Ratings out of 5 stars. Mainstream comics courtesy of Absolute Comics (Plaza Singapura). Shipment only came in on Thursday this week.
Through the Habitrails: Life Before and After My Career in the Cubicles
Story/Art: Jeff Nicholson
One of the big comic news of last year was that Dover has entered the graphic novels market. What they did was to pick up titles that have gone out of print and reissued them. This has given many lost classics a fresh breathe of life. Through the Habitrails by Jeff Nicholson is one such seminal title.
Jeff Nicholson is one of the pioneers of small press comics that no one has heard about. He started self-publishing in the early 1980s, drawing a parody of the Ulraman TV series called Ultra Klutz. He had enough bad experience in the small press that he did Jeff Nicholson’s Small Press Tirade (1989). The anger is seething, but it did not prepare anyone for the avalanche of fear and loathing in the first instalment of Through the Habitrails in Taboo Vol 5 two years later.
A bit of history: the late 1980s was an interesting time for comics. The public was enamoured by the first wave of ‘comics has grown up!’ type of news and titles like Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Maus. Many creators took the independent route and wrote and drew stories that push the boundaries that we have backed off from today. SteVe Bissette’s horror anthology, Taboo (1988 – 1995), was one of them. It published the first chapters of From Hell, Lost Girls (Alan Moore), Sweeney Todd (Neil Gaiman), and Through the Habitrails. It was compiled and self-published by Nicolson in 1994.
Though Through the Habitrails has been out of print for almost 20 years, it remains one of the most depressing books about the daily grind I have ever read. It is surreal, frightening and almost suicide-inducing. But it ends on a note of hope, which was one of the most powerful endings I have ever read.
While it’s great to have this back in print, I am not sure of the new ending Nicholson created for this edition. It explains a bit too much and alludes the faceless and nameless protagonist to be Nicholson himself. I like it better when identities were more ambiguous. So if you have not read Through the Habitrails before, read it through to the original ending, let the story breathe for a few weeks before reading the new ending. Still, I am damn grateful for Dover to put this back into life. The introduction by Steve Bissette is just great, worth the price of this book. Reading it gives you new respect for Bissette and his principles. The afterword by Nicholson lets us know he is alright and maybe he will do more comics in the future.
Now if only we can get to read The Cat Lover somewhere again and Lost Laughter.
Story: Chuck Wendig
Art: Nik Virella
The 2000s portrayal of Hyperion in the Ultimate universe and Jonathan Hickman’s handling of the character in the Avengers make him one of the most interesting heroes in the Marvel universe. It’s like what if Superman is part of the Marvel universe – what would you do with him?
Post-Secret Wars, Hyperion is put on the road to find himself, ala JMS’ run of Superman in walking the earth. Why would anyone do that if they can fly? Now in this #1, Hyperion is a truck driver who picks up a runaway in trouble. A bunch of Mad Max-like bad guys are after him and Hyperion takes on the circus freaks. This reads more like a Ghost Rider story.
Story: Eric Kripke
Art: John Higgins
Eric Kripke is the writer of TV show, Supernatural. Jacked is the six-issue Vertigo comic book he wrote about a Joe Average who gained super powers after taking a pill he bought online. It’s a mid-life crisis story that has seen better days in Grant Morrison’s The Filth, also published by Vertigo in 2002. The art by John Higgins is good as are the covers by Glen Fabry. Pity about the story.
Accounts of Notoriously Murderous Munchkins
Story/Art: Silvia Gunarso
Launched at the Starving Artists Fair in March, Accounts of Notoriously Murderous Munchkins is a grisly affair by 24Hour Comics Day alumnus, Silvia Gunarso. Not a comic book, but a collection of gruesome drawings with some really wicked rhymes in the style of Edward Gorey. I would like more Asian characters in this book, so maybe the next one. Gunarso should consider doing a comic book spin-off based on these concepts.
Rivers of London: Night Witch #1
Story: Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel
Art: Lee Sullivan
Rivers of London is one of the most successful police-supernatural series now. A comic series was inevitable, but this is not an adaptation. It is all-new stories written by the series author, Ben Aaronovitch and it is in continuity with the novels, much like the Queen and Country comics by Greg Rucka.
Night Witch is the second Rivers of London comic series, after last year’s Body Work. The premise: Metropolitan Police Officer Peter Grant was exposed to the world of magic during an investigation. Grant becomes an apprentice wizard, the first in over seven decades, and is drawn into the supernatural world. Sounds vaguely like the Nicholas Cage’s movie, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? It’s much better than that and I found myself enjoying this first issue involving the Russian mob and missing children. Looking forward to the next issue. Released last week.