PORTLAND'S COMIC BOOK creators have been busy. The last few months have seen a slew of notable releases ranging from the quiet and personal to the ass-kicking and superpowered: There's memoir, romance, and boners that can stop time. Truly, something for every taste. Some of these creators—including Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Sara Ryan—will be signing their work at Cosmic Monkey Comics (5335 NE Sandy) on Saturday, Dec 21 from noon-2 pm.
by Sara Ryan, Carla Speed McNeil
THE CRUSH OF STUFF—baby clothes, newspapers, dishes—is palpable in Bad Houses. Writer Sara Ryan and artist Carla Speed McNeil's new comic book follows two teenagers whose lives are governed by things. Anne's fascinated with photographing people's stuff and frequents local estate sales, in part to escape her mom's hoarding. Lewis, who works estate sales for his domineering mother, is cynical about people's tendency to imbue everyday objects with memories, nostalgia, and personal meaning. Their two lives intersect in a small town in Oregon, and the odds and ends of the town's residents and history warp and weft together. It's a coming-of-age story that grapples with the generational divide between collecting tangible life flotsam and putting evidence of a life lived online. But more notably, Bad Houses is full of the ghosts of missing people who haunt banal ephemera—or sadder still, when those who are missing have no curio to be remembered by. This is a lovely and well-written book, and it's provided me with a much-needed kick in the ass to clean out my basement. COURTNEY FERGUSON
by Farel Dalrymple
I WISH I COULD DRAW like Farel Dalrymple. The first time I saw his work, in Prophet and Omega the Unknown, it struck me with its rough, uncanny sensibility. He depicts a world close to our own, intruded on by surreal and horrific elements. Dalrymple's latest release is Delusional, a catchall collection that contains sketches, stories, strips, and standalone illustrations from the last decade.
Delusional is a mixed bag—you never know what will greet you when you turn the page. The book opens with an amusing story about the crime-busting superhero fantasies of a pedestrian schlub. (Most of the stories follow the dreamscapes of loners and losers.) Then there are sketchbook excerpts, which make your most accomplished drawing seem like a doodle. There's also work from his Pop Gun War series and excerpts of an earlier cartoon, Supermundane. Part exhibition and part narrative, Delusional is a great pickup for Farel Dalrymple's fans. JACOB SCHRAER
A Boy and a Girl
by Jamie S. Rich, Natalie Nourigat
FILE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN Philip K. Dick and Walt Disney: A Boy and a Girl, written by Jamie S. Rich and illustrated by Natalie Nourigat, is a graphic novel in future-cool blues and grays. The basic story here is a familiar sort of Before Sunrise-style romance-with-a-deadline. In a future world of semi-human robots, flying cars, and fed-up baristas (some things never change), Travis (the boy) meets Charley (the girl) and sparks immediately fly.
The story is full of popgun romance and real-gun danger. The most ludicrous thing about A Boy and a Girl manages not to be the robots, the flying cops, or the automated pillows that shoot out of buildings to catch would-be suicides. Rather, it's a subplot about Travis and his friend Gregor getting into trouble with the Russian mafia through an amateur term-paper-forging scheme.
Regardless of its plausibility, this subplot drives the otherwise unlikely action scenes, which are fun and breezy in a robot-rickshaw way. The art is open and cartoonish, and Gregor is a genuinely hilarious character. The twists may not be terribly shocking, but there is an odd undercurrent of near-future philosophy to this story that makes it stick long after the last panel. THOMAS ROSS
Sex Criminals, #1-3
by Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky
I HAVE NEVER laughed so hard while reading a comic book. Local comics darling Matt Fraction (Hawkeye, Casanova) might be the funniest man in funnybooks. Artist Chip Zdarsky is a close rival. Put 'em together for their ongoing comic Sex Criminals and you have the makings of a tittering, self-conscious bus ride. You're also going to get weird looks on the #14 because Sex Criminals has tons of sex and porny puns. Yay! Suzie and Jon can both stop time with their orgasms. It's not a common superpower in their world; in fact, they both thought they were the only ones until they hooked up at a party. Now they're stopping time all over the place, as they share their origin stories of discovering sex and all its colorful wonders. Oh, and they rob a bank. While the story is developing into a caper, Sex Criminals does more for explaining the awkwardness and awesomeness and groping horror of puberty than any work in a long-ass time. We're talking Judy Blume levels—that, ladies and germs, is the highest compliment this gal can give. Don't skip the letters section in the back of the issues—they are marvels of schadenfreude. COURTNEY FERGUSON
by Jesse Reklaw
JESSE REKLAW'S NEW BOOK is the autobiographical Couch Tag, named for that game where all the couch cushions are scattered across the floor and players hop between them, avoiding the dangerous carpet "lava." Like that game, Reklaw's narrative centers on the safe havens and distractions that occupied his colorful and turbulent upbringing in Central California. Moving every few years, Reklaw had little to hold on to. Each chapter has a motif: his toys, card games, and the alarming number of cats his family went through. While Reklaw relates the story of each cat, we also meet his family, his homes, and his friends. These threads are further developed in the chapter about his toys, which are more artifacts that defined him as a child, from pop-culture icons and objects that bought cool cachet from his peers to the strange totems—dolls, blankets—that can define the emotional lives of children. When he delves into the many card games that occupied his family time, the motif starts to wear thin, but the effect is still impressive as the story of Reklaw's extended family takes shape, with characters stepping from the background into fore. The art is filled with energy and tension and the stories are both sad and humorous. Reklaw zeroes in on the details that define his family members, making the most of his panels. JACOB SCHRAER. Release party at Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch, Thurs Dec 19, 6-8 pm.
Lazarus, Vol. 1
by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
LAZARUS, the new series written by Greg Rucka (Whiteout, Stumptown, Queen & Country), is a solid near-future dystopia. That's not just because the third issue has a character who actually pulls off the trenchcoat-and-katana combo: It's about a violent and socially stratified world, but it's character driven and personal as opposed to heavy-handed and didactic.
Forever Carlyle is an invincible, genetically modified cybernetic enforcer who does wetwork for the decadent family that controls the West Coast. In the first couple of issues, we get a glimpse into the almost feudal politics that dominate the setting and Forever's place in it. Accusations are made, bullets fly, deals are struck, and our unkillable lady thug is in the middle. It's sort of like if House Lannister controlled post-apocalyptic California, which is to say it's rad as hell and I'll be spending money on it in the (hopefully not dystopian) future. JOE STRECKERT
PSST! Big changes are afoot among Portland's comic-book festivals. The long-running, indie-focused Stumptown Comics Festival is no more; it's joining forces with the new pop-culture-oriented Rose City Comic Con. Stumptown's organizers say they'll offer educational programming and panels at Rose City in 2014, and that organizing body Stumptown Comics, Inc, will shift its focus to "community events" in 2015. Meanwhile, a new comics, illustration, and design-focused festival called Linework NW is launching in spring of 2014, helmed by two longtime figures in the indie comics scene—see Blogtown on Friday for more details. ALISON HALLETT