Fancy Froglin’s Sexy Forest

By James Kochalka
64 pages, color
Published by Alternative Comics

At this year’s SPX, James Kochalka was overheard describing the creative process for his web strip Fancy Froglin. “Every week I draw a new page,” he said, “and then I show it to my wife Amy. And every week she says, ‘I don’t get it.’ So I ask her if that means she doesn’t like my comics, and she says, ‘Not Fancy Froglin.'” Well, I don’t know about you, but that was all I had to hear to buy a copy (once I stopped laughing, that is).

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Mother, Come Home

By Paul Hornschemeier
112 pages, color
Issues published by Absence of Ink; collection published by Dark Horse

I’d been holding off on this review for a while because I wanted to see how it ended before I came to a conclusion. I’d never read a long-form story by Paul Hornschemeier before, and it almost felt precariously balanced as I read the first two installments; could the conclusion hold up to the promise? With the solicitation for a collected edition from Dark Horse Comics I found myself wondering if I was holding off too long, and if I should just review the first two parts… now, having read the story in its entirely, I’m glad that I waited.

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Fables: The Last Castle

Written by Bill Willingham
Penciled by Craig Hamilton
Layouts and Inked by P. Craig Russell
48 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Ever since Fables began a year and a half ago, one of the most-demanded questions from readers has been, “What happened when the Adversary took over the Fables’s Homelands?” Creator Bill Willingham’s been keeping the answer to that question to himself… until now. Fables: The Last Castle reveals part of that answer, but in true Willingham form, asks more questions.

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Spirit & Image #1

Written by Daniel Monaham
Art by Tim Brazier
32 pages, color
Published by BobHouse

In the past couple of years, more and more animators seem to be finding their way into comics. That’s not to say that they haven’t already been there, of course; people like Scott Morse or the Monkeysuit Studios creators, for instance, have been plugging away in comics for some time now. With recent arrivals like Mike Kunkel, Jason Lethcoe, Ronnie del Carmen, and Joe Mateo, for instance, it feels like the playing field just keeps widening. Maybe that’s why when I first read Spirit & Image #1, I’d assumed that artist Tim Brazier was another addition from their ranks.

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Wonder Woman #195-196

Written by Greg Rucka
Penciled by Drew Johnson
Inked by Ray Snyder
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I’ve never understood the lack of respect for Wonder Woman. One of the longest running superhero books being published, the basic concept by William Moulton Marston was a strong one, and even revisions to it over the years have been generally a good thing. It spawned a successful television series, and Wonder Woman is a pretty recognizable pop icon around the world. So why is that most people won’t touch the Wonder Woman comic with a proverbial ten-foot pole? It’s a shame, because they’re going to miss out on the latest creative team that just took over that’s already showing a great deal of promise.

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Dark Horse Book of Hauntings

Edited by Scott Allie
96 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

A friend recently commented to me that 2003 seemed like it was the year of the anthology; the number of really strong anthologies released this year was almost overwhelming. The more I think about it, the more I tend to believe it; it’s almost impossible to even try and list how many have been released so far, and we still have three months to go! One of the latest anthologies to hit shelves is The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, a book which shows above all else why those ignoring Dark Horse’s new horror line really are missing out on some of the best books being published by the company.

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Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 1: The Opera House Murders

Story by Yozaburo Kanari
Art by Fumiya Sato
240 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

The mystery genre is alive and well in most forms of entertainment. Television, movies, books, just about all of them have a good-sized percentage of mysteries… except, of course, comics. Aside from CrossGen’s Ruse, there aren’t many high profile comics that tackle mysteries, unless you live in Japan. TokyoPop’s brought one of those series into English in the form of The Kindaichi Case Files, and based on their first volume The Opera House Murders it’s clearly something that should’ve made it over here years ago.

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Artesia Afire #1-3

By Mark Smylie
32 pages, color
Published by Archaia Studios Press

It’s hard to launch a fantasy series in comics. It seems like it would be a natural marriage of art form and genre, but somehow the two never seem to connect very well. Maybe it’s because of the number of failed “light fantasy” series, with pretty unicorns and elves and fairy princesses who traipse around the world in gossamer outfits. Meanwhile, books by authors like Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin continue to burn up the best-sellers charts in prose, proving that there’s certainly a market for well-written fantasy out there. Maybe what comics needs are more series like Mark Smylie’s Artesia, which show that it can work if you’ve just got the right material it can be golden.

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Like a River

By Pierre Wazem
112 pages, black and white
Published by Humanoids Publishing

There’s a real difference between writing a short story and a full length novel (or even novella). The basic story structure for a longer work needs to be handled very differently, and it’s always interesting to see how people handle these two very different art forms. Some authors are only good at one or the other, while many cheerfully straddle the line and attempt both. Since my only exposure to Swiss cartoonist Pierre Wazem was his shorter works in Metal Hurlant, I was quickly intrigued by his Like a River graphic novel; the end result certainly made up my mind on if Wazem was a strong in longer forms as he was the shorter ones.

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Dawn: Three Tiers #1-2

By Joseph Michael Linsner
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I have a confession to make. Despite it being one of the mainstays of alternative and independent comics, I’ve never read Joseph Michael Linsner’s Dawn before. I always knew it was out there, but for whatever reason I’d just never picked it up before. Now that Linsner has his new Dawn: Three Tiers mini-series, though, I figured it was as good a time as any to start.

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