Laughing Death in the Bony Face, John Buys Comics

Okay, maybe not death. Intense discomfort, though. See, this week marks the point in the Nova Scotia Summer when the average temperature started being at or over thirty degrees (Celsius. That's right suckers: METRIC SYSTEM) and that means two things for ol' Johnathan. 1) Wanting to do absolutely nothing at all times because otherwise I will overheat and die like a cheap laptop. 2) Restraining myself from erupting in murderous rage every time someone equates higher temperatures with better times, especially when you can tell that they will keep doing it no matter how hot it actually gets. 

I know that someone from a more southerly place will pipe up and tell me that I am being foolish, but I swear I'm not. If I lived somewhere tropical then I would be an invalid. My family would have to wheel me around in a Victorian bath chair and would eventually go bankrupt from the ruinous expense of hiring kindly old ladies to moisten my feverish brow. I'd probably end up donated to the local medical school.

In short, I'm hot, so the following will read very oddly because I started writing it on my air-conditioned lunch break and am finishing it in my hot hot living room. Enjoy!

Oh! Also: t-shirt contest ends tomorrow, so get a comment in saying that you're entering before then!

Casanova: Luxuria I

I came late to the Casanova party. Like, this year late. I definitely don’t own anything near all of the original not-quite-black-and-white issues. Ergo, this is just perfect for me.

But here I am talking like everyone knows what the hell Casanova is. Sorry about that. Casanova is the tale of Casanova Quinn, thief and son of spymaster Cornelius Quinn. Casanova is kidnapped to another dimension by the mysterious Newman Xeno of criminal organization W.A.S.T.E., there to take the place of his more altruistic and deceased double and thereby worming his way into E.M.P.I.R.E., his father’s spy organization. So, uh, extremely complex but in a very good way. It’s like… if Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a kid that was equal parts James Bond, Batman and young Keith Richards, and they fought international terrorism together, but Batbond Richards was secretly working for Hank Scorpio, head of COBRA. And also about a hundred other insane things are happening AND it’s a well-told narrative rather than the horrendous mess I just made it sound like. Twice.

The big news about this reprinting is the addition of colour to the equation. Casanova used to have exactly one colour per page, applied in extremely cool ways. I guess that it’s up to the individual to gauge whether they prefer the new scheme to the old, but I like it. The old colours still predominate, and some elements – say, creepy big-head Fabula Berserko, who gets a yeechy green flesh tone – are definitely enhanced. So hooray for Cris Peter and her magic pigments!

Hit Monkey No. 1

This picks up from the one-shot that came out earlier this year and features the continuation of the Hit-Monkey’s quest for vengeance against the people responsible for killing his tribe. Oh, and now the monkey is haunted by the ghost of the assassin who was killed in the last issue and together they are going after the leadership of a conspiracy against the Japanese government.

This book is seriously pretty weird, but in the best of ways. I'm sincerely glad that a haunted assassin ape is a part of the Marvel Universe. If this is a just and fair cosmos and in the unlikely event of another Marvel/DC crossover I eagerly look forward to the Hit-Monkey/Detective Chimp teamup.

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites HC

Okay, so it came out last week, so sue me. I flirted with letting this one pass me by because I already have all of the individual issues and the Dark Horse Book of… series, but ultimately I could not resist. And then I got it as a birthday present (thanks, Cal!).

And who could resist this, really? It's a Dark Horse hardcover, which means that it looks fantastic and reminds you of something from your childhood - I really have no examples to back this up but still swear that it is true. In any case, having the four original stories at a larger size is a big plus, as it lets you see even more of Jill Thompson's fantastic art. 

I think that Beasts of Burden is quite possibly my favourite new thing in the last ten years or so, which is especially impressive in light of the fact that "dogs and cats fight the supernatural" is a plot that could have gone so very wrong. Thanks heavens for the Dorkin/Thompson team. (Gratuitous link to free online Beasts of Burden stories)

Ghostopolis - Another book that's been out for a while, kind of. At least, I saw it in bookstores about a month ago but it just arrived at the comic shop. Anyway: Doug TenNapel tells the tale of a terminally ill boy who is accidentally banished to the afterlife and the washed-up ghost hunter who has to get him back. Oh, and there are crazy insect guys and a ghost tyrant and quite a lot of mummies. As is common in a TenNepel comic, it's pretty much equal parts heartwarming and super strange. As is uncommon, it's in colour!

Hellboy: The Storm No. 1 - New Hellboy comic! And there's a recap of recent Hellboy activities, so that this is... not really a good jumping-on point. But hey, if you stopped reading after Conqueror Worm and are way too lazy to pick up a couple of trades? Maybe then.

Batman: Odyssey No. 1 - Neal Adams does some Batman. This is one of those ones that I'm writing in the heat, so I'll just wait until issue 2 to weigh in. In short: a lot happens, and I like it. Batman has some guns. Multiple Man-Bats? Well, huh.

Kill Shakespeare No. 3 – I am pleased to report that this is still great. The only problem with this book is that I feel like the biggest nerd ever when I'm reading it, all giggling about Shakespeare jokes in a comic book. I feel like someone who likes wrestling comics is going to beat me up.

Secret Six No. 23 – Here is a pro tip for anyone who is interested in hunting a bit of the ol’ “most dangerous game”: if you are thinking about using a homicidal mercenary who has gone toe-to-toe with Batman (let alone three-plus) as your prey, try to reconsider. It won’t go well.

Chimichanga No. 3 – Eric Powell is just plain good at being weird on paper. This heart-warming tale of a little bearded girl and the bizarre creature that she hatched out of an egg going up against the witch-inspired machinations of Big Pharma is about medium-rare, if I may use the meat-cooking scale to represent comic book weirdness.

Ruts & Gullies: Une histoire voyage super cool sur les Canadiens-fran├žais en Russie!

This brand new little paperback from Conundrum Press has brightened my week. I was getting mopey thinking about how I won’t get to travel anywhere this summer, except to and from work. I’ve spent the past few years touring a lot with my band, but now I’m a real working lady, and I’m getting antsy for a road trip that won’t come.

Then Ruts & Gullies reminded me that I can travel through the magic of books! Books! Each page draws you into an imaginary world that’s way better than say, actually going to Brooklyn!

But for real, travel stories are great for satisfying an adventure-craving when you’re stuck at home. Ruts and Gullies chronicles French-Canadian cartoonist Philippe Girard and his cartoonist pal, Jimmy Beaulieu as they travel from Quebec City to St. Petersburg, Russia for a comics arts festival.

While significant trips are often imbued with a sense of escape or freedom or emotional catharsis, Girard’s is especially so. He heads to Russia on the heels of losing a close friend to cancer and when he returns to Canada he’ll undergo a semi-serious surgery, so his travel is bookended by significant and scary events.

However, Ruts & Gullies doesn’t head into super self-reflective territory. The events in Girard’s life just give the reader insight as to why he would go to country everyone tells him is crime-ridden and impoverished and all around, generally scary. He’s been given a sense a bravery or maybe carefree-ness that comes with being so close to death.

But, like I said, Ruts & Gullies isn't weighty— it's a fascinating and joyful read. It’s along the same lines as the amazing Guy Delisle’s Shenzhen and Pyongyang—interesting and funny tidbits about a people and country that are relatively unknown to most Canadians, without getting too “aren’t other cultures hilarious?”

Comics are a perfect medium for Girard’s story since, like most travel stories, it’s less of a straightforward narrative and more scenes of interesting moments in Russia: seeing the remnants of communist culture, trying weird new food, lost passports, public transit mishaps, cool new friends, etc.

No kidding, I really did feel that Girard took me with him on thrilling trip to an awesomely strange destination, and I didn’t even have to leave Scrapperton at home.