Scandalous

Written by J. Torres
Art by Scott Chantler
104 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

J. Torres and Scott Chantler’s first collaboration was Days Like This, chronicling the rise of a singing group in the 1960s. It was a fun, fresh project that made me really want to see what they’d do together next. Now, a year and a half later, the wait is over: Scandalous, focusing on 1950s Hollywood. If it turned out to be as good as Days Like This, I’d be a happy reader indeed.

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Ojo #1

Written by Sam Kieth
Art by Sam Kieth with Alex Pardee
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

Sam Kieth is probably best known for his comic The Maxx (or perhaps being the penciler for the first five issues of The Sandman), but he’s done his share of other comic books in recent days. Books like Zero Girl, Four Women, and Scratch are just a few of his recent projects—but out of all of his books in the past couple of years, I think my favorite based just on the first issue has got to be Ojo.

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Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

By Bryan Lee O’Malley
168 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

Last December, I read Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Lost at Sea and was blown away by what I found. Up until then I’d only encountered O’Malley as an artist for other people’s stories, not as a writer/artist in his own right. By the time I was done reading Lost at Sea I already knew that it would be on my “Best of 2003” list, easily. This actually made me a little nervous to read the first volume of Scott Pilgrim, O’Malley’s new series. Would it be able to hold up to the high expectations that Lost at Sea had placed on any future works of O’Malley’s? Or was I doomed for an inevitable disappointment?

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Closer

Written by Antony Johnston
Penciled by Mike Norton
Inked by Leanne Buckley
144 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

So often these days you read comics that feel less like projects in their own right, but more like storyboards or pitches for movies. Inevitably, those sort of projects never really click in comics because they aren’t aiming themselves at the format that they’re being published in. I think that’s why Closer jumped out at me; it never feels like it’s trying to be anything but a really good graphic novel, which is perhaps why by the end all I could think was “you know, I bet a movie producer’s going to snap up the rights to this book”. Go figure!

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Blue Monday: Painted Moon #1

By Chynna Clugston-Major
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

One of the most frustrating things about a long-running serial is when the characters don’t change. Sure, they might get a new outfit here and there, but there’s no character growth, no maturing over time. I think that’s why I was so enchanted by the first issue of Blue Monday: Painted Moon; as Chynna Clugston-Major’s teenagers get older, we’re seeing that with age is coming wisdom. Well, a tiny bit of wisdom at any rate.

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Deep Sleeper #1-2

Written by Phil Hester
Art by Mike Huddleston
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

A few years ago, Oni Press published Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston’s The Coffin, a mini-series that took the old comic book standby of suits of armor and turned it on its head into something far more interesting and different. Now they’re back with a brand new project, Deep Sleeper, and what could have been a very standard tale of journeying spirits seems to have that same spark of something more.

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Julius

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Brett Weldele
168 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

I didn’t really understand Julius Caesar the first time I encountered William Shakespeare’s play. It was in 4th grade, and our teacher had our class perform an abridged version of the play. A lot of the subtleties were lost as a result, like the real nature of Julius Caesar and Brutus’s relationship, the manipulations of Cassius, or for that matter, the fact that there’s still half a play to go after Julius Caesar’s assassination. It wasn’t until much later in life that, reencountering the play, I really understood all of these things. If I’d had Antony Johnston and Brett Weldele’s Julius to read back then, mind you, I’d have learned the error of my ways much sooner.

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Spooked Vol. 1

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Sophie Campbell
168 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

I know that Spooked has been in the works for a long while, now, but if I didn’t know better I’d think that it was designed as a very deliberate “break out” book for its two creators. Writer Antony Johnston’s first Oni project was Three Days in Europe, which seemed to sort of sneak up on the market while helping build buzz around him. Likewise, Sophie Campbell’s first Oni work is Too Much Hopeless Savages, providing the flashback sequences to the already-popular series of mini-series. So like I said, if I didn’t know better I’d think that the editors at Oni had decided that if they teamed the two up, they’d be able to simultaneously show off each other’s talents and really make names for themselves. Surely it’s just a coincidence that their stars are both on the rise as Spooked hits stores. Or is it…?

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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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Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom #1

By Ted Naifeh
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

When Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things debuted in 2002, I thought it was one of the best new series of the year. Ted Naifeh’s story of a young girl discovering the darker, mystical side of the world through her uncle while simultaneously trying to deal with real-world problems was fantastic, and the follow-up Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics was just as much fun. Now Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom is his third outing into Courtney’s world… and in many ways, it looks like it could be the best one yet.

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