Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse

Written by Nate Cosby
Art by Chris Eliopoulos
Additional stories by Roger Langridge, Brian Clevenger, Scott Wegener, Mitch Gerads, Colleen Coover, and Mike Maihack
96 pages, color
Published by Archaia

There are books that sneak up on you, and I’d put Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse in that category. On its surface it looks like a cute kid’s book, with a 10-year old boy dressed up like a cowboy holding what looks like a toy gun. I challenge you to read this book, though, and not find yourself utterly captivated. Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos have created a graphic novel that slowly but surely pulls you in, turning what at first appears to be a one-note joke into a deeply-affecting story about the bonds of family.

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Bloodshot #1

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Pencils by Manuel Garcia with Arturo Lozzi
Inks by Stefano Gaudiano
32 pages, color
Published by Valiant Entertainment

Bloodshot was one of the books at Valiant that I rapidly decided wasn’t for me; feeling very much like a standard shoot-em-up series, there was never quite the hook needed to make it stand out in my eyes. I was a little surprised, then, for it to be one of the first properties to come back from the new Valiant Entertainment. (Although at least it wasn’t the nondescript H.A.R.D. Corps, perhaps the one Valiant series that no one is clamoring to see revived.) Now that I’ve read Bloodshot #1, though? Well, credit to where it’s due, this version definitely seems more interesting.

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Batman: Earth One

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by Gary Frank
Inks by Jonathan Sibal
144 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

It’s sometimes hard to tell if you’re supposed to laugh at a comic or not, and that’s the uneasy feeling I got when reading Batman: Earth One. DC’s "Earth One" series of graphic novels recasts their characters into the modern day, tweaking and changing the origins as necessary. (Not to be confused, of course, with Marvel since unveiling their "Season One" line that does the exact same thing.) Of course, with DC since re-launching their entire main line of comics, I couldn’t help but wonder if Batman: Earth One was even necessary. Reading this graphic novel, with its uneven tone and wholesale changes to the character, I’m still not sure.

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Revival #1

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

There are an awful lot of zombies these days; between comics, television shows, book, and movies, there’s a certain saturation to the market that’s hard to ignore. I think what ended up working for me with Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s new series Revival is that it appears to have started with that same germ of an idea, but taken it in a quite different direction. Seeley’s giving us the small city of Wausau, Wisconson where the dead are coming back, but with its quarantinedby the CDC/enthralled by religious fringe groups/debated on the airwaves status, we know almost instantly that Revival is going for a slightly different take. We follow officer Dana Cypress in Revival, a police officer who’s about to be assigned to dealing as the law enforcement liaison between the CDC and the locals. Through her eyes we get our first direct glimpse at just what the "revivals" are like, and how they differ greatly from actual zombies.

It helps that Seeley and Norton quickly establish a creepy mood in Revival #1; the strange being in the woods that groans and slides among the trees, the image of Martha standing on the bridge looking at the cold waters below, even the strange opening scene of the fleeing, stumbling zorse (a horse/zebra hybrid). Norton’s been juggling multiple projects lately (Battlepug, Revival, It Girl) but you’d never know it based on the art here. It’s clean and attractive, and the storytelling is quite strong, something that’s a must in order for him and Seeley to build up the tension as the issue progresses. By the time we hit the issue’s climax, new questions are being opened about the nature of the "revivals" and the set-up is strong enough to want to see what will happen next. This is a good first issue; if you check it out for yourself, I suspect you’ll be quickly hooked. I know I am.

Wild Kingdom

By Kevin Huizenga
108 pages, black and white, with some color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

With Kevin Huizenga’s much-praised Gloriana having just being released into a hardcover edition, now seemed a good a time as any to look at one of his earlier, similarly-dimensioned books, The Wild Kingdom. Those looking for a defined narrative line throughout the book might be a bit disappointed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. While The Wild Kingdom shares Huizenga’s Glenn Ganges character (these days probably best known from the Ganges comics), it’s a loose, free-form series of shorts that feel more observational than anything else. Many of them focus on interactions or looks at wildlife; one story, for example, lets us see the movements of a bird that lands in the middle of a traffic lane and how danger seems to inch ever closer.

The center section of The Wild Kingdom suddenly shifts to full color, as we get a bizarre and surprisingly funny shift into a series of commercials. They’re nonsensical and great, and I think the complete derailment of the mood of The Wild Kingdom up until that point actually is a plus for this book. It’s so out-of-the-blue that it almost feels startling, and the laughter that results is that much more genuine. And when the book closes out with what seems at first like a sad moment for a single bird and then dominos into something greater, well, it’s the most unexpected ending I’ve seen in a book for quite a while. Add in Huizenga’s stripped down and attractive art, and this is a book that manages to sneak up and surprise you again and again. While I don’t think I’d put The Wild Kingdom up as one of Huizenga’s greatest comics, it is still immensely entertaining. For a book that at a glance feels a bit slight, I’m now kicking myself for taking so long to read it. Wonderfully unpredictable, this is a book I suspect I’ll be re-visiting over the years.

Purchase Links: | Powell’s Books

Adventure Time #5

Written by Ryan North, Paul Pope, Chris Roberson, and Georgia Roberson
Art by Mike Holmes, Paul Pope, and Lucy Knisley
24 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

Boom! Studios’ wildly successful Adventure Time comic has been not just a good-seller, but enormously fun with its first four-issue storyline. With Adventure Time #5, though, Ryan North proves that he can tackle single-issue stories too. It’s a fun, meandering concept of an issue, with Finn and Jake competing to see who can walk in a straight line the longest in order to get a cupcake, but quickly turns into them encountering someone named "Adventure Tim" whose life seems suspiciously familiar to the duo. It’s a fun twist on the idea of an identical twin, and even as the story wanders off in different directions it never stops being entertaining. Mike Holmes takes over the art this issue and it’s another strong choice for the book, with that crisp, clean, animation-styled approach to the title.

And if that’s not enough… how about a little Paul Pope or Lucy Knisley art? Paul Pope writes and draws "Emit Erutnevda!!" which starts off with a magic hole that leads into other dimensions, and rapidly gets stranger with each of its four pages. It’s bizarre and wonderful, and I love that his stringy, textured, almost oily art isn’t changed or compromised at all in order to tackle an issue of Adventure Time. Knisley draws a one-page story written by Chris Roberson and his 8-year old daughter Georgia Roberson, which is ridiculous and I say that in a good way. From the generation of ice cubes to the Ice King’s "conversation" with penguin Gunter, it’s a fun little diversion to wrap up the comic. Adventure Time continues to bring sheer fun into its comics, and I like that this issue completely stands on its own if you’ve never read the comic or watched the show before. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

By Guy Delisle
336 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

I’ve always enjoyed travel non-fiction, and that’s definitely what Guy Delisle’s books set in different parts of the world fall under. Books like Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea and Burma Chronicles have given us glimpses into these far-off, almost-inaccessible places, mixing local color with the travails of his own life. With Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, though, he’s going to a place that feels a little closer if perhaps also more volatile. The chances of knowing someone who’s gone to Burma or North Korea are small at best, but Jerusalem (and to a lesser extent, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in general) is a much higher probability. So in doing so, Delisle loses his previous "edge" of transporting the reader to a place they’ll almost certainly never visit, and has to rely more on his own storytelling ability.

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Anya’s Ghost

By Vera Brosgol
224 pages, two-color
Published by First Second Books

With a lot of young-adult oriented books and graphic novels, you know exactly how they’re going to turn out as soon as you start reading. Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost deliberately flouts that predictability, thankfully; it’s a book that not only doesn’t treat its readers as stupid, but delights in providing logical yet surprising turns of events from start to finish, resulting in a graphic novel that entertains on a continual basis.

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