Category Archives: The Archive

Everything in the archives is from a bygone era (early 2000s). We’ve held onto these for nostalgia, but some have a lasting relevance.

Torso Graphic Novel


Image Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Marc Andreyko
BW, 268 pgs
$24.95 US / Higher in Canada

The world has seen its fair share of serial killers, but nowhere on this planet have people been more fascinated with their homegrown killers than in America. Names like Ted Bundy, The Zodiac Killer, The Boston Strangler and The Son of Sam are as familiar to most Americans as the names of their favourite movie stars. Only in the good ole U.S. would the exploits of these ruthless butchers be chronicled in books and movies to great financial success.

I cannot deny there is a certain morbid appeal in learning what dark core can lie in the heart of a human being.

In From Hell, the venerable Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell delivered a history lesson laced with fiction. Inexhaustibly researched, and as thick as any school textbook, From Hell presented Jack the Ripper as a significant player in history. The Ripper was the world’s first serial killer (recorded anyway), and his arrival heralded the beginning of the 20th century, a harsh and cold future where humans would do onto each other a number of atrocities.

Torso is also a history lesson explaining another significant development in serial killer lore: The first serial killer in America.

A number of dismembered bodies washed up along the shores of Lake Erie in and around Cleveland in the 1930s. The headless torsos left little clue as to their identity, the cause or the reason for death.

During this same period of time, Cleveland was under the thumb of a corrupt police force and justice system. Fresh from his triumph over Al Capone, Eliot Ness assumed the role of Cleveland’s Safety Director. He vowed to clean up the city and wasted no time making good on his word. The media and the public quickly fell in love with this golden poster boy for a better future.

While Ness cracked down on dirty cops, a handful of dedicated detectives struggled to make sense of the grisly Torso murders. As more and more human torsos were discovered, the cops were no closer to an arrest. The public was gripped by fear, demanding answers and an arrest. Eliot Ness stepped in and vowed the killer would be found.

Like its predecessor, From Hell, Torso is well researched. The writers had access to hundreds of photos and articles pertaining to the case. This factual backbone is the strength of the story. Bendis and Andreyko focus on the police work, detailing the theories, failures, successes and the evidence uncovered in the investigation. The latter is given the most detail, and it is darkly fascinating. Actual photographs and newspaper clippings are used throughout the book, keeping the reader firmly grounded in the reality of these events.

A comic book filled with mere facts would be a dull history lesson indeed, so the writers fleshed out the story through the eyes of its principal investigators. The story offers an insightful look at the downfall of one of America’s most famed heroes. The Torso case marked an important change in the career of Eliot Ness. Ness threw himself wholeheartedly into the investigation, determined to find the killer. As years passed with no progress, the public’s faith in Ness began to falter. As the pressure for an arrest continued to rise, Ness would make a series of decisions that would cost him his marriage and his reputation.

Equally portrayed in Torso are Walter Myrlo and Sam Simon, the two prime detectives working the field. These two struggle to make sense of the methods and the motive behind the gruesome murders and Bendis and Andreyke show us the withering effect such an investigation can have on those who work the front line.

Bendis has painted Torso with a film noir brush. His palette is all shadows and light. From the very first panels, Bendis sets the atmosphere: cold, dark and foreboding. He aptly creates a sense of time and place, covering a span of years without getting bogged down in unnecessary details. Torso never loses its pace, a triumph of both the writing and the cinematic style of the art.

Anywhere from twelve to thirty victims have been attributed to the Torso killer. The case has never officially been solved. In order to wrap Torso with a dramatic finish, Bendis and Andreyko put on a fictional spin. It’s a chilling and satisfying conclusion, and it works because we’ve come to care for the principal characters. Torso may be an intriguing history lesson, but it’s the interpersonal relationships at its core that makes this one a winner. (Chad Boudreau)

Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt

Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Mattpeepshow
by Joe Matt
Drawn & Quarterly
BW, 100 pgs
$14.95 US / Higher in Canada

Read Joe Matt. It’s that simple. Marvel at a man who is willing to work out his problems in full public view. We should be thankful that he has chosen to do so.

To fully enjoy the work of Joe Matt, you need to embrace the voyeur inside yourself. There is no doubt we all like to watch. If the success of reality TV is any indication, the faceless masses like to watch real people in real situations, even if that reality is filtered through the lens of a camera.

There is no filtration system to save you from the truth of Joe Matt. He reveals his life to the reader and it’s not a pretty thing. In fact, it’s an ugly thing; a pockmarked, stringy-haired reality with big calf-muscles. Joe Matt eats his own scabs. He urinates in the sink. He watches a great deal of pornography. He discloses all his secrets, leaving nothing unsaid.

A depiction of Joe’s lesser qualities would quickly become a tiresome read of excess if not for Joe Matt’s exploration into his own darker sides and neurosis. He delves into his family past, his Catholic upbringing and even his failed relationships in order to shed light on his personality and behaviours. He never attempts to apologize for or to justify his actions. That would be an insult to the reader. What we see in Peepshow is Joe Matt on a journey of self-exploration. Peepshow is a diary after all, a means for private record and self-communication. Joe Matt has simply given us the key.

Back in 1988, Joe Matt started putting together a series of one-page autobiographical strips, which were initially published in numerous anthologies and magazines. These strips were eventually bound together in a single, over-sized collection called Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt. Each page is a self-contained strip that captures a certain train of thought or moment in Joe’s life. He holds nothing back and you have to respect him for that even if you can’t stomach the read.

Despite his various personal flaws, Joe Matt does indeed possess an enormous amount of talent. His cartooning is fantastic, a comedic joy to the eyes. Even the bleakest of tales is laced with visual comedy. He wastes no space, jamming the pages with fine detail and slight flourishes. His black and white lines possess a great amount of life, alternating between gag panels and narrative explorations. His cartoons are poignant, often hilarious, sometimes depressing, but always a treat to examine long after you’ve finished reading the text. (Chad Boudreau)

Batman #687

june10-batman687Batman #687

DC Comics
Writer: Judd Winick
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Rob Hunter

FC, 40 pgs w/ ads
$3.99 US / More in Canda

Last week Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely kicked off the Dick Grayson/Little Creep era of Batman in great form and this week the other creators involved got their say in the new direction.

Batman #687 was packed with plot– a nice little Bruce/Dick flashback, backtracking a bit and showing the aftermath of Final Crisis with Dick, Supes, and Diana discussing Bruce’s death, and someone finally showing Alfred’s response to the death. VERY effective stuff.

Following this, we see a little bit more of Dick’s decision making in taking up the mantle of the bat and all that entails (i.e. the move from Wayne Manor into Gotham among other things).

This issue by Judd Winick and Ed Benes got into the heads of the characters more than Morrison did and fills in the gaps between Battle For the Cowl #3 and Batman and Robin #1. We see what leads to Dick putting the little creep in the Robin suit in a sequence with a well known Villain. Like I said– this thing was PACKED with story!

Batman #687 did everything Batman and Robin #1 didn’t do in setting the stage for the new status quo. This should actually have come out BEFORE Batman and Robin #1 because it obviously takes place first. The final page with the new Bats coming face to face with an A-List Bat-villain just whets my appetite for the next book.

(This actually surprises me as when I first heard that DC was going to go this direction again I was contemplating dropping all the Bat-books. They’ve managed to hook me, whether or not they can keep me is another story. I like what I’m seeing though.)

I’ve always like Judd Winick’s storytelling; lots of people don’t, but anyone who can up with the classic line “Wow- the Joker and a naked President. That isn’t something you see every day” is someone whose books I will always give a look.

I’m not so enthused with Ed Benes. I liked his JLA but this doesn’t seem quite as detailed to me. (Ken Boechler)

Blade of the Immortal volume 1: Blood of a Thousand

Blade of the Immortal volume 1
“Blood of a Thousand”
by Hiroaki Samura
Dark Horse Comics
Translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith
BW, 136 pgs
$14.95 US / Higher in Canada

Blade of the Immortal is the story of Manji, a samurai who killed without question on behalf of his master. Realizing his master wasn’t the good guy he thought, Manji assassinates him, a most heinous crime in ancient Japan. Hunted as a criminal, Manji is tired of living and wants to die, but can’t. An old woman has stuffed him full of Kessen-Chu, bloodworms that repair even his most grievous wounds. Manji is immortal and if he is to die, he must slay one thousand evil men.

Blood of a Thousand is the English translation of the first six issues of the manga, Blade of the Immortal. The manga itself first appeared and continues to be published in the Japanese magazine Afternoon. Dark Horse Comics also publishes English versions of the individual issues before collecting them into trade paperbacks.

In this collection, we are introduced to Manji and to the personal demons that compel him in the present. He also meet Rin, an orphan who seeks to revenge the death of her parents at the hands of the Itto-ryu. Together, Manji and Rin begin a journey to hunt down this merciless band of men.

Blood of a Thousand would be little more than a gory action story if not for Hiroaki Samura’s delicate handling of the relationship between Manji and Rin. As a ronin, Manji is a swordsman of high caliber and a man of questionable morals. At times he seems like nothing more than a cynical street punk possessing a gallows humour. And yet, he also shows moments of great philosophical insight and tenderness. Rin is an aspiring swordswoman. She portrays herself as a strong woman ready to take her revenge, but beneath her tough exterior she is still hurting over the loss of her parents. These two damaged souls meet and together they begin a journey of unending violence in an attempt to find peace.

The story unfolds in the second year of Tenmai, which is approximately 1782 – 1783 by Gregorian calendars. Manji may be a masterless samurai, but Hirokai Samura has decided not to steep his tale in historical accuracy and the way of Bushido. Instead, he has created his own arsenal of fantastic weaponry and fighting techniques in order to escape the scrutiny of samurai fanatics. Samura has also used a variety of linguistic styles, alternating between the mannered style of old Japan and street slang more likely to be found in a city of our own time. The result is a tale edged with science fiction and punk sensibilities, a blood-soaked tale of stunning brutality, beauty and passion.

Samura’s elegant artwork alternates between ink and pencil lines. When he is working with the fine point of a pencil, his illustrations are filled with enough detail and atmosphere to transport the reader to ancient Japan. He captures both the frantic energy and brutality of battle with his climatic full-page illustrations, but it is in the quieter moments when Samura really shines. His fine hand invokes, in the reader, a wide range of emotions toward his protagonists, the foremost of which is empathy. (Chad Boudreau)

Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry?

Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry?
by Ron Rege Jr.

Highwater Books

BW, 64 pgs
$8.95 US / Higher in Canada

Ron Rege Jr.’s Yeast Hoist opens up with a drug strip entitled “Madness”. A guy, probably about Rege’s age, tactically takes a moment to blast a quick hoot in a stranger’s bathroom. To hide the fact, he exhales down the tub’s drainpipe to rid the evidence the smoke and stench would leave.

Rege’s work has been saturating comic anthologies for about 15 years now; appearing in the worst and the best. Drawn & Quarterly had him, Rosetta had him; Rege’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Canada’s The National Post. This is only a hint of Rege’s artistic resume. I haven’t even touched on to his own books Skibber~Bee~Bye, Boys, The Dum Dum Posse Reader or Fuc(k).

The cover for Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry? is one of my favourite parts on Rege’s book. It sports a wild, crazed, dancing fiend letting loose his flailing feet. The energy and vibe coming through these drawings is enhanced with the sketchy pencil crayon auras Rege colours around the action. This dancer is caught up in the moment and I couldn’t help but hear the beats and grooves to which he was dancing.

Rege’s art style is definitely original and distinct. Rege uses action lines and arrows to show movement in his comic strips. Most artists stay away from the use of these lines or use them sparingly, but Rege integrates them into his drawing using motion as a narrative devise. In “Madness”, the stoned up character bangs his head on the end of the tap; he curls up in pain as lightning bolts spray from his head and his arms and legs wiggle about. The motion lines blur and blend together giving the reader so much to take in it’s almost like watching a movie.

The headlining strip “Does Music Make You Cry?” is about the love of music. Rege’s character finds himself crying uncontrollably during a band’s practice run, and he thinks himself a weird emotional robot. To stop this, the character picks up a set of drum sticks and beats upon everything he can lay his sticks to, sampling the sound of all things. Rege easily transfixes his audience as they groove to his beats as his friends’ band plays on.

I can’t help but think much of Rege’s work is autobiographical. Actually, I’m pretty sure they are one way or another. Many of the strips are dated and a location is named. Rege’s strips start at Berkeley and move east to Amsterdam and Italy. The content varies every strip; from people he has met on his journey, to places he has visited.

Another great set of panels in this collection is “Where I Slept”. This strip is based on the sleeping habits of his friend Andy Bernick in England over a three week period. Andy slept wherever he could; sometimes outside and rarely in the same place twice. Each panel describes the rooms Andy slept in, with the number of people, and if he was able to sleep fully extended. Andy also comments on the cleanliness of each room and its contents.

Though Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry? is published in graphic novel format, the title Yeast Hoist reflects Rege’s own ongoing work. Does Music Make You Cry? is technically number eleven in the Yeast Hoist series, which has appeared regularly in one form or another since 1995. Previous Yeast Hoist stories have appeared mostly in anthologies; #10 appeared in Ganzfeld #3, #9 in Expo 2001, and so on. Good luck finding them.

Ron Rege Jr. is a great cartoonist. Aside from his trademark character depictions (always sporting spherical round heads and bulbous noses), Rege knows how to tell a superb comic book narrative. He is always attempting to break the traditional panel layout, and does so successfully. His action lines often work as panel borders, yet when borders do appear, they are distinct and different every time. Rege isn’t in comics to fill the mold; he’s reinventing them every day. (Dana Tillusz)