Comics Of Note

Fantagraphics has been pitching its new quarterly anthology Mome as the successor to Zap, Arcade, Weirdo, Raw, and Drawn & Quarterly—the premier alt-comics showcases of the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s, respectively. But it's really too soon to call Mome anything more than a much-needed packaging of this decade's ascendant cartoonist generation. Like a lot of the current new wave of comics, the first Mome contains an overabundance of impenetrable art comics and insular emo comics (including a disappointing tossed-off story from the usually reliable Jeffrey Brown), but the book's highlights are singular. Martin Cendreda's moody one-pagers, Gabrielle Bell and Jonathan Bennett's rich slices of slacker life, and the first part of what promises to be another rhythmically precise, painfully real long-form story by Paul Hornschemeier all show off the upstarts' skillful draftsmanship and deep feelings...

Every issue of Street Angel reads like the end of a five-issue plot arc; the skateboarding heroine uses her incredible kung-fu to fight demons, ninja, pirate conquistadors, evil robots, and mad scientists, but her stories always seem to start somewhere near the middle, then barrel wildly toward the end. It's like dessert with no vegetables beforehand, though writers Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca treat the whole thing with an impressive straight-faced sincerity that utterly belies its comic-parody sensibility. The silly characters (the hapless, name-tag-wearing ninja, blaxploitation superhero Afrodisiac, Irish astronaut Cosmick, etc.) would fit right into an episode of The Tick, but the stories in the first compilation, Street Angel Vo1. 1: The Princess Of Poverty (Slave Labor) treat homeless, orphaned, cranky 12-year-old Jesse Sanchez, a.k.a. Street Angel, like any angsty modern young superhero, and they even manage some poignancy on top of the rampant giddy nonsense...

Ever since Frank Miller revived Batman with the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, nearly every comic he's written or drawn has applied eye-catching style to the kind of nihilistic moral decay that plays well with cynical fanboys. In theory, Miller and artist Jim Lee meant their new DC series All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder to be an exercise in pure heroics, but the first issue mainly runs through the well-known high points of Robin's origin story, while adding pointless cheesecake sketches of Vicki Vale, a few scattered profanities, and a rote, sloppy version of Miller's multiple-perspective first-person pulp soliloquies. So far, it's another rusty, dull effort from one of the industry's most important creators...

Rick Geary's graphic history series "A Treasury Of Victorian Murder" never disappoints, and he's especially sharp when he tackles murdered presidents. The Fatal Bullet—a dissection of the James Garfield assassination—remains the peak of Geary's efforts to date, but he comes up with a close second in The Murder Of Abraham Lincoln (NBM), a strikingly drawn and even revelatory look at the conspiracy that brought down The Great Emancipator. Geary contrasts John Wilkes Booth's ambition and criminal genius with Lincoln's post-war fatalism, and he concludes the book with a long, moving intertwining of Booth's flight from the law and the winding path of Lincoln's funeral train. Even with his typically removed style, Geary captures a pivotal moment in American history with full attention to its angst and inevitability...

Top Shelf made its name publishing graphic novels from alternative cartoonists. So what's it doing putting out The Surrogates, a science-fiction miniseries, and one with a gun on the cover, no less? It's not quite the departure it appears at first. Creator Robert Venditti has imagined a mid-21st-century world extrapolated from the distance and identity-blurring of the Internet, and housed it in a police procedural. In the intriguing first issue (of five), two cops investigate the destruction—or is that murder?—of a pair of androids sent out to experience the world while their owners stay home. Venditti slowly eases readers into a world fleshed out by Brett Weldele's moody, future-noir art...

Writer-artist Ursula Vernon posts a new free one-page installment of her endearingly quirky black-and-white web-comic Digger every Tuesday and Thursday at graphicsmash.com. But the extensive story to date is only available to website subscribers, or via Digger: Volume 1 (Sofawolf Press). The backstory is both rewarding and highly necessary; Vernon's tangled tale of an engineer wombat who stumbles into a world full of tribal warrior hyenas and oracular slugs sounds like grist for a children's picture book, but it rapidly takes on an adult gravity and complexity that doesn't in any way hinder its charming, wry, thoroughly unique humor.

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