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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
iZombie: Dead to the World
Stumptown Volume 1: The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini)
Thor: Tales of Asgard
Buffalo Speedway Volume 2
A Little of This... A Little of That

With summer rapidly approaching and a large selection of goodies arriving in the Texas Nexus Graphica offices, I decided to forgo my usual monthly missives in favor of a column devoted to recent reads (and views). Next month, I'll return with a more traditionally Nexus Graphica-style piece. (Guess after three years of bi-monthly articles, Mark and I can discuss things in terms of tradition.)

 

iZombie: Dead to the World, Written by Chris Roberson, Art by Michael Allred (DC/Vertigo)
iZombie: Dead to the World

In an era littered with countless zombie stories, mostly mediocre to terrible, Roberson and Allred successfully morph the tired undead concept into a superior 21st century slacker neo-gothic. Eugene, OR grave digger Gwen Dylan lives a most unusual existence. Her closest friends include a ghost and a were-terrier. Her recent crush hunts monsters for a centuries-old secret society. Beautiful, bitchy vampires threaten Eugene. And to top it off, Gwen must eat a fresh brain at least once a month or become a shambling monster straight out of a Romero flick. After consuming a brain, Gwen acquires the deceased's lifetime of memories. Her most recent meal, a victim of foul play, haunts Gwen until she finds his killer. Beautifully rendered by the popular Allred, his unusual stylings lend the perfect off-kilter vision required for this oddball concept. The acclaimed Roberson, author of over a dozen prose books and several comic book series including Superman, Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love, Stan Lee's Starborn, and Elric: The Balance Lost, delivers some of his finest and creative comic work to date. The unpredictable and excellent iZombie: Dead to the World deftly recycles and collects over-used ideas into a superior and wholly original graphic novel.

Stumptown Volume 1: The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini), Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Matthew Southworth (Oni)
Stumptown Volume 1: The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini)

With comics such as Queen & Country and Whiteout, Rucka established a much deserved reputation for producing superior crime stories featuring female protagonists. In Stumptown Volume 1: The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini), Rucka returns to this familiar territory. In order to pay back a massive gambling debt, Stumptown Investigations proprietor Dex Parios searches for the missing granddaughter of Sue-Lynne, head of the Confederate Tribes of the Wind Coast's casino operations. During her quest, Dex reveals the darker sides of Portland, OR. She receives numerous threats and beatings. She is shot and no one trusts her. Making things even more difficult, the surly Dex continually angers both the police and the gangs. As with all of Rucka's works, the relationships between the characters propel the tale. Through his dialogue and pacing, he elevates the potentially stereotypical portrayals into powerful individual identities. The moody, minimalist Southworth art further enhances the riveting tale. As an added bonus, this hardcover volume includes a reprint of the rare 8-page, micro-comic Dex Parios adventure and a selection of promotional items.
Thor: Tales of Asgard, Directed by Sam Liu, Screenplay by Greg Johnson, Starring Matthew Wolf, Rick Gomez, and Christopher Britton (Marvel/Lionsgate)
Thor: Tales of Asgard

An animated prequel of sorts to the feature film Thor, Thor: Tales of Asgard reveals the teenage adventures of Thor and his brother Loki. Hungry for adventure, the duo disregard Odin's orders and embark on a search for the legendary Lost Sword of Surtur. Joined by the Warriors Three, the band sneak into Jötunn, home of the Frost Giants and last known place of the sword. They encounter the men-hating Valkyries. In the original Nordic and Marvel Comics mythos, the Valkyries determine which slain warriors enter Valhalla, the eternal resting place for the most noble and valorous. But in Thor: Tales of Asgard, director Liu and screenwriter Johnson disastrously re-imagine these glorious creations as Norse Amazons, offering yet more stereotypical female characterizations into a genre already riddled with them. And because one negative stereotype is never enough, the filmmakers further demean the story by making the only dark-skinned character, the very obvious big bad guy. Despite those flaws, the excellent animation, quality fight sequences, and the enjoyable banter manage to deliver an entertaining diversion. Just don't focus overly long on the stupidity.

Bulletproof Coffin, Written by David Hine, Art by Shaky Kane (Image)
Bulletproof Coffin

Steve Neuman cleans houses of the recently dead. When he uncovers a collection of freshly printed Golden Nugget comics, Steve knows something is not right. Nearly 50 years ago in the early 60s, Big 2 Publishing acquired the rights to all Golden Nugget publications, promptly canceling all the titles. Things get even weirder when elderly versions of the Golden Nugget heroes appear, telling him that he must help them find the Creators -- David Hine and Shaky Kane -- to save the future and their existence. In this clever bit of metafiction, Hine and Kane introduce an entire comic book publisher and heroes, complete with prose historical articles and letters pages. The contemporary tales of Steve's adventures intertwine seamlessly with the freshly created, previously unknown Golden Nugget stories. These new tales reveal key elements of Steve's story and a possible dark future. Kane's graphic stylings nearly perfectly mimic the comics of the late 50s and early 60s, while maintaining a unique vision. Same goes for the prolific writer Hine. The action-filled, thought-provoking Bulletproof Coffin barrels along at quick pace, culminating in a creative and satisfying conclusion.

Buffalo Speedway Volume 2 by Yehudi Mercado (SuperMercado)
Buffalo Speedway Volume 2

Mercado continues his humorous chronicle into one day of the Turbo Pizza delivery drivers. On June 17th, 1994, the Rockets battle the Knicks in the NBA Finals, America hosts the World Cup, and O.J. Simpson leads the LAPD on a slow speed chase, combining to spawn a near perfect storm of pizza delivery as all 3 million people in Houston stay home to watch the events unfold on TV. Following the bizarre happenings of the initial volume, things get even stranger as sex, violence, explosions, and jail enter into the mix. Amidst all the chaos, oddity, and laughs, Mercado delivers a surprisingly realistic portrait of the relationships between the drivers. (I know. In the 80s, I spent a Houston summer as a pizza delivery driver. My experience sans the sex, violence, explosions, and jail mirrors Mercado's account.) The excellent cartoony art combined with effective storytelling and a comprehensive understanding of 90s pop culture further propel the enjoyable Buffalo Speedway. While accurately compared to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Clerks, and Do the Right Thing, Mercado's unique creation bears only a superficial resemblance to the latter grouping, offering a superior product in terms of quality and content. As with Volume 1, the tale ends midstream with a cliffhanger, but Volume 3 promises an epic conclusion.

(Special thanks to Austin Books & Comics for the loaners.)


Copyright © 2011 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century. He can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.


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