Tag Archives: IDW Publishing

Trio review or: I still think there should be a “Lizard and a Spock” in this group.

Trio

2012

IDW

120 pages $18

John Byrne was and still is comic book royalty.  Like most royalty he is simultaneously loved and hated by the people he encounters.  Like royalty most people form their opinions having never met him.  Others that do know him usually have a more realistic opinion of him.  Sometimes they come to a positive opinion, other times not so much.  There are stories all over the industry of how awful he is and just as many saying the opposite.  Personally I do not care.  He is human like anyone else and since I do not know him personally, I don’t care about anything other than his work; a comic book career decades long and filled with amazing things.

Trio is the newest work to come from his fertile imagination.  This collection is the first four (and so far the only) books of the series from IDW.  It is not his strongest story by any means, but there are some great touches here.  This was billed as a “traditional” super hero book, I think to its detriment.  This is really only traditional in that there are a lot of “bang”  “pow” and “zap” type sound effects graphics.  The book also is largely devoid of the needlessly dark and angst ridden “heroes” that are so common and tedious in most modern comics.  This is not a Garth Ennis book.  Calling this old school or any other term of the kind devalues and restricts the potential audience for this, and this was reflected in the book’s dismal sales.  Why tell people anything other than “it’s a John Byrne book”?  Anyone who has a clue will already know what they are in for, why scare them away with descriptions that are pejorative?  Unless this trade collection sells well, I think this is all we are likely to see of this book as a solo feature, and the poor marketing of the single issues will have been to blame.

Trio focuses on One, Two and Three, or as the media calls them “Rock, Paper and Scissors”.  Their powers are pretty much described in the names and the personalities are not all that well-defined in this book.  There was obviously more intended to follow this, and that would be a caveat for some, I guess.  If this volume does not sell well, the chance of a second volume is not great, so it is problematic.  I recommend buying this volume even though it does not actually have a complete story.  Yes there is a risk that you will never read the next part, but if you don’t get it, then the chance that there will be no follow-up is even greater.

Enough preaching about the lamentable state of the industry.  The book is quite good.  The story is a bit basic, due largely to its unfinished status, I think.  The art is just great though.  Byrne’s work post Terry Austin is hard for some people even to this day.  Austin’s clean and tight line gave Byrne’s pencils a very different quality from the line when he is inking himself.  I for one like both and this book is one where Byrne is clearly enjoying himself with these drawings.  At times he seems to be channeling Neal Adams or even Steranko, but not to the books detriment.  There is also more than a few things that will remind many of the Fantastic Four here.  This is a well-drawn book.  What little character development we get centers around Rock, and to a lesser degree, Scissors.  The group’s only female, Paper is the McGuffin the other two seem to focus their emotional depth on at this point, so her development is somewhat lacking at this stage.

The package is fairly typical of IDW’s trade collections, but I felt the paper was very flat.  This could have used a bit nicer grade of paper to liven up the visuals even more.  All in all, a good book that I hope you will support.  John Byrne is one of those creators that should be given the benefit of our doubts.  Anyone that likes his work in general should give anything he puts out a fair chance.  I have not liked everything he has done, but I have always given his work a look each time, before deciding to buy or not.  As long as he doesn’t pull a Miller and go bat-crap-crazy, we should continue to support and enjoy his works.

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Monocyte hardcover review

Monocyte          

IDW

2012

224 pages

$50

Having spoken at length to creator Kasra Ghanbari and Menton3 (short for Menton Matthews III), I was expecting a lot from this book, and for the most part it does not disappoint. There is only so much to say that will not spoil the book, but to nutshell it…

There are two immortal races in the distant future, the Olignostics and the Antedeluvians.  Humans are little better than pawns and a source of nourishment at this point, and the political machinations of these groups is not subtle.  The book opens at the start of a conflict that threatens to destroy everything that keeps the status quo.  There is an undercurrent of religious allegory as well that feeds this dark narrative and sets a clear tone for what happens.  There is violence here, but not as much as in many comics of this type, and when it occurs it is explosive and powerful.  This is not your standard horror book.

OK. That said the real draw of this book is from the complete experience rather than the individual aspects of the writing, art or even the story being told.  This a complete product and every part of it blends seamlessly with every other part.  The point at which pure story becomes the visual tends to blur.  You never get that feeling of many hands working on a book like is the norm now.  This is the first comic I have ever read that feels like a single, undiluted vision from one person’s mind.  Not to diminish the many hands that worked on this book, far from it.  Menton and Kasra have created a nearly perfect reading experience, something almost unheard of.  This feels more like a novel than a comic.   The narrative is complete, and while it leaves you wanting more at the end, you don’t feel cheated by what you get.

The structure is odd at times.  What were essentially back-up stories in the individual issues are included here.  They are placed between chapters of the main story and are generally interesting, but like many inclusions of this type, feel unnecessary.  While they are all good, but they interrupt the flow at times.  While that is clearly the intention, it didn’t work for me.  They felt like they should have been separated from the main story, but that is just my opinion on it. 

The art is something really amazing.  I had the chance to visit Menton’s studio and saw much of the original paintings for the covers and some of the pages and what is printed here is not a disappointment.  While no book printed has ever fully done justice to the original art, this book comes close.  Menton allows his style to flow and change from chapter to chapter as well.  At one point it feels very much influenced by Bill Sienkiewicz, at another by Richard Corben.  His art never loses its own identity though, and is always dynamic and works with the narrative perfectly.

If there is anything I could gripe about, it would be the package.  This book could use a dust jacket.  Right out of the gate, the cover gets a little scuffed.  Also, it just feels like the kind of book that deserves one.

This is dark stuff, both visually and in terms of content, so it is not for everyone.  I found the material intense and it required two readings before I felt I got it.  There are piles of literary references and allusions.  Shakespeare is well represented as are other hints to past literary works.  This is not a light read and that is clear by the cover, but this book requires an effort.  Anyone wanting something dark will find this enjoyable.  Anyone willing to really look deep and open themselves up to the layers here will be richly rewarded.

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A fresh look at digital comics

Previously, I have been a bit lukewarm on the idea of digital comics.  Here was the main post earlier on this subject.  Since my initial impressions were formed, I have gone on to actually jump in much deeper, since purchasing my very own iPad.  Shiney!

I have downloaded a variety of books from several publishers via Comixology at iTunes, and for the most part, like them very much.  There is a sizable pile o’ content out there to choose from and a variety that is more that deep enough to please even casual readers.  I started with the large bunch of free books.  I have not started paying for books yet, but I will come back to that, as I think there is a specific part of the market that will be exploited here.  The books that I went for were from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW and Red 5.  I loves me some Atomic Robo!

The main parts to evaluate here are what the industry has to overcome to push readers into this segment of the market, with the hope of capturing new readers or potential returning readers.

The first for me, is the overall readability.  Is the issue easy to read comfortably?  From a visual standpoint there are differences between the companies that would trace back to how the books are put up on the site.  Some are born in digital so it is easier and looks better, some start the old-fashioned way and are scanned, and several are a mix of both.  Without knowing the exact steps each book takes, I can only really comment on the appearance of the books.  DC books, at least the dozen or so I looked at, look fantastic!  Clean and crisp, with loads of power in the image.  Color and depth of field are amazing.  The other publishers are a more mixed bag.  Older material looks rougher, as a result of simply being from older sources and not ever having been in digital.  Or scanning is less high quality.  None of them looked bad, just some looked better than the others.  The best advantage digital has over print is the color and black levels.  On the printed page it just does not looks as cool.  This is more like a movie on disc than a comic.  The navigation is excellent, and while there are a few minor variations depending on the book, once you have read one book, you will be comfortable reading them all.  You can see the entire page or individual panels as part of the guided view.  I like to mix it up.  When I open a comic, I see the whole page first, so this method appeals to me and, if I am honest, is comforting.  Familiar is always like that.

The next is ease of use.  That it is easy to get these books is a pretty fair statement.  I had previously dabbled at Dark Horse and Marvel’s direct sites.  While the quality of the image on Marvel was somewhat better, Dark Horse was a much more user-friendly site.  Comixology via iTunes is excellent.  The app took nearly 30 seconds to download (the horror!) and the comics take between that and a minute.  Perfectly reasonable, in my opinion.  We have reached the point in our world where we complain about the dumbest crap, and slow DL speeds seem to top the list with a lot of people.  Quit your bitching and go outside for a while, converse with the family, whatever, just don’t whine about connection speed.

Now on to price.  The digital price is the same or less than cover price for everything and most companies lower the price once the print issue has been out for a while.  DC even has it fairly clearly structured up front.  Most publishers have a nice selection of free books, and not just what they are trying to hype at the moment, though there is some of that too.  Samplers to get you reading new books, (that is how I started on Atomic Robo-if you like adventure books with lots of humor, find this title) and even some much older catalog titles.  I was amazed to find Mage #1 at the Image page.  There are also lots of rotating specials.  Some publisher specific, some that Comixology runs.  Marvel has 99 cent Mondays, which will be something I look into very closely when I start buying.

And that brings me to the untapped segment of the market, Trade Waiters.  I am one of these people who is “ruining the industry” by not buying floppys.  I will, at best, buy the first one or two then wait for the trade if I find I want more.  Digital will make that practice much easier, and better for the publishers, I suspect.  I might buy a new floppy a month.  At 3 to 4 dollars, that is all I can justify.  With the available bargains created by waiting a month or two, or holding out for the special prices and free samplers, my dollar will go farther.  Which means I am much more likely to try a book for 1 to 3 dollars that I would have otherwise passed up at 3 to 4.  And if I like the free sample of a book that I would not have otherwise seen, that will get me to buy the trade or hardcover that I would not have otherwise paid my money for.  How is that not a win-win for everyone involved?

While I have a long way to go before I am fully sold, and I don’t really see a day in the future that I will willing drop paper entirely, I see the value in these electronic thingamajigs over this new fangled interwebs deal.  I can recommend anyone give it a try.  Will it bring NEW readers in?  Possibly, but my real hope is that it gives a shot in the arm to the balance sheets of all the publishers out there.  I think if it is done correctly, and it seems headed in the right direction now, that it could really keep the industry alive and vital for years to come.

 

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