It was a pretty big week for comics last week. Brian K Vaughn's Saga finally dropped (I didn't read it), and another much-anticipated book, Womanthology, showed up in comic stores (I sort of read it, but I'm in it, so I mostly just obsessed over my mistakes.) (I'm on page 194, go look it up.)
However, three much more exciting (to me, anyway) stories ended up on my digital (and actual) doorstep this week. I didn't think I could top the thrill of seeing my own work in print, but the following three comics were so well done, they have confirmed my choice to only read creator-owned / indie comics from here on out.
The first Kickstarters I ever contributed to (other than Womanthology, which sort of doesn't count,) were Jimmy Palmiotti's Queen Crab, and Rachel Deering's Anathema. That was what seemed like forever ago. Actually getting to read what I'd been receiving email updates about for months, and not being disappointed, was kind of surprising.
Queen Crab ended up being a hardcover book released by Image Comics, and is available in comic book shops right now. Artiz Eiguren provides the art, and it's beautifully understated for a story about a girl with crab claws for hands. I felt most of the book downplayed the entire crustacean-mutation angle in favor of a study of the main character, Ginger.
My one complaint about this book is that it was the wrong length. It either needed to be longer, or shorter, I can't decide which. If you shorten it at a certain turning point (no spoilers) about 2/3rds of the way through, you lose the last third where Ginger actually explores how she came to be part crab, part woman. But that was the portion of the book that intrigued me the most, not only because it involved creepy dolphin noises and luminescent eyeballs, but the return of a character from earlier, Vincent, whom I was hoping we'd get to know better.
Shortening the book improves the pacing, though. There's a "and then two years later" gap that is sometimes the kiss of death. In this case it feels like the start of the next chapter, but it doesn't finish, it leaves you with an open ending. It's frustrating to think, since this was his first stab at financing a book through Kickstarter, that Palmiotti might not get to revisit these people, and finish Ginger's story.
So I guess my second complaint is that the characters are far more interesting than they're given time to be. That's to Palmiotti's credit, turning what could be a gruesome sci-fi horror comic in to a more dramatic character-driven story. (I refuse to use the term "Cronenberg-esque" except to tell you that I'm not going to say it.) That's my argument for a second volume -- I'd like more Vinny, more of Ginger's sister, and more of her fellow co-workers. (Okay, maybe I just like mermaids.) (But really, what is with the crab claws? I NEED TO KNOW SO HURRY UP WITH THE SECOND VOLUME.)
Next was Anathema, a good old-fashioned horror comic from Womanthology editor Rachel Deering, with amazing art (and on kind of short notice!) from Chris Mooneyham. I love ghosts, ghouls, vampires, witches, demons, all sorts of supernatural. Rachel has put a new twist on werewolf tales that's really refreshing. After four seasons of Being Human, it's a great change of pace to read a story that involves someone who wants to become a supernatural beastie.
It's a very dark tale, but there's just the right amount of backstory to smoothly put you right in to the world of lesbian witches and werewolves. Again, I got to the end of this one and was annoyed there wasn't more. Anathema #1 is definitely a first issue, and if it doesn't get a second issue I'm going to drive to your house and ask you why you didn't take my advice and buy it.
Last thing I read this week was a digital copy of Chris Ryder's Dames in the Atomic Age. He tweeted a ten page preview that peaked my interest. It was noir and the supernatural, so completely in my wheelhouse. It also had boxing and Ruskie thugs and spaceray guys and aforementioned dames. All in the first ten pages.
When I got the full comic, I didn't think it could possibly be better than Anathema -- which is unbelievably great -- but then again I thought Queen Crab was pretty fucking impressive when I first cracked it open, too. Everything this week just got progressively better and better, from a starting point that was pretty high to begin with.
Marc Sandroni does most of the heavy lifting in Dames as far as the art is concerned, but Mike Vosberg, Paul Little, Tony Fleecs, Brandon “Ragnar” Johnson, Andy Suriano, Chris Moreno, Tone Rodriguez, Mark Dos Santos, Brad Rader, and Rahsan Ekedal also contribute pin-ups and interstitial comics that hold the entire book together.
It's the story of a post-World War II era gumshoe whose best friend is a heavyweight boxer. Together they're trying to solve what they believe to be a kidnapping, but it spirals from pulp fiction to other-world territory seamlessly. I wasn't expecting the between-chapter comics that sometimes acted like a Tales of the Black Freighter sort of bridge, and provided important background on the characters. They're quite brilliant.
Basically, without giving too much away: If you like people punching one another, mysteries, car chases, and giant ants, you have to check out Dames in the Atomic Age. If the print copy looks half as good as the PDF did, I'm going to buy extra copies to give out as presents. (Same with Anathema, too.) Print copies were available for the first time at Wondercon this past weekend. You can also purchase it online at Art of Fiction.
Anathema #1 is available in print from Rachel directly, or there will be some available at C2E2 through IC Geeks (table 719). If you enjoy dark horror tales, lesbians, demons, witches, or werewolves, I'd advise you to check this one out as soon as possible. This book is sort of like if Edgar Allen Poe were a riotgrrl.
I highly recommend buying all three books, not only because you should be supporting creator-owned comics, but because if you enjoy sci-fi, drama, and the supernatural, these are three very different comics that all transcend the "b-movie horror" genre.