Ratings out of 5 stars. Mainstream comics available at Absolute Comics (Plaza Singapura).
Story/Art: Peter van Dongen
I just heard about Peter van Dongen’s Rampokan from my friend, Tita Larasati many years ago. A story set in Indonesia in 1946 and spanned the islands of Java and Celebes, the background of the Dutch police action is only the setting. Other than the political intrigue, double-crossing and betrayal (and a huge cast of characters), it is a story of a sentimental young man trying to look for the Indonesia of his past and making fatal mistakes in the process of doing that. In a way, Johan Knevel represents the old Dutch who still thinks the Indies would welcome them back with open arms. He is trapped in the past and there will be hell to pay for those who cannot live in the present and see the future for what it is.
Book One Java was published in 1999 and Book Two Celebes was published in 2004. I have four different editions of this book. I ordered the German edition first. When I visited Peter in Amsterdam in 2014, he gave me the Dutch editions. Later that year, I met Peter again at Popcon in Jakarta when he was there to launch the Bahasa edition of Rampokan, published by Gramedia. Finally, the English edition is out in 2015 – at last I could read the story! But I have no regrets having the earlier editions – the art is simply gorgeous. Clean line style ala Herge and Joost Swarte.
The best thing about the Gramedia English edition is that it publishes the two books together. I have visited Bandung four times and reading Rampokan makes me want to visit the city again.
Hound 1: Protector
Story: Paul Bolger and Barry Devlin
Art: Paul Bolger
Hound 1: Protector was released after a successful kickstarter campaign in 2014. I first wrote about it here: http://singaporecomix.blogspot.co.id/2014/04/hound-new-kickstarted-project-about.html
Now it is reissued as a second edition as part of the 2015 kickstarter campaign for Hound 2: Defender. The latter will be released this year while Hound 3: Liberator will be out next year to wrap up the trilogy. It is a re-imagining of the life and times of Ireland’s greatest mythological hero, Cúchulainn – The Hound of Ulster, one of Europe’s oldest surviving stories.
Paul Bolger and Barry Devlin do a good job in contemporizing the character of Cu Chulainn, the Hound, the playful hero who refuses to kill without a good reason. After falling in love with the king’s future wife, he was banished to the Isle of Skye. Book 1 ends with him arriving at his destination after some tribulations.
This book is part of the development to make Hound into a movie. So the style and pacing is very like a storyboard. You can get more details of the movie here: http://houndthemovie.com/
Howling Commandos of SHIELD #5
Story: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Brent Schoonover
The Howling Commandos of SHIELD has gotten better since I reviewed it here. It is more fun now and it does not take itself too seriously like the SHIELD TV series. What do you expect when you have SHIELD monkey agents, zombies and the Man-Thing? (what a great Steve Gerber character!) In this issue, Dum Dum and gang fights against the Sphinx, an old Marvel villain.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #4
Story: Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
Art: Natacha Bustos
There are so many kids-related and female friendly comic titles these days, it leaves you wondering if Marvel is overcompensating for its lack of attention to this market segment in the past. But to me, it’s still a good thing to have titles like Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel because the diversity is important to grow the next generation of comic readers. Add Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur to this list. Moon Girl is spunky and Devil Dino is an old Jack Kirby creation revived. The Yancy Street Gang makes an appearance too. In this issue, Moon Girl and Devil Dino took on the Hulk. Good fun.
Last Gang In Town #3
Story: Simon Oliver
Art: Rufus Dayglo
With a title taken from a Clash song and having the artist of Tank Girl, Rufus Dayglo, this should be an easy seller to pop culture freaks, right? Well, that’s the thing about creative works. You can put in all the right ingredients but the magic is not there. Same with soccer teams – you can spend millions buying players, but if they do not gel as a team, you do not get a beautiful game.
Reading this comic is an anarchic ride, like something out of a British weekly from the late 1980s and early 1990s, just before Britpop became big. In that sense, it is anachronistic and dated. Sure, it’s ‘punk’ to see cultural references like Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square in London being vandalised. But it is out of place.
The new Vertigo is really a mixed bag. So far, Red Thorn and Unfollow are very run of the mill. The better ones are Suiciders and New Romancer.