by Aaron Renier
(Top Shelf)

In only its second year of existence, the Stumptown Comics Fest has already quadrupled in size. This year, over 120 comic book artists from all over the country will descend into PSU's Smith Ballroom for a big day of panel discussions, presentations, and most importantly, selling to you piles and piles of lovingly made comic books and graphic novels. See our Destination Fun story on page 17 for all the fun highlights, and check these reviews of works by just a few of the artists who will be in attendance... The Stumptown Comics Fest, 9 am–6 pm, Sat. October 1, PSU's Smith Ballroom, 1825 SW Broadway, www.pdxcomix.com

Aaron Renier's characters—cartoony, anthropomorphized animals like a sweet but clumsy young elephant, an intrepid rabbit, and a sassy puppy—seem likable, and cuddly, and charming, and... well, cute. And as we all know, cute, in and of itself, don't count for much.

Luckily, Renier has much more beneath the welcoming veneer of his friendly characters, which also include sentient birds, giraffes, rhinos, bats, tortoises, and whales. They inhabit the imagined town of Estabrook, but they don't just live there, and the town's not just there as a pretty setting. No, the characters inhabit it, with jobs and hangouts and secret underground tunnels. Spiral-Bound is packed with microcosmic detail and ebullient, vivid life.

And just when you think Renier couldn't make a more welcoming world with more likable characters, he throws in a smart, sweetly subversive mystery/adventure plot. Throughout Spiral-Bound, there are secret societies, burgeoning friendships, and shadowy mysteries; all rendered with love and pure, goodhearted fun. ERIK HENRIKSEN

by Jeff Parker

If I were a super hero in a comic book, my name would be Snap. I would be able to take pictures in my mind simply by blinking my eyes and I would have a sexy yellow cape. That is the extent to which I have thought about comic books. And yet even I, a comics illiterate, found Portlander Jeff Parker's graphic novel The Interman a captivating read, filled with adventure, plenty of eye candy, and even a moral that didn't nauseate me. The story unfolds gracefully, with special attention paid to character development. Van Meach, the lovable mutant of a government project called Interman, is on a mission to find out where he came from while simultaneously kicking a shit-ton of assassin ass. Parker's crisp, detailed scenery sucks you into a world of government cover-ups and an international quest to find answers to a cold war project gone awry. CHRISTINE BLYSTONE

Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate
by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett
IDW Publishing

Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate is the latest from Portland husband and wife team Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett—together, they've put out previous Heartbreakers books (a sci-fi series about clones), while Guinan has gotten plenty of press (including some Mercury ink) about "Boilerplate," his fictitious 19th-century robot.

In Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate, the art's done in a style they've dubbed "paintography." Utilizing themselves and others as models, Guinan and Bennett have PhotoShopped the shit out of photos of themselves, placing the static images in a highly processed world of stock pictures and manufactured characters. If nothing else, it's a technically impressive style, even if the end result is too aesthetically similar to the equally cold and processed look of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate's story is a mixture of big issues (clone rights), and annoyingly simplistic plot turns. There's a lot going on, but it's impossible to care about any of it—it's a push just to wade through the hundreds of visually adept but emotionally vapid panels. With how much work and ingenuity clearly went into Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate, it's too bad that the end result is such an inert, impenetrable bore. ERIK HENRIKSEN