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Hinterkind #1 Review

Published December 23, 2013 by gossipzoo

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Hinterkind is a brand new Vertigo book that has all the right fanboys talking about it, so I decided to check it out and bring you my thoughts on the first issue. Here goes…

I have no idea what a Hinterkind is (nor what to do if you find one growing on your arse), but the cover, an arresting, fantasy-like mural that looked like the poster for a really great imaginary movie, totally drew me in. It was exotic, exciting and cleverly structured.

Inside, this book turned out to be a neatly constructed modern fairy tale, or else the epic meeting of a post-apocalyptic bildungsroman with a refreshingly shallow teen adventure story, lushly illustrated by a wonderful penciller by the name of Francesco Trifogli.

Somewhere along the line, I also realized that this story was not unlike a headlong collision between the Americana of Mark Twain and the antiquainted superstitions, folklore and ballads of Europe. It was, to some degree, the barebones DNA of American fiction, displayed via that uniquely American art form, the comic book.

Within a couple of introductory pages, Trifogli majestically rendered an overgrown New York City skyline with an impossible tangle of trees, vines and seemingly limitless miles of verdant growth. It looked like a postcard from a dreamscape, an urban eco paradise of impossible promise, but there was something else lurking in there, something sinister…

Our heroes make their homes in Central Park, which is neatly switched from being the most nature-centric area of the city, to the most urban. This is what Hinterkind seems to be all about, taking your perceptions and twisting them into something unexpected…

Hiun

Trifogli handles character interaction well and with a subtlety that promises to become a staple of the series as time goes by. The 21st century fable aspects come out in small, unobtrusive ways (such as the crumbled, headless ‘Alice in Wonderland’ statue surrounded by overgrowth -another cleverly altered ‘postcard’ image).

Trifogli adds to the magical feel of the story with artwork that smoothes almost all background details into simple, minimalist (yet still expertly crafted) line work. Its as if the background is vanishing from the horizon, forcing us to focus only on the here and the now. The end result is whimsical and picturesque, perfectly complimenting the feel of the book.

The first chapter is called ‘Once Upon A Time’ and it’s obvious that writer Ian Edgington is building something exquisite. Edgington creates a world of vivid possibilities and populates it with four central characters, all of which are compelling and interesting.

We’re soon introduced to Prosper and her friend Angus, and the pair’s back-and-forth banter feels as comfortable and well worn as any conversation between two long-time friends. The dialogue is natural, not overly revealing and yet it still finds room to sizzle with snappy one-liners and deft character construction.

All too often, first issues suffer from an abundance of exposition-heavy dialogue, as well as forced naming of characters, but Edgington neatly sidesteps both of these common teething problems (my best friend’s name is Alex, yet I rarely ever use his name, we simply start our conversations in the middle, the same way that Prosper and Angus do here).

Angus Moment

In my opinion, the mystery that Edgington leaves in his narrative is nicely done. It makes the story feel unhurried and gives the characters (and their dialogue) ample room to breathe. This works especially well with Trifogli’s broad, panoramic panels, which, as often as not, feature small, stick-like figures dwarfed by the big wide world around them.

I don’t want to go down the ‘spoilers’ road with this, but suffice it to say that there’s one scene of a sexual nature that particularly stunned me (in a good way).

Embarrassingly often, comics’ approach to sexuality is juvenile at best (and utterly ham-fisted at worst). Every month, a seemingly endless parade of large-chested, long-legged sexpots are trotted out to (largely male) comic book readers, as we’re treated to the regular misadventures of stripper-superheroines with introductory pages that ‘introduce’ us to nothing more than a female protagonists…Um…assets. Misogyny in comics is a hot topic right now, but that doesn’t mean that sexuality in comics need be ignored.

OK, well, here comes a spoiler: Prosper walks in on Angus wanking to gay porn…Except that he also has a tail. Chew on that for a second and see what you make of it. A cunningly placed inset shows the porn literally obfuscated by the tail.

Keep chewing…

No further mention is made of the character’s sexual preference; in fact, the tail is all we really notice at first and it’s also the only thing that Prosper notices (or seemingly cares about).

It could also be said that I’ve just got a dirty mind; that he isn’t doing anything more incriminating than getting changed, or maybe getting out of the shower…

Well, OK. Where’s his towel? (That thing he’s covering his modesty with is a rag at best) and where’s his change of clothes? And, if he’s been friends with Prosper for so long, why has she never seen his ‘photo collection’ before? Whatever the case may be, the scene was drawn with subtlety, sensitivity and humour and Trifogli excellently handled the awkward, contorted posing of the embarrassed Angus.

…So yeah, he was wanking.

The tail works brilliantly as a euphemism for self-discovery, just like mutant powers do for growing up.

This is what I like about comics (no, not gay porn and/or masturbation. If I were coming out, I’d find a better way to do it than within a comics review, trust me). I’m talking about the juxtaposition of the mundane with the magical, the infusion of new meaning to everyday, commonplace objects and events, the addition of childlike wonder to a cloudy, rain-dappled Wednesday afternoon, it is an irresistible, heady concoction.

When Kyle Rayner, struggling artist-about-town headed into the alley behind a bar to take a piss and discovered a blue alien who gave him a power ring, he opened a door to a realm of impossibly rich fantasy. That scene thrilled me no end when I was a child. It was the lighting of a magical, dreamlike torch that fused reality with reality+.

Likewise, every time Peter Parker was late for a date with MJ, only to get attacked by The Green Goblin on his way to make it up to her, it was relatable because of the drama of the everyday, real-life event, but so addictively compelling because of the added flavour of a thrilling sky chase and the resulting dynamism of a four-colour fight scene

Hinterkind Zebra

Edgington pulls a masterstroke (no pun intended) by taking a wholly relatable scene (being walked in on whilst engaged in a ‘menage et une’), with another relatable experience (who hasn’t had a friend come out as gay?) and then adding a thoroughly unexpected, fantastical element (the tail). I kept thinking about it over and over, was I more shocked by the wanking, the pictures, or the tail? I had to admit, it was the tail.

Offices, public spaces, even traffic jams are all brazenly re-appropriated by Edgington and Trifogli and fashioned into objects of impossible wonder, high adventure, or immediate danger. Everything is shined up, re-designed and given back to us as something new and dreamlike.

Turned upside-down and twisted inside out, the world of The Hinterkind is a great feat of literary magic.

Like the familiar image of New York City, but now with added rainforest, this book pretty much distilled what I like about comics down to a fine and very pleasing point. Put simply, it’s about imagination. This comic looked great, read (literally) like a dream and somehow felt fresh and familiar at the same time. It was, in short, a joy to read.

By the way – it also has ravenous lion-tiger hybrid things and flesh-eating mutants. Just in case none of that other stuff floats your boat.

And no, I still don’t know what a Hinterkind is (or what you’re supposed to do if one of them walks in on you when you’re having a ‘J. Arthur’), but as soon as I find out, I’ll let ya know…

The post Hinterkind #1 Review appeared first on WhatCulture!.

Hawkeye Annual #1 Review

Published August 9, 2013 by gossipzoo

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Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye continues to be one of the most genius and consistently top quality comics Marvel is putting out. The last couple of issues have been resplendent – Hawkeye #11 aka the Pizza Dog issue, was easily one of the best comics of 2013, telling Pizza Dog’s story from his perspective. With minimal dialogue, the issue was done mostly in symbols that a dog would see the world through, designed to perfection by Eisner award winning artist David Aja.

Hawkeye #12 was another great issue as the comic took the perspective of Clint’s long lost brother, now a homeless man, and told the heartbreaking story of the tough childhood the two brothers shared and how Clint grew up with a chip on his shoulder. Hawkeye Annual #1 continues this trend of non-Hawkeye comics, or at least non-Clint Barton/Hawkeye-focused comics, as this issue is devoted to Kate Bishop/Hawkeye, Clint’s protege (I know, they’re both called Hawkeye, you’ll get used to it).

The extended issue takes in panels from #11 as we see what happens when Kate leaves Clint and heads west to California with Pizza Dog in tow. Fans of the series will be delighted to see artist Javier Pulido back to illustrate this issue – Pulido drew the superb two-part story “Tape” from issues #4 and #5. His gorgeous art blends wonderfully with Fraction as the pair tell yet another brilliant Hawkeye story.

Things go badly for Kate almost as soon as she sets foot in California as her rich father’s credit card is declined and she’s taken under the wing of a mysterious woman who seems oddly familiar… in fact the woman is connected to the last Hawkeye arc Pulido drew so if you’ve not read this series before, you might wonder at the woman’s motives – but if it encourages you to go back and read this series from the start, so much the better!

I love nearly everything about Pulido’s art but maybe the best thing he does in this issue is draw a mini-Kate head in each of her narrative boxes that alters depending on the script. So in one scene where she’s startled by what’s happening but can’t show it, the box-head will reflect that surprise, or when she’s thinking about making an Avengers app, the face looks questioning and somewhat bemused. These are small touches but make a big difference – it adds a tremendous amount of expression to the story that you don’t get to see as Pulido has chosen to draw a lot of this comic with the figures in silhouette.

Colourist Matt Hollingsworth continues to complement the artists on this title with his superb use of colour. The bright one-colour backgrounds and silhouettes, not to mention the clothes designs (Kate’s amazing hat!) and overall feel of the script, make this comic feel very retro, like a 60s movie. It’s really stylishly designed and doesn’t look like anything else Marvel is publishing at the moment – more than anything Hawkeye has felt less like a superhero book and more like something Fantagraphics or Top Shelf would put out, a decision that has to be applauded for Marvel for taking the chance of making one of their high profile titles look so different from their other big series.

There is some superhero action in this comic but the fact that Fraction has chosen to focus more on character development and story rather than forcing in arbitrary superhero brawls continues to work in favour of this book. It reads like a sophisticated yet playful comic and is accessible and can be enjoyed by readers from nearly all ages without talking down to older readers or alienating younger readers – an incredible feat to the full credit of the entire artistic team.

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Fraction’s writing has never been better than on this title. His Kate Bishop is an immensely likeable character, independently minded but self aware enough to know her dad has been funding her lavish lifestyle, she is a complicated young woman who actually sounds like a real young woman. She’s young and makes bad decisions but she’s good-hearted and clever enough to get out of a jam herself rather than play the damsel in distress. Pizza Dog as her sidekick is just the icing on the cake. The pacing of the storytelling combined with the characterisation makes reading this comic a really enjoyable and exciting experience.

Hawkeye Annual #1 – hopefully the first of many – is the comic of the week, by far. Outstanding quality from a creative team that is at the top of their game, Hawkeye continues to be one of the gems of Marvel’s publishing lineup. If you’ve somehow not picked up any comics in this series, I highly recommend picking up the first two trade paperbacks out now and picking up issues #11, 12 and this annual – they are among the best superhero comics available right now and you will have an absolute blast reading them. Hawkeye Annual #1 is a fun, smart, and, yes, artistic superhero comic – simply, a triumph! I wish all superhero comics were this good.

Hawkeye Annual #1 by Matt Fraction and Javier Pulido is out now

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Mara #1 Review – Brian Wood and Ming Doyle

Published May 13, 2013 by gossipzoo

Imagine a world obsessed with physical perfection and war, a world not far removed from today where society holds one thing and one thing only above all else – volleyball?

Yes, Brian Wood has given the comics world what we’ve all been hungering for since Roy of the Rovers ended, a volleyball comic set in the future. And, actually, it’s quite good.

Mara Prince is seventeen and the hottest celebrity on the planet thanks largely to her ability to hit a ball over a net better than anyone else. Her amazing ability wins her literally billions in cash and millions of fans worldwide – but not everyone is seemingly in adoration of her and by the end of this first issue Mara will become famous but for something other than volleyball.

Mara is worth reading for being a volleyball comic alone, but when the writer of DMZ, Northlanders and Conan is doing it, it becomes doubly interesting. Brian Wood writes a solid introductory issue to this futuristic world that doesn’t seem very futuristic-y when you go back and look at it. It definitely feels more advanced than today but looks actually quite plausible – that’s the world in 20 years? Yeah, maybe. It definitely doesn’t look like Star Trek.

That’s thanks in no small part to the brilliantly named art team of Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire who do a great job drawing and colouring the comic. I especially liked Doyle’s ability to render facial expressions so precisely and Bellaire’s colours to the city shots add to the otherworldly feel to it.

If you’re in the mood for something a bit different with good writing and art, check out Mara – an intriguingly unusual and highly creative comic.

The post Mara #1 Review – Brian Wood and Ming Doyle appeared first on WhatCulture!.

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