Tag: Joe Kelly

The Best Comics of 2010

by on Dec.19, 2010, under Comics

Honorable mentions: Lucky in Love, Dark Rain, Wilson, The Bulletproof Coffin, The Unwritten (also vol. 2), Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour.

Not new in 2010 and therefore not eligible, but back in print for the first time in 10 years and worth buying: Cages.

#6: Brian Wood, DMZ Volume 8, Hearts and Minds

DMZ cover

After years in the war zone that was once Manhattan, journalist Matty Roth’s bad decisions finally catch up to him in this volume. He makes one wrong step too many and loses his soul. Along with Northlanders Volume 4, The Plague Widow, this book cements Brian Wood as one of the best writing any kind of comic today. Also good from Brian Wood this year: the reissue of Local.

#5: Brian Michael Bendis, Scarlet

Brian Michael Bendis has given us the origin story of a revolutionary and promised us a revolution. We’re only a few issues in, but so far he hasn’t pulled back from that extreme commitment. I hope he never does.(I also wrote about issue #2.)

#4: David B. and Pierre Mac Orlan, The Littlest Pirate King

This late entry from Fantagraphics elbowed its way on here after I’d published the initial list. A children’s tale with a deeply messed up, traumatic ending and beautiful art.

#3: Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #20: Lint

I hadn’t loved what Chris Ware had been doing over the last couple of volumes of Acme Novelty Library. Frankly, not many of his fans did. Read the self-deprecating product descriptions on his Drawn and Quarterly page sometime (“flat,” “slow,” “always dreary”). With Lint, though, he’s done something not only affecting but politically relevant by taking us inside the mind of a man something like George W. Bush.

#2: Joe Sacco, Footnotes in Gaza

Joe Sacco wove together descriptions of present-day Gaza with accounts of two smallish war crimes from fifty years ago to create arguably the most important comic of 2010. Ten years after the Holocaust, young Jews act out a version of the same dark drama.

#1: Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura, I Kill Giants

Childhood escapes from troubled home lives into fantasy are hardly unexplored territory, but Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura executed this one perfectly. I called it the Bridge to Terabithia of comics and I meant it. (Also very good by Kelly this year: Four Eyes.)

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Four Eyes TPB Vol. 1

by on Aug.06, 2010, under Comics

I raved about Joe Kelly’s book I Kill Giants, and while the first trade paperback collecting his series Four Eyes doesn’t quite pack the same emotional punch, it’s still very good.

It’s set in New York during the Great Depression, where the most exciting illicit activity isn’t booze, but dragon fighting (think cockfighting rather than bullfighting). To obtain dragons for the ring, teams of men enter dens to steal dragon eggs. Young Enrico, maybe nine or ten, watches his father die doing this, and as a result he hates dragons. He goes to the fights because he wants to see dragons die, and then for the princely sum of four dollars joins a crew of “beaters” (the disposable workers who distract a dragon while the professionals go for her eggs).

Kelly sets himself a hard task here. He lets us know from the beginning—by setting protesters around the fringes of the action and by letting us peek into newspapers—that dragon fighting is just as cruel and evil a bloodsport as any in our real world. But he puts his protagonist on the wrong side of the moral divide, letting him remain the tough little boy who hates dragons and wants to see them suffer and die, and asks us to sympathize with him anyway. (Amores Perros succeeded, for example, only by shutting its eyes to the immorality of dogfighting. Joe Kelly has denied himself that escape hatch.)

A big part of what makes that sympathy happen is Max Fiumara’s art. Fiumara draws Enrico bottom-heavy, a scrawny upper body atop oversized pants and shoes, his hands often hidden inside giant gauntlets that reach to his elbows, and a scowl on his triangular, big-eyed face. In other words, he uses every visual trick there is to make the boy look like an adorable pixie acting tough and taking on responsibilities too big for him.

At the end of this first volume Enrico rescues a runt dragon, the titular Four Eyes, and bonds with it. But he bonds with it as a survivor, a fighter like him, and it’s not hard to see what’s coming in future issues: Four Eyes will have to enter the arena. Meaning the series will continue to be a tricky pleasure.

Preview below the fold.

(continue reading…)

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I Kill Giants TPB

by on May.20, 2010, under Comics

Fuck you, Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura, for making me almost cry on the F train. Seriously, I was like this close. Fuck you for writing the Bridge to Terabithia of comics.

I’ve written a lot of negative reviews recently, and a lot of the positive reviews I’ve written have been half-hearted at best.  It’s been a long time since I got to write a rave about a book I didn’t suspect beforehand I was going to love. I Kill Giants is why I read comics.

It’s about a fifth-grade girl named Barbara who’s a little undersized, friendless, and really weird. She plays D&D instead of hanging out with kids her age. She gets sent to the principal’s office for disrupting career day—because she already has a career, thank you very much, giant-killing—and then to the school psychologist’s office. She carries a magical giant-killing hammer named Coveleski, after a turn-of-the-2oth-century baseball player. Her sister looks after her and her brother and there’s an unspeakable horror living upstairs.

Childhood escapes from troubled home lives into fantasy are hardly unexplored territory, but Kelly and Niimura execute Barbara’s perfectly. The sense of genuine menace builds as elements of Barbara’s imagination come to life in the real world. Giants are coming, and her crudely drawn familiars can’t help her, they can only die. The major villain, when he appears, would be terrifying to a child.

Seriously, just buy it. Buy it immediately.

Preview below the fold.

(continue reading…)

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