Inbound #5: The Food Issue

Inbound #5: The Food Issue

The Boston Comics Roundtable sure seems like one of the most viable and interesting local comics collectives around.  They've put out several issues now in a couple of different anthology series (ComixTalk reviewed previous books Outbound #2 and Inbound #3).  The latest edition of the Inbound anthology series (subtitled "Comics From Boston") is The Food Issue which focuses on comics featuring food.  The first half of the book is titled "Food Facts" and includes stories about food and autobiographical tales with food as a prominent part of the story. The second half of the book is titled "Food Fiction" and is a more wide-ranging selection of comics, none of which purport to be nonfiction.  

The book is 176 pages and features 26 brand new stories. The contributors include: E.J. Barnes, Eric Boeker, Jerel Dye, Franklin Einspruch, Patrick Flaherty, Bob Flynn, Joel Christian Gill, Andrew Greenstone, Danny Gonzalez, Raul Gonzalez, Beth Hetland, Erik Heumiller, Allie Kleber, Braden D. Lamb, Cathy Leamy, Jackie Lee, Jesse Lonergan, Dan Mazur, Mar-T Moyer, Line O, David Ortega, Shelli Paroline, Adrian Rodriguez, Roho, Aya Rothwell, Katherine Roy, Adam Syzm, Laura Terry, Jason Viola, Rebecca Viola, Katherine Waddell, Ryan Wheeler, and Andy Wong.

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Road: A Sordid City Blues Graphic Novel by Charles Snow

 A Sordid City Blues Graphic Novel

Road is a new short graphic novel from Charles Schneeflock Snow.  It originally appeared as part of his webcomic Sordid City Blues which is a favorite of mine. I've always liked Sordid City Blues — it's probably suffered in awareness online because of some hiatuses from Snow.  There's also it's willingness to acknowledge and grapple with the Christianity of its characters.  Anytime an author puts an agenda over telling a good story, whether it's religion, politics or an ideology, well that can just kill the chances of a good story.  But incorporating any topic, even religion, politics or ideology, into a story isn't the same as having an agenda above the story.  And Snow does not have an agenda, but rather has a number of characters who deal with issues of faith and religion in a pretty honest and interesting way.

Road is one of the better stories from Snow and is very worthy of its book treatment.  It's the tale of the very small band Owns Big Mecha doing a short East Coast tour.  This is one of those classic — play small clubs, stay in friends' basements kind of deal — with the band driving in a van, eating bad food, getting lost and everything that goes along with that.  The band does feature three of the main characters from the ongoing webcomic, but Road feels pretty self-contained and I don't think you need any backstory to enjoy it on its own terms.   

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Enjoy The Book: Multiplex In Print

Gordon McAlpin is the creator of Multiplex, a webcomic about the staff at a neighborhood theater.  I first encountered McAlpin's work when he was creating the short nonfiction comic pieces under the banner of Stripped Books.  Those works, although perhaps dated now were a clue that McAlpin had ambitions to create quality work.  So I was a reader of Multiplex from the beginning (ComixTalk has interview McAlpin twice, once in 2006 and once in 2008).  McAlpin recently put out a book collecting the first year of the webcomic, titled Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show: Book One.

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Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith with Tom Sniegoski

Bone: Tall Tales

The world of Bone is back for a series of short stories in Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith with Tom Sniegoski.  Jeff Smith's creation has been told in the original black and white versions and now the full series is out in color from Scholastic.  After the release of a prequel Bone: Rose, Smith has turned to a small sequel of sorts as Tall Tales concerns four stories that Smiley Bone tells to little Ringo, Bingo, Todd and the rat creature Bartleby during a campout.  

This is a fun little addition to Boneland focused on the sillier, fun side of Jeff Smith's world with almost none of the serious side of the epic tale through the original series of books.  Most of the tall tales center around a new character called Big Johnson Bone, a Paul Bunyan-like character who is constantly telling tall tales as he wrecks a patch of destruction in his adventures.  There is also a wordy, somewhat timid monkey named Mr. Pip (who Big Johnson won in a poker game) who is a nice counterpoint to Big Johnson's bravado.  Even though the book is set after the epic series, the tall tale about Big Johnson concerns an adventure before the story in the original series. It turns out Big Johnson serves a key role in the early history of the valley when he turns back the rat creatures and rescues the forest creatures.  

While there is none of the epic quality to the original series or the prequel Rose, this book does have all of the charming humor.  The Queen Rat and her gigantic son Tyson are two great characters who add a bit more to the basic rat monster template of the stories.  The tiny dragon Stillman is also very funny – in fact there is a whole lot of "cute" in the stories with lots of baby animals and the type of scattered chatter that Smith has done before.  

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Archvillain by Barry Lyga

Archvillian by Barry Lyga

Every now and then someone sends me a non-comics book, usually an all ages one, probably because I've been reviewing more comics aimed at a younger audience in recent years.  Archvillian by Barry Lyga is one such book. Possibly, Scholastic sent it to ComixTalk because of it's superhero-inspired theme (okay make that likely because of…). Lyga has been writing superhero-inspired young adult novels since 2006, but to be honest I'd never heard of him before nor read anything else by him.  Which isn't surprising as my kids (aka the X-girls) tend more towards fantasy and mystery more than science fiction so far and I don't think they've ever gone for a superhero story on their own initiative.

Still I gave this one a shot — it's the story of Kyle Camden who starts off the book as the smartest and most popular kid in school, but also a kid who has already decided that he has no time to suffer for fools and that by and large the rules don't apply to him.  He is loved and feared because of a trail of legendary pranks he's committed (although the book's recounting of the "pranks" in his past reveals that they are actually kind of pedestrian). It's a book told entirely from Kyle's point of view too so there's not much of a reality check on what he tells us of other characters in the story or about himself.

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The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier

The Unsinkable Walker Bean

I loved The Unsinkable Walker Bean — it's an old fashioned adventure story full of vibrant characters and clever twists and turns.  Aaron Renier has delivered a fantastic book.  The coloring by Alec Longstreth is also really fantastic.  I was not really familiar with Renier's work beforehand, but this comic reflects someone in full command of their creative powers.  Everything fits together well — strong characters, strong plot with great pacing throughout, and a whole world and mythology Renier has cooked up to support this tale.

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Amulet 3: The Cloud Searchers

Amulet, projected as a 10 volume series by creator Kazu Kibuishi, is shaping up to be something truly special. Kibuishi is weaving a story mixing deep archetypes with images and character types familiar from other popular epic entertainment, and yet still something quite original. The Cloud Searchers is the third volume in the series and easily the most accomplished of the series to date. I'm sure people have compared Amulet to Harry Potter, or even Star Wars before on a superficial level and there's some merit there. Amulet is vigorously entertaining and really engaging in the way a truly good adventure story can make you care about the fate of fictional characters and a fantasy world.

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