Tales of Ordinary Madness

Written by Malcolm Bourne
Art by Mike Allred
112 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

If you were reading comics in 1992, chances are you already knew the name Malcolm Bourne. His big writing debut was that January, but he’d already made a reputation for himself in what were the comic discussion forums of that era: letter columns. Witty, erudite, and carefully spoken, your letter column just wasn’t complete until Bourne graced its presence once. Then in January 1992, Bourne and a little-known artist named Mike Allred debuted a mini-series at Dark Horse, Tales of Ordinary Madness. It’s a little over a decade later, and the book has a new lease on life as a trade paperback. Now that time has distanced its potential readers from Bourne’s reputation as a letter column scribe, the question remains: Is it any good?

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Graphic Classics: Mark Twain

Edited by Tom Pomplun
144 pages, black and white
Published by Eureka Productions

Growing up, two of my favorite books to read over and over again were Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It wasn’t until I got older that I really started to discover that Twain was also a writer of numerous short stories, linked together by a display of wit and cunning. I remember wishing at the time that someone had marketed his short stories to younger readers. I may be older now, but I’m no less delighted to see that Graphic Classics: Mark Twain seems to be doing just that.

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Panel: Architecture

Edited by Tony Goins, Tim Fischer, and Dara Naraghi
40 pages, black and white
Published by Ferret Press

Sometimes all it takes is one story in an anthology to catch my attention. That was the case with Ferret Press’s Panel: Architecture, a comic with stories all around the theme of architecture. When I saw it had one of my favorite unsung creators, well, I certainly had to take a look at the whole book. It just goes to show, all you really need is that one hook to bring the reader on board.

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Vagabonds #1

By Josh Neufeld
24 pages, green and white
Published by Alternative Comics

Josh Neufeld’s travel stories have caught my attention ever since they first appeared in Keyhole years ago. Neufeld and his then-girlfriend (now wife) backpacked through large stretches of southeast Asia, and the resulting adventures have appeared in comic stories since then. With The Vagabonds, Neufeld has his own solo book to both reprint and hopefully present new stories about his adventures in both foreign lands and those places a little closer to home…

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Things Are Meaning Less

By Al Burian
160 pages, black and white
Published by Microcosm Publishing, distributed by Top Shelf Productions

When I first opened up Things Are Meaning Less, I felt like I’d somehow read it before. It took me a minute to realize that this wasn’t true; what I’d mistaken for the actual material was instead a similar mood that other material had also evoked. It brings to mind books by creators like John Porcellino, who tell stories about everyday life with a certain wistfulness that quickly infects the reader. Needless to say, I think this is a good thing indeed.

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Freaks of the Heartland #1

Written by Steve Niles
Art by Greg Ruth
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

Dark Horse’s horror line and author Steve Niles both seem to be debuting new books every time I turn around. It almost goes without saying that there’s a slight overlap between the two, including Niles’s newest book Freaks of the Heartland. What intrigued me the most about Freaks of the Heartland wasn’t the larger-than-life, paranormal aspect of the book… but the real terror of every day life.

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Hard Time #1

Written by Steve Gerber
Art by Brian Hurtt
48 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

The conceit of DC’s new “DC Focus” line is simple enough. Stand-alone books where there are no superheroes, no villains, just average people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Hard Time is the first of the four titles out of the gate, but as I read it I found myself wondering: is Hard Time really the title they should use to kick off this line of books?

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Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta

Written by Lisa Wheeler
Art by Mark Siegel
40 pages, color
Published by Atheneum

I’m noticing more and more of a fine line between children’s books and comics these days. Some, like Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly’s Little Lit, don’t surprise me at all, considering the editors’s work within the comics world. But then you turn around and see a book like Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta by non-comics creators Lisa Wheeler and Mark Siegel and the only real difference between it and a comic is, quite frankly, how the publisher chose to market it.

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Right Number Parts One and Two

By Scott McCloud
two-color
Published at scottmccloud.com

Growing, I always tried to find patterns in numbers. Telephone numbers, addresses, the numbers on the odometer of my parents’s car… you name it, I’d be staring at the numbers carefully, flipping them around in my head to find their secret code. Is this normal? Not terribly, no. But I feel positively mundane when compared to the protagonist of Scott McCloud’s webcomic The Right Number.

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Para Para

By Andy Seto
144 pages, color
Published by ComicsOne

Go to a large-scale arcade and chances are you’ll see them—the dozens of teenagers clustered around the games where you literally dance on top of a series of pads to score points. While Dance Dance Revolution is the most popular brand of these games in the United States, it’s hardly the only one. For instance, there’s Para Para, a variant where sensors also track your hand gestures and award points for style. Even then, who would have guessed that Andy Seto would create a comic about it, revealing it to be the true expression of love? Not me, that’s for sure.

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