And Then I Read: MR. WOLF’S CLASS

Image © 2018 Aron Nels Steinke, art by Steinke.

Mr. Wolf is about to begin a new teaching job at Hazelwood Elementary School. As the story opens he is cleaning up and preparing his classroom for the students, who are about to arrive. We also see images of his 17 students either at home, about to begin their day. Mr. Wolf and the students are human with animal heads and characteristics, drawn in a charmingly simple style. As the book continues, we follow the adventures of each student and their teacher as they interact, make friends, get into trouble, get lost, get into fights, and generally have all kinds of adventures. The book is aimed at young readers with easy-to-read words in large balloons. I think I would have loved it as a kid myself, both for the art and writing, and because I could easily relate to it. Not a book I would have normally chosen, it was given to me at the ‘Ringo Awards in Baltimore, but I’m quite happy I read it, and I commend it to children and parents everywhere.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERNS #54

Image © DC Comics. Written by Dan Jurgens, art by Marco Santucci, colors by Hi-Fi, letters by Dave Sharpe, cover by Mike Perkins.

Part Five of “Evil’s Might” begins with the top GLs questioning Simon Baz’s loyalty, as he left the scene of battle with the Ravagers suddenly, creating a crisis that was only resolved by the arrival of Hal Jordan. Baz said the Guardians told him to, but the Corps has been out of contact with the Guardians for some time. Simon’s partner Jessica Cruz defends him, but it doesn’t look good for Baz. Meanwhile, on Earth, Simon is following the request of Superman to free him from his own Fortress of Solitude where he says he was imprisoned by Brainiac. When Simon does, his inexperience and foolishness is soon apparent.

This issue moved slower than previous ones, with a protracted battle scene. As I’m not fond of those, I didn’t enjoy it as much, but the overall story is still worth reading, and the true villain is finally revealed. Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE DREAMING #2

Image © DC Comics. Written by Simon Spurrier, art by Bilquis Evely, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Simon Bowland, cover by Jae Lee & June Chung.

In my review of the first issue of this revamped series, I complained that the absence of the most important character, Dream himself, limited and harmed the series. Writer Simon Spurrier proves me wrong here, and also makes the absence of Dream in The Dreaming a major plot point, as Neil Gaiman did in the early issues of THE SANDMAN.

Mervyn Pumpkinhead is the main character this time, and he has a lot to say. At first it seems like he’s talking to us, the readers, but when an off-camera gun is pointed at him, it becomes clear he’s talking to someone else, someone powerful, or at least well-armed. This is a narrative technique I haven’t seen used often in comics, and it worked really well to pull me into the story.  Merv was always one of my favorite Dreaming residents, and Spurrier does an excellent job with his dialogue and attitude, a grouchy passive-aggressive mixture with unconscious humor and funny word-mangling that’s not easy to do. Merv’s narrative is about how everything is falling apart, barriers are weakening, dreamers are becoming powerful disruptors of The Dreaming, new characters like Dora have too much power, and old ones like Lucien are struggling to keep up. Since Merv’s job in the realm is to fix broken things, he has a lot to complain about, and clearly he’s looking for help from the unseen character he’s talking to. Knowing Merv, that help may not be at all what he wants or needs.

This is really a fine read. Highly recommended.

Carla Speed McNeil’s Lettering Process

At this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con, I was surprised by a visit from writer/artist Carla Speed McNeil and delighted with what she had decided to give me, a page of her original art as well as her layout and lettering guide. Carla’s process is unusual, and I found it fascinating. I told her I’d write about it on my blog, and here it is. Continue reading

And Then I Read: SPENCER & LOCKE

Image © David Pepose. Written by Pepose, art by Jorge Santiago Jr., colors by Jasen Smith, letters by Colin Bell.

This trade paperback collects four issues of the comic. Locke is a brash young detective, Spencer is his anthropomorphic black panther sidekick, but nothing is quite what it seems. Spencer is also a stuffed toy panther, similar to Hobbes in “Calvin and Hobbes,” which Locke has apparently had since childhood. Like Calvin, only Locke can see the “living” Spencer, who is reminiscent of Blacksad. Locke is investigating the murder of Sophie Jenkins, a school teacher and childhood friend of his, and he soon finds out that Sophie had a daughter, Hero. A prime suspect is another childhood friend who bullied Locke, and he takes pleasure in returning the favor, but things get much more complicated than that, and before long Locke and Spencer are involved with drug lords, exchanging gunfire with thugs in high-speed car chases, and taking all kinds of risks.

But wait, is Locke a reliable narrator? How much of what he’s telling us is real, and how much is as hallucinatory as his partner? The unusual places the story takes us make it hard to know, and periodically the film noir style switches to “Calvin and Hobbes” pastiche, with story elements played for laughs…sometimes. That’s actually what makes this book most interesting, that and the characters and their relationships, which are complex.

I enjoyed reading this, but can’t help feeling there’s too much from other sources. Mildly recommended.