Due to recent changes in reading and spending habits, I pick up a majority of my weekly comics reading from the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The Columbus Metropolitan Library has a surprisingly extensive collection of comics, and has been an invaluable resource for keeping up on the comics world while trying to keep my costs intact.
As part of my 2015 New Year's Resolutions, I'm trying to write more columns and features to the Outhouse to make up for my decreased presence on the news side of the site (sorry, Jude.) What better way to start that than by writing about the comics I read on a weekly basis while promoting a fantastic local resource? This column will be part review/part rambling/part documentation of what I've read this year. I'll also include my "request/to read" lists, so you can follow along at home if you'd like.
Shutter Vol. 1 by Joe Keatinge, Leila Del Duca, Owen Gieni and Ed Brisson (published by Image Comics in 2014)
Set in a world where the extraordinary is commonplace, Shutter follows Kate Kristopher, a young, retired explorer/writer still dealing with the loss of her adventurer father, as she gets dragged back into the world of adventure when her family's secrets come back to haunt her. The comic has a lot of good elements, like a multifaceted main character, a fun sidekick character and a couple of neat twists. However, like a lot of other 2014 Image books, I feel like Shutter suffers from trying "too hard" to be unique, frantically filling its pages with any oddball or fantastic character idea just to show how different it is from other comics.
I really enjoyed Del Duca's artwork in Shutter, and the comic gave her plenty of big sequences to go nuts on. I think Del Duca's strongest artwork are the panels and pages in which she's able to show just how crazy the world of the comic is. Since the comic is so fast paced at times, I thought that the creative team effectively laid out their pages in such a way to give Del Duca plenty of room to do her thing while keeping the plot moving. Many of Shutter's best pages (such as the example below) feature a large panel with two or three smaller panels overlaid on top to show buildup and reaction.
This isn't a revolutionary panel layout technique by any stretch, but I think it's well utilized in the comic. Shutter also uses a couple of other types of panel layouts at the beginning of chapters to fill in the backstory and worldbuild a bit. There's a two page sequence in the beginning of issue 3 that parodies Richard Scarry that was especially hilarious and subversive. Those two pages (the first of which is below) are probably the best two pages of the comic, in my opinion.
After a couple issues, Shutter calms down a little bit and becomes a pretty good comic. The comic's worth reading for Del Duca's artwork alone, and I think the comic could really turn into something special depending on how long it runs.
The Woods Vol. 1: The Arrow by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas (published by Boom Studios in 2014)
What happens when a high school gets transported to a strange alien planet filled with dangerous monsters and alien artifacts? That's the basic premise of The Woods, a teen sci-fi/horror book written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Michael Dialynas. The Woods is a solid read, one that relies a bit too heavily on established sci-fi and teen drama tropes, but contains enough character development and plot to keep the reader from getting bored.
The Woods is at its core a teen drama, and the cast of the book is populated with characters that are both diverse and relatable. Tynion has a knack for writing relatable flawed teens, and I enjoyed the character interactions between all six of his main characters. I liked that the teenage characters of The Woods weren't defined by any one character trait or personality quirk, something that a lot of teen comics are guilty of doing. Unfortunately, The Woods' adult cast are about as predictable as they come, complete with the standard ineffective principal and evil gym teacher acting in exactly how principals and evil gym teachers tend to act.
Dialynas's artwork in The Woods is solid, but a little underwhelming. His style reminds me a bit of Scott Kolins without the grit, and there were a few action panels with perspective and proportions that felt a bit off. I did like the character designs in The Woods though and I felt it was easy to keep track of all the different characters. Oh, and I thought Dialynas effectively showed how violent and dangerous the world of The Woods was without relying on too much gratuitous gore.
I enjoyed The Woods and I'm excited to see where the book heads in the coming months. I think The Woods is on par with a lot of Image's current offerings, and I think that's exactly what Boom! Studios wanted. If Boom! continues to produce comics of the same quality as The Woods, we could see some sort of "creator-owned comics war" brewing, which can only be good for creators and fans.
In the "To Read Pile"
Journalism by Joe Sacco
Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green
Nobrow 9 by various creators
Morbius the Living Vampire by Joe Keatinge
The Stuff of Legend: Book 1 by Mike Raicht
Captain America Vol. 1-2 by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.
Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles Vol. 1-3 (IDW) by Kevin Eastman and Tom Waitz
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
Superman: Earth One Vol. 2 by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis
Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 1-2 by Stan Sakai
Displacement by Lucy Knisley
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Vol. 1
Young Avengers Vol. 1 by Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Requested but Not Picked Up Yet
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Other Series Currently Being Read via Library
Soul Eater by Atsushi Okubo
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata