I also like the Kaiju swears

Kaijumax Season Two: The Seamy Underbelly by Zander Cannon. Oni Press, 2017. 9781620103968.

I had to quit watching Orange is the New Black after a season and a half — I decided I was too sensitive to watch a prison drama. I was constantly worried about what would happen to the characters. It turns out that I needed the inmates to be the giant city-stomping monsters of Kaijumax Season One instead of human women to really enjoy it. Season two of Kaijumax means I don’t have to watch The Wire: Electrogor escapes and goes on the lam, hiding out with other criminal monsters, trying to get back to his kids.

Cannon writes in the afterword that he didn’t start out intending to write social satire. He’s careful to keep the real-life parallels vague so he can write an homage to monster, prison, and crime films (and be thought-provoking, too) without comparing a particular group of people to Godzilla. It’s a delicate balance and he pulls it off. I’m already looking forward to season three.

(And if you already like Kaijumax, check out the Anne Hathaway movie Colossal. It’s really good.)

Clones In Space

    

Prophet Volume 1: Remission by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, Marian Churchland, Emma Rios. Image, 2012. 9781607066118. Contains Prophet #21 – 26.

Prophet Volume 2: Brothers by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, Fil Barlow, Helen Maier, Boo Cook. Image, 2013. 9781607067498. Contains Prophet #27 – #31.

Prophet Volume 3: Empire by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Malachi Ward, Matt Sheean, Zarchary Baldus, Aaron Conley, Fil Barlow, Jim Rugg, Bayard Baudoin. Image, 2014. 9781607068587. Contains Prophet #32, #34 – #38.

Prophet Volume 4: Joining by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Ron Wimberly, Giannis Milonogiannis, Dave Taylor, Ron Wimberly, Matt Sheehan, Malachi Ward, Farel Dalrmple, Bayard Baudoin, Joseph Bergin III, James Stokoe, Aaron Conley, Lando, Grim Wilkins, Sandra Lanz, Onta, Ron Ackins, Tom Parkinson-Morgan, Gael Bertrand, Rob Liefield, Addison Duke, Ludroe, Xurxo G Penalta, Amy Claire. Image, 2015. 9781632152541. Contains Prophet #39 – #45 & Prophet: Strikefile #1 – #2.

Prophet Volume 5: Earth War by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Ron Ackins, Grim Wilkins, Sandra Lanz. Image, 2017. 9781632158369. Contains Prophet Earth War #1 – #6.

This is a 5-part graphic novel science fiction epic that doesn’t stop to explain its strangeness (much). This series was part of a relaunch / reimagining of comics characters created by Rob Leifeld in the 1990s, but that’s largely irrelevant to this series. There are some appearances by characters from his other books. If you were a comics geek back then like I was, when collectors bought as many copies of every first issue as we could afford, your knowledge may enrich the experience (if you read the books instead of just sealing them in your bunker), but it’s not really necessary. Graham and Roy and the other artists create a richly weird world that is complete in itself and really worth visiting.

10,000 years in the future, the remnants of the Earth Empire stir. Clones of the superhero John Prophet awake in creches across the stars, and on a much changed Earth. They are adapted to their environments and purposes, and sometimes unrecognizable as part of the same genetic line: warriors (tailed and not), brutes, giants, pleasure models, and more. Rising from his own hibernation to once again stop the Empire is Great Grandfather John Prophet, a cloned warrior who once found freedom and love only to have it snatched away from him. This John goes in search of his allies: a robot, a cyborg, and a vegetable being that he calls friends. And then they race to stop a fallen brain mother of the Empire (think a psychic old woman with a giant brain and atrophied body) intent on spreading both her control and her brand of red misery across the stars once more. It all comes down to a forgotten satellite circling a much changed Earth, and a fight over whether our universe should continue or not.

This future is full of technology that would weird out David Cronenberg: organic starships and environmental suits; ambulatory, intelligent plants; ancient robots and other rotting military tech; human meat farms, gods the size of dwarf planets, hints at vast solar system-wide ecosystems, crystal beings, hives, and jellies that can do almost anything. But the best weapon is one that’s reliable, the knife / cleaver that the Prophet clones favor.

The art is simply fantastic. Different artists tell different characters’ stories, adding their own strange twists but making the clone narratives easy to follow. And the end of each book features a visual “script” by Graham, done in thumbnails with notes for dialogue / words — a fascinating look into a comics writing process completely unlike mine. Of the characters, my favorite is probably Grandfather Prophet’s friend Diehard. Its story starts as its pieces are gathered from across the stars (they call out to each other, and provide a reason for the other characters to tour this weird cosmos). It was once a cyborg, but is now a machine trying to regain a bit of its lost humanity by re-installing organs (including a heart) in itself. There’s a chapter in the middle that is mostly flashbacks to Diehard’s 10,000+ year life, which includes when he had a family, it’s beautifully done.

Teenage Rebellion Is Fun

Joyride Volume 1: Ignition by Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Marcus To, Irma Kniivila. BOOM! 2016. 9781608869510. 112pp. Contains Joyride #1 – #4

In the future, Earth is ruled by a controlling Triumvirate that speaks of the evil that “lurks in the darkness of space.” They’ve built a shell around the planet to keep humans safe (or is it just to keep them under control)?

Uma and Dewydd have a daring escape plan. During their flight across the dark side of the moon to hitch a ride with a passing alien, a young soldier (Catrin) tries to stop them, but gets pulled into the alien starship as well. (Minor spoilers ahead). The villainous alien plans to make them slaves, but that doesn’t work out for him, and by the end of the first chapter the teens have their own spaceship and the freedom to head for the stars. Their only problems: Uma is a little crazy, Dewydd and Catrin both have secrets, and the Triumvirate sends its best soldiers (including Dewydd’s brother) after them.

Marcus To’s art is always upbeat, and here it seems to feed on the joy of teen rebellion. It reminds me of Mark Waid’s run on Legion of the Super Heroes, and that it’s time to dig up the issues of Joe Casey’s uncollected teenage superhero masterpiece The Intimates from my longboxes.

Whendunit

No True Echo by Gareth P. Jones. Amulet Books, 2015. 9781419707841.

Decades in the future, a retired police officer’s memories of a gruesome murder are slipping away, so she revisits the valley where it happened, now a museum to the development of echo technology.

In the present day, the reality of Eddie’s life in the valley starts to show some cracks. First, his English teacher seems to have forgotten he offered Eddie a ride home. Then he seems surprised that Eddie’s mom is dead, even though they talked about it only last week. A new girl at school is asking a lot of questions about that same teacher. She won’t tell Eddie why because it “violates protocol.” When he finds her spying on the teacher’s house, she doesn’t even have to break in: she writes something in a notebook, puts it in her pocket, and moments later a motorcyclist arrives and hands her a key.

I was sucked into this book from the first chapter. It’s an elegantly structured story about a technology that allows something like time travel and travel between alternate realities. Most stories like these involve the person doing the traveling, but this one is about the people whose lives are disrupted by it. I loved the characters and the hints of their relationships changing in various futures. No True Echo is as compelling and well-drawn as the time travel books by Connie Willis, and left me thinking about how we would be different in different circumstances.

Graphic Novellas

These two graphic novels are short and kid friendly but would appeal to older comics fans looking for light, fun stories, too.

Night Air by Ben Sears. Koyama Press, 2016. 9781927668290.

A futuristic story about a boy in goggles and his friend, a robot. They’re on the run from poker players who don’t like losing (or the fact that the kid was cheating). On a train to Apple City to search the junk shops, a hooded stranger tells them about an old castle full of treasure on the outskirts of town. The key he gives them fits the giant padlock on the door. Inside they meet treasure hunters (now cursed) and the weird couple collecting them.

The book’s amazing colors would have attracted me even if the quote from John Martz on the back cover hadn’t already.

Elf Cat In Love by James Kochalka. Retrofit / Big Planet Comics, 2016. 9781940398501.

This story, on the other hand, is black and white, but it captures all the fun Kochalka can have telling a weird story even better than the full color books he’s been doing recently. In fact I haven’t felt like he was having this good a time since Peanut Butter & Jeremy, which is still my favorite book by him.

Elf Cat and (a magic, talking) Tennis Ball go in search of the fabled Ice Sword but find a frozen foot-long hotdog. Tennis Ball wants to know if Elf Cat is now going to go save a princess? (He’s not.) And also if he thinks she’s pretty. (Tennis Ball is a girl.) Then a gigantic princess shows up and eats them both. And that’s just in the first chapter.

Robopony

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale. Amulet Books, 2017. 9781419721281.

I’m trying to read more ebooks, especially review copies. I’m out of space. To keep a book I need to get rid of one (or more if it’s thick). And that’s not counting the piles and boxes and books I have hidden in corners.

But when I see physical advanced reader copies of graphic novels at library conferences, I always pick them up. Hale’s new one is a perfect example of why. The finished book is going to be two color throughout, a combination of yellows and black ink washes. (There’s a page of finished art in the front of the book as an example.) Most of the rest of the ARC is finished line art for the book. I know it might not be as popular with young readers, but it makes Hale’s excellent line art, and in particular his old school textures, stand out. The real treat though are the incredibly loose sketch pages. Hale’s primitive, unfinished drawings border on scribbles, yet they show faces, emotions, and posture. Despite how unfinished they are, they’re genius. And together with the other parts of the book they really show the stages of putting a graphic novel together. Grab an ARC from your librarian friend who went to ALA Midwinter in Atlanta.

And just so I’m not remiss, the story is pretty cool, too. In a dystopian future, weird aliens hunt for the world’s technology and metal. When the find it they blow “bubbles” around it that carry off the resources and turn any humans in the way to dust. There’s a caravan of motorized vehicles whose human inhabitants stay on the move, avoiding zones full of aliens as they hunt for technology and information to preserve. But after three young people from the caravan discover a huge cache of hidden robots, including the robotic horse on the cover, the aliens swarm, the teens are separated from their people, and the horse (and a feral human they meet along the way) may be their only hope of staying ahead of the alien horde.

If Hale’s name is familiar to you, you’ve probably read some of his history comics or, like me, you loved Rapunzel’s Revenge.

My Little Motorcycle Talks To Me

MOTRO Volume One by Ulises Fariñas, Eric Freitas, and Ryan Hill. Oni Press, 2017. 9781620104088. 112pp. Contains MOTRO #1 – #4.

A young man with the strength of 10 named Motro lives in a post-apocalyptic world where vehicles speak in images, including the friend who shares his cave, a small wheeliebeast (motorcycle). Heading into a village to trade, he finds it under attack by gun-wielding marauders. He takes them on with his fists and some pepper-root. That’s just the first bit.

Later, working as a gravedigger to clear a battlefield, Motro finds a magical lens that reflects the future. What he and others see gets him adopted by the Captain of the United Brothers Army, and sets him at odds with the Captain’s biological son, Rockmaster. There are fights, reptoids, frog wizards, adventures, and battles as Motro grows into the leader/warrior he’s destined to become.

Everything is drawn in a pleasant style that really flows, story-wise — the characters all look a bit squat and startling compared to average, overly anatomical comics, the same way Frank Quitely’s art did the first time I saw it, in JLA: Earth 2. And it feels like a weird cross between Heat Vision and Jack, The Road Warrior, and One-Punch Man. (That make sense to anyone other than me?)