself I selected the page... dated December 1, 1940, appearing at the end of volume 2. In some respects this is a typical Hal Foster page, but in many ways it is not, which is partially why I chose it." – Derik Badman, The Panelists
• Plug: "ROY CRANE Mania! Just got my copy of Buz Sawyer: War in the Pacific, this and the Captain Easy volumes are long overdue. Thrilling stuff! Roy Crane is one of the unsung greats! Thrilling, charming, infectious masterful storytelling. Probably in my top five favorite cartoonists. Roy Crane drew some of the most subtly sexy women ever. ...[H]uzzah to Fantagraphics! Okay, I'm insane for Roy Crane. It may look old fashioned at first glance, but trust me, once you dive in you'll eat it up!" – Mike Allred
• Plug: "[Love and Rockets: New Stories #3] was as amazing as folks said it was. No knock against Gilbert, but Jaime murdered it this time around, absolutely killed, fired on all cylinders, drowned it in ink. Jeepers, someone give that man a cartooning medal." – Evan Dorkin
• Plug: "I forgot how much I enjoyed reading Carol Tyler's comics when I was tripping over them in various anthologies in the 80's/90's. I stumbled across this book [Late Bloomer] while cleaning up in the basement where all the comics that don't fit anywhere sleep, and was happy to revisit these pieces, as well as material I hadn't read before. The perils of buying a book and putting it aside for too long. Funny, warm, human, honest, occasionally beautiful/heartbreaking 'life' comics." – Evan Dorkin
• Plug: "I love Roy Crane and I'm super-happy [Captain Easy Vol. 1] is in print. Cartoonists and cartoonist-wonks, take heed, there is some beautiful work to be pored over here. ...Crane = Master." – Evan Dorkin
• Plug: "Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the release of Stigmata (Fantagraphics) just a few weeks ago. Featuring expressionist master Lorenzo Mattotti's swirling, cross-hatched pen line as if the story were recounting the fading memory of a dream about a drunk who one day wakes up marked with stigmata. It's an intense and perfectly balanced story, in hard cover with a wonderful Mattotti painting on the cover and it deserves to be a flagship title for any graphic novel collection." – Dave's Comics
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Ian Burns talks to Shaun Partridge, writer of the Josh Simmons-drawn Mome serial "The White Rhinoceros" (part 1 of 3): "I think fun is the law. You should really enjoy life and laugh. That’s what comedy’s all about. Which is also alchemical, because you’re taking something that is unpleasant and making jokes about it. You know, Dave Chappelle’s a master alchemist. Larry David’s an alchemist."
• Review: "[21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] is a reverent, yet sometimes playful look at the man and what he had to go through to get where he did. [...] The scenes with the various family members remind me a bit of what Gilbert Hernandez gets up to in Love and Rockets, that same sort of close-knit relationship thing. [...] Santiago’s art is cartoonish, yet expressionistic and appealingly loose. [...] He does a great job, and even the best of the best often have trouble with this, of drawing baseball players that actually look like baseball players — at bat, in the field, running, catching the ball. [...] He really captures the action of the game very well, and it’s kinda hard to describe — it’s really some daredevil storytelling at times." – Johnny Bacardi, Popdose
• Review: "After reading the first volume of Fantagraphics excellent reprinting of Hal Foster’s creation [Prince Valiant], I’m surprised at the life within this antique. It’s no surprise that the art is beautiful. Foster’s figures have a fine, illustrated detail — rarely seen on the comics page — but they’re full of energy as they joust, dive and play at swords." – James Seidler, Ape Mind Transcripts
• Profile: "[Special Exits] was fueled by Farmer's personal outrage at the unacceptable treatment of her elderly parents at the hands of medical and nursing home establishments. And she'll pooh-pooh the idea that making the book was psychological therapy of any sort. 'It was in no way cathartic. It was really, really depressing,' she told me any number of times. This is classic Joyce Farmer, drawing, writing, and satirizing taboo and socially risky subjects." – Kathleen Vanesian, Phoenix New Times
• Interview: Leah Berkenwald of Jewesses with Attitude (the blog of the Jewish Women's Archive) talks to Miss Lasko-Gross about her participation in the Graphic Details exhibit: "Q: How does your Jewish identity influence your work? L-G: I don't know that it does, but in the auto-bio game having a genetic predisposition to being a neurotic mess doesn't hurt." (Via Heeb)
• Review: "If your sense of humor is still intolerant of situations in which people embarrass themselves, whether or not they’re conscious of that embarrassment, Unlovable is pretty much your nightmare. [...] If there are flaws to point to here, they are: 1) that no one could possibly be as clueless and as unintentionally revelatory of that cluelessness as Tammy Pierce (i.e., that there’s too much authorial interpretation here), and 2) that, like any diary, it’s not particularly structured but instead consists of one damn thing after another (i.e., that there’s not enough shaping). That may well mean Watson’s hit the mark just right." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "In devouring the latest in Fantagraphics' fine, modern-day collections [of Prince Valiant...] , I was actually reminded more of Kirby's fellow Silver Age comic book titan Steve Ditko. Foster's young man seethes and overreacts and even plays the fool in the same way that Ditko allowed Peter Parker the human foibles inherent to those in the process of becoming an adult. (Spider-Man never got mad enough to lop off anyone's hand that I can remember, so point to Valiant there; they did operate in different centuries with their own definition of 'responsibility,' however.)" – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "Love from the Shadows is weird even for Gilbert, who always seems to draw on the id more than his brother." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Plug: "The first two Fritz books contained some of Beto’s finest storytelling, and I have really high hopes for this third volume. Love from the Shadows is purportedly a campy thriller, and the solicitation text make it sound like a hell of a lot of fun! Be sure to pre-order this one, so you don’t miss out!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
• Plug: "Johnny Ryan's work isn't for everyone. But it most definitely is for me. [Prison Pit] is a book so batshit awesome it ought to be illegal (and maybe actually is). Ryan is as original as they come. Thank God for that, 'cause I don't think the world could survive two of them." – Jason Aaron (Scalped, Wolverine) at Comic Book Resources
With this volume, Foster reaches (by common critical consensus) the peak of his drawing and storytelling prowess – a peak at which he will remain for most of the run of this glorious strip.
Almost the entirety of 1941’s strips feature a single ten-month epic entitled “Fights for the Singing Sword,” a globetrotting adventure fueled by Valiant’s obsessive search for his bride-to-be Aleta throughout Northern Africa, with stops in Jerusalem, the Arabic deserts, and, inevitably, a harem which Val must infiltrate. Then finally, in “The Misty Isles” Valiant meets Aleta face to face but upon learning that she has had his crew killed (deservedly so, actually, but still), he flees in anger, vowing never to see her again.
“Homeward Bound,” Valiant continues his travels, with stops in Athens (where he meets the boisterous Viking Boltar, who will become his friend for life), North Africa, and Gaul (where Valiant liberates Gawain), before finally returning to Camelot. But his joyous return is short-lived as an alliance of Picts and Vikings threatens Britain’s security, and thus Valiant must journey forth with, as his ultimate destination, “The Roman Wall.”
The final pages of this volume boast a special feature: a gallery of images that were censored for being too sexy or violent (or subject to other editorial interference) prior to publication, plus another gruesome example of Foster's art being altered for publication, all with commentary by series editor Kim Thompson.
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