Friday, April 21, 2006


First, some notes on other things comics: I have the new Yeast Hoist, The Awake Field by Ron Rege Jr. It is thing of beauty. I hope to find the previous issue when it comes out (what's the sound you make when you notice your collar is getting too tight? ge-yuhhhh?). Also the new Action Philosophers: Eat the French. Or Kill Them. Or Hate Them.

I've read one brick in the Golden Treasury Big Box of Bricks of Minicomics (why do I try to write these things when I don't have the material in front of me?). I should have something to say about that and some of the other books I procured at APE this weekend.

Here's my best link sentence to date:
Floopie Spurge mentions that Scott McCloud is bringing some attention to the great Eleanor Davis, cartoonist and girlfriend of the equally great Drew Weing. Go look at beautiful mini/web comics. I hope to see them at either MoCCA or SPX so I can hand them one of my big wads. Of cash.


I picked up Death Note vol. 1-–3 yesterday (written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata). I was going to buy the first volumes of three different manga, but I decided that I'd go with the first three of one instead. This way, if I loved the first book, I could jump right into the next one—I gather that's the way this sort of thing is done. And if it turned out to be awful, I could shake my fist three times as loud.

I'm about halfway through the second volume. I doubt I have anything new to say about manga, as the internet treats manga like porn's cousin, and provides plenty of opinion on the topic. I will say that I get it now. When you get past the Narutos and Dragon Ballsies, and find that infamous bukkake of genre types, when you get past the backwards reading and the generic art, when you find something like Death Note——you get it. Or I get it, since everyone else in the world already has.

Death Note is exactly what American comics has been missing for decades. An accomplished, well-crafted, easy-to-understand, costume-free, mainstream work that has no real artistic aspirations beyond being a solid, enjoyable comic. And there's a lot of it.

While my tastes, in all things, leans more towards what lesser people would call pretentious (zzzzzzap!), my main criteria pf appreciation have always been is it well-made? B) does it not insult my inteligence? C) is it enjoyable? D) can I dance to it? —— ok, nothing fulfills the final category, but don't blame the art, blame the left feet.

The art, by Takeshi Obata (and probably others), is solid. Realistic backgrounds that only look off when the photocollaging/shopping doesn't get toned down (I love the fact that the characters use Macs running OS 9). Stock characters, but with attention to body language that makes up for generic design. The line is usually that lifeless rapidograph, but every now and then a brush (or brush pen) shows up as if to say, "Yes, mark-making isn't completely devalued." At one point, I was stunned to see Charles Burns hair.

It's possible that one of the reasons a lot of the book looks a bit generic is so that the one great visual design can stand out even more. Ryuk, the death god, is part Creeper, part Joker, part Demon (Jack Kirby's) and part leather-fetish sub. He is wonderful to look at and full of personality for a guy with a fairly unchanging face. He also gets some of the best lines.

What is this death god doing? Tsugumi Ohba (the book's real star) has crafted a story about a death god so bored, he gives up his killing book to a very intelligent human teen, just to see what he'll do with it (the Death Note is a notebook that kills when a person's name is entered into it). The teen, Light (I'm still not accepting that name), becomes the greatest serial killer of all time—even though he seems to have the best of intentions. The two of them are the main characters, but it's not too long before the world's greatest detective, the mysterious L, is hot on their trail.

Despite the fact that literally hundreds of people are murdered in the book (just in the first volume!), very little actually happens except an elaborate cat'n'mouse game between Light and L. Occaissionally, some of the 'clues' Light leaves behind seem open to more interpretaion than L's deductive leaps give them (although this is actually addressed), but if you can suspend disbelief enough to accept a death god and his notebook, it shouldn't be too hard to accept a mass murderer and a detective of such unparalelled genious.

And, if you've ever enjoyed a Batman comic, this is a lot like reading the greatest Joker and Riddler versus Batman and Commish Gordon story never written.

It's the good solids. Once I plow throught these, it will be on to Monster.


Blogger Marcos Perez said...

so awake fiekd predates the yet to be released yh 12?

1:46 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

Yes. Jog talks about it. I think 12 may have been at APE, but it's not in stores yet.

12 is from Buenaventura, 13 (Awake Field) is from D&Q.

It's an annual book, with two coming same times.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Marcos Perez said...


Death Note is exactly what American comics has been missing for decades. An accomplished, well-crafted, easy-to-understand, costume-free, mainstream work that has no real artistic aspirations beyond being a solid, enjoyable comic.

you just described scott pilgrim.
but he's canadian so... i guess thats different!

5:45 PM  
Blogger Marcos Perez said...

as for yeast hoist: so 13 is from a different printer and DOESN"T say yeast hoist on the front.

oy vey.

i know plenty of people dont sign contracts or what not and thats good but this can be the downright confusing.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Marcos Perez said...

exclusive contracts i mean.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

Death Note is nothing like Scott Pilgrim. Not dissing Pilgrim, but there's no similarity.

Rege did 10 issues sel-published, then the one from Highwater and then these two. He's jumper of companies and titles. I think he's trying to compete with Eddie Campdell's old Bachus records.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Marcos Perez said...

uh, I didnt say it was like pilgrim in content.

what i quoted was a very general description you made.

and pilgrim is well-crafted, easy to understand, costume-free, mainstream work.

many styles, genres, and stories can fall under that

12:24 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

Fair enough. I wouldn't call Pilgrim mainstream. Or, it is, but it it's not the term I want to use to describe Death Note. Maybe that's a better way to say it. I'd say the form is also drastically different, but I've not read the Pilgrim.

Get ready for post again on Death Note where I try to nail things down! With aid from "Monster!"

11:57 PM  
Blogger Jog said...

I thought The Awake Field was pretty great too - truly nobody can draw sprawling woodland scenes quite like Rege... I really can't wait for Buenaventura's Yeast Hoist #1-10 omnibus, whenever it's out...

2:48 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

Seriously. I want a big print of Rege leaves for my wall. I think he's probably the most deceptive artist working today. I had to reprogram my brain a little bit when I noticed just how gorgeous his woods were (like when an average-looking person turns their head a certain way and you realize they're actually quite striking and beautiful).

3:01 PM  

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