I know a lot of people who really dig the first Afterlife with Archiecomic book collection. And I can understand why, I guess: The writing, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is solid enough, and Francesco Francavilla's artwork is beautiful, with pools of black and inky silhouettes shambling around on every page. But for the love of Christ, the second page in the book features a weeping Jughead standing in front of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as he holds the limp, dead body of his dog in his arms. Sabrina brings the dog back to life, but it becomes a zombie and unleashes the apocalypse on Riverdale, the setting of Archie Comics. Who the hell asked for this? It feels like fan fiction written by a troubled teen, gleefully tearing apart the world of Archie comics for a dirty thrill. I'm all for varied artistic interpretations of classic comics characters, but innocence is a big reason why Archie comics work so well. This kind of darkness might feel momentarily transgressive and people might buy it for novelty's sake, but it stretches these characters into places they shouldn't go. For decades in comics, if you wanted to do a dirty Archie riff, you created a parody, which eventually became its own thing. Now, Archie is licensing its own fan fiction, and it smacks of desperation.
And while we're talking about beautiful comics, Michael Cho's Shoplifter has to be one of the most gorgeous comics of the year. Cho works in a simple—some might say cartoony—style. He draws beautiful cityscapes with as few lines as possible: in the daytime, at night, from a great distance away, up close. The crowds of people and the rain-slicked streets reward your close investigation. How does Cho manage to do so much on the page, with so little? Unfortunately, the story doesn't match up to the art. It's a simple plot—an aspiring author who works in advertising is unsatisfied with her life and comforts her feelings of loneliness and aimlessness by shoplifting small items from a convenience store—but that simplicity doesn't build up to anything complex. It's just a bunch of literary fiction cliches strung along in the shape of a story. (Did you know what advertising jobs are soulless and lame and that you should follow your dreams?) But if you're a fan of artists like Darwyn Cooke, Alex Toth, and David Mazzucchelli, you might want to buy Shoplifter just to paw through it and gawk at all the pretty pictures.
Join me after the jump for my review of Get Over It.
Corinne Mucha's Get Over It is an autobiographical comic about a breakup. If that makes you think of Jeffrey Brown's Clumsy, that's probably not a bad comparison to start with. Though Mucha also draws with a simplistic, journal-entry style, there's more nuance and imagination to her work than Brown's autobiographical comics. Pages aren't just a static structure of panels; Mucha doodles and designs comics pages that are dynamic and creative, laying her fertile imagination out on the page. Every page is different, which is fitting, since every page illustrates another aspect of heartbreak. Get Over It unspools in a succession of brief anecdotes about the mental and physical aftereffects of her breakup: Depression, anxiety, stress. If earnestness isn't your thing, you will hate Get Over It, but if you've ever gone through a breakup that stopped you in your tracks and forced you to reassess everything about your life, you'll find Mucha to be a companionable guide through the experience.