Grotesque Anatomy
Monday, July 19, 2004
  This Old House: Special Liebermania Edition!
I've got a lot of house improvement projects that have to be finished by the weekend, so I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing this week.  I'm tempted to say that I'll be taking the week off, but every time I announce something like that I immediately contradict it.  So...I may or may not be blogging this week.  How's that for helpful?  (If I do end up not blogging, this is probably a good week to do it, since I haven't read the comics generating all the discussion / controversy / "backlash" in the blogosphere right now.  (But I will be reading them eventually, although Eightball #23 won't arrive until early August.))

But before I go, here are some quick mini-reviews for two great mini-comics, both illustrated by the underrated Steve Lieber:

Me and Edith Head (Cold Water Press • 16 B&W Pages • $2.00 postpaid) is a story about an awkward teen learning to feel comfortable in her own skin. Katrina Lansdale yearns to snag a starring role in her high school's production of A Midsummer's Night Dream, but instead she's stuck with the unglamorous job of costume design.  This story could have easily veered into schmaltzy "After School Special" territory, but thankfully writer Sara Ryan crafts a story that's subtle and understated, while artist Steve Lieber keeps things grounded in a simple but satisfying style that reminds me of a cross between David Lapham and Carla Speed McNeil.  My only quibble would be that Katrina looks much older than her classmates, so at first I was a bit distracted wondering what her age was supposed to be.  But then I remembered that I'm a horrible judge of how old people are in real life, so my being unable to tell Katrina's age shouldn't count against the book.  Plus, it's nice to see a female high school student who doesn't look like all the usual clichés.

Family Reunion (Small Beer Press • 8 B&W Pages • $1.00 postpaid) is a short interlude in the life of William "Dead" Kennedy, a down-on-his-luck thirtysomething Texan who can see dead people.  While attending a family reunion, DK has to try to figure out what's bothering a dead relative.  If it sounds a little too "Sixth Sense," don't worry:  Instead of simply going for shock or surprise, Sean Stewart's story deals with less fantastic elements, such as the tendency of families to gloss over, distort, or entirely rewrite unpleasant incidents from the past.  And it's all rendered in a wonderfully appealing style by Lieber.  I'm not quite sure how to describe the style, but it's very different from his work in Edith Head (aside from the completely believable "real people" characters in both books):  It's much softer and more shaded -- as though it were done in charcoal.  The faces of characters are more modeled and three-dimensional; I was reminded of the depth Kevin Nowlan's inks often add to other pencillers, but even that doesn't quite get at the look Lieber delivers here.  I guess the only way to see what I'm talking about is to buy the mini-comic.  (How's that for a subtle pitch?)

Finally, I should also point out that Steve Lieber is offering both mini-comics together for only two bucks.  Why not skip one of the double-shipping Marvel comics and spend the money on something different this month?  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with these charming short stories.
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Iron Fist

by John Jakala

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