The Saga Re-Read: Saga #4

Lying Cat and his human, The Will. 

By Zack Quaintance & Cory Webber — This is it folks, the last issue before we start the final 50-issue home stretch. We're officially within a year of finishing this project! I can't speak for Cory (whom I know is itching to read ahead at a faster pace...and who could blame him?), but I've gotten quite a bit out of this little re-read project so far.

Part of the logic for doing this was to keep the story and the characters fresh in my mind during the one-year hiatus. This series is so well-done, though, that doing a slow re-read is having the added advantage of making me aware of layers and character growth I might have glazed over during my first read, when every time I cracked an issue I was mostly just concerned with what's going to happen?! Essentially, that's all a verbose way of noting that taking Saga at a slow, weekly pace is a new experience for me as a re-reader and I'm noticing things I might have missed the first time. 

Onward!

Saga #4

Here's the official preview text from way back when for Saga #4: 

Welcome to SEXTILLION, a distant planet where even your darkest fantasies become reality. See why everyone's talking about this hit new ongoing adventure from BRIAN K. VAUGHAN and FIONA STAPLES!

Oooo, that's all a bit more descriptive than the last two weeks. Sextillion! How exciting. The solicit has also segued from touting the book as a controversy to embracing it's roll as a budding mega-hit, the likes of which Image (and, really, the industry) hadn't seen since Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, which took a few years and a successful TV adaptation to really get rolling. Saga, meanwhile, was a hit right from the start. Now on to your takes!

A Re-Reader’s Perspective by Zack: This issue gives us another of Saga's distinctive intro pages, one of the first of many to come. Really, this whole issue is another pretty slow one, especially as it pertains to our central family with all the main action happening off-panel and the dramatics relying on conversation. It is interesting to look back at, though, because it depicts a desire on Vaughan's part to make even his villainous characters sympathetic right from the start (talking of The Will here). Sometimes I feel like comics writers become enamored with villains and backwards engineer sympathy. Not here, though. This issue also has that panel that I reference in my spoiler heavy Why Saga #54 Hurts So Bad piece. Sigh.

A New Reader’s Perspective by Cory Webber:  Well, Sextillion is, umm, interesting. I’ve heard of these unique opening pages that Saga likes to throw our way, and this one was unique, for sure. Moreover, I quite enjoyed the back-and-forth banter between Alana and Izabel. I feel that relationship is going to grow on me. Also, it was nice to see that The Will can be sympathetic, at least as it applies to saving child sex slaves. And, it was nice to see that flat-headed slaver get his comeuppance. We have been getting a lot of great personal, character moments and relationship/world building, but that appears to be changing soon based on the last page. I can’t wait to see how the action and mayhem unfurls.

Cory’s New Reader Predictions:  We will be seeing the wrath of Gwendolyn, at some point. And I cannot wait for it!

Thanks for joining us, and be sure to check back next Friday for a discussion of Saga #5! Tweet us @BatmansBookcase with your own thoughts, and we may run them here next week...

Cory Webber is a work-from-home entrepreneur who also reads and reviews comics for fun. Find him on Twitter at @CeeEssWebber. He lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and three sons.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Friendo #1 by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, & Taylor Esposito

Friendo #1 comes out Sept. 26, 2018.

By Zack Quaintance — Friendo #1 joins a growing wave of realistic, near-future capitalist horror stories being told in creator-owned comics. These stories all take hard looks at tech, at the late-model capitalist landscape, and at the plight of individuals within it. It’s the same rough formula that made Crowded so compelling, and to a lesser extent The New World, too. And yes, it’s at work again in Friendo, albeit executed with a take that is all Friendo’s own.

Friendo is set in dystopian Los Angeles, where ambush marketing is common. Have a movie about car crashes? You can hire someone to smash a car as a stunt, putting their body at great peril. Meanwhile, TMZ and E! have paparazzi drones hovering outside bedroom windows, using facial recognition software to evaluate whether people are notable. Oh, and wild fires, of course, are raging.

There are a growing number of these realistic near-future stories in comics, which makes perfect sense. Continued acceleration of healthcare costs, global warming, human reliance on tech, and the crumbling of boundaries between individuality and sales have replaced rando with a big knife as the scariest things a character can face. Friendo knows this. It’s scattered throughout its pages, with quick throwaway panels that are understated and terrifying (specifically a man on TV preparing to get up close and personal with a mustang stallion in order to win a year of health insurance for his family...christ, that’s not even far-fetched).

Friendo is thought-provoking, no question. Paknadel’s scripting is fantastic, as is the accompanying artwork. Simmonds art is clean and austere, leaving a blunt and captivating depiction of Los Angeles, while Cunniffe provides a complementary set of colors that are just so Los Angeleno.

One of the most impressive sequences—both in terms of writing and visuals—is the protagonist answering four questions that progressively shape his personalized marketing VR, Jerry. This scene was likely a heavy lift, but Paknadel’s adept scripting nails it, creating a set of questions as oblique in nature as they are believably-telling, especially if you consider them in the context of being fuel for advanced technology.

And that really, I think, speaks to this book’s greatest strength: its ability to craft technological ideas that seem advanced beyond comprehension but are still believable extensions of our current reliance on all things digital. Friendo has some work to do with its characterization (and plenty of time to do it after hooking me so thoroughly with this first issue), but in the end, this is a good comic—a look at a near future that truly seems as likely as it does terrifying.

Overall: Friendo is a solid debut comic rooted in smart extrapolations of ongoing societal concerns. This is a book that gives itself so many intriguing possibilities to play with as it moves forward. The rate of ideas here is almost staggering, and I’m excited to see where the creative team ultimately takes it. 8.0/10

Friendo #1 will be available Sept. 26, 2018.

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

The Saga Re-Read: Saga #2, People Like This Book

Saga #2 introduces us to one of Fiona Staples many excellent alien designs: The Stalk.

By Zack Quaintance & Cory Webber — We went live with our Saga re-read project last week (in which we’re reading one issue of Saga every week during the book’s hiatus), and, lo and behold, it turns out that people really like Saga! And I mean, like like. Not a shocker; this is a popular comic (to no one’s surprise).

Anyway, our hope from the start was that many people out there would come along with myself (a re-reader of Saga) and Cory Webber (a first-timer), as we embarked on this project, using some space here on Friday’s for a brief discussion and our thoughts about a single issue. It turns out our hopes seem likely to be validated! So that’s cool. We even have a great take that came to us from a friend via Twitter…

Andres Garcia says

That Tarantino observation is a really great addition, given some of the ways the book approaches sex and violence (and even the revenge and family dynamics). The only thing we’d add is that if you’re going to discuss how Saga translates to the world of family, you would do well to also reference Guillermo del Toro, because Fiona Staples’ monster designs are that good.

Read our take on Saga #1.

Saga #2

The cover of Saga #2, which is way scarier after you read it.

Here’s the official preview text for Saga #2:

The ongoing epic continues!  After deserting their galactic armies, former soldiers Marko and Alana must now protect their newborn girl from the lethal killers dispatched to destroy their family.

That’s a pretty vague description, but it does get at what this issue is about: our young family is being hunted by increasingly dangerous threats. We get our first glimpse of The Stalk here, which kind of backs up what I was saying earlier about the Guillermo del Toro aesthetic. Also, at the issues very end, we get our first look at the much-feared Horrors. More on them next issue, though.

Ultimately, this is a nice follow-up to the first issue. I can’t see anyone who liked the debut jumping off after #2. It continues to introduce us to the nature of our heroes, while throwing more obstacles into their way so that we can later see how they respond, and, therefore, what they’re made of. It also gives us more of Staples’ incredible character designs. As mentioned, this time it’s The Stalk, whose design mixes ethereal beauty with body horror grotesquery. Really impressive stuff.

A Re-Reader’s Perspective by Zack: The Star Wars qualities that one assumes were vital to the book’s pitch and its early marketing are evident here: the fun space monsters, the glimpses at the realities of the freelancer market, and even a rare look at one of the military bases the war is being waged from. I suppose this stands out to me on re-read, because by #54 the book has so many of its own unique qualities that Star Wars couldn’t be further from my mind. Basically, Saga is its own massive thing now, but back then, you can see that it was still taking form.

A New Reader’s Perspective by Cory Webber: This is only the second issue, but it feels like Vaughn and Staples have been doing this for much longer. I like the comparison to Star Wars and Romeo + Juliet by Tarantino and Del Toro, but allow me to add that I’m getting a Coen Brothers vibe too, what with the eccentric characters and hilarious-yet-mundane sense of humor. For example, Alana’s secret that she likes the taste of her own breast milk, or how the prison guard tells Prince Robot IV about the harlequin-type books Alana was reading. I found it interesting that she refers to them as books housewives buy at the supermarket. It gave me the notion that this very well could be another solar system in our galaxy, not too different from our own. Something, I assume, was intentional in order to make us feel that Vaughan has something socially-relevant to discuss. I already gushed about Vaughn and Staples, so let me just take a second to praise Fonografiks’ lettering and design. I particularly like the font and placement of Hazel’s narrations. Last but not least, WHAT THE HELL IS THE STALK AND WHY IS IT AFRAID OF THE HORRORS?!

Cory’s New Reader Prediction: My prediction is last week’s prediction was either A). correct and I should stop while I’m ahead or, B). there’s NO WAY Marko is dead and The Horrors are actually decent folks that help non-warring types, and they will resuscitate him because there’s NO WAY Vaughan is that heartless <rant over>. 

Thanks for joining us, and be sure to check back next Friday for a discussion of Saga #3! Tweet us @BatmansBookcase with your own thoughts, and we may run them here next week...

Cory Webber is a work-from-home entrepreneur who also reads and reviews comics for fun. Find him on Twitter at @CeeEssWebber. He lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and three sons.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

The great character development continues throughout this issue.

July 2018 New Comic Discoveries: So Much Horror

By Zack Quaintance — Ice cream men, sunlight, sweethearts...there’s not usually anything scary about all of that innocuous and gleaming wholesomeness, but comics is comics, a skunkworks for ideas, and as such an enterprising group of creators has, indeed, made ice cream men, sunlight, and sweethearts scary. This is the central throughline of our three picks for July 2018 New Discoveries (the feature in which we finally catch up with comics we've been meaning to read). All of these stories take the precious, the quaint, the everyday pleasantness of being—and viciously mine them for hidden terrors, which, let's face it, seems appropriate for our recent times.

This is, after all, the odd and acrimonious year of 2018, wherein the news is a horror show and any attempt to understand the direction of the country by engaging with your neighbors is liable to end in a berserker bout of verbal combat. Maybe that’s why I found these three books so engaging...they contained ideas that seemed innocent, but, upon closer examination, were rife with seething dysfunction. If these comics are any indication, such explorations can yield fantastic stories (see also David Lynch, specifically Twin Peaks).

With all that in mind, let’s look now at our July 2018 New Comic Discoveries!

July 2018 New Comic Discoveries

Eclipse Vols. 1 & 2 by Zack Kaplan and Giovanni Timpano

In Eclipse, the sun has become an indiscriminate killer. A mysterious solar incident has occurred, turning sunlight lethal and forcing humans to spend the daytime underground. Old power structures have crumbled; new ones have risen in place. A mysterious group of albinos—immune to the light—have now appeared. They are murderous, engineered by corrupt societal leaders who are now targets of their revenge. Those are the high-minded things I like about the book. On a base this is really freaking cool level, I also dig the creative ways bad guys weaponize the sun, like using mirrors, poking holes in walls, etc. It’s scary and exciting stuff.

This book had been on my radar for some time, especially after writer Zack Kaplan’s other comics—Port of Earth and Lost City Explorers—were met with such enthusiastic reviews by many writers I admire and respect. This book’s concept essentially succeeds by turning the nurturing presence of sunlight into a lethal menace that exacerbates societal ills, ills that were easily ignored during less trying times, ills such as power disparities, corruption, and sacrificing the lives of those deemed inconsequential in service of the higher classes. This concept, of course, needs a grounded character-driven story, too, and Kaplan and artist Giovanni Timpano have definitely crafted one, one that is improving as their run continues. If only there were a fitting adjective to describe the exciting outlook for this book, to say the future of this story is...something. Oh well.

Check out our review of Eclipse #9!

Ice Cream Man Vol. 1 by W. Maxwell Prince & Martin Morazzo

There are so many good horror comics coming out right now (have you all read Gideon Falls? so good!), but, even amid the onslaught, Ice Cream Man by W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo stands out as exceedingly sinister, like if Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, Stephen King and sometimes also David Cronenburg had a kid who grew up resenting the dysfunction of the suburbs and was now letting the pent-up angsty darkness flow. This is an anthology (I wish there were more of those...especially on TV, but I digress…), unified by the titular Ice Cream Man, who is, of course, always way way worse than he first seems.

Ice Cream Man Vol. 1 is excellent, and it’s a credit to this comic that through four issues nothing here becomes predictable. Not its structure, its characters, its themes. It’s sort of like The Twilight Zone in that all you know at the start of each installment is things fall apart. This, I think, speaks to our throughline of looking closer for dysfunction in 2018. I hadn’t realized this before, but the Twilight Zone was created after decades of American’s questioning each other, looking for commies or fascists or Soviet spies, etc. With a similar climate now, stories where horror lurks beneath a shining veneer are poignant as ever. Whether Ice Cream Man was conceived with this in mind isn’t relevant—the fear of what's being hidden is both real and compelling.

Sweet Heart #1 by Dillon Gilberton, Francesco Iaquinta, Maco Pagnotta & Saida Temofonte

For the third choice of our New Discoveries list each month, we spotlight a less-known book or a Kickstarter project, and this month it just so happens to be Sweet Heart by writer Dillon Gilbertson, artist Francesco Iaquina, colorist Maco Pagnotta, and letterer Saida Temofonte (the Kickstarter for Sweet Heart #2 runs through Aug. 10, btw). Gilbertson shared the first issue with us, and, man, is it a great fit for this list, turning childhood—and the traumas that occur—into a horror story with a fantastic mystery at its center. Simply put, Sweet Heart is a great comic that deserves to scare and disquiet a larger audience.

Gilbertson’s use of an omniscient narrator is understated when it needs to be and creepy as all get out when a more threatening tone is appropriate. Iaquina’s art is a great fit too, with his monster designs standing out as especially impressive, and Pagnotta’s colors add quite a bit. There’s also an impressive confidence in this book that isn't always present in crowd-funded comic efforts, a sense that the team has an urgent story to tell. The book’s greatest strength, however, is its poignant central metaphor, which I suspect is about childhood illness (or maybe hereditary addiction?) but, really, has a universality to it. Basically, whatever dysfunction was in your house (we all had some), I’m guessing you’ll see it play out here. I recommend supporting this one, for sure.

See all our past months of new discoveries here. And check back to the site next week for our Best Debut Comics of July 2018 as well as our Top Comics of July 2018, too.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

June 2018 New Comic Discoveries: How Does it Feel?

By Zack Quaintance — I recently finished a comic, set it down, and stared into space, wondering, What just happened to me? This comic was Proxima Centauri #1 by writer/artist Farel Dalrymple. Ask about plot, and I’ll give you a few dozen boring words about a kid in a sci-fi reality trying to escape...to earth...maybe? Ask how this comic made me feel, however, and I’ll have many specific things to say, some of which might even be interesting (shocker!).

Few stories capture the anxious misery of puberty as well as  Proxima Centauri #1.

Few stories capture the anxious misery of puberty as well as Proxima Centauri #1.

This sounds trite (I know), but in reading the three new-to-me comics on our Top New Discoveries List for June, I was struck by how these great books dealt so heavily in feelings. It was actually one of the creators that first put the thought in my head: Deniz Camp, writer of Maxwell’s Demons. Someone on Twitter asked for advice about pitching, and Camp said plot is less important than how a book makes readers feel.

Mind blown. For years, I’ve said there is something intangible in all my favorite stories. A comic book, for instance, could have great characterization, impeccable hero’s journey, stunning art—but if it lacks this intangible something, it leaves me cold. Camp’s Tweet and my stunned clarity after Proxima Centauri helped me realize this something is feeeeeeelings...nothing more than feelings.

Obvious? Yes, but still important. With that in mind, let’s look now at my favorite new comics discoveries of June and the feelings they wrought upon me.  

1. Proxima Centauri #1 (of 6) by Farel Dalrymple

Proxima Centauri   #1  is brimming with lush artwork and clever writing.

Proxima Centauri #1 is brimming with lush artwork and clever writing.

Proxima Centauri #1 is a madcap romp through the feelings of a young boy, deploying sci-fi tropes freely and filtering them through writer/artist Farel Dalrymple’s frenetic artwork and witty dialogue/captioning. There is a pressing concern—the boy is one of a scant few confined to some realm many light years from earth—but moreover, this is to me a book about puberty.

Put simply, the angsty protagonist in Proxima Centauri talks, acts, and glowers in a way that captures what it felt like to go through puberty, to be at once a child and a newly-awakening adult—and to hate it. He’s holding onto childlike creativity while crushing on a character who lacks a corporeal form, before stomping off in a huff when intimacy is more fraught than he expected.   

These feelings are all rendered in the book, catapulting us through what amounts to a fairly quick yet packed read. The strongest feeling (for me, anyway) was one of intense and vicious anxiousness, which is entirely commiserate with my experience with puberty. Everything is amazing and full of wonder; everything is also awful. The narrator feels at once like he’s on a thrilling adventure yet alone, watching earth from afar. If only he could do as advised and meditate, slow down, enjoy being in this moment. It will all seem so quaint in just a few years. Take it from me, I'm now wiser. And with my (relative) wisdom, I highly recommend this comic.

2. Maxwell’s Demons #1 - #3 by Deniz Camp, Vittorio Astone, & Aditya Bidikar

Maxwell's Demons  is the comic I most-often&nbsp; give to my friends who enjoy literary fiction.

Maxwell's Demons is the comic I most-often  give to my friends who enjoy literary fiction.

Maxwell’s Demons is a powerhouse of a literary comic book, dense with top-tier writing and artwork. The vast majority of its first three issues is dedicated to sci-fi adventure in another realm that our protagonist—a genius little boy living with his surly single father—accesses via complex technology of his own design and a portal in his room.

In some ways, the plot feels well-worn. An alienated-but-brilliant kid escapes dour life through adventure. But Camp’s scripting subverts expectations in two ways: first by making our hero a literary geek who names companions after Greek thinkers (not even ones you’d guess) while quoting Shakespeare, rather than a pop culture obsessed protonerd; and second by giving the alcoholic, abusive father many quiet character moments that make him three dimensional, a stark contrast to other special teen stories that thoroughly flatten similar figures (Harry Potter, Matilda, etc.).

The real strength of this book, though, is how it makes readers feel (our motif!), at once melancholic and empowered. Maxwell in many ways has agency, gamely tolerating his father as he calmly attends to more important business alone. This makes his adventure more meaningful, more significant than if he were exploring just another throwaway realm seemingly designed for him to be a hero. It’s instead a layered romp through a complex boy’s dense subconscious. To put it all in perspective: this is a comic I suggest to friends who enjoy both graphic novels and literary fiction. So far, they've all loved it.

3. Time Grunts Chapter One by Evan K. Pozios, Alex Sanchez, & Patrick Thomas Parnell

Time Grunts  is a story about American GIs who must defend the past, present, and future.

Time Grunts is a story about American GIs who must defend the past, present, and future.

Our third and final entry this month is Time Grunts, an old school comic adventure tale from Evan K. Pozios, Alex Sanchez, and Patrick Thomas Parnell that spans from Germany in World War II to Detroit, Mich. today.

Time Grunts is the type of indie comics that makes you happy you’ve read it but upset you don’t have more time to seek out work of similarly-high quality. The plot is B movie-esque, involving time travel (as the name suggests), secret missions, a Dirty Dozen military squad, and nazis. While the craftsmanship is apparent from its start, both in terms of the sharp writing and impressive art, the plot is also tight and well-constructed.

The thing I enjoyed most about Time Grunts, however, was (once more) how it made me feel. Although at times it threatens us with a different outcome for World War II, Time Grunts made me feel as all the best adventure stories do—optimistic.The stakes are high, but in the end I'm certain good will triumph. It’s a great story for 2018.  

Time Grunts is available here.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

April 2018 Indie Comics Grab Bag: Storytelling Tools

I recently listened to a podcast* featuring a conversation between Vault Comics Editor-in-chief Adrian Wassel and writer Michael Moreci, during which Wassel articulated several elusive points that have been on my mind after reading Scott McCloud and Will Eisner's books on comics.

Wassel believes we are in a cinematic age of comics, a time of big splashy panels and super quick reads that rely on visual action more than denisty, nuance, or complexity. This, Wassel also believes, has been a good thing, a way for a young medium (comics) to learn some new tools, but he also couldn’t help but wonder if there was progress to be made by utilizing a wider variety of techniques as well, such as more co-mingling of prose with those big panels.

Coincidentally, our featured indie books this month seem to hint at those multimodule possibilities that Wassel wondered about. Admittedly, I likely wouldn’t have drawn a connection if not for the podcast, but I'd still like to use that idea as a through-line here.

So, let's get on to it…

*That podcast, I believe, is exclusively available via signing up for Moreci’s newsletter here.

Isola #1 by Brandon Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, & Msassyk

Isola, make no mistake, is a beautifully-drawn comic book. Karl Kerschl’s line work is clean as it gets, and the tonal vibrancy of Msassyk’s colors make for an aesthetic akin to high-end animation. It's a prime example of the cinematic-style cited by Moreci and Wassel. See, Isola's story is a simple one: a protagonist leads a monarch tiger to a paradisaical place called Isola, and along the way there are tests, challenges, visions, hijinx.

Simply put, Isola takes little time to philosophize, or even to do much world-building. It’s an interesting choice for a fantasy comic, and I think we won’t entirely know if it pays off until we read future issues. The clues we get to a larger world come from clothes (high fantasy with perhaps a light touch of feudal Japan) and equipment (purely low-tech).

In these ways, Isola reminded me of the intro portion of an old-school RPG, wherein the player gets a feel for whether there’s magic, what kind of tech exists, and how the turn-based combat works, knowing that this portion will seem quaint later once the game opens up onto a sprawling world map. I hope a similarly larger scope is where Isola is headed.

Overall: Isola is a playground for artists Karl Kerschl and Msassyk, one that deftly introduces its protagonist, her goals, and the challenges she faces.

The Season of the Snake #1 by Josh Vann, Simone D'Armini, & Adrian Bloch

The Season of the Snake is one of the densest comics I’ve ever read, both in terms of its hyper-detailed artwork and its breadth of ideas. In many ways, it takes the exact opposite storytelling tact of Isola, bearing much more of a similarity to a novel than to a movie.

From  The Season of the Snake #1.

From The Season of the Snake #1.

Whereas Isola was content to wow and captivate readers with its visuals, Season of the Snake is novelestic in scope, stimulating more with questions it raises about nation states, evolution, diplomacy, and reverence than with artwork. That’s not to say Simone D’Armini’s artwork is bad here. No, it’s quite good, and it deftly compliments the dense script.

There is just so much to unpack in this 68-page, three-part series debut. I enjoyed the depth of thought behind this book, as well as some of the visual touches the creative team used to show rather than tell (high praise in college creative writing workshops), specifically a mysterious flier that poetically reads “True life is the thing that s-s-seeps,” which did great narrative work to foreshadow coming plot points. The use of Adrian Bloch’s vivid colors during the story’s grandest set pieces is also interesting, heightening the sense of reality and consequence at those times.

Overall: The Season of the Snake seems destined to develop a rabid cult following of hard sci-fans who kept bugs or lizards growing up. It starts slow but has a lot to offer those who invest in it.

Coronary #1 - #2 by Ryan Burke, Joel Saavedra, & Damian Penalba

Coronary (which has a week left on its Kickstarter, btw) sort of straddles the techniques of the two previous books on this list. It’s rich with quick panels, a la Isola, especially early in the first issue, where Ryan Burke’s script moves through the quietude of Joel Saavedra's artwork, expertly conveying feelings of pensiveness, yearning, and loneliness. Burke also has an ear for dialogue that he deploys well, and his use of a fictional magazine Q&A and a psychologist's scribbled notes at the end of the issues disperse additional exposition that brings our plot into focus.

What I found most intriguing about Coronary, though, was its use of transitions and juxtapositions. Going back to the idea we cribbed from Wassel about creators tapping more tools, Coronary takes advantage of the way that comics’ inherent sequential structuring forces readers to make their own connections in order to understand a story progresses. See below:

Coronary 2.png

Notice the juxtaposition. These panels appear as a character begins to zone out on a train. While your own interpretation may vary, I understand them to mean that sex to him is as routine as reaching for an umbrella, that he objectifies and uses women as he might a tool to keep dry in the rain. It would take pages in a novel to convey this effectively, but Burke and Saavedra do it with the subtlety of four panels and ⅔ of a page. That's just one example; this book is rich with more.

Overall: I really liked both issues of Coronary, so much that after reading them (and writing this) I helped with this Kickstarter. I urge you to do the same.

Zack Quaintance is a career journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.