Author Archives: Janine Fleri

Review: Paper Girls #2

PaperGirls02_CoverPaper Girls #2 rolled out last week, and the mysteries keep unfolding in the sci-fi adventure’s sophomore issue. Cliff Chiang’s artwork continues to perfectly compliment Brian K. Vaughan’s storytelling as he deftly captures the fear in one’s eyes, the nuance of a pre-teen girl’s upturned nose, the judgment she can reveal in a subtle snarl. Matt Wilson’s color work evolves to mark the passage of time, leaving behind the more varied palette of Issue #1, settling here into a softer, cotton-candy color scheme of early dawn that lends itself to the magical surrealism of the narrative.

*Spoilers below*

As the girls question the iPod discovered at the end of Issue #1 – something they only understand as a curious, Apple-branded device, being that it’s 1988 – they start to realize their local population has thinned considerably. This, in addition to the ever-expanding cast of monsters that are populating (and perhaps annihilating) the Paper Girls universe, has both the characters and myself strongly suspecting that a tear in time is at least partially to blame for the seemingly apocalyptic disturbances wreaking havoc on suburban Cleveland.

Folks who read Paper Girls’ debut will remember Erin’s opening dream-sequence, which left her questioning her sister’s safety upon waking. Issue #2 picks up with another foreboding nod to Erin’s sister, a character that has yet to develop but is likely being set up to have a larger purpose in the story’s broader mythology. (Or perhaps she’s just a McGuffin meant to propel Erin along in her journey? I look forward to finding out either way.)

As the girls try to figure out the best way to mount a defense against their increasingly bizarre circumstances, they find themselves at Mac’s house in search of a gun, which they unfortunately discover in the grips of Mac’s drunken stepmother. This is not only a pivotal moment in terms of setting-up a climactic cliffhanger, it also affords readers our first real emotional look at hard-as-nails Mac as a multidimensional character.

Paper Girls is a perfect example of why I tend to read my comics in collected volumes instead of singular issues – I want more. Now!

Story: Brian K. Vaughan Art: Cliff Chiang
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy in trade

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Poop Office

PO1-6coversHere’s a fun fact about me – I don’t have a colon! In fact, today is my one year disemboweliversary, so when the opoohtunity to review a little comic called Poop Office arose I figured it’d be a great way to honor the occasion.

Poop Office is a sort of Bizarro World Dilbert featuring a group of anthropomorphized, pun-loving turds as they navigate the inane frustrations of office life. In one strip central protagonist Poopert must track down a poohchase order number so he can order supplies from Office Dumpo while co-worker Fecelia is away on voidcation. And in another highly relatable misadventure, Poopert questions whether his boss Mr. Poopson heard him farting in his cubicle. Show me a desk jockey that says they haven’t faced the same conundrum and I’ll show you a goddamn liar!

Issue #6 is the first I’ve picked up, and new readers will find no need to go back and read the previous five for any reason other than their own amusement. Virtually plotless, these punchline based strips deliver a lot of simple, satisfying chuckles. The end of the issue features a few spin-off ideas including Poop Hospital, Poop Zoo, and Poop High School – There is virtually no setting that can’t be improved by talking pieces of shit!

Will this comic appeal to folks who haven’t spent twenty years of their life with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease? I think yes. Even without a personal history of Ulcerative Colitis I would still be a sucker for poop humor, and I know damn well having a bowel disease is not a prerequisite for enjoying fecal funnies. That being said, while I would gladly put a physical copy in my bathroom at home, it doesn’t really earn it’s place on my bookshelf so I’d suggest checking it out in digital format first. Web comics like The Oatmeal and Cyanide and Happiness have proven that simple concepts can be illustrated by simple drawings and still deliver solid laughs, and Poop Office is of a similar ilk.

Story: Ben Pooped Art: Ben Pooped
Art: 5 Story: 5 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Read

Naked Grape Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Paper Girls #1

PaperGirls01_CoverPaper Girls is the latest offering from writer Brian K. Vaughan, someone whose work I thought I hated based on two things: A single issue of Y: The Last Man, which intrigued me in concept but annoyed me in execution, and the mind-numbingly stupid abomination that was the television adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome. Thankfully Saga helped me turn the corner on Vaughan, and I found the storytelling and artwork of Paper Girls to be similarly satisfying. I was immediately sold by the opening dream sequence which is especially aesthetically reminiscent of Saga. It’s this sequence that introduces readers to 12 year-old Erin while also setting a darkly fantastic tone that carries into the character’s waking life and hopefully the entirety of the series.

Erin sets out on her paper route in the wee hours of November 1st, 1988, a date she’s dubbed “Hell Morning” on her calendar, and we quickly learn where this epithet comes from as she is immediately harassed and threatened by a trio of costumed boys – “teenagers” she seethes under her breath. It’s this confrontation that introduces us to the rest of the titular Paper Girls Mac, KJ, and Tiffany as they roll up on their bikes ready to defend a sister in need. With a few sharp words (well, calculated slurs might be a more apt description) Mac sends the boys packing. The rest of the issue is largely expository and focused on world-building, familiarizing readers with the core characters, their wits, and how they use them when confronted by aggressors in all forms, be they teenage boys, a dickheaded cop or…aliens?

Other reviews I’ve read have described Paper Girls as “Stand by Me meets War of the Worlds,” but if I were pressed to compare it to something at this point, I’d be more tempted to invoke the film Repo Man for the mix of sci-fi mystery and punk attitude. However, while Paper Girls is heavy on the angst and grit, it goes lighter on the comedic snark and campiness than its cinematic predecessor. It’s hard for me to praise this pilot issue without wandering into spoiler territory, but the characters are an admirable pack of sharp young women who are actively trying to integrate their school smarts with street smarts and I look forward to seeing how they develop as the series grows.

Story: Brian K. Vaughan Art: Cliff Chiang
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy In Trade

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max

Lumberjanes_v2_CoverLumberjanes: Friendship to the Max is the second trade paperback volume of the series, and throws readers right back into the outlandish adventures of the hardcore lady-types at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s seemingly magical summer camp. Volume 2 includes issues 5-8 and resolves some pressing questions from Volume 1, such as: Who is that magic bear lady? What the Annie Smith Peck going on in that lighthouse? And just what the junk is up with that boys’ camp, anyway??

One of the most enjoyable things about Lumberjanes, which delivers richly on the themes of friendship, feminism, solidarity, and the balance of self-sufficiency and cooperation, is that there are no real antagonists (at least none that I could find in the issues collected here nor in Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy). While there are obstacles galore – Raptors! Mythical creatures! The boredom of making lanyards! – there are no true enemies amongst the Lumberjanes. This is not to imply that the Lumberjanes live in a dull world or that every interpersonal relationship played out on the page is without strife – existing readers know this already. But as a newbie to the series, I was unsure of what I would be getting into, and I’ve found that what impresses me most is the authors’ commitment to keeping the overall relationships between characters civil without sacrificing any of the drama or excitement. Conflict between Lumberjanes and the people (and creatures!) they encounter typically takes shape in the form of banter-filled cartoonish fighting, or a character being possessed or otherwise controlled by outside forces. At each character’s core, with little exception, there is goodness. Even those revealed to be the “bad guys” by the end of the collection are really just misguided brats.

I especially enjoyed watching Jen’s character develop over the course of these four issues. As the Roanoke cabin’s scout leader, Jen spends most of her time trying to keep scouts Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley out of trouble. While her prudence is often scoffed at by her scouts, as well as camp supervisor Rosie, the story arcs of Friendship to the Max help readers better understand that Jen’s cautionary attitude comes from a place of intelligence and care, not paranoia.

Young readers are likely to learn some great lessons about trust and communication, power, and decision-making thanks to the adventures of the Lumberjanes, and adult readers – even curmudgeonly skeptics like myself – will find it hard not to love the spectrum of personalities that make up the Roanoke troop.

Story: Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis Art: Brooke Allen
Story: 10 Art: 8 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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