What good is this column if I can't drum up support for books I really like and think you should all give a shot, as well, right?
ANTHROPOMORPHIC BEES - CLAN APIS
This week, the Xeric Foundation Grant-winning CLAN APIS premiered, by Jay Hosler. It's an off-beat black and white book he's self-publishing and it's a terrific book. It's the story of a hive of bees. Everything about this book is right. But, first, the story:
In this issue, Jay teaches us about how a bee is born and metamorphisizes. It's a great set-up to introduce us to the formative years and stages of being a bee. Make no mistake; you'll learn something from this book. I'm sorry if that annoys you, but if it helps any, I'll tell you right now that it's done in a most entertaining and interesting way. For the most part, it's done in dialogue between two bees. One's the older sister to the other and is trying to guide her in how to grow up. It's typical sibling commentary. It's fun to read, it's easy to read, and it's funny to boot.
Special attention should be paid to the opening sequence in which the Big Bang is paralleled to the opening of a flower and the bees' conquest of the pollen therein. It's very clever stuff. It's also done within the style of the story.
Jay Hosler employs a cartoony style, as he did in his funny COW-BOY comic strips in CBG. But beyond the inviting view of bees contained in this book, his stylistic choices and layout designs are wonderful to behold. There's a lot of repetition and symmetry and order and geometry in nature, particularly in the realm of the honeycombs, in
which this story takes place. Hosler uses this to his advantage, incorporating the elements in page designs and the flow of story-telling.
The book's design is done well, too. Most importantly, the inside cover contains no text or art. It's straight black. This leads into the story beautifully, and sets up the next page or two perfectly. To have had something on that page in this issue would have served only to ruin the moment.
There are no real ads in this issue, aside from a splash at the back of the book to promote the next issue. There's a double-page spread on the back cover. There are a couple of pages for letters and informative bits about the life of bees.
I'm really impressed by this effort and I can't wait for the second issue. There's no real mention of how often this book is going to be published, though. I hope monthly, but I suppose it'll be closer to bi-monthly or quarterly. In any case, it should be well worth the wait.
Erik Larsen is the new writer and I think gets off to a wonderful start. For those of us not familiar with Aquaman's story, this issue is a great jumping-on point. There's some classic Larsen one-liners in this book, too.
Eric Battle's art, on the other hand, is a little suspect. It's not all directly attributable to him, though. Inker Norm Rapmund's style doesn't work for me. It flattens out anything he inks over. (Take a look at the SUPERMAN: THE DOOMSDAY WARS first issue. His inks don't work all that well over Dan Jurgen's pencils, either.
Even more amusing is the blurb on the back cover calling Rapmund a "talented newcomer." Apparantly, nobody at DC ever read any Image books from Rob Liefeld's studio about 5 or 6 years ago. He cut his inking teeth on those books.)
Also, the book is dark. I understand it's not going to be terribly bright on the ocean floor, but the coloring by Richard and Tonya Horie is just morose and muddy in its darkness.
So the final verdict for this issue is that it's good reading, but the rest of it is suspect. The execution could be helped a little by a better and more experienced artist. Battle also has problems telling a story, as several events come out happening too quickly or off-panel entirely that should be shown.
BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN
Speaking of presentation, how much better can it get than the hardcover, dust-jacketed collection of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's epic maxi-series that was published this past week? Yes, it's $30, but I'm glad I got it. I couldn't put the book down and ended up breezing through it in three days. This is the first I've read it. It's wonderful stuff, with a heavy noir-iush feel, clever ending, and great story-telling and vibrant stylistic art.
What more could you ask for?
This turned out to be quite the expensive week. Also out this week was the latest Dragon TPB, POSSESSED; BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE DUST WALTZ; and BABYLON 5: THE PRICE OF PEACE. Of course, this coming week features the first of DC's TPBs collecting classic archival Looney Tunes comic books, including a Porky Pig story drawn by Disney Duck master Carl Barks.