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The Comics Alternative

The Comics Alternative is weekly podcast focusing on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There's nothing wrong with superhero comics. We just want to do something different.) New podcast episodes become available every Wednesday and include reviews of graphic novels and current ongoing series, discussions of upcoming comics, examinations of collected editions, in-depth analyses of a variety of comics texts, and spotlights on various creators and publishers. The Comics Alternative also produces "special feature" programs, such as shows specifically dedicated to creator interviews, webcomics, on-location events, and special non-weekly themes and topics.


Sep 17, 2014

On this week's regular episode, Andy and Derek discuss three new titles. They begin with Shoplifter (Pantheon), the first graphic novel from artist Michael Cho. Among the book's many strengths, the guys highlight Cho's art, the book's monochromatic palette, Cho's narrative pacing, and his characterization. Andy is especially struck by Cho's representation of the advertising world -- having once worked briefly in that field, he can empathize -- and Derek finds the book's greatest strength lying in its handing of social media and interpersonal communications. While there is a danger that the story may veer into the territory of cliched romanticization -- its protagonist, Corinna, wants to get away from it all to become a novelist -- Cho never ultimately takes that direction, making this an impressive debut. Next, the Two Guys look at another new book from Pantheon, Charles Burns's Sugar Skull. This is the third and final work in his recent trilogy, following X'ed Out (2010) and The Hive (2012). On top of Burns's usual brand of surreal storytelling, Sugar Skull can be a challenge for readers who aren't familiar with both of the two previous books, or who have forgotten what's going on in the earlier installments. Andy, for instance, never read The Hive, and the Two Guys compare their reading experiences based on their previous knowledge of Burns's dreamlike narratives. They compare Sugar Skull, and the trilogy as a whole, to Black Hole, the work that Burns is perhaps best known for. Finally, the guys look at the first of a new eight-issue series from Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez, The Names (Vertigo). Both are big fans of Milligan's work, and they aren't disappointed in what they read. This is an engaging mystery set in the cut-throat culture of Wall Street, and the creators do a great job of setting up their premise without giving too much away, naturally drawing readers to the next installments. One of the things Derek and Andy love about this first issue is how Milligan establishes so many strategically placed narrative gaps. For example, who is the Dark Loop, who never make an appearance? And what's the deal with the series' title? What does "The Names" refer to? These are the kinds of questions generated by a good first issue, and the guys are anxious to see how this new Vertigo miniseries pans out.