September 22, 2008


So since Evie couldn't do this stuff from work today, and since I wanted to write about my Book of the Week here anyway, behold ... VISUAL AIDES!

Here's Evie's Panel of the Week, from I Kill Giants #2 by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura. Technically her P's otW are the two on the left, but I included the image on the right because it's an awesome image.

My PotW, from Chris Giarusso's Mini Marvels strip, appearing in the back of Incredible Herc 121 (and probably a few other books as well) I just love that one in the back left.

I'm not going to bother posting my Cover of the Week, because it's the Craaaaazy Wild Drunken Superman Cover, which you've all seen a dozen times. But here's Evie's, a sweet Captain Marvel from Mike Kunkel.

Now, to what I actually came here to write about - My pick for Book of the Week (and what probably would have been Evie's pick too, had she not known it was going to be mine) Tales of Penance: Trial of the Century Issue #2, from Arcana Comics.

This book features story and plot by Sean Wise and Paul Gilligan, brilliantly paced Scripting by Ryan Foley, art by Gian Fernando (credited as GOOF) and pitch-perfect colors by something called "EvE" - about which no further information can be easily googled.

So here's your back o' the trade blurb for this one.


Here's another one.


And I mean both of them. When Evie and I came up with the format for the show, we decided to include a category for First/Last of the week - hoping that the Firsts would force us to pick up a few Indie titles, perhaps forgoing the latest Wolverine one-shot or Geoff Johns retconned origin in favor of a lesser-known book that we could recommend to our listeners.

Now in the 15th week of this podcast, I can already count several previous "first of the week" winners as among the books I look forward to the most every month. Jonathan Hickman and JM Ringuet's Transhuman is one. This book is another.

I'm not going to bore you with plot descriptions that you can easily get elsewhere, other than to say it's a gritty-ish, noir-enough crime/law/cops/tights drama that takes place in a vastly underutilized setting (the south) and involves a murder mystery.

What you need to hear from me are the superlatives. I can't say enough about Foley's scriptwork. His characterizations and mannerisms are spot on. He uses background media brilliantly as an expository device. And while the book isn't ROTCFLMAO funny, when there are punchlines, he nails them. And I'll get to his pacing in a second.

The plot, whether devised by Foley, Wise, Gilligan, or some combination thereof, managed to pull off a relatively shocking surprise twist in a universe less than 50 pages old. This is no small feat. Thanks in large part to Foley's pacing, the reader finds him or herself easily immersed in a very dense world, and absorbing elements of character and backstory at a remarkable clip. This is what allows for the storytelling team to pull off the twist at the end of issue #2 and have it feel like it's got some weight behind it.

That's not to say the book doesn't have its faults. Fernando's art is lively and the colors by EvE are much more vibrant than one would expect from a book of this tone - but the art really takes a back seat to the words, and while that serves the book fine, it could be stronger. Fernando has some curious profile shots in the book - whether purposely or not - that I found a bit distracting. And while his art is perfectly fine throughout and quite good in places, the book would probably be even better in the hands of someone more experienced like Sean Phillips (who did a beautiful cover for this issue) or Michael Gaydos. Fernando does have quite a knack for expressive eyes, though.

And I must say, the seemingly obligatory use of other comics creators' names in a non-comic setting has really gotten a bit old at this point - so the references to "State V. Miller, State V. Lee and State V. Bendis" were a bit too wocka-wocka for my taste, and only served to pull me out of the story, albeit momentarily.

Still, these are tiny faults, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Especially given the fact that Evie's LCS (one of the bigger comic stores in Manhattan) didn't stock it, I'd like to see it getting more attention. Thankfully my LCS (the biggest comic store in Manhattan) did.

So you know what I'm going to do here? I'm going to do something my old comic store in NH used to do. I'm going to offer you, our readers and listeners, the Tom Guarantee. And yes, it should probably be the Aaron Guarantee, since Tom won't be giving you your money back. And neither will I, actually.


If you pick up the first two issues of this book, and you don't agree that it's on a par with Alias, Powers, or Gotham Central, e-mail us. You send me those issues, and I'll send you a TPB of something else, worth a bit more.

I have a feeling I won't need to, though.


Evie said...

I just realized that you wrote visual aides. Which would be a person who helps you see things.

Evie said...

Or, excuse me, multiple people who help you see things.

Anonymous said...

Actually I meand "Aide," the Basque numenistic deity of the air. She could manifest herself in both good (gentle breeze) and evil (storm wind) forms.

EvE said...

pitch-perfect colors by something called "EvE"

Ryan said...

For Aaron and the Awesomed By Comics bloggers,
I just wanted to thank you for your tremendously favorable (and unsolicited!) review of TOP:TOTC. I wish I could say that I am this brilliant and sorely underused writer that is flying under the radar of editors at Marvel and DC... okay maybe that might be true, but I would be remiss if I did not say that I had a tremendous blueprint from which to design and develop this story. Still, thank you very much for the praise.
I have this feeling that GOOF's artwork is only going to progress as he career unfolds before him. I want to give him tremendous props since this is his first published work. It takes some pretty big stones to take any creative talent (drawing, singing, painting, anything like that) and put it out there to be openly reviewed and critiqued. I think that Gian really stepped up to the plate and he is developing a style that he will continue to hone and refine. So stay on the look out for my man!
Hey, at least you didn't say, "This is the worst book I have ever read and I know whose books NOT to buy from now on!" So to have this review filled with such praise, I think we did things right with this book. I hope the second half of the mini-series is as enjoyable as the first. Happy reading!!!