Weekly Reading Round-Up : 01/19/2020 – 01/25/2020

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Just when you thought you’d probably seen the last of this column — anyway, it’s not that I’ve been missing my usual Wednesday comic shop pick-ups, it’s more a case of nothing standing out all that much. Which, in fairness, is also the case with a couple of the books this week, but I wanted to get “back in the saddle” with doing these Round-Ups every seven days, so now’s as good a time as ever, right? We’ve got one first issue and three last issues to look at this week, although it turns out that two of those last issues are actually anything but, which we’ll deal with in due course —

Guardians Of The Galaxy #1 marks yet another re-launch of Marvel’s premier cosmic super-team, this time courtesy of mega-popular Immortal Hulk scribe Al Ewing and artist Juann Cabal. This one referred back to events of the…

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Gary Panter Fans, Your “Wildest Dream” Has Come True

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Comprehensive in scope and immersive in its presentation, Brooklyn’s finest comic shop, Desert Island, has done a bang-up job in putting together Wildest Dream, a compact little hardcover collection of Gary Panter’s sketchbook drawings from 1973 through 2018 printed (at the tail end of last year) in suitably garish neon purple on paper that either is, or may as well be, newsprint — but, as with all things Panter, it’s as much an intriguing puzzle as it is a legit piece of art history.

And now that I’ve “spoiled” this review right from the outset, let’s examine why this book will appeal to more than just the hardest of hard-core Panter fans and troglodyte “process junkies” —

By and large the “running order” here appears chronological, but so many pages are undated that it’s hard to say for sure, and Panter’s attention has always been split in so many…

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“Floppy” — But Solid

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

As a follow-up to his breakthrough 2018 graphic novel The Winner, illustrator supreme Karl Stevens has chosen a curious project — a deliberate throwback to the “solo anthology” comics of the 1990s, his new (-ish, the first issue came out late last year) Kilgore series, Floppy, is both nostalgic on its face and self-aware in the extreme, as the cover shown above makes plain. So — are we looking at a purely tongue-in-cheek exercise here?

If you know Stevens, you already know that’s not the case, and even though this can strictly be classified as an autobio work, it ventures into the surreal with enough gusto to even call that easy categorization at least temporarily into question. Our guy Karl seems, then, to be looking to cleave more to the template and maybe even the temperament of, say, Peep Show or Yummy Fur, but without anchoring himself…

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A Tetsunori Tawaraya Double-Bill : “Dimensional Flats”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Disease and sickness are constant themes of Japanese cartoonist Tetsunori Tawaraya’s work — the worlds he depicts are mutated hellscapes populated by mutated hellspawn, after all, but even still : this one takes the concept to literal extremes. And the “this one” I refer to is 2018’s Dimensional Flats, a harrowing, fast-paced, hallucinogenic nightmare that’s freakishly funny, richly-rendered, and downright agaonizingly imaginative.

Our ostensible “hero” in this story is one Dr. Horsey, a kind of “medical cop” who battles mutated viral infections with a “disease ray” and has accrued to himself a loyal group of fellow “officers” who would go to to any lengths to assist him in his germ-killing — and good thing for that, because that’s exactly what they’ll have to do when a visit to an afflicted patient living in a kind of surreal tower block ends up transporting the poor doctor to an…

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A Tetsunori Tawaraya Double-Bill : “Crystal Bone Drive”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I would never consider myself a “jaded” reader by any stretch of the imagination, but in point of fact there really is very little I haven’t seen done before in comics. I may have seen it (whatever the “it” we’re talking about is) done better or done worse, but that truly “out of left field” reading experience that one at least occasionally yearns for? It simply doesn’t happen for me all that often.

And then I came across Tetsunori Tawaraya.

The Tokyo native who spent some time in the US playing in various west coast punk bands before returning home has the kind of imagination that is best described as utterly unique, and the sheer artistic skill to bring his dystopian, hallucinatory visions to life on the page, but there are plenty of cartoonists you can say that about — what sets his work apart, besides its subject matter, is…

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“Opal Fruit” Is More Than A Little Delicious

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Another one I’m a little bit “late to the party” in terms of getting around to reviewing is cartoonist Kat Rose’s self-published 2016 mini Opal Fruit, a challenging, bemusing, sometimes bewildering 10-page assemblage of figure (for the most part) drawings that cleverly uses its own simplicity to obfuscate what appears, after multiple “read”-throughs, to actually be a tightly-structured “suite” designed to elicit a particular set of reactions and interpretations not unlike, say, Nick Thorburn’s much longer — though equally wordless — Penguins. There’s one key difference, though : whereas Thorburn’s constructs hew much closer to a linear start-to-finish “strip” configuration, this is a legit “free-for-all” that follows a rhythm, to be sure, but nothing so conventional as an actual structure.

That makes it perplexing at times, I’ll grant you, but it also means it’s never less than thoroughly intriguing and engrossing — provided you’re the sort…

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We Left Avant-Garde In The Dust A Long Time Ago : Diana Chu’s “Rodin Du Jour”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Does great art need to have point? Or, more precisely, does it need to have a point beyond an artist exploring an idea by visual means — for its own sake, theirs, or both?

Diana Chu’s 2017 short (as in eight pages) self-published mini, Rodin Du Jour, certainly has me asking those questions — and it’s had me asking them for some time, truth be told, hence this review coming along so “late in the game,” as the expression goes. I offer no excuse beyond “it took me some time to figure out how to approach this work,” but hey — does it even qualify as an “excuse” when you’re telling the truth?

Saying Chu’s ‘zine has a “premise” might be putting things in overly-concrete terms, but as a visual experiment it definitely has a specific set of self-imposed rules in place : she uses each two-page spread to…

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