Happy new year. Shipment was late this week, so instead of these being the last comic reviews of the year, they are the first comic reviews for 2016. Clearing the backlog I have to review. Do read more local and regional comics. Doesn't matter if they are from here or overseas. As long as they are good, go read them. Marvel comics courtesy of Absolute Comics (Plaza Singapura).
Peeping Through Jakarta
Story/Art: Haryadhi, Sheila, Mice
It’s Sooooo Indonesian!
Benny and Mice are the most famous cartooning duo in Jakarta whose weekly Sunday strips appeared in Kompas from 2003 to 2010. They have since gone their separate ways but both are still drawing. A few years ago, Benny drew a book about Singapore. Mice continues to draw for Kompas and his strips continue to hold up the savage mirror for all Jakartans to reflect upon themselves, whether it is their obsession with social media, mobile phones, senseless TV shows, materialism and just plain old hypocrisy. Mice is at his satirical best in It’s Sooooo Indonesian!, a new collection of strips from the last few years. But as he professed in the beginning and at the end of the book, he still loves his country and wants it to improve.
But one can never do it alone. Mice needs other social critics and observers of everyday life to help him document the ins and outs of living in Jakarta. So recently he recruited Haryadhi and Sheila Rooswitha Putri (who has appeared in Liquid City Vol 2), both established cartoonists of their own right, to draw with him for the Komik Jakarta website. All three produce weekly strips that are hilarious and full of insights of human behaviour and ingenuity.
All of them focus on topics which are close to their heart. Haryadhi must be a motorcyclist as he drew many strips related to that, public transport and the traffic in Jakarta. Being a mother, Sheila is more family-oriented – her strips deal with teenagers, aunties and the dangers for children growing up in a big city. They are generally more hopefully as Sheila drew several strips showing that there are still many good samaritans in the city. Mice’s specialties are those one-page panels depicting the different social types in Jakarta. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in one of them. There are common topics for the three of them like strips about Ramadhan and political candidates and flooding in Jakarta. But you can feel the heart the cartoonists have for the city and its denizens.
Both books are translated into English and if you have ever visited Jakarta, you will enjoy reading them. Even if you have not visited the Indonesian capital, you can still get many laughs from the common human follies we all share. There are a few strips comparing Jakarta with Singapore.
Now we just got to wait for the English translation of Mice’s 1998 (about the 1998 riots in Indonesia) from the publisher, Octopus Garden…
(4 stars for both)
Story: Gerry Conway
Art: Mike Perkins
Old timer Gerry Conway can still tell a mean ‘trapped in cave and hunted by monster’ of story. The monsters in question are Carnage and the Man-Wolf. They slugged it out in full glory courtesy of Mike Perkins whose action scenes are commendable. This could be a non-Marvel Universe comic if not for the characters of the serial killer Carnage, Eddie Brock and John Jameson (J. Jonah Jameson’s son). I got the regular cover by Mike Perkins. You can try hunting for this variant incentive by Yasmine Putri.
Traveling Sketches x Picture-Stories
Story/Art: Fish Wu
Solo Fish Drawings
Lots of talent in Singapore these days, both local and foreign. Fish Wu comes from China (his wife has a job posting here) and he spends his time roaming the streets of Singapore to sketch and draw. He is active with Urban Sketchers Singapore and turns up for the Panelgraph sessions. This is his first self-published sketchbook. The line work is very detailed and classical. You can spend hours pouring over them – his sketches of streets and buildings of Indonesia and Thailand. There are a few comic stories here, like those about Fish’s childhood. Wish Fish will do more comic stories..
Injustice – Gods Among Us: Year Three Vol 1
Story: Tom Taylor
Art: Bruno Redondo, Mike S. Miller and others
This came out a few weeks but it’s still one of the best things I have read this year. Nothing groundbreaking – it builds on the classic Bronze Age confrontation between Supes and Bats from Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns #4 – but it’s a really fun read. Most comics featuring Superman and Batman would have at least one fight scene worked in for the Big Two eg. Superman screaming ‘I’m going to kill Batman!’ in a full page panel in the Justice League Trinity War. But this long-running series is all about that – a future where Superman rules the world because the Joker has killed his pregnant wife, Lois Lane. Batman is out to stop him. In this volume, John Constantine gets into the game and it is interesting how he moves the chess pieces. As we know, magic is Superman’s one weakness (other than Krytonite). But Superman has the Spectre and Swamp Thing on his side. A major showdown is set up for the next volume. This is based on the bestselling 2013 video game.
Cross media strategies work.
The Furniture Salesman Who Became President
Translation: J. Casey Hammond
Last year when the Indonesian Presidential elections were going on, many of my cartoonist friends (Akademi Samali) were drawing cartoons in support of Jokowi. So Jokowi is not just a heavy metal president; he is a cartoonists’ president as well. Gunawan, a Jogjakarta-based artist drew this comic to explain the rise and appeal of Jokowi. The man has done good in Solo and Jakarta and now he is responsible for the rest of the country. This comic does a good job in framing the Jokowi story – from childhood to family life to presidency. We now know that things are not that rosy and Jokowi is facing difficulties and compromises. Or as how The Wire magazine described it, there are limits to populism. The translation by J. Casey Hammond of SUTD is good. Now let’s hope there will be a sequel to this book and it will be translated to English too. We need to know more of our own background and the largest country in Southeast Asia.
Story/Art: Rachael Smith
A much darker book than Rachael Smith’s first book, House Party, The Rabbit continues Smith’s exploration of what it means to grow up – the challenges, the doubts and the strange things that happen to you as you go down the rabbit hole. The book could have gone down a much darker route like Bryan Talbot’s The Tale of One Bad Rat. But the story of Eleanor and her younger sister Kathy ends on a happy note and is life-affirming. We are not told why the siblings ran away for home for those few days (maybe a prequel?) – something based on Smith’s own life or people she knows? Read this and watch the 2008 British film Helen directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy.
Howard the Duck #3
Story: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Joe Quinones
It’s cool that Sex Criminals artist Chip Zdarsky is writing mainstream books like Jughead and Howard the Duck. It’s just that I’m not sure making Howard cosmic is the way to go. Granted that the origins of Howard by creator Steve Gerber was somewhat cosmic in nature given the character's association with the Man-Thing, this current incarnation of Howard is more due to the fact that he had a cameo in the end credits of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. And yep, the Guardians turned up in the last page of this issue, so expect to see more of them in #4. The bad guys are The Collector (so this new series is a direct sequel to the end credits of GOTG) and The Stranger. I’d prefer someone like Jonathan Lethem (whose take on another Gerber character, Omega the Unknown is astonishing) to reboot this.
Story: Robbie Thompson
Art: Nick Bradshaw
A fun read, although you would think Marvel would have done these years ago – Spider-man Year One. So Peter Parker is still a nerd, Gwen Stacy is still alive and showing interest in Peter. Aunt May is still… Aunt May. And Spidey gets to fight the Sandman in this issue. Good to get for your younger siblings or little nephews and nieces.