April saw me at two comics conventions. My plan for the rest of the year is too make at least two such appearances a month as I barrel my way towards my December birthday and reaching the ripe old age of 65. Time flies when you’re having life.
I want to thank Jesse Noble and Joe Nieporte for inviting me to Gem City Comic Con in Dayton, Ohio, and FantastiCon in Toledo, Ohio. I had a wonderful time at both of their events and hope to return to them in 2017. At the end of this week’s column, I’ll fill you in on my May appearances.
Onward to this week’s reviews…
My pick of the week is Postal [Top Cow/Image; $3.99 per issue]. The ongoing series was created by Matt Hawkins, written by Bryan Hill and Hawkins until Hill went solo around issue #10, drawn by Isaac Goodhart and colored and edited by Betsy Gonia. There are echos of Fargo and Twin Peaks in the series, but it definitely stands on its own as among the most unique titles in the modern age.
The setting of the title is one of its most fascinating characters. Eden, Wyoming is as off the grid as humanly possible. From Postal Dossier #1 [$3.99]:
“You won’t find it on a map, and you won’t find it on satellite imaging. There’s no cellphone towers, no open internet usage, no cable TV, no state infrastructure – not even the road that runs through it…doesn’t have a zip code of designation…not a single trace of record of the town anywhere.”
It’s a town for final chances. A place to disappear to have a life unconnected to your past crimes. Some of its residents have served their time. Others are fugitives. All are under the rule of Mayor Laura Shiffron, whose murderous husband founded the town and ran it until Shiffron and others hung him from a tree. Which didn’t kill him. In a town of criminals, he was the most vicious and he’s not down with Eden yet.
Mark Shiffton is the mayor’s son and its postman. He is said to be “a textbook case of Asperger’s Syndrome.” His difference makes him an amazing detective and, in the series to date, he’s used his gift to help people and uncover Eden”s secrets. If they gave out Eisner Awards for best new character, he would have gotten my vote. Then again, Hawkins and Hill should be lauded for their handling of the character. The writing on this series has been first-rate since the first issue, with each issue making me all the more eager for the next issue.
Goodhart and Gonia deliver visuals worthy of the writing. Just one example of their amazing skill is how they depict the many faces of Maggie Prendowski. The town’s friendly waitress was a drug dealer and perhaps worse. She’s the informant and plaything of a crooked F.B.I. agent. She’s a romantic interest for Mark and, even in this town of false faces and secrets, I think she honestly cares for the postman.
Two trade paperback collections of Postal have been published with a third due out in June. I recommend them highly.
Postal Volume 1 [$9.99]
Postal Volume 2 [$14.99]
Postal Volume 3 [$14.99]
Pre-Code Classics: Ghost Comics Volume 1 [PS Artbooks; roughly $45-50] is one of the more disappointing books in this ongoing series collecting horror comics of the 1950s. It reprints the first seven issues of the Fiction House title from 1951-1953.
The quality of Fiction House titles is generally inconsistent. It took years for Planet Comics to become a worthwhile title. With its material coming from the Jerry Iger Studio, Fiction House’s writing and art was dependent on who was working for Iger at the time. Some of the writers and artists were very good, others were at the other end of the spectrum. This factors into Ghost Comics because most of the stories in these first issues are reprints from earlier Fiction House titles like Jumbo Comics, Wings Comics and others. Adding to the unsatisfying experience is that the reprints were often cut by two to four pages for the reprinting.
The high points of this collection are the Maurice Whitman covers. There are several stories drawn by Lily Renée, whose work I like, Jack Kamen, Rafael Astarita, and the interesting team of penciler Bill Benulis and Jack Abel. The Benulis/Abel stories may not have been reprints since the Grand Comics Database doesn’t identify them as such. Though some of the “Werewolf Hunter” stories are creepy in a good sense, most of the writing is so-so. Also amusing are a few reprinted stories in which Nazis have become Commies. One must keep up with the villains of the day.
Even when I don’t particularly enjoy a Pre-Code Classics volume, I know there will be comics fans and historians thrilled to have them available. Though I sometimes sell the volumes I don’t like, I do not regret buying them. I love the thought of reading comic books I would never otherwise get to read, even if they are far from the best of the era’s offerings. If you share that with me, then you’ll also be glad for this and other volumes.
I read quite a bit of manga, though it’s only a drop in the bucket of what’s available. Of late, I’m drawn more to relationship tales than the action stuff, which I often find repetitive. Interesting characters are what I like in manga and what I strive for in my own comics writing.
Horimiya Volume 1 by HERO and Daisuke Hagiwara [Yen Press; $13] is a relationship comedy. Kyouko Hori is one of the most popular girls at her school, but almost never joins her classmates for abt after-school activities. With her parents constantly traveling for their respective jobs, Hori heads straight home to take care of her kid brother and their house. In a sense, she had dual identities. She is an admired star at school and a plain Jane housekeeper and nanny the rest of the time.
Izumi Miyamura is the opposite. At school, he appears awkward and gloomy and shy. Underneath his plain exterior, he’s a hot guy with piercings and tattoos. One of his daily challenges is to keep his other self hidden from his fellow students, which is not easy when it comes to activities like swimming.
The paths of the two students, opposites in their dual identities, cross. They learn that there are many sides to every person and to every story. They connect and becomes friends. For lack of a better word, it’s a pleasant story with some tense moments and surprises. The writing is solid and the art is lovely. If subsequent volumes are as enjoyable as this one, I’ll keep reading them.
If you’d like to meet me, get an Isabella-written comic book signed or just talk comics, I’ll be making two public appearances in May. On Saturday, May 7, aka Free Comic Book Day, I will be at Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Two weeks later, Saturday, May 21, I am a special guest of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia. I would be very pleased to see some of my “Tony’s Tips” readers at these events.
I’ll be back next week with more reviews.
© 2016 Tony Isabella