Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been checking off their “to read” list lately. This time around we talk about comics featuring Deadpool, Vincent Price and Elvira, as well as We Live by the Miranda Brothers and two recent TKO Shorts.
Let us know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments or on social media.
I read two books this week that wasted my time. They were not bad comics, just that they decided to give me walls of text next to the art which made me choose what I wanted to look at. That’s not how comics work! It’s words AND pictures, not words OR! Stylistically, it was a choice that absolutely failed for me as a reader and enjoyer of the medium.
What I did like were two off the wall examples of comics done right, one via art and one via words.
The best art I saw this week was in Deadpool: Black, White & Blood #1. Anthology books are hard to sell because short stories really have to give you a lot of bang for your buck. We all want Barry Windsor-Smith when we crack these things open: super unique and iconic art mixed with a story that greatly impacts the characters it involves. The best thing for Deadpool: Black, White & Blood is that the second part really doesn’t matter. It’s Deadpool; we’re not looking for Shakesperian soliloquies here, we just want a good time. But the art by Phil Noto, Whilce Portacio and James Stokoe goes above and beyond the call of duty for these silly bloodbaths to bring incredible artwork to the page.
Maybe it’s the limited color palette, but every line really sings from these guys and makes these short stories of silliness really dynamic and exciting! Panels flow easily from one to the next, bursting with details and movement. They could have easily slapped a cardstock cover on this and bumped up the price for a prestige book, but at $4.99 is still worth the price of admission for some very talented comic art in quick sample sizes.
The book that has the best words in my opinion is the Dynamite published Elvira Meets Vincent Price #1. Not to discredit John Samu, who does a marvelous job at depicting ‘80s TV legend Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and screen legend Vincent Price with enough style to be cartoonish, but still recognizable as actual people who you can find photo of, but the story and dialogue are where the book really comes to life.
Licensed comics need to be on the same level of the material they’re adapting, and David Avallone knows how to write an Elvira script, with all the campy one-liners and fourth wall breaks, the shenanigans of adventure she falls into, with just enough supernatural horror and movie lore to delight fans. Even if you’ve never heard of Elvira before, you are going to get a great idea of who she is and what she does from reading this book. Also, if you want to watch her and Vincent Price fight an Egyptian god, you’ve come to the right place.
We Live by the Miranda Brothers is a stunning comic. The beautiful five-issue mini-series establishes a fascinating world with humanity on the cusp of extinction. Mysterious aliens have offered to save 5,000 chosen children before the planet basically self-destructs. The story follows young Hototo, one the chosen, and his sister Tala as they journey through the dangerous future Earth to get to the Beacon to escape. The art is wonderful with amazing character designs by Inaki Miranda and absolutely gorgeous colors by Eva De La Cruz.
The personalities of the children shine through as their journey goes very awry. The story is exceptionally adept at leaning into tragedy and then swinging back to hope, making for an unpredictable experience that’s hard to put down. Each chapter or issue includes a QR code that takes readers to a YouTube video of an original song by Elhombreviento and Mario “Gonzo” Lorente, with the collected edition providing a bonus track. This original soundtrack is well produced and performed. Some songs are instrumental, and some have lyrics that hint at the larger world of We Live. And according to the Thank You page at the end of the collected edition, we’ll be seeing more of the world of We Live. With the unexpected ending, I’m intrigued to see where the lush world building goes from here. I just hope my heart can take it.
TKO Studios is probably best known for their self-distributed “binge release model” comics by Garth Ennis, Steve Epting, Jeff Lemire, Steve Niles and a host of other creators. But they aren’t just doing long-form stories; they also have a publishing initiative called TKO Shorts, which are self-contained, digest-sized single issue stories. I read a couple of them this week — Roofstompers, by Alex Paknadel and Ian MacEwan, and The Walk by Michael Moreci and Jesus Hervas. The latter is a horror story set on the floor of the ocean involving scientist trying to make their way to another station, while Roofstompers is … probably more difficult to explain. It’s also a horror story, and it’s about a doctor who, while hunting, gets attacked by a bear and rescued by a recluse family. It starts off feeling a bit like Misery, but it gets way more surreal after that.
Both are well done, from both a story and art perspective; MacEwan’s artwork captures the weird, otherworldly nature of Paknadel’s story very well, while Hervas’ watercolor-esque artwork brings Moreci’s dark, underwater world to life. Both books also work well from a design perspective, as Jared K. Fletcher and Jeff Powell give them a distinct but connected look; they may be different, unrelated stories, but they fit together thematically, and knowing that a third book — River of Sin by Kelly Williams — was released at the same time as these two makes me think I should probably order it as well, just to complete the collection and see if it complements these other two.
You can find them on the TKO site if you’d like a physical copy, and they’re also available via comiXology.