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Quick Hits -- Here are some brief reviews of recent comics and graphic novels that have come in to Doane Central...

Small Gods #1 (Image Comics; $2.95) -- An above-average first issue for a series about cops with precognitive powers and the complications and situations this would lead to. Writer Jason Rand's script focuses as much on the humanity as the high concept, and the black and white art of Juan E. Ferreyra is exceptional in most places and suits the story well; as with Demo and The Walking Dead, excellent use of black and white and greytones make me miss the colour not at all, and the striking, almost-not-there cover calls attention to the book on the stands. Lots of detail and story in this first issue, unlike many aggravating decompressed debuts, and I am definitely checking out the next issue to see where this is headed. Grade: 4/5

The Nail #1-2 (Dark Horse Comics); $2.99) -- Scary, violent stuff about a pro wrestler and his family targeted by a freakish cult. From writers Rob Zombie (!) and the always-entertaining Steve Niles, and artist Nat Jones. Paranoid, claustrophobic, packed with still-effective '70s horror movie tropes and extremely effective, almost Richard Corben-like colour artwork. The paper stock changes for the better from #1 to #2, even better showing off the art. Grade: 4/5

Texarkana (Mad Yak Press; $12.95) -- This futuristic tale of law enforcement (high concept: Judge Dredd meets Powers) in a greatly changed North America is tightly plotted, but Patrick Neighly's script leaves plenty of room for his characters to roam the environs, have some fun, and give us a feel for what the hell happened to the United States. The four main characters are the new version of the entire criminal justice system set out in roving packs to summarily deal with criminals; the characters are distinct and memorable, and the "Volume One" on the spine gives me hope we'll see more. Artist Donny Hadiwidjaja and colourist Anne Marie Horn combine to make this a beautiful and convincing story with more than a few stunning pages and a dazzling, cinematic sense of pacing. Really a smashing debut for this series, I can't wait for the next one. Grade: 4.5/5

It Disappears (Soft Skull Press; $9.95) -- Compact, metaphysical graphic novel from Walkie Talkie creator Nate Powell. The art (strongly reminiscent of Dave Sim, and with similarly excellent lettering) and production are top notch, the story is, to be kind, widely open to interpretation. I called Walkie Talkie "gorgeous...and impenetrable," and Powell continues that path here. Patient, exploring readers may find this rewarding; I wish it was a little more linear. Grade: 3.5/5

Tales from the Inner Sanctum (no publisher listed; $6.85) -- Horror anthology inspired by writer Steve Niles and assembled by dozens of writers and artists from Niles's message board. Mostly slight stories with occasionally impressive artwork. A wide variety of styles are in evidence, working in subgenres from terror to parody to Lovecraft. At this price, you can't go wrong, but the message board pedigree is pretty obvious and there's nothing here that would bring me back for a second volume. Have a peek at some work from the book here. Grade: 3/5

Egg Story (Slave Labor Graphics; $3.95) -- Digest-sized saga of a family of anthropomorphic eggs, one of whom gets cracked and another goes Ninja. J. Marc Schmidt's clear, simple art style clears the way for reader empathy and recognition. Fans of Street Angel will probably go for this, although it's much sweeter and less expansive. Nice format and price point, and suitable for all ages. Grade: 3.5/5

Carnet de Voyage (Top Shelf Productions; $14.95) -- Craig "Blankets" Thompson's beautifully illustrated travelogue takes the reader to faraway places, where they vividly experience Thompson's self-doubts, lonliness and occasional disgust with his own ennui. Like Blankets, this is a bit simple and overly whiny, but you have to credit Thompson for at least recognizing his own worst traits and mocking them. The drawings of the native environs are simply gorgeous, although so heavily Eisner-inspired that I wouldn't be surprised to see The Spirit leap out of the shadows on almost any given page. The most appealing aspect is Thompson's first-person experiences meeting new people and finding out how different and how similar the world is, wherever you choose to go. The ending is a rushed disappointment, but most of this compact, gorgeously produced graphic novel is compelling stuff by a developing talent who has, perhaps too soon, made a huge name for himself in artcomix circles. Thompson's a talent to watch, for sure, and it should be noted I'd sooner reread this than Blankets. Grade: 4/5

Canvas (Fantagraphics Books; $9.95) -- Slice of life/coming of age story about a teenage girl and her family, in kind of an Eddie Campbell/Alec kind of style. Mostly readable with some awkward tics in the artwork, the most disturbing thing in Alex Fellows's story is the lead character (irritatingly named Canvas) giving her first blowjob. Is this a charming character portrait, or kiddie porn? Schizophrenically, it seems to be both. Deeply flawed, but nonetheless interesting; this could have been a lot more than it is. Grade: 3/5

-- Alan David Doane



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